Jesus said whoever gives a cup of water to one of His disciples, in His name, will be rewarded for it (Mark 9:41.) After attending a special Mother's Day Tea at a local church earlier this month, I have to believe that goes for cups of Earl Gray, as well. Not only was I immensely blessed by the show of love from the church, but the event also led me to discover a company that does much more than give water, all in the name of Christ.
Lewisville Baptist Church planned their tea party for the weekend before Mother's Day and extended an invitation to all women and girls in the community. I'm so glad my daughters and I went. There was such a sweet spirit of love and Christian fellowship, and the tables were all so beautifully decorated. The ladies of the church had gone to great lengths to ensure their guests had a special experience, even printing beautiful menus that described all the varieties of tea being served. And the food! What a spread!
Now, I enjoy tea, but I'm no connoisseur. For most of my life, tea usually meant throwing eight bags of Luzianne orange pekoe in a pot of boiling water (4 if you had the family size) and after a few minutes, dissolving a cup and a half of sugar into the dark liquid in a gallon jug, then filling the rest of the jug with tap water, giving it a stir, and serving over ice. That's still a great way to do it, but the tea party my daughters and I attended reminded me there are so many varieties of tea to be explored and enjoyed.
I chose the "African Chai" at the party and ended up drinking three cups! (Plus, a cup of coffee, because I'm almost always going to get coffee when it's available.) I was so impressed with the flavor of the tea, and since the pastor's lovely wife told me where they'd purchased it, I ordered some online just a couple days later.
Not only is this tea amazing, but the company that sells it, New Creation, is a faith-based non-profit that works to counteract the human trafficking trade around the world. From their website: "Every item in our shop is created by the hands of a survivor or a vulnerable person that is at risk of being trafficked. We believe this ethical work is a key element to breaking the cycle of poverty + human trafficking."
I purchased two tins of loose-leaf tea, that each came with an adorable, hand-carved wooden teaspoon, and I also bought a book about prayers to change the world (they sell lots more than tea.) This was a fun purchase for myself, and I've been enjoying my tea in a new mug I bought recently, too (from Amazon, pictures below.)
I don't usually post about products, and there are zero affiliate links in this post. I'm just excited to share about a great company I've found and how I'm now enjoying at least a daily cup of hot tea, and how, when I do, I think of the new friends I made and remember feeling the love of God at a tea party. God is so good to us with these continual blessings. Often, we just need to open our eyes to them.
The ladies of Lewisville Baptist Church, as well as the New Creation company, bring to mind these verses: "There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all." 1 Corinthians 12:5-6
How has the Lord called you to minister? Maybe it's to make a mom feel special and loved, or maybe it's to rescue people from desperate situations. Maybe it's to pray for someone the Holy Spirit brings to mind. There's work for all of us to do every day. May we seek those opportunities to be a blessing!
A tingling sensation rises in my chest, accompanied by a gentle pressure and a bubbling up of emotion that lifts my shoulders and brings a smile to my face. The tingling spreads to my arms and I find myself singing a familiar song: I just feel like something good is about to happen. I just feel like something good is on its way.
Excitement. Sometimes, it overwhelms me. I'm usually at work, doing an ordinary task when, for a fleeting moment, I'm struck with jubilant anticipation. The feeling is almost always accompanied be the song, and it makes me want to jump to my feet and shout. Maybe these bursts of excitement are from too much caffeine (I drink an awful lot of caffeine,) but it feels more like the springing up of an eternal hope, like a hug from the Holy Spirit.
Am I alone in this, or do you feel it, too? Do everyday moments ever feel like the night before Christmas, or like there's one more number to be announced on a prize-winning ticket and all your numbers so far have been a match? That's what it's like for me. I just feel like something good is about to happen. I just feel like something good is on its way.
Granted, there are plenty of times where I feel anxiety or sadness in much the same way. But those occurrences seem more in line with my human nature. The excitement I experience has a supernatural sense to it. Maybe I feel it because the Lord is getting ready to drop a new idea into my spirit or reveal a new ministry opportunity. Maybe a personal dream is going to come true or someone in my family will accomplish something great. It sometimes feels like, at any moment, something unexpected and wonderful could happen to me. The next email I open or phone call I receive could be about marvelous, life-changing news. Any day now, the Lord could grant one of my heart's desires, simply because I delight in Him. (Psalms 37:4)
Or maybe the excitement is about something greater. I liken it to the feeling Zacchaeus must have had as he climbed down from the tree, knowing he was about to break bread with Jesus. It's the feeling I imagine in the parable of the ten virgins, for the ones who were ready for the bridegroom, when the cry was made at midnight, "He's coming! Go meet him!" The sensation could very well be my spirit "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:4) That's definitely something good that's on its way.
Whatever the cause, I'm thankful. Even if it's because of too much caffeine, I just feel like something good is about to happen. I hope you do, too.
I just feel like something good is about to happen
I just feel like something good is on its way
He has promised that He'd open all of heaven
And brother, it could happen any day
William J. Gaither, copyright 1974
Here's a link to the Gaither Homecoming version of the song referenced in this post. (Jessy Dixon's part in this gets me!) And another great version is below.
I was so glad to be able to share on PJNet.tv recently. Mark Prasek is a gracious host. We spent most of the time discussing my foster care and adoption experience, and we talked some about what it means to me to be a Christian Fiction author. Highlights of the interview are below, or you can watch the full interview here.
Someone who made a dramatic impact on my life passed away recently, though I’m sure he didn’t know how important he was to me, how much he’s responsible for the person I’ve become. I hope I get a chance to tell him in heaven one day.
This special man was a businessowner, hardworking, dedicated, and successful. Close to twenty-five years ago, he took a chance on hiring a teenager whom he didn’t know, to work in his office, and that opportunity helped set me on the career path I’ve followed ever since. That “afterschool job” became the foundation for the work that pays bills and helps support my family, even as I pursue my passion for writing and ministry.
I worked several jobs as a teenager, sometimes more than one at a time, while also dual-enrolled in high school and community college. I think I was seventeen when I stopped in at a jewelry store in my hometown to ask if they were hiring. The answer was no, but the nice lady behind the counter told me the insurance agency where her daughter worked might need some help. An insurance agency? What could I do at an insurance agency? But this was in the days of paper files, and there were tons of documents to be alphabetized by client name and stored in metal cabinets.
I don’t remember the interview process or how much money he offered, but I remember that David Sloan took a chance on me. Right off the bat, his hiring me taught that courage pays off, that it’s worth it to try.
Eventually, my responsibilities in the afternoon expanded to answering the telephone if everyone else in the office was busy. I couldn’t do much more than place callers on hold, due to industry restrictions. To answer policy questions, I’d have to be a licensed agent. So, David made the decision to send me to classes in the evening and then pay for the test I’d have to pass to be licensed. His investment in me gave me confidence that I can do hard things.
I was eighteen years old when I became a North Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Agent. I was so proud of that little card. It felt like I’d accomplished something big. Because of David, I learned that accomplishing big things feels good.
David was a good boss. He was stern when he should have been—helping to shape my work ethic and sense of professionalism—but lenient when I needed grace. Though I couldn’t see all these things then, that first office job, and the commitment it required, helped me grow as a person.
But it wasn’t just about the work. David treated me with respect. Along with the two other employees there, he cared about what went on in my life outside of work. At Christmas, when he and his wife hosted a party at their home, they invited me, the teenage part-timer. He taught me the value of being part of a team.
I worked parttime at the office for around two years, I think, before I moved on to a full-time job at a bigger agency in another town, with David’s full support. Within a year at that job, I was promoted and transferred to another city, where I would eventually meet my husband. I floundered somewhat in the job world during my early twenties, still maturing, and finding my footing as an adult. But my background in insurance eventually led to employment with a company where I discovered new skills as a Business Analyst. Moving to an Information Technology position opened doors I never imagined, and even now, in my current work for a software development company, I can trace every career advancement back to my start as a filing clerk at that little office in my hometown.
So, where would I be had it not been for David Sloan? Would I have met my husband? Would I have a good job now? Would I have the ambition to pursue a writing career and an Information Technology career while raising four kids? Maybe. You see, I know it really wasn’t David, but God, Who shaped my life. God had a plan for me long before I knew it, but David is the person God used, along with many, many others—my parents, church, friends, other generous employers (two, in particular, that had a similar impact as Mr. Sloan)—to put me on this path. I’m so glad David is part of my story; I’m so thankful for his kindness; and, in his memory, I’m inspired to make a difference in another's life, should God give me the opportunity.
Who knows the impact one person can have on another? Positive. Negative. Lifechanging. It may be impossible to tell, but the effect of our decisions can extend beyond ourselves and shape the lives of others for years to come. May we all attempt to live graciously, to offer help and opportunities to those who need them. May we strive to see value in others, to take a chance on investing in someone else's life. May we all have a heart like David.
My sincere condolences to the family and close friends of David Sloan, who passed away March 13, 2022.
Click here to read more about his life and legacy.
Please help me, Lord, I prayed. Please make this easy.
My dentist visits are times of fervent prayer. During even the simplest of procedures, I almost always end up crying from anxiety, at least a little, and it seemed the recent visit to fill two cavities would be no different. As the dentist came at me with the needle, I prayed harder in my mind. Please help me get through this. My prayer was desperate, pleading.
Then something life-changing happened. The dentist poked the needle into my gum, and I stopped praying. I quit begging God to help me. Instead, I began to thank God for being so good. I changed my prayers into praises, and the panic lifted--it dissolved and floated toward the heavens with my words of adoration. It was the most painless injection of Novocain ever. So, I kept praising, right through the drilling, and the result was nothing short of miraculous.
You are Magnificent, Marvelous, Wonderful, Worthy. Magnificent, Marvelous, Wonderful, Worthy. Over and over, I offered those words silently. At some point, I remember thanking God for a good dentist who can fix my teeth.
In a gentle voice, the dentist said, "You're doing good," as he worked. He always says that, because he's kind and genuinely empathetic about my anxiety. But for the first time, I actually felt like I was doing okay. Not just getting by. Not just managing. I was good.
Psalm 34:1 rang in my mind. I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. And though the praises weren't actually coming from my mouth--a little hard to do when your teeth are being drilled--they were there in my heart, thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Who knew what I needed to do. God heard my original request to make the visit easy, and He used my praises to accomplish it.
I've visited the dentist a lot over the past year, since I finally decided to prioritize oral health over my fear, and I've still got a few more visits left to get all the problems corrected. But if I can just remember my "secret weapon," I don't think I'll dread the next visit so much. Now to try praising the Lord on an elevator...
What makes you panic? Maybe praise is your answer, too.
The finalists for the upcoming Selah Awards were announced today, and I am so thrilled that New Wine Transportation Company made it to the final round of judging in the Novella category.
Many names of writer friends were called during the live stream of the announcement of finalists, and I literally stood in my kitchen and clapped each time I recognized a name. It's been so fun to celebrate with them today on social media.
The awards are part of Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, which I'll be attending for the fifth time in May. The awards cover several genres/categories and are for works published in the calendar year prior. New Wine Transportation Company was entered in the Novella category because the word count is just shy of the requirement for novel categories, though by different standards it is called a "novel." Last year, I was a finalist in the Historical Fiction category for Where I Was Planted. (I came in fourth place, which isn't actually a place, but it was still a thrill to be a finalist.) This year, there are two other finalists in my category, and I'll be honest, I would love to know how many entries there were for the category in total. I want to celebrate, and I do, but part of me always wonders things like, Were there only three entries? Either way, I'm grateful for that pretty gold seal, and I'm cheering on all my friends who are also finalists. Excited to find out all the winners on June 1!
Maybe a better question is, "Why not memorize them?" In an age where we can look up most anything in seconds, memorization of lists and facts has become a lost skill. But scholars suggest that memorizing information increases the brain's capacity to learn*, and when we memorize something, it becomes part of us.
Memorizing the Books isn't as important as actually reading and studying the Bible, but it is a way to affirm our commitment to making the Bible an important part of our lives. Knowing the names of the Books in order is useful for locating Scriptures easily. Many people are able to recite song lyrics, sporting event schedules, and network television lineups with little effort. What if we invested some of that same brain power in the list of sixty-six Books that make up the Holy Bible?
My nine-year-old son recently recited the thirty-nine Books of the Old Testament in front of our congregation (full disclosure: there was a monetary reward involved,) and he's working on learning the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. I learned them all when I was a child, too, but I'm having to re-learn part of the list now, and the refresher course is fun. Especially since he and I are working on memorizing them together.
What about you? Does this sound like a challenge you'd like to try? A quick internet search for "how to memorize the Books of the Bible" provides an enormous list of articles, blogs, and videos that could be helpful. If you're a visual person, a colorful poster is a great tool. (I love the one I bought for my Sunday School class, but it's no longer available.) Maybe try this free printable from www.1plus1plus1equals1.com. Or, if you memorize best through music, search the web for "Books of the Bible song." There are even videos that instruct how to pronounce the names of the Books.
Memorizing the Books of the Bible doesn't have to be accomplished in one day. If you set a goal of learning eleven names per week, you'll be able to recite them all in six weeks! Just set a goal that's right for you and stick to it. Make it a family project or challenge a friend to learn them with you.
I love having a worldwide web of data at my fingertips (and a Table of Contents in the front of my Bible,} but the internet can never replace the power of the human brain. If you haven't memorized the list of Books in order, give it a try. Why not?
*Source: Psychology Today, William Klemm, Ph.D., senior professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University.
When we jump to a conclusion, we often land in a misunderstanding. Such was the case for some of the children of Israel, as documented in the book of Joshua.
After the journey in the wilderness for forty years, before the people crossed over Jordan and into the Promised Land, three groups of them—the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh—asked Moses to let them remain on the East side of Jordan and possess that land instead (Numbers 32.) Moses granted the request on the condition that soldiers from those groups would first help the other tribes conquer Canaan—an effort that would take “a long time” (Joshua 11:18.) When the wars were finally ended and all the tribes had received their inheritance in the Promised Land, the men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, crossed back over Jordan to join their families. That’s when the misunderstanding occurred.
Joshua 22 tells us that the East-of-Jordaners built a great altar on their side of the river, and when the people on the West heard about it, they assumed it was a pagan altar. So, the West-of-Jordaners “gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them” (Joshua 22:12.)
Fortunately, Israel didn’t go immediately into battle. The tribes first sent ambassadors to Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh and confronted them about their supposed wrongdoing. ‘How could you rebel against the Lord this way?’ they said.
On one hand, the people on the West had good reason to be concerned. They’d seen firsthand that God doesn’t deal lightly with rebellion. If there was any chance their brothers on the other side of the river had fallen into idolatry, it could have resulted in destruction for all of Israel, and they had been commanded to remove idol worship from among them at all costs (as we all should.) But their assumptions about the East-of-Jordaners’ intentions were wrong. The purpose of the altar is explained in Joshua 22:27: “But that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the LORD before him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no part in the LORD.” They wanted a symbol of their shared faith, a reminder to future generations that, though separated by the river, they were still part of God’s chosen people. So, they called the altar Ed, meaning witness. May we always be mindful of our witness to those around us. May we aim to leave a road map for future generations, to lead them in the right path.
Israel accepted their brothers’ explanation, but can you imagine how it felt to be accused? It must have been hurtful, especially after the tribes of Gad and Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh had spent years fighting alongside the rest of Israel to take the land of Canaan that God had promised. They were family; they were on the same team.
I know a little of that kind of hurt. I once tried to help someone, but my intentions were grossly misinterpreted, and even though I tried to explain, the person wasn’t willing to hear or accept my heart on the matter. How much dissension we could resolve in the body of Christ if people were willing to listen to one another.
Believers should be careful to avoid sin and unafraid to call it out, when necessary, but we should always give our brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there’s a good reason the other party said what they said or did what they did. Maybe the point of contention is all a big misunderstanding. Just because someone doesn’t do things the way we do doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Talking things out may be all that’s needed to bring resolution.
The story of the altar called Ed on the East side of the Jordan River should be a reminder to us all: Be wary of sin, but don’t jump to conclusions.
This is not a typical blog post from me. Trust me, this one is a little “out there”. Definitely off brand for my writing. But I’ve been chronicling an oddity in my life, and I want to share, partly to see if anyone else has experienced anything similar, and partly to record about it for the future. So, here I go…
Do you ever have something pop into your mind with seemingly no trigger and no related conscious thought? Maybe you’re watching a show about dogs and suddenly an image of a purple rocket ship is in your brain in perfect detail. Or you’re cooking dinner and the words of the preamble to the Constitution forms instantly in your mind, like someone held up an imaginary flashcard that you weren’t expecting. For the last few months, I’ve frequently had a similar occurrence, sometimes many times a day, only it involves tastes and smells. I experience very vivid and very specific tastes and smells, in my mind, at random times. I’ll be going about my day and suddenly, I'm acutely aware of the taste of popcorn or the smell of gasoline. Sometimes, I find the event interesting. Other times, I'm befuddled, and I question if I’ve somehow tipped the scales of normal brain processes.
I don’t call the tastes and smells memories because they aren’t associated with a specific place and time, but they are memories in the sense that my brain recalls a particular taste and/or smell just before it identifies the specific food or item to which the taste and/or smell is associated. These tastes and smells are so vivid and sudden that I've been tempted to call them sensory hallucinations, but I am able to distinguish that I’m not actually smelling or tasting what my brain evokes.
There are two life events that I can loosely connect to the onset of this phenomenon: 1) Contracting and recovering from Covid, and 2) Changing to a low carb/keto diet. When I lost my smell with Covid, it was only for a few days, but it nearly drove me crazy. I cried because not having any sense of smell felt overwhelmingly strange. Around the time I got better, I completely changed my eating habits. Could the phenomena be a brain quirk caused by the virus? Maybe my diet has altered my brain somehow; some (certainly not all) of the tastes and smells could be triggered by normal cravings for foods I've given up. Or maybe I've developed a form of synesthesia, but I haven't identified the triggers for the sensory perceptions.
There was a day in early January where the tastes and smells occurred so many times that it started to get on my nerves. It had crossed the line into distraction. To try to make some sense of it, I decided to document what I was “smelling” and “tasting” and the time of day it happened, to see if there were any patterns. I did this for one month, and the results are fairly interesting (at least to me.)
I'm tempted to share my log for the month, but that might be too much. Let's just say, there are some odd things documented. Some of the items on the list I haven't actually tasted or smelled in years. Deviled ham? A tanning bed? Chinese donuts? Dried tobacco? Others are common for me, like ketchup, ranch dressing, and apples. Some of the tastes/smells are very specific, like Ivory Soap, Smarties candies, and Fruit Stripe gum, while some are more general, like toothpaste.
Are these perceptions here to stay? Will they become less distracting over time? Maybe they aren't so odd. Perhaps there are lots of people with the same experience, who don't talk about it because it's their normal.
The human brain is an amazing thing. No doubt, we are all "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14,) despite our quirks or differences, or perhaps evidenced by them. As we change and get older, we learn new things about ourselves, and that's one of the things that makes life interesting.
Just in case you didn't see it on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube...I just signed a contract to publish my fifth novel!
To announce the signing of this contract with Iron Stream Media, I visited one of the settings of my upcoming novel, which is tentatively titled Songs for a Sunday. Oh, I can hardly wait to tell you more about this book (but I will). For now, I'll share that it's my first novel with a dual timeline, set in present day and the 1960s, and it's a Southern/Women's Fiction story set in and around Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The book is scheduled to release March 2023. (I know! So far away! But more time to spread the word is a good thing.)
In these pictures, I'm at R.J. Reynolds Auditorium, a beloved landmark of the city. Two pivotal scenes in my book take place here--one in each timeline.
Construction of this magnificent building began in 1919, and was the vision of Mrs. Katharine Smith Reynolds, in honor and memory of her husband, tobacco industry magnate Richard Joshua Reynolds, who died the year prior. The bronze memorial tablet in the lobby reads: "This auditorium is to be devoted to the cultivation of the arts and sciences, and to the education of people, in affectionate recognition of the life and services of him in whose honor and memory it is dedicated."
One more teaser about the book- it deals with the struggles, secrets, sacrifices, and successes of two sets of sisters, generations apart. I'm so excited to work with Iron Stream Media for this project, and I'm very grateful to Editor Extraordinairre, Eve Marie Everson (who is also a fabulous author) for the opportunity. Thankful also for my agent, Cyle Young.
I look forward to sharing more in the coming months!
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Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional articles and musings about life, parenting, and the writing journey, as well as important news about my books. I hope you find something of interest here!
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