Thursday, October 13, 2016

Be Your Own Tree

Part of the wonder of autumn is the spectacular changes year after year. Even poison ivy changes color! If we look closely, we can see the beauty in every plant, tree, and even grass.

It's too bad we don't view ourselves in the same manner. We're so busy comparing our tree to the ones next to us or down the street that we don't see our own unique beauty. We think we have nothing to offer, nothing to add, nothing to give. 

Comparison is rooted in insecurity. 

When we attempt to find our worth in the acceptance and approval of others, our true value becomes skewed. Because the people we seek to emulate are often dealing with similar issues, we are essentially comparing ourselves to insecure women who are comparing themselves to other insecure women. No wonder we're all a mess! No one has it all figured out. We just all pretend that we do. 

That's why I love trees.

A magnolia can't be compared to a maple, but each tree is uniquely stunning in its own season. No matter how hard a maple tries, it will never have the breathtaking blossoms of the magnolia in spring. 

Similarly, the maple's robust red leaves in autumn cause the magnolia to take a back seat. They both have charm all their own. 

So do you.

A tree does nothing to either diminish or enhance its beauty. It is content to grow and become what God designed it to be. Its roots burrow deep, seeking the nourishment of water and minerals of the soil, while its branches and leaves reach high to capture and store energy from light and oxygen. It doesn't compete with or compare itself to the other trees nearby.

With the exception of a weeping willow, have you ever heard a tree whine about not being good enough, strong enough, or smart enough? Has a tree ever suggested to a bird that its branches were not worthy of housing a nest? Other than the wicked ones in the Wizard of Oz, trees don't complain.

How would your perspective change if you accepted yourself as God designed you? If you made the radical decision to (gasp) LIKE yourself?

What if you reached deep into the soil and water of God's Word for your nourishment instead of the shallow ground of the approval of others? If you reached heavenward to capture the oxygen of the Holy Spirit and the light that emanates from God Himself?

What if you made up your mind to allow yourself to be who you want to be? 

What if you stopped trying to be who or what you think everyone expects you to be and embraced your desires, dreams, and--yes--even your quirks?

What kind of tree are you? Where do you shine? What are your redeeming qualities?

If you don't know, ask God to reveal it to you. Ask people who know and care about you, "What do you like about me?" Then watch your tree blossom, your leaves turn the most beautiful shade of yourself. Stop focusing on what the other trees are doing and turn your face toward the Son--the Tree of Life.

Ephesians 2:10

Blessings Along the Path,


PS: Congratulations to Jerri Miller who was the winner of Jennifer Rothschild's 66 WAYS GOD LOVES YOU.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Kinked Hose, 66 Ways to Fix It, and a Giveaway!

Have you ever felt like you failed?

Sure you have. Who hasn't?

Did you ever feel like you failed God? That you're not deserving of His favor because you messed up?

If you're like the majority of people, even Christians, my guess is that you may believe that you're not always worthy of God's love because of a past sin, a current struggle, or even a lost temper.

Jennifer Rothschild's latest book, 66 WAYS GOD LOVES YOU addresses that issue in a fascinating way--through the discovery of God's love in every book of the Bible. 

She expertly explores each book to find a biblical nugget of love, then gently weaves that gem into a personal way the reader can experience that love. She does this 66 times, and it never gets stale. 

In Deuteronomy, God keeps His covenant of love to me and to a thousand generations.
Jennifer Rothschild, 66 Ways God Loves You

This didn't resonate with me...until after the kinked hose incident.

After a long day at work, I was tired and cranky. I felt overwhelmed by all the things still to do at home. 

I went outside to water the flowers, but the hose was kinked. Water trickled out as I attempted to unravel it. The hose didn't cooperate, and I became more frustrated.

Then, I lost it. 

The water may have been blocked, but a torrent of words rushed from my mouth--and they weren't streams of living water.

My futile attempt to fix the hose continued as I tried to now hang it back up. In the process, the water began to flow freely--all over my head. It would have been funny if I weren't so tired and frustrated.

Instead, I felt worse. Unworthy. Unlovable.

Then I read this:

He will never reject you even when you blow it. He will find you worthy of His affection even when you fail.
Jennifer Rothschild, 66 Ways God Loves You.

Not "if" but "when" you fail. Because we all will. We all do.

Even when I don't keep my promise to God, He still keeps His. I am always worthy of his affection.

This is just one of 66 marvelous revelations I discovered in this little book. Rich illustrations and concise teachings make this a lovely book for gift-giving or keeping for yourself to use as a devotional. Or just a quiet reminder of God's love at the end of the day.


I have a extra copy AND a stylish tote to give away! All you have to do is comment below, on Facebook (where this will be posted), or with an email response. I'll pick a winner at random.

If you can't wait to find out if you're a winner, you can purchase Jennifer's book at any bookstore or through

Blessings Along the Path,

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

And You Call Yourself a Christian?

I am of Irish descent. 

But I don't drink. Okay, I do like wine, but I don't drink in excess. And I hate beer. I'm not entirely sure what Jameson makes, but I think it's whiskey. I've been to the plant. It bored me. Does that change my DNA and make me any less Irish?

I'm also a woman. 

But I don't need a friend to accompany me to "powder my nose" in a restaurant. I'm perfectly capable of finding the rest room on my own. Lately, I have embraced a make-up free face. I prefer to play in the mud than to play house. I would never have made it in Victorian society where needlepoint, tea, and elocution were what defined a woman. I'd have preferred electrocution. Does that make me any less of a woman?

I'm sure that you'd agree that the answer to both, of course, is no.

But where do you stand on this?

I am a Christian. 

But I sometimes skip church for no reason. And I don't read my Bible every day. Worse, sometimes I swear or treat people poorly or act selfishly. Does that make me any less of a Christian?

Sadly, some will answer yes. 

If I had to count on my fingers the number of times I've heard, "And she/he calls herself/himself a Christian!" I would run out of fingers. People who don't fully comprehend the grace of Christianity have said it, believing perhaps that once a person puts their faith, hope, and life in Christ, he or she is somehow radically changed into a creature who never makes mistakes. Someone who is perfect.

Not-so-well-meaning Christians have also said it, expecting fellow Jesus-freaks to be radically changed into a creature who never makes mistakes (conveniently forgetting that they do). Someone who is perfect.

I can understand those who may not grasp the concept of grace. Once we declare ourselves to be "saved," we are instantly thrust under a microscope. Because we claim to aspire to be Christlike, we are expected to be like Him. What the "unsaved" may not be willing to acknowledge is that we, being human, are imperfect and always will be. Becoming a "Christian" doesn't change that. We are still human.

Only God is perfect. 

We aspire to that, knowing that we'll never attain it--which is why we realize that only the finished work of Jesus can make us perfect. When He said, "It is finished," He meant it.

Yes, I mess up. Just like you, my not-yet saved friend. I'm forgiven, not perfect. May I explain that to you?

The ones I have a problem with are those journeying next to me--the ones who are walking on the same path as I am with Jesus toward the glory of God--who are quick to judge and point fingers, and slow to forgive and extend mercy. These modern-day Pharisees would do well to observe the fingers pointing back at themselves.

Obviously, continuing to walk in blatant sin is not aspiring to be like Christ. But what about those of us who sincerely try--and fail, attempt to be kind--but are not, and fall short of (what we think are) the expectations of the more mature believers in our midst?

If God forgives us, then should others not forgive us?

But wait---am I not doing the same? Do I not judge and condemn? If not directly (or indirectly--as to someone else) to the person, then in my heart? You may not hear my disapproving tsk-tsk, but God does. The thought may not make it into a fully formed sentence in my brain, but God still hears my accusation:

And she calls herself a Christian?

Yes, I've been guilty of it. So have you.

It's called judgment and condemnation. And it's just as much of a sin as the one we are attempting to call out in another.

If God forgives me, and I am less than perfect, then what gives me the right to place myself above the One who is righteous and able to forgive sin? Who am I to judge another, heaping condemnation onto their perhaps already guilty heart? 

Tsk-tsk, Mary. Look at those fingers pointing back.

Oh, yeah, there's this. And the time I said that. And the ongoing struggle I have with this.

Last week, I mentioned my friend, Andrea's superpower--the ability to correct without condemnation. That's what Jesus did. We would do well to do the same.

Can we learn to overlook the sins of others and focus on our own? Can we practice the power of forgiveness and release others from the expectations we place on them? Can we do that for ourselves? 

Maybe not. Maybe that's why we need to call on the name of Jesus. Because sometimes, it's just too hard. Too hard to be perfect, and too hard to expect anything less from ourselves and from others. Too hard to open our clenched fist that points accusingly away with one finger and defensively back with three.

Yes, all of us sin. Even perfectly imperfect followers of Jesus. Even those of us who dare to call ourselves, "Christian."

But that's the wonderful thing about grace. Jesus extends it to each one of us--while we are still sinners (and while we continue to be sinners)--even though we don't deserve it. Ought we not do the same?

So, let us unclench our fists, uncurl our pointing fingers, and reserve our judgment. Instead, let us open our palms toward heaven to receive what is good:

To act justly
To love mercy
And to walk humbly with [y]our God
Micah 6:8

Bail รณ Dhia ort
(The blessing of God on you)


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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Are Superpowers Transferable?

I invited my wheelchair bound physically challenged friend over to my house recently for an event I was hosting, but because my home is not ADA accessible, I wasn't sure if she would be able to come. 

The reason I crossed out the phrase, "wheelchair bound," is because that's the one I used in my message to her, and she corrected me. 

You see, Andrea has a superpower. 

This is something that I didn't know before. Something that I need. Are superpowers transferable? I hope so, because I think she's willing to share hers, and I want some.

Andrea has spinal bifida, a birth condition that affects the spinal nerves. What I didn't know is that she uses braces and crutches to get around as well as a wheelchair. She is anything but wheelchair-bound. She is more joy-bound. Happiness-bound. Encouragement-bound. Kindness-bound. Compassion-bound. Positive-thoughts-bound. Inspiring-bound. Anything but limited.

Rather than tell you about our conversation, I'd like to share parts of it. Some names have been changed (mine) to protect the stupid. 

Ignoramus: I do have three steps in the front. Are you completely wheelchair bound, where that would be impossible, or would you be able to do something like that?

Andrea: No on the climbing stairs...

Andrea: P.S...If you use the phrase wheelchair bound with other crippies besides me, you'll need protection, because they'll beat the crap out of you.

(Ignoramus had no idea!)

Ignoramus: I am so sorry! What should I say?

Andrea: Well, if you need to ask somebody if they can actually physically get out of their wheelchair just ask them that.

(Ignoramus did the "I coulda had a V8!" head slap. Well, duh!)

Andrea (continuing): If you are referring to somebody having a handicap, you can say physically challenged.

Ignoramus: Got it. Thank you for setting me straight. I'm glad you didn't take offense at my ignorance.

Andrea: I know you didn't mean it in a bad way. I'm just protecting you from somebody who might misinterpret it.

Ignoramus: God bless you, love.

Andrea: Preventing bloodshed...Is there no end to my superpowers?

What I realized from this conversation--in addition to my ignorance--was that Andrea's superpowers go far beyond the physical. Preventing bloodshed was said in fun. Her reproof was done with humor. Her real superpower was in the delivery. 

She could have told me that I should say this and should never say that. But words like that tend to offend, which typically leads to both parties feeling hurt. 

Instead, she chose affirming phrases and words, like "you can say," and "Just ask them that." 

Andrea's real superpower is the ability to use correction without condemnation.

What I told her was this:

There are many ways to rescue people and the superpower you possess is mightier than any physical one.You have a way of rebuking with kindness (She called it a reproof rather than a rebuke--see how kind she is?).

Instead of allowing me to fall into guilt and shame--which is so common--you informed me in the kindest way. That is not only a superpower, but a rare gift.


Granted, I really didn't know I was saying anything wrong. But too many people just leave it at that. They get offended and turn away, often leaving a befuddled accuser to wonder, "What did I say?" 

A less powerful woman may have taken offense at my less than compassionate words. But a woman with the superpower of kindness and compassion cares enough not to leave her friends in a ditch. 

She corrects without condemning. 

Andrea's legs may not work as well as mine do, but her brain-to-mouth/brain-to-keyboard reflex sure has mine beat by a longshot. I could use me some of that!

Blessings Along the Path,

What's your superpower? Think you don't have one? Think again. Think hard if necessary. And share in the comments below. 

Read Andrea's story and discover more about her superpowers at 

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Fast End to A Fast

I had to break my fast. In case you didn't read my post the other day, I decided to do a "numbers" fast for three days. Are you wondering how I did? 

Well, on a scale of one to ten, I'd give myself about a five.

I discovered that it's impossible to ignore numbers. I didn't quite make it through the third day.

Hubbles and I decided to take a hike after work yesterday (Day 3). By the time we got home from work and decided on where to go, it was almost 5:30. There was a smaller section of a larger trail in our town that we'd never hiked, so we decided to try it. The only problem was that we didn't know how long it was or how long it would take. We estimated about 4 miles. That was doable before dark.

How could I "fast" numbers? Basically I was trying to ignore them. But if you set out on a hike in the woods a few hours before sunset, ignoring numbers is just plain stupid. How would I sound if I had to call the ranger for help? 

Imagine this scene: We're in the middle of a dense forest, and the sun is quickly fading. Before we can return to the car at the trailhead, we are plunged into darkness. Naturally, we've forgotten to bring flashlights or headlamps. Mary decides to call the park ranger (she just happens to know the number).

Me: Hi, we're out here somewhere and I'm not sure where. Can you come get us? It's dark, and we can't find our way back.

Ranger: What time did you set out? How long have you been hiking?

Me: I'm not sure. Time was irrelevant. We've been out for awhile. I'm not really at liberty to put a number on it.

Ranger: (long pause).

Me:  Are you still there?

Ranger: Yes, ma'am. Uh...what are your GPS coordinates?

Me: I don't know.

Ranger: Look on your phone (Ranger proceeds to tell me how to do that). 

Me: I'm sorry. I can't. I'm fasting numbers.

Ranger decides it would be best to leave the crazy woman in the woods for the night.

I do not suffer from OCD. In fact, I don't obsess over numbers. I obsess over certain things, and I'm not even sure it can be called obsession. Sometimes I dwell on them too long. Think a little too much about them. Like the bank or credit card balance. Wishing I had just a little more in one and a little less in the other. But thinking and wishing won't make money appear or get the card paid down. 

Making wise choices with money will.

Turning off the clock on my run was great because it showed me that I'm too hard on myself. A performance mentality fuels my competitive nature, but I needed to realize that it's not a race and I'm don't need to compete with myself. There is nothing wrong with my being competitive. It's how I'm wired. But, like money, I need to use it wisely. 

When I no longer enjoy something, and it's become work, I know I'm out of balance. 

The decision not to weigh myself was a good one--a practice that I'll continue (or maybe discontinue would be more appropriate). I realized that I am afraid of gaining back all the weight I worked so hard to lose, so weighing myself daily gives me a (false) sense of security. But even my doctor told me, "It's not about numbers. It's about how you feel. Your body will know when it's hit its goal weight." 

She was right. Focusing on the possibility of failure only invites fear. 

Numbers can thrust us into bondage or they can motivate us, keep us accountable (pardon the pun), and help us to stay on track. Numbers are necessary and helpful. As with anything, we can become obsessed if we allow our mind to get stuck.The key is balance. 

Knowing what is good and beneficial. 

You say, "I am allowed to do anything," but not everything is good for you. You say, "I am allowed to do anything, but not everything is beneficial."
Romans 10:23 (NLT)

Oh, and if you happen to go to the Kay Environmental Center where the above sign sits, please don't mention my name to the park ranger.

Kay Environmental Center, Chester, NJ at sunset
Blessings Along the Path,

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Our Flag is Still There

Yesterday I decided not to clock my run, and I'm so glad. If I had been in my typical "numbers obsessed" state of mind, I may not have stopped.

There I was, jogging down Main Street past sleeping shops yet to be opened, when I passed a flag laying on the sidewalk. It was on a pole, so I assumed it must have fallen or was blown off the side of one of the shops. I continued running, but suddenly realized, "Hey, that was an American flag and it was laying on the ground. That's just not right." I was taught that we should never let our flag touch the ground (Flag Etiquette).

Not right, but not wrong enough for me to stop and pick it up. I kept running. But it didn't sit right with me. 

I take pride in my flag. 

I display my own at home. I couldn't leave it there. 

I turned around and ran back. I picked up the flag and looked around. Where do I put it? I found a small rock garden surrounding a tree, and pushed the pole into a hole. It wobbled, but stayed up. I let go, but the flag fell to half-mast and drooped onto the ground. I propped it onto a branch. It would have to do. Then I stepped back and looked at the pitiful thing. It was backwards. 

As I looked at the sad flag, I realized that it was symbolic of the state of our country.

I rarely "preach" or state my opinion on political matters--mostly because I'm a self-professed ignoramus. However, I feel strongly about what follows. Right or wrong, it's what I believe, and it's what my discarded flag showed me.

Our leaders are fallen, our country is at half-mast, and our morals are backwards.

Yet we proudly display this pitiful imitation of a flag for all the world to see--we are politically correct!  And if we prefer not to, we don't have to pledge allegiance to a flag--or a nation that has outdated laws and morals that are measured by what feels right for each individual. 

We are no longer one nation under God. 

How can we be if we keep taking God out of the equation?

We have divided ourselves into opposing camps with insulting criticism and intolerable tolerance as our weapons. 

We give liberty to and demand justice for one group, while another has theirs stripped away. 

Then we argue about which group is better, more powerful, or more entitled. We accuse others of being too narrow-minded or too broad-minded. We point our self-righteous finger at those who believe otherwise--ignoring the three that are pointing back at ourselves. 

We are no longer the united States of America. Sadly, we are becoming the divided States of America. 

I write this through tears. I feel sadness deep in my soul when I see how we've cheapened our flag, ourselves, and our country. Shame on us.

This country was founded on the principles of the Bible and was created to be "under God." In fact, the original pledge was penned by Colonel George Blach in 1887 and said this:

We give our head and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!

But Francis Bellamy, the author of the Pledge of Allegiance as we know it, called it "too juvenile and lacking in dignity." You can read more here:

Background on The Pledge of Allegiance

We can take God out of the equation and even out of the Pledge of Allegiance, but He will always be on the throne. And during this tumultuous time of turbulence in our nation, it gives me great comfort to know that I need not rely on myself or on corrupt individuals to set things right. I place my trust--my head and my heart--in the one true God, the one I pledge allegiance to.

Blessings Along the Path,

He controls the course of world events; 
He removes kings and sets up other kings. 
Daniel 2:21 (NLT)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Numbers Fast

I have an obsessive personality. Is there even such a thing? Or does everyone obsess about something?

I started reading Lisa Harper's, Stumbling into Grace about a week ago. If you're not familiar with her, my goodness, check her out on Youtube. She's hilarious...then packs a theological punch. I don't know how I never knew about her until now!

Anyway, for a change, I decided not to blow through the book so that I could check it off my "I read this!" list (if you're counting, that's obsession #1). After reading chapter three, I realized that by skipping over the discussion questions and journaling suggestions at the end of each chapter, I was missing out on something great that God wanted to do. So I started over. I never expected revelation to come simply from journaling, but boy did it come. 

Nothing that wasn't new. Mostly the perfectionism (I refuse to call it mine, thereby owning it), I constantly battle.

But here was something new: I obsess over numbers.

My weight. My triglycerides number (which I can't see, so that magnifies the obsession--which leads to counting the amount of sugar I allow myself to have). My daily caloric intake. My time when I run. The miles I run. The credit card balance. The number of paychecks it will take to pay that balance off. The bank balance. The number of days I run. The number of days I don't run (giving me an excuse for self-flagellation). The amount of library books in my pile to read (leading to anxiety). The amount of time I write should be writing don't write (leading to guilt). What time it is and how much time I have left to_____. Don't even get me started on social media. 

And then I go to work. Did I mention that I'm a bookkeeper?

I wondered why I have this obsession, and what it has to do with perfection. 

Numbers aren't like emotions or people. They don't lie. They don't change. Yes, my weight or run time might change, but that number itself is definitive. Numbers are reliable. The number three is always the number three. 

If I make a mistake with numbers, I can find the error and fix it. Numbers are something I can control. And when I control things in my life, everything is perfect. Until it's not.

So I decided to do a "numbers fast." 

The idea actually came to me after I decided not to turn on "Map My Run" this morning. For the first time in a year, I didn't clock my jog. I just ran. 

At first, it felt wrong. I long for that automated voice to tell me that I've just run one mile (even though I know where that mile is on my route), and I wait expectantly for this robotic woman whom I rely so much on to tell me I've run that mile in less than the time I expect. Sometimes I do. Often I don't. So I push harder, ignoring the praise music in my ear.

As I started my run in the dark this morning, I thought, I should fast numbers altogether. For like three months, since three is the number of perfection. 

Really, those were my exact thoughts. The irony was not lost on me. 

Then I thought, Well, maybe let's try three about we start with three days and see where that goes?

Why am I still putting a number on it???

Because of the extreme heat and humidity, I haven't run in a week (yes, I counted), so I immediately felt the burn. Around the half mile mark, I hit my stride, but I was obviously still counting.

A little over the mile mark, I followed the sidewalk instead of continuing on my normal route, which would cut my run short. But something happened when I turned the corner. I followed my feet instead of my head, and I no longer cared how far I would run. And it seemed that in those seconds, the first glimmer of morning light appeared. I settled into my run and actually enjoyed the exercise, the endorphins, and the joy that suddenly filled my heart, breaking the sadness that had engulfed me when I had awoken.

I felt free and unencumbered by the performance perfection that I so frequently place on myself.

Then I encountered something that, had I been "on the clock," I may have ignored. But since I've already written well over the suggested 500 words for a blog post, you'll just have to wait until tomorrow. ('s hard to break those habits). Until tomorrow...

Blessings Along the Path,