Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway!

Some bloggers write book reviews. I generally don’t, but every now and then, something comes along that piques my curiosity, and I want to know more. Deborah Piccurelli’s Hush, Little Baby was one of those books.

Deb is a fellow member of the New Jersey Society of Christian Writers. I read her book recently, and I simply had to ask her the questions that I had after I read it. Those questions, along with her answers are below. But first, let me tell you a little about the story.

From the back cover:
Investigative journalist, Amber Blake, is a little person bent on payback for the death of her average-sized twin sister. Enlisted by her former partner and estranged husband, Evan, she poses as a counselor in an abortion clinic to expose the doctor responsible for fetal harvesting. As a Christian, she struggles with concealing her beliefs to maintain her cover, while the doctor’s romantic overtures tumble her stomach. Amber agrees to date him for the sake of the story…but nothing prepares her for what’s behind a mysterious door in his office.

Now, as both a writer and a reader, I tend to be highly critical of what I read. I am quite unforgiving when I find grammatical or spelling errors or sloppy flip-flopping with the point of view in a book. I found none of this in Hush, Little Baby. Deb’s writing flowed effortlessly between characters and between scenes. It was quite suspenseful, and it went beyond just the story. Amber had to make a lot of tough choices, and, as the reader, I felt them along with her. I gave Deborah a five-star rating on amazon.com, where you can purchase her book. Oh, and I was not prepared for what was behind that door!

HOWEVER, Deborah has graciously agreed to a BOOK GIVEAWAY! All you need to do is comment on this blog and you’ll automatically be entered! If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or subscribe by email to this blog, you’ll be entered again for each follow/subscription! However, you must first comment to be entered.

Now, for the interview:

         Your book, Hush, Little Baby focuses on the sanctity of life, which is an issue close to your heart.  Why is it so important to you and how did you decide to weave this issue into your storyline? Or did you weave the storyline into the issue?

I actually wove the storyline around the issue. I guess sanctity of life is something God just laid on my heart. When I think of senseless killing, my insides get all tangled up.

      As I read your book, I was impressed by how knowledgeable you are about things such as fetal harvesting. How did you come to learn about this in relationship to abortions? Did your book require a lot of research?

I never heard about fetal harvesting until I saw a clip about it advertising for a 20/20 segment on TV back in 1999. I scribbled a few sentences on a small piece of paper and dropped it into my “story idea” file. I didn’t actually begin writing it until ten or eleven years later. When I was ready, I read a lot of stuff online about it, talked to a Christian journalist who wrote an article about it in World Magazine, who in turn gave me the name and phone number of the President of Life Dynamics who headed up the real-life investigation. He spent hours of his time helping me.

          Your protagonist, Amber Blake is a little person. Why write about little people?

A few years after I saw that clip on fetal harvesting, I began to notice how little people were being exploited on daytime talk shows. It tugged on my heartstrings, so I vowed to write a book one day showing them living just like average height people, albeit facing some challenges to do so. That was where my story started. When I searched my story idea file for a plot to go along with these characters, I couldn’t find a thing until I got down to the very last piece of paper. I’m sure you can guess what was on it. Yep! The fetal harvesting notes. Somehow it just seemed to fit my characters. Others may not see it, but it all just fell into place for me.

      Your story flowed seemingly effortlessly, including the way you flip-flopped your characters' POV. How do you get your stories to flow so well?

Thank you for the compliment, Mary! I can only say that years of reading from a young child somehow developed it naturally. However, while studying writing, I learned early on that head-hopping is a no-no, especially for a new author.

         Your book has everything! Adventure, mystery, suspense, romance and even some humor. Did you find it difficult to weave all of those things together? Why or why not?

Thank you again, for another compliment! I don’t mean to sound glib, but I actually didn’t find that part of the writing difficult. Not that I don’t have difficulties, at all—I have my share of them. But when the characters are vibrant enough to take over, things just seem to roll out of my brain. And again, it could be from years of reading.

         What is your background?
I’m a high school graduate who became a legal secretary and worked for the county court system. I also later worked for attorneys and a financial advisor. I think the legal secretary/court system experience helped with subjects for suspense, and even some names for characters. But I also have a nice resource in my husband’s long career in law enforcement.

         What advice would you give some of my readers who write fiction? What about those of us who are in the process of writing a book, fiction or otherwise?

I don’t consider myself an expert. Far from it. But I can only relay what I do myself: Remember your “firsts.”
-          Potential readers will see your title first, so make sure it’s catchy.
-          Your first line should grab readers by the throat.
I must insert the first line of the book here!
     She would be working for her sister's killer.
-          Your first page should contain some appropriate action.
-          I always try to make the first line of each paragraph a grabber, too.

As for those in the process of writing any book, I would say don’t let that stop you from continuing your study of writing. Begin building a platform now, so marketing won’t be as difficult when your book is released. Develop a thick skin, because not everyone is going to love your book.

        What else have you written and what are you working on now?

My first book, In the Midst of Deceit, also romantic suspense, is out of print, but Amazon still has some copies left, though I don’t know how many. Also, on March 18th, my inspirational romantic novella will be released by Prism Book Group in e-book format. Beyond that, I’m working on a television series.

        I just have to know this...is the Rainforest Restaurant in Atlantic City a real place? It sounds fascinating and I want to go!

Yes, it is! Both my sister and my son have been there. I’ve never been myself, and would enjoy seeing it for myself, sometime. I live close enough, you’d think I would have made it, by now.

Now it's your turn, dear reader! Do you have any questions for Deb? Or just a comment?Ask away in the Comments section and be entered to win an autographed copy of her book, Hush, Little Baby! Please make sure I have a way to contact you when you comment (it should link to either a google account or webpage).

**Congratulations to Abby MacDonald! Abby's comments was randomly chosen as the winner of Deb's book, Hush Little Baby! But if you're interested, you can purchase the book through amazon.com. Thank you all for your participation; whether you commented or not, Deb and I both appreciate your taking the time to read about her and her book!

About Deborah Piccurelli:

Deborah M. Piccurelli is an advocate for sanctity of life, and tackles such issues in her novels, weaving them into compelling stories. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and their two sons. Visit Deb at www.deborahmpiccurelli.com

If you're a New Jersey resident and either write or have an interest in writing and you're a Christian, please consider joining the New Jersey Society of Christian Writers. We love new members! Click on the link for more information.

Blessings Along the Path,

**Because this is a book giveaway, I want to give my readers ample time to join in the fun; I also want to give Deborah the spotlight for the week. Therefore, this will be my only post until next Monday, February 2.

Sharing this post with Monday Musings, Sharing His Beauty, Playdates With God, Good Morning Monday, Testimony Tuesday, #RaRa Cheerleading, Coffee For Your Heart, Wholehearted Wednesday, Word-Filled Wednesday, A Little R&R, Wedded Wednesday, Thought Provoking Thursday, Thriving Thursday, Faith Filled Friday, Blessing Counters, Grace & Truth, The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Still Saturday

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Giving Away Joy

We had our first significant snow of the season last night, so today we stayed in. I finished Margaret Feinberg's Fight Back With Joy. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. Margaret was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided to...well, to fight back with joy. 

One of the stories that really hit me was how she decided one day to buy a bunch of red balloons, because who doesn't love red balloons? One by one, she handed them out to other patients before her treatment. 

She gave away joy. 

While I was reading this book, I thought of a precious young woman I've never actually met, but have been praying for. Melanie (not her real name) is a friend of a friend who was brutally attacked in broad daylight and in a public park. She was raped, strangled and left for dead. Someone found her and called 911. On top of this, Melanie has been fighting cancer. She's feeling defeated and alone. 

I kept thinking, "Melanie needs to read this. I'm going to give her the book. And I'm going to give her a red balloon!"  I decided to go get a balloon and give my friend both the balloon and the book tomorrow at church, and she could pass them on to Melanie.

I zipped out to the party store. They were closed! What? Maybe they never opened because of the snow. Then I realized that I could get a balloon at the supermarket! But of course, there was no one in the floral department, and there were no red balloons! 

Meanwhile, I spotted a yellow smiley face balloon. It was perfect! Better than the red balloon!

I grabbed the smiley face balloon and continued my shopping meanderings. The place was empty. I was looking at cards, when suddenly I felt someone tap the balloon. 

I turned around to see a young girl with special needs smiling at the smiley face. 

"Balloon!" she announced.

"Yes." I smiled at her.


"Yes, it is!"

She pointed to the other balloons by the checkout. Balloons that embodied the Frozen movie. 


"Yes," I said, "That's Elsa."

Her father interrupted, pushing her along. "Come on!"

"And Anna!"

"Yes! From Frozen. I see them. They're pretty too."

"Come on!" her Father urged her on. Then to me, "I'm sorry."

"Oh, no, it's okay. No need to be sorry." I said.

After all, I was supposed to be spreading joy! And that's exactly what this young girl was spreading to me. 

Then I thought, 

Why do people feel the need to apologize for the childlike behavior of their children with special needs? Why does anyone feel the need to apologize for their children interrupting another's space? When did we all become so introspective that we can't allow interaction from others, especially those who haven't yet learned all the "rules"? How sad.

When I got to the checkout, the girl and her family were at the checkout next to me. As I waited my turn, I felt the nudgings of the Holy Spirit. I knew what was coming.

Give her the balloon.

"What? No, God. That's Melanie's balloon."

Just a word of advice...don't ever use No and God in the same sentence.

My stomach tumbled and my heart raced. That's how I knew it was God. Sure, I could say no, but I knew from past experience that I'd feel terrible later for not having listened.

So I went back to the floral department to find another balloon, even though I knew there wasn't one. Nothing. I went back to my spot in line, and the family was still there next to me. 

And there it was again.

Give her the balloon.

My turn came and the cashier rang up the balloon. While she was ringing up the other items, I said, "I just need to make a little detour. I'll be right back."

I walked over and tapped the father on the arm. When he turned around, I asked, "Is it okay if I give this balloon to your daughter?"

"Well, sure!" he replied. She turned to me and I handed her the balloon. "Here, I want you to have this because you're so happy."  And I went back to my checkout next door. 

She took the balloon and shoved it at her father's chest. 

"I don't want it! You take it!"

Hey, you have to want it! That's Melanie's balloon and God told me to give it to you, so you have to want it! 

Oh, now who was the child?

Just because God tells you to give something away doesn't mean it will always be received. Do it anyway.

The father said, "Sometimes she just gets a little shy." It was obvious that she didn't know what to do with the attention that was given her. But I smiled and said, "You take it home and later you'll enjoy it." The father and daughter both thanked me. 

Meanwhile, the cashier wasn't sure what to make of it. She told me, "That was a really nice thing to do."

Did I tell her that God told me to give it to her? No. I just said, "I felt that it was something I had to do. Sometimes you just have to do that."

Well, maybe my boldness in declaring whose idea it really was will come in time.

While I was pondering all of this in the car, a song was playing. It wasn't until I turned the corner to my street that I realized what the song was saying. Have a listen to Big Daddy Weave's Love Come to Life:

I was debating whether or not to even share this because we are supposed to do things and not boast of them. My purpose is not to boast, but to encourage you to listen when God speaks. When you feel His nudging to do something that seems unusual, do it anyway. Don't hesitate, because if you wait too long, the moment may be gone. And you'll wish you had acted when you had the chance. 

When we give joy, we get joy.

Now, what about this red balloon for Melanie? Well, all in God's timing. I have to trust that this trip to the grocery store wasn't ever really about Melanie's balloon.

Blessings Along the Path,

Sharing this post with The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Still SaturdayBlessing Counters, Monday Musings, Playdates With God, Sharing His Beauty, Good Morning Monday, Unite, #RaRa Cheerleading,  Grace - Truth, Faith Filled Fridays

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Day I Turned My Back on the Needy

It's not what you think. 

I'm not a cold and callous woman who looked the other way when someone needed a meal, or a coat or a home (although I may have). I'm talking about my "Needies"...more specifically, the "Need To" family.

The other day, the Hubster had an evening meeting and would not be home for dinner! I felt like I had a "Get Out of Jail Free!" card. I raced right home. Why, I don't know.

As I was driving home, I was thinking of all the things I "should" do; the things I "need" to do. Like work out. Ugh. I hate doing that. But I had been slothful all week. I really "should" do it. And write. Well, yes, I wrote my blog, but that book is never going to get written if I don't make some time to do it. And really, how hard is the proposal letter? It's simply a matter of starting it! Oh, and the dog never gets walked. I see other people walking their dogs, even though it's cold, and I feel guilty. I "should" do that.

These are the two things I struggle with all the time. Exercising and writing. One I love and one I hate. I'll let you guess which is which. If you have trouble, you can get a clue by reading my post, Friend or Faux?

When I got home, I didn't want to do any of the above. 

I wanted an ice cream cone.

I had this inner battle of what I "should" be doing, what I "need" to do, and what I really wanted to do. 

And then I thought of what I'd just written on my blog---about The House at Pooh Corner and how, as Kenny Loggins puts it, "I've wandered much further today than I should, and I can't seem to find my way back to the wood."

Well, I didn't want to wander further from the wood. Having an ice cream cone just might help me find my way back to being carefree.

Whoever said I had to write? Me.
Whoever said I had to exercise? Well, actually my doctor. But today? Me.
Whoever said I shouldn't have the ice cream cone? Me.

So what did I do?

I put the dog in the car and I went to get ice cream. 

I gave myself permission to be carefree. I turned my back on the "needy." Sometimes, you just have to do that.

I did not feel at all guilty while I ate my ice cream. I savored the chocolate, the coffee, the brownie pieces, the fudge throughout.

And you can see that Lucy was fine with not taking a walk.

And here's the funny part of all this. When I got home, I was cold, and the first thing I thought was, "Huh, I kind of feel like working out just to warm up."

 My daughter had given me this whole Zumba package, complete with "Zumba Sticks" (which, by the way, the dog thought were tennis balls for her to play with. But when she investigated further she wanted nothing to do with them either).

After going through the 500 steps to switching from the TV to a video, I started out marching, thinking, "Okay, I've done Zumba before. So far, so good. Marching is good. I can do this."

Can I just say that the instructors were no more than 30 years old with perfectly sculpted, spray-tanned bodies to kill for (mine never looked like that even when I was skinny)? They were able to move their bodies in ways I couldn't even figure out. It was sort of like twerking while standing up. And I felt like I was watching a dance competition or something. 

The "Shoulds" crept back in. 

"I should be able to do this. Why doesn't my body do that?" (BTW, it never did, even at 20).

Twerk Instructor was sweating profusely and I wasn't even breaking a sweat. Because I was pretty much still marching. I should be sweating.

Finally, I just did what I felt like doing. I was in my living room, for heaven's sake! Of course, the blinds were closed so no one could watch my spastic erect twerking attempts. I'm pretty sure that if I'd had a mirrored wall, I would have seen my mother.

Then, I just got tired of feeling like I was watching a performance and turned it off. I did a Pseudo-Zumba workout for awhile, but I started feeling like I "should" keep going, even though I was getting more annoyed at Fake Latina Barbie with her hip-hop outfit (really, one pant leg up and one down? The recovering OCD Mary was having a hard time with the imbalance of it all). It was time to say, "Enough." (She had to be fake: she blurted out, "Arroz con leche!"...Rice with milk?)

Leslie Sansone was my friend last week with her "Walk Away the Pounds" DVD. That's more my speed. And she's more my age. And she doesn't try to make me shake my booty. My booty shakes just fine on its own, thank you.

And here I now sit, in front of my computer...writing. Okay, so it's a blog, and not that book proposal. But I'm writing.

When I gave myself permission not to do what I thought I "should" do, what I "need" to do, and instead did what I wanted to do, I discovered that I ended up wanting to do what I "should" and "need" to do after all. 

I wonder why that is.

Could it be that once we take the restrictions away from ourselves and grant freedom to ourselves, we stop rebelling?

I don't know. And of course, it doesn't always happen this way. Sometimes I do what I want and remain slothful. Sometimes I do what I want and shirk my responsibilities, and then suffer the consequences. 

But sometimes, sometimes, you just have to find your way back to the wood and let yourself be carefree. 

Evict the "needy!"

What about you? 
What have you repeatedly told yourself you "should" or "need to" do?
What would happen if you just did something that you want to do (within reason/not sinful/in moderation), and turned your back on the "needy?"
Do something fun today! Give yourself a break!

Blessings Along the Path,

sharing this post with Arabah Joy at Grace and Truth,, Laura at Faith Filled Friday, Barbie with The Weekend Brew, Janis with Sunday Stillness, Deb at Blessing Counters, Laura at Playdates With God,  Terri at Good Morning Monday, Holly with Testimony Tuesday, and Kelly with #RaRa Cheerleading

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The House at Pooh Corner

Because I was feeling nostalgic the other day, I decided to listen to the Best of Loggins and Messina, one of my favorite groups from the 70s. I might add that I listened to it in the womb...yeah, right. 

Anyway, I was listening to The House at Pooh Corner and wondering why on earth a strange song like that became so popular. And not just for the time either... people still listen to it and even re-record it today. Watch this video and see for yourself, how much people love this song! Why? It's about Winnie the Pooh for heaven's sake! (click here to open video if it does not display). 

Here's what I think:

Because it makes us feel like we're innocent and carefree again. Like children. And deep down, we all miss that.

Look at these words:

Christopher Robin and I walked along under branches lit up by the moon
Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore as the days disappeared far too soon.

Now I've wandered much further today than I should,
And I can't seem to find my way back to the wood.

So help me if you can. 
I've got to get back to the House at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised there's so much to be done!
Count all the bees in the hive!
Chase all the clouds from the sky!
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh.

Winnie the Pooh doesn't know what to do; got a honey jar stuck on his nose!
He came to me asking help and advice, and from here, no one knows where to go.
So I sent him to ask of the Owl, if he's there, how to loosen a jar from the nose of a bear.

Don't you sort of long for the days when you could step into a wonderland, a fantasy world, a world where there were no grown-ups (read: authority), no rules, no restrictions of time?

A time where you walked along in the woods with your storybook friend, talking of important questions like, 'Why does it get dark?' and 'Where did Tigger get his stripes?'

A time when the most important thing to do, the thing that excited you most was doing nothing? Counting bees in a hive, chasing clouds from the sky, wondering how to get a honey jar off the nose of a pudgy bear who loves honey just a tad too much. A time of innocence. A time of wonder. A time of awed joy. A time of learning and taking it all in. 

A time when we didn't think we knew it all. When we didn't wish we knew it all. When we didn't feel the need to know it all. A time before the complexities of life stole our innocence, and the demands of responsibility took priority over experiencing joy for the sake of joy.

I remember lying on my bed as a kid and just thinking. Rolling around because I was bored. Lying in the "way back" of the station wagon looking at the stars at night, and trying to figure out where we were by the turns of the car. Walking with Christopher Robin. 

You know what line I like the most in that song?

Now I've wandered much further today than I should 
and I can't seem to find my way back to the wood.

I wonder if that means that the writer wandered too far in "Pooh" land, or in the demands and responsibilities of real life. 

Because I'm a word geek, I feel the need to dissect the words further/farther. Farther is used when speaking of physical distance; further implies figurative distance. So maybe the author didn't mean that he actually wandered physically far away.

There are days that I feel I've wandered so far away from what I love, that I can't find my way back to my imagination. To the simplicity and childlike faith of just being. Just walking in the garden with my best friend, Jesus.

He is always there. Waiting to walk and talk with me under branches lit up by the moon and in the light of day as well. I can just picture myself strolling, not briskly walking, but strolling, pondering. Sometimes I ask questions. Sometimes we are silent. We have no need to ask Owl or Eeyore; Jesus has all the answers. And He knows how to get the honey jar off Pooh's nose too! I can see Him laughing at the silliness of Pooh. Not the stupidity, but the silliness, because He loves Pooh and Pooh loves Him. And He understands what it means to love something to excess...in a good way.

  • Do you ever find that you've wandered much further than you wish you had in the demands of life?
  • How hard is it for you to find your way back to the wood?
  • Do you know that when you get there, your Friend, Jesus will be waiting for you?
  • Do you know that He is such a good friend that He will never make you feel that you've neglected Him? He will never impose guilt, shame or blame on you. He'll just be there waiting to walk and laugh and talk and ponder and lie in the way back of the station wagon with you.

How about the lyrics to another song? (click here to view video if it does not display--trivia: I think the background singer is Naomi Judd!?)

I come to the Garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses

And He walks with me and He talks with me 
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known 
(Charles A. Miles, In the Garden)

Blessings Along the Path,

PS: Read more about having childlike faith in a grownup world: Playdates With God by Laura Boggess. I'll be sharing more from the book soon! In the meantime, check out Laura's blog, Playdates With God: Chasing the Blue Flower

Sharing this post with Laura at Playdates With God, Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Kelly with #RaRaCheerleading, Beth with Messy Marriage, Holley with Coffee For Your Heart, Rosilind with A Little R&R, Shari with Word Filled Wednesdays, Judith with Wholehearted Wednesdays, Lyli with Thought Provoking Thursdays, Crystal with Thriving Thursdays, Laura with Faith Filled Fridays, Deb with Blessing Counters, Barbie with The Weekend Brew and Janis with Sunday Stillness, Terri with Good Morning Monday

Monday, January 19, 2015

Results Vary Based on Effort

I recently came across an advertisement for a seminar coming to the area. Than Merrill, the star of A & E's "Flip This House" is apparently looking for people who are interesting in learning "how to get started flipping houses."

I am not interested. However, this disclaimer did interest me:

Results Vary Based on Effort.

Well, naturally. The more you put into something, the more you get out of it. Like any business. Or relationship.

If you want to succeed at anything, flipping houses or otherwise, you have to put a lot of time and effort into it. Someone can teach you all they know, but until and unless you apply it and really work at it, you will not see results.At least not the results you're hoping for.

Isn't our walk with God the same way?

Yes, maintaining and growing my Christian life requires effort. And to be quite honest, I'm not always up to putting forth the effort. I'd like it to just be infused. And that is simply due to sheer laziness. And if I'm really honest (which I actually am), sometimes I'm just not interested.

Good old Google provided me with this definition of effort:

a vigorous or determined attempt

Whether we want to succeed at flipping houses or flipping our lives around, it will require determination and vigor. Simply wishing for it won't do anything. 

So, I need to ask myself (and maybe you do too) when I awaken in the morning:

How much do I want this relationship with God?
How close do I want to be to God?
How determined am I to have it?
How vigorous is my effort?
What am I willing to do to get it?
What am I willing to give up or lose in the process?

Now that I've read that disclaimer, it makes complete sense to me why my results vary from day to day. It's based on how much effort I put into my relationship with God. It's nothing that He does. It's all dependent on my determined effort.

Little effort, little change. 
Much effort, much growth.

It's quite simple, really. No need to complicate it. 

What about you? How much effort have you been putting into your relationship with the Lord? Are you ready to "flip that house?"

It all depends on how much you put into it. 

No coercion. No high-pressure sales tactics. No gimmicks. I'm not into all that. And neither is God.

It's all up to you.

Blessings Along the Path,


In case you're actually interested in flipping houses, I suppose you could check out Than Merrill's website.

Sharing this post with Terri at Good Morning Monday, Naomi at Monday Musings Joan with Sharing His Beauty, Laura from Playdates With God, Holly from Testimony Tuesday, Kelly with #RaRa Cheerleading

Friday, January 16, 2015

Be Kind

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Eph 4:32 NKJV).

Some other versions say it like this:

And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another (readily and freely) as God in Christ forgave you (AMP)

Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another,just as God in Christ also forgave you (NET).

You may have noticed the highlighted words. What I found interesting is that no matter what translation I viewed, every single one (except the Message) used the word kind. There is no substitute, no other word that can quite convey what that word means.

The other highlighted words, and and instead beg the question, "Why is and/instead even there? Instead of what? In addition to what?

Let's look at the previous verse, Ephesians 4:31. It says this:

Get rid of all hard feelings, anger and rage. Stop all fighting and lying. Don't have anything to do with any kind of hatred (NIRV).

Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting and slander, along with every other evil (CEB)

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, violent assertiveness and slander, along with all spitefulness (CJB)

Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others. Don't yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude (CEV).

Well, aren't you glad I asked?

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul was instructing Christians on holy living. If we read the whole chapter in context to these verses, we'll see much deeper instructions. In addition, he was instructing the Christians on how to treat one another in the Body of Christ. But we should not be limiting it! If we are to be Christlike, we are to act accordingly to all, not just our brothers and sisters in Christ!

 But here's why I chose to focus on "Be kind:"

Because it's so simple.

I was reading this chapter the other night and the simplicity of those words jumped out at me. 

Be kind.

There is no other way to say it.

No matter what, be kind. 
Even when you'd rather not. 
ESPECIALLY when you'd rather not.

Instead of getting angry and then going and talking about it, be kind.

Instead of shouting at the person so that you will feel better, be kind.
Instead of holding a grudge or thinking of revenge, be kind.

"But you don't know...you don't understand...you haven't had done to you..."

Yes, I have. And I've reacted in all those ways. And it got me nowhere but further from grace. Further from forgiveness. Further from the person I chose not to be kind to. And further from God, who forgave me through Christ.

Don't know how to end all of that? Paul tells us in verse 31:

Get rid of it.

Don't know how to get rid of it? (Again, in verse 31)

Put it aside.
Don't have anything to do with the lies that come into your head that cause you to want to act otherwise.

Be kind.

It's simple. But not always easy.

Think Kind-ergarten. 

Remember that book, Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?
Among Robert Fulghum's list on page 2 (and maybe I've added some) are:

Take turns
Don't hit
Play fair
Clean up

Get the idea?
That's how you "be kind."

I could add:  Don't speak when you rather would.

Be kind today.

Blessings Along the Path,

Sharing this post with Faith Filled Friday, The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Blessing Counters, Thought Provoking Thursdays, Thriving Thursdays, Grace & Truth, Still Saturday

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Becoming a Cheerleader

For some reason, I never had a lot of self-esteem. My family of origin, while later on became a statistic of dysfunction and divorce, was a typical family. We made fun of each other, but we loved each other. 

I always felt like I was just missing the mark. I was fiercely competitive, but never believed I'd ever really win or be the best.

I second-guessed which led to second-best.

So, what do you think I said when I was in Chorus one day in Junior High School, and the pretty and popular girl turned around and very nicely asked me, "Are you trying out for Cheerleading?"

No, I did not say, "Sure, I'll give it a shot!"

My response was, "No...I'm not pretty enough." 

I suppose this girl fit the stereotypical cheerleader mentality because she said, "Oh, it's okay, you don't have to be pretty!" 

That wasn't what I wanted to hear. 

I wanted the pretty and popular girl to tell me, "Sure you are! You should try out!" I'm sure she was trying to be encouraging (which is the epitome of a true cheerleader), but all it did in my mind was reinforce that I was ugly. My mother could tell me otherwise all she wanted, but if the pretty and popular girl at school doesn't think I'm pretty, then I'm not.

I've often repeated that story at various times in my life, but I never realized how deeply those words impacted me well into my adult life. Those and many others in my childhood; words that did not necessarily come from my family, but from peers, teachers, and other outside influences. Words that told me more indirectly than directly, that I was stupid, ugly, unworthy and unqualified. Words that may not have been meant to say that, but because of my insecurity, were taken that way, nonetheless.

The other day, I was writing this story, along with several others from my childhood in a chapter of the book I'm working on. The working chapter title is Negative Recordings-How the words of our past keep us from believing our worth and recognizing our value.   (The working title of the book is Leaving Negativity Behind, and is based on the 31 Day Writing Challenge, Overcoming Negativity.)

As I was writing these things...these things about being healed from the words spoken over you in your past...for everyone else to read, I began to experience my own healing.

I know that God thinks I'm beautiful. I know that God thinks I'm valuable, worthy, and smart. I can point you to the scripture (Psalm 139) that solidifies it for me. I know that if He calls me to do something, it's because He knows that I'm capable. I may not be qualified, but I'm capable because He says I am. If He believes in me, then I believe in me. And I believe God. I believe all of it. I truly do. Deep in my spirit.

Yet, I look in the mirror and say, "Ugh, I hate being so fat. And my eyes are getting that hooded look. And my hair...maybe I really should touch up that gray. I have a grandma body and I'm not even a grandma. Ugh, I'm getting old and old is so ugly."

If I truly believe that God thinks I'm beautiful, then why do I still think I'm ugly?

You see, it wasn't enough for me to accept that God loves me as I am. Oh, it's enough, don't get me wrong, but I had to get to the root of why I felt that way. Who told me otherwise? 

It was those words: the ones that were not meant for evil, but at a time when I was vulnerable, satan took them and twisted them and then spoon fed them to me. The roots took hold and began to grow. I diligently watered them with my unbelief and my constant ruminating, and satan fed me more until that was all I tasted. 

This was eye-opening for me. So much of what I went through in "recovery" was based on the dysfunction of my broken home, and therefore, the blame was assigned to that. But that wasn't the case. While it didn't help my already insecure position, it didn't deserve all the blame. 

There were so many contributing factors-the neighborhood bully, peers, friends, "frenemies," even a piano teacher. I had to forgive all of them and release the debt I was holding that I didn't even know I was holding! As I wrote the challenge questions at the end of the chapter, I had to first answer them myself and say the prayers of forgiveness I was asking my reader to say.

I had to break the power of those words by chopping them down at the root.

God always lets me live it before I can give it.

Today, I call myself an encourager. I love to encourage people, especially women, in their gifts, callings and talents. And I simply love to find the positive in a negative situation, turn someone's complaint into a praise.  

Guess what...I think I finally made the Cheerleading Squad! 

My daughter was, in fact a cheerleader.
This is her, circa 2001 (Junior year?) probably saying, "What now, Mom?"

What about you?
What lies has satan fed you that you're still believing?
Do you believe that you're beautiful, or are you still seeking validation?

Blessings Along the Path,

This post is being shared on some great bloggers' sites, women who have allowed me to be on their cheerleading team! So, I'm going to take a moment to cheer about some of them:

One of them is called this: #RaRa Cheerleading Linkup...How funny is that?!
Kelly Balarie is a spunky young mom who is a "Cheerleader of Faith." Her greatest desire is to see women live passionately, purposefully and unencumbered for the Lord. She thinks I'm pretty (actually, I don't know if she does, but she looks at my heart through my blog and likes what she sees). I get to be a cheerleader on her team when I link my blog up with hers!

Holley Gerth's Coffee For Your Heart
Holley Gerth is a best-selling cheerleader. I'd say she could be the Captain of the squad. She's an encourager and the author of several best-selling books, including, You're Already Amazing, You're Made For a God-Sized Dream, You're Going to Be Okay,  and What Your Heart Needs For the Hard Days. Holley's posts and her books are so encouraging! You can purchase these books through amazon.com or on Holley's website. Check it out!

Beth Steffaniak's Messy Marriage
Now, if that title doesn't make you curious, I don't know what will. Beth is a pastor's wife, a counselor and a life coach with a real personality. She not only writes, but includes weekly videos, which she calls, "Sloppy Joe Time" where she shares a personal struggle (with wonderful and often humorous footnotes at the bottom of the video). She's not afraid to let us know who she is, and that she doesn't have it all together, yet she offers great marriage tips from personal experience!

Rosilind Jukic's A Little R& R
Rosilind is an American woman married to a Bosnian man, living and serving as a missionary in Croatia. She looks like a cheerleader. The picture on her blog is so cute, yet she's apparently older than she looks. She writes about all kinds of things, but one of the greatest things she's helped me with is blog tech stuff, and how to build your blog. Rosilind encourages women to find contentment wherever God places them.

Shari Miller writes from Living to Leave a Legacy, but hosts the weekly Word Filled Wednesday linkup at Woman to Woman Ministries. W2W offers so much, I can't even begin. There's a magazine (which I keep planning to subscribe to and keep forgetting), Morning Reflections, which you just have to go to the website to read about...anyway, about Shari...she's a Stage IV breast cancer survivor who also homeschools, has a passion for the poor, underprivileged and homeless. She's a beautiful cheerleader!

Judith Kowles', Whole Hearted Home home page says this:
Inspiring, encouraging and equipping women to holy living with joy-filled hearts.
Judith lives in the Poconos and has seven children (all of whom she homeschooled from start to finish!) and three grandbabies. She writes about homemaking, recipes, marriage and the bible. She takes beautiful pictures and shares a lot on Pinterest!

Deb Wolf's blog at Counting My Blessings is more than just a fun place to link up. Deb has a heart for missions and children. She wrote a book called, Sarah's Garden, which looks like a children's book, but has a message for young and old alike. I actually just discovered this, and plan on ordering it soon! I only know Deb through blogging/link-up parties, but I know I'd love her if we knew each other personally. She loves chocolate, coffee and laughing! How could I not?