Monday, April 13, 2015

Musings and Ponderings

Musings and Ponderings

I just had the opportunity to attend the C.L.P. Artists/Writers’ Conference once again.  The workshops were excellent and have given me much to ponder and consider.  Here are a few of the many lessons I learned or relearned.

1.  Too often, I’m afraid what comes from my keyboard or pen is more about me than about my Father.  “He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30 ESV

2.  I am humbled once again by how much I have to learn in the art of writing.  I blush as I reread what I have written two years ago and even a year ago.  And hopefully when I look back to today on April 13, 2016, I will shake my head in slight embarrassment at my poor sentence structure and boring words because I have learned and developed better writing skills and structure since then.  Even if I live to 108 years old, there will always be more to learn and perfect when it comes to writing!

3.  I want to honor and serve you, the reader, more.  I don’t want to waste your time or give you something worthless to read.  After God, you are the most important part of the written word because you are the one who reads it!

4.  Not being able to keep a journal doesn’t automatically disqualify me from being a writer.  May I insert a *sigh of relief* here.  I have lots of journals, but if you would look through them, you would find scattered entries which range from weeks to months apart.  You would find poems and scribbled drawings instead of organized daily events and emotions.  You would find prayers to God, which would probably make you doubt my sanity at some points.  But you would not find a neat journal which is so often associated with a writer, and that’s okay.

5.  Sometimes I take the reasons I write for granted, but I have been reminded of them once again.  I write because I would explode if I couldn’t.  I write because my heart yearns to share the love of God.  I write because of the thrill that comes from putting words down unto paper and bringing to life stories and characters with their own unique personalities, adventures, and lessons to learn.

6.  Yes, writing is easier than talking.  And I have found kindred spirits who can identify with that.  Wouldn’t life be smoother sometimes if we could write to one another instead of speaking?!  At least it would be for me when my tongue becomes tangled and my mind can’t seem to force the right words from my lips!

7.  I am on the search for a good writers’ group.  Any suggestions or volunteers?  I’m looking for a support group which can give each other honest criticism and help proofread each others’ works.

8.  It will be fun to play around with some antithesis, polyptoton, synesthesia, and hyperbaton techniques in my personal writings=)

9.  Editors are amazing people, and after sitting in the workshop, “Working with your Editor”, my admiration has only deepened.  Even though their notes and manuscript changes may seem intimidating at times, they are such an asset to the written word and are working diligently to better the writing and the writer to produce something valuable for the reader.

10.  I sometimes grow lazy and am not very diligent about watching for writing errors.  Time to refresh myself on the grammar rules and stop using the ellipsis improperly;)

11.  And last but not least, I enjoyed these quotes which were scattered throughout the handouts.
  • “The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.” – Henry Green
  • “My commodity as a writer, whatever I’m writing about, is me.  And your commodity is you.  Don’t alter your voice to fit your subject.  Develop one voice that readers will recognize when they hear it on the page.”  – William Zinsser
  • “Don’t say, ‘The old lady screamed.’  Bring her on, and let her scream.” – Mark Twain
  • “Description should begin in the writer’s imagination but finish in the reader’s.” – Stephen King
  • “What you want is practice, practice, practice.  It doesn’t matter what we write so long as we write continually as well as we can.  I feel that every time I write a page either of prose or of verse, with real effort, even if it’s thrown into the fire the next minute, I am so much further on.” – C.S. Lewis
  • “Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention…. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it.  Don’t cheat us of your contribution.  Give us what you’ve got.”  – Steven Pressfield
  • “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway

Why I Don’t Do The Diet Thing

Why I Don’t Do The Diet Thing

There seems to always be a new diet out there.  I have seen good results from friends who follow the meal guidelines and recipes from some of the more popular ones, but for those who were wondering, these are the reasons I don’t diet.

1.  Although eating right makes a huge difference in one’s health, I fear that this often takes the place of exercise.  It should not be one or the other, it should be a combination.  Although following certain food rules is easier than doing single-arm burpees and squat jumps and seems to profit just as well because there is weight loss, our bodies are being neglected if we fail to incorporate exercise into our daily regime.  I am a personal testimony to this fact.  I exercised for about three years, almost every day, six days a week; but lately took a break because my allergies have been draining all my energy.  I finally started to gain some control over my allergies and started back on my workouts again.  Even though I was careful of what I ate over my non-exercise time, but body majorly declined.  By exercising again, the scales is dropping, I’m starting to see tone once more in my muscles, my mood has dramatically increased and depression decreased, energy has mounted, endurance lengthened, blood sugar leveled, and my heart and lungs are happier than ever.  For me, exercise has helped my health in ways that eating properly could never do on its own.

2.  I can’t justify buying expensive food products (which most diets call for) when I can make just as healthy of food by using ingredients that are able to be obtained within my budget.  All it takes is a little food knowledge and creativity, not expensive and hard to get items.

3.  Everything that I have tried from popular healthy-eating plans and diets have been (how can I say this nicely?- not very tasty or fulfilling).  I have come to the conclusion that I will do five-hundred jumping jacks before putting another piece of skinny chocolate in my mouth.  Those five-hundred jumping jacks will allow me at least one piece of delicious Dove dark chocolate.  By exercising, I can eat the yummy stuff (like actual chocolate, cheese, and milk) once in awhile that I couldn’t have otherwise.  No offense, but I think most people can make just as healthy of food on their own that is much yummier than the recipes in the diet books.  It is nice though to have a healthy recipe to go off of when cooking, but feel free to spice it up a little with some fresh herbs or veggies!

4.  Often diets call for a person to give up one part of the nutritional triangle.  Do not completely eliminate your dairy, proteins, veggies, and healthy fats.  For example- I have heard of diet plans that call for a total avoidance of dairy, but I have worked in a retirement home and seen the effects of osteoporosis.  Use control in your eating habits, but don’t keep your body from getting the vitamins and minerals it needs.

5.  Diets leave one depleted of energy because they usually don’t allow enough calories for physical labor.  There’s a difference between hunger and weakness.  It’s okay to be hungry, but not to be so weak that your daily functions suffer.  Make sure that you don’t overeat, but also make sure that you consume enough of the good calories to make it through the day and give your best to your work and family.

6.  It would be nearly impossible to do any diet plans in this family.  The men would refuse to follow, and since they work hard and burn most of the calories they eat, I think they deserve a plate of meat, vegetables, and potatoes.  And frankly, I don’t have the time to make a separate menu for myself, so I just control the portion I eat of the yummy hearty yet healthy food that the entire family is eating.  We also work most evenings and have to grab food on the go; so I simply pick the healthy items when we go to restaurants.

7.  Diets are technically not very healthy for the body, and you will usually gain back even more weight after coming off of a diet because your body goes into an emergency i’m-not-gonna-starve mode and starts to store your calories.  That’s why I prefer a continual lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise which actually burns your calories and turns them into muscle.

8.  Diets simply focus on what the scales and tape measures say.  Yes, I want to lose weight, but I also want to prevent things like high cholesterol and diabetes while building heart and lung strength, muscle, and endurance.  That can only be done through a lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise.
Living a physically healthy life is a journey.  Don’t spend a ton of money buying diet books and pills and then rely on them to decide your eating habits.  Learn what is healthy and what isn’t and then create your own menus.  Add a little herb and fresh fruits and veggies, and I guarantee your meals will be much tastier.  Make healthy eating and exercise fun and creative!  Don’t view exercise and healthy eating as something you have to do but as a gateway to a happier, healthier you!

A Cookie or A Cracker

A Cookie or A Cracker

Have you ever noticed the similarities between crackers and cookies?  To start with, they both start with “c”.  Then there is the fact that they are both finger foods and important additions to the table at most parties.  But anyone can easily tell you the differences between cookies and crackers.  The differences far outweigh the similarities.  Usually cookies are soft (unless you’re a baker like me and forget to set the timer while they’re baking), but crackers are usually crunchy.  Cookies can stand alone, although they also know how to work well with a glass of milk or dish of ice-cream.  Crackers almost always depend upon cheese to make their flavor complete.  Cookies are sweet and pleasing to the taste buds; while crackers are dry and salty (an excellent combination to make one thirsty).

So I started thinking about my life and relationships with those around me.  I started wondering if I am a cracker or a cookie to my family, friends, students, social media friends…  And then I started to become ashamed of myself because I often have exhibited all the traits of a cracker.

One of the most important parts of a relationship is being able to understand and forgive.  In other words, staying soft!  Staying soft means not immediately jumping to conclusions or becoming offended by the littlest of things.  I’m afraid that I often harden up the relationships around me because I misread my family and friends’ intentions.  I become bitter and crunchy when I am hurt in a friendship instead of forgiving and asking God to soften the misunderstanding.

Often I think that I need to have “cheese” around me because I’m not enough on my own.  I need just the right brand of clothing, just the perfect personality, just the…. (you fill it in).  We, humans, surround our lives with the things we think will make people accept us and find us special.  We then follow the crowd and popular thought so that we continue to fit in.  We are simply a cracker.  Whereas a cookie knows that its Baker made it special enough just as it is and doesn’t need to find acceptance through anything or anyone.  And it’s good to remember that true friends will love us just as we are, with our quirky chocolate chips, M&M’s, or peanut-butter flavor, and won’t care what brand of flour we wear or the size of the kitchen we live in.  A cookie will also work well with others, but it still will know how to think on its own and stand up for what it believes.

What about after I leave a reunion, party, or one-on-one chat?  Have I left a pleasing reputation?  Have I helped to share the workload?  Do I leave a sweet taste behind?  Or do I leave relationships feeling dry and thirsty because I was taking instead of giving?  I know what it feels like to get off of the phone feeling exhausted because I spent the entire time listening to the other person’s problems.  I know the eye-rolls I give when I read yet another facebook status from someone that uploads a complaint about five times every hour.  I know the frustration of having company and waiting like a servant on them while not even receiving a thank-you.  I know when other people are like crackers, but do I pay attention to myself and know when I am leaving relationships parched?

It’s easy to be a cracker- doesn’t take practice, doesn’t take extra thought, doesn’t call for a change.
But working to be a cookie will be a challenge.  It doesn’t come naturally for most people, including myself.  But with the help of my Baker, I’m gonna work at being the best cookie I can be so I can sweeten up all the relationships around me!

Colossians 3:12-14 (ESV)
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Who Is Jesus

I was searching in the archives for something to share and remembered the article “Who Is Jesus?” which was written for The Daughters of Promise magazine last summer. 

Please check out this refreshing magazine for Christian girls and women- every issue is full of inspiring and encouraging articles, interesting writings, and beautiful pictures.  Visit for more info!

Image result for holding little girls hand
                                                                   Who Is Jesus?
“Who is Jesus?” we ask the little girl as she clutches her teddy bear and slides into the social worker’s car.
She looks at us with big eyes as she replies, “He is a Daddy who never leaves me or hurts me.”
“Who is Jesus?” we ask the woman as she sits in the rocking chair.
Her shaky hands put down her knitting, and her laugh rings as silver as the color of her hair. “Why, He is my Beloved. He loves me when I am lonely.”
“Who is Jesus?” we ask the beaten young woman as we gaze at her through the bars.
She closes her eyes and whispers, “He is a Deliverer from evil and Strength in my weakness.”

“Who is Jesus?” we ask you. There is no way to avoid the question. Jesus has been a topic of conversation, ground for debate, and spark of discussion for over two-thousand years. Jesus is one of the key points that separate Christianity from other religions. What is it about Jesus that makes Him so unlike anyone this world has ever known? Why is He mentioned over nine-hundred times in the Bible? What is it about this name that people are and were willing to suffer rejection from family and friends, journey into dangerous parts of the world, give their lives at the stake, and endure torture, starvation, and imprisonment?
 We have heard Him preached in sermons, taught in sunday-school lessons, and sung in hymns. We can recite the story- Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth as a baby, was crucified, rose from the grave after three days, ascended into Heaven, and is coming back at the end of the world to judge the saved and unsaved. We may even be apologetic professionals and know all the proofs that support Jesus- things like early and accurate manuscripts, fluent and extensive Gospels, fulfilled prophecies, eyewitnesses, an empty tomb, followers willing to suffer martyrdom….

Simple, right? Isn’t that all we need to know? No! We need to REALLY understand Who Jesus Is because that is what makes the dramatic difference in how and why we live our lives. Jesus is a fascinating combination of Deity and Humanity who longs to be in a personal relationship with us.
 From the beginning of time, we have record of Jesus (Genesis 1:26). Jesus was there the entire time, because He was the Son of God. He was living in full majestic power and glory, and things were going well at the beginning of the earth’s birth. The Deity had created the perfect masterpiece. There was not a flaw of pain, hurt, abuse, hate, or sin to be found—- but then, the human race changed all of that.

Imagine spending long hours sewing a new shirt for Johnny to wear for his birthday party at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Saturday morning, as you help him button up the shirt, you warn him not to get dirty because there will be consequences. Later, you find Johnny hiding in the corner of the barn. His new shirt is torn and smeared where he had attempted to clean off mud with a rag. He hangs his head and cries, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I didn’t know I would get dirty while I was playing.” You shake your head; he would have to suffer the consequences. But yet, amidst your anger, you feel such love for your little boy, love that prompts you to give him another chance. You put Johnny to work at some extra chores and sit down at the sewing machine once again. Your eyes are tired, and your fingers hurt; but you get another new shirt made. Johnny gets the chores done in enough time to go to the party, but you are left at home. You missed the party in his place, because the extra time spent sewing meant the bread for Sunday’s potluck was still not baked.

That is what Jesus did, but to a much greater degree! He saw the hopeless state of eternal death and misery that sin had put us in and chose to take our punishment. Mankind waited for this prophesied Messiah to set them free, but they could not fathom the degree of His love. They expected to see Him in His full Divinity because He was a King (Is. 33:22), Redeemer (Job 19:25), Emmanuel (Is. 7:14), and Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6).
They waited; but they missed Jesus’ arrival, because the Galaxy-Spinner and Star-Twirler had traded Heaven for earth. He had left power, glory, and beautiful harmony for a decaying planet, reeking of hate and sin. The angels must have gasped in disbelief. Kings do not walk with publicans and sinners. Kings are addressed by “Your Majesty “, not simply as a Child (Luke 2:43), Carpenter (Mark 6:3), Prophet (Mark 8:28), and Teacher (Math. 19:16).

Jesus was human, but He was still divine. However, that does not mean that He was lifted above the struggles and pains of humanity. He was flesh; He felt the same joys, pains, fears, and even temptations that we feel (Hebrews 2:18). He came as a baby, grew up as a child, and experienced the adolescent years. He was subject to His parents and honored His elders. Jesus had to wait thirty years until it was His time to fulfill his mission. However, He did not simply wait; He worked, served, and learned during that time.

Jesus was a complete stranger without a home, support, church, or family to fall back upon for refreshment and support (Luke 9:58). Even the circle of friends He did have were not there when He truly needed them, and one “faithful follower” betrayed Him for a few pieces of silver.
Jesus fully knew what He would have to suffer. Do you wonder if He ever lay awake at night, tossing and turning as He realized that each day only brought Him closer to His execution? In His final hours, He pleaded with God to work out another plan, but there was no other way. He wanted someone to be there with Him; but everyone was too tired, too scared, or too ashamed. “…Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled” (Math. 26:56b KJV). He was arrested like a criminal and faced trial. He was scourged and marred beyond recognition. He had only done good and helped people, yet a murderer was chosen for release over Him. The very people He was dying for screamed, “Crucify him!” The soldiers drove spikes through His wrists and feet. He was mocked and spit upon, and the weight of the world’s sin came down upon Him. The Lamb, a perfect sacrifice, had taken on humanity’s soiled garments and was dying alone.

We think Jesus was a superhero whose powers kept Him aloof from the full pain of betrayal, mockery, torture, and loneliness; but although divine, He was also human. He felt every curse, every hammer’s blow, and every whip’s lash.
Then Jesus died, but it was not over. He had entered death for our sakes. The world had given up on Him because they thought He was merely a man. They forgot that Jesus was the Son of God. But three days later, Jesus proved that the power of His Deity and Humanity had conquered death and saved the world. Before returning to His Father’s side, He left His followers with the promise to return and show all mankind His true Deity. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.  For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:25-29 KJV).

         Knowing Who Jesus Is takes more than facts and knowledge, it takes a relationship. Most religious founders tried to turn themselves into gods so they would be not be a man and relate to us on our level; the Son of God became a man so that He could enter into a relationship with us. There is something beautiful about Jesus on this level.

What does He mean to us personally as women? Watch as He takes the children into His arms (Mark 10:16), see as He saves the adulterous woman about to be stoned (John 8:7), look at His love for Mary as she anoints His feet (Luke 7:44), listen as He takes time to speak with an outcast woman at the well (John 4), and glance at the scene of Him healing the woman who had suffered for so many years (Luke 13:11-13). Jesus does not view us as inferior or unworthy because we are women. “There is neither Jew nor Greek…bond nor free…male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28 KJV). Jesus’ first recorded miracle was done for His mother’s sake, He chose women to be the announcers of the empty tomb, and it was a woman who first saw Him after the resurrection.

 Just pay attention to His love. Read through the Gospels and notice how many times it says that He was “moved with compassion”. One of the most powerful prayers recorded is the one Jesus prayed for us in His final hours. “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given me, that they may be one, as We are. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given me, be with Me where I am…” (John 17: 9, 11, 15, 20, 24a KJV).

Jesus is our Bridegroom because we long to be chosen, our Hope because we face doubt and depression, our Light because we stumble in the dark, our Father because we long for our hand to be held by a Protector, our Ransom because we were a slave in Satan’s district, and our High Priest because our sin needed forgiven.

Right now, Satan is hurling accusations against us as he tries to drag us back into his realm. But Jesus looks at us and says, “She is Mine. She is My Bride, My Daughter, My Beloved. I purchased her with My blood. She was ugly and unlovely, but I chose her anyways. See her now; she shines in radiance and beauty because she has loved Me in return. You may not have her because I am Jesus- her Advocate (1 John 2:1), Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), and Faithful Witness (Rev. 1:5-6).
Knowing Who Jesus Is will be something we are constantly discovering, because He is an indescribable majestic combination of Son of God and Son of Man. Jesus is what gives us women purpose, meaning, strength, and courage for life as He walks beside us every day in a personal relationship. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39 KJV).