Happy Thanksgiving

Holiday Fun

I participated in a craft and vendor show this past weekend at Harvest Fellowship Church, manning a table with my books. A writer friend of mine was there as well, her table next to mine. I’d been waiting a long time for this event, as it always promises to be a wonderful time and sets the mood for the beginning of the holiday season, including Christmas.

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Christmas? you say? But it’s not even Thanksgiving yet!

Yes, I know. I, too, am not a fan of stores displaying their Christmas merchandise before Thanksgiving. It seems to be getting earlier every year, to the point that one of these days it will probably be in the stores year-round.

However, that being said, Christmas means different things to different people. For the world of retail it means money. It means starting sales as early as possible, taking advantage of the marketing opportunity to make as much money as possible. Christmas music pipes through the speakers in department stores, subconsciously inspiring people to buy, buy, buy.

For others, me included, celebrating the Christmas season in combination with Thanksgiving means something entirely different. I don’t believe it can ever be too early to celebrate the birth of Christ. To begin preparing our hearts for the coming of the Savior. Thanksgiving isn’t only about remembering the Pilgrims, it’s about giving thanks to God for the thousands of blessings he gives me.

On October 3, 1863, in the third fall of the Civil War, President Lincoln issued a proclamation:
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, …, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him …

Giving thanks to the Father for the birth of His Son fits in nicely here. It’s never too early for that. So bring on the Thanksgiving holiday, complete with turkey, pumpkin pie, family, and football, while at the same time preparing my heart for the birth of Christ. And Christmas lights and music? When the heart is focused on Him, Christmas music isn’t about buying, it soothes and helps prepare. And lights? Who doesn’t love the beauty of lights.

Enjoy this holiday season, the entire season, for all it’s worth.

Wishing you a most blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude. – E.P. Powell

A Rich Abundant Life

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a women’s retreat through my church. Typically, when I get home from work in the evenings I long to stay in my home office with my computer, or at least within the walls of my home with my dogs and my husband. On weekends, I don’t venture too far from home, either. Being an introvert, and after spending so much time at a day job surrounded by co-workers and fielding phone calls and office visits from the outside, quiet time at home is heaven.

Since these kinds of activities are well out of my comfort zone, the fact that I’d signed up for the women’s retreat surprised me as well as my husband. I paid the fee the moment I signed up, knowing if I didn’t I would find an excuse to back out.

I’m filled with gratitude that I persevered and went. Not only was the scenery breathtaking, the experience taught me far more than anything has in a long time and has grown me in ways I desperately needed to grow.

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At some point, I can’t remember exactly when, I closed myself off from relationship with others. And I found out I wasn’t the only one who did so. Playing it safe seems to be more popular that I’d imagined.

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During the weekend, I remembered the joy of being connected to a larger group of women, especially Christian women, when my Christian self is the area in which I wish to grow. I remembered the fulfillment that comes with being open to relationships. For far too long, I had been weighing the joy of loving someone against the potential pain of loss. And the fear of loss had been greater.

It we’re not open to others, we’re not allowing ourselves to be available to those who need us. We’re not living to our full potential, living out our purpose to love one another. How can we make a difference in the world if we stick to ourselves, an army of one? How can we make a difference in the world if we’re closed to others? And being open to even one makes a difference in the world. One is all it takes to make a good start. Each one we make a difference to will make a difference to someone else.

The weekend refueled my energy tank. It opened my heart to a life of being open and available to others. God showed me where the fear was coming from and how I was living such a limited life.

Here’s my challenge to you. Search for an area of your life that feels comfortable. Too comfortable. An area in which you tend to fall into a rut because it’s the path of least resistance. Now take some time to explore that area. What if you stepped out of your comfort zone, tried something new, opened your heart to something more than comfortable? The more you resist, the more fear is probably ruling your life. Think of how your life could potentially grow more beautiful and meaningful if you stretch yourself beyond what’s comfortable.

Comfort is good, and it does have its place. But when it comes to living and loving, comfort holds us back from fully living and loving. And if we’re not living and loving fully, we’re only living half a life.

I choose to strive to live an abundant life rich with loving others and being loved.

After you are gone, people may forget most of what you have said and done. But they will remember that you loved them. 
― Steve Goodier

Finding Peace Through Gratitude

Finding Peace Through Gratitude

Writing fiction has always been my passion. Mysteries, cozy mysteries, suspense, contemporary fiction, it doesn’t matter. I love getting lost in the land of make believe, creating characters, settings, and stories, living vicariously through them. And when I read a story, it’s all about being transported into the world of which I’m reading, feeling like I know the characters. It’s that connection that’s critical. And it’s that connection that makes the end of a good book come too soon.

That being said, I’m dipping my toe into some non-fiction writing and working on a book titled Finding Peace Through Gratitude. Its pages are about the storms I’ve weathered in my life, coming out a better person on the other side, all credit given to the two “G” words – God and Gratitude. It’s an interactive book with a challenge for the reader at the end of each chapter. The projected publication date is January 1, 2018.

Hop on over to my non-fiction website if you’re so inclined. It’s a place I’m developing to be calm and peaceful, somewhere to escape the busyness and chaos of the world. A multi-vitamin of sorts. Posts will continue here, on my fiction website, on Wednesdays, and I’ll be posting about nature and gratitude on my non-fiction site on Fridays.

See you there in the quietness.Tranquility!

 

 

 

 

The Golden Rule

We’ve all heard of The Golden Rule:
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While the idea is good to shoot for, it may not be good enough.

Simply stated, we can be harder on ourselves than anyone else is. We’re often our own worst enemy, constantly reminding ourselves of where we fall short, where we fail. This, in turn, can cause us to be more intolerant of other’s shortcomings, because we expect from others what we, ourselves, cannot even do to our own standards. And yet, ironically, we treat others better than we treat ourselves.

  • Thin people sometimes see someone overweight looking back at them in the mirror.
  • We’re not smart enough or pretty enough. We don’t do enough or have enough. We’re simply not enough.
  • We say things we wish we wouldn’t have, do things we wish we could erase, and beat ourselves up when we can’t.
  • We feel we don’t deserve happiness, forgiveness, or peace, because of what we’ve done in the past.

The other day when I was driving home from work there was car in front of me going sooooo sllooowww. Not only was this person driving slowly, s/he stopped for yellow lights, then allowed not one car from an incoming street to go in front of him/her, but two. Impatient to get home, to put the work day behind me, I was having all kinds of negative conversations with myself about the driver of this vehicle.

When I was finally able to pull into the next lane, I drove up next to the car, wanting to see the driver, sure s/he was talking on a cell phone rather than pay attention to the road. To my surprise, it was an elderly woman. A slightly confused elderly woman. Thankfully, she was oblivious to my impatience.

I felt oh, so small. I would be heartbroken if that woman had been my mother and someone else was as impatient and intolerant as I had been. God taught me a lesson in judging and patience that day.

On another occasion this past week, a young man called me at work. He was confused about his legal situation and I had to repeat three times the process of what he needed to do. I found myself getting impatient, but God’s voice spoke above my impatience. A little voice in my head asked, “What if this was your son calling, needing help with a process that’s confusing to someone not in the justice system, even if he needed to hear it three times?” My heart softened and I found patience I didn’t know I had, as I had to repeat the process yet another two times, wanting to be sure he understood completely before we disconnected.

How people treat me doesn’t affect me as much as how they treat my loved ones. I want my loved ones treated with love, with respect, with patience. In fact, when I’m mistreated I get over it. But seeing my loved ones mistreated? Well, that breaks my heart in two.

God spoke to me in a way I could hear loud and clear.

The Golden Rule I now strive to live by has changed a bit. e2809cdo-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-your-loved-ones-e2809d.png

Summer’s Beauty

Each season has it’s own magic, but there’s something about the fullness of summer that captures the very essence of life’s goodness and God’s glorious gifts. How can one not be filled with gratitude when nature is displayed in all its splendor at the dawn of each new day?

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Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky is by no means a waste of time.  – J. Lubbuck

 

 

Women’s History Month Spotlight – Katie Davis

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Young? Only in actual years. This beautiful, amazing young lady has the servant’s heart of one who has lived a lifetime for Jesus. Her book, Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, is on my bookshelf and travels with me everywhere I go as an audio book. I guarantee you’ll be forever changed after reading it.  Warning – Your life will gain new perspective and you will find a desire stirring in your heart to want to serve.

Katie was a popular teen in high school. She was the senior class president, Homecoming queen, she had the boyfriend of her dreams and college plans were in the making. When she talked her parents into allowing her to go to Uganda for a two-week mission trip over Christmas break to work in an orphanage, her life was turned upside down. No longer could Katie imagine living a life of comfort and convenience, with so many things, when there were so many who lived with little to nothing, who were dying from lack of food and medical care.

Katie moved to Uganda at age 18, adopted 13 girls, and has devoted her entire life to serving others. She began a non-profit, Amazima Ministries, and has been an angel sent from God to so many in need.

I have three sponsor children through Compassion International that I’ve talked about in the past – Alex from Tanzania, Amede from Togo, and Mamounata from Burkina Faso – among other causes I support. I have had people tell me that there are plenty of needs to be met in our own country and have gone on to ask why I feel the need to support those outside. Yes, I really have been asked that. And my heart breaks each time. I look at Katie and thank God for people like her. Not because she serves in another country, but because she serves. She serves where the Lord has sent her. We aren’t all called to serve in the same area, doing the same thing, which is a blessing in and of itself, since there are many needs to be met all over the world. I just ask -and challenge – you to look for a way to make the world a better place. To serve those in need. To be a light in the darkness, stillness in the chaos, peace in the midst of war. Be that someone to another. No matter where or to whom.

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That’s my challenge to you. Find someone – or a group of someones – that YOU can make a difference to. Whether it’s your time, money, talent, love…it’s free to love another. It doesn’t cost a cent. But it can potentially save the life of another and will make you the wealthiest you have ever been. Guaranteed.

“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.”  -Mother Teresa
 

Women’s History Month Spotlight – Mary, Mother of Jesus

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As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a mother. Little did I know back then, that role would far surpass any joy I’ve ever experienced. And that it would rocket my capacity to worry past the moon. I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of nights of uninterrupted sleep I’ve had since my boys were born. And this month they turn 24 and 27!

Mary, on the other hand, knew she was going to lose her son. She knew she was going to give birth to the Lord of heaven and earth, and knew from Jesus himself what was forthcoming. Could you imagine? I’m not sure–no, I am sure–I would never have been able to handle that with such grace, such trust in God, such beauty, as she did. She was the epitome of what a mother should be.

I’ve kept journals for each of my boys until they were 12 years old. I wrote in those journals every day when they were younger, a little less frequently as they got older, but even then, at least a few times a week. I tried to capture the miracle of everything life gave them every single day – the joy, the hurts, the lessons. When I read those journals, it’s like experiencing those magical days of motherhood again. What a miracle! My boys have taught me the definition of real and unconditional love. They’ve taught me how beautiful it is to see life through the eyes of a child. And through it all, they’ve taught me to trust Jesus.

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Another miracle of being a mother? I’m a grandmother. And what a joy that is! 🙂

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Love One Another as I Have Loved You

Love one another as I have loved you.  -John 13:34

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For those of you who have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know my husband and I like to go bike riding. We have a stunningly beautiful trail that follows the river and goes into Denver, about 30 miles round trip. It’s also a trail that attracts many homeless men and women that set up camp along the river and under the overpasses.

Also, for those of you who have been reading my blog for the past couple of months, you know my sisters and I, as well as others we recruited, had a 30-day prayer challenge where we tuned into those around us and prayed for a stranger each day. That trail gives endless opportunities to pray for strangers in need.

And here’s where the two tie together.

About a month ago on one of our bike rides, I saw a person way up ahead crawling on the concrete trail. I watched as several bikes passed by this person, swerving around him, barely taking notice. As I approached him I heard him groaning, struggling to continue on. My husband was a ways behind me and I stopped by this young man, who was clearly homeless, and asked if he was okay. During this time, more bikes passed by, and those that looked, quickly glanced away. I asked him if he was okay, he said he was fine. We exchanged a few more words, he insisting he was fine. I got on my bike and continued, slowly, until my husband caught up to me. But when he did, I stopped. Something was keeping me from continuing. I couldn’t leave this man, hurt, in the middle of nowhere. I told my husband I had to go back and see what I could do.

Now, given the professions in which we work (my husband is a police officer and I work at a District Attorney’s Office), it’s all too easy to become skeptical and jaded about humanity. My husband didn’t think it was a good idea, thinking he might have been high on drugs or alcohol. But I insisted it didn’t matter if he was high or drunk, he was hurt. I could feel it in my gut. My husband agreed to turn around with me and go back.

As it turned out, he was hurt. He’d fallen the night before, thought his foot was likely broken, and was trying to make it into Denver. I asked him if I could call someone for him, he said he didn’t have anyone. I asked if I could call 911, he said he didn’t have any money, to just go ahead and he’d be fine.

I’d decided as soon as we reached Denver I would find someone who would know how to help this man. And the next mile was spent doing mental gymnastices trying to figure out how I could help him.

And then it happened. I heard in my head, the unmistakeable message, “You can’t help him, Rhonda, but I can. Ask Me.”

It was a clear message that gave me goosebumps on every square inch of my arms. God had placed this man in my path and I’d been so caught up in what I could do, that I nearly missed what I could do. This man was my stranger for the day, the one I was to pray for, and I nearly missed that golden opportunity.

When we reached Denver, I told my husband what had happened, and how it changed my heart. Once again, it struck me that praying for others blesses the person praying as much, if not more than, the one being prayed for.

On the way  back we saw him again. He smiled at us and we stopped. My husband pulled out his wallet and tried to offer him some help. The man said he couldn’t take the money, that he would be fine. That statement changed my husband’s heart. A homeless person refusing money??? Finally my husband said, “Please take it. It’s for me, not for you.” The man’s eyes pierced my husband’s heart, he took the offering and said, “Thank you for your blessing.”

Say what?!?

I believe God put that man in our path that day to change both my husband and me. My heart broke to see so many people pass by as if the man, crawling on the pavement, were nonexistent. As if they were afraid to notice him or too caught up in life to notice someone struggling. And it saddened me to think that that’s what has become of our society. Those that are homeless are every bit as precious in God’s eyes as anyone else. They are His children. And if someone passed by my children when they were struggling and hurt, it would rip my heart out.

Helping one another, helping to make life that can be beyond difficult easier for someone else, giving to another the grace and mercy that is so freely given to us–isn’t that what life is about?

Mother Teresa

Time to share – Tell me about a time you’ve helped someone else and how it changed you in ways you never expected.

 

 

Hodge Podge and Update

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I’ve been a bit of a slacker lately. Although, I guess slacker isn’t an accurate term. Life has been exceptionally busy, but I’m so grateful that I’ve got a good life to live. My son was the passenger in a car that was totaled in an accident two days ago and he came out of it with nothing more than an injured shoulder. And that injury is already healing nicely. Some people say he’s lucky. I say he’s beyond blessed. God was also in the car with him that day. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that my sisters and I have an ongoing prayer challenge where we find a stranger to pray for each day. I believe my son was somebody’s stranger that day.

My book, Shear Madness, is doing better than I expected, and on September 5th I have a book signing at the book store in the town where I live. I’ve ordered my book postcards, flyers, and pens with the name of the book and my name, which are due to arrive tomorrow. It feels like tomorrow is Christmas morning. 🙂

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Tomorrow brings with it a weekend trip to the mountains with lots of trails to run, elk that roam freely, and eagles flying overhead. And did I mention a Starbucks that sits just off the riverwalk by the creek? I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the live entertainment by said creek on Friday night. It’s sheer heaven listening to folk music with mountains on every side of us, breathing deeply of the fresh mountain air. A perfect place to drive creativity to all new heights. With that renewed creativity comes the time to lounge outside working on my current novel, Finding Abby.  Complete joy! 🙂

Estes, 8.1.14 029 Have yourselves a beautiful weekend.

 

Natural Beauty

It seems I’ve been blessed with the beauty of nature everywhere I go lately. I wanted to share some of the serenity with my blogging peeps. Have a cup of tea/coffee, put your feet up, and let yourself be mentally transported to the great outdoors, surrounded by peace, chirping birds, a gentle wind, and the fresh smell of woods.

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I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. ~George Washington Carver