Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dance in the Kitchen

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As the rich voice of Crystal Gayle makes her entrance through the speakers behind a fake, but realistic tree in the corner, my mind wanders from my book to a place buried not-so-deeply in my memories. I can feel myself dancing with no inhibitions as my apron floats freely over my full skirt; mirroring my mother.

This defines motherhood for me. This is the picture in my mind that identifies a happy wife and mother. Although, I doubt I’ve actually done this myself, we’ll have to ask my children; it’s how I saw my own mom’s happiest days. It’s how I knew I wanted to be a wife and a mother more than anything else in the world. This was the epitome of joy; the never-ending smile on her face as she sang along with the record player so happy to be alive.
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That happy face faded, I presume, replaced with the realities of life that didn’t line up with her dreams. It popped up on occasion, but too quickly disappeared again. I hope my own children can remember that look on my face. I hope I wear it now, even.

Sadly, there came a time when I felt guilty for my own happiness when so many around me appeared to be suffering mercilessly. How messed up is that?

Mind-games. Tricks of the enemy. Lies. Repeated let-downs and rejections. Empathy-overload! Somehow, all those things worm their way into an otherwise happy place I commonly call my mind.

I used to think I had to find the entry point. Where did they find the door open? And you know, I’m sure there was one, but I’ve decided to no longer spend my time in search of those elusive doors and place my focus where it will do some good.  If I continue to dwell on the negative and how it got there, I’m wasting precious moments I could be filling with all the positive and life-giving things going on around me and in me!

Recognizing deceptions that leave us vulnerable is important, especially to guard our hearts from further lies. But, living in the Truth has to be a deliberate decision we gladly make, every single day.

So –
*we keep our eyes open. “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.” – 1 Chronicles 16:10 (NIV)

*we put first things first. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” – Deuteronomy 6:5 (NIV)

*we keep our minds on the “good things”. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

*we renew our minds daily through the Word of God. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2 (NIV)

*we choose to rejoice! If we don’t, we’ll find ourselves settling for whatever comes along today… “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

*we repeatedly choose every thought we allow into our minds. “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve……. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” – Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

*and continue to choose. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NIV)

Joy is something we all seek after, identifying it with the resources we have in the moment.

To you I say, as John said, “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” – 1 John 1:4 (KJV)
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Am I Listening?

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Am I listening? Do I hear God when He speaks to me? Do I hear you when you speak to me? Or do your words flutter past my ears as if you’re speaking a foreign language? More than that, do I miss what your heart is saying despite your words?

‘They say’ we hear what we want to hear. In the Bible, Timothy even mentions this when he refers to our ‘itching ears’.

In 2 Timothy 4:2-4 we read: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (KJV)

Bringing this to a personal, relationship level between us and those we love or choose to interact with daily – how much of what they’re saying to us do we miss? Do they perhaps think they’re communicating one thing, while we’re receiving something else completely?

All sorts of internet memes are created to joke about what a woman’s words really mean; that sometimes when she responds ‘fine’ to the question ‘how are you?’ it’s simply a mask for her PMS-self. But, let’s face it, we’ve all responded with that answer, whether we’re male or female; and we haven’t always been honest. We may have thought the person asking the question really didn’t care how we’re doing, but simply using the question as a greeting. We may have wanted to hide how we feel because we didn’t trust the asker. We didn’t think we had time for a conversation, or thought they didn’t. Perhaps we thought the person asking couldn’t handle the truth in our honest response and we’d make them uncomfortable. There are plenty of reasons why we might have withheld the truth. But most of these reasons include ‘we thought’. What if [gasp!] we’re wrong?

Is this why we don’t share the gospel as freely as we believe we should? Is our thinking getting in the way of our sharing? Not that we shouldn’t think, God gave us phenomenal brains for good reason. But, some things come more naturally than others. Like breathing. When we take time to be conscious of our own breathing, beautiful things can happen, like relaxation or even exhilaration. But fortunately, we don’t have to ponder breathing in order to fill our lungs as needed. We just do it.

What if we could share the gospel of Jesus Christ like that?

True; we want to know our audience. But even more profound; we need to LOVE our audience. God already knows them and prepares just the right words for us to speak to their hearts…if we’re listening for them.

At least ten times the scriptures share this message, “Then Jesus said, whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.” –Mark 4:9 (NIV)

Listening and speaking; two awesome tools to share God’s love – are we using either one of them?

Make time to love through communication today, even if you don’t use words.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Garden Soil - Holy Ground

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“There is grace for every garden you’re in…” 
– Pastor Pat Willard

When I think about gardening, I think of the only good gardens I’ve been a part of. I love living in Colorado, but the effort to grow plants in my yard is too great. I might as well toss my money in the trash if I’m pouring it into my yard. But, as a girl growing up on a farm in northeastern Ohio, I shared in the efforts it took to plant, tend and harvest our bountiful gardens. It’s a whole lot easier to grow a garden with good soil! It will always entail hard work, but it’s a labor of love when you get the results you want and can enjoy the fruits of your labors.

In the Word of God there are plenty of references to gardening. One parable, often referred to as the parable of the sower, might more accurately be called the parable of the soils, as our pastor has pointed out. Good seeds are planted each time; the difference in the harvest is because of the soil:

“And [Jesus] spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” – Matthew 13:3-9 (KJV)

God’s Word is that good seed. Some seeds are too old to sprout, but God’s Word is eternal, it never returns void. It’s never a faulty seed planted into the soil of our hearts, if it’s the seed of the Word of God. Yet, three soil conditions are mentioned in the parable that present problems for the garden. [Note: I don’t see them as problems for the Gardener.]

Unlike the sandy soil here in my Colorado backyard, I have choices to make every day. I choose to receive the Word of God with joy, I choose to cultivate the Word of God in my life. I can also choose to allow the seed that’s been planted in my heart to become overwhelmed with the daily concerns of my life; the worries that creep in, like thorny weeds that can overcome a garden, crowding out the crops I planted. I can allow them to steal my attention from my Creator, seeing them as bigger or more influential in my life than my Savior. Do we “tell God how big our problems are, or do we tell our problems how big a God we serve”?

Daily, I choose whether or not to forgive those who bring offenses into my life; those who wound me deeply or simply cut me off in traffic. Left unattended, unforgiveness shows up like rocks in the fine soil of my heart. Once I let bitterness creep into my life, I become hardened, like clay baked in the summer sun. Sometimes when those offenses show up, God can use forgiveness I choose to give as a hoe or a rotor-tiller to break up the hardening that had been taking place.

The condition of the garden of my heart is very dependent on me; yes, it will take time and effort. Often, that time and those efforts are spent on those we love – investments that can come back to bless us many-fold, or seem to leave us abandoned and lonely. But, God sees it all, whether we see the harvest on this side of glory or not. No tending to our garden goes wasted.

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YET…I look around and see seeds produce where, realistically, they shouldn’t. Here in Colorado I repeatedly see trees growing from crevices between rocks in the mountains. It makes me ponder. Was it a stubborn seed? No one comes to water it or to take care of any weeds that try to force it out. With no room for even pebbles, this isn’t rocky soil, it’s shallow dirt, blown and settled between huge pieces of rock! How does this tree grow? Where does it take root and how does it glean it’s nourishment? (You know if I planted that seed there, it wouldn’t grow at all!) My parallel point to ponder goes to the one, the unlikely soul we see cursing God on a daily basis. Yes, the Word of God can grow there, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


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Recently we pondered spoken words. I hope you’re still pondering them, those we speak – and those spoken to us.

Words don’t have to be profound to have an impact on our lives. So don’t let the lie that you’d don’t have anything important to say stop you from speaking to people. God brings people across our paths for His own reasons.

A few years ago my daughter moved to Nevada. It tore my heart out. The day she left, I cried so much I ran out of tears. My boys have also moved away or left for a season or two; they must think I have ample supply of tears. It's all really just part of letting go.

Before my Princess actually even left, I sat sitting in the back of the parking lot of one of my most frequented stores, sobbing on a ridiculous level. Seemingly to me, out of nowhere, two women were standing at my window. I hadn’t even noticed them pull up and park next to me. I guess I was in my own little world, which happens often, I’ll admit.

Staring in my window with loving faces, they sent their love straight to my heart without even knowing why I cried so violently.

I tried to pull it together and rolled down my window. They asked why I was falling apart and I told them. Without hesitation, they began to pray for me, out loud. There was no embarrassment or even asking if it’d be okay to pray.

When God sends you, He knows who He’s sending you to.

I doubt that they knew they were on a mission when they left their house to go shopping that day, if indeed they were even there to shop. God could have drawn them there just for me.

God knew I needed a audible voice to speak comfort to me that day, and tangible hands to take mine in theirs to lift my heart up to our Father. He knew my need, and He met it. He’s good like that.

This brief interaction burned itself into my memory and reminds me to never ignore God’s prompting. Whoever He sends me to comfort needs and deserves that comfort as much as I did.

Trust and obey.

I like this verse, perhaps because I already consider myself to be peculiar: “Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:” – Exodus 19:5 (KJV)

And I’m reminded of an old Keith Green song, To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22)  Listen to the song by clicking here.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Relinquished, When Love Means Letting Go - Carrie O'Toole

[My friend Carrie is an incredible woman I know you'll want to get to know, personally. Since it's not realistic for me to introduce you all to her in person, what better way to fall in love with her, than to see her heart, which she pours out in her new book, Relinquished, When Love Means Letting Go. She's guest-posting here on my blog page today, to share her heart and her new book with you. See what she has to say.]

So many things have been written about Easter! We all have memories of Easter's past.
Here's a video retelling of Easter 2009 from my kitchen to yours:
I wrote my story three years ago, as therapy for my broken heart and exhausted spirit. After hearing, "Memoirs don't sell" countless times, I put the book away and tried to write a self-help book. During this time, I wrestled with my confidence and thoughts of not wanting to write a book, just for the sake of writing a book. I could not ignore the burning in my soul about writing my story.
I believe God resurrected this book, because my story is powerful! I decided to sit down and write it again, the book practically birthed itself!
As time passed and my wounds healed, I realized my story isn't just a memoir. It's a MEMOIR with a MESSAGE. A message that needs to be heard by...
*foster, step, and adoptive parents-you will feel understood, heard, and find strength.
*those who have been adopted-you may relate to the feelings you've always struggled to understand.
*family and friends of foster, step, and adoptive families-they need you to understand what's happening in their homes without judgment. They need support.
*counselors, doctors, teachers, pastors, judicial workers, social workers, and those in the system-please learn about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Please understand what happens at home is not what you see in public. Please give support to these parents, especially the moms. They are trying so hard, and can't seem to figure this out. They are giving to the point of exhaustion, and they need help, not criticism.
*those who have or are currently struggling with infertility or miscarriage-you are not alone, and your grief is real.
*struggling parents-it's such a tough job! Things don't always go the way we hoped, but you will get get through it.
Easter...the time of death and resurrection.
God has given me a new life. I hope my book will inspire many to continue even when it feels like life is over, even when you don't think you can take one more breath. Keep going. God has a plan. It may not look like YOUR plan, but he has a plan. It will be good again. It will even be great!
You can pre-order Relinquished: When Love Means Letting Go here:
This post written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O'Toole, M.A.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Heaven on Earth - A Blog Post From the Mountains

(Penrose House grounds)
Fridays are generally one of Dave’s days off each week. It’s a day I look forward to because we often spend it together. Whether it’s a day of hiking, an afternoon at the movies or just a day of running errands together, it’s time with my favorite person on the planet.

He knows how to put a smile on my face better than anyone else. He knows what I like to do, where I like to go and how to tickle me from the inside-out.

This past Friday we headed to the southwest part of town and strolled through the Penrose House and grounds. I’d never been there before and I loved it. Afterward, we went for a drive in the mountains, up past Seven Falls (closed till next year because of the atrocious flooding we had last year); we stopped at Helen Hunt Falls and drove along Gold Camp Road, where I revel in some of the most breathtaking views the city has to offer.
(Penrose House, from the back)

The most relaxing part of the day was resting in a cozy spot at the foot of the falls, watching the sun dance off the water, while it baked my legs through my jeans. My face and arms were cooled by the breeze that blew across the snow on the other side of the falls and over the rocky river bed to where I’d nestled in. So many of my favorite elements of nature all in one place! The smell of the pines and the water, the sound of the falls, the heat of the sun and the refreshment from the breeze – then the sight of my husband on the bridge at the top of the falls….gazing down at me.

Yes, Helen, there is a heaven – right here on Earth. I appreciate and enjoy God’s creations so deeply.

(Penrose House, an intriguing tree)
“…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10b (KJV)

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27 (KJV)

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” – John 15:11 (KJV)

“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” – John 16:24 (KJV)

(Helen Hunt Falls)

(The creek from the falls)

(The nitch where I basked in the glory of it all)

(A view from Gold Camp Road)
(A view from Gold Camp Road)
(The tunnel on Lower Gold Camp Road)

(The light at the end of the tunnel)
(Closer to the light at the end of the tunnel)
(The brilliance of the light at the end of the tunnel)
(A view from Gold Camp Road)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spoken Words

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Sometimes it’s hard to share a conversation with someone if you think they’re dismissing what you have to say before you’ve even said it. We may even applaud them for the self-control it takes to conceal the rolling of their eyes,

But, what if we’re mistaken? (Could that possibly ever happen? Us? Be wrong?) What if there’s something tugging on the inside of their heart, perhaps for no apparent reason, today they’re ready to listen; today they want to know what you have to say?

Only God knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts, only He knows when we’re broken and receptive. So when we feel Him tugging at our hearts to speak, it’s only right that we should listen and obey. If we’re prayed up and seeking after His will; His heart of passion, He can pour into those around us through our obedience.

We can share from experience, but sometimes God will give us the precise words someone else needs to hear.

A few years back a new man showed up where I worked. I’d had no occasion to speak with him yet, but, he approached me in the parking lot one day and called me by name. Sure, I was a popular gal around the office and everyone knew my name, so that was no big deal, someone told him. But then he went on to say, “Helen, God’s word for you is ‘fear not’.” I blinked a few times in disbelief. I responded with a defensive gut reaction, “I’m not afraid.” He smiled at me, then spoke personal words that only God could have shared with me; words of reassurance and hope; promises that only God could make; words this man could not have known. He spoke to something that had happened in my life years ago. He spoke over one of my children. He spoke from obedience to what God was showing him. He spoke with boldness and kindness. – I never saw him again. It was as if God brought him into my life for that moment.

So many times I’ve conversed with someone, friend or stranger, and they’ve responded with hope in their eyes, “That’s just what I needed to hear,” or “How did you know I needed to hear that?”

Unfortunately, I can’t boast that I always have the words you need to hear. But I can attest to the fact that God always knows what you need. He’ll send people into your life to speak truth to you. But, He’ll also send you into the lives of those around you, to speak truth to them. How many times have you failed to follow His lead? How many times might the words He gave you have caused friend or stranger to rejoice? How many times might someone have failed to give you those words of encouragement He had for you?

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue….” – Proverbs 18:21 (KJV)

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” – Psalm 19:17 (KJV)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It's Consequential

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Loving someone doesn’t mean allowing them to do everything they want to do, or to do everything their way. Right and wrong, good and bad are all still reality. The line isn’t wiped out because you love someone.

If I love someone who becomes abusive, I cannot allow them to hurt me. To walk away from them doesn’t imply I’ve stopped loving them, only that I won’t be tormented by them. Lines need to be drawn.

Because I love my toddler I’m not going to let him play with the sharp knives in the kitchen. Because I love him, I’ll keep them out of his reach until he can understand the dangers they pose. Whether he completely comprehends why he can’t play with the knives or not, lines need to be drawn, rules need to be accepted.

Though, as parents, we create rules about what our children can and cannot do, there will always be those strong-willed children who go around us to prove to themselves that there’s really no danger; that mom and dad don’t know what they’re talking about. Many of those children will get hurt, some seriously. Fortunately, some of the little smart-alecks will investigate the knives when backs are turned, and walk away unscathed. But, too many will find out the hard way, that the rule was in place for their own protection.

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As my child grows, I’ll warn him of other dangers, but I’ll do so because I love him, not to deny him pleasure or the answers to curious questions. I’ll want him to discover the answers to as many curious questions as his little heart comes up with, and yes, there may come a day where it involves danger to uncover the answers.

I love a little man who knows no fear. He’ll run right up to the edge of a cliff while we’re hiking and insist that he won’t go over. I have to admit, the boy can stop on a dime, but the day may come when the souls of his shoes meet with sand that sends him sailing over the edge. Do I warn him or attempt to stop him from running at full speed right up to the very edge simply to deny him the thrill? No, of course not; but because I love him and want him to live to be a hundred and accomplish great things with his life.

Again, pondering perception, as I’ve done so many times before, why do we think rules are meant to deprive us? Why do we think that being warned of consequences implies that the outcome of ‘breaking the rule’ is a punishment? If I tell my young man that sliding off the edge of a cliff could mean his death, I’m not saying I’ll punish him with death if he flies out past the end of the ledge. I’m saying that death might be the natural consequence.

When God tells us that without Him we cannot live, He’s not punishing us for trying to live without Him, He’s merely showing us the consequence of excluding Him from our existence. Believing in Jesus Christ results in eternal life, whereas, denying Him results in eternal damnation. Just as cutting off your head will lead to your death, death is not the punishment for cutting off your head, merely the result.

Ponder this, why do we so easily feel threatened with punishment, by warnings of consequences?

“…eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9 (KJV)
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014


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There’s always so much more going on than just your thoughts. Your body is busy at being alive; your blood is always coursing through your veins, your nerves are continuously sending signals to your brain and a countless array of processes we don’t even have to contemplate to keep in motion. I’m quite certain I have no idea what my body is accomplishing at any given moment, merely to keep me functioning. And I’m just as certain that it would take few book volumes to describe the miraculous workings of the human body, so I won’t attempt to list them here in a short blog post.

In addition to everything that’s going on inside your body, the overwhelming activity that’s going on outside your body, even on a quiet sunny day while relaxing in the grass, is more than impressive. Every living thing around us is growing, and dying. Vibrations that cause sound and light waves are being generated, with or without our help. Whether we’re awake or sleeping, in a euphoric state or catatonic, happy as a lark or in the pits of despair – life goes on around us.

So, how is it we let ourselves get so wrapped up in our thoughts?

Yes, our thoughts can become words and our words have power, creative power.

We generally give our thoughts and our words the authority to run or to ruin our lives.

But, if we allow ourselves to stop our racing thoughts from becoming an avalanche, cascading down around us, and take a moment to simply marvel and wonder at everything else there is besides those thoughts – ahhh, what an incredible feeling. It’s a rush! Honestly, for me, it’s even more invigorating that thinking! And if you think I talk a lot (which I do), you should see the whirlwind of thoughts going on in this brain at any given moment.

There’s a word in the Bible that can mean to pause and consider; the Hebrew word for Selah. Hebrew words always mean more than our watered-down English versions, and are associated with pictures.

In the preceding paragraphs I’ve described my word-picture for Selah; that open-hearted moment when you simply stop what you’re doing, stop what you’re thinking and just “be”, experiencing what’s going on within you, as well as what’s going on around you. I encourage you to try it, today; right now, if you’ll allow yourself the time.

You’ll rest.

You’re marvel.

You’ll grow.

Your light will glow more brightly.

Your world will become endless.

“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” ~ Psalm 4:4 (KJV)