Try Again

“I was that far from pitching the whole thing right straight into the fireplace!”

She was that far from tears, too.

My friend was so frustrated after her first book proposal was rejected that she wanted to burn her manuscript and wondered if she really should even be a writer.

And, her passion and determination to make a decision whether to give up or keep writing as she talked to me,

woke up my poetry gene.

I remember those feelings.

Bright leaping flames in the fireplace
A red-yellow study of arson and lace
Beckon me feed it these papers I hold
Truly, I want to, if the truth be told.

The pages engulfed in the frenzied inferno
Would satisfy something so deeply internal
To see them consumed in the hot conflagration
To see them destroyed would soothe agitation.

But what if God asks me to try once again
To review and pursue and pick up my pen
To steel all my shakiness, regroup and pray
It might be for my soul, a much better day.

So, Lord, if I turn my back on the fire
And stare at these pages with fresh new desire
Will you kindle in me your sparks, and renew
The dream you placed in my heart so to do?

Please lead me and guide me—stay by my side
O, Lord, inspire me as you change the tide.

+ + +

My friend and I are both thankful we decided to never, ever give up!

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 ESV).

“But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!” (2 Chronicles 15:7 NKJV)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3 NKJV)

Have you ever been tempted to give up on a dream of your own?

I’d for you to leave a comment!

Love,

Sally

About the Norman Rockwell painting photo by Cliff via Flickr CC

Jo Seated on the Old Sofa from “The Most Beloved American Writer”, Woman’s Home Companion, December 1937, oil on canvas, 32 x 25 in.

Rockwell traveled to Louisa May Alcott’s home in Concord, Massachusetts, before beginning illustrations for a serialized biography of her life. Alcott’s book, Little Women, became an immediate classic when it was published in 1868, and was a hit again in 1933 when George Cukor’s film adaptation won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Its message—that family counts more than wealth, and happiness comes to those who help the less fortunate—was an apt revival subject in Depression-era America.

americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/tellingstories/

Rachel’s Story

I can’t help but follow him this last day before we leave Jerusalem to return to Nazareth. He usually stays with his brothers and friends, but today’s different. I watch him walk away from them and not even one notices that he left.

But I do.

And I follow him.

My palms are damp and my belly is full of butterflies. I should stay with the young women, but I won’t.

“Rachel, you’re as stubborn and curious as old Sol!” my father often tells me, ruffling my hair and giving our donkey a swat on his ornery behind.

My friend knows where he is going. I want to see where.

My mother died when I was born, twelve years ago, the same month Jesus was born. My father and I travel with Jesus and his family every year to celebrate the Passover Feast in Jerusalem.

We live close to each other in Nazareth. My father repairs rooftops here and in nearby cities. I stay with Jesus’ family while my father works.

And today, in Jerusalem, I follow Jesus.

To the temple.

I go where I’m not supposed to go, and my heart thumps hard in my chest, but no one seems to notice me.

I watch my friend walk up to the circle of men—teachers, rabbis—men who stand and sit on worn stone steps in a shaded alcove. Deep in conversation, several have scrolls spread across their laps.

What are you doing, Jesus . . .

I draw in a breath. The scent of burnt offerings rolls past me in puffs of heated dust that makes me rub my eyes. I press the folds of my light robe around me, and lean against a pillar in the shadows.

One of the teachers reads aloud.

Jesus sits on a step, right in the midst of the rabbis.

He’s listening.

I listen too.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

The rich voice hesitates, then ceases. A collective intake of breath rustles through the men, as if a freshening wind has sighed through trees, then silence.

The teacher’s eyes narrow and his fingers tighten around the handles of the Isaiah Scroll. He glares at my friend.

Jesus stands, his dark eyes touch on the teacher then move to rest gently on each of the rabbis, one-by-one. His voice, firm and strong, he repeats the scripture, every word.

Adonai Hashem, protect Jesus from punishment.

My hands fly to my face. I want to fall on my knees, but I must not be discovered. The solid pillar seems to hold me.

Jesus gives them no time to reprimand him. He nods toward the white-bearded rabbi who sits, unmoving, against the rough beige stone of  the temple wall.

And as if answering the old teacher’s unspoken question, Jesus speaks of the Coming One, repeating words of the prophets. Words I’ve heard my father speak.

What are you saying, Jesus . . . 

I watch stern expressions change from anger to awe as my friend, answers questions no man could know.

And my ears burn with what I hear my friend saying to the teachers.

I stay, listen, and watch until the sun grazes the rooftops with heated bronze rays . . .

Until I give up and will my feet to run.

I’m to leave early with my father. He has promised a side trip to see cousins. I’m suddenly anxious to return in time to pack my things.

Only when I return to Nazareth do I learn what happened. His mother and father had traveled a day before they knew he was not with the company returning to Nazareth. It took them three days before they finally found him in the temple sitting with the teachers.

No one but his mother understood when Jesus explained.  But she listened with a knowing smile as I confessed to her what I’d done, what I’d heard.

And I was to hear it once again.

This time, in Nazareth.

We’re much older now. Jesus’ father died four years ago. Like Jesus’ mother, I am widowed, but with no children. Jesus is no longer the sun-browned, rough-robed, boy I knew.

Yesterday, along with His family, I’ve welcomed Him home. Like quicksilver Jesus has slipped in and out of our lives since the signs began in Cana. He’s been away for over a month this time.

Today, with His mother, I stand near the door of the synagogue and listen. Together, we hear Jesus read from the Isaiah Scroll, hear Him say the words of the prophet, His voice even and authoritative.Mary grasps my hand.

I close my eyes. I’m twelve again, listening to a rabbi’s reading of the same prophecy my Friend speaks into the tense air of the synagogue in this moment.

But it’s not the same. Three times, Jesus emphasizes a single word, Me.

“. . . upon Me . . . anointed Me . . . sent Me

With all the humility I remember, He hands the scroll to the attendant, sits down, and continues to speak

“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Mary’s hand trembles. There is more as He speaks to them in a proverb . . .

It begins with a ripple, and rushes like a flood through the crowd.

Sudden anger from the men inside, an instant change from their approval of His earlier gracious words. Jesus is silent now as they rise to their feet. He allows them to lay hands on Him, permits them to take Him outside and to the cliff edge.

Will they throw Him over the edge? Kill Him? My heart clenches with dread.

We follow.

Maybe tears cause the blur, the smear of color and movement as if time melts the scene with the heat of its passage.

I don’t know how . . .

But in the midst of the blur, the figure of Jesus, the clarity of His body encased in golden light, moves through the crowd untouched.

His mother knows His Truth. As she ministered to me when my firstborn died in my arms, Mary began to share her many stories. They came from her heart along with the balm of her comfort in the years since. She knows it will not be for long, but she will follow Him, her firstborn Son.

I will too.

Maybe it will be at a distance, perhaps unseen. But Adonai has graced me with the means to follow. I will stay near her, and follow Him.

Jesus was my friend when He needed to be “about His Father’s business”. Now, He is still my friend and more. He is my Lord.

♥ ♥ ♥

No one knows what Jesus listened to the teachers say or what words he spoke to them. We are only told that those who heard and spoke with Him in the temple were astonished at His understanding and His answers to their questions. And like the three days before His resurrection, no one knows what happened during those three days before Jesus was found by his parents, with the teachers.

God knows. And I’m curious enough to let my imagination have free rein with a story based on the scriptures from Luke 2:39-52, Isaiah 61:1-2a, and Luke 4:22a

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.

Albert Einstein

God gifted each of us with a lively imagination. How does using yours enrich your walk with Him?

I’d love for you to share with me in a comment!

Love,

Sally

 

 

Embraceable You

Little brothers~

I’m a hugger. Like my dad, I love people.

When I hug someone, once in a while there’s a little confusion as to where each of us will place our arms.

Sometimes it gets funny. But no matter what, there’s always a smile going on as we settle into a brief, warm hug that whispers of caring.

Did you know that there’s apparently a science to the action of hugging? I’d heard of it but hadn’t paid much attention to it until I decided to write this post.

Go here to find the fun wikiHow hug website. It shows you—with accompanying drawings—just how to hug everyone . . . properly!

It made me smile and even laugh out loud at some of the cute demos, though it still didn’t show me if there’s a preferred way to put my arms around someone. ☺

Sisters~

Now if you want to get all scientific . . . when you hug, there’s a release of oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone” that makes us feel good, and then there’s the stress hormone, cortisol that’s reduced, which is a good thing. No in-depth study here, but I’m sure there are probably more good things that happen, like endorphins . . . maybe more.

But when He made us, God knew we just needed love (plus, the oxytocin and cortisol were His ideas in the first place!).

Don’t ever stop embracing one another. It’s so important to show love and that’s just one small way to say “I love you” or “I think you’re a really wonderful person” or “I truly appreciate our friendship” or “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “I’m so happy to see you.” I may feel all the love, care and compassion in the world, but unless I tell you or show you, you might never know that I feel that way.

You can blow all the air kisses you want to, but love or just sweet friendship shown in a hug is incomparable.

Here’s some of what the Word has to say about embracing others,
like your Relatives:

Family~

“Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister’s son,
that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house.
So he told Laban all these things” (Genesis 29:13).

Brothers: “But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck
and kissed him, and they wept” (Genesis 33:4).

Fathers and sons: “Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see.
Then Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them” (Genesis 48:10).

Spouse: “His left hand is under my head, and
his right hand embraces me” (Song of Solomon 2:6). Disciples/Friends: “After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to
himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia” (Acts 20:1).

Bye, Grandpa.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 NKJV).

Hugs are small and free and warm and loving and one way to obey that commandment.

How do you feel about hugs?

LoveSally

White Rabbit Syndrome

“I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date . . .
And you know the rest.

It’s a cold Tuesday morning in January when my day begins to splinter, threatening to shred my best laid plans.

Uh oh. The red numbers on the bedroom clock blink through another minute. I zip into my skirt and shrug into my suit jacket.

A mini tidal wave of coffee sails over the edge of the mug, misses my hand and skirt, but sinks into the . . .
No!

Yes.
Into the carpet.
I grab a towel and mop at the mess, muttering something unkind regarding mug handles that totally ignores the truth.

Note to self: Don’t try to walk, balance coffee mug, think about dog food, and adjust bra strap at the same time.

Ready.

Not quite. I glance at my shoeless feet and rocket into the dark closet groping for my black heels.

I’m late, the last one to leave the house. The board meeting starts at 8:30 and is a twenty minute drive. My report won’t present itself and, ohhh, if I don’t get going, I’m not going to make it on time.

Purse and briefcase in hand, I shoot a passionate prayer for help heavenward and lock the door behind me.

Two hours later, Deb grabs the ringing phone as I walk into the office and through the reception area. We both mouth a whispered “Hi.”

I poke my head into Kay’s office. “Looks like you two are having a busy morning.”

Kay nods. It’s been crazy. How did your meeting go?” She hands me several call-back notes as the second phone line chimes. She answers and asks the client to hold.

“It went well; I’ll tell you all about it later.” I turn to leave, but Kay’s sudden peal of laughter behind me turns me around.

She points at my feet. “Did you get dressed in the dark this morning? Look at your shoes!”

I stare down at my feet. What’s she talking about? My shoes look perfectly normal. Black heels, closed toes. Identical.  

Already answering the phone with her friendly “This is Kay, may I help you?” she dodges my questioning look and grins at me.

I twist to look at the back of the heels as I remember the rocket-dive into my dark cave of a closet this morning. On my left foot, a sling-back. On my right, enclosed back. Great!

I shrug and shake my head, attempting to reflect Kay’s cute/sassy smile, and leave her to her phone call.

In my office both shoes come off and I hold them up. Heat creeps into my cheeks.
No one had said a word at the meeting, and now I sink back into my chair, trying to see the humor in all this.

At least, Kay and Debbie know the stress I’m under these days, running the business, care-taking my elderly parents, and more. I couldn’t do it without them. Later, the three of us share a good laugh, and since I never find the time to go home and change, I just wear the offending mismatched shoes all day.

But this isn’t the end of my story.

~~ the following Friday morning,

Debbie and Kay have set up an appointment for me, so I’m a little early getting to work. I walk into my office, and instead of the expected client, Kay and Deb are waiting for me, sitting in front of my desk.

“You might want to sit down, we have something to tell you,” Kay says.

Uh oh.

I round the desk and sit like a bump, looking at them, then at my desk. No birthdays on the calendar. What are they up to?Laid out on desk, three cups of fresh coffee, warm coffee cake, pink carnations and baby’s breath in a little crystal vase circled with a pink ribbon. A beautiful card tells me I’m appreciated and that they understand all the heaviness in my life right now, that they’re here for me—

And there’s no way I can stay behind that desk. I get up to give them each a hug. but before I can, both smiling like Cheshire cats, they point at their feet, laughing.

I choke back tears. There, on those four sweet feet are four different black shoes.

Kay looks up at me, dead serious, “Just one thing you need to know. We are not going to wear ours all day like you did!”

Talk about feeling loved and encouraged. There’s no better way they could have shown their love and support.

Thanks, God, for my staff—I love You—and them.

“Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friend’s counsel that comes from the heart” (Proverbs 27:9 (AMP).

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV).

Clock-watching translates into stress, equaling anxiety and big nerves. Oh, and spilled stuff!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . . translates into peace beyond understanding.

Walk with Him.

Do you have a story to share? ☺

Love,

Sally

Distinctively Different

It’s an honor this week to have as my guest, Noelle Brani. Noelle is a senior in college, majoring in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Christian Counseling. I’m sure you’ll find Noelle’s post as interesting and thought-provoking as I did.

Noelle writes:

As I grew up, I realized some of the ways I’m different from others. I was raised in a single parent family, I’ve always been petite, and I was home schooled in a town where being home schooled was a little uncommon. Along with those differences, I was adopted. My mom made a different, bold move and chose to adopt me from Russia when I was six months old. Today, I’m still called “little one” at five feet tall, I still live in a single parent family, and I’m no longer a home schooled kid, but I’m thankful that I was.

Have you noticed the many photos young girls have posted on social media of themselves that have the hashtag “#basic” printed beside their photo? The hashtag is there to indicate how the girls feel about themselves—and/or how they want others to feel about them. They don’t want to be pointed out as being different, as in unusual or unique, only that they are “basic,” or “normal.” Being different is something that many people, young or old, seem to fear. I think it’s a sad statement that they feel they must tell the world that they are not different, that they are just like everyone else.

It’s amazing to me how our culture has changed. When I was a little girl, everyone seemed more relaxed in just being individual—being themselves. Sure, the fads and trends came and went, but people loved being themselves—you could see their individuality. And I remember being a teen and looking around me, wondering, Why is someone’s social status dependent upon the brand of jeans they wear? 

How shallow our world seems to have become. I think one reason we see so much of the same type of style, whether it be shoes, or clothing, or name-brand items when we walk into a school or even a church, is because many of us, no matter our age, are genuinely afraid of being “on the outside,” or that more sensitive label, “different.”

I sit here writing this and smile, thinking back on how I’ve always been the shortest person in the group, whether in dance class or church or school activities. Even now, at twenty-one, my friends and I joke around that I’m the oldest, but the shortest person in the room. In Psalm 139:14, the Bible says, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your Works are wonderful, I know that full well.” What a blessing! To know that God not only loves us, but He designed us. All we have to do is know it and believe it.

Everywhere I go, every single day, I’m proud of girls who dare to be different. I’m proud of them because they’re accepting themselves as individuals, and thriving. They’re finding the unique qualities that make them who they are. I will forever be joining them and walking alongside them because being different is nothing to be ashamed of! Perhaps we’re not basic; maybe we all just share a little basic insecurity. Truth is, we’re all different and we’re all unique.

I’m thankful that I’ve embraced being different, and I hope you will accept being your unique self, too. God created us to be so much more than basic.

Celebrate and embrace being you!

Are you accepting yourself as you are?

Noelle and I would love to have your input! Please leave a comment for us.

A little about Noelle Brani:

Noelle Brani

Noelle Brani has always enjoyed school and her dream of attending college at Liberty University began when she was five years old. Now a senior at Liberty, she’s working toward her major in Early Childhood Education and recently started her career in her minor, Christian Counseling. Noelle couldn’t be happier. Being with children is a favorite way of spending many hours of Noelle’s spare time. She has always loved to write and is excited about sharing her first post on Everyone Has A Story blog. She hopes to continue in her journey as a young writer by doing more blog posting in the future. Noelle cherishes her relationships with her friends, and is devoted to her Lord Jesus, calling Him “the most loyal Friend I have.” It says something about Noelle’s heart to include that her favorite movie is The Lion King and its memorable quote, “Remember who you are.”

Thank you, Noelle. I’ve loved working with you on your post and having you join my list of honored guest posters! May God abundantly bless you as you finish college and launch your new career in Christian Counseling.

And those of you who follow Everyone Has A Story might recognize that Noelle is the daughter of my friend and fellow writer, Sharon Brani, who was a guest here last December. It’s been a joy to have both mother and daughter as my guests.

Have a great week!

Sally

Coats, Pillows, and a China Cabinet

I’m so happy to have Ann Cooper McCauley as my guest again. Reading through the posts on Ann’s excellent Morning Glory Blog, I came across this one that I especially love, and Ann graciously agreed to allow me to repost it here on Everyone Has a Story Blog. I guarantee that it will lift your faith to a new level!

So, pour yourself a cup of something warm. You’re in for a post full of miracles! Here’s Ann’s Coats, Pillows, and a China Cabinet~

The church we attended gave each of our children a warm coat, but not just a warm coat. Beautiful coats.

Coats they would wear for years to come.

They also gave the kids new bed pillows. You wouldn’t think such a gift would excite children, but they were needed, our children appreciative. Our oldest son was in Iraq, and this same body of believers sent a care package to him. Many families in the church sent gift cards for us to buy Christmas for the kids. What a loving and thoughtful group of people. We were blessed to know them.

God doesn’t always use a mailbox to send blessings…

But our problems were bigger than those who loved us. For the first time in more than twenty-five years of marriage, my husband was without employment. The calendar on the kitchen fridge flapped each time I passed, a reminder that the rent was due. We had needs no one could conceive, and we were helpless to do anything but pray.

Instead of meeting those needs, God seemed distant. His word to us always the same, Work for me. Work for me. So each morning, we used our dwindling cash for gasoline, drove to our church, and worked there as though we were employed. We had vision for a family and children’s ministry and spent days, cleaning, organizing, painting, and preparing.

 

Late one evening a truck pulled into the yard and began backing to our front porch. Two sweet people from the church hopped out and began unloading a dining room suite. We were overwhelmed. This couple, in the real-estate business, had sold a home in which the owners had left behind a table, chairs, and china cabinet to be given away.

Only God knew I’d always wanted a china cabinet. I had never told a single person. That evening after the kids fell asleep I took my china out of storage boxes and carefully placed each piece into the lighted cabinet. Finished, I turned the house lights off and stood back. Lovely. But my thoughts were not so lovely. Lacking the beauty of faith and dependence, tears welled in my eyes, and I whispered, “Lord, why would you give me a china cabinet and no house to live in?” I was as fragile as one of my china cups. The fear of moving to a homeless shelter loomed even as a rumble of laughter escaped my throat at the thought of the question.

After I crawled into bed, my husband told me we would have to try and sell the dining room suite. My shoulders sunk as I looked him in the eye. I choked up and tears prickled. “That was a personal gift from my Father. Only He knew what it meant. He’s trying to tell us something. We can’t sell it. We just can’t. This was my Christmas present.”

 

The next morning, we rose early to work at the church. As I climbed into the van and reached for my seat belt, my husband leveled his gaze on mine and said, “Aren’t you going to get our rent money from the mailbox?”

God doesn’t always use a mailbox to send blessings…

 I eyed him right back, and my ire rose. He was being sarcastic. His practical mind screamed to sell the dining room suite, and I stood in his way. I snatched the stack of letters from the mailbox and returned to the van. A Christmas card stood out among the bills. As I tore it open, my jaw went slack. There was a check for $2,000 dollars inside the card. This money came from people who called themselves secret agents. Believers, who hardly knew us at all, they lived in another state and were not privy to our circumstances.

Sometimes God uses a mailbox…

Everything was paid and on time. But our living conditions were not changed. Another month rolled by, and bills came due a second time. God kept saying, Work for me. Work for me. A second envelope came in the mail that month. This letter was from another family who lived in a totally different state. We had not heard from these people in years. And inside the letter was a check for $2,200 dollars. God gave us a raise. Another month passed and bills came due. This time God gave Randy a job that paid nineteen dollars an hour.

God didn’t help us because of our service to the church. God didn’t help us because we had adopted children, or because we homeschooled. God didn’t help because we were special, or because we held a rare measure of faith. The opposite was true.

No. Our Father wants to freely give. And as we admire qualities of hard work, loyalty, and growth in our own children, so does He. But He gives unconditionally because He’s Daddy. The work at the church was to keep us occupied in a good thing while He worked on our financial miracles. What was this truly about? Our level of trust was challenged.

You see, the provisions were always present and on their way before we could see or touch them.

It’s humbling to share about our needy times, but it’s exhilarating to share what God is willing and able to do for His kids.

What have you walked through that confirms He is real and holds your hand?

Ann and I would love it if you’d leave a comment!

Previously published on anncoopermccauley.com shared with permission.

Thank you, Ann for sharing your post with us!  Be sure and visit Ann’s blog and enjoy her delightful sense of humor as she shares her many stories. Here’s a little about Ann.

Ann McCauley married her sweetheart thirty-eight years ago. The McCauley’s have seven children, four internationally adopted. Ann’s first stories were published by Baker/ Revell in the book, Loved by Choice—True Stories That Celebrate Adoption. She led a local chapter of The Compassionate Friends, a national organization for grieving parents, and a grief counseling support group, Wellsprings. Ann, a songwriter for many years, has led praise and worship, shared her original music with churches, and performed in fundraising for Holt International Adoption Agency. Mrs. McCauley has shared her adoption and homeschooling experiences with churches, rotary clubs, women’s seminars, and homeschool support groups. She’s been a speaker and singer throughout Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Ann’s motivational speaker service, The Power Behind the Story, can be found on her website. She is now taking bookings for engagements. Having written three historical novels, Ann hopes one will be picked up by a publisher soon. Her agent is Diana L. Flegal of Hartline Literary Agency.
Website and Blogs: anncoopermccauley.com

Listen for His Whispers

“The lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field . . .” (Proverbs 27:26)

“You have given him his heart’s desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips” (Psalm 21:2).

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

Scripture from NKJV
A photo from Ann's Morning Glory Blog

A photo from Ann’s Morning Glory Blog