Shaped and Formed

Do you have any idea how amazing—how wonderful you are?

The Lord God, Himself, shaped you inside and out.

Meme with prayer in all shades of brown of a potter forming a clay piece

He knitted you together, nestling you within the warmth of your mother long before you ever took your first breath.

woman's hands holding pink knitting needles and working with soft pink yarn

You are His unique creation and He filled you with the senses of wonder and awe.

Adorable and very happy toddler on a merry-go-round. green shirt, gold pole

With His excellence, He created you with utmost attention to the tiniest detail of your being.

His work is amazing and He tucked this knowledge deep within your soul.

King David writes in his Psalm:

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well” (Psalm 139:13-14 NKJV).

The Lord God walked down the staircase of heaven with you cradled in His arms.

You—your life—is the story.

“Life is God’s novel. Let him write it.” Isaac Bashevis Singer.

How has God shaped and formed your life?

Love,

Sally

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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

 

 

Reflecting the Writer

Ann Cooper McCauley is my guest today, and from the archives of her wonderful blog, she’s given me permission to use this beautiful and thoughtful post.

Here’s Ann with her inspired thoughts on what it’s like to be a writer.

Ever wonder how much we mirror God our Creator?                                 And from the get go? Born again, yes, we are continually transformed into His image, but do we realize how each of us—individual as we are—mirror different aspects of His nature? Our God DNA is grafted deep inside us.

Allow me to camp on the writer.

Who is God, but the Writer of the story? Not only did He leave us His bestseller, but it is a work in progress—alive and current.

So who are writers—really? People who yearn to be heard, write to be a voice, hunger to express thought, and seek to deliver timely messages. Not unlike our Creator at all.

Who discovered the plot outline?

The Writer of our story. He demonstrated to us the nature of construction when He wired everything on the planet in a perfect order and with a specific purpose. He tells us Himself that He knows the beginning from the end. Every good writer knows the general ending of their work, whether they write by the seat of their pants or not. From the beginning of the manuscript until the end, it makes sense, and a theme will whisper through its pages.

Who understands the web of characters more than the Writer?

He generates us. He makes plans for us. And like any good Writer—though He knows the ending of the story—He allows His characters to develop over time. He allows them to repeat mistakes, grow, and evolve. He intertwines his characters at just the right time and in just the right genre, setting and scene different to each character, yet similar to all.

And let us not forget dialog.The Writer is an open channel, a river on the page taking us where He is active and involved, unlike narration which tells the story rather than showing the action. God the Writer speaks intimately to His own and demonstrates to all. Why? Because He wishes His characters to know and understand Him and be complete. He desires them to hear. His purpose is to reveal—not conceal.

Does this pattern of seeing God in our vocation or giftings solely benefit the writing profession?

I think not.

Are you a musician, a welder, an administrative assistant, or a teacher? Explore how your work is patterned after the One, whose very nature, you reflect.

I’d then love to hear your analogies!

Me, too, Ann!

Analogies anyone?

“See, I have called by name Bezalel . . . and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (Exodus 31:2-3)

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

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. A songwriter for many years, Ann has led praise and worship, shared her original music with churches, and performed in fundraising actvities. She’s has shared her adoption and homeschooling experiences through many venues and has been a speaker and singer throughout Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Her motivational speaker service, The Power Behind the Story, can be found on her website. Having written three historical novels, Ann looks forward to finding a publisher for her novels, working through her agent is Diana L. Flegal of Hartline Literary Agency.
Website and Blogs: anncoopermccauley.com

Thank you Ann, I’ve loved having you as my guest!

Love,

Sally

P.S. Don’t forget to join Peggy Blann Phifer and me at her blog, Whispers in Purple on Wednesday, June 24th.

Peg’s doing an author interview with me, and I’ll be giving away a copy of my new novel, The Stonekeepers. Stop in and leave a comment. We’d love to see you there!

And if you’d like a Sneak Peek, go here to check it all out: http://wp.me/p5BLdw-Ac

Are You Ready?

It’s a balmy, Florida Christmas Eve. I close the office early so everyone can go home to be with family.

Me too . . . eventually . . . but not before I get some last minute shopping done.

 ♥

I stand alone at the jewelry counter as the sales woman finishes up with another customer. I’ve hunted for weeks, and the pretty bracelet I look at is perfect for Deb. Now, I’m anxious to get home, to finish wrapping, baking, and getting ready for Christmas Day’s excitement.

“Oh!” I stiffen as something smooths across my foot!

Time takes a coffee break, and I squelch another yelp as the sensation suddenly moves up my ankle.

Imagination says it’s a snake, logic says otherwise—it feels like a hand. Impossible. Do I dare move?

Fear freaks me into a stone pillar as a voice wafts up from the vicinity of the tile beneath my feet and says “You have stockings on!”

I wrench in a breath and look behind me. A Jack-in-the-Box couldn’t have surprised me more than the young boy who jumps up from the floor. He looks to be thirteen or fourteen years old, is neatly dressed, and is nearly my height. His big brown eyes study me from behind wire-rimmed glasses. His left eye is badly crossed.

I see his innocence and I’m in instant prayer for him. He’s intellectually disabled. Maybe he thought I was a mannequin?

Fear melts. “Yes, I have stockings on.”

His eyes trail down to gaze at the small gold cross hanging from my necklace. He literally jumps, his eyes widen and move to meet mine. “I didn’t know you were a Christian!”

“Yes, I am. Do you know Jesus too?” I put my hand on his shoulder and let it linger a moment, as I tell him I love Jesus.

He leans close. “Where do you go to church?”And I tell him of the big brick church downtown, and that I’m a Methodist.

His brown skin shines. A wide grin spreads across his face. He repeats the word “Methodist” several times, rolls it over his tongue, savors it, pronounces it carefully. “And you say your prayers too?”

I nod. “I say my prayers too.”

And we talk for a while. Just he and me. About things important to him. Like Jesus. And saying prayers. Things that come from his heart.

Until he turns away . . .

Merrily and loudly he repeats the word “Methodist” as he moves toward the exit. And then he’s gone.

No one is with him that I can see, but there are those nearby who watch as I come away from this encounter and walk more fully into Christmas.

It’s always like being in the world alone with one other, just the two of us, until it’s time to part.

You have them, too, these God-centered, God-engineered, appointments.

I try to watch for them, try to be ready for them, but always, they surprise me, and leave me with an afterglow of joy. Every time.Are you ready? Ready for those moments when God places his children in your space? For reasons you may never really understand?

“God wants us to be present where we are. He invites us to see and to hear what is around us and, through it all, to discern the footprints of the Holy.” Richard Foster

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a)

“Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19).

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another”(1 John 4:11).

 ♥

☺ I know it’s only April and that Christmas is months away. But last week a title and this post, a little out of sync, dropped into my heart and mind, so I wrote it down—for future reference—of course. And then the word, “ready” popped up again, stuck around, and kept asking what I was waiting for . . .  So that’s why you’re reading about Christmas in April. ☺

Love,

Sally

Into the Deep

“When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’”

Sunrise

Has God called you to move away from your safe harbor, from the security and comfort of the known? Are you hanging back, fearful of what might lie ahead? Is your trust in safety, or in God?

 

So many times I’ve moved away from my safe harbor–and dog paddled like crazy, nearly drowning until I finally learned to trust in God.

But it didn’t feel crazy when I said “Yes” to my high school sweetheart when I was seventeen or when I said “I do” a year later or when I said “Hello, Baby Girl” a year later than that. Looking back I wouldn’t change a thing, but in between then and now, I’ve passed judgment on myself many times with “You must have been out of your mind!” But honestly, I don’t believe I was wise enough to have hung back or to have been fearful of the future  back then. Not to say I’m any different now. Do we really ever change much? I wonder.

“But Simon answered and said to Him, ’Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.’”

Simon was hesitant, but he went with what faith he had in what he knew of the man, Jesus. Our Lord is so patient, loves us with all our faults, and walks with us even when we don’t know He’s there.

My mother insisted that if I married at that age, I must have more than high school, and business college had an important impact on my future. After our July wedding, I sneezed my way through our honeymoon at Niagara Falls with allergies that wouldn’t quit.

And a year later, along came baby number one, but not without the side effects of high blood pressure, labor with complications, and an emergency C-section. All that made a man and a woman out of a boy and a girl, strengthened my faith, and scared the stuffing out of my husband. The net was full. Yet it didn’t break.

Those were the rough beginnings of “on my own.”

As God holds his hand out for you to grasp, he promises not to leave or forsake you, but to always be with you as you launch out into the deeper, unknown waters. They are well known to God. God asks us to trust him, not the waters.

Leaving harbor at sunset

In the hills of Bethlehem in Judea, a young man was called by God to leave the safe haven of shepherding and walk into the unknowns of kingship.

Generations later in Nazareth of Galilee, a young woman was called by God to leave the safe haven of her girlhood and walk into the unknowns of motherhood.

Because King David, and Mary, mother of Jesus, were willing to walk into uncharted waters when God called them, the Son of God came into the world to bring us forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Through them God gave us priceless gifts.

What will you do when God calls you out of your secure environment to do something for him? What will God do with your obedience if you trust him?

Choice? You have one to make. You are called, not commanded. Will you trust and go? Or will you remain in your safe harbor?

Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid . . . ” What have you to fear with your hand in God’s?

From the Book of Luke, here’s the whole story of what happened that day on the shores of Lake Gennesaret.

“So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.
When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’
But Simon answered and said to Him, ’Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.’ And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’
For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.’ So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:1-11 NKJV).

No, our stories may never be anywhere near as wondrous and dramatic as this true story, but they are God’s gift to us as we journey through this life. Treasure yours.

I’d love for you to share part of your story in the Comments.

Father, in the name of Jesus please grant us the patience, flexibility, and perseverance to accept all the changes you place before us with graciousness and with courage. Amen

Love,

~Sally~

Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
~ Mark Twain

 

Balancing Act

Life is a balancing act. You weigh the consequences, hope and pray like crazy, step out in faith, and then you . . . 

Balancing Act

. . . what? Fall? Fly? Sit down and stay safe? All of us, including Simeon the seagull up there, have something in common. We are forever trying to get our sea legs, make smart choices, maintain our balance in life, and when we love God, do our best to listen to him.

And isn’t it awesome when we’re trusting in the Lord and he suddenly opens our eyes and ignites a spark in our spirit and we are set on fire to glorify him in a new way?

We may not know quite where he’s leading us when we take that first step, but he’s with us. Excitement drives us. Prayer, fresh faith, and hope make up the fuel that keeps us moving ahead, and gives us fresh purpose.

 

Sometimes a single word can change our path because God has shone his light on it.

Well over ten years ago, my husband and I were spending some time away from a hot summer in Florida.

North Carolina home

North Carolina home

Sipping coffee and breathing in the cool, honeysuckle-scented air, I had curled up in a chair on the front porch of the little hundred-year-old cabin we’d brought back to life in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Summer Reading

Browsing through a magazine, a word, a name that was to become the catalyst  for a story, jumped from the page. Along with the name came an idea that drove me to my laptop and merged me with the keyboard as a story began to pour out.

What? In this late season of my life? I was newly retired, for heaven’s sake!

I’d always loved to write and kept an ongoing journal, but this was something new. A dream. Something I thought I could never do. And this is where Simeon and I are alike. We both sometimes struggle for our balance in life. He’s on automatic pilot with his Creator, but I go on to weigh the consequences, hope, pray like crazy, and step out in faith.

During the years since then there has been a lot of breath-holding, tons of hope and faith and time and effort and joy and rejection and small publishing successes. Now, two and a half manuscripts later, the novel, The Stonekeepers, the one that evolved from a single word, is to be published this later this year—and I’m thrilled!

Has there been a God-directed single event or series of events, that invaded your life and caused you to switch direction? Did you start a new hobby? Simplify your life? Decide to go into business for yourself? (Gulp, I did that!) Meet someone?

How is your balance? I’d love it if you’d share a point in your life-story when your path veered in a new direction–or just to say “Hi.” Click on Comments, below.

Everyone has a story… more than one … filled with memories … experiences …
the good, and the not so good–even the miraculous.

“To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
every cubic inch of space is a miracle.” Walt Whitman

“Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths” (Psalm 25:4 NKJV).

 

 

 

Welcome to EVERYONE HAS A STORY blog!

[Beautiful photo above is by David Morgan, courtesy Flickr CC]

In the weeks to come, I’ll be posting about down-to-earth, everyday stories,about fun or funny or embarrassing or even scary things from life, mine and other guest bloggers. Check out About Me tab as well as the World of Words page. Enjoy the Photo and Poetry page of short poetry and photos that relate.

I hope you’ll join me as I count the days until the publication of The Stonekeepers,a suspense novel  laced with light romance written Young adults, “New” Adults–for women of all ages. Watch for updates in the Countdown box on the sidebar.

I’m thrilled you’ve stopped by my  blog and that you enjoy the first post on Everyone Has A Story!

Does your life holds close calls? Do you go through instant replays when you mess up? Do you panic at an incoming email?

. . . or am I the only one?

 

YOU’VE GOT MAIL!

Flickr - Image by Freddycat1 https://www.flickr.com/photos/15157516@N02/

Umm . . . You’ve got mail in here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flickr - Image by Derek Gavey

Yep, the cat’s right.

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A funny, or not so funny, tale to share . . .

So, I’m at my computer working, concentrating, minding my own business, my e-mail program up and running in the background as usual.

Flickr - Image by BB https://www.flickr.com/photos/freudianslip/

“On my wish list!”

Earlier I’d sent a serious e-mail to a business acquaintance whose first name is Scott. The Subject line of the e-mail I sent him read: “A Question”. I’d hoped for a quick reply.

No problem.

Except, as my fingers flew over the computer keys, up came the announcement of a new e-mail—from Scott— Wonderful, I think. That was fast!

But—instead of the Subject line reading “RE: A Question,” it says “RE: Blessings and Love!” Gulp. What had I done?

Flickr - Image by Tambako The Jaguar https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/

She did what?

Had I accidentally forwarded something I hadn’t meant to, to businessman, Scott? No way!

I instantly lose my breath, my composure, and nearly my lunch!

Until I remember that a week earlier, on a special occasion, I’d sent an e-mail to a dear friend who uses her husband’s e-mail address—one that comes into my Inbox showing his first name—Scott!

What had I put in the Subject line of my e-mail to her? “Blessings and Love.” And she was the one who had sent the reply.

Yep. I owned that snowy owl‘s expression for a minute today. It felt like a close call, a reminder to be careful, that sending an e-mail to the wrong person can happen.

And that woman, flat out on the bench on the beach is expressing exactly how I feel now, thinking of the what-ifs.

Flickr - Image by Britt-Knee https://www.flickr.com/photos/lsuchick142/

Whew!

This little event came along moments after fervent prayer over what in the world my very first blog post should be about.

And isn’t that how the Lord works in our lives when we pray and trust?

So, am I the only one who has a mini panic attack when something like that happens?

Or are you, like me, still learning and exploring the depths of the relationship between yourself and God, completely in awe of his patience and love?

What’s your story? Share your comments at the bottom of this post and join the conversation.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
 It will be health to your flesh,
And strength to your bones.

Proverbs 3:5-8 NKJV