Patient Grace

Gratitude overwhelms me. Sincere, amazed gratitude. Humbling gratitude. The kind that causes me to weep with thanksgiving over my eggs and toast at the breakfast table while I try, ineptly, to explain how grateful I am to be loved by God. The kind that doesn’t come often enough. How moved I am to remember the point in time leading up to when Jesus rescued me. And how He rescues me still.

How could I ever forget that? Has He been patiently waiting for me to recognize all that I’ve missed the mark on lately? Thank you, Lord, for showing me once again. May I never lose sight of You.

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As I approach the autumn of my life,

When I long to hold on to the summer of my existence

To remain…to explore…to inspire…to love…

When spring is what I long to return to—

Back when all things were blossoming and new—

I find now that I have no choice, really,

Than to drop the phone, to close the screen,

To take the time to reflect upon all that led me here…

To this moment in my years, to read His words of grace once more

And fall to my knees, breathless, as I remember how unworthy I was…am…

But it is by His grace I have been saved through faith in Christ alone–

It’s nothing I earned; it’s all a gift….

A wondrous, humbling offering of Love—

Not demanded, not deserved.

Despite my wretchedness, still I am loved…

For who I was, for who I am, for who I will become.

And who am I, to gain such a gift?

How glad I am in knowing

That even if I cannot adequately express to anyone

The love and thankfulness I feel for my Redeemer,

God can decode every single grapheme of gratitude

Etched across the memoir of my heart.

And that is all I need,

As this heart still beats, rejoicing.

For neither autumn, nor summer, nor spring,

Nor even the winter of my life, when it debuts, too,

Can outdo the agenda of God and the glories of Heaven.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9

Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

Reflections on a 30-Day Writing Challenge: Part III

At last, we’ve reached the final round of 30 things I learned during a recent 30-Day Writing Challenge. It was started over in the Facebook group, Higher Purpose Writers last month and led by Mick Silva. If you are a writer in need of encouragement, check it out. It’s a great place for thinkers, too. There’s also a Higher Purpose Writers blog, which I’ve found very useful since starting this writing journey.  Thanks again, Mick. 🙂 This challenge was awesome.

My overall confidence in sharing these 30 things with all of you is like a wild roller coaster. I suspect it may feel like that for awhile. For example, I did not like writing Part II, but I felt it was important to be honest and try to give a reflection that covered all the bases. Overall, it has been fun to share with you these bits of insight that I had while forming a new habit.

Essentially, I don’t have a group of writers in my town that I’m a part of so it’s just me here typing away, and I imagine there are a lot of you writers who are also on your own…especially during the quarantine. So I thought it would be nice to share my writing thoughts in case you go through similar struggles and joys in writing.

I’ve saved my top ten favorites for my final ten, and I thank you for taking the time to stop by and take a look. 🙂

30 Things I Learned While Writing for 30 Days (continued)

#21) I’ve learned that ideas come to me at the most inconvenient times. Okay, I already knew that. 🙂 Doing dishes (hands are busy). On a walk (no paper). Driving (Danger, Robin!). In the shower (Can I get a whiteboard in there?). During a conversation with someone (don’t tell anyone I said that). Yikes! 

#22) I’ve learned that music is necessary for setting the mood, and it is a source of inspiration when I am stuck. At least, it is for me. Oh, my imagination when I hear music. Of any kind. Once I press “Play” , I am in another world altogether. It evokes such feelings and ideas and scenarios. It could be encouraging, sad, angry, romantic, grumpy, strengthening….you name it. When I can’t think of a thing to write, like the walking, it’s the music that will stir in me ideas for writing. In my deep, dark mysterious heart the music is what liberates the dreary. It’s what nourishes my soul in the best of ways, so I can’t see at all how I would ever write without it.

#23) I’ve learned that nature also helps me tune in to my thoughts and imagination. Oh, I love this one, too. Few things are better, right? Dust meets dust. We are all connected. I love how being outside magnifies all of my senses, and I find myself wondering about why that noisy, wild animal chose that house to squall near every evening at dusk. Is it a peacock, is it a bobcat, is it a sick rooster? Then my mind wonders about the family who lives near by and what is their life like and do they like the noisy animal? Are they friends with it? Where did they come from? It’s super fun. Sometimes, just the simplicity of the breeze on the leaves of the trees brings back memories or daydreams.

Today when I walked, the essence of sun-warmed blossoms drifted under my nose, and I couldn’t rightly tell if it was jasmine or honeysuckle or a shy gardenia bush, but I was instantly taken back to college summer nights in the Central Valley. Later, a woodpecker gave a glorious show while drilling into the telephone pole. I stopped in my tracks and laughed out loud. I’m currently reading Charlotte’s Web to my class, so I suppose the animals make me think of stories more than ever these days. 

#24) I’ve learned that I crave connection through my writing, and I consider my readers as my friends. The more frequently I’ve written, I’ve been noticing that I’m starting to write as if I am speaking to a friend. And the thing is, I really feel that I am. Several of my readers I know personally, and they are often on my mind when I write. Sometimes, I find myself writing something intended for just one person, yet it feels universal. When I am writing really super late at night, I imagine I am writing to that other soul out there across the continent who also can’t sleep because their mind is also troubled, like mine…or maybe other times they are bursting with joy, like me. It’s a neat thing, that. An invisible bond of fellowship.

#25) I’ve learned that my husband doesn’t feel neglected when I disappear to another room to write for long periods of time. Maybe I am lucky with this guy? How do I know he doesn’t feel neglected? I straight up asked him yesterday, and he straight up said no. Good to know! I also don’t have kids, so that is probably helpful for when it comes time to sit down and write. No distractions. My yellow Lab doesn’t like being neglected, though. That is for certain!

#26) I’ve learned that writing might be part of my legacy.  I’ve always felt that since I will not have a generation after me, a book may be what I leave behind. I teach, I am a teacher, and I know many amazing teachers that students will remember forever. But me? Not so sure. My students are super young and…I don’t know. This is a tough one for me to talk about. Because of schedules, curriculum, and pressure to get things done in time, I seldom have time to really talk with my students. They know my heart, but I’m not sure they really know my story.

It dawned on me with the new distance learning this month that now we have even less time to talk. It’s inspired me to perhaps try my hand at my story. Or some kind of story that will remain long after I’m gone. When I leave this earth someday, my blog will eventually expire. Most people have stories they pass on to their children and grandchildren…maybe I have one that other people’s children and grandchildren would enjoy or find helpful once they’re grown up. That would be really…nice.

#27) I’ve learned that during the times when I don’t feel like writing, God will lead me through it. In the last 30 days, there have been times when I have stared at the blank white screen late into the night because I’m exhausted from learning all about distance learning or from trying to help families navigate paper packets and figure out video conferencing. Other times, I’m trying to not fall asleep as I think, “Well, Robin, what are you going to write about tonight?”. But the coolest thing happens: I pray, then I think and I pray a little more…and I remember God is rooting for me, and eventually it gets done. I’m so thankful for that.

#28) I’ve learned that when I quiet myself enough, God urges me to seek Him in my writing. Honestly, until this last month I never prayed before I sat down to write. But I’ve found myself doing so more and more. I think COVID-19 is what started that. I feel less worried now, but at the beginning of the crisis there came a time when I couldn’t even watch the news because it would put me in a tailspin of fret. All the people who were getting sick and dying was shocking and heartbreaking. So I began to pray before I wrote in order to quiet my mind and find stillness. I wanted God with me when I wrote because I knew that faith in Him and belief that He has got this covered—this pandemic—would win out over fear. He commands us not to be afraid. In the stillness, in the prayer, His presence is a warm comforting blanket of love even on the coldest most fearful night. That new practice of prayer before my fingers hit the keyboard is probably one of the most important things I’ve learned to do when it comes to my writing. 

#29) I’ve learned that I want more than ever to please the Lord with what I write, rather than please people with what I write. Through all that I’ve learned while writing for the last 30 days, a truth was confirmed in my heart. I want to forget the blog stats. I know with everything in me that I will continue to write how Jesus loves us. I will continue to write about coming back to the heart of worship. I will never stop writing about how the Lord, and not myself, has carried me through storm after storm. Like when He carried me through the near decade of being gripped with anxiety. Like when He carried me through a childhood that was lonely and confusing and sometimes I felt forsaken, but time and time again He rescued me from the loneliness. Like when He carried me through the ache and misery of hoping for a child, but blessed me with a strong spirit to come out the other side of that, still without children, yet full of joy and spunk in spite of it. Like how He carries me now as I battle what other people think of my decisions and actions and words. I will not compromise writing about how He is with me…with us

#30) I’ve learned that, as long as I am able, I want to keep writing. Good writer or bad writer, there’s something I’m supposed to do with it. I just don’t know what yet. It might just be this blog.. If that’s the Plan, that’s the plan. God knows where I’m going…and I’ll try my best to listen to His direction along the way. The 30 day challenge is over, but the writing doesn’t stop here. It’s only just begun. 

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Isn’t it amazing? All of these wonderful things learned from a new habit. I imagine each one of these as a strong piece of vibrantly colored glass, each one it’s own brilliant hue—a stained glass garden of emeralds, rubies, sapphires—and when you put them all together, they form a unique picture framed with inspiration which will be imprinted in my brain so that I will remember these things for years to come…a scene of hope and help and the makings of a writer’s heart.

Before you go, I have to tell you something. If you’re a writer, don’t give up. If it’s on your heart to keep writing, you keep at it. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how new you are, you just hang in there. And when you find yourself plugging along and good things start to come of it, celebrate! God gave you a gift and it’s okay to rejoice with Him that you have done this thing for Him. Jesus was the master storyteller. He wants you in His writing club if that’s what brings you joy. He wants you to tell your story if that’s what relieves your pain. He wants you to inform and inspire people if your expertise, the gift He’s given you, will help them through this life that is so unpredictable and often just plain hard. You can do this thing. Believe it.

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Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Easter At Home: Rejoice!

Today, I’ve got a list of 7 things you can do at home to celebrate Easter, and even some things for the kids! 🙂

If you’re worried or sad about not being able to go to church this weekend, I understand. But remember this:

God is with us wherever we are.

You may be depressed that your egg hunt won’t be the same, or that you may not wear that special Easter dress to mark the occasion. Instead, we’ll be watching church through our computer screens and singing worship songs in our living rooms, which will be very…different. Just remember, God loves you no matter what you are wearing and He is excited that you’re celebrating his son Jesus no matter where you may be.

God is with us wherever we go.

Church is important to Christians. Absolutely. It’s where we go to worship together as a body of believers, where we learn more about what the Bible says, and where we go to be supportive of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  But in times like these, during the COVID-19 crisis, do not fret because we can’t be there together in the same room right now. We can worship God and praise Him at any time, from any place.

I can say with confidence that He knows exactly what is going on in our world, and He understands why our Easter won’t look the way we are used to.

We needn’t worry because…He is with us wherever we go.

So while you’re at home on Easter Sunday…rejoice as you normally would, in your heart and with your soul. We humans like to keep to our traditions as much as possible, though, so if you need some ideas of how to celebrate Easter without leaving your home, I’ve got a list for you.

Here are 7 things you can do to celebrate Easter from home:

#1) Read the Easter passage in the Bible. It can be found in Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-53, or John 20:1-31 .To read or listen to these passages, click on the name of the book in red that you’d like to go to. Better still, go back a little further or read the whole book of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John for the entire account of Jesus’s life on earth, including the time when Jesus died on the cross three days before Easter.

#2) Pray to God, thanking Him for Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23. If you haven’t yet done so, ask Jesus into your heart and believe in Him, as He is the only way to eternal life.  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:16.

#3) Pray for your loved ones, your community, your country, the world…and anything else that might be burdening your heart today.  Wow. We have a lot to pray for these days. Many people out there need our prayers. Beyond thanking and praising God, praying is a means to communicate with Him….asking for wisdom, comfort, healing, or specific needs. Sometimes you don’t know the words to say, but God hears your heart. He knows what you need.

#4) Sing!

  • Click here for Good Housekeeping’s list of 20 Best Easter Songs–Worship Music for Easter Sunday

#5) For the kids 🙂 :

#6) Easter meal ideas….click here for 87 of them from Country Living.

#7) Watch an Easter service online. If you need some links for that, here is one for South Valley Community Church and here is one for Twin Lakes Church, both in California but can be viewed anywhere.

Have a blessed Easter! Stay safe, be well, and fear not. God is with us….always.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

What Will Tomorrow Bring?

All day I’ve kept myself busy at home, properly sheltered in place. I worked during the work hours, attended meetings online, and planned lessons for the future.

In the afternoon, when work was done for the day, instead of indulging in my newest daily pleasure—what I call The Walk Up the Hill—- I stood in the sunshine on my front porch and ate ice cream.

It was thrilling, holding that little cup of rainbow sherbet while looking up at the clear blue sky. I took my time, tasting the variety of flavors while listening to the sounds in the neighborhood. When I’m in my front yard, it’s usually to rush from my car to the front door and vice versa. I like to say hello to the neighbors who are friendly—because we do have some that are not. But that’s another story.

Today, a friendly neighbor walking her dog passed by and remarked (from at least 5 yards away) that she was wearing her hole-y pants today because well, why not? I don’t know her name. I should know it. We laughed, and I replied that I was wearing pajama pants because, well…why not? When she came back around a few minutes later, she stayed all the way across the street this time.

Maybe I shouldn’t confess to people when I’m wearing pajamas. But really…who wasn’t in their pajamas today?

The evening passed quickly with an interesting homemade dinner, a nice Zoom meeting among friends, and a few rounds of double solitaire with my husband. Now, all is still….the hum of the refrigerator is the only noise I hear, other than the typing of my keyboard and this odd pulsing heartbeat rush I hear in my left ear every once in awhile.

Before going to bed, I checked the news online. I wish I hadn’t. Rule #1 of Sheltering in Place During the Spread of a Highly Contagious Virus = don’t check the news before bed time. But I did. Fear slithered in a bit, and I felt my breath become captured by a renewed sense of urgency.

But I have vowed to not give in. I will not give in to this fear.

The truth I have right now in this moment is that right now in this moment I am okay. So I will think on that. And when I think on the future, I will not think of the worst what-if-this-happens or what-if-that-happens in regard to myself and my family and friends. Instead, I am going to think on what am I looking forward to tomorrow.

What am I looking forward to tomorrow?

So many things. A waterfall of life-giving things that bring joy and comfort and calm.

Stretching when I wake up. Entering the stillness of the kitchen on a brand new cool morning. Reaching for my coffee mug, and then….oh, the hot, sweet coffee. Praying. Saying good morning to my husband while attempting to make him smile. Watching my dog practically do cartwheels to get to her breakfast. Eggs…I love eggs. Listening to the morning announcements on my job’s Facebook page. Seeing my colleagues’ beautiful, dedicated faces through the computer screen for our daily meeting. The kids. I get to see my students tomorrow. I get to see their smiles in those little boxes on my Chromebook, and maybe I’ll almost-cry like I did last week when I heard them read aloud for the first time in a week and I was so proud of them that my heart was going to burst. They are handling this whole distance learning thing with such maturity…and courage.

I could go on and on.

That’s my saving grace tonight. I’m stopping fear in its tracks by thinking on all the little things that for years I’ve taken for granted. But as many of our freedoms have been temporarily taken away in order to help save lives, we still have so much we can look forward to. We have riches that we didn’t even realize we have—in all the good things that are still all around us, every minute of the day. Can you see your good things? Are you looking beyond what you can’t do to see the beauty in what you can?

I hope so.

Tomorrow night, instead of checking the news. I will pray—for the ones who are sick, for the families who have lost loved ones. I’ll pray for our world, for its leaders, and for this virus to be under control. I look forward to praying. For when we pray, I know God is listening. That’s amazing.

Good night, friends. May your tomorrow be as bright as the light that shines from your heart. Don’t let anything dim it. People need your light to keep keepin’ on.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.        -2 Timothy 1:7

 

 

 

Challenge Accepted

God gave us hearts, He gave us souls. He gave us personalities and lives, some pleasant and idyllic…but some complicated and tragic. And some of us teeter on the fence, perilously suspended somewhere between fulfillment and discontent. Which are you?

We can choose to conform to all of who others want us to be—demand us to be—or we can choose to be ourselves and not worry so much about who we think we ought to be.

Some of us are like square pegs, and we may never ever fit into the round hole.

And wouldn’t that be nice?

To flee from the formulas, the agendas, the criteria. To breathe and be with God and for God…and not let the people be who we want to please, but instead seek contentment with the Creator? To love like Him and show love like Him and be love like Him.

My heart wants to dance on the white sands of night beaches and be free of alarm clocks and lists. My soul wants to rip the anxious ties that bind it and explore creativity with reckless abandon.

And where do we square pegs fit in this world of ambition and competition and the aspiration of enough-ness…when all we want is to simply be?

Just be.

I know I have responsibilities and I will not desert them, but they do not need to overwhelm my every hour of my every day.  My lungs needs space, my heart needs to maintain its rhythm, and my mind needs rest.

And so I will focus on what needs to be done—but at my own pace, with my own skill, and rising to my own expectations…listening to the voice of reason and not losing sight of who I am.

Just. be. you.

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Why I Love the Sunrise

There are mornings a sunrise appears weak…

and there are mornings when it radiates brilliance so bold it stops you in your tracks.

It’s all about the conditions surrounding it.

Is the thick fog in the way?

Are strong clouds supporting it? Or are they blocking it with their bulk?

Or could it be that it’s just about to shove through the clouds above it with all its might?

The sun will still rise despite the obstacles in its path.

It may not shine so brightly sometimes, but it will still rise.

And when it does, I am reminded that we are like the sunrise, you and I.

We wake up each morning…and sometimes there is fog in our way.

Sometimes we have support, and we beam with gratitude.

Sometimes we have obstacles before us and they block our rays of light.

Sometimes we are on the verge of greatness, and the promise of victory reflects down upon us to urge us onward.

The breathtaking glow, the kaleidoscope of tangerine and lemon…the welcoming encourager—the catalyst of joy.

And there are days when there is not a single cloud in the bluest of blue skies to stand in its way of lifting toward the heavens.

No matter what the conditions are, the sun still rises and lights the world.

It climbs higher and higher with purpose and steadfastness.

And so we rise, too.

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Let Joy Win

I’m doing laundry today. You know…my favorite thing. Just kidding! While my hands are busy, my mind has been engaged in a gentle spin of a thousand thoughts.

Despite a list of challenges I’ve encountered in the last month or two, this morning I woke up feeling energized and excited for the week ahead. Such a gift— a new dawn, a new day…and I was feeling good. Then, as I went to make my coffee and start the first load of clothes, the memories of those recent hardships tried to cancel out all those positive thoughts.

Thankfully, some kind advice from a friend earlier this week came to mind—the reminder to “take it all in stride”. Being able to accept and tackle difficulties well is truly a life skill, and one I have been able to accomplish more and more. But it takes practice. Instead of dwelling on all the negatives, I instead chose to shake off all those things weighing on my mind and trust in whatever the outcomes may be.

And just like that, joy wins.

Throughout my life as far back I can remember I’ve had my fair share of trials, as well as accomplishments. We all have. We all face obstacles that can feel annoying or insurmountable. They can threaten our joy. But we all have a list of things we can be proud of (and if you think you don’t, I challenge you to make a list of wins in your life to remind you of your awesomeness). It’s important to recall the good stuff.

In this last half of my life (because a few weeks ago the doctor declared I was middle-aged), I am never more thankful than now for the fact that God can see through to our hearts. He knows when we feel overwhelm…He knows what we can handle, and He will give us what we need to persevere. He is available to us through prayer, and His word will equip us through even the hardest of times.

We have that access to Him all because of Jesus and what He sacrificed for us. We are loved—YOU are loved—THAT much. The creator of the universe is our constant companion. We are not alone in our trials, and the love of God–the joy He offers–will carry us through, if we just seek it out.

So hold your head high, my friend. Follow the loving path of the One who loved you first. Remember your strengths and focus on that. You don’t need to dwell on the past…and you don’t need to fear the future. It is waiting for you with joyful anticipation, because with God by your side you can handle anything.

Image result for pink heart clip art loveRobin

“…Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” -James 1:2-3

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16