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.

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“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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Let Go of Worrying About What Others Think of You

Our thoughts are strong and powerful. More than we even realize. We don’t often enough give them credit. I’ve been told I think too deeply. That can be good and bad, depending on the thoughts. I love much, and I worry much.

I’m working on the worrying, and I have to say I’ve improved…but still it creeps in now and then when I least suspect it. Used to be, I’d worry about my health. To the point of distraction.

These days, I’ve been worrying too much about what people think. Always trying to predict how they’ll react…from every angle.

So it made me wonder how you are. Do you worry about what others think of you? Of your actions, words, decisions…I could go on and on.

I’m not up to writing today because I’m feeling under the weather, but I was thinking on this worrying what other people think thing and when I opened my medicine cabinet tonight a note I had taped inside caught my eye.

It seemed just the thing to share with you, in case you spend too much time worrying about what others think of you, too. Let’s not let that rob our joy. There are too many other good things to think on, too many spectacular wonders and life-giving thoughts we could focus on.

So from my little medicine cabinet to your heart, here is a list of reminders I wrote down a few years ago after listening to a podcast of Trish Blackwell’s. Her podcast is called The Confidence Podcast, and her book Insecurity Detox is one of my favorite books. My notes here are from her podcast episode #262: 5 Simple Ways to Stop Caring What Other People Think.

The statements below from the show are what I wrote down to tape inside my medicine cabinet to remind myself of how important it is to remember that I need to focus on knowing my worth for who I am, instead of trying to base it on who I think I should be in order to please everyone else. For a list in it’s entirety and to listen to the podcast, you can click here.

  • I am loved and I have value.
  • It’s okay for people to disagree with me or not like me…
  • God made me as I am, and has given me a story…
  • People liking me or not liking me has nothing to do with my value…
  • I choose to spend my emotional and mental energy on things that bring me joy….

Simple, yet profound. If you find yourself stuck in that worry cycle, too, I hope this is helpful for you to remember, as well.

While I continue to rest now, I’ll be spending my energy on dreaming of the glorious lavender fields under a pink sky in the Cotswolds of England. Because that is one of many things that will bring me joy. What do you think on that brings you joy?

Sweet dreams to you.

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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.

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“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

A Playlist to Cheer You

Are you ready for some music? 🙂 I didn’t think it would take me all day to do this. But it did. Typically, I am a night writer. Yet here I am, and here I’ve been since this morning…searching for songs that I hope you will find encouraging and uplifting.

As I write this, the sun is finally peeking through the heavy gray clouds that have been my company all day long. Except, this music has been my sunshine despite the clouds, so I hope it does the same for you, as well.

I had a tough minute a few moments ago, when I thought these links wouldn’t post and all my day’s work would be for nothing. Then, by some miracle, it seems to have worked out after all. So, I’m just going to post what I’ve got before it’s all lost…except I originally had a section of songs that were meant to help you remember how amazing you are…but I guess that’s for another post. I look forward to that!

Also, just to warn you…this is kind of an eclectic mix.

Enjoy! 🙂

If you want a song to help free your worries:

 

If you want to dance:

 

 

If you want songs to shore up your courage:

 

 

If you want some beautiful music for your wake up:

 

 

If you want music for stretching:

 

If you want to pretend your traveling:

 

If you’re feeling patriotic:

 

 

If you want some tunes while cooking:

 

If you want music to write to:

 

 

If you want to praise God:

 

If you want music to help you sleep:

 

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Struggling

This encourager needs some encouragement.

Keeping my mind preoccupied from the very shaky state that the world is in right now has been my priority today.

So I rearranged some space to create an office at home, since it will be a longer time than we hoped for. The creativity of that brought me some joy.

Overall, I’m content…but it’s mixed in with one part stress, one part frustration, and many parts sympathy. So when I do turn on the news, my heart hurts for others and my fear returns a bit. It’s a struggle, that.  I don’t want to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. But I also wish I could just ignore the news.

But you know, it’s got to be expected. The down days.

Everyone has down days.

And that’s why I’ll continue to pray and remember to count on the sunrise. And Jesus.

Tomorrow will be a new day, with a new beginning, and another opportunity to keep our eyes fixed on what we can be thankful for.

Just wait and see.

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Nope, Not Gonna Do It

My goal was never to reach the top. I had only two goals when I hiked the trail up to the renowned granite jewel called Half Dome. It became clear to me about a half hour from starting the trek that they were a) don’t cry and b) don’t faint.

I really had no idea what I was getting into when I volunteered to spend a day hiking with my friends to the top of that silver peak. “Sure,” I said. “Sounds like fun!”

Just to make certain I could hold my own, my grand plan was to go to my gym, GB3 Fitness, to spend some time on the StairMaster one week prior to our sunrise meet up in Yosemite Valley. I was sure this would be all the prep I needed.

Half Dome is 8,839 ft above sea level. It’s about 17 miles round trip. It has an elevation gain of a little under 5,000 ft. from Yosemite Valley (imagine the height of nearly 3 Empire State Buildings). It’s a 10-12 hour hike, which is considered “steep, but moderate”, and there is a cable segment for the last 400 feet. Meaning, the cables there on either side so you have something to hold onto because there’s a chance you could fall and die. People have, actually. But I didn’t know any of these facts prior to my experience. I was just happy to go along with my friends. I must not have been paying attention to the details when we discussed it. I’ve been known to do that.

The day of the hike arrived. What I thought would be a fun day in the rugged outdoors turned into a prayer for mercy. I literally—sometimes even out loud—prayed my way up nearly the entire 5,000 foot elevation climb. Oh. my. goodness.

The thing was, I couldn’t quit even if I wanted to. There was no turning back. There were four of us, and you just don’t say in the middle of the forest that you’re going to turn around and go wait in the car while the rest of your friends hike up and down Half Dome for 10-12 hours. I had too much pride to ever turn around.

We had started on the trail head at sunrise and didn’t return to the parking lot following the hike until after the sun set that night. We only stopped for a very quick lunch break. Also, it was imperative that we continue on so that we wouldn’t be forced to turn around in the afternoon if we didn’t make it to the cables in time.

Around that time in my life, I had been memorizing the book of James in the bible. In the very first chapter of James is the verse, Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” I was glad to have those words imprinted in my brain, because those were the words that ultimately pushed me up that mountain. When I wasn’t praying that my out-of-shape lungs wouldn’t give out, I was saying that verse over and over as if it would give me strength. And it did. 

My other three friends were in much better shape than I, and had more hiking experience than I had. I’m not even sure how I ended up there with them, actually, but when all is said and done it’s one of the most memorable experiences of my life. And the thing is, I didn’t go to the top.

I didn’t go all the way to the top of Half Dome.

After hours and hours of hiking we finally made it to the cables section, but I decided to take a rest on a rock and enjoy the view right from where I was. I looked up at that granite dome, I looked on both sides of the thick cables bolted into the side of the dome, looked at the smooth slope of the rock…and I just decided, “Nope, not gonna do it.”

But even though I had come so far and most people would think it was not worthy of a triumph, in that moment I was super proud of myself for even making it that far. It was good enough for me. To proudly watch my friends ascend the last 400 feet, to watch all the hikers around me ecstatic and tired from their journey, to feel the powerful winds rushing past my face….that was enough.

You know, so many people compare themselves to others and feel not enough because they didn’t accomplish the same things or the “best” things or the “greatest” things. But what about your best or greatest thing? Doesn’t that count for something?

The fact that I, a young woman who had been overweight her whole life….whose “P.E.” for most of her school years was band…who grew up eating fast food and who found it painful to run…the fact that I was standing nearly 400 feet from the peak of Half Dome after hiking uphill for 5-6 hours and made it without crying or needing medical help (okay, maybe I did cry a little) and knew there was another toe-bruising 5-6 hours back down hill in the dark….that is a feat in itself!

Some might say, “You only had another 400 feet to go!!!You should’ve gone for it.” And I’d say this:

I have no regrets about it. None.

When I got up to the point where I stayed behind, I was completely content. Something in my heart knew to stop and enjoy the view right from where I was. So I did.

Life is like that, too. It’s good to be ambitious, but there is also a place for being satisfied with what you already have. Others may surpass you, but that doesn’t make you any less valuable or unable to experience joy in the space you are at the moment. We are able to do hard things, but we should also be able to sit back and enjoy the view now and then.

For the rest of my life, I will remember Half Dome with fondness. I hiked with some awesome salt of the earth people. I persevered like I never had before. The crunch of the pine needles. The cleanest of air. Count it all joy. The sweat glistening from my brow. The way the Clif bar tasted when we finally took a rest, as if I were dining at Morton’s. The gorgeous view from the almost top. So good. So, so good enough. Yep. No regrets.

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