Wednesday, December 28, 2016

An Infusion of Hope

You've heard people say they need an infusion of strength, but I know some of you need an infusion of hope. You are weighed down by the cares of this life. So many thoughts and voices are swirling around your head, trying to take root in your heart.

Stop for just a minute. Things are not as bad as they seem. Grab ahold of hope today and don't let go.

Hope is a lifeline that pulls you out of the deepest waters.

Hope is the ray of sunshine after the rain.

Hope is embracing the future with open arms.

Hope is an expectation.

Expect things to turn around. Dare to believe again. Stir up the hope within yourself. It's there, I promise. Hope never dies. It may seem like it at times, but it is there, nudging you to greatness. It is there urging you to see the light within. It is there with a glimpse of beauty in spite of the scars. 

Hope is found at the Cross.

Hope is in the here and now. 

Hope means there is something to look forward to, even if you can't see what it is yet.

Hope means there is something to prepare for. Get ready! Greater things are YET to come!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Of Stillness and Storm Book Giveaway!

You have a chance to win Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix, the book I just reviewed!

A tale of troubled love and honorable intentions gone awry—don't miss Michèle Phoenix's new intimate and bold release, Of Stillness and Storm. It took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream—reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal. When a friend from Lauren’s past enters her life again, the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past might be too much. Will it be the family's undoing?

Take Michèle's new book with you on your winter vacation and enter to win her Bookworm On-the-Go Prize Pack (because you can't take a stack of books with you when you travel).


One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on December 31. The winner will be announced January 3 on Michèle's blog.


*This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Book Review: Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix

I recently finished reading Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix. It is a gripping story about a family who leaves everything normal behind to answer the call of being missionaries. The stress and tension slowly eats away at who Lauren is, while her husband, Sam, remains unwavering in his commitment to the Nepali people. She's lost the comforts of home, but seeing her son as a shell of himself is her greatest regret. 

To add to the suspense, a long lost friend comes back into her life. I kept wanting to turn the page to see what would happen next. Aidan's no-nonsense approach to life was refreshing and relatable.

The beginning was a little slow for me, but as I kept reading, Michelle Phoenix did a masterful job with the dialogue. It was heart-wrenching at times and profoundly insightful at just the right moments.  I also loved that Lauren and Sam weren't afraid of having the hard conversations...the nitty gritty of what was really bothering both of them. They both responded in different ways, but it was interesting to see how each conversation ebbed and flowed between them.

I wish Sam hadn't been so blinded by his ambitions that he failed to see how badly his wife and son were hurting. I didn't expect it to end the way it did.

I would recommend this book to anyone, even if you are not a missionary. It's not super religious, rather it offers a human perspective on life and how people choose to live out their faith. It is a beautiful book about love and loss. It's also a reminder that everyone needs friends. You can't go through life's valleys without someone to lean on.

** This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

2nd Journal and Coloring Book Donation to Athens, GA Children's Clinic

On Monday, Mama and I took another donation of journals (this is the sixth trip in all!) and coloring books to the children's clinic in Athens.  The worker who took them said, "The kids are always asking, 'Do you have anything for us?'"

This donation included beautiful scrapbooks from Paperchase in London. Juliet White, manager of Ten Thousand Villages store in Atlanta, was kind enough to send an assortment of journals also.

These notebooks were donated by Katie Leamon, a luxury card and stationery company in England. Their notebooks are so whimsical! I know the kids will love the five notebooks you sent!

I also thank Chanel Cobb for her contribution to this project! This project of giving has become bigger than I ever dreamed when I started over a year ago! THANK YOU to everyone who has given! So many kids will smile knowing that someone cares about them this Christmas!


Monday, November 07, 2016

Journal and Coloring Book Donation to Athens, GA Children's Clinic

I  finally got the chance to take a box of journals and coloring books to a children's clinic in Athens, GA. They treat various problems in children. Mrs. Gordy's Honor's Spanish class collected journals, coloring books and notebooks throughout the semester and gave them to me at the end of the school year. Life happened, and I was unable to take them until now.

An employee said, "This is AWESOME!" The kids will LOVE this!  I also bought several journals thanks to a donation from Nancy Moureau. Thanks,  Nancy, Hart County High and Mrs. Gordy's students!

I have another box filled with goodies from various companies that I will take at the end of November to this same children's clinic.

If you would like to donate to this project, feel free! I just ask that you get journals suitable for girls and boys, bright colors, and preferably no composition notebooks. It is always great to give back! Pens and colored pens are ALWAYS welcome!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Finding My Joy Again

My joy was gone for about two to three weeks. Not on a vacation. It has been completely non-existent. I didn’t check my personal emails. I went to bed with a heaviness that often resulted in me being woken up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep because of a pounding heart beat.

That feeling of dread often carried over into the morning. I had things I needed to be working on, but I had ZERO desire to do anything.

How did this happen? I’ll tell you. It resulted from me carrying things I had no business carrying. Matthew 6:25-27 reminds us not to worry saying, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”

I knew my joy was gone. I hated the way I felt. If my mind and emotions were not in turmoil, I was just in limbo. I wasn’t doing anything to move forward. I KNEW I needed to pray, but I couldn’t. I would read a few Scriptures in the Bible just to get some peace…for the moment. Sometimes I would start out quoting the Word with power and authority, but end up in tears.

I KNEW I needed to confess the Word over myself. I knew it, but the circumstances and overwhelming feelings were just too much. I would try to work on things and I would just go in circles, never really accomplishing anything.

I’d had people pray for me. The feelings would lift. Then, my mouth would get me into trouble. It’s like I had an overwhelming urge to say the wrong thing whenever something happened. I am usually never continually negative, but it seemed like nothing was right. I couldn’t write because I didn’t have anything to say. The words weren’t hanging out in my mind. They simply weren’t there.

Finally, I called a friend. I talked to her for five minutes, only sharing a little of what I was feeling. She started praying for me and God showed her almost everything…even things I had thought!

I slept better that night, but the next day was a struggle. Finally, my mom said, “Something’s got to give.” “I know,” I said. “You won’t pray. You used to listen to the Word. I don’t know what you do now.”

“It’s not that I quit listening all together. The sound of anything irritated me. I irritated myself.

Mama and I committed to start praying in tongues thirty minutes every morning. If I couldn’t do it all right then, I took Mama’s advice and prayed when I could, even if that meant just a few minutes at a time.

After a few days, weightiness and heaviness that had been so prevalent lifted. I felt lighter. I wasn’t as irritated. Before I got the breakthrough, each day I had to look for something to be happy about.

When my nephew and cousin came over, I made myself get excited and do silly faces. I told Mama I felt fake doing that, but she said, “Sometimes, you have to fake it until you make it.”

If things seem bad right now, they won’t stay that way. LIFT UP YOUR HEAD! Turn your eyes to Jesus! I promise you He’s there. The enemy wants to convince you that he’s won this round. He wants you to stay down. I am encouraging you to GET UP! With God, all things are possible! All you have to do is make a choice to let God be God! He’s got this!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Empty Me

I lay myself on Your altar and say, “Here am I, Lord. Take me and use me. Make something out of me that is more than a pile of flesh. Inhabit me. Consume me. I am Yours. I surrender.

Once I was broken. Wounded by people. Cut by words said and unsaid. You healed me. You put the broken pieces back together. You mended me.

I confess there are still some areas of my heart that need mending. There are still some areas that are not whole. I don’t want to be a half-healed person.

I know You are not a halfway God. I know that You are faithful to Your Word. I know that You have started a good work in me and You will be faithful to complete it.

Empty me of my selfishness
Empty me of my pride
Empty me of the desire to have the last word, to prove I am right

Empty me of criticisms
You said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Create in me a clean heart
I want to be pure
I don’t be full of hatred and bitterness
Anger and strife

Empty me of myself
So that You can dwell here
Empty me of my vanity
Empty me so I can clearly see

I want to see You fully 
Clothed in glory, strength, and power

I want to know Your wisdom
I want to comprehend Your ways
Know the depths of love
More than anything

Empty me so I can be filled
Empty me so I have something to give
Something of worth
Not riches or gold
Something that abides on the inside 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Forgiving Myself

Madison, I forgive you for wasting so much time

For going around in circles

Madison, I forgive you for fighting a battle that was never yours to begin with
Getting so wrapped in thoughts that you've neglected the present

You've been at a standstill
You've made yourself even more tired

I forgive you for being silent
You lost your voice for a time
You sank deeper in the mire

Fighting with yourself is utterly exhausting
Because you can't run away from yourself

Your thoughts are there
Your insecurities are there

There is no one there beating you up
You've done it to yourself

Madison, you are more than the lies the enemy tells
Madison, you hold the key to your freedom

Summon the strength within
The strength to fight the fight when life says, "Just quit."

You matter!
You are doing enough!

Believe in yourself
That is the difference between battles won and lost

Madison, there is more than what you see
There's more than what you feel

You can penetrate the noise
Rise up!

Friday, September 09, 2016

A Sudden Shift

A sudden shift

I pray for a sudden shift in your mind
I pray for a sudden shift in your heart

For so long you have labored under the burden
So many cares, so many hurts
Squeezing the life out of you
Stealing your joy
Robbing you of peace
You could find no tranquility

Try as you might
You couldn't escape
Though you changed your surroundings
Those thoughts lingered
Hanging like cobwebs in the corner of your mind
Looping on repeat
Taking you back in time

Taking you back to the bad memories
And words that should have never been said

Oh, what a sense of dread
What misery
Each time that unwelcome visitor came
He wedged himself into your innermost thoughts

You couldn't separate what was real 
You now believed that you didn't matter
You didn't exist anymore
You were always attached to someone
To that elusive dream they had

Now you are free
Instead of spreading your wings, you are like a baby learning to walk
Stand up. Stand tall.

You have something to offer
You have much to give
Find your voice
It may come out slowly at first, but soon it will ring loud and clear

Come toward the light
It is a new day
Let nothing or no one stand in your way

I know you are scared
You've been isolated so long
Put one foot in front of the other
Every step means you are getting stronger

I look at what you've accomplished in a short while
I smile
Because there is a phoenix rising from the ashes
Great good will come out of your pain

Friday, August 26, 2016

I Am Not

I am not weak because I don't fit the mold

I am not weak because I ask for help
I am not weak because I give
I am not weak because I share

I am not weak because I cry
You can't live this life like you are invincible

Being misunderstood is common
Never succumb to other's opinions
So many voices, so little time

Do this, go this way
You can't do this don't you know that?

I am so tired of the underlying current
It's in their countenance
If not in their words

It's as if everyone can feel but me
I'm not sure why

I'm not going to hide
I'm not going away
Please give me time
Please give me space

To process things
To get strong
Without you waiting to throw stones

Everyone is pointing out my weaknesses
When they have their own
They are going around in circles
Completely chaotic with no real purpose

I'm done listening
I'm done listening to the noise

Blah blah blah
Yadda yadda yadda

I've realized maybe they are talking about themselves
I'm the easy target
They like to pinpoint my problems

I'm not like you
I don't talk like that
No one is perfect
When will they see that?

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Book Review: Captain Mama's Surprise by Graciela Tiscareño-Sato

Captain Mama's Surprise is the second book in the Captain Mama's series. It's another bilingual book in English in Spanish. This time, Captain Mama takes her son, Marco, and his second grade class on a field trip to see the airplane she flies on. The class meets the crew and learns what each crew member does and the process of refueling a plane in mid-air. 

I’d seen airplanes refueling in movies, but I learned lots of new things while reading this book. I didn’t know what all a copilot of an airplane was responsible for, and I have never seen an airplane map up close. So cool!

I could see many first and second graders loving this book! Since it has vocabulary words, it would be perfect for their age group.

Graciela has also included an activity in the back of the book.

When I found out the surprise, I wanted to be a kid in Marco’s class! I won't spoil the ending. Buy the book to find out what happens! I know the third book promises even more fun and adventure! Both of these books gave me an even deeper appreciation for the men and women who have served our nation.

You can buy this book and the patch at Captain Mama's website, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. Graciela would love to come speak about her newest book at YOUR school or library!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Book Review: Good Night, Captain Mama

Here's a closeup of one the pages. 

Good Night Captain Mama is the first book of its kind, written in English and Spanish by female aviator, Latina businesswoman, and speaker, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato. Good Night Captain Mama was inspired by a conversation that Graciela had with her own son one night when he saw her dressed in her flight suit. Although he had seen it many times before, he was curious about all of the patches. Graciela, better known as Captain Mama, is patient with him as he asks about each one and what the symbols mean.

Captain Mama takes the time to tell Marco, the little boy in the book, all about what her job as an aviator is about. Each time she goes to a different country, she gets a new patch to add to her flight suit.

The vivid illustrations done by Linda Lens allowed me to picture the story in my mind as it unfolded. The curiosity of Marco, the little boy, was captured wonderfully. The simplistic, yet thoughtful Captain Mama gave were great also. When she had to leave her kids to go to work, the pain and sadness I felt when my mom had to leave to go to work was something I could relate to. Good Night Captain Mama is an educational book without being boring! I would recommend this book to anyone who has children and/or family members in any branch of the military.

You can purchase Good Night Captain Mama on Amazon, wherever books are sold, or directly from the author on her website here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I won this package of books and patches in a giveaway a few weeks ago. The author, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, sent me a copy of both books and the patches. All opinions are my own.

Friday, July 08, 2016

The Wandering Child

I have to get the words out. I can't keep the pain in. Sometimes it hurts so bad. I am wounded each time I see it happen. My heart is stabbed again and again. The aching comes from that soft spot of my heart being hurt again. Don't you see it happening? Can't you feel it too? The sad reality is I think I am the only one who sees it, or at least one of the few. 

It seems everyone else is living in a fog. Living in a bubble where nothing bad happens. They see everything as good and peaceful. They think everything is okay. When I see the blank stare looking back at me, a part of me dies. The burden is too much to bear.

I pray for grace. I pray for peace of mind. Each time I see that image, those faces staring back at me, I am made aware. This is not a game. This is not a dream. This is reality. So many little faces. So many who have no one who cares. So many kids go without clothing and without food. But the scariest thing to me are those who don't know what love feels like. They don't know the gentle feel of lips pressed against their soft skin. They don't know what it feels like to have their most basic needs met. 

They only know pain. They only know how to fight. To get up each day and try to survive. They don't know what it's like to have structure. A bedtime. A routine. 

They only know chaos. They only hear mindless chatter. Buzzing and humming in their ear. "Don't touch this. Don't break that. What ARE you doing? Didn't you hear me?"

The child says, "No, I didn't hear you." You never heard me. You never heard my cries. No, you did hear them but you chose to ignore me. You weren't attentive to me. I've wandered aimlessly around and around in search of security. I found none. Just empty arms that didn't want me when you became too tired. Too tired to listen. Too tired to anything. Too tired to feed me.

And so I wander. From person to person. Every time I am rejected, I have to wonder, "Do I really matter?"

Is it just convenient to have me around? Yet other times, I am too loud. I am too much for you to handle. You said so yourself. 

I am your child. I am human. I have feelings. Someone, somewhere thinks I matter. Someone, somewhere cares. Someone, somewhere loves me. This keeps me going. This helps me deal with the craziness, the unpredictability. I find comfort in the arms of another. It doesn't matter who, please just hold me. If only for a minute. 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Freewriting Day 25: Breakthrough

You know my pain

You know my heartache
I'm comforted in the fact
That You have a plan that's greater than mine

There's no going back
No no

I've given up my need to be right
Pointing fingers and placing blame
No sense goin' in circles
When I can go forward

Things are changing
That ceiling is breaking
I sense it

I've pushed
I've pressed
I've kept going' when I didn't have anything left

So yes, my pain has propelled me
My pain has launched
Just like You said

This thing I know
You can't move forward without somethin' breakin'

That thing that has held me back
Holds me no more
I am on the verge

On the verge of a breakthrough
Greater than I've ever known

I've tasted and seen that You are good
One thing I know for sure

You are faithful
Even to the end
All I gotta is hold on
My breakthrough is near

I endure
I stand
I keep pushin'
I know I win