Meditations of my Heart

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Best Laid Plans



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

Since most of my book signings have been indoors or at businesses with wide, and typically Southern, porches where I can easily shelter myself and my novels should the weather turn inclement, I am not prepared for last Saturday's unpredictable drizzle at an outdoor fair and market in which I agree to participate.  This is my first "contract" appearance; paying the fee means remaining at the venue from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon.  

Had I checked the forecast?  You bet!  Before doling out the money the week of the fair, and right on up through Saturday morning, I check it.  Partly sunny, it promises.  No chance of rain.

Ha! 

 When the first drops of mist begin to fall, I hastily dry the few droplets collecting on my displayed books, and drape my new and, fortunately, water-resistant table cloth over books, bookmarks, and business cards.  Thankfully, my extra books are sheltered in bags under the table, and would be in jeopardy only if we have a gully-washer.  But, how, I wonder, will the rainy weather dampen attendance at the fair?  How in the world can I even sell the books to the brave souls who do show up if no one can even view them?

A women selling Avon products is two spaces away from me.  We chat congenially before the rain starts.  I tell her about my novels, and she shares how she recently moved here from California, and is back in the Avon business after taking a ten year hiatus.  She introduces herself as Cheri, and I immediately am drawn to her bright smile and positive attitude.  I know Cheri will be a terrific neighbor for the hours stretching before us.  I'm feeling blessed.

Little do I realize just what a blessing she will be!  When it's obvious the sprinkles aren't going to abate any time soon (oh, and it's cold, too, and I neglected to bring my jacket), Cheri, who is safely protected underneath a tent, calls out, "Martha!  Grab your books and share my table.  I don't need all this room."

"You mean it?  Really?  You are a lifesaver, Cheri!"

"Isn't that what we're supposed to do as Christians?  Help each other out?"

"You are absolutely right about that," I say as I hastily begin to gather my wares and lay out my display in an abbreviated fashion on the half of the table she has generously cleared for me.  "I just don't get this weather.  If I'd suspected they'd be the slightest chance of rain, I'd never have planned on being here today."

"You know," Cheri wisely observes, "we can plan all we want, but God has the final say.  I think this rain today is a reminder to us that He has the best laid plans, whether we think they suit our needs or not."

And, guess what?  Because the Lord sent the rain, not only do Cheri and I have a spectacular day together, but I leave there in the afternoon knowing I've found a new friend whom I feel I've known my entire life.  What greater blessing could there be?

~

Have you endured times when things looked bleak, yet God turned them into blessings?

Prayer:  Father, may we always trust in Your perfect and best laid plans for our lives.  When situations appear hopeless in the moment, may we turn to You in prayer for guidance and peace, knowing You have promised to give us hope and a future.  In Jesus' name, amen.


Friday, September 26, 2014

God's Perfect Faithfulness


Isaiah 25:1
Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.

I'm inching closer to finishing and adding the last touches on the first novel in the new Adventures in The Glade series, one which will continue the story of Davy and the Old Ones, along with his family and friends from the original Glade Series.  This is no sauntering nor casual stroll through the park for me.  With all senses in full gear, I tackle these words I've written with fresh awareness and judicious criticism.  There is no room for the mediocre when God's message requires revelation and inspiration.  I am trusting in Him to both guide and provide.

Throughout this process, I've become so acutely aware of God's perfect faithfulness.  Not once has He let me down.  Oh, to be sure, there are passages with which I've struggled to reconstruct, or to find the exact words which communicate the message I intend, but it isn't long before I hear His voice, measured and clear, pushing my fingers to the keys and producing the writing He has envisioned all along.

Planned long ago . . .

Do I understand?

No.

Do I accept?

Yes.

How could I do otherwise?

God has graced me with the talent and passion for writing, to create stories which honor and glorify Him.  I give thanks every single day for this gift, and pray to use it wisely and well.  That being said, I'm back in the blogging business, my friends.  You can now anticipate regular posts every Tuesday and Friday here at Meditations of My Heart.  And, I'm returning to it fresh, recharged and ready to go.  To reflect here upon God's Word and, I hope, offer you some meaningful inspiration for your day.

Blessings to all of you!

~

Are you pursuing your passion in life?  How does God assure you He is in it all?

Prayer:  Father, may we exalt You and praise Your name each and every day.  Let us trust in Your perfect faithfulness, knowing the wonderful things you have prepared for our lives were planned long ago.  May all that we think, do or say be to Your honor and glory.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

50 Women Every Christian Should Know - Book Review and Giveaway!


1 Thessalonians 4:18
Therefore encourage one another with these words.

As Christians, we know our faith journey is no cake walk.  We stumble and fall.  We have fears and doubts.  We struggle with adversity and seemingly insurmountable challenges.  

In all the difficult times we face, however, we know we can trust in a loving God to see us through, one way or another.  Yet, along the way, we also need encouragement and inspiration from those who have traversed the same territory and experience setbacks and victories similar to those we've encountered in our own lives.

In her latest book, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know, author Michelle DeRusha introduces us to heroines of the faith whose lives were anything but a bowl of cherries, and how their Christian beliefs strengthened them even in the most trying and tragic of times.  Michelle's fluid and engaging prose and her thorough, detailed research, have combined to produce fifty biographical vignettes which will capture and captivate your mind and your heart.  As I read about each amazing woman, from Hildegard of Bingen to Flannery O'Connor, I related to so many of them in personal, meaningful and poignant ways, discovering how so many of my own struggles to grow in my faith were reflected in their lives.  I felt I had met forever friends, ones whose pasts still continue to shine the light of Christ into the present moment.

The title of Michelle's book says it all - as Christians, these are most definitely 50 inspiring women each of us should take the time to get to know.  I sincerely hope you will order the book here, and/or visit Michelle at her website.  And, if you share this post on your Facebook, Google+, or Twitter feeds (and let me know you did so in the comments section), I will enter your name in a drawing for a free copy of Michelle's marvelous memoir, Spiritual Misfit.  Believe me, it's a read you don't want to miss!

Do yourselves a big favor today and order Michelle's book.  Her words, and lives of these heroines, are sure to encourage you!

Prayer:  Father, we thank You for the amazing, inspiring lives of the 50 women showcased in Michelle's book, and for giving her the talent and ability to write in such a comfortable, down-to-earth, and entertaining way.  We ask blessings on this book, on Michelle and her family, and on all those who will read 50 Women Every Christian Should Know.  In Jesus' name, amen.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Our Reward is With God


Isaiah 49:4
But I said, "I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing at all.
Yet what is due me is in the Lord's hand,
and my reward is with my God."

As many of you, my faithful readers, already know, my blog posts here at Meditations of my Heart have been sporadic as of late due to my need to focus on my next series of novels, Adventures in the Glade, which will pick up where The Glade Series left off in the last book, The Moment of  Truth.  (There is a link to my website from which you can order the books at the top, right-hand side of this page.)  While I've enjoyed moderate success with the novels as far as volume sales, the joy of hearing positive feedback from all who have read the books far outweighs the satisfaction of financial gain.  Still, I have to admit, if the books went viral, it would be a splendid bonus.

In a recent conversation with my mother, we discuss the progress of the new series.  She asks me, bluntly and honestly, "How can you keep on writing when your first series hasn't really taken off yet?"

My answer?  "Mom, I have to write.  I'm called to write.  It's God's will for me to use the gifts He gave me for His glory."

And, that's the bottom line.

It may appear to the world that I labor in vain.  For the world values treasure and wealth, fame and notoriety.  While those are not necessarily bad things in and of themselves, they cannot even begin to hold a candle to placing God first in our lives, and trusting that any reward due us is in His hands.  I know I've assigned the timing of any success I might realize squarely in God's care.  I am faithful that, because of Him, my words will speak to those who most need to hear them and take them to heart.

So, where am I in this new series?  As I write this, I'm on Chapter 7 of the third book in the trilogy.  My goal is to have the first book, tentatively entitled Revenge!, to my publisher by the end of September.  If I'm aiming for a pre-Christmas release, she must have them by that deadline.  At first, I balked at the notion of sending it before completing the other novels, but that fear God assuaged only this past weekend.  I will now be dividing my time for the remainder of the month between rewriting/editing the first book and working on the last one which I, gratefully, will have long months to tweak and perfect.

Yes, my friends, my posts will continue to be intermittent, and I do hope you will bear with me until I'm back in full gear by October.  In the meantime, if you're on Facebook, you can track my progress by liking The Glade Series.  I'll be posting updates there about twice a week.

Most of all, knowing you all will keep me in your thoughts and prayers would be a boon and a blessing as I traverse this hectic, yet soul-satisfying, journey.  I so appreciate your patience, understanding, and encouragement.  Sending each and every one of you my love!

~
I've asked you to keep me in prayers during this time.  Is there anything happening in your life for which you would like me to pray?  Please share in the comment section.

Prayer:  Father, we know that whether or not the world sees us as successful, we always are when we obey Your will for our lives.  Our reward is with You, and there is nothing we desire more than that.  May all our creative efforts, done in Your name, be pleasing in Your sight.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Keys to the Kingdom


Matthew 16:17-19
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven."

Pastor Lindsey, our new associate minister at Kennesaw United Methodist Church, shares two lively and amusing stories in her sermon two weeks ago.  The first details the struggles she went through to obtain her driver's license.  It made me think back to my own driving test, and how I barely passed the parallel parking which was for Lindsay, as was for me, on equal footing with ascending Mount Everest.  I just wasn't happening!

The second story which resounds with my own memories is the one Lindsey tells about holding the key to her first car, a 1986, monk's habit-brown, Toyota Corolla which she purchases with her own money for $1,000 in 2006.  Though my first car, a Honda Civic, is a college graduation gift for which I don't pay a dime, I immediately identify with the thrill Lindsey describes feeling when handed that car key for the first time.

Oh, the adult responsibility it conveys!  The promise of new-found freedom!  I recall admiring my key chain which boasted a mere car key and house key, and wishing more were dangling there.  Keys, at least in my pre-Jesus and self-absorbed youthful eyes, conveyed a sense of entitlement, authority, and prestige.

I wanted that.  I desired that.

I craved that . . .

And, as I traversed and stumbled through myriad job experiences after college, not really know who I was, or what would fill the meaningless void I felt within me, I derived an odd comfort in the accumulation of keys.  Keys which opened retail stores, restaurants, cash registers, apartments, and offices.  The growing additions on my ring signaling, with each power-promising key, providing a temporary security for my so very insecure and malleable soul.

What Pastor Lindsey addresses in her sermon forces me to recall so acutely how broken and jaded my life was before I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.  She reiterates the scripture from Matthew quoted above, and emphasizes that, just as Jesus handed Peter the keys to the kingdom, so He gives them to us when we are willing to accept them, and turn them in the lock which opens the door to healing and redemption in His name.

As we approach the Lord's Table for communion, Lindsey invites us to take a key from a wicker basket containing hundreds of them, all to remind us that Jesus offers to us the keys to the kingdom each and every day.  I do not hesitate for a second to choose one and place it in my pocket, knowing it will find a most treasured, invaluable position on my key chain.



It will reside there permanently.  My constant reminder that Jesus has given me the key to His everlasting kingdom.

A reminder that I am called to be the locksmith who frees the hearts of other to accept and follow Him.

A key which opens the only door which matters.

The only door . . .

~
How many keys are hooked on your key chain?  Are they freeing you, or weighing you down?

Prayer:  Father God, You have given us, through Your Son, Christ Jesus, the keys to your kingdom.  Let us, with one heart and mind, vow to unlock the doors we may have closed to others who desperately need to hear Your Word and receive Your gracious gift of redemption.  May we fling them wide to spread the love of Christ to all we meet.  In His precious name, we pray.  Amen.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

His Divine Nature Clearly Seen


Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

A few days ago, shaken and disturbed to the depths of my soul by the marauding evil ravaging our world, I wrote what I thought would be a blog to share with you here.  I chose to let my words flow in the moment.  It was cathartic.  It was healing.  But, when I reflected upon what I composed, I felt my thoughts would only serve to fan the flames of negativity and distress.  And, haven't we all had our fair, and unfair, share of that?  I knew it was not my place to add fuel to a fire which God sees, God knows, and which God will quench in His incomparable timing.

I chose, instead, to share with you some good news from last week.

Ten years ago, on August 21st, my husband, Danny, proposed to me on the grounds of Big Canoe, an award-winning restaurant perched on the banks of the magnificent Chattahoochee River which runs through the Atlanta metro area.  We strolled leisurely along the footpaths, admiring the well-tended flower beds, and venturing to the banks of the river, rested our eyes upon its endless flow, graceful and soothing, a balm to our souls.  Meandering our way back to a shaded bench along the path, we sit.  That's the very place where Danny kneels and proposes to me.  Outdoors, surrounded by God's indescribable creation, drinking in the beauties of scent and sight, I say, "Yes."

And, out pour the tears of joy.

For in this private and endearing moment, only God's creation surrounds us.  It is as if the human activity, so close and present, has faded into the background.  It is no longer a reality.  We become a trinity:  God, Danny, me.  That's it.  But, it's all that is needed in that precious moment.

And, on this most recent August 21st, these are what I receive from my sweetie.










Blessed reminders of God's creation which reveal His eternal power and His divine nature, clearly seen.  Reminders that in the midst of trials and tribulations, there is beauty beyond description.  Beauty which God, alone, has made.

We can wallow in the desperation of these times, allowing Satan's all-too-close presence sway our focus away from God.  Or, we can choose, with determined steps of faith, to see the goodness and beauty our Lord and Savior has lavished upon us.

As Christians, we are a people without excuse.  We are called to love.  We are called to forgive.

And, we are called to pray for all, even our enemies.  In the post I chose not to publish, I confessed my shame as a Christian because, in my human frailty, I willed nothing but the worst upon those enemies.  I know, in my heart of hearts, I cannot do this, and, dear friends in Christ, neither can you.  We must speak up, yes, and we must defend our faith, but we are called by Jesus to pray for our persecutors.  To (gulp!) forgive them.

A tall order?  The tallest!

But, Jesus commands us to do just that.

And, so, we must.


~
What excuses are you harboring today which prevent you from seeing God's glory in His creation?

Prayer:  Precious Father, You have always surrounded us with proof of Your divine presence and power if only we would open our eyes to see, our minds to know, and our hearts to feel.  Help us, especially in these trying times of worldly conflict, to remember that You are in control and You want us to pray constantly for both the persecuted and the persecutors.  It is hard, dear Jesus, but may we find our strength and resolve to do so because You commanded it of us.  In Your name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Love Them, No Matter What


Proverbs 31:28-30
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

I've always been proud of my daughter, Sarah Jane.  Even though we didn't always see eye-to-eye when she was growing up, I understood that tensions between mothers and daughters are inevitable.  My Mom and I shared many misunderstandings and downright confrontations during my teen and early adult years, but those never severed the love-line between us.  The commandment to honor father and mother has not always ruled my day, but the older I got, the more compelling this commandment became.  It is real beyond real, true beyond true.  It is one we should all acknowledge, respect and obey.

I peruse these photos sent from Sarah's IPhone and find myself coping with opposing sentiments of hope and melancholy.  









So, I decide to send a message to my daughter:  One day, this winsome Virginia Rose could pose more problems than you, Sarah, could ever imagine.  One day, little Savannah Jane, the image of innocence now, could defy your heart and your desire that she blossom in this world.  What will you do?  How will you handle it?

My only advice is the phrase my Nana, your great-grandmother, passed on to all of us:  Love them, no matter what.  Just love them.

Is there any parenting advice which could top that?  I don't think so.  Keep on loving, Sarah, keep on loving!  And, the Lord will always see you through.

And, one day, I know, your grown girls will rise up to bless you.


~
Parents, were your children a piece of cake to raise, or did you endure struggle after struggle in the process?  Please share your experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly, in the comment section.

Prayer:  Today, Father, we lift up all parents who are raising their children the best they know how.  Help them when they struggle.  Help them when lines of understanding and communication seem severed.  And, above all, let these parents love their children as You love us - no matter what.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.