Enjoy your visit and may God bless you! I hope we can stay in touch.
Today (Friday, May 27th) is very exciting for me. It took two years, but today is the day for my first devotion in The Upper Room to air worldwide! I was also honored with the opportunity to submit a blog entry to go along with my devotion on The Upper Room site. For those who read that entry, and were curious enough to check out my website, I would like to give you a warm welcome! Please feel free to look around on my site. There are other devotions and short stories you may enjoy reading. You can also enjoy a few pieces of my art. Comments and likes are very much welcomed if something touched or inspired you. Afterwards, I would love to keep in touch. You can find me most active on my Treasured Glances page on FaceBook. Though not updated as often, Treasured Glances can also be found on Twitter and Instagram.
Enjoy your visit and may God bless you! I hope we can stay in touch.
Keeping my seat, I watched Raya as she “worked” the crowd. True, there was an awkwardness and unrefinement about her. One could pick up on the private agenda she was working. She needed help working with the young kids on a garden project she was trying to incorporate into the children’s program. She flitted around the room darting quickly in and out of conversations, flowing through the room like a fish swimming upstream. I had to chuckle a little inside as I watched.
Then I noticed something peculiar. True, she was on a mission, but I saw there was more to her than meeting a so-called ‘greedy little agenda’. Between short chats to handle business, she made it a point to walk across the room when she noticed someone who was alone. Sometimes she knew them, other times not. Either way, each person was approached with the same loving smile and greeted with some short phrase. Just a little something letting them know someone in the room did notice and was glad to see them.
Still sitting alone after Stella’s departure, Raya approached me with a friendly handshake followed by, “Hey, Cora Beth, how are you today? I just love the blue colors on your shirt!”
After thanking her for the complement, I asked if she had found anyone to help with the kids. I told her I would love to help if she was still looking.
“Why not?”, I thought to myself. After all, I do enjoy gardening. However, it was more than gardening. After my covert observations, I wanted to know more about Raya.
In the weeks that followed, I could be found every Wednesday at the church helping Raya corral the little ones as they worked in the worm bin and planted seeds and young plants in the small garden of containers she had created out back. I looked forward each week to working with the kids and talking to Raya. She had an overflowing passion and dedication to teaching others about nutrition and simple ways to grow food in hopes of teaching others how to reduce any food insecurities in their home, or that of a friend. The kids tried, and liked, the vegetables they grew. The extra produce was donated to the church food pantry.
I began to think about our church programs and mission. Our church is known in the community for our food pantry and all the people it serves. When I looked around at those who attend our midweek children’s program, I noticed most of those attending were not from our congregation. In fact, many were known to be from low income households. Homes where food insecurities might be a real issue.
Stella was wrong. Her agenda was not greedy in nature. Raya knew she was loved by the Lord and was obeying His call to love others, even those we may see as unlovable. Sometimes we quickly judge people as weeds that don’t fit in. With closer observations, or a little nurturing and pruning, those weeds are recognized as a life of beauty and faith before God.
Thanks to Raya, I now know the nutritional and health benefits in the beautiful dandelion weeds. In fact, many plants we judge as weeds are nutrient-packed foods given to us by God. They grow during the season when we need the nutrients they offer the most. So before pulling up and tossing out a weed as worthless, take a moment to understand its beauty and discover its value. For that “weed” was created by God for a purpose.
One morning I was sitting on my patio admiring my ruellia bush when my daughter called. As we talked I asked her if she ever had devotion ideas run through her head as she would be doing things. As if she thought I was crazy, her reply was a definite no. I decided to drop the subject at that point and move on with our conversation. Once off the phone, I went back to my thoughts about the ruellia and how it reminded me of the manna God provided for the Israelites. Well, the rest is history and now available for you to enjoy.
This cover photo was taken at a popular fishing spot on the side of a busy highway during a time of flooding. Just up the river is the spillway of a local lake. Water usually makes a twenty to thirty foot drop as it flows over a ridge just behind the old railroad tracks! The force of the water flowing under the bridge was enough to make the hair on your arms stand up.
“What a day!”, I thought to myself. And this was only part one. Now for dinner and running kids around. Getting out of the car, jug of milk in hand, I head for the mailbox. Finding Joy’s mail in our box again, I turn to cross the street. Suddenly I hear an outburst from my middle school daughter being directed at my second grader. Taking a deep breath, I turn in time to see the youngest scramble in the house ahead of a junior high attitude on feet. I hear the two-liter bottle of soda fall from the car. Rolling down the driveway, I wait patiently for it to arrive at my feet. Bending to pick it up, I chuckle at visions of junior high cheerleaders screaming when soda spews out later this evening. Yes, I am taking this bottle. No time to get another.
I head on to Joy’s house. Her flower garden is always so beautiful. I stop to smell the roses before knocking.
“What a delightful surprise to see you”, Joy says with a warm smile on her face. “Rough day today?” She motions towards the swing and chair on her porch.
“That’s an understatement. And it’s only half over. Looks like they put your mail in our box again.” I reached out to hand it to her as we both take a seat. I chose my favorite, her rocking chair. I sat the jug of milk and soda bottle by my feet. “Your garden is always so beautiful.”
“Thank you.” Joy smiles as she gives it a quick glance. Her eyes then turn to mine. “One of those days you say?”
“Oh yes. Started out with being late, spilt milk making us even later. Only had time to partially clean it up before running out the door. Things at work weren’t much better today.” I listen to the sound of the rocking chair as I rock back and forth.
Joy gives a sympathetic laugh. “Sounds like you’re bankrupt and need to make some deposits in your life account! Remembering tomake deliberate choices, or deposits, helps to create a quality life. We’re always going to have withdrawals. Frets about things we can’t change, over analyzing, over scheduling and being overwhelmed because we try to do everything ourselves. Let the things you can’t change go and move on. Trying to do better next time. It’s a part of growing. You can also be a part of helping others to grow by not always trying to do everything yourself. Offer a little guidance and move out of the way. They may stumble, but they may also surprise you. It’s important not to always take ourselves so seriously and to remember to be grateful. You have two beautiful daughters and money to replace the jug of spilt milk. That’s something to be thankful for.”
“You’re so right, Joy. Sometimes things get so crazy and I forget how to put the fun back in life.”
“It’s about making deliberate deposits of fun. You see my garden over there that you like so much? That’s one of my deposits. Sure, it takes a little time to plan and create, but doing so puts the sunshine back in my life. If I don’t make the time for deposits, I have an out-of-control weed patch choking out my happiness. Then there’s the sound of the rocking chair you’re in. It rocks away my stress better than any massage can.”
Picking up the groceries I stand to give Joy a hug. “Thanks for the wonderful advice. I truly enjoyed our time together.”
“Have a good evening, Leslie. Come back anytime.”
I head home to clean the milk mess, with a smile and grateful heart, before heading back out to the evening activities.
I reach the ball field and set up my chair behind the fence just in time to see my youngest warmup in the batter’s box. Another mom soon approaches to ask about award certificates for the end-of-season party. I pause. Instead of volunteering to make them, I share a few ideas and tell her I'll be happy to send her my source and vendor information for print materials. She expresses her gratitude and walks away motivated to now design them herself.
Taking in a breath of fresh air, I look up to wink at God before slipping off my shoes and putting my bare feet in the grass. I enjoy the rest of the game while massaging the cool blades of grass between my toes.
As I close the car door and back down the driveway, I take one last look in the rearview mirror. Cute outfit, make-up on and hair styled. That is the easy part of this evening. Putting the car in drive and going forward is the difficult part. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest as I began to slowly roll forward. I want to put the car in reverse and return home, but I know this is a drive I need to make.
I ask God, many times during the next forty-minutes, for the courage and confidence to walk through the doors at the end of this journey. To help keep my mind distracted, I open the sunroof and put on some happy music, music that will put a smile on my face. Singing and smiling, I try to sweep away the nerves that are so desperately attempting to plaster an insecure frown across my face. My inner voice is telling me to just keep smiling, fake it till you make it. The funny thing about putting a smile on your face is that not only do others think you’re happy, your inner soul also begins to believe and feel you are happy as well.
I make it to my destination and find a parking place. Getting out of the car and identifying the entry door, I walk forward while saying one last prayer as I crossed the long parking lot. My heart is pounding again. Insecurities and self-doubt filling my thoughts. Smile, pull open the door and walk through, I told myself. There. Another hurdle on this journey is crossed. You see, going to bars and hanging out has never been my style. This is very much out of my comfort zone.
Now inside, I need to find a room at the back that has been reserved for this gathering. There it is. Okay, all I need to do now is maintain a smile and not trip over my feet and fall while walking across the room. My body is filled with nerves. I begin the weave through the tables of loud and laughing people while also dodging the wait staff busily shuffling around like worker bees. Once across, it will be time to face the last and by far the most difficult hurdle of the night… walking into a room of TOTAL strangers where I will be expected to socialize for the next couple of hours. This is my last opportunity to turn back and head home without anyone ever knowing of my retreat.
The diverse mix of strangers I am about to face on the other side of the door are all part of a backpacking group. Backpacking is something I have been curious about since childhood. The thought of having everything you need for survival packed neatly and compactly in a pack on your back is very appealing to me. There is only one problem. I have no idea of how to backpack. What’s needed, where do you go and who do you go with? The answers to these, and many other questions, are on the other side of the door. I just need to walk in.
Talking to a stranger in an elevator or someone sitting in a waiting room has always been easy for me. However, standing around and socializing is very difficult and uncomfortable, even when I know the people. A room filled with people unknow to me? I need God’s help with this one!
I walk in.
Only a handful of people have arrived. I find a sofa and have a seat to settle my nerves. A server comes by. I order my only drink of the night, mainly to keep my hands busy and eyes off the floor. The person next to me introduces himself. The conversation is easy. I am introduced to everyone else in the room and all who enter over the course of the evening. What a friendly group of people! By the end of the night I knew I would be back again next month.
In fact, I could be found there the second Tuesday of every month for the next few years. This one act of courageously walking in lead me to “my people” and many adventures of a lifetime otherwise missed. I’m so glad I didn’t cave in to my fears! For the drive home that night, there was a genuine smile on my face and joy in my heart.
Exhausted with the demands of life, I welcomed the break and was excited to be packing for a trip to the west coast. Oregon was this year’s destination for our annual “Girls’ Week Away” trip. Perfect for unwinding.
Both being nature lovers, we prefer tents and hiking boots to hotels and spas. Have you ever tried adding a tent and camping gear to your usual two carry-on bags? I found it could be done with backpacking gear, and by wearing your hiking boots through the airport. What I failed to consider was, just because it could be done doesn’t mean it should.
The security check proved to be a bit tedious. It seems the single micro burner propane stove I put inside my metal cooking pot caused a little panic at the check point for a few minutes. After I pulled out the burner under close supervision, all was well, and I was on my way again. My friend flying from California had no problems boarding, but the small pressure cooker she stuffed in her checked bag resulted in a letter being placed in her luggage by TSA. It stated her bag had been searched. I must say all was worth it later as we ate gourmet meals at our campsite.
The time came to pack for the journey home and to leave this beautiful state. Bags stuffed and zipped, I released the expansion zipper to avoid a possible bag explosion. Maybe it would have been an easier journey to use a larger bag and just check it.
I rolled and bumped my way around the car rental return, maneuvered the shuttle to the airport and weaved my way through the elastic band switchbacks leading to the security check point. This time my bags and I were herded through the x-ray machines and spit out the other end without a search. Hating to be the one to slow the line, I gathered items from the tubs and tucked them under my arm that was holding hiking boots with laces dragging to the ground. My free hand then wrestled to get the two over-stuffed bags off the conveyer belt and on the ground before relocating my boots to the other armpit. The few steps to reach a nearby bench were awkward in my sock feet as I pulled one bag with each hand. I plopped down with all my stuff feeling as if I had just been tossed around in a salad spinner and dumped out in a bowl. The time spent lacing my boots allowed me to regain my bearings. All loose items were once again tucked safely away. I joined the flow of foot traffic as I headed for my gate.
The wait to board was short. The walk down the narrow plane aisle was a bumpy one with two over-stuffed bags. One thing not counted on when releasing the expansion zipper was my sleeping bag expanding inside! Upon hoisting the bag overhead, the realization, exposed to all onlookers, showed the expansion did not allow the bag to slide in properly. I shoved with all my might to get it in, then sat down quickly to avoid glares from the other passengers.
I decided not to entertain thoughts on how to remove the bag once we landed, however, my thoughts kept going back to the bag lodged above. How many times had I heard sermons on how overflowing baggage makes life cumbersome? The same is true here, I thought, as I sat waiting for takeoff. Packing lighter or handing a bag off for someone else to maneuver through the airport would have made for a more pleasant trip.
Hours later when the plane landed, I struggled to pry my bag from the overhead bin. The man sitting behind me, reached up and firmly pulled to remove the load. I expressed my gratitude for his help before turning to make my way out.
Goose bumps covered my arms. I took a deep cleansing breath. A week in nature and it wasn’t clear until now what should be done to refresh my spirit from the stifling demands of life.