Worship Music Brightened My Day

It was over a decade ago, but I still remember it well. I’d been in the hospital for a few months, recovering from complications of a surgery. I was getting better, but the hospital isn’t a good place to spend your days—especially for so long. I was surrounded by white walls, sterile air, and machines that beeped constantly every day. The environment only worsened how bad I already felt.

I’d been in acute care  for several weeks after surgery and had finally been transferred to rehab, where I was re-learning how to sit up, stand, and walk in physical therapy. The occupational therapist taught me to dress, shower, and groom myself again. I went through PT and OT every day, twice a day. It was exhausting.

One afternoon I got a wonderful surprise that brightened my mood for the rest of the day. Matt Rexford, the worship pastor at my church, came to pay me a visit.   I lit up immediately when he came in. It wasn’t part of his responsibilities at church and I don’t know if he was even on the clock. We talked for a bit and then the surprise got even better. Not only had he come to visit, he’d brought his guitar.

We sang familiar, uplifting worship songs. It made me forget myself for a bit and focus on the Lord.  It attracted staff and visitors to a least peek in the room as well. Others slowed their stride as they walked by. Matt was encouraging them, as well as ministering to me.

Nearly 15 years later, the memory of Matt’s visit still blesses me. We may never know what impact our seemingly small actions have on somebody. Our words and actions may matter more than we think.

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Small Acts of Kindness: Keep Walking

We all have days when we feel we just can’t take another step. If we go by what we see, life at times can seem pretty hopeless. But it’s not.

Go ahead. Step out in faith. Put one foot in front of the other, knowing that the One who holds the universe, is on your side. For always and ever…

Why I Decided to Get a Tattoo-Part 2

By Jennifer Hallmark

**If you missed it, you’ll find part 1 here...

Hello, world! It’s Sunday, January 21. I’ve just left the church, and I’m driving home. After the service, standing in the parking lot, I showed my daughter my tattoo. I can’t help but smile because I’ve just totally shocked her. I didn’t think it was possible.

She asked if it hurt. In fact, even today, that’s the question I’m asked the most.

Yes, it hurt. A lot.

But really not as bad as I imagined. I’m a writer, and I have a big imagination.  I went in with a large cup of iced coffee and my friend, so I was ready. The artists were very professional and the parlor was super clean, which was the main thing I’d been researching for the last six months.

The lady and I discussed again what I wanted (we’d already been chatting on FB messenger), I paid her, and she went to get the template for the word “fearless.” I’d picked a specific font, one where the letters were in cursive, but the “r” wasn’t joined to the “l.” That way, it could read fearless or fear less.

In life, I’ve always been cautious, conservative, and reserved. Nothing wrong with that except when I let it affect my walk with God and my witness. Or it comes between me and my family and friends. So this year, I want to fear less and faith more.

I love the little story that says, “Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered. No one was there.” That’s how I want to live. I’m not there yet. Every day, I ask God to help me recognize fear and shut the door by my faith in Him.

Anyway, the whole process from when I entered the shop lasted about an hour and a half. I’d already purchased the soap and ointment and things for aftercare. It’s healed well.

Am I ready for another one?

No. I broke through that wall and it is enough. It’s taken me a few months to get up the courage to share it with y’all. I shake my head as I think how crazy I am to get so worked up over a tattoo. But one of my fears throughout my life has been fear of rejection. So, it makes sense.

Why have I shared this over the last two weeks? I guess it’s mostly for me. I have my first novel coming out in June of 2019 with Firefly Southern fiction, and I’m already struggling a little with what people will think of my book. Will they cringe? Laugh? Love it? Or reject it?

I give these fears to God. I like to say I don’t write for God; I write with Him. We laugh and cry together as I pen words that reduce me to a transparent, vulnerable state I’d rather not be in, at times. But it’s a healing place.

And it’s me.

Hello, world!

Click to tweet: Why I decided to get a tattoo. My daughter asked if it hurt. In fact, even today, that’s the question I’m asked the most. #tattoo #faith

Me signing my contract

Why I Decided to Get a Tattoo-Part 1

By Jennifer Hallmark

Hello, world! It’s Saturday. January 20, 2018 at 10:15 a.m.

Guess where I’m going today? I’ve kept it a secret from most of the people I know. Before I tell you, I’d like to explain how I got here. Or try anyway.

I’m the oldest child in my family, a melancholy introvert and a creative perfectionist (in recovery). 🙂

When I was six-years-old, my dad became sick. Really sick. It started with numbness in his feet and legs and progressed until he was unable to walk. No one could diagnose what was wrong with him. Within a couple of years, he was unable to work, even in a wheelchair.

We lived in Florida at the time but moved back to Alabama to be close to the family. Within a year, my parents and I gave our hearts to Jesus.

Somehow, in the years to follow, I imagined that if I could only do everything right, maybe my dad could get back to how he once was.  Between the seventh and twelfth grade, I only made three B’s. Two in typing (yes, I’m that old) and one in physics. I did well in sports and was very involved in our youth group at church.

At the age of fourteen, I sincerely sought God for two weeks and saw prayers answered as He drew closer and became more real to me than ever before. By the age of sixteen, I was as sold out to God as possible and made a vow during a time of prayer. I told God I would never drink, smoke, do drugs, have sex outside of marriage, or go to R-rated movies. For a good Baptist teen, these were the five worst things I could think of.

A few years later, I married, moved, and joined a new church. Unfortunately, the church was steeped in legalism and by the time I reached my late twenties, I was well on my way to being a modern-day Pharisee. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I was judgmental, critical, and all the other things that make up a “religious” person. I’d lost sight of my first love.

Then, when I was twenty-eight, my dad died suddenly of an aneurysm. My world crashed. I didn’t know what to do. My works had not lengthened my dad’s life like I thought. So, it must be my fault he died. If only I could have done better. I despised myself.

A few years later, I changed churches again, and God slowly brought me back to my first love. Then He began to show me who I’d become.

For the last twenty years, He’s been peeling back layer after layer of law and works from me, where I had tried to earn His love instead of accepting the free gift. It’s not that wanting to do the right thing is bad; it’s the ulterior motive behind our actions. In my quest to be perfect, I listened to anyone and everyone who seemed to have the answer to what I needed to do rather than listening to God.

If a preacher on television said you need to pray for an hour, I added it to my list. If my church said don’t smoke, I didn’t. If a teacher said my kids needed to do something, I tried to do it. Occasionally, God broke through my bent to the law of works, and I was actually led by the Spirit, but so often I wasn’t. Instead, I was driven by people’s opinions and my fear of what others thought. I didn’t like who I was, but I couldn’t seem to change.

This resulted in my health steadily declining in my thirties. I experienced burnout over and over again as I continually struggled to change. But as much as I wanted to change, I still wanted validation from people for everything I did. I wanted to always ask permission before doing something. But the problem was, especially in gray areas, people differed.

As a teen, I had obeyed God out of my love for Him, looking to Him as a Father. At some point, I let my fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of people’s opinions, and fear of God’s disappointment take control. In my mind, God was no longer a Father. He had become my taskmaster.

It took years in the Word and stepping out time and again in faith to break the hold of Phariseeism to begin trusting God and His grace.

Today I’m taking another step. I’ve stressed over this decision to the point of a full-blown panic attack. But I’ve decided to look at it as an adventure instead. An exploit, which me, my friend, Joyce, and God are going on together.

I’m getting a tattoo on my foot that says “fearless.”

Some of you might think I’m crazy for stressing and worrying about it. Others probably think I’m crazy for getting a tattoo. My mom probably won’t understand.

I don’t know if I fully do.

But after six months of thinking about it, I’ve reached a place of relative peace. I asked Joyce to go with me and talked with my husband about my decision.

It’s so not me. But deep down, it is me. The creative writer part of me. So, I’m diving in, taking the plunge, stepping off the cliff and building my wings on the way down.

God’s with me and I’m okay.

Come back next Wednesday and I’ll let you know how it went.

Until then…

Click to tweet: Why I decided to get a tattoo. It’s so not me. But deep down, it is me. #tattoo #faith

God in the Dark by Sarah Van Diest

**I’m excited about the release of my friend, Sarah Van Diest’s, book! I’ve read it already and it’s wonderful. Here’s the link to buy it…

God in the Dark

Life’s painful trials can bring shame about our inadequate and broken faith. There is relief in hearing the expressions of desperation in the psalmist’s voice. He didn’t experience this life perfected, and we don’t either. But the psalmist was loved. So are we.

God was so kind to give us the Psalms.

To walk through darkened days is part of the human experience. To walk through them with faith, comfort, strength, joy, and hope is part of the divine experience. Our eyes, though, are often clouded to those blessings by the thing oppressing us. When we remember and recognize our Father’s faithfulness, when we see reality with the eyes of understanding, the darkness ebbs and the light of hope grows. The impossible, unbearable, and unthinkable becomes the hidden passageway to truth, hope, and joy in Christ.

These letters were originally written as encouragement to a friend when the darkness began to overtake his path. Each day for 22 days, a letter arrived with one of the eight-verse sections from Psalm 119 along with a small thought to bring light and hope and to be a reminder that we do not fight our battles alone. The letters, along with nine more devotions on the subject of experiencing God in the dark, make up this powerful, honest, hope-filled 31-day devotional.


Sarah Van Diest is a writer and editor. She’s the mother of two boys, stepmother to three more, and wife to David.

Sarah wrote this book as letters to a dear friend whose life was turning upside down. She’s done this for years for numerous friends, and will continue to, Lord willing. It’s her gift to them. It’s hope written down.

An Unexpected Opportunity to Give

By Ellen Andersen

The sun shone brightly, providing a nice warm day to walk the neighborhood, finally. The clouds had loomed large and we’d had rain for the past week. So I took advantage of the warm weather and took Tommy for a walk. We headed down the street and about 6 houses down, I saw my neighbor, Jo. She spotted me and called out my name.Jo on Tradd

 

I stopped and looked to my right. Jo was standing there leaning on her walker, trying to unload her car of some groceries she’d just brought home.

She’s a sweet lady in her late 80s, and on the frail side. She’d been ill for a bit and this was the first time she’d gotten out of the house. She said it felt good to get out finally. But it made her tired.

“Can I help you with that, Jo?” I asked, seeing she was struggling a bit.

“Oh, yes. Please.” I had Tommy stop and sit, then helped Jo take her bags in the house. “I don’t want it to be too heavy for you,” she said. I picked it up and assured her it was fine. It was just a container of laundry detergent. It would probably have been too much for her, though.

After we got all her things in the house, she asked me to sit with her for a bit. I think she’s lonely, so I stayed. Tommy came in and laid down near us. After about 20 minutes or so, we left and continued our walk.

As Tommy and I headed home, we passed her house again. Jo called out to me. I waved and she said, “Come here. I have something for you.” Tommy and I made our way over and Jo said, “Do you like chocolate?”

“Of course,” I said. She handed me a plastic bag full of chocolate candies. “Thanks for helping me” she said.

“Of course. You’re welcome” I said. “Thanks for the chocolate. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.”

My afternoon walk with Tommy turned out to be more than just a nice way to get some exercise in the much-needed sun. It was an opportunity to help a neighbor who needed me.

You never know what may be in store in your day when you’re just going about your business. You may have the chance to care for someone who needs you if you keep your eyes and heart open.

Favorite Friday Fiction: Still Waters by Lindsey P. Brackett

Still Waters by Lindsey P. Brackett is a good Southern fiction read set at Edisto Beach, South Carolina. I loved the way she combined the life of the South with the haunting beauty of the ocean. Her characters swept me into their lives and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. I highly recommend this book…

Click to tweet: Still Waters by Lindsey P. Brackett. A combination of Southern living and the haunting beauty of the beach. #FridayReads #amreading


Still Waters

Cora Anne Halloway has a history degree and a plan: avoid her own past—despite being wait-listed for graduate school. Then her beloved grandmother requests—and her dispassionate mother insists—that she spend the summer at Still Waters, the family cottage on Edisto Beach, South Carolina.

Despite its picturesque setting, Still Waters haunts Cora Anne with loss. At Still Waters her grandfather died, her parents’ marriage disintegrated, and as a child, she caused a tragic drowning. But lingering among the oak canopies and gentle tides, this place also tempts her with forgiveness—especially since Nan hired Tennessee Watson to oversee cottage repairs. A local contractor, but dedicated to the island’s preservation from development, Tennessee offers her friendship and more, if she can move beyond her guilt.

When a family reunion reveals Nan’s failing health, Cora Anne discovers how far Tennessee will go to protect her—and Edisto—from more desolation. Will Cora Anne choose between a life driven by guilt, or one washed clean by the tides of grace?

Small Acts of Kindness: Do Something Daily

I found this great prayer about kindness…

“Forgive me, most gracious Lord and Father, if this day I have done or said anything to increase the pain of the world. Pardon the unkind word, the impatient gesture, the hard and selfish deed, the failure to show sympathy and kindly help where I had the opportunity, but missed it; and enable me so to live that I may daily do something to lessen the tide of human sorrow, and add to the sum of human happiness.” F.B. Meyer [England, 1847-1929]

A Lesson in Love – Support Your Local Author

Support is so important. A small act of kindness 🙂

Betty Thomason Owens

Hello, Thursday Morning, and all those who happen by today.  Most of our part of the country received a blast of Arctic air this week, along with snow. If you were snowed in, I hope you enjoyed your time off.

I poured myself an extra cup of coffee and enjoyed the view. I don’t mind snow, as long as I don’t have to get out in it.

I’ve been thinking about writers this week. Most writers work hard and make very little. A few hit it big and make a name for themselves. Some end up working it as a job, others as a hobby.

If you’re a writer, you know the loneliness of pursuing the craft. Sometimes, a writer’s own family doesn’t realize how much “blood, sweat, and tears” goes into the work they do. And when the work is done, and the book is out there–its creator is…

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