Christmas Cookies

“My sugar cookie tastes like peanut butter!” my hubs proclaimed as he chomped on the first tastes of the new year.

We had compiled a tin of all of our favorites Christmas cookies to enjoy on our return trip from spending the holiday in Colorado. Mom made all our favorites: sugar cookies, peanut butter marble whorls, peanut bars, lemon bars…

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

Yet, once thrown all into the same container and left to sit for a day or two, all of them tasted like peanut butter!

I tested for myself 8)

I’m always amazed at how God speaks to us; through His creation, His church, the magnificence of a sunset, the brilliance of poetry, and…Christmas cookies.

I’m amazed at how my resolution to quit cussing is quickly washed away when I spend an hour or two in a traffic jam.

I’m appalled at my nightmares and thoughts after I watch a few horror movies and listen to some “angry music.”

When I watch enough late night tv, I simply want to eat burgers and go shopping for the latest …whatever!—This world has its temptations and can permeate into us so easily…

Yet,when we throw ourselves in with the love of family, time with friends, more enjoyment, laughter, memory making, joy, kindness, hope and– peanut butter; we tend to be more hopeful, enjoyable, and filled with the fragrance of love and laughter—it permeates and emanates.

“O be careful little eyes what you see…

O be careful little ears what you hear…

O be careful little hands what you do…

O be careful little feet where you go…

O be careful little mouth what you say…”

Recently, a good friend of mine stated, “I’m done wasting my time on people who aren’t okay with who they are. I want to spend more time with people who are at ease and know who they are!”

I get it. Those people can permeate into us and make us feel … well, we can feel less, feel guilt, and not feel okay.

Yet, sometimes these people are our co-workers, our friends, our family. So…what then?

I think God asks us to be the fragrance of change. Be the fragrance of forgiveness. Be the hope of things being okay.

He asks us to be the peanut butter.

May your 2016 be filled with the fragrances of gentleness, gratitude, hope, kindness and Christmas cookies.

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My Wish

I WISH…

 

genie

genie

 

 

 

 

Besides MORE WISHES—if you could wish for anything, what would you wish for?

My new husband and I are training for our first triathlon together. We have our “we-enjoyed-way-too-much-on-our-honeymoon-bodies” and yet we squished into our swimwear and headed to the community pool for a lap swim/workout. It didn’t take long for our discontent to float to the surface:

 

ME, nodding toward the woman my age with golden brown skin and a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition physique: “I wish I had arms like her.”

HIM, nodding toward the spandex laden Michael Phelps look-a-like: “Wow, he doesn’t need to be here. I wish I was in swim shape like that.”

If I could wish for anything, would I really wish for her arms?

And, besides more wishes, what would I really wish for?

We dip into our lanes and begin the work out. Trying not to drown in the monotony of swimming laps, I ponder my wish list–

Drops of water seep into my already fogging goggles.

Can’t wish for more wishes

I inhale chloriney pool water kicked up at me by my lap swimming partner.

Wish I didn’t commit to this triathlon

Despite the “foggles” and the splashes, I breathe deep and press on. I fall into the rhythm of the breath, the plunge, the strokes, the kicks, the breath and I withdraw into my wishes–

Any wish I wanted—anything??

I wish I could fly like a bird–especially when I am running, in the AZ heat, and my legs feel like bricks and my lungs are working like a black mule hiking up the Grand Canyon.–I wish I could take off and soar effortlessly through a trade wind with a light body, the sunshine on my shoulders, and the spectacular Kauai coastline stretched out before me, captivating me with the beauty of the sea in an eternal embrace of the pearly white sand shore.

And If I did get more wishes–I wish I had moves like Mick Jaggar—(Actually, I wish I had any moves at all.) To be able to dance so effortlessly that it looks like liquid beauty in motion; pure joy!

I wish I had more time in the day.

I wish I had the bank account of Oprah.

I wish I could diet like Christina Aguilera.

I wish I had one more day with my beloved grandparents and one more day with my dad.

I wish… I wish… I wish my pool workout was already done.

 

I think a lot of us spend a lot of time wishing for things that just aren’t going to happen.

Be careful what you wish for...

Be careful what you wish for…

 

Or, wishing for things that they should really think twice about asking for!

-I have this friend who spends much of her time wishing for more time. She is miserable—what would more time do? More time to be miserable?

-I have this other friend who wishes she looked as beautiful as the friend who wishes for more time. But the “beautiful friend” doesn’t believe she is beautiful, so would the wish not work?

-I have another friend plagued with worries about money. Yet, she is more financially secure than the “beautiful friend” and “time wishing friend” and, really—more than 90% of the people I know. Yet, she wishes she could be more financially secure.

All this time spent wishing, I lose focus on what I have right in front of me (and in this pool workout, I might get kicked if I am not careful!).

 

A friend recently shared this poignant quote with me, “If I only had today, what I was grateful for yesterday, what would I have?”

 

All this wishing for impossible things is a thief that steals the moment, steals one’s ability to feel gratitude and steals away the appreciation of the everyday gifts that God provides faithfully.

 

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.

I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!

Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!

You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;

You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.

Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you,

The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

Psalm 139:14 The Message Bible

I conclude my pool workout and dry off my 40-something body as I watch all the wonderfully different shapes, sizes and ages enjoying this glorious refreshing pool. As my training has progressed and my age continues, I am coming to terms with the reality that, no matter how many laps I swim or “downward facing dog” poses I hold, I am going to battle the “40-something” underarm dance. And, maybe this is the only dance that I will be good at! 😉

 

I close my eyes and feel the Arizona heat warming me all around while I think back on that sea and that shore that I love in Hawaii; created by explosions throughout time and by a Creator who placed it all in motion–

Each of us is created uniquely beautiful by the ultimate Creator of all marvelous things-Isn’t it time we start believing this?

 

And we all have the same amount of time in the day. Wouldn’t it be better to appreciate every single minute we still have, so we soak up those minutes with the ones we love that we still have with us?

 

And each of us has the “financial security” that God will provide.

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:25, “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?”

 

And now that I think about it; I don’t need to fly like a bird. I am far more valuable than that!

And, I don’t need a magic lamp or a genie to provide me with more wishes; I have just one wish:

I wish: Each and every one of you finds joy in living in the moment, peace with who you are, friendships lasting through hardships, love so deep you get lost in it, security in knowing Jesus and where you are headed, hope enough to get you through the tough stuff, kindness of strangers at just the right moment, faith in knowing there is purpose to it all, beauty of the simple things, and an appreciation of it all when it is everywhere around you, within you and right in front of you.

 

Now, tell me your wish.

 

SALT

SALTSalt from seedtofeedme.blogspot.com

Salt – sôlt/noun a white crystalline substance that gives sea water its characteristic taste and is used for seasoning or preserving food. (from google definitions)

On popcorn at the movies, on the soft pretzel at the ball game, in my mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, sprinkled across lunch-time salads and balanced delicately at the rim of my margarita glass–

Salt, salt, SALT–

I LOVE SALT!

The majority of salt on the earth is found in the sea. China and the US are the top producers of it.

Salt, made up chemically of Na (sodium) and Cl (chloride), in its pure form, works in our bodies in conjunction with potassium to keep our muscles, nerves and hearts beating in balance.

Heidi, my friend and culinary mastermind, while teaching us how to create the perfect, most juicy and tastiest pork loin explains, “Salt works as a wonderful tenderizer to the toughest of meats.”

We discover this truth as we feast on the mouth-watering, fork-tender creation. As she sprinkles it across her other dishes, she explains how it works in partnership with the flavors of the meal to enhance it.

Back before refrigeration was common, salt preserved meats, keeping them from spoiling and averting countless families from starving through some tough times.

Not only used to enhance and preserve food, but also as a cleansing agent, in baths and mouthwashes, salt has also commonly been used as a healing solvent.

Salt, in its most natural form… brings things to life.

And yet, like we humans can do, we tend to make things un-natural.

Table Salt– we whiten it to make it more appealing. We add things to it (iodine) to make up for things we lack. We overuse it in processed foods and soups lacking flavor. And in doing this, a beautiful, pure and balanced compound becomes unhealthy.

We’ve bleached it, we’ve changed it, we’ve bloated ourselves on it and made it unnatural.

Jesus teaching his followers in the Sermon on the Mount states–

“You are the salt of the earth,”

Of the earth. Natural. Un-tainted or changed by the world. In the original form. Back to the basic, life-giving, life-preserving, life-saving balanced purity.

Jesus also says, “…but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Matthew 5:13

I believe many of us Christians have lost our saltiness. We dilute God’s message of repentance and salvation. In general, we add things unnecessarily to enhance the basic Truth. We become complacent and allow un-natural elements (like sin) to bloat the message of the cross. We try to “whiten” ourselves to a point of “purity” that creates hypocrites.  Man-made religion, with it’s rigidity and pious practices, has developed followers who forget to love.  Actions, deeds and lives of those who wear the title of “Christian” have become unnatural, unflavorful, and no longer good for anything—except to be crushed under man’s feet.

Like table salt, man-made religion has trampled the pure, life-giving message of Jesus.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” John 13:34

salt of the earth/noun/an individual or group considered as representative of the best or noblest elements of society.

(dictionary.com)

Again, the message of Jesus to his followers is that, “You are the salt of the earth.”

How do we restore our saltiness?

It is painful—like swabbing salt across an open wound, but it can also be healing– we must find restoration in the one place that will never disappoint—The message and life of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ–God made human, who took on flesh and walked among us.

Jesus Christ–the Prophet, the Priest, the King.

Jesus Christ–who lived an innocent life and offered up himself as payment once and for all and FOR ALL.

Jesus Christ– the Way, the Truth the Life.

Jesus Christ–who did all things moved by an unfathomable, immeasurable depth of LOVE.

Holding fast to the teachings of Jesus, you are called to be true to who God made you. There is no one else like you.– You, as your redeemed self; you, in your sphere of influence; you, doing what you do best every day of your life; just be you. Be pure –unadulterated by the world. Be the best or noblest element in where God has placed you, keeping your motives focused on Jesus.

Acting out of love.

And, like all of Jesus’s followers in that day who heard his message, they ran to tell others, not wanting anyone to miss out on the life-saving and life-preserving message.

So, whether you are munching on your popcorn at the movies, or crunching your way through the whole bag of Lay’s potato chips (I can never eat just one!), or as you are sipping from that salt-rimmed margarita, remember to BE SALTY!

“This is your brain on…”

Image

“This is your brain on…”

For those of us growing up in the 80’s, we know this phrase all too well.  The commercial for a “Drug Free America” that began with a picture of a whole egg: “If this is your brain…” then they crack the egg and fry it in a pan. “Then this is your brain on drugs.”

The brain unraveled.

This last weekend I attended a seminar/retreat on Love and Joy (and getting more of it in life!).  The instructor, Christy Osborn, was a corporate trainer for over 20 years. She utilized studies of the brain to understand and train/retrain individuals in the corporate world.

In summary, (or if you remember from science class) your brain communicates through a system of neurons and dendrites. Thoughts are neurotransmitters (chemicals) that travel from the neuron and through/out the dendrite. Picture a tennis ball at one end (neuron) and a stem coming out of it with a bunch of tree branches at the other end (dendrite).

When a negative thought happens (and test subjects were asked to dwell on negative things), the neurotransmitter (chemical) travels from neuron, down the stem and out through the dendrite where it makes paths to other nerve cells.

When your mind dwells on negative thoughts, it produces toxic neurotransmitters.

And it isn’t pretty–

Your brain on disappointment

Your brain on sorrow

Your brain in anger

Your brain in contempt

Your brain on bitterness

Your brain on unforgiveness–

Picture that tennis ball as a dried up prune and the extending branch as a dead and gnarly, blackened, spindly thatch of thorns.

It is a sickness that translates into our lives.

My sister calls this her “bad berry theory in management”—Those people who arrive to work in terrible moods, never smiling, always complaining, gossiping and grumping about everything. Their negativity spreads like a mold or a cancer through the workplace. It happens in life and in our bodies. When we dwell in the negative, our immune response decreases, our bodies are weakened and our pain tolerance levels decrease. We are more prone to illnesses when under stress; when someone dies, when we dwell in the negative.

And just a little more bad news—as it would turn out, those negative thoughts reproduce like a cancer. They stack up on themselves like a heaping, stinking pile of rotten produce.

Negativity perpetuates negativity.

Of course, we all will experience negative thoughts from time to time (the loss of a job, a divorce, losing a loved one, etc.,); the secret is to not get stuck there!

Ready for the good news?

Positive thoughts also reproduce themselves.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

For positive thoughts, the same process occurs with the neurotransmitters traveling from the neuron to the dendrites–

Your brain on joy

Your brain in compassion

Your brain in forgiveness

Your brain in acceptance

Your brain in encouragement

Your brain in love!

Picture a robust golden apple and a stem emerging from it with branches loaded with a bounty of beautiful, shiny green leaves.

These positive neurotransmitters are like a shot of pure joy straight to the heart. They result in emboldening the immune system, increasing your tolerance for pain and strengthening your whole body and mind.

And ready for a little more good news?! (A good practice for that idea of MORE positive!) 😉

“I’m trading my sorrows. And I’m trading my shame. And I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.” Israel Houghton & New Breed

Remember that stinking, rotten pile?– It can be brought back to life!

 

The power of HOPE.

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5)

We have a God who knows everything we’re going through.  He knows our hearts and our minds. He created us! And with His power in us, there is nothing man can do to us that He can’t transform to good.

“In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (Psalm 118:5)

For the doubters, unbelievers or many who are just stuck in the negativity, there is a place you can take it all and be changed.

“Anything is possible if a person believes”…“I do believe, but help me with my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Take your burdens to Jesus-He can handle your disappointments, your discouragements, your hurt, your pain, your unforgiveness and your unbelief.

“We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

With his power, given to you by the Holy Spirit, you can overcome; you can trade in your sorrow, your hopelessness and your pain for hope, love and joy.

Retrain your mind by taking a negative experience and locating the hope in it and the negative can transform to positive!

How does this work? Here are a couple of examples–Knowing that with Jesus, though you sorrow for your loved one who left this world too soon; you find hope in knowing you will see them again!

Or, spreading hope in the walk of life by being there for a friend who is diagnosed with cancer. Helping guide her because you survived that same diagnosis.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Hope is knowing that:

When chaos surrounds you, there is One that can calm the stormy seas (Matthew 8:24, Mark 4:35, Luke 8:22)

When things look their darkest, there is One who can light your way (John 8:12)

There is a safe place you can lay all your grief, unforgiveness, shame, anger, bitterness, negativity and contempt

There is nothing new or negative in this world that you can think up that He doesn’t have the power to transform for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

Picture Jesus Christ betrayed, battered, bloodied and wearing that awful, thatchy, spindly crown of thorns, taking his last breath hanging on the Cross, paying the final debt for mankind and thereby enabling us all to live free from the negativity of sin–

That, my friends, is your brain on HOPE.

PROFESSIONAL ZUMBA DANCERS

Zumba
(“One of these things is not like the others!”)

I think something tragic happens when we try to be something we aren’t meant to be.

Actually, I KNOW it is tragic.

Take, for example, when a runner attempts something like ZUMBA.
Seriously tragic.
And, you know what they do in those dance places? They place mirrors at every turn. So, even if you could fake it in your mind that you don’t look like a puppet/marionette gone wild–on crack–there is the visual evidence slapping you in the face! It screams at your flailing arms and at every hip shake and misstep saying, “YOU WERE NOT MEANT TO BE A PROFESSIONAL ZUMBA DANCER!”
I didn’t give up; but I wanted to! (-And a few people around me wanted me to!) AND, after two days of recovery, I was actually glad I tried something new!
But, then there is my old Jr. and High school buddy, Kelly. You put her in those mirrored rooms and she blossoms like a flower in spring! Her arms are in perfect sync with the furious steps below and the hips in between, making most blush who witness the ease of her rhythm.

She was meant to dance.

(See if you can pick her out in the photo above—she has this knowing look—like, “These others shouldn’t quit their day jobs!)

It’s truly something to witness when you see someone “in their element;” pursuing a dream; excelling in their passion. Like a well orchestrated song, perfectly pulling together the individual sounds of each instrument, joining up with lyrics, rhythm, melody and it all flowing together like it was always meant to be exactly that way.
But, what when we are forced/or stuck in something that we don’t excel in? That we loathe doing day after day after day…After a while, life turns from musical harmony to a clanging cacophony of unbearable noise.

I get that there will always be things that we struggle with wanting to do–homework, paying pills, Mondays, etc.,—that’s part of life; but it shouldn’t BE your life.

We are promised something more…

“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

And when you invite Jesus into your life and allow him to direct your path and your plans…

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

More than we can even imagine??!! Hmmm…I like this idea…A LOT!

As I was struggling with what to blog about this week, I realized…I LOVE to write. I am not pretending that it is easy for me to do—there are many things that get in the way (like two other jobs, laundry, eating, the voices in my head saying, “You can’t,” or “No one cares.”) But I always return to it—the desire to be at my computer, or with a note pad jotting down something that struck me during an interaction. I yearn for the spare minutes to get the “pen to paper” and I get a rush. It is almost like that marionette on crack, or probably more like the runner’s high when I feel God nudging me to write something. It often happens when I am out on a run and when I am undoubtedly at the farthest point from home!

As I write, I am smiling. My hope is that, whatever it is you spend the majority of your day doing, or dreaming of doing, that you will DO IT! –Pursue it. Don’t give up on searching for your “thing;” for what makes you blossom; the fire in your belly; the passion that you can’t get out of your mind. Try it. Don’t give up on it. Keep trying; keep searching and keep pursuing until you find it. Continually ask the Lord into your plans and, I am willing to bet on it, that “it” becomes more than you can imagine!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

BENCHES

bench

You see them in parks. You see them in playgrounds. They are found on front porches and in the front of the grocery store.
Besides a place to sit, what is it about benches?

When I asked Heidi Rosner, the artist behind the cover of my book “grace,” to add in a bench at the river scene, she said, “No problem. I do it all the time in my artwork. People love ‘em!”

A gentle man in his 80’s had finished “grace” and told me the bench was one of his favorite scenes because of what it meant to him. “In my marriage,” he said with a glimmer in his eye, “Oh yeah… Connie and I have had our ‘benches.’”
In the scene, and apparently for his relationship, the bench is a place of reconciliation; a place of confession; a place of releasing fears, finding comfort and new beginnings.
When I picked out the bench (and I never knew there were so many choices!), I chose the simple wood slats with iron bolts keeping the posts together. The bench was special for the characters in the book; it represented vulnerability and risk. But this bench represented all these things and more.

There are similarities that I hoped the reader would find there.

There is a “place” made of wood and iron that we can go to find a new beginning; a place of hope, confession, healing and rest. A place that we can lay our burdens, place our trust and release our grip of things we hold tightly.

“Lead me to the Cross where you love poured out
Bring me to my knees, Lord, and rid me of myself” (Hillsong United)

“At the Cross you beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees,
And I am lost for words so lost in love
I am sweetly broken…” (Jeremy Riddle)

So, the next time you see a bench, take some time, bend at the knee and take a seat. Rub your hands along the splintery wood. Thumb over the iron bolts holding it together and know that there is a place you can come to pour it all out, a place you can find peace, a place of healing and a place to release.

“…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” (Hebrews 12)

The Cross is the place is where you find the One who can hold it all together for you.