Tuesday, August 26, 2014

5 Ways to Get a Good Night's Sleep

I'm so good at sleeping, I can do it with my eyes closed.

The British humorist and poet, Thomas Hood, said, "O bed! O bed! delicious bed! That heaven on earth to the weary head." Sometimes that delicious bed turns to stone, causing turning and tossing, leading to tangled sheets and blankets. I've had many of these nights and I'm sure many of you relate.

The age old solution of counting sheep doesn't always work. The new, "Instead of counting sheep, talk to the Shepherd," doesn't always work, either. (Although talking to God is never wasted time.)

Here are a few ways I've found to find a peaceful night of rest.

1. Bedtime rituals: Drink a cup of tea, take a hot shower, then read a chapter in your book before turning off the light. Doing the same routine each night announces to your body, "It's time to sleep."

My favorite teas:
Tazo Well Being Rest
Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea
Yogi Bedtime Tea
Bigelow Sweet Dreams

2. Clean, tight sheets: Here's a humorous little dialogue RB and I have engaged in for many years --

Me: Do you know what I want when we get rich?
RB: A maid to change the sheets every day?
Me: You know me well.

3. Lavender: Research shows that the scent of lavender eases anxiety and insomnia. You can use a diffuser or simply put a few drops of lavender on a tissue under your pillow. I like doTerra and Young Living oils. You can add a drop or two of the oil into your rinse water to give your sheets the scent of lavender, too.

4. Activity List: An hour before bedtime, write your to-do list for the following day. You won't be kept awake thinking of the things that needs done the following day when your tasks are on paper.

5.  Meditate on Scripture. Here are my favorite verses to use for meditation as you fall asleep.

Proverbs 3:34: If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Psalm 121:3-4: He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm 91:1: Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 4:8: In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe. 

Psalm 116:7: Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me.

Sleep Bible Verse Cards: Click to Print

I hope these 5 steps will help you drift off to sleep, sleep deeply and awaken refreshed. We face our busy days with more energy when we have had a good night's sleep, and it's harder for the enemy of our soul to discourage us throughout the day.
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

5 Ways to Journal Your Faith

My journal is off limits to anyone but me ... I can't wrestle on paper if I fear what someone else might think of my wrestling. ~Nicole Johnson, from Fresh-brewed Life 

If Facebook is any indication, school started around the world. Whether public school, private school or home school, teachers prepared, parents purchased the necessary student tools and the soon-to-be-students enjoyed the last few days of summer vacation.

We have a granddaughter going to school for the first time. She had none of the reluctance of her older brothers who are long past their firsts. In fact, she asked if she could take work home the first day. She's so eager to learn.

Those of us who are students of the Bible understand her excitement. Getting to learn more about God through the Word keeps us picking up our Bibles each day. One thing I'm learning about God is that He doesn't just want to talk to us through His Word, but He wants us to respond. God knows our thoughts, but desires for us to freely share them with Him.

David tells us, Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8). One way I pour out my heart is through journaling. 

1. Journal truths. God leads us to truths as we read the Word. Journaling them cement the truths to our soul. Rereading them later is a reminder of God's faithfulness.

2. Journal specific verses. If you read a verse that speaks to you, personalize it with your name. Pamela will trust in him at all times, Pamela will pour out her heart to him, for God is Pamela's refuge

3. Journal Scripture art. Get out your markers and make a verse into art. I'm a doodler more than an artist, but incorporating a bit of creativity while focusing brings the verse alive.

4. Journal your praise. This is more than a list of gratitude-worthy items. It's more like a love letter to God. Praising Him more for who He is instead of blessings He gives.  

5. Journal from prompts: Make a list of faith based questions and journal your answers. Search for verses that support your answers.  

  1. My passion for God is shown through my...
  2. I need to forgive...
  3. Today I have a burden for...
  4. God is speaking to me about...
  5. Forgive me, Lord, for...
  6. I'm struggling with...
  7. I need your help, Lord, with...
  8. I believe...
  9. I messed up...
  10. I was blessed today when...
  11. I need to change my attitude about...
  12. Today I will bless...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Be the Steeple

They rest on the tops of our churches and cathedrals, pointing men to God. I love looking over the tops of office buildings and factories to catch a glimpse of the steeples tall and stately rising to the heavens. But do we hear God the loudest when we're closest to heaven? Do we hear God's voice more clearly by being alone with Him?

Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote, "I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed the topmost steeple, but God declared: Go down again -- I dwell among the people." 

I read that and thought, God dwells among the people. Ah, yes. For God was surely in the choir saints as they sang this morning. He was in the pastor, delivering his message. He was in Don's prayer and those serving communion. He was there in the woman seated in front of us who just received a cancer diagnosis.

I can see God dwelling among His church – not just the congregational setting I attend -- He was in the church yesterday where a young couple pledged to love each other as long as they live. He was there when childhood pastors prayed over them, and in those of us who congratulated them. 

God was in the little ones sleeping at my house last night. There when Morgan sang our table grace. There in the giggles, hugs, and tiny bodies wrapped in blankets. God's there in your little ones, too, the ones you are teaching to love and serve God.

Yes, there with us because He lives in our hearts. Yet still...that's dwelling in us. What about the among us? Because this world holds so many who don't know our Heavenly Father, and it is through us that He walks among the unsaved of our world.

Among the teenager who feels like nobody cares and is contemplating ending his life. Among the single mother trying to make a living while caring for her children, too. Among the business owner whose friends and wife have disappeared when his business went belly up. 


Yes, God is everywhere, but He sends us out to love, care, and share the plan of salvation. God wants to shine through our attitudes, our actions and our heart. When we pay for the groceries of the one in front of us at the grocery store. When we fix a flat tire for a stranded traveler, or toss a ball with the fatherless boy living next door. When we teach at the public school or cook in the cafeteria at the hospital.

God shines through us when we donate blankets to a homeless shelter or crochet lap robes for the elderly. When we foster parent, become a big brother/sister, or volunteer to plant flowers at a home for unwed mothers. God walks among people; His love is everywhere, but sometimes, He uses us to deliver it. We are laborers together with God (1 Corinthians 3:9). Steeples, pointing others to God.

I can't wait to see where God places me this week.

Friday, August 15, 2014

5 Ways to Use Daydreaming to Hone Your Craft

You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it. ~Neil Gaiman

Did you daydream when you were a child? Chances are, if you are a writer, you answered with a firm yes.  I can remember whole adventures I would write in my mind. Some included Pippi Longstocking and, of course, that delightful monkey, Mr. Nelson.  
As a writer, I find I cannot go very many days without space to “think my own thoughts.” (That sounds more grown up than daydream.) My writing suffers without that creative outlet. Here are five ways to find time for daydreaming.

1. Go for a walk. There’s something about being outside that fuels creativity. For those who live in the county, nature – the creative work of God – feeds the soul. But if you live in a housing development, take note of the different architecture of each home. If you are walking downtown, look in the store windows, watch the people who are intent about their business, check out the curb appeal. The sights of wherever I am lead me into creative daydreaming.

    2. Stare out the window. Yes, the very thing your childhood teachers kept you from doing is what you are allowed to do as an adult. Slow down that logical part of your brain and pump up the creative part.

    3. Play the “What-if” game. You can play it anywhere you wish. Just pull your thoughts away from what is going on around you and start asking yourself the question. What if book covers were all the same and the books the same size?  What if the bookstores put them on the shelves by size instead of subject? What impact could a children’s book have on a busy executive looking for Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager.

    4. Escape into another world to rest your mind. When a deadline is looming, and you feel that tense burning across your shoulders, it’s time to take a daydream break. Take ten minutes to lie down and create a scene in your mind – one unrelated to the project you are working on. You’ll be amazed not only how rested you’ll feel, but how often you’ll gain inspiration for the project at hand.

    5. Daydream on a specific theme or word. Take one word from your project and go with it. If you are writing about buying the perfect pair of shoes, daydream about shoes: purchasing shoes – black tie-up walking shoes (belonging to a librarian who walks to work) – her feet hurt, but her mind is fine and even though she must wear her practical black shoes, she sees life in bright colors – she attaches color to the books she reads. Dick Chaney’s book, Heart, is an obvious red – not scarlet, not brick red or watermelon. But the Centennial Edition of Ronald Reagan was unmellow yellow which wasn’t obvious unless you knew his parents planned to name him Donald. Ducks have orange feet -- would be hard to put shoes on them; it would take a triple wide. Are there triple wide shoes for people? Maybe that’s why everyone has a hard time finding the perfect pair of shoes – the ones they’re buying are squeezing the life out of every step. 

Make sure you aren’t using daydreaming as procrastination, but don’t consider it a waste of time. And if you see a far-away look in my eyes, I’m probably in Italy, sitting at a cafĂ© in the sun, eating a crostate (jam tart), just waiting for…well, I’m not sure what I’ll be waiting for…yet.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

God Cares for Me

Let God's promises shine on your problems.  ~Corrie Ten Boom

The kids were jumping on the trampoline when it was time to take a walk through the fields. “Go get your shoes on,” his mother told them. There were four pairs of shoes lined up by the trampoline, but when we looked for Camron, he wasn’t there or anywhere we could see between the house and fields. One of them checked the garage, one of them the house. There’s a lot of places to look on their 26 acres of land, but nobody was finding the three-year-old. 

Just as I started into Mamaw-worry, there he came around the corner of the house, winter boots on his feet, needless to say a bit comical with his summer shorts. Not only was he wearing boots out of season, they were on the wrong feet. He was in his own world, head down, watching his feet, marching determinedly toward his father.

How often I come to God the same way. Busy with my shoe-hunting life. I come around the corner and into the presence of my Heavenly Father. I’m wearing my white-washed garments, but my shoes of joy and peace are out of season and on the wrong feet. My mind is focused on the cares of my life, and with my head down, I’m watching my feet, headed for my Father.

Daddy scooped him up and quickly replaced the boots with walking shoes. Camron was happy as he raced toward his brothers and sister. How many times have I felt my Heavenly Father scoop me up, right my shoes and set me on my feet again? The joy returns, the peace settles in my soul, and I’m ready to face life with new goals and vision. 

Life caught up with me this week, but God led me beside still waters and restored my soul. He anointed me with blessing after blessing. My cup overflows and my heart dances under the arc of His exceeding and great promises.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

In Law's and Out Laws and Loving Them All

A man who treats his wife like a princess is proof that he was raised in the arms of a queen. 

I hit the jackpot when it came to the mother-in-law acquisition. Mine loved me. She didn't have a list of dos and don'ts she expected me to keep. RB was their Crown Prince (or at least his baby announcement said he was!) and he was loved as only a late-in-life arrival is. Yet his parents accepted me unconditionally.

It doesn't always work that way though, as I'm sure many of you could testify to. I did a little survey on Facebook and asked whether it was easier to have sons-in-law or daughters-in-law. On the public page it was positive with most responders agreeing they got along with them equally. In my private messages, the tone was a bit different. Daughters-in-law -- overwhelmingly -- landed in the harder category. 

Somehow the mothers-in-law usually get the blame, yet if they wanted to they could have posted publicly how they felt. The mothers-in-law who were honest, yet wanted to be anonymous, got an extra point in my book.  

I only have one -- soon to be two -- sons-in-law, so I'm not an expert on this subject. But I think some of the principles my in-laws used in their relationship with me are well worth passing on.

1. Cut those apron strings. It's time. Don't baby your son after that wedding day. Your daughter-in-law should expect her wishes to trump yours. And your son-in-law shouldn't have to fight against you filling your daughters mind with how unreasonable he is. Keep in mind that your child wasn't perfect before they were married and they should be given the space to learn to live as husband and wife. They will probably make some mistakes -- just like we did when we were young.

2. Stay out of their decisions. This includes where they attend church, how they dress, and whether or not they decide to homeschool their children. Believe me, they probably know what you think -- they don't need to hear it. Wait until your opinion is requested.

3. Let them raise their children. It's so hard to see your perfect grandchildren disciplined. But it's necessary. Walk out of the room if you have a hard time with it. When my grandchildren visit, I try to keep Melanie's rules or ask if we can make an exception. She lets me spoil them in grandma ways -- like glass(es) of chocolate milk, bed-time deadlines, and cereal for breakfast. 

4. Don't share opinions unless they are asked for. Don't expect your daughter-in-law to use the same brands of food you do. Does it really matter? Your daughter-in-law may be a new mother, but let her decide if her baby needs one blanket or two. And if she doesn't want to save the empty cottage cheese container, that's okay, too.

5. Use the "I'm Sorry" phrase as often as needed. I know I'm not a perfect parent or in-law. I've been mothering my daughters for a long time. Things pop out of my mouth before I remember I don't hold that position any longer.  Luckily my kids -- even the ones who fall under the in-law category -- are forgiving. Just don't use the "I'm sorry" phrase as an excuse to say what you want to say. 

6. Find out your daughter-in-law's faves. It was a rare occasion that I would visit my mother-in-law and not find pickled beats in the refrigerator. She was a practical gift giver, but learned all the brands I used and bought them for me. 

6. Pray consistently! The one thing I miss most about my mother-in-law is her prayers. I knew she prayed daily for me. And I could ask her to pray for anything and she was quick to take my concerns to God. I suspect she took her concerns about me to God, too.

I have seen mothers-in-laws who have tried to do everything right and still the relationships with their daughters-in-law are rough. And I've seen daughters-in-law who have tried to include their mothers-in-law in their life and every effort was ignored. Ask God to fill your heart with love. You may not get it right the first time, but make that effort. You won't be sorry.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Working Together and Loving It

Marriage Week: 
Six Reasons I Want a Marriage Like My Parents by Pamela
Preparing for Marriage God's Way by Emily 
Romance...With Kids by Melanie 
Keeping the In Sickness and In Health Wedding Vows by RB
Staying Close Through Tragedy by Pamela
Working Together and Loving It by RB and Pamela

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always to the same person. ~Mignon McLaughlin

When I tell people that RB and I work together, I get various reactions. Some hesitantly say they aren't sure they could do it. Others ask how exactly that works, and really brave friends venture to ask how many fights we have. 

We worked together by default for many years -- on the same campus. We traveled and held Vacation Bible Schools -- up to ten a summer. It was fun and we loved it. I told stories, RB led and accompanied the singing. I wrote, RB proofed. (After my first book, that is;  I had to prove I could do it myself on the first one!) RB Edit: You forgot to say that you limited my story-telling; remember that I had trouble sticking to the script, so made it up? -- which produced havoc when it was your turn for the interactive response! Thanks for re-directing me to illustrate the stories with pastel chalk while you narrated. Much safer arrangement! 

We worked together in separate roles for 19 years. Then we moved and our work locations were 40 miles apart. I thought I would never adjust to seeing RB off to work, not to see him until 11 hours later. It was during those days that our dream of working together was born.

It was a dream we both thought was in the distant future. Then God just poured out blessing after blessing and we found that dream turn into reality. RB now works as a full-time professor, but from where I write, I can reach out and touch his desk. And that, friends, is a joyful thing.  RB Edit: I love it, too, and don't forget that when I drive to Cincinnati or Indy or Fort Wayne for my onsite teaching gigs, I always put you in the trunk and drop you off at Barnes and Noble (well, you know...). 

With this change our other dream of writing together has become a reality. Last Thursday we finished our first "together" project, writing a Bible Study with Jeff Keaton for his book, The Life of Radical Faith. We learned a thing or two about working together. RB Edit: Make that "a thousand or two things!" Talk about getting on the same page -- whew!

1. We write differently.
When I write, I just start and see what comes out. RB says, "Now don't write this down yet..." Then he talks and asks, "You typed that, didn't you? I sure hope so, 'cause I don't think I can remember how I said it!" We respect each other's writing styles. RB wordsmiths better than I do -- especially in academic writing. Instead of trying to outdo his intelligence, I celebrate it (and try to learn from it). RB Edit: I am warped by sticking to "exegesis and learning outcomes" -- can't help myself! I admit it -- I need to relax...

2. We look at deadlines differently.
I look at a deadline and say, "Let's finish three weeks early." RB looks at a deadline and says, "I think we can make that." Of course during this last project, he also wrote a 70-page paper, so he's not dwaldling (my Pennsylvania jargon coming through...sorry); he has a lot on his plate. For me, this is where I'm adjusting the most. He's patient though and I try not to count days in my head if he has something that needs completed before we get to the project. RB Edit: Wow, Babe, sure glad I read this; it's good to know!

3. RB talks more than I do.
I know those of you who know only me don't believe that. But our closest friends will laugh. Often when I'm in the middle of writing a thought, RB takes off on some random trail. Well, that is remedied easily. I just ask him to wait a minute, finish my thought, and then he resumes speed. Many men would get miffed, but not RB. He just respects my need for quiet-studious-reflective-thought-capturing-moments, and talks when I'm ready. RB Edit: I have nothing to say!

4. It doesn't matter where we work.
If RB has meetings at Marion, we pack up and work in the library in between meetings. We can wander around campus, holding hands, breathing in the beautiful fragrance of the flowers, and taking pictures. If he's teaching at night in Indianapolis, we leave home early and work at Barnes and Noble. Sometimes we share a salted caramel cookie and grin at each other when we catch comical chattering from another table. And if we're at home, working on a huge project, we just may set a table up in the middle of the living room until we're finished. RB Edit: The variety keeps us going, and the travel time gives us an opportunity to dream together and talk about all things bright and beautiful, bleak and burdensome, positive and praiseworthy... 

5. I still don't like cooking. 
I cook. And I'm a pretty good cook. But if I never had to make another meal, I'd be delighted. Once RB started working from home, I had two extra meals to prepare -- which took away from my writing time. RB solved that problem quickly. Each morning he prepares me a poached egg, two pieces of bacon, and a glass of iced tea -- AND cleans up the mess. RB Edit: I'm afraid you enjoy this too much; I see no end in sight :). But don't forget, I also duplicate the entree (substituting hot coffee for cold tea, of course) for myself; so glad I learned eggs and bacon are not life-threatening -- Just think of the last 50 years of faulty lab research that has blinded us! And it's so enlightening to know that the nutrients in the egg are in the yolk, not the white... Glorious discovery! 

5. We love working together.
I think the adjustments are less than we thought they would be. Knowing God orchestrated so many areas for this new season of life to happen makes us look at working together as a gift. The rest is just due to RB being such an easy guy to be with. There's something to be said for stealing kisses between chapters! RB Edit: Aww, what can I say?!

RB is going to add his thoughts in red (he just doesn't know it yet). RB Edit: Oops, too late -- I already did; my mantra holds true: "Much easier to ask forgiveness, than to seek permission...!" Write on, Pamela! I'll probably proof until "the twelfth of never...and that's a long, long time." (Johnny Mathis)