Tag Archives: God loves me

The Potter and the Clay

My pot

One of the pots I made in college

A couple weeks ago, one of the pastors of our church, Pastor Care Crawford, gave one of the most moving sermons. Care’s voice is very soothing anyway, so that added to the nuances of the story. And the fact that the sermon sounded more like a story made it even more intriguing for me.

Care talked about loving Play-Doh as a child, and taking a pottery class in college. I was totally in sync with what she was saying because that was me, too. Then she talked about the Bible passages about God being like a potter with plans for each and every pot that he makes. And we’re the clay.

Since Care has had pottery classes, she explained exactly what happens in the creation of a pot. And since I’ve taken a pottery class, I knew what she was talking about, and I could completely see the parallels between the potter and the clay, and God and us.

It’s not that I haven’t heard sermons on this topic before, but the life I’ve been living recently has been seriously tough. And being reminded about how you have to handle clay to make a beautiful pot was seriously helpful in gaining perspective on what’s been happening.

Right down to remembering what it’s like to squeeze the clay back down to a ball because it’s not shaping up right. I didn’t do that because I hated the pot I was making or because I had it in for the clay. I did it because I knew I could make the pot better and the clay could take it. I’ve still got some pots I made in college, and I still love them.

So I’ve been trying to keep in mind lately that God knows what he’s trying to accomplish, and it’s better than the life I’ve lived until now. And like the clay, God believes I can take the pounding. That makes me believe I can, too.

It’s My Birthday!

j0227558Happy Birthday to me! Yay! LOL!!

I just love birthdays! I’m sure most of you will be reminded by Facebook that today is my birthday, but I just wanted to shout it out! LOL!

John said that today we are making the brownie cupcakes that he found on Facebook a couple days ago. They’re peanut butter and chocolate. We’ll take pictures and I’ll show them to you later.

I hope you all have as blessed and beautiful a day as I know I will. God is so generous with His love, and His joy in us is like warm brownies and the bubbles in soda that tickle your nose. It just makes you laugh and be happy!

I pray that feeling for all of you today. 🙂 I love you! Thank you for being my friends!

What Does Love Mean?

Valentine’s Day is coming up and I won’t be with my husband, I’ll be on a writing trip with friends. I’m not too worried about it though. I mostly think of Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark holiday.

That being said, I don’t think you can say “I love you” too much. You never know when it will be the last time, but more than that, expressing to someone that you love them forms and shapes and repairs the foundation of your relationship.

But what does it mean?

This year, the day before Valentine’s Day is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Christian faith. Lent is a time of repentance, turning from the wrongs of the past, and pressing closer to God. It’s a reminder that God loves us so much that he’d be willing to take a bullet to keep us safe.

That’s the kind of love many romance writers weave into their stories every day. It’s most obvious in romantic suspense where one person can literally take a bullet for the other. But it’s in all the other stories where someone says, I’m sorry, I made a mistake, and the other person says, I forgive you because I love you. And then they grow closer than ever.

I love those stories!

Some people theorize that the reason people respond to stories of love and sacrifice and forgiveness and happily ever after is because we are wired that way. Our enjoyment of such stories opens our hearts to the possibility that those tales represent the Truth of why we are here. We are loved, we made mistakes, a sacrifice was made on our behalf so that we wouldn’t be lost forever, forgiveness was offered, and happily ever after is ours for eternity.

That’s a pretty amazing love story. Loved forever. I want that.

Much as I can’t wait for my writing trip, I’m going to miss my husband. I’ll miss waking up beside him every morning, trying to be the first one to say “I love you.” I’ll miss how much he makes me laugh. And as much as I’ll try to deny it, I’ll miss how much he teases me to the point of losing my mind.

Because somewhere in the layers of all of those things, I’ve found a taste of what love is all about – someone who sacrifices to make my life better, who always forgives me, who wants to be with me forever, no matter what.

Love is the answer to why I am here. It’s the answer to why I write about love.

Does the Holy Spirit Smell Like Lavender?

Life is still a roller coaster. So many wonderful things happening – the writers conference was not only worth the cost in information gathered, but I won a Sony Reader! (See this post on Routines for Writers to hear details and see pictures.) Still, hard things keep coming. The fact that John is in between jobs and money is tight is suddenly meaningless because another family member just died a few days ago.

I don’t understand how all of these parts of life mix together. Sometimes I feel so compartmentalized; sometimes I feel everything is a swirl and I don’t see anything clearly. The only thing that makes sense so far is the thought that this is just how life is. The older you get, the more you experience, and the more you see that nothing is what you thought.

While that doesn’t make me feel good when I’m crying over another loss and trying to imagine what Thanksgiving and Christmas and so many other days will be like this year, I do find comfort in the idea that God is also not what I thought.

He’s more.

I don’t have any lofty theological arguments to talk you into seeing God my way. But I know what I’ve experienced. When times were tough, God sent people to help me through it – a plane ticket to see my mom before she died, friends who surrounded me with love and care, a husband and best friend who made me laugh and let me cry.

When John lost his job, God arranged things so that a friend told John about another company and John got a new job three hours after he lost the first one.

In a time of tight finances, even things we don’t “need” were provided in unexpected ways. A friend offered to give us their old car. John was given a computer, a large-screen TV, a smaller TV and several other items at a going-out-of-business event. At my writers conference, I won a Sony Reader after I was thinking and praying about how useful it would be to my self-publishing business. The conference itself provided some important information I’d been looking for and unable to find. Another friend offered to give us their old car to be our second car.

For over a year we’d been thinking about starting a financial program called Financial Peace University from Dave Ramsey. We had the materials; we just hadn’t opened the box. We started the program a month before John lost his first job, after only two months of work. Then his second job only lasted six weeks. If we hadn’t started this program when we did, we might’ve lost our apartment. But I believe God nudged us at the right time so that we could manage our money in a way to make it through this tough time. There is some talk at John’s old company that he’ll have work by the end of the month, and we have just enough money to make it.

Some people may call these things coincidence or providence. But many people use “providence” referring to “something out there” without knowing that it means divine guidance or care. Divine means of, relating to, or proceeding directly from God or a god. So many people believe there is some “god” out there who thinks it’s fun to give us things and take them away. I’d rather have more time with my mother than a car or a big-screen TV. Did a “god” take the one and give the other in some twisted sense of fun?

No. God doesn’t operate that way. He doesn’t do things willy-nilly. He has a plan. He talks about it over and over again in the Bible.

“‘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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”

When I say that I’m learning that God is more than I thought He was, I mean that I am learning the deeper and more subtle meanings of things He has said and done. I’m getting better at knowing what He’s telling me in the here and now. Like that his plans to prosper me may or may not have to do with worldly wealth, but those plans definitely have to do with my spiritual wealth and health and growth.

I’ve been married to John for 22 years. (Shocking!) There are still so many things we don’t understand about each other, but every year we find ourselves closer than the year before. We understand each other a little better every year. We know each other on a deeper level every year. The more time we spend together, the more we finish each other’s sentences and thoughts.

Just today, John said, “What’s the name of the friend who gave me the, the -”

“Bacon t-shirt?” I asked. “Paula.”

How did I know what he was going to say? I have no idea! It’s a pretty random answer to be the correct one! I’ve been reading a lot of neuroscience books lately, and there are lots of ideas on why this sort of thing happens. But the more time John and I spend together, the more we grow and the more we grow together.

What I’ve found is that it happens with me and God, too, the more time we spend together. And that’s what I mean when I say I’m learning that God is more than I thought He was. I knew, absolutely, that He would take care of us in the midst of all these crises. But I had no idea He would be able to do so in a way that I could feel myself growing stronger as a person, not weaker.

The other day I was putting on the last of a lovely lavender-scented hand cream a friend gave me. The smell of lavender is supposed to have a calming effect, so I rubbed it in and breathed in the scent. There, I thought, this will relax me.

Then I remembered that God as the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. God is the one who can help me relax the most quickly, who will help that peace to be lasting.

Of course, God also created all the plants and everything else on the earth. And I found myself giggling and wondering, does God smell like lavender?

I don’t know yet. But it won’t surprise me if I get to heaven and hug Him and start giggling. And before I can even finish my sentence, “Father, you smell like -”

He’ll laugh and say, “Lavender. I thought you’d like that.”

Tour of a Rose Garden

Part of Lauraine's garden

When I read some of the things King David wrote in the Psalms, I mentally cringe a little. When he says that God can see into our hearts, I get a mental picture of me trying to open up my heart like doors on a cabinet, but turning my head away with my eyes squeezed shut. I’m not sure I want to see what He sees.

Lately, my thoughts start with that picture but jump to a new one. Last week, my friend Lauraine walked me through her garden pointing out all the different kinds of flowers, telling me where she got them, what they were called, how much water and light they need, which ones smell beautiful and which ones are only beautiful to look at.

She also pointed out the gopher holes and told me about the rose bushes the gophers had destroyed. She didn’t focus on the gophers or mention them first when she described her garden, but she was clearly frustrated with the damage and wished the gophers would go away.

I’ve always liked Lauraine’s garden, but I appreciated it even more after she gave me the walking tour. It occurred to me while reading the Psalms that God would probably give us a similar tour of our hearts if we weren’t so afraid to hear what He has to say. I suspect God would also start with the good parts, pointing out some of His favorite flowers in our heart gardens first. Like Lauraine, His face would probably show His pleasure with how things are growing, pointing out plants that looked like they would die last year that have come back this year.

He’d certainly point out the gopher sins that are destroying parts of the garden, and His face would show frustration or even anger depending on how much damage had been done and how out of control the gopher sins were.

But also like Lauraine, God doesn’t abandon the gardens of our hearts because of gopher sins. He works with us to get rid of the gophers and replant. If and when the gophers return, He helps us again go on a gopher hunt and again replant. Maybe He’ll even plant something new. Lauraine is thinking about planting something different where a Lincoln Rose bush used to be before the gophers took it out.

Double Delight roses in Lauraine's garden

Now when I think about God seeing everything in my heart, I squish my eyes closed because I know there is some gopher damage there. But then I hear Him urging me to open my eyes and see what He sees.

“Look,” He says. “See how this plant is beginning to bloom here? Smell how sweet this blossom is. I’ll show you how to cut these properly so you can give some blooms to your friends, and even more will grow back.”

I guess it’s not such a scary thing, then, that God can see everything.

Friends, Fruit and Fresh Air

Last week I was up in the mountains north of Los Angeles for an annual writers retreat with a bunch of my friends. It was awesome. It is every year, which is why I take such pains to make it. We laugh and eat and brainstorm and eat and write and eat and… Yeah, there is a lot of good food! Every year, I eat about a third of my total intake of fresh summer fruits at the retreat. Like I said, awesome.

My friend who hosts it, Lauraine Snelling, just had hip replacement surgery a few weeks ago. God moved my heart to want to be helpful, so I came up a few days early to help with shopping and other preparations. I’ve been feeling pretty selfish in a lot of ways the last year or two (lots of reasons why), and it felt great to genuinely want to be selfless for a while. More awesome.

You know there have been a lot of things going on with me and John the last year that have made life more challenging than usual. Not the least of which is that John’s company shut its doors the day I was to drive to the retreat. Uh… now what? Do I stay home and help him try to figure out what to do next? We took a long walk together, talking to each other and to God. At the end of the walk, we didn’t have any answers, but we felt God must know what He’s doing. He’s gotten us this far. A few minutes later, walking up the steps to our apartment, John’s phone rang. Another company offered him a job! His unemployment lasted a whole three hours. Can you say “awesome”?!

So getting away for a little while and focusing on my career again has been an emotional blast of fresh air. Plus, the mountain air is literally fresher and made me feel more relaxed. I got to stare at the stars every night and actually see them. Happy sigh. Now I’m starting the new week sitting by myself in a hotel room for a week working on the next draft of Love at the Fluff and Fold. I think I’m going to have an even better week now that my brain has been stimulated by my writing friends, and my heart has been freshened by a zillion more examples of God showing me how much He loves me. Perfectly awesome.

I hope you have an awesome week, too!