By Andy Lee, Guest Author
Creative Comforts is a soon-to-be-released co-written devotional on Hands with a Purpose. “Glare of Comparison” is an excerpt from that 30-day devotional.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
What does it mean to be creative or artistic?
Have you tucked away your dreams, buried them under the dirt of self-pity and disappointment, because of fear of failure?
Many of us have a dream to create something special or unique. We’ve heard a call from God, but we look around at other people who have succeeded in similar dreams and callings and rapidly sink in the quicksand of doubt. Sometimes that quicksand becomes a stronghold. Sometimes we become so caught, we cannot find a way to escape.
Comparison is part of our human nature, but it’s a dangerous game—one of the greatest tactics and favorite diversions of the enemy of God.
I remember a battle I had one night inside my head.
The negative voice repeatedly told me that I couldn’t be a great speaker or writer. It reminded me there were many people more gifted than I—even named names.
But another thought fought back in the midst of that battle, “He’s right. You alone aren’t great, but I AM and I live in you. My power will shine through you, the one who needs my help. Trust Me.”
In that moment, I was free to serve wherever God opened doors. I didn’t need to wait until I perceived it was time because it was no longer about… Continue reading
As another New Year comes, most people talk about changes they wish to make in their lives. Resolutions are typically the same year after year.
I look at things differently.
Every day brings change. I don’t need to ask for it. Life requires constant decisions and adjustments, and I long ago learned I am not the one in control.
For that, I am grateful.
So, I look reflectively at the past year and list just a smattering of what I am thankful for.
- For those who allowed me to be a part of their lives
- For opportunities to have spent time, prayed, laughed or shared special moments with people I love and who have loved me.
- For a wonderful husband, children, grandchildren and family
- For longtime and recent friends
- Beloved animals, especially our rescued dogs
- For a thoughtful, resonant employer.
- For my Jesus Calling book that keeps me focused every day and my church and pastor who has taught me deep unto deep
- For a health condition that reminds me how special life really is
- For talents that continue to find expression
- For attributes that give me insight, compassion and empathy
- For wisdom to listen and mindfulness to speak
- For abundance and provision so I (we) may help others.
There is much more, but these reflections are the ones most on my heart.
I hope this coming year will hold all that you imagine and more. Thank you to all my readers. I appreciate your patience and hope you will hang in with me as I try to bring several books to you.
Happy New Year!
Creative Comforts is a soon-to-be-released co-written devotional on Hands with a Purpose. “Memory Book” is an excerpt from that 30-day devotional.
In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery. Proverbs 28:23, New Living Translation
To celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday, I invited family and friends to a surprise party in his honor. Before the party, I asked each person to submit photos, letters or mementos to include in a Memory Book as a group gift. Since Bob and I had begun dating a few months prior, I had only met a handful of his friends and none of his family. However, each enthusiastically—and confidentially—helped me network among others I didn’t know who wanted to contribute to the book. It was a fun way to offer Bob a lasting gift plus get to know more about those close to him.
Over the weeks before the party, as submissions rolled in and I compiled the book, it became clear how dearly Bob’s family and friends loved and admired him. He had blessed the lives of many people who readily delighted in saying so.
Bob walked into the party truly surprised, happy to see a roomful of familiar faces. Some he had not seen for quite a while. In fact, one friend had driven six hours to participate in the celebration.
He opened the Memory Book with an astonished grin.
As he passed around the book, “remember when” conversations sparked. One friend said, “It’s great to be so appreciated while you are alive.”
I don’t know who had the most fun that day, Bob, his friends, or me watching the joy flowing around us.
In Hiding (One dog devotional from Happy Bones)
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.” Isaiah 43:1
Boooom! Thunder clapped over the roof loud as a jet. Lightning crackled across the eaves, forewarning a heavy storm. Abigail’s big brown eyes went wide. Her floppy ears perked as she began to shudder and pant. She ran behind a chair then crawled under the bed, instinct taking over. She crept under the box spring just beyond my reach. She couldn’t be coaxed out so she remained there till morning.
When we woke, she emerged happy to greet the day, as if nothing strange had happened, as if no storm had occurred. She showed no signs of having been terrified the previous night.
How marvelous to let go of fear so readily, I thought. I wished humans could do the same. I wished all people believed in the Lord and could trust in Him to bring them through their fears.
We had rescued Abigail from a local shelter, so her history was unknown.
When we had first brought her home, we observed her for any signs of legacies. As we expected, she was initially cautious. Beyond that, we quickly learned she had a particular sensitivity to loud noises, a trait shared by Boxers.
Two years and many thunderstorms later, she has come to trust us. Instead of under the bed, she runs to us to sit on our laps when thunder, fireworks or other loud noises startle her. She seeks comfort and protection from us now instead of seeking to hide.
Oh, she still shudders and leans into us, but she responds… Continue reading
It seems fitting that this review of Top Dog (Lucca’s story) coordinate with Veteran’s Day. After all, Lucca and her handlers, Willingham and Rodriguez, are heroes worth honoring.
I first learned of NY Times bestselling author Maria Goodavage because of my love for dogs (as she used to run Dogster.com). We chatted a few times by email. Not only had I written a dog-themed devotional and a series of dog rescue stories, but I was working on a novel whose protagonist was a former Marine turned single mom who was beginning a contract military working dog and police dog training business.
Goodavage’s first book, Soldier Dogs, was a must read for me and not only did I find it riveting, it also solidified some of my research and knowledge about military working dogs. So, when she announced the release of Top Dog, I knew I had to read it, too. And I’m so glad I did.
Top Dog is the story of Lucca, a four-legged warrior.
Lucca is a German shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix who is partnered with Marine Staff Sergeant Chris Willingham. Their attachment goes soul-deep from training to the trenches. The two are inseparable and work in tandem amid the dangers of battle, trying with all their resources to save lives and knowing not every effort will have a successful outcome.
Goodavage’s writing connects us immediately with Willingham and Lucca. We feel the camaraderie between them. It beats like one heart as the two move through one adventure after another during two deployments. When Goodavage takes us into combat with them, the inherent danger and tension are tooth-grinding. Thankfully, she intersperses the reality of battle with brief respites… Continue reading
Jeter, Service Dog: The Paw Print Farewell is shared by Mark Levengood, a sight-impaired acquaintance.
Mark recently said farewell to Jeter, his special and beloved friend. Below is his heartfelt tribute.
Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues:
Sadly, I said good-bye to my Seeing Eye service dog, Jeter, yesterday afternoon. As many of you know, he was diagnosed with lymphoma on July 7, and tragically, he lost his battle last evening.
We recently had him to the vet, who informed us that most dogs would not have made it this far past their diagnosis. He went downhill rather fast through the weekend, having not eaten since Friday morning. Additionally, as the weekend progressed, his interest in water decreased. Due to his lack of food and water, he grew rather weak. At the end, his breathing was labored, and we knew it was time.
I asked my girlfriend, Kati, if she would go with us on one last walk.
We have a small development just down the road, and Jeter always loved walking through it. Kati and I walked to the road, at which point I planned to turn around, but Jeter pulled me right into the development. We only went part way through before turning around, but he definitely enjoyed himself and pulled hard on his leash all the way. When the three of us came home, he lay down on the kitchen floor and never moved from that spot.
I am glad that we took that last walk, but it definitely took all energy he had left. Dad later told me that if he had not seen Jeter’s chest rising and falling, he would have thought he died right there. Mom acknowledged she too thought he had… Continue reading
Humility rained down on me over the weekend. I was honored to exhibit and participate in the juried Art at the Arboretum Show in Wilmington, NC from Friday, October 3-5 and what an experience it was. Not only did I meet several other participating artists (who taught me a great deal just in conversation), but I also got to hear public feedback on my work while my pieces, style and name received local exposure.
Naturally, the news media covered the event and Mayor Bill Saffo attended and spoke. The weather cooperated and attendance overflowed the parking lot and filled the length of a side street.
I was fortunate enough to sell two smaller original colored pencil drawings.
All sales benefit the arboretum and though I am uncertain how much was earned, I know I personally placed some sold signs on the hanging partitions.
As a result of this experience and meeting so many supportive, interesting and knowledgeable folks, I joined the Wilmington Art Association. I know I have a lot to learn since I haven’t truly done art work seriously since the late 60’s when I participated in an honors show with drawings and other media work.
Yes, that is a few years ago, but like riding a bike, once you have picked it up again, it starts to move forward again. I don’t know where it will lead, but I’m having a blast. I even handed out business cards to some attendees who might request commissioned pet portraits.
In fact, you can see some of the items exhibited by peeking at the gallery page on my site.
I’d love to… Continue reading
A dog taste story from Happy Bones, a Dog-themed devotional
By Becky Jacoby
Keep watch and pray so that you will give into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak. Matthew 26:41
Mom hated to cook, especially hated to bake.
Yet, one Saturday in summer, I found her in our sweltering kitchen, beads of sweat on her forehead, frosting an orange chiffon cake with élan for her best friend’s 40th birthday.
Her plan involved dinner out then would conclude with coffee at our home with this spectacular dessert. I watched her simultaneously fret about and look forward to the event for weeks.
The sweet aroma of orange wafted through the house. Even the dog seemed enticed by it.
“Put the cake on the kitchen table to finish cooling then feed Pierre,” she directed. Pierre, our miniature black poodle, lay in his usual spot under the table trying to stay cool on the linoleum. His nose worked back and forth taking in the smell. Pierre always had a good appetite, particularly for sweets and treats.
I did as Mom asked.
“Did you let him out?” She queried habitually as she grabbed her keys.
“Yes, he’s been out and has come in again. Should he go downstairs?” The dog was often directed to the basement family room when we planned to be away from the house for more than an hour or so.
“No, need. He’ll be okay, don’t you think?”
I raised my eyebrows but Mom didn’t see. Nor did she hear my answer.
Pierre looked a bit too inquisitive as I pulled the door closed behind us. One of those feelings niggled at me, but once in the car, Mom got to talking and I quickly forgot… Continue reading
Please welcome Author/ novelist, Gina Holmes. Gina is the founder of popular literary site, novelrocket.com. She is a two-time Christy and ECPA Book of the Year finalist and winner of the INSPY, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award. Her books regularly appear on Christian bestseller lists.
Q. Gina, tell us a little bit about your newest release, Driftwood Tides.
A. Driftwood Tides tells the story of an aging, alcoholic driftwood artist turned beach bum, Holton Creary, and young Libby Slater. Libby grew up with an absent father and a loving but cold, socialite mother. Leading up to her wedding, Libby and her groom-to-be go through genetic testing and she learns her blood type doesn’t match either of her parents. She confronts her mother and is reluctantly told that she’s adopted. She goes searching for her mother, Adele, only to find her husband, Holton Creary lying face down on the carpet of his Nags Head beach shack.
She lies about her real identity until she is finally found out. Holton does not welcome the news. He never knew the wife he had given saint status too had given up a daughter for adoption. Together the two search to find the truth about Adele, Libby’s father and themselves.
Q. What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A. At its heart, Driftwood Tides is really about discovering who we are, whose we are, where we belong and the need to accept and bestow forgiveness.
Q. Why did you set the novel in Nags Head?
A. Oh, how I love that place! I’m not sure there’s a more peaceful setting in all the world. And the further out I get from civilization, the happier I am. I love the sand… Continue reading
For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing. Jeremiah 31:25
Water flowed down the stacked stones. The Boston terrier stomped his front legs in the largest pool, splashed his face, ducked his head under a higher trickle then rolled and twisted on the shaded grass.
Side-to-side, he wriggled and romped with glee then repeated the process several times. He surely was in no hurry to leave. Who could blame him?
The temperature had reached almost 100 degrees in the shade.
Dogs get overheated easier than people. In fact, they can die from heat exhaustion. The little dog must have found the fountain wonderfully refreshing.
Lehigh and Abigail, our two rescues, barked to join in the game. Why couldn’t they have fun, too? Friendly as they were, they were also twice the terrier’s size. So, we kept them inside.
“So, what are we to do about this little fellow who seems content to stay the afternoon?” I recognized the dog as Buster. I knew he belonged to our neighbor, Lynn, three blocks away. I wondered why he had traveled to our home. Weren’t closer neighbors just as interesting?
Phoning Lynn connected me to an answering machine. Was she searching for her dog? “I’ll leash him and walk him home.”
Bob agreed it would be prudent to act with dispatch. If either of our dogs were lost, we’d be frantic.
I walked toward the fountain. When Buster spotted me—a total stranger—he ran and leaped into my arms. Squirmy, agile and delirious, he just as quickly jumped down and dashed back to the fountain as if to say, “Look what I found! Come… Continue reading