Only in My Dreams

If all goes as planned, my next blog entry, in just a few days, will be to announce that my very first fictional novel has been published and available. This will be a dream come true for me. I think I’ve been holding my breath in anticipation. I am pretty sure that I’m totally terrified, which is not my nature. I certainly have no doubt of this, I am leaving my comfort zone and stepping into new territory, for me that is. Oh the vulnerability. 

I know others HAVE gone before me. I am thankful to know that. I have gleaned much knowledge from their experiences, made lasting friendships and taken courage from their efforts and successes. But, my knees are trembling as I consider this thing that I am doing. 

On the other hand, I am giddy with excitement and expectation. As soon as I could write I have been writing. But, it was for my pleasure, it was unedited, it was random, it was undisciplined. Kind of like me. 

Two and a half years ago, that began to change as I attended my very first writer’s conference and had my first glimpse of this magical world that had previously only existed in my dreams, or so I thought. Every where I looked there were people trying to do exactly what I wanted to do. They spoke their own language, some of which I did not understand. There were terms I’d never heard and discussions I could not comprehend. My brain was stretched, my heart was captured. I knew this, it was time to begin, in earnest, to begin again. And so I did. 

I think I thought I might be ‘discovered’ while I was there, the first time. I really didn’t know what to expect after all. But, instead of someone discovering me, I discovered other people.

There were people at every stage of the journey. There were traditionally published authors, self-published authors, poets, screenwriters, editors, literary agents, acquisitions editors, and lots of folks just like me who had dreams and ideas and wondered what to do next. 

One of my favorite C.S.Lewis quotes is from the Four Loves. 

Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too?”

What an eye-opening experience that first conference was and I’ve attended several since then always growing closer to achieving my dream of having a published book. 

Here is what I want to leave you with, as we are approaching the end of 2015 and the beginning of a brand new year, pursue your dreams. Decide this is the year that you will begin again, in earnest. Write that story, travel to that place, compose that song, paint that picture, adopt that child, marry that man, get that degree, climb that mountain. 

Look, here’s the bottom line. If you don’t take your dream and yourself seriously, who will? Take a chance, just the very next step and maybe you will catch a glimpse, as I did, of a magical world that only existed in your dreams, or so you thought. 

  

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The Holiday Stress Factor

The Holiday Stress Factor is a real possibility for many and a sure guarantee for some. Be aware of it, prepare for it and be sensitive to others who may be suffering because of it.

Stephanie Rodda

Amidst all the holiday happiness and family celebrations and gift giving and decadent food eating there is the stress factor. It exists in the corner of our mind where we’ve shoved it to deal with later. We never totally forget that it is there for it is always in our peripheral vision. Plus, of course, it demands to be noticed, sometimes with nagging whispers and other times with bold cries. We wish it would just go away and we make some effort toward that end.

We remind ourselves how thankful we should be to which we earnestly reply back to ourselves that yes, we should be and yes, we are. We remind ourselves of those with less. We declare ourselves ‘too blessed to be stressed’. We press on to do the next thing, cook the next dish, attend the next event. All the while stress seems to increase as our…

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Glorious Grace

Grace is a vital part of being a Christian. We rely on grace heavily. Too often, our efforts, no matter how sincere, are imperfect. Too often our steps falter as we attempt to follow the One we love. 

At the end of the day, most of us are thankful for grace extended to us by a loving, merciful and gracious God. It is a glorious thing to be forgiven, to be covered in grace. The truth is, without that assurance, we wouldn’t stand a chance. 

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Today, I want to say out loud how thankful I am for this Glorious Grace and remind myself to share the wrath of this wonderful treasure. My prayer is that I will be gracious to others. With God’s help I will be reminded that people make mistakes, they let anger rule sometimes, they allow jealousy and bitterness to take seed, they distort and manipulate to their own ends. And yet, even so, what they really need is glorious grace. 

  

What Really Matters

I think if I could time travel to the past and talk to my younger self concerning life, I would likely tell myself to make sure my time and energies were spent on what really matters. Then, I’d explain further that what really matters are eternal matters. Finally I’d point out that what really matters is people because people are forever. 

I’m not sure how my younger self might respond or if a much younger me could really comprehend the truth behind what was being said. But, still, I’d try to convince and explain as best as I could because it is so important. 

I can’t travel back in time. I can’t change a thing about choices that have already been made, words already spoken and deeds done. But, I do have the opportunity to speak now to myself and my children and those who care to hear (read) my words of caution. 

This world has slowly and methodically devalued human life. Society encourages a far different viewpoint from my own. Take care of yourself, speak up for yourself, think of yourself, defend yourself, promote yourself. That’s the way of selfish ambition, stingy hearts, inflated egos and self-centered thinking. 

We get to choose with every action and every word which way we will go, which path we will take. We can ask ourselves a telling question. Does it really matter? Or perhaps we should ask a different question of ourselves. What does really matter?

Let me tell you what really matters to me. 

It matters to me how I live my life and how I treat others because I have openly professed Christianity. That means I represent Christ. That’s a heavy matter indeed. 

It matters to me that my children are kept safe, all of my children. The safety I am concerned about is beyond physical safety. I want my children to guard their hearts and choose God’s ways over the ways of the world. I want them to refuse bitterness, jealously and revenge. 

It matters to me that I don’t give the enemy of our souls a foothold into my life or the lives of others. God forbid that I would ever be a stumbling block to a struggling soul. God forbid that I stamp my foot and insist on being right when there is so much more that matters. 

It matters to me that in a moment of haste or anger, I may miss an opportunity to show love. I may overlook a divine appointment while impulsively reacting to a perceived offense. 

What matters to me is people, relationships with people. People last forever. People matter to me because they matter to God. I will choose people over having my say, proving myself right or putting someone in their place every single time if God will give me strength. 

So, what matters to you? Answer yourself honestly and then consider the consequences. 

If what matters to you is proving your point, speaking your mind, having a pity party or plotting pay back, you may find yourself a miserable, lonely person surrounded by your grudges and complaints. 

If what matters to you is what matters to God, make sure you are willing to swallow your pride, let offenses go, give the benefit of the doubt and walk in forgiveness. That’s required of those who follow Christ. That’s required when choosing to love people. But, here is the good news. In the end, love wins. In the end, that’s  what really matters.  

 

A Woman Forsaken

I am re-blogging this post from two years ago. It touched my heart this morning and I pray it will encourage you and inspire you. ‘A Woman Forsaken’

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Stephanie Rodda

It was Autumn 1993, so 20 years ago that I sat on the small screened front porch of our home in a rural setting and faced deep disappointment once again, for the millionth time it seemed. I felt betrayed by my own body, misunderstood by the people who I loved the most, abandoned by God and humiliated. My husband, Henry, and I had been married a decade. This was our year to turn 30 and we were childless. The first and second year of our marriage we experienced pregnancy but lost those babies before they came to full term. While I was comforted that we would see them in eternity, my arms remained empty here and now. As time passed we climbed into our assigned seat on the infertility roller-coaster and buckled in for a less than thrilling, far from enjoyable ride that had left me sitting still and feeling…

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More or Less

November has arrived in all of its glory and December is right on its heels. Family gatherings, holiday celebrations, office and school parties, church plays and cantatas, traveling to see relatives, gifts given and received plus, in our case, six of our children’s birthdays. It’s as if every year is as determined as the one before it to go out with an exhilarating and equally exhausting bang! 

Some years I have handled these two months rather poorly. I intend to do better this year. With every invitation and every gift purchase, I intend to ask myself this question. More or less? I’m hoping my answers will help me have more joy and less stress as I celebrate my way through the next two months and arrive a bit less bedraggled at the doorstep of 2016. 

I have a confession to make. I’m an overachiever. I’m full of passion and intensity. That sometimes leads to over commitment when I fail to take due notice of the fact that there are only so many hours in each day, so much money in the account, and so much energy in my body. Can you relate?

I think that one of the traps of the season is expectations and another is perception. I believe we have this picture in our mind of how the holidays and even birthdays are suppose to look. We can feel like a failure if we don’t have Pinterest worthy parties, Instagram worthy decorations, Twitter worthy moments or Facebook worthy statuses. Besides social media, there’s family and church pressure. Events and invitations are competing for your attention until your calendar is filled with more to do but certainly not delivering the desired less stress. 

So, this year, maybe you too should ask yourself that telling question. More or less? Is spending more on that gift than you can afford the right choice? Or spending what you can afford and having less stress in January when the bills come around? Will attending that party bring more joy? Or lessen the time you have to focus on what really matters? Can you simplify the holidays by refusing the more and choosing the less? You can. So can I. 

I suggest a strategy, a plan. Perhaps it will be as simple as marking off every Tuesday and Thursday to be at home. Maybe deciding ahead of time how many events you will attend. Here’s a thought, how about an actual budget of how much you will spend and sticking to it. You may need to avoid attempting to do it all yourself and allow for some imperfect wrappings, dishes and decorations. 

I plan to take my own advise and refuse to compare myself to other more organized and talented mommas. I will celebrate their choice for a tree in every room of their house as I try to figure out the where and when of my one. I will admire their picture perfect tables and give myself permission to use disposable plates and cups. I will cheer on the fantastic ideas and feel free to say I hope it turns out well but, we can’t make it this time. I will continue to ask myself, more or less? Then I will remind myself that less is more.