Category Archives: Simple things that make life better

Pondering with a Coloring Book 1

Yesterday I posted an interview with Lisa Joy Samson,  who created the beautiful Colors of Hope coloring book. It reminded me of some coloring epiphanies I had, so I thought I’d share them with you.

The first one was written a few weeks ago as I turned to the coloring book for gentle meditation and peaceful time with the LORD in a season where life seemed busy. Happy, but busy and in need of some quiet stress relief. I shared my thoughts on Facebook, but I thought maybe you’d like to see them too.

Hope it blesses you today.

Pondering 1 ~
So you know how sometimes you have a sense that the Lord is nudging your spirit? I think He’s offering me a coloring epiphany. lol It started yesterday. I was meditating on Romans 15:13 as I colored. My son Seth happened to be here briefly. I pointed to what I was working on and asked him what color I should use next. “Mom,” he said, “the great thing about coloring is there is no right or wrong choice.” (And yes, there was a twinkle in his eye that said, “really did you just ask that?”)

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So today I start a new picture. Honestly, I’m a little judgmental about every choice I make. Too much yellow. Why did I decide to add in blue? I wish I had a prettier shade of purple.

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But I keep going. I pray the accompanying Scripture, thanking God that He always hears my prayers.

Coloring one spot leads to another and soon there is yellow and blue in places I never planned. But the presence of the colors there helps me feel better about my earlier choices because the white spaces are being filled in a way that things are starting to look connected and whole.

The stirring comes again, and I try to listen, eventually putting down my colored pencils and grabbing my journal. I’m still processing, but what I think the Lord is nudging my heart about is freedom. Freedom to try a new color and trust that sometimes (I’m not talking morality here, just life) there is no right or wrong choice. He wants His kids to explore. To play. To create. But we’re afraid. We don’t want to make the wrong choice. So we stay stagnant and resist a more adventurous, colorful life. We’re afraid of too much yellow, you know?

I’ve always been a strong proponent of seeking God’s will. For many years my life verse was Psalm 32:8, which basically says God will lead us on the best path for our life, advising us and watching over us. So I asked Him this morning how living more free to explore fits with this thinking.

I’m still in process, but this is what I think I got. Sometimes we are so afraid of making a wrong choice that we can’t step out of the box the world has put us in. He is inviting us to adventure. To color. To playful exploration. But we’re bound up in our concerns about doing it right. Best. Not making a mistake.

Meanwhile there’s Jesus calling to us, “Wanna explore with me? There are beautiful pathways over here. This one has more flowers. That one has a great mountain view. Over there we can see the ocean! Which one sounds fun? Which one makes your heart leap with anticipation? Whatever you choose will be the best path, because we’ll be on it together!”

But we can’t even hear Him because we’re afraid to pick up that bright yellow. We keep walking, head down, not realizing we’re playing it safe, not best. We’re walking an old path, not a best path.

Back to the coloring book. It’s like those little spots that connect and lead to another spot are the paths I was thinking about above. And God created the whole coloring book after all. So when I get brave and choose something I’m not sure about, He just chuckles and thinks about how coloring right there with that color will connect with lines and shapes that will eventually color in white spaces I hadn’t even noticed and make the picture beautiful. I’m exploring. Having fun. Adventure. He’s enjoying watching His child play, and He loves her creativity. He comes and plays with me, sometimes suggesting a specific color, but often asking me which one I want to pick up.

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And all the while it’s the best pathway because we’re exploring together. Free to take chances. Free to create.

Free to play.

More Coloring Ponderings Tomorrow,

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Fun with Lisa Samson

Lisa!IMG_4783

What joy and delight to have you here on Free to Flourish, my friend! I gotta tell you that I am loving your new inspirational coloring book, Colors of Hope!  Your artwork and the Scriptures you chose wash over me in joy and peace. I mentioned on a earlier blog that the Lord used your coloring book to help me be more playful as I connected with Him in a busy season.

Sometimes I just need a little less intense way to have some time of quiet with the LORD. Don’t get me wrong. I love deep study, deep prayer, journaling—all of that. I’m wired for deep spiritual processing. But at the same time I sense the LORD calling to me to rest. To meditate on His hope. Not to take myself and life so seriously. He is in the beauty. The art. The creativity. He is joy. He shares His joy, His hope, His peace as I simply turn my gaze toward Him. Colors of Hope has helped me do just that. And it is interesting that deep still comes out of this more playful approach. Thank you, Lisa, for letting Him pour His Spirit and creativity through you in this venue. I know I’m not the only one drawn to Him through this coloring book!

Let’s start at the beginning of your journey with this project. Your work as a novelist gained acclaim as some of the most thoughtful and well-written work published in the Christian Booksellers market. I’m glad you’re still writing, and I’m glad you are also embracing this form of art and sharing it with us. Where did your desire to create an inspirational coloring book come from?

17155194_10154303091171723_2711020159173082596_nThank you so much, Paula. I so appreciate every good thing you’ve had to say! Wow! And I’m so happy that Colors of Hope has been a meaningful experience for you. Mission accomplished!  Colors of Hope came from a heart’s cry to God. I had gone through a divorce, was unsettled inside myself and in the world around me. It was a very dark time, and I just didn’t know what to do. I had been coloring for a few months and I realized I had a knack for creating mandala-style art. So I just prayed to God. I said, “You said that you would bless the work of our hands, to establish that, so I’m going to claim that promise now. If I show up every day and draw, I’m going to claim that blessing.”  And so I did. I drew faithfully, and my daughter helped me edit the drawings on the computer, and we sent them off to Revell with a description for two follow up books.  Vicki Crumpton, my editor and champion, took the work through all the stages and we ended up with three books. Colors of Hope, Colors of Faith, and Colors of Love.

All of your art is original and beautifully hand-drawn. Can you tell us a little about the process of creating this art?

It’s important to me that this does not look computer-generated. I wanted real lines that originated on paper.  I use a lightboard at times as well. So I initially do the sketch on graph paper so I don’t have to do a lot of time-consuming measuring with the ruler, and then I transfer that to a light board, place a nice clean sheet of cardstock on top and ink in the design. That’s about it!

 I gotta be honest. Sometimes coloring feels like it takes too much time! I’ve learned to set a timer because I would prefer to finish a picture in a day, but I need to get to my other responsibilities. Here’s what I discovered. The first day I spent extended time coloring I wrote 4,309 words on my contracted novella! That’s a productive writing day! They say there is actually a connection between coloring and productivity in adults. Can you speak to this idea?

That’s not surprising.  Coloring de-stresses us. There is something about utilizing our small motor skills that enables us to focus on something else other than our worries.  In Colors of Hope, there is a coordinating Bible verse on which the colorist can meditate as well. So couple those two things together and you can come to your writing, or whatever you work you are doing, with a much better, less-stressed state of being. So, naturally, your output will be easier to achieve and, in your case, of greater volume.  Our brains are marvelous things!

I mentioned my journey with your coloring book took me places somewhat unexpected, places I would consider pretty deep for such a gentle process. I shared some of them on Facebook and plan to share those pondering here on Free to Flourish throughout this week. Why do you think the coloring book is touching these places within us?20170311_082302

I’m not surprised you had this experience, Paula. The Psalmist says God leads us beside still waters and restores our soul. I feel like artistic expression, and such a gentle one as coloring, is the perfect opportunity for the Spirit to speak words of love and depth to our hearts.  We are in a state of less stress and worry, and more open to hear God’s whispers.

Colors of Hope is absolutely beautiful! How do you see the concept of beauty in relationship to God and who He is and how He relates to us?

God speaks to me in several love languages. One of the more prominent ones is beauty. When I see beauty sometimes I just well up inside knowing it is a gift.  I am a sky-watcher and allow myself to bask in the wonder and majesty of the beauty found there almost every day. Living in Colorado has made this an even more wondrous experience! I believe God wants to give us beautiful sights, sounds, smells, feels, and experiences. Beauty is one way we can experience God, and in turn, through us, He can experience Himself in the beauty of our reception of Him.

I think you and I are learning some similar things–like how releasing grows into receiving. 20170310_135326How hope blooms in unexpected places. Can you share a little around these concepts?

Releasing is sometimes letting things be exactly what they are and not being attached to our own expectations. Releasing is less striving and more receiving. So when we accept who we are, God’s Beloved Child, made in God’s image and likeness, there are so many things we can let go of and release to become whatever it is supposed to be in its highest form. In that way, we see things bloom in a way that is unexpected and far better than we could have hoped. Hope without trust is like wandering in the dark. Hope with full trust is that childlike state of wonder and expectation, being God’s Child who knows their Heavenly Parent will not give them stones and spiders. Consider the lilies, consider the sparrows. As Jesus said, “If God so clothes the lilies and feeds the sparrows, how much more will He take care of you?”

How has your relationship with God changed in the last ten years?

I’ve experienced God in so many ways the past ten years, but to sum it up, through the twists and turns and dark passages, I realized the Light of God never left, I just felt unworthy to look up and receive it.  Now I know better. I know that “walking in the Light as He is in the Light” is where I want to be. God is Love. God is good, kind, compassionate and merciful, and I can trust Him to always be those things. Before, well, I was pretty much walking on eggshells all the time wondering if I was “doing it right.”

Has this change affected your work?

Yes.  But I’m not completely sure how yet.  I’ve been working on a novel that was conceived in the dark times, but I know that was for a purpose. So integrating that work now to show the Light and Love of God is what the piece is going through and it’s exciting to see the transmutation of it.  As for my art and particularly the coloring, my purpose is to bring joy to people. Coloring is so helpful in the relief of some of  the symptoms of mental illness such as depression and anxiety.  I do a live coloring show on Facebook that also gives tips not just for coloring but for overcoming some of the symptoms by diet and retraining ourselves to think a little differently, more gently, and with love and compassion for not only others, but ourselves as well. My prayer is that people don’t have to suffer a moment longer than is necessary. Healing is possible.

I love the Facebook live coloring times you offer on your page. The way you talk about the concepts of the Scriptures you share in such a meaningful, light, conversational way is such a blessing. I’ve also learned some great coloring techniques that a non-artist like me wouldn’t think of. How can my readers access these?

By coming to my profile.  You can click on the videos section and they’re all right there for you to access!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Just the message that God loves you, right where you are, no matter what. He always has and He always will.

Paula here again. You can find Colors of Hope at Lisa’s website as well as in Barnes and Noble and most Christian bookstores. I noticed that today it is on sale on-line at  Christian Books. It can also be found on-line at: Amazon  and Barnes and Noble.

Hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did!

Blessings,

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How Do You Juggle?

How do you juggle multiple responsibilities and still nurture your heart?

Or do you?

I find it’s a constant choice to seek joy, peace, and balance when the pace of life increases. As I type, I’m less than a week out from my son’s wedding. (Exciting!) A few weeks out from a book deadline. (Exciting!) And coming off a wonderful three-day speaking engagement in February. (Exciting!) Of course there are other joys and responsibilities in between the big events. Finding joy in hardship is a challenge for me, but I’m discovering joy can also be lost in good times if I’m not careful, just because of the pace!

So . . . how to hang onto the joy? To celebrate all this good even as time feels shorter (which of course it never is, really.) How to stay peaceful in the hurry?

A little self-care helps. This morning I took a time out to re-read a few passages from a book releasing on April 1 by a friend of mine Vicki Caruana, of the popular Apples and Chalkdust blog. 20170321_093105Why take the time? The topic is timely. I don’t think it is coincidence that the week my son marries I receive The Joy of Letting Go in the mail. I devoured an advanced copy of this book before it published, and I knew the wisdom and grace Vicki offers would be as good for my heart as my eggs and avocados were this morning.  It was.

The pretty book cover inspired me to an extra bit of self-nuture, so I grabbed this beautiful cup given to me by the lovely bride-to-be (my new daughter!!) and that inspired me to pull out my grandmother’s china and a new cloth napkin I purchased for the bridal shower. (Isn’t it lucky my reading glasses match too?) I don’t usually eat out of china, but this extra touch of beauty only cost me about thirty seconds and it meant something to me!

What touch of beauty would cost little time but mean something to you today?

The other thing I’ve done during this busy season is engage with Colors of Hope, the first coloring book in the new inspirational coloring series by Lisa Joy Samson. If you love good fiction, you’ve likely read one of Lisa’s novels. You’ve also heard her name here because Lisa drew the cover art for my Soul Scents book series.

It seems counter-intuitive to color when you have a lot to get done, but I’ve found that it calms me and makes me more creative and productive later, especially when tackling the novella deadline. Besides it’s fun and playful, and with the Bible verses and beauty of the art, the coloring book helps me spend some restful moment thinking about the One who gives hope. 20170311_082302.jpgHow about you? Is there something you enjoy that is simple and creative that will bring your stress down and free you to more productivity? (A hint: I do set a timer when I color, so this creative endeavor doesn’t suck me into giving up more time than is wise. I take several days to color one page.)

17156189_10211441460007228_7758007868974633871_nI’m still walking, and it still provides great joy and peace. I’ll be honest and admit that it is hard to make myself take the time, and too often I don’t make the choice to get outside, but every time I do I feel better and have more peace and stamina when I return to my work. Added bonus right now? If I pay attention, I see spring coming!

I also often use this time to catch up with a friend. Another great stress reducer!

How about you? Where can you find a few minutes to get some sunshine and a little activity? Time with a friend?

If you know me well, you’re going to be shocked at my last stress-reducing activity. My husband actually laughed out loud this morning when I said I needed to climb out of bed because the sunrise is so pretty.

Honestly, I’m a huge fan of sunsets, but sunrises happen too early for me. That said, for some reason I’ve seen every one of them this week. Instead of letting it stress me out that I’m not sleeping as much as I prefer, I slip into the living room and position myself for the best view. Curling beneath a soft blanket, I take a few minutes just to enjoy.20170318_065141I don’t know whether you’re a sunrise or sunset person–or both! But I hope tonight or tomorrow morning you’ll pause a moment and let the beauty seep in!

Here’s to capturing joy and peace in the midst of the bustle.

Now I’m off to clean the bathrooms for wedding company!

(By the way, after the wedding I’ve invited Lisa to share with us about the benefits of coloring and Vickie to help us process the joy of releasing our progeny to their adult lives. I hope you’ll join us the next few weeks. It’s going to be beautiful!)

Blessings,

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Grounded

The silliest things can keep a gal grounded. Like being tagged on Facebook. If you’re on this social media, you know the one going around. Seven days of pictures for the “love your spouse” challenge.

When you choose to return to dark stairways into the deepest places of your heart, you need to be grounded. Especially when you step onto them and begin the descent when for a long time you’ve stood at the top only briefly and turned away.

I don’t walk alone. Jesus holds my hand, lights the torches so I can see the next step. I know His goal. To clear out the darkness completely. To flood these forgotten places with glorious golden light so they are no longer hidden passageways where despair lurks, but bright, gleaming staircases that are easily traversed for the good of all.

As I write, more raw than every before, I am humored by the timing of the Facebook tag. As I do the seven-day challenge, I am reminded, every day, of God’s good gifts. Of joy. Of good memories and healing and laughter.

Of how blessed I am.

And really, no matter what life is asking of you, it offers the beautiful moments. The joy of loving relationship, the fragrance of the lilacs, the glory of a sunset. It’s in embracing the little things, being present in the moments, where we find life’s greatest riches.

Giving Away 21 Days of Love and More

20160620_142135Have you ever sensed internal growth as a result of reading good fiction? My friend Kathy Ide believes strongly in the power of story. As an editor and the founder and director of The Christian Pen, Kathy is also well connected to the authors she loves.

From her passion came a beautiful four book set of fiction lovers devotionals. Kathy and I reconnected recently when I served as faculty for PENCON, the professional conference for editors. When I told her how much I loved her idea of combining fictional stories with devotional thoughts, she immediately gifted me two sets–one to give away and one to read!

I began 21 Days of Love during a recent get-a-way with my best friends from college.2016-06-16 16.57.29

It was the perfect light reading for the setting–great little short stories with powerful takeaways.

If you’d like to win the set of these beautiful, hard-back devotionals, 21 Days of Love, 21 Days of Joy, 21 Days of Grace, and 21 Days of Christmas, leave a comment and an email address. I’ll draw a name from the comments here and on social media and send the books to the winner!

Enjoy!

Until Next Time,

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Grandma’s Recipe

There’s something satisfying about being bonded through food to someone you love. Several years ago I happened upon a recipe for banana pudding in one of my cookbooks. It delighted me to see adjustments written next to it that said, “Grandma’s way.”

20160528_140939I started making the pudding. First it was a Fourth of July tradition, then the kids started asking for it more often. Pretty much every time I made it I thought about how happy it would make my sweet grandma to know her great-grandchildren loved one of her specialties.
Time passed. Our family is growing. Soon after our daughter, Sarah, married, I found out banana pudding is one of her husband’s favorites, and my making of the treat increased in20160517_153924 frequency. That’s why our youngest son’s girlfriend, Ariel, discovered it. It delighted me when I offered to bring it to her graduation party, and her eyes lit with pleasure.

Again, it’s that connection thing. My grandma loved people through food. The family even teased her that she had some kind of a disease that required her to keep people feed. She was a good-old-fashioned-homemade-simple-country-kind-of cook. Nothing was fancy. Everything was GOOD. And there was always PLENTY of it.

Now those who are part of us get a little of Grandma’s lovin’ through my cookin’. (Hear the southern click in? I am from Oklahoma originally.)

As a mom of three boys, I soon discovered there is something to the old adage that food is a way into a man’s heart. My husband loved it as I learned favorite recipes from his side of the family, too. Traditions have grown from that–like homemade cinnamon rolls to start a holiday morning (or just because it snows).

For the gluten-free set, I’ve found my mom’s apple crisp to be a hit. For birthdays it’s a toss-up whether the one celebrated wants the “famous” Moldenhauer chocolate cake, a recipe from Jerry’s mom, Fencine, or my famous banana cake, a recipe from my mom. (Then again, David still votes for banana pudding no matter what!) When I make Grandma’s chocolate gravy for breakfast, I make homemade biscuits from a recipe from my brother, Curtis.

Then there are my own discoveries. Like the “holly” (Challah) bread which I learned to make, in part, because it pleased my Jewish neighbor, Bernice. It was a childhood favorite for her back in New York. My daughter, Sarah still loves to braid the dough, something she’s delighted in since childhood.IMAG0704

My grandma was well-known for her pies. Sarah and I spent hours covered in flour when she was little. I showed her how to feel the dough to know how much flour was needed, and how to “work” it as little as possible to keep it flaky. She now claims to make better apple pies than I do. (Her brothers agree; her father doesn’t. Smart man.)

Isn’t it all about relationship? I love making food that triggers a memory of someone I love. Grandma, Fencine, and Bernice are now all with their Lord, but I love watching the new people in my circle of love as they connect to a circle of those who have passed on and left their recipes of love for me to share.

Now . . . for those of you on Facebook who requested the recipe, I share this family treasure. (For more on the step-by step process, visit this post, which doesn’t have ingredients, but does show pictures and further explain the process.)

Grandma Eunice’s Banana Pudding

In large serving bowl:

Layer vanilla wafers and bananas

Cream together in medium sauce pan:

1 C sugar, 2 eggs, 3 heaping T flour

Add the following and place on medium heat:

3 C whole milk

Stir pretty much constantly!

When pudding thickens and begins to boil, keep stirring and add:

1 t real vanilla, 2 T real butter

When butter is completely melted pour over wafers and bananas. Crumble some wafers on top and line round wafers around the sides if you want just ’cause it’s pretty.

(If you’re making this for Ariel, Sarah, or David, go for more cookies and less bananas. If you’re making it for Stephen, go lighter on the cookies and heavier on the bananas. Then again your special people might like it however you do!)

Confession: Grandma used margarine and imitation vanilla, but even the best recipes can use a little tweak. ;o)

Breaking Free to a Spirit of Adventure

“You’re like my dog,” my agent, Rachelle Gardner, said.1 thin

Not exactly the way you hope a conversation with someone this important to you will begin. At my humorous, self-deprecating response she quickly assured me she adores her dog. Then she got very serious.

“As long as there is a trail my dog runs free. But as soon as we’re in a open field my dog becomes unsure. I’m offering the gift of freedom. My dog could be exploring and running at will but holds back.”

I’ve pondered her words often, especially lately. I sense God saying, “There’s your field. Fields really. Run free. Plant. Explore. It’s all yours to discover!”

And some days I do.

Other days I seek the safety of the trail. Of the KNOWN. Of a list. Someone else’s box.

It goes back that old tape that says I have to do everything perfectly. That says there is only ONE right way. That tells me I better be careful, or I’ll get my hand slapped.

I was mad at God this week.

I’d tried to run free, and I thought He slapped my hand. The voices in my head were louder than they’d been in a long time, telling me I was doing it all WRONG.

After a lot of tears, some prayer, and a couple of good conversations with my hubby and a best friend I see it differently. God never slapped my hand. He never told me I was doing it wrong. Those were the old voices of religion and perfectionism and fear and . . . the enemy of forward momentum.

The Voice of Love said what He always does. That He loves me, His special girl. That He cheers for me. That I could stop striving, trying to do it RIGHT, and run free.

In joy.

“See the fields?” Love whispered. And understanding flashed as I envisioned open fields as far as the eye could see. Fertile fields of hungry earth. Waving grain. Lush green rows in some, wildflowers in others, and emptiness with dry cracked earth in another. All mine to explore. Places to mingle with what was already planted. Places to scatter my little seeds of hope and freedom. Pour water on thirsty ground.

a field

During a time of quiet reflection last night I understood the struggle. This week was simply another molting, a shedding of too small skin. And as it fell away to make room for new growth I reverted to vulnerable, unsure me. The dog clinging to Master instead of running free in the gift offered. And I knew I was okay. That the journey was okay. That shedding is good, even when accompanied by a few tears.

Adventure_Sports_Podcast_logo_125x125Then this morning.

Oh this morning!

A podcast where I was a guest aired. My own responses danced over me. Adventure! I am free to live a life of adventure. Love has been working every day, all my life, to entice me to joyful freedom.

This podcast is full of metaphors from my own experiences about the journey to freedom. It shouts out God’s heart for me, for all of us, calling for a life that is stronger, freer, and full of adventure. It talks about how dropping the weight in my body helped me rediscover a spirit of adventure in all of life.

How about you? Any voices trying to pin you down and hold you back? Are you in another molting stage, shedding a skin that’s grown too tight? What choice can you make TODAY for freedom?

Join me. Let’s break free to that spirit of adventure. Adventure is more fun with a friend.

Maybe the interview will encourage you, too. Come on over to the Adventure Sports Podcast where I talk about Breaking Free to a Spirit of Adventure.

a great quote to go with podcast