Tag Archives: Christmas

A Story Grows Up

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Did you really begin writing A Packaged Deal when you were high school, you ask. Yup. True story. I have roughly fifty pages of cursive on lined notebook paper to prove it.

Yesterday I said that the stories that don’t go away are the ones you eventually have to write. This story stayed with me. Even though I didn’t complete it in that nine week creative writing class, I lived it in my mind, and it lurked there for many years. When it shouted for attention, I had my own seventeen year-old. Now that it is ready for the public, my children are grown and (usually) out of the house.

The call to finish the story which became A Packaged Deal grew louder when my middle son, Stephen, and my nephew Caleb competed with the Nederland Middle School ski team. Life was busy for the writing of the great American novel, but I thought I might be able to handle penning a romance amidst the hustle and bustle of four teenager’s activities. As I wound through mountain curves to drive Stephen and Caleb to Eldora Mountain, the little story I started as a seventeen year-old began once again to take shape, only this time the setting was a quaint ski town full of quirky and caring supporting characters. Now the heroine became a downhill racer, and the hero waltzed in as the handsome GM of a small-town resort.

Here’s the back cover copy of the NOW story:
Snuggle next to a fireplace in Towering Pines, the Colorado ski town where friendship is served up in hearty helpings and love is as true as the cobalt blue sky.

When Olympic hopeful Aspen Carlisle gave up her ski-racing dreams to raise her orphaned siblings, she found out the hard way that men aren’t interested in a “packaged deal.” Thrust into a stiff learning curve on motherhood, Aspen discovers the love and support of her friends in Towering Pines, but when the handsome new resort manager Stephen Wallace shows kindness to her little family, can she drop her guard long enough to allow him into that trusted circle—and her heart?

As Aspen struggles to believe in him, Stephen battles ghosts of his own. Time with Aspen and her family causes old issues to bubble to the surface. Does he have what it takes to push through the fear and regret, or will he stay stuck in the pain of the past? If he can believe in himself enough to become the husband and father they need, he’ll discover how wonderful a packaged deal can be.

The heart of the  book dreamed up in Robert Wyly’s English class stayed true. A young woman’s life was interrupted when her parents passed suddenly, and she chose to raise her siblings.  That was in the original story line. It’s precious to me, maybe because I love my brother, Curtis, so much. Sibling relationships are so important!

Originally in the seventeen-year-old version there were two men vying for the heroine’s attention, but the more grown-up me didn’t want to do that, so a man named Chad became the ex-boyfriend, and Stephen was the only one pursuing Aspen. (I actually don’t remember what the guys names were originally. I need to find that old manuscript and see!)

While today’s book is definitely the romance genre as was the work of that dreamy seventeen-year-old, this grown-up book works through faith, loss, and the struggle to hope in ways the high school version never could. I pray it blesses you! I absolutely love  what the Free to Flourish publishing team did to make the book beautiful. Thank you to Lisa Joy Samson for the interior artwork and the Towering Pines series logo, to Bryan Butler for the gorgeous cover, and to Carmen Barber for her vision for a lovely interior design and layout.

It’s great fun to see a book dreamed up in my youth become something I can hold in my hands.


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PS A Packaged Deal, which is the first book in the series about Towering Pines and its people, ends with a lovely Christmas Eve surprise, so it is perfect reading for this season and would make a great gift for the readers in your family. Consider purchasing it along with the Tinseled Tidings Collection. Both are available in paperback and on Kindle. Did you know you can gift books on Kindle to your electronic reading friends? In the case of these books, gifting electronically is a wonderful way to stretch the budget.

PPS It’s not too late to download your free Advent devotion from my website. I’m also posting a daily Advent thought on my author page on Facebook. Follow me there to share the Advent journey.


Stories Behind the Stories and Paperback

Ever wonder what drives the spiritual themes in your favorite stories? Do authors plan them, or do they unfold as they write? Are they ever surprised?

Collection picture lower resolutionFor me it’s both. In my new Tinseled Tidings Christmas romance collection, I had some idea of where I was going, but the Lord also added some special surprises. (BTW, the paperback just released! This volume includes the first three titles in the Tinseled Tiding Collection–and I gotta tell you, it’s gorgeous! The original artwork (by Lisa Joy Samson) and interior design (by Carmen Barber) makes the book’s fun, uplifting stories even more delightful because they are so visually pleasing!)

When I wrote The Joy ScroogeI found it interesting that when I wrote Krista and Tait’s pivotal moments, it just flowed. Usually it’s when my characters are in pain that I have to fight through the writing. (Hey, they are real to me, and I hate to see them hurting!) But this time when I got to the happy ending, I had a block. Talk about weird! The hard part was done, but I couldn’t write the fun part! (Makes me wonder how often we fight through pain—or even choose to stay in it—but are afraid of believing in the happy in real life! But I digress.)

Because I couldn’t seem to write the happy part of The Joy Scrooge, I went back and did couple of rounds of editing on the deep parts of each of the main character’s journeys. As I rewrote Krista’s, I realized that her issue was bumping up against one of my own. I needed to be willing to walk with someone I love on a path of suffering. I needed to do it whether or not this person could ever come out on the other side. It helped me be willing when I realized that the simple act of loving when it means hurting with the person we love is part of entering the suffering of Christ. It helped me feel closer to Jesus and to trust Him with how the other person’s pain affects me.

To be clear, I’m not saying that in every situation we should choose to walk closely with someone in pain. None of us have that bandwidth, and not every need is the call. We help where we can, and we follow God’s leading in that. There are also abusive situations where we have to remove ourselves from the more intimate act of walking with a hurting person who is acting out. But all of us face situations where we need to choose to enter the suffering of a loved one. Sometimes they cause their own suffering, and sometimes it is thrust upon them by health issues or evil. It brings me comfort to know in these situations, when loving means entering someone else’s painful journey, that it is part of entering Christ’s suffering. It comforts me that He understands and is with us in the pain.

Once I processed all of that, the happy ending for the book came more easily.

If learning this kind of backstory for my latest stories is interesting to you, you’ll enjoy an interview I did with Peg Thomas. Check it out! Peg is a fellow author and we are both published in a novella collection, A Bouquet of Brides, which releases January from Barbour Publishing.

Happy Advent!Advent cover small

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PS If you’re joining me by reading Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent this December, you might enjoy liking my Facebook page and following me there. Each day I’m posting short thoughts connected to the reading. (And you can still get that as a free download at my website.)

PPS The Tinseled Tiding paperback would make an uplifting, fun Christmas gift–and for those electronic readers, all three novellas could be bundled and gifted electronically for less than $3!

The Healing Hush of Stillness

Be still, and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10 KJV

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The hush that accompanies a heavy snow speaks quiet into my soul. The white blanket muffles the sounds, and even with the cold, I feel somehow insulated.

The snow changes everyday noises too. The ground underneath my feet now gives off a crunch instead of a clack or a thud. Even my car tires make a wonderful, squeaky sound as I pull into our cul-de-sac on a cold, snowy night.

There’s stillness in a freshly snowed-in world that I don’t experience at other times, and it makes me want to do calm things—like bake cinnamon rolls, read a good book, or take a leisurely walk to watch snowflakes fall.

When it snows at night, one of my favorite things to do is to brew myself a hot cup of herb tea, turn off all the lights, and watch the snowflakes out my window as they drift earthward in the glow of the lamplight.

God feels very close in these times. Perhaps the changes in routine, the slowing down for a snowy day, and the hushed, snow-muffled sounds help my heart quiet. I’m not sure. But I notice the Lord in the stillness.

There are many types of noise in life. A blaring radio and angry, honking rush hour traffic is noise. Busy schedules and long to-do lists are noise. Hateful words, unjust criticism is noise. But noise can also be found inside us. Worry and fear rattle around in our souls until they feel harried and loud instead of hushed and peaceful. Anger—whether at others or ourselves can make our hearts clang with rapid heartbeats and heated scenarios. Taking those outside voices of negativity and assault into my interior places—owning them. Perhaps that’s the worst kind of noise.

But Jesus says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

The world curses. There is pain. Disappointment,

The heart bruises. Broken relationship. Abuse. Verbal and emotional scarring.

It was part of Jesus’ crushing too.

And from the fragrance comes freedom.

He says we are worthy.

He says we are loved.

Though our sins and the sins of those who wounded us are many, He says, “Come, let’s talk this over, . . . no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow” (Isaiah 1:18, TLB).

Like the blanket of white which covers my yard, unmarred by a single footstep, He covers me.

I am as clean as freshly fallen snow.

I am untouched by noise of the enemy.

All is blanketed, hushed, as the presence of Jesus reminds me of the truth.

I am new. Safe. Pure. Enveloped in His feathery blanket of white.

So are you.

Sweet Jesus, let Your peace fall upon me, as pure and gentle as snowflakes. May I know You in this hushed moment. May I believe in my purified state.

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

Breaking Chains

You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons. ~ Isaiah 42:7 NLT


No more let sins and sorrows grow

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found.

~ “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts

One of the events I most look forward to during the Christmas season is the hanging of the lights at the intersection near my home. When a gentle breeze stirs the branches, they seem to dance in the rhythm of my heartbeat, singing that my Light has come. Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let every heart prepare Him room! No more let sin and sorrow grow! He came to make His blessings flow!*

My heart hasn’t always sung at the thought of Jesus’ birth. There was the whole not being allowed to celebrate Christmas thing, but there was more to it. Though I accepted Christ at a young age, my understanding of the magnitude of this event was severely limited as was my grasp of Christ’s death and resurrection. I knew Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth to save me from my sins and make sure that I could spend eternity with the Father. But I was in my thirties before I began to truly grasp His transforming grace. If you’ve read the Soul Scents collection, you know my story.

Christianity meant a ticket to heaven and a long, hard struggle to walk the straight and narrow until I got there. It meant trying very hard and failing often, living under the bondage of failure. I felt I couldn’t live up to what I thought were God’s expectations of me. I didn’t pray enough, read my Bible enough, or witness enough. Motherhood was especially debilitating. I knew I failed there. I should discipline better, be more patient, play with them more, spend more time on their academics, pray for them more often, teach them more skillfully, be a more organized housekeeper . . . the list was never ending. Often I approached God with my head hung in shame, condemnation rolling over me.

Then there was that whole shame around failing my mother. Condemnation was a beast to be slain.

Somewhere I missed the verse that told me that God didn’t send Jesus to the world to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:17). Furthermore, the next verse, John 3:18 begins by saying that whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned!

I used to think these scriptures simply meant I wouldn’t go to hell. While that is a very good thing, it is a limited understanding of why Christ came. It’s not just the condemnation of the final judgment that Christ did away with, but also the condemnation in my daily life.

Everything I’ve done in the past, am doing now, or will do in the future is cleansed by Jesus’ blood. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus.

And Jesus is perfect.

These concepts are especially hard for those of us who were victims of gas-lighting or other emotional, verbal, or religious abuse.

As the year draws to a close and with it this collection of devotions, my heart cry is for your freedom and mine. And friend, freedom comes from Jesus and His glorious grace.

Have you ever really noticed verse three of the beautiful hymn, “O Holy Night”? There is a powerful phrases that says, “Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease.”**

What oppresses you? What holds you back? Where are you chained? Where in your life is there slavery to lies instead of free living in truth and grace?

Maybe, like me, you need to let go of striving, performance, perfectionism.

Maybe, like me, you’ve taken on false identities, things the enemy said to you that you believed.

Maybe, like me, there are some people you have to forgive if you’re going to move forward. Maybe you have to admit how bad it really was before you can completely let it go.

Maybe, like me, your failures eat at you. Your inability to be all you wanted to be pulls you down.

Maybe, like me, there are rooms in your heart you’ve refused to enter for years that need Jesus.

Maybe, like me, your scars and wounds have whispered shame and unworthiness and have tried to shut you down.

Oh sweet friend. Chains come in every size.

Give Him permission to reveal them, cut them apart, untangle them.

If you’re like my husband and me, you’ll need Him to start with the really big, thick ones. In your surrendered state You will make big choices. Like drawing difficult boundaries or leaving bad theology or forgiving someone whose actions were unthinkable. Then He’ll cut more chains by asking you to do something weird. Like write a book series or buy your first Christmas tree. And while He’s working on those really big, visible chains, He’ll also be working on the tiny ones in your heart. These are like golden necklace chains. They aren’t bad, but instead of adorning you for His glory, they somehow got all twisted into tiny knots, so He gently rubs the spots, untwists the golden lines, careful not to waste a single thing He plans to use for your joy and His.


Jesus broke the bondage of our heavy, chained souls. He freed us from the curse of condemnation from within and without. He spread His blessings as far as the curse was found. He broke generational strongholds and patterns of dysfunction. He saved us from the voices. He saved us from ourselves.

It’s a done deal. It’s ongoing glory.

All the while He whispers that you are worthy of His every effort. He doesn’t leave things undone, but faithfully works, as long as it takes, to show you how to live in the healing and freedom He purchased for you at the cross. He calls you to leave the crap behind and stand in the fullness of who He created you to be. He invites you to warmer climates and clean, open spaces where you can run and laugh. He longs for you to embrace His favor. There is no greater worship than surrendering to His love, than embracing His favor, than becoming all He created you to be.

As you drive through the twinkling lights in your neighborhood this Christmas season, remember that your darkness is pierced, your light has come. May our hearts prepare Him room, singing, “No more let sin and sorrows grow, / Nor thorns infest the ground; / He comes to make His blessings flow / Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found. . . .”

Joy to the world! Our Lord is come!

Precious Jesus, thank you for being the light that shines into the dark places, releasing me from sin and despair. You broke the slavery chains in my life. You continue to unravel knots and set me free. You placed me in a wide open space where the warmth of Your presence lights my way. I commit to worshiping You by embracing Your favor. By living as one who is loved, forgiven, and free to dance in joy. I give You all my “not good enoughs” and simply rest in the deep, penetrating grace of Jesus. I let those who’ve wronged me off the hook, handing them over to You for Your healing justice. Thank You, Father God, for the cross of Christ. I trust You to make my heart move with Jesus’ life rhythm. After all, He lives within me, and our hearts beat as One.

*Excerpts from “Joy to the World,” text by Isaac Watts

**Excerpt from “O Holy Night,” text by John S. Dwight

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

Light Glory

imag0374“I am the Light of the world. So if you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, for living light will flood your path.” ~ John 8:12 TLB

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!” ~ Matthew 5:14–16, MSG

Our first Christmas tree had only white lights. For years we’d hung white lights as a reminder that Jesus, the Light of the World, came to save us from darkness within and without. All other decorations in the years to come will build on that first strand of lights, just as our lives build on Jesus.

Everything begins with Jesus.

Everything of worth builds upon Him.

Life is to be illuminated by His grace and truth. Our lives, our thoughts, our identity, our decisions are illuminated by His light shining into us and through us.

It doesn’t matter where the enemy lied to us or who tried to steal light from us. It doesn’t matter, because Jesus, the Light of the World, is with us now.

Where there is light, darkness flees.

Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light.

Jesus chases the darkness away.

Jesus is the victory.

Life lived in Him is alive. His life lights our way. His light heals us, chases away the darkness in the rooms we’ve kept locked. His light leads us forward to freedom.

Jesus is the Word Incarnate. The Word is a lamp to our feet, a light to our path.

Jesus, our Light, reveals next steps. Steps of life-giving light.

In Jesus is life, and His life is the light of all mankind. The darkness of this world has not overcome His light. It cannot! (John 1:4)

God’s light is pure. In Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

He not only lights our way, He lights us! We are like the Christmas tree. It can sit, unnoticed deep in a forest. When night comes, it is shrouded in darkness. But when wrapped in twinkle lights, that tree cannot be hidden.

When we are illuminated by the Light of Jesus, shining from His place as the foundation of our lives, we also are not hidden. We light up our space in this world. We are like Him: pure, white light, like a city set on a hill that can’t be hidden. Like a lamp or a candle set in the middle of a dark room.

Even in the dark times of our lives or of the world, His light shines in us and through us.

The first chapter of John says darkness cannot overcome the Light. In this world of suicide bombers and gunmen in schools, the darkness fights for position. In this world of hidden abuses that tear at personal worth and identity, darkness tries to suffocate.

But it cannot win.

In the places of the deepest despair, the most inky black darkness, the tiniest light always pushes back the black. Whole caverns of darkness cannot overcome one little flickering candle.

There is no greater worship than a life surrendered to the Light. Surrendered lives pierce the darkness as they lift glowing arms to point to Jesus.

Jesus, You are perfect light. In You there is no darkness at all. I surrender to Your light. Take it deep inside me and heal me. Shine it at my feet and guide my next steps. Glow within me, lighting me up from the inside out that I may bring glory to Your name. To be Your light is my greatest act of worship. Do what You do best. Shine! Shine in me. Shine on me! Shine through me!

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

A Child of Celebration

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

But whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God, the Creator of all light, and he shines forever without change or shadow.  ~ James 1:17 TLB

As recent as last year, even with our Christmas tree by the front window, there was dance at broadmoortension around how to celebrate Christmas in our home. As I schedule this post ahead of time, I don’t know what this year will hold. For years Jerry and I have hashed out the specifics, me always, always pushing for more Christmas stuff. As if the next decoration or tradition would satisfy my yearning for celebration.

But I’ve learned something writing these devotionals. For years I thought my deepest wound at Christmas was not being free to create for my children the fullness of the experience I wanted them to have. I thought my hurt centered around whether or not we went to Christmas Eve service or had a Christmas tree or . . . well, you fill in the blank. Each of these decisions to celebrate did bring a measure of joy and freedom, but they are not complete and never will be. This struggle with Christmas celebration is for me only a microcosm of the greater struggle within.

See, I was created to celebrate.

The trappings of Christmas are simply an expression of this need to worship, to sing, to dance. What I really seek is complete freedom to be who I am, to praise my God in abandon, to enjoy every ounce of beauty I can find, without majoring on minors or intense self-evaluation of the rightness of every choice.

From the beginning of my life the enemy tried to steal this identity from me. Children of celebration don’t do well with strife, but I was surrounded by it from day one. They need free expression and movement and beauty. As a child, religion created within me a mistrust of the aesthetics. The culture I was raised in didn’t give much credence to the arts. In the early years movies were considered evil. Dance classes a sin. And much of art inappropriate. Beautiful spaces were not particularly appreciated. There was a prevailing attitude in the church of my childhood that poverty was more acceptable than riches. Too much emphasis on outward adornment was also suspect. As a religious culture, there was a scarcity in our ability to celebrate, to embrace the abundance of the gifts God offered us. Christmas was but a tiny piece of a prevailing attitude that found suspect anything that included too much celebration, too much joy, too much beauty—too much abundance of any type.

This morning I read:

“God is not way out there somewhere. He is here! . . . He is the essence of both our inner and outer life. O God, You are here! O Christ, You have come that I might have abundant life. O gracious Spirit, You are as invisible as the wing yet as real as the air that surrounds me, which I inhale to energize my body! You are within and without.

“It is in You, O my God, that I live and move and have my being. You are the environment from which my total life is derived. You are the energy and dynamic of my whole being. Every good and every perfect bestowal is derived from You. The vitality of my spirit, the energy of my emotions, the drive of my disposition, the powerful potential of my mind, the vigor of my body; in fact, every facet of my total, abundant life is a reflection of Your life, Oh Lord, being lived out in me and through me. . . .

“I sense some of His glory in the wonders of the world He made: the flaming sunrises and sunsets that still the soul, the awesome grandeur of the mighty mountain ranges and sweeping plains; the restless roar of ocean waves. . . . All of these contribute something to the total environment which supports and sustains me. Each in its own way contributes to the well-being of my person. . . . He has put it at my disposal for full and enriched living. All that is sublime, beautiful, dignified, noble, and grand has this as its source. The finest in our literature, music, arts, science, and social intercourse has its base in the generous giving of our Lord”

~ Phillip Keller.*

Part of worship is the freedom to live and move and enjoy every single gift the Lord has for us. Worship is not about scarcity. It is about abundance! To enjoy each gift God has for us, every tiniest bit of delight He created on our behalf is to honor Him and His goals to bless us!

It is possible a child of a different temperament would weather the religious culture of my childhood better than I. Some personalities have less need for the aesthetics in their worship than I do. Some don’t have this inner drive to sing and dance and write words of praise. Some don’t need to hang twinkling lights or cut out intricate snowflakes.

Then again, maybe those people need people like me, people who lead them to celebration and beauty.

Keller’s words are true. Every good bestowal is from the hand of our good God. Every ounce of beauty that delights our souls. Everything that points back to Him. His vitality is sensed in the energy of a dance. His powerful mind in a complex riddle. All that is lived through us that is joyful and good and beautiful and abundant is a reflection of the life of our God, who dwells in joy and abundance. After all, He is the One of whom the psalmist wrote, “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11, NASB).

As I ponder this book and specifically the wounds I’ve carried surrounding Christmas, epiphany comes. My deepest wound of this season is not the lack of presents or a Christmas tree or a family meal. It is the crushing of my innate person, the one created for celebration. It is the agony of loss of freedom in worshiping my Jesus when my personality cries out for every avenue to be explored. It is the chopping off of the flow of celebration and love that comes from Him and is designed to flow through me to my loved ones in a myriad of ways in any given season.

It isn’t just Christmas the enemy has tried to steal from me.

It is life!

The right to be who I am and breath my own air the unique way He created me to do it!

You see, I am a child of dance and song. I am a child of celebration. From the beginning the enemy has sought to steal this from me. He has tried to exploit my desire to please God by turning it into striving instead of joyful surrender and praising advancement. He tried to twist the deep parts of my personality, the “old soul” that is me to make me melancholy instead of simply reflective and insightful. He tried to poison my sanguine temperament with hopelessness.

But he has lost his battles. His schemes are crushed into the ground. Where he sowed pain and despair my Jesus came in and poured His healing blood and turned all evil had planted into seeds of faith. My Jesus watered those seeds with the showers of blessings and storms of trial and the every-single-day-new-hope of His Light. The seeds are bursting forth in blossoms, and the garden of my heart where He dwells is fragrant with grace. The turtledoves have arrived and coo their love song there in my garden heart. The garden my Lord planted for His enjoyment. Here there is hope. There is dance and song and celebration. For I am His child, created for joy.

Oh sweet friend, whether your temperament and mine are dissimilar or very much the same, all of us were created for a joyful expression of worship and celebration to our King, Jesus! All of us have fought the battle to turn from the enemy’s lies and deceptions to step more fully into who we were created to be. We’ve all been pressed down. Held back. Blocked at every turn. But no more! He is come! This baby in the manger, this King on the cross. He broke the chains of sin and death and set us free to be all the Father intended at our creation.

Sweet Jesus! Thank You for setting me to celebrate. To enjoy the good in this world. To live a vigorous life in Your energy. You already won the victory in the battles I face. Show me where the enemy has stunted my growth and how to claim the freedom You already won for me. I want it all! Full experience of freedom in you. The ability to become all You intend me to be and to enjoy all You intend me to enjoy. Where celebration and love and freedom have been dammed up within me, clear out the blockage!

*Selections are from chapter nine of A Shepherd Looks at the Good Shepherd

The Two Trees


Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.



He took the punishment, and that made us whole.

Through his bruises we get healed. ~ Isaiah 53:5, MSG

evergreen1I don’t know much about Christmas trees. I’ve owned only two. Both were breathtaking in their beauty. Both awakened worship within me. Both gave me hours and hours of joy.

But they smelled different.

The first one, the one Jerry chose for our family, was much more fragrant.

I learned that particular kind of Christmas tree is shaped by the blade. It’s perfect triangular shape comes because it was cut, refined, prepared for its life purpose.

theoldruggedcrossOh my.

Sweet Jesus.

So often the sweet aroma comes in the breaking.

As King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Your majesty fills worlds seen and unseen.

Yet . . .

It is Your very crushing that sends forth the sweet, clean scent.


And mine.

He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.

One look at him and people turned away.

We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed. . . .


He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.

Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.

Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?

He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people. . . .


Still, it’s what GOD had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.

The plan was that he give himself as an
offering for sin

so that he’d see life come from it—life, life,
and more life.
And GOD’s plan will deeply prosper through him.


Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.

Through what he experienced, my righteous one,
my servant,

will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.

(Isaiah 53:3–11, MSG)

Sweet Jesus, You were crushed to heal my crushing, the bruises and scars put upon me and that I put upon others. You took the punishment and made me whole. Thank You for coming to us.

Thoughts on the tree keep getting deeper . . . more tomorrow.

Until then,


First Gift Giver

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 2: 14–15 NASB

imag0398I didn’t know Christmas had this fragrance. I breathe deeply, filling my nostrils with the clean, fresh scent of the evergreen tree. The aroma is like God’s favor washing over me. In it I smell His faithfulness. His kindness. His attention to detail.

I pause, away from the busyness, away from the bustle and noise. Seeking. Seeking Him.

“Thank you,” I whisper. “Thank you for what you have done and will do in my husband and in all of us. For being the One who fights for me, my family, and our hearts.”

He whispers, “I Am the First Gift Giver. I Am the ultimate Gift Giver.”

The day outside is a wintry gray, but my tree twinkles, full of light. The dimness outside the picture window only makes the lights prettier. I climb into the recliner gifted to us when Bernice passed away, the recliner that replaces the big blue one where I rocked my children and sought my Savior year after year. Pulling my special blanket around me I snuggle in, staring at the twinkle lights, inhaling the scent of Christmas.

“My Father is the Gardener.”

I grab my journal and listen, ink flowing across the page, recording the sweet Jesus whispers.

“My Father does great works of beauty in the human soul. I treasure the garden of the hearts of My people. When You let My Spirit cultivate a dwelling place for Me, you prepare a fragrant offering.”

I breathe deeply again, inhaling the aroma of this gift, this tree.

I watch the snow fall and think about Jesus.

How does He smell? Does Jesus have a manly, clean scent like that of my tree? Spicy like the cinnamon of my holiday baking? Or maybe his scent is hearty and tantalizing like homemade bread.

I may not know His exact smell, but I believe all these lovely aromas, like of all of creation, point to Him.

He is nourishing like bread.

Fun and a bit feisty like cinnamon.

Strong and clean like the fragrance of my Christmas tree.

My tree.

This gift of God, given through the willing hands of the man who loves me, is forever a reminder of the God who keeps His promises, the God who is forever green, strong and vibrant through storms, always producing something new in this world.

In my family.

In me.

And you.

And through all of us.

This Gift-giver is the God who gave His very self so we could be intimate friends with Him.

Friends close enough to catch a whiff of His fragrance.

My mind wanders to the Song of Songs, a love story I’ve taken for my own. I am the beloved of the Bridegroom.

We who love Jesus are His treasured bride.

His voice leaps from the pages of my Bible:

“I went to my garden, dear friend, best lover!
breathed the sweet fragrance.

I ate the fruit and honey,
I drank the nectar and wine.

Celebrate with me, friends!
Raise your glasses—‘To life! To love!’”

(Song of Solomon 5:1, MSG).

Precious Jesus, You are altogether lovely. You smell good. You are good. The garden of my heart is yours. Breathe in the fragrance of my love, the garden love You planted to be a sweet aroma to Yourself. How I love You! I celebrate You—Your entrance to this world as a baby, your offering upon the cross, your dwelling within me. But most of all I celebrate our friendship. Our love. Help me inhale Your clean, fresh fragrance every day. As we hang out together, make me so much like You that as I pass others a whiff of Your clean fragrance trails after me.

Still talking trees and Jesus tomorrow . . .

Until then,


Vulnerable at Advent

20161201_173427.jpg“We start with intimacy. Longing. Vulnerability,” said our choir director. “We’re moving from Advent to the Incarnation.”

He was talking about the progression of Christmas music we’ll perform at our concert on Sunday, but I heard it with heart-ears. It’s exactly how I feel.

Vulnerable. Intimate. Longing.

How I long for deeper connection to Jesus! How I long for release to joy. To celebration. How breathless expectation both rises in me in hope–and falls within me in fear of disappointment. How I need Jesus to come and meet me in some very tender, raw places. How I’ve tucked myself next to His heart as I ponder. Wait. Wonder.

Advent. The longing for the incarnation. Emmanuel. God with us.

How confused I get at what that means and how it looks.

I have Christian friends who say the same thing. “I don’t really get Advent. What exactly is that anyway?”

Their admission surprises me. Maybe I thought my background uniquely set me up to not “get” all things Christmas. See, I didn’t celebration Christmas for most of my life. There was no Advent calendar at my house. Heck, there wasn’t even a Christmas tree. Jerry and I grew up in a denomination which taught that Christmas was pagan worship. We left that church twenty years ago, but our struggle with understanding Christmas continues to this day.

My latest book, Soul Scents: Flourish, releases soon. In it I talk about a lot of stuff I’ve never shared publicly before. The last section of the books talks about my struggle with–and longing for–Christmas worship.

I can’t help but wonder if you might relate to my struggles to find Him in this season. Oh, our stories are very different, but maybe you and I both feel a little vulnerable. Hungry for more of Jesus, but kind-of afraid He won’t show up. Or that He will and we’ll miss it.

As I pondered what I want this Christmas season to look like for me, I realize I long to celebrate Jesus and give good gifts. The very best gift ever given is Jesus, and so for the next 25 days I offer Him to you by sharing a little of my personal journey to the manger. I feel like the little drummer boy. I have nothing of earthly value to give you, limited resources, but I offer what I have to give. He played his drum. I write my words. And I give them, as a Christmas present, to you and to Him.

The devotional thoughts I share until Christmas come from Soul Scents: FlourishSome will be published in their entirety; others will be edited for brevity or clarity (since you don’t have the context of what comes before them in the book).

So I hope you’ll journey with me for the next 24 days. Invite your friends. Comment. Send me little Christmas notes via the blog-o-sphere and I’ll write you one back. It’ll be like exchanging mini Christmas cards! Let’s celebrate and journey together.

Until Tomorrow,


Monday Morning Makeover ~ Foundations for Moving Forward

What makes you tick?

Merry Christmas!