Tag Archives: God

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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Unconditional

steamboatThe semi-circle of peaks wraps around me, too distant to hug, too soft to stand sentinel. But they do both stand guard and comfort. It is November. Their sides are dry and brittle, beige and grey. The slopes are dotted with rust–almost a pop of color in this season. And dark brown. Even brown is color now. An evergreen rises past this bank of third story windows, reaching past the fourth floor above, a deep green reminding me that the ever-living part of us takes time to reach to the sky. Here and there the miracle of modern sprinkler systems create little circles and squares of green grass, but even that color is November-muted.

All of this has nothing to do with what is on my mind.

Or does it?

I’m thinking of love.

Our youngest son and his girlfriend spent the weekend here with us. We took them to a glorious hot springs nestled among the rocks and slopes, hiding at the end of a long, bumpy road. The natural pools form little ponds of steaming water. At one side the scalding waters flows over tiny falls into the pools. On the other flows the river. Cold, cold river. In the middle we play. Float. Rest. Choose our temperature.

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Jerry and I watch and smile as they dance the dance of young love. He splashes in the cool, river-fed pool, colder because it is November. Freezing because our bodies have been in the hot springs. He splashes and dives. Brings her rocks. They toss them. Skip the flat stones. He begs her come over the wall. Leave the perfect temperature and adventure in the river side. She resists. His eyes soften. Call. Emboldened, she stands first on the dividing rock wall. He counts to ten while she gathers courage, then with a shriek and a splash they are no longer separated.

Young love. Push. Pull. Can’t-bear-to-be-separated love.

They tease. Comfortable enough to be goofy. In love enough to be sappy.

“Momma, isn’t she beautiful?” he often asks.

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Of course she is.

I am fifty-one. Jerry older. These nights we can’t bear to be separated, even by pajamas or space in the bed. We wrap warm bodies around each other as we sleep. Wrinkles are forgotten. Bulges in wrong places of no consequence. We are flawed inside and out, but it doesn’t matter.

Love is unconditional.

We’ve weathered years. Hardships. Joys.

Forgiven each other our weaknesses. Our faults. Our bad choices.

They asked us about marriage, these young ones. About what parts are hard and what parts are not, and now, two days later I panic at all the life they must someday navigate, at all the experiences they’ve not yet had, at the cost they do not yet understand.

And I pray.

And Jesus reminds me I too was once young.

And that He was there. Is there still. And will be for them.

That His unconditional love will teach them how to love, how to weather the hardships and the pain and the unexpected difficulties. That He does this for all who ask. And that we learn, over time, the cost and joy of love.

How to let it be unconditional.

Jerry and I came here to heal. I feel soul weary, the last book demanding more of me than I ever dreamed. I left it in the hands of the editors and formatters and proof-readers and came to this place seeking.

Refreshment. Companionship. Mountain views. Hot springs. Time alone with Jerry and Jesus, surrounded by those two from whom I receive unconditional love.

They take me.

Always.

Flawed. Healing. Joyful and sad. Strong and weak. Tired and energized. They choose me. Accept me like this. Without mask. Without decoration. When my colors are bland.

The pale blue sky, not yet winter, but no longer the bright cobalt of autumn, dims outside the window. A pale line of color clings to the mountain peaks, not orange. Not bright enough to be peach even. Just a dusting of color over the grey peaks which have yet to be decorated with snow.

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All is muted.

At peace.

Accepted in this state of quiet.

Nothing expected.

But beautiful.

Unconditionally.

I sip my Merlot and watch as dusk becomes night and lights come out to twinkle against the mountainside.

(Thoughts from November in Steamboat Springs . . .)

Until next time,

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Telling

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This piece of paper–and the promises here–has been on my desk for the last many weeks as I write Soul Scents: Flourish. It’s the deepest journey I’ve been on in many years. Maybe ever.

There are things I’ve not shared publicly. Things that shamed me and kept me hidden.

My friend Mary DeMuth says an untold story never heals. Her bravery has astounded me over the years. She and I are called to be writers and speakers. Our stories are meant to be told out loud, on paper, where ever Jesus sends us.

Your story may need to be told too. Only maybe you speak it to your best friend or a counselor or maybe you start with your journal in a private space.

For years my telling was in my journals. With the trusted few. In freedom sessions and counseling sessions. But now He says I’m strong enough for the telling He called me to. He says He needs me to tell in this way. He says I need to tell like this. Soul Scents: Flourish is this telling.

In the summer of 2015 I wrote several blogs, very raw blogs, that I never hit publish on. I sensed the Lord wanting me to write as if I were telling for the first time what only those closest to me have known and understood.

It was hard writing. At the time He asked me only to write those blogs, not to publish them.

Now it is different. Those blogs are part of the journey I write about in Soul Scents: Flourish, the intense walk of coming out of emotional, spiritual, and verbal abuse. I hid for many reasons. My shame. Because I thought in light of the abuse some of you have suffered that mine was unworthy of sharing. Because I wanted to “honor” those who hurt me by keeping it private.

I wrote a few things for publication. I have articles in Wounded By Words and The Gift of Letting Go, but I asked my identity stay hidden behind a pen name.

And the Lord was okay with that.

For a season.

Last year He asked me if my silence was honoring or simply protecting my abuser as I was taught to do. Somehow I equated honor with silence. I don’t know if that is what the church taught or if the enemy twisted all that in my head. Now I think to honor is to be all I’m created to be.

Then He asked (through much conversation with my husband) what might happen if I broke my public silence. He asked me how many lives could heal if I shared.

Then He told me when evil’s claw is inserted into our deep places that it is real. That abuse cannot be compared. That evil is evil, and when you’ve been damaged by evil, it affects you. While you have to process the circumstances, while what happens matters, it is the assault of evil that damages, the same evil, no matter how it happens. No matter how bad it looks to someone else.

I didn’t know when I started writing and publishing the Soul Scents series a year ago, that He would ask me to tell in this last book. I didn’t know it wasn’t only about telling, but that it is about healing for me. Deep, deep processing. Without pretty little Christian bows topping off stories that aren’t pretty.

He is my healer. The first three books in the Soul Scents series share much of my healing journey. A reader who has become a friend and partner in this ministry, Wendi, asked me what the story behind the stories was. She sensed that the hard-earned truth in my first three books had a deeper root. She was right. Now I tell that story.

And in the telling comes deeper freedom. Deeper release. Deeper healing.

It’s almost finished my friends. I don’t have a release date, but we are very close. The rsz_pmapprov4-01choice to publish this book is a game changer for me. A life decision covered in months and months of prayer. A choice I didn’t know I would ever make.

I pray this book will be a game changer for someone else too. That they will wake up to the shrouds of lies and twisted truth the enemy has poured over them. That they hear the voice of Jesus who sets them free instead of the voice of religion which holds them in bondage. That Scripture will begin to leap off the page with new meaning and that where it has been shaded and twisted it will now shine in pure light, offering the hope and freedom He intended instead of the putting those who are hurting in straight jackets and keeping them there.

That’s my prayer.

Please pray it with me.

And pray me to the other side of this thing.

More soon,

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Honey Tears

IMAG0010The tears start early today. Little drops of golden honey that will bring healing to me and to the chosen who read my next book.

At least that’s what He tells me. That my tears will drop and form words, phrases, and paragraphs, coming from the deep places and calling out to the deep places.

Healing.

Not just me. But me too.

The words will be His heart and mine. Together. Right. For many. For me.

But I barely have energy to move today. The tears started long before I reached for the keyboard. I didn’t work yesterday. Tuesday’s writing was done in dropping tears. Taking a break and pacing the living room. Returning. Hands on keyboard. Until I had to stop.

I don’t want to be in a holding pattern of tears. I want to surrender to this latest call, to bravely go where I have not gone before. To get to the other side for whatever glory awaits. Peace. For me. For others.

Telling my story because we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

Blessing and suffering together. Two cups. He asked me to drink of both. He promised to be in both.

For good. For beauty. For hope.

Not for despair.

But today–and for a stretching of days–I walk through to get to the other side. I choose this journey for love of Him and for love of those He heals.

I choose it in the security of the knowledge that He never does harm. He only does healing.

I brave it because I am loved. Forever. Unconditionally. By Him.

Please pray me through my friends.

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Giving Away a Book!

rsz_pmapprov3-01To date I’ve not published a book that is as vulnerable and near to my heart as Soul Scents: Bloom. It’s a book about discovering Jesus as peace and hope during times of on-going trial. It explains some of my years of silence as a writer, times when life required too much for me to write outside the pages of my journal.

One Amazon reviewer said, “What sweet truth Paula shares on each page of this devotional. God’s love and his extravagant grace toward us is shared through Scripture, the beauty of nature and the author’s personal stories of pain revealing God’s ever present care and commitment to our “blooming.” I loved the prayers at the end of each day’s reading and found myself saying, “Yes, Lord, Yes! Do that in me!” I came away from the pages yearning for more intimacy with Jesus, to know him better and more. Paula clearly knows her Lord and her honesty and vulnerability are so healing.”

Words like that help me share the tender spots, giving me hope that the message which pours forth from me has a place in my readers’ journeys.

I’d love to *give* a copy of Soul Scents: Bloom to a reader who comments either here or on social media. If you comment more than one place, I’ll put your name in the drawing for each place  you comment. In your comment let me know whether you prefer a Kindle copy or a paperback.

My daughter has a different tender place, and I invite you to help me help her as she serves. For the July pay period on Amazon.com, I will donate 50% of my Soul Scents book profits to the effort below. 

In 2015 our daughter, Sarah, fell in love with the women and children of another country.
She traveled there to serve with a NGO (Non-Governmenal Organization) which provides education, health care, and economical support in a war-torn region. At present over 500 children receive education and healthcare, as well as one solid meal each day. The folks at the NGO also work with the families from the school and look for ways to help them gain income. Last year Sarah taught the children and visited in the homes, where she met with the mothers and helped identify needs, whether it was a micro-load to get a sewing machine so the mom could start her own business, or immediate access to food and other resources when the needs were urgent.

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This year Sarah and her husband, David, are returning to the people she loves. They have raised more than half of the funds needed for this service trip.

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Sarah and David advertise for a garage sale to raise funds.

Please consider buying one of the books below and help these precious children! (If you’d like to donate directly to this effort, email me, and I’ll get you the proper information, including how the donation can be tax deductible.)

And don’t forget to leave a comment for the drawing for a free copy of Soul Scents: Bloom!

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Awaken to a more intimate, peaceful relationship with God. The Soul Scents devotional series invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of Who God is and how He interacts with us. Bathed in grace, this collection of thirteen week devotionals is down-to-earth, offering spiritual insight gained from Scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom. Soul Scents: Awaken, the first in the series, features week-day readings which include Scriptures and prayers. Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.

 

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Become rooted in your identity as the beloved! Soul Scents: Rooted, the second book in the Soul Scents devotional series, includes topics such as worthiness, spiritual battle, and destiny. The week-day readings include scriptures and prayers.

 

 

 

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In His presence we bloom in sunshine and storm. His Spirit carries us through the struggle, offering the love, strength, and wisdom we need for the times of trial. In the joyous seasons, His smile deepens our pleasure. Bloom in season and out!

The Soul Scents collection invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of who God is and how He interacts with us. Combined, its four volumes, Awaken, Rooted, Bloom, and Flourish, offer a year’s worth of devotional reading. Each book has thirteen weeks of down-to-earth insight gleaned from scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom. Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself. (Watch for Soul Scents: Flourish coming in September!)

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of Soul Scents: Bloom!

The Winner and HER Book

Congratulations to Chris Richards who won the 21 Days of 14553970Love, Joy, Grace, and Christmas drawing. This beautiful hard-cover devotional set was donated by Kathy Ide, who created the collection.

The promotional was offered on my blog as well as on Facebook. The funny thing about519gHQxiWlL this particular winner is when she commented that she’d like to be included in the drawing, it reminded me I’ve been wanting to read her book, Shattered Trust. I had a hard time finding it initially because I couldn’t remember the title, and I didn’t realize she was writing under the name J. Chris Richards.

The good news is I was eventually able to download Shattered Trust right onto my Kindle, and I began reading it that night.

Shattered Trust is the perfect read for me right now. I’m pushing hard to release Soul Scents: Bloom, and I often find myself falling into bed drained, but unable to sleep after all those hours at the computer. That’s when I grab my Kindle and unwind with Chris’s engaging story while my husband breathes deeply next to me. I haven’t had the time and energy to read as much as I’d like before I click off the light, but what I have read has drawn me right in.

The story is about a policeman who realizes he’s not upholding the integrity of his badge. I’m not yet finished with the story, but so far he’s found support in unexpected places as well as opposition from some powerful enemies as he comes clean. His confession impacts the whole department–and not everyone there is happy when the truth comes out.

I look forward to discovering if Officer Taul can earn back the respect he craves–from himself and those around him. This isn’t my typical genre, but I find myself devouring the story.

I’ll close with a quote from one of the book’s reviews on Amazon: “Ms. Richards writes a provocative story relating the sometimes insurmountable odds of doing the right thing.”

Broken and Healing

Denver boasts one of those late spring storms of destruction. My beautiful, fragrant tree, the one I love most of all, got hit this time. From her broken, jagged limbs come these thoughts.

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He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
~Isaiah 61: 1 NKJV

My beautiful ornamental pear tree is broken.

Just days ago I photographed her glory, an explosion of glorious white blossoms which scented the air with a fragrance that must be a whiff of heaven itself. I posted pictures to Facebook, and over sixty people liked the photo, some commenting on how perfect and pretty she was.

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Then the April snow began—the heavy, wet kind. At first blooms looked pretty, just slightly coated with snow that sparkled.

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Then they bent to the wet weight. Soon, tattered, they hung limp. Then even the limbs of that beautiful tree began to droop. Yesterday my husband shook the lower branches, hoping to protect her.

But the snow fell all night.

This morning I had to duck beneath her drooping arms to get to my car.

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While I worked the snow continued.

By the time I pulled around the corner to return home, it had happened. What last week were strong branches a child could climb upon were now severed limbs, snapped by the cold temperatures and the weight of the snow. My beautiful, beautiful tree is broken, jagged, wounded.

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My heart has been that way. Has yours?

A friend told me trees often break because they haven’t been pruned properly or at the right time. The Internet says you should wait until the cold of winter is passed to prune. In fact, late fall, when the tree is dormant is the best time. We pruned too early this year. On one of those glorious spring days we cut the limbs that were too close too our roof. I wonder if that’s why my favorite tree couldn’t handle this last late storm? Or maybe we didn’t prune the right places. I read today about the very precise way to prune a tree. It’s important to cut away the weak places so the tree can grow strong and robust.

I don’t know if a more expert tree trimmer could have prevented the damage I gaze at through my office window. Some storms are just too much no matter what you do. But it makes me think about God. About me. About this book.

In this volume of Soul Scents, I’m sharing storm stories. There were times my husband and I were broken. Parts of our life were dormant, and we were pruned. Jobs, churches, friendships, ministry, life passions—cut away neatly. The pruning started before the big storms. But there were weak places we held too tightly, refusing the snip of the pruning shears. During the storm those places fell too, only instead of neat, clean cuts they fell broken and jagged.

The good news is that even when a life storm rages harder and longer than we think possible, there is One who never leaves us. Sometimes He wisely prunes away the weaknesses; sometimes the world assaults and breaks us; other times we’re foolish and break ourselves. But He is the Master Gardner and knows just what to do help us grow strong again.

My tree will live. The snow stopped falling about an hour ago. The April temperature melts the mounded white more quickly. Even in the time since I began typing this devotional the beautiful limbs, almost relieved of the extra weight, have lifted. Those that snapped are the only ones now hugging the ground.

I love that tree.

I’m anxious to cut away the dead weight, but I am not heartless. I grieve those beautiful, blossom covered limbs that live no longer. Soon they will shrivel completely. What shocks me, though, is how many blossoms are springing back to life on the branches that survived! My pretty tree will soon be covered with fresh new leaves. She may have a few lopsided places, but she’ll keep growing. Next years she’ll stand stronger than ever. Her blossoms will once again decorate our yard and send their beautiful fragrance wafting right into my soul.

My friend, our Lord comes to heal our broken places. He refuses to leave us captive to our hurts or forever gazing at our destruction. He beckons us to step away from the rubble. He clears away the dead and severed parts, cutting the dead weight at those jagged breaks. He binds the wounds so they can heal.

Some things heal quickly. Others take a long time. Some wounds may be for heaven.

All wounds will heal.

Daily we stand stronger. More beautiful. And our lives send the aroma of Christ wafting out to souls hungry for His fragrance.

Sweet Lord, I trust You. Even when it is hard. Help me to surrender to pruning shears so that my weaknesses are more easily cut away. I want to stand strong even in storms. I know there are things that have been severed through storm, things I’ve held too tightly for normal pruning. These are especially jagged wounds. But even here weaknesses are cut away. Heal me where I am broken. I trust You to do it well. Where the wounds are the deepest I trust You to lead me out slowly, as I can handle the changes. I believe You are making me stronger. More beautiful. Make my life a fragrant offering that draws other to You.

*As I penned this devotional today I knew it was right for the first week of Soul Scents: Bloom, which releases in June. Books 1 & 2 are available now.