Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Monument 1Several years ago, I went on a missions trip to Uruguay. The people were incredibly nice, and I loved my time there! On one of our final days, our team visited Montevideo just for fun. The city was incredible. I had a great time shopping and looking at all of the buildings and statues. At one point, we visited the tomb of a very important person in Uruguayan history. Descending a flight of stairs, we entered a quiet, dimly lit room. In the center of the vault was a huge, golden urn flanked by two wax statues of soldiers.

I was fascinated by those wax figures. They were life-sized, and the artistic detail was absolutely amazing. I studied them for quite a while and finally took a picture. I couldn’t get over the stunning artistry. The room wasn’t well lit, and I was having a difficult time seeing them as clearly as I desired. As the room cleared of tourists, and the crowd around the urn melted away, I saw my chance. I HAD to get a better look at those statues! I crept close to one and studied the wax figure’s uniform. Then I crept even closer and stood nose-to-nose with statue and studied its face. The detail was amazing. Whoever created the statue was a genius! I crept even closer and studied the statue’s eyes.

Suddenly, the statue blinked.

!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jumping about five feet backward in a single leap, I clutched my thumping heart and looked at the statue with a dropped jaw.

THE WAX FIGURE WAS ALIVE!!!!!!!!

Monument 2My whole world tilted and spun. I had been standing nose-to-nose with a real-life Uruguayan soldier dressed in a fancy, full uniform. The man blinked again, but other than that, his expression didn’t change. He didn’t flex a muscle. I swear that he didn’t even breathe. Feeling like a total idiot, I bobbed a little curtsey and got out of there just as fast as I could. I wasn’t sure if the soldier thought I was rude, half-witted, or a security threat—but I didn’t want to find out.

Down through the years, I’ve thought quite a bit about that living “wax statue.” I was convinced that I knew exactly what I was seeing, but I was deceived. Now days, when I’m CERTAIN that I know EXACTLY what’s going on, I always take a step backward and try to see things from several different angles. I’ve learned that things aren’t always how they appear. I’ve also learned that being dead sure about a situation—or about a person’s intentions—is the quickest way for me to make a total idiot of myself. After all, I’ve stood nose-to-nose with a wax statue and seen it blink!


shocked face“So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether someone is a good servant or not. When the Lord comes, He will turn on the light so everyone can see exactly what each one of us is really like, deep down in our hearts… At that time God will give to each one whatever praise is coming to him.”
 — 1 Corinthians 4:5

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Rats!!! My Bulb Burned Out Again!!!

lightbulb 2I have a horrible light fixture in my bedroom. The icky thing drives me bananas! Every two weeks, the fixture burns out its light bulb. I’m tall enough to reach the fixture if I stand on my tiptoes and stretch, but I’m short enough that the process isn’t exactly easy. I know I could get a step stool, but honestly, I’m too lazy. So I stretch on my tippy toes, groan, moan, and hope the bulb stays lit for longer than two days. Burned out light bulbs are among my pet peeves.

supermarketAnother pet peeve is long lines. During quarantine, I couldn’t go into stores, and I missed shopping SO MUCH. I used to dream about strolling through the produce section of my local supermarket. It’s amazing how swiftly life changes. I can go into stores now, and although the novelty hasn’t disappeared, I have to admit that I have fallen back into my old pattern of hating checkout lines.

waiting in lineI hate waiting. It isn’t any fun, and I tend to get bored quickly. After about two minutes, I start standing on one foot–then I shift my weight to the other foot. After three minutes, I try entertaining myself by scanning the covers of magazines. After five minutes, I begin mentally playing The Price is Right and trying to come up with the grand total of the items in my cart to the nearest retail dollar. After seven minutes, I try stifling my yawns and smiling—but if the wait is longer than eight minutes, my smile starts to waver. I begin to frown. After nine minutes, I can feel my face hardening. I start to feel my stomach churning. At nine minutes and thirty seconds, I’m more than a little impatient—I’m angry. As the ten-minute mark is reached, I begin mentally composing a letter to the manager of the store. I’m a writer, and my mental compositions tend to be full of zingers. Although my “mental letters” never get sent, they’re acidic enough to blister paint. If the wait stretches longer than twelve minutes, I have a hard time being civil.

angryThe other day, I was in a checkout line that was incredibly long. The twelve-minute mark had come and gone. By the time my turn came, I was exceedingly grouchy. I didn’t smile at the checker. I didn’t respond to her greeting. Truth be told, my body language was extremely snotty. I was putting off a VERY nasty vibe. Although it wasn’t the checker’s fault that my shoes were giving me a blister or that the store was hot–at that moment, I felt like it was. I wasn’t “verbally rude,” but I wasn’t “non-verbally nice” either.

As the checker finished bagging my items, the light bulb above us began to sputter and blink. As it did, I had a mental picture of the light bulb in my room. My frown deepened, and I began mentally composing a zinging letter to all of the light bulb manufacturers in the entire world.

light bulbsAs the bulb burned out and the light around the checkout stand dimmed, I began to feel the convicting presence of the Lord. His Spirit was loving, but it was grieved. As I handed the checker my money, I felt the Lord telling me that I was acting like a sputtering light bulb. I felt the Lord telling me that the checker was someone I would never see again. I had only this moment to touch her life, and I was blowing it. As a Christian, I was called to be a light to the world, but I wasn’t giving off much wattage. I was being as unreliable to the Lord as my bedroom light bulb was being to me.

Blinking a little—and feeling very ashamed—I consigned my mental “zinging” letters to my mental garbage bin. I changed my frown into a smile. I thanked the checker politely for helping me. She smiled back and thanked me for being patient. We both knew that she was just being nice. I hadn’t been patient. I had been a jerk. Her courteous words made me feel lower than a snake’s belly—they also made me feel extremely grateful that I wasn’t wearing my cross necklace or my “Jesus Loves You” t-shirt. At that moment, I was very glad that she had no idea that I was a Christian—how shameful is that???

lightbulb 1Gathering my sacks, I left the store—slunk away is a more adequate description of my exit. Although I wasn’t able to be a great witness for the Lord that day, I did learn something important. I’m God’s light bulb whether I like it or not. I’m either going to shine brightly for the Lord, or I’m going to sputter, burn out, and leave the world in darkness. I’m only going to have so many years on this planet. I’ll encounter some people only once in my lifetime. How I act around people is important. Long lines, tight shoes, and hot stores aren’t good excuses for being snotty to strangers… God, please help me to do better next time!!!

 

hand lightbulb“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” –Matthew 5:16

Carlene Havel #2–Author Interview

Carlene Havel

Dear Friends, I feel very honored to have Christian author, Carlene Havel, back on my blog. Carlene is such an incredible person! She has a strong faith in God and an extremely kind heart. She also has a fun sense of humor that always makes me smile. There have been times when Carlene has stood with me in prayer, and I feel not only friendship for her—but also a deep, deep respect. She is a person of quality.

 

Danele: Hello, Carlene! I’m so glad that you’re with us today!

Carlene: Thank you, Danele.  It’s always a pleasure to chat with you!

Danele: The pleasure is all mine! I’m eager to learn more about you. Can you tell us how being a Christian has influenced your writing?

Carlene: I am blessed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My ambition is for Him to be a powerful, pervasive influence in everything I say, think, or do.  I am convinced that whatever resides in the heart always flows outward in every aspect of life—in written as well as spoken words. For me, authentic Christianity becomes who we are.

Danele: Wow! That’s so true. Carlene, there are so many people hurting in this world. What would you like to say to them?

Carlene: Jesus invites everyone who is hurting (those who “labor and are heavy laden”) to come to Him.  He will give you rest.  He is the answer for every unfair, harmful, painful thing you have or will endure.  I wish we could sit and sip lemonade or coffee and talk about this for the rest of the day.

Danele: I really love how Jesus takes our burdens and gives us peace.  There is nothing quite as wonderful as God’s rest. Now, before I let you go, can you give us a list of the books you have written?

Carlene: Sure! A Hero’s Homecoming, A Sharecropper Christmas, Baxter Road Miracle, The Scarlet Cord, Here Today Gone Tomorrow, and Evidence Not Seen.

Danele: Evidence Not Seen is your newest release, isn’t it? Can you tell us more about it?

Carlene: Evidence Not Seen is a short novel, inspired by 1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” As soon as Joan Alley, Prism Book Group’s editor-in-chief, put forth the premise of the “Love Is” series, the outline of this story took me prisoner!

Danele: Can you give us a description of your book?

Carlene: Although attorney Jeff Galloway’s career is in high gear, his personal life is a mess. Just before his father returns home from a 27-year stretch in prison, his girlfriend dumps him. When a chance encounter begins to blossom into new romance, softhearted Melanie Clark encourages Jeff to find a way to forgive his father’s long absence.

The intertwined themes of the story, set in 1980, are romance and mystery.  Jeff really wants to forget his father’s misdeeds and have a good relationship with him, but he can’t get over the hardships he and his mother faced while his dad was in prison. Falling in love with Melanie turns everything upside down, helping Jeff view things from a fresh perspective.  Since his mother has always maintained his father’s innocence, Jeff decides to do some amateur sleuthing.  In doing so, he encounters Otto Schmidt (my all-time favorite character), a curmudgeonly retired police detective who loves to play mind games and leads Jeff to a stunning conclusion.

Danele: That sounds really interesting, Carlene! I’ve read several of your books, and I’ve enjoyed them all. Can you give us purchasing information for Evidence Not Seen?

Carlene: Sure! Evidence Not Seen can be purchased through Amazon, and it is free to members of Amazon Prime. https://www.amazon.com/Evidence-Not-Seen-Love-Book-ebook/dp/B01ES2MQCU

Danele: Carlene, it’s been such a joy talking with you today! Thanks for sharing your heart with my readers!

Carlene: It has been my extreme pleasure, Danele. Thank you for the opportunity to be here.

 

Friends, Carlene is absolutely TERRIFIC!! You couldn’t meet a kinder, more genuine person! If you would like to learn more about Carlene or her books, please follow the links below. I hope you have a wonderful day!

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCarleneHavel

http://www.amazon.com/Carlene-Havel/e/B008M9J8JA/

http://chavelbooks.com/

Roses and Thorns

roses 5I love roses. I love the touch of their soft petals. I love their scent and their bright, cheerful colors. Many of my happiest memories have been intertwined with rose bouquets, and down through the years, I’ve kept petals from the roses I’ve been given. When I look at the fading flowers, I remember the love and happiness I felt when I received them.

roses 8roses 1Roses also seem to embody achievement. In my scrapbooks, I have roses from award ceremonies, roses from high school and college graduation, and pressed roses from the bouquet I received when my first book was published. I don’t just enjoy bouquets–I enjoy growing roses too. With some of my first paychecks, I bought tons of rosebushes, and every summer when my roses bloom, I view them with pride. To me, roses symbolize achievement, kindness, happiness, and love.

roses cAs I stroll down memory lane, I can remember a time when roses helped transform my sorrow into joy. My grandmother was very special to me, and when she died, there were pink roses at her funeral. At the time, I thought pink roses would always trigger sorrow, but a week after her funeral, my grandfather found a birthday card my grandmother had bought for me. The card had a picture of a pink rose, and it told me how much she loved me. When I see pink roses today, I’m always reminded that death can’t destroy love. Love always remains—even beyond the grave.

roses 4While I was in quarantine, I had to learn how to deal with an extremely restricted life. For a time, I grew very despondent. My diagnosis wasn’t bright, and I thought my life was over. In the middle of a long, gray day, my parents brought me roses. They will never know just how much that spot of colorful joy meant to me. Their gift stopped my gloomy thoughts in their tracks and gave me hope. Their roses reminded me that I was still loved and that life was still possible. For days, I carried that vase with me from room to room wherever I went. Some of the roses from that special bouquet are preserved beneath a glass dome on my desk. I’m looking at them now as I write. When I see those roses, I remember that sadness always passes. I remember that joy always comes. I also remember that small acts of kindness are incredibly important—they can literally transform a person’s outlook on life.

roses 6roses 2
Although roses are wonderful, they also have thorns. Many people have asked how I endured seven years of quarantine. The answer is simple. I tried hard to look at the blossoms and not the thorns. Life is a trade off. Some of our biggest tragedies can also become our biggest blessings. Quarantine was awful (the thorn)—but quarantine gave me the time I needed to write my books (the blossom). I’ve been ill for about a third of my life (the thorn)—but talking about my faith journey has given me a blog outreach that touches people around the world (the blossom). I still have some health problems (the thorn)—but my struggles have taught me to be more patient and compassionate (the blossom). If fields by my house are sprayed with pesticide, I have to evacuate at a moment’s notice (the thorn)—but impromptu “trips” can be restful and fun (the blossom). In this crazy life of mine, I’ve learned that every coin has two sides. Nothing is entirely bad. Something good can always be found if you look hard enough for it.

roses aToday, when I think about my life, I often compare it to a rose. There are some things that make me feel very dissatisfied, and if I focus on them, my whole outlook becomes bleak. But if I change my focus and look at the things that are going right, my outlook becomes cheerful and optimistic. The more I live, and the more I try to glorify God with my life, the more I realize that attitude is everything. I can’t control most things, but I CAN control my attitude. I’m in charge of my thoughts. I’m in charge of my feelings. I can moan about thorns, or I can smile about blossoms. It’s all up to me.

 

roses e“When a man is gloomy, everything seems to go wrong; when he is cheerful, everything seems right!” –Proverbs 15:15

Renee Blare #2–Author Interview

Renee Headshot BH (3)

Dear Friends, it’s my absolute pleasure to welcome Christian author, Renee Blare, back to my blog. Renee is such a terrific person. Sometimes, we start chatting online and before we know it, an hour has slipped past. Many times when we talk, I start laughing so hard that I have trouble breathing. Not only is she hilarious, I’ve found Renee to be a kind, warmhearted, and very insightful. She also has a genuine love of the Lord. I’m honored to consider her a friend.

Danele: Hi, Renee! I’m thrilled to have you with us today!

Renee: Hello there, chickadee! It’s so great to be here.

Danele: It’s a blast having you, ladybug! I’m going to enjoy finding out more about you! Let’s start things off with a fun question. What’s the first thing you want to do when you get to heaven?

Renee: Dance on the streets of gold. I hear that we can sing and dance a lot better than we do here, and we get brand new bodies. So, I can’t wait!

Danele: Oh, Renee! You just made me laugh! When we get to heaven, let’s sing a duet, okay? Now, here’s a serious question for you. Where do you feel the presence of God the most? In church, during personal devotions, in nature?

Renee: I have to say that I feel His presence the most when I’m deep in prayer whether that be in church, my bathtub, or listening to the birds sing next to one of my high mountain lakes. I love to talk to my God. He bathes me with His glory and peace. I don’t always begin our conversations that way, but sooner or later, we come to an accord.

Danele: That’s beautiful! I love basking in God’s peace! There are so many people hurting in this world.  What would you say to them?

Renee: You’re not alone.

Danele: That’s so true. God is always with us, isn’t He? Has God ever taught you an eye-opening lesson?

Renee: Uh…oh boy. How about that I’m not the center of the universe? And what I think doesn’t really matter in the overall scheme of things. In other words, Renee Blare is not God, and that’s okay.

Danele: Oh, Renee, I’ve had to learn that lesson too! Now, before I let you go, can you give us a list of the books you’ve written?

Renee: Sure! I’ve written Beast of Stratton, To Soar on Eagle’s Wings, and Through Raging Waters.

Danele: Through Raging Waters is your newest release, isn’t it? Can you tell us more about it?

Renee: Of course! Through Raging Waters is the second book in the Snowy Range Chronicles. It propels the series onward and upward. Timber Springs, a small town on the edge of the Snowies, faces spring runoff and nasty weather, but as the creeks rise, secrets are flushed from their hiding places and lives change forever.

Danele: That sounds good! Can you share the back cover blurb and a purchasing link?

Renee: If Mother Nature has her way, Timber Springs will never be the same… A warm spring and early rainstorms melt the snowpack. Spring runoff compounded by the storm of the century sends Timber Springs into a tailspin. Tossed into the role of rescuer, local pharmacist Paul Fitzgerald must face his past before the whole world falls apart. While he fights to contain the beast around him, he finds his steadfast control slipping through his fingers. And life…everyone’s life…hangs by a thread once again.

She isn’t a hero. Melissa Hampton has her own demons to battle. After she learns of her mysterious beginnings amidst her mother’s keepsakes, she faces more than just the river rushing outside her door. Now, she must discern friend from foe…but as waters rise and tension climbs within Timber Springs, she needs to rise to the challenge or lose the only man she’s ever loved. Can two people find each other through raging waters?

https://www.amazon.com/Through-Raging-Waters-Renee-Blare-ebook/dp/B01HBSB9BM/

Danele: Renee, it’s been such a pleasure talking with you! Thanks for being here today!

Renee: Thank you so much for having me, Danele! You’re awesome.

 

Friends, Renee Blare is such an incredible person! She’s so much fun, and she’s also incredibly kind! If you would like to learn more about Renee or her books, please follow the links below. I hope you have a wonderful day!

http://www.reneeblare.com/

http://reneeblare.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ReneeBlareAuthor/

Mountains, Molehills, and Everything Between

trailridgeI have a tendency to make mountains out of molehills. What’s worse—I have an equally hideous tendency not to know the difference between them. I’m ashamed to admit it, but when something unexpected happens, I fly into panic mode. I begin making plans, contingency plans, and backup contingency plans on how to handle the situation. At night, I toss and turn, worrying about things that might go wrong. Needless to say, my actions aren’t bringing me any closer to my goal of becoming A PERSON OF PEACE.

Recently, as I was praying, I felt God bringing up this glaring flaw in my personality. At first, I tried defending myself to God. After that, I tried explaining myself to God. When that didn’t work, I tried explaining AND defending myself to God. When it was obvious by the conviction in my spirit that God wasn’t impressed, I finally shushed up, sat silently, and let God speak.

rock wallDeep down in my spirit, I began to see a vision. It wasn’t a weird, mystical thing—just a picture imprinted on my mind as I sat with my eyes closed. In the vision, I saw myself shoving against a mighty mountain made out of solid rock. I shoved, pushed, tugged, and sweat. I nearly broke my back.

The vision shifted, and I saw myself picking up a rock. As I carried it, I began running back-and-forth. I kept crossing the same stretch of ground over-and-over.

Again, the vision shifted. I saw God handing me a tiny pebble. I looked at the pebble, walked two steps, and placed it on the ground where He told me to put it.

After the vision stopped playing in my mind, I scratched my head and said, “What on earth did that mean?”

rock cliffDown deep in my spirit, I felt God smile. As I sat in an attitude of prayer, I felt Him explain that the first part of the vision represented the problems I had no control over.  Simply put, the mountain was things I could not change. In the vision, I was trying to push the mountain away, but I was getting nowhere. I was also putting stress on my body. Down in my spirit, I felt God say that I needed to stop fighting against the mountain and simply pray over it. God said that He was the Mountain Mover. He also said that I needed to stop worrying that the mountain was in my life.

After that, I felt God explain the second part of the vision. In the vision, I was carrying a rock back-and-forth. God said that many times I worried about things that didn’t matter. I was trying to stomp out fires that did not exist. I was carrying problems here-and-there in a futile effort to solve them. He said that I needed to ignore “non-event problems.” I needed to let them take care of themselves. I needed to stop fretting. All I was doing was wearing myself out, and I was getting nowhere.

pebbleAs I digested God’s words, I felt Him show me the third part of the vision again. In this part, God handed me a tiny pebble, I walked a little ways, and I placed it on the ground. I felt God explain that when I needed to address a problem, the problem would not overwhelm me. I would be able to carry it easily to its proper place. In other words, God would give me the wisdom to know what to do, and it wouldn’t be too hard for me to handle.

Sitting silently, I felt God telling me that I was burnt out, frazzled, and afraid because I was trying to move mountains He needed to take care of, and I was running back-and-forth fiddling with non-events. He said that when I walked through the day in communication with Him, He would show me which problems I needed to address, and He would tell me how to take care of them.

As I sat there, it was as if a light bulb turned on in my brain. I didn’t have the strength to move mountains. I didn’t have the stamina to keep running back-and-forth. But I could put one tiny pebble where God wanted it put.

Friends, I WANT to be a person of peace. I WANT to stop allowing worry to run my life. I know that I’m going to need practice, but hopefully, as I keep trying, I will be able to start classifying my problems as “God-mountains,” “non-events,” and “movable-pebbles.” Hopefully, I will be able to start putting things into perspective and stop making mountains out of molehills. If I do, I know that I will experience the peace that God wants me to have.

 

person on bluff“It is senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, fearing…for God wants His loved ones to get their proper rest.” Psalm 127:2 (Living Bible)