5 Tips for When You are Discouraged in Your Calling

5 Tips for When You are Discouraged in Your Calling

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

(Note: Last weekend I was privileged to be part of an incredible “reNEW – retreat for New England Writing” but I know that after the high of community, worship and inspiration, many can find ourselves back at home staring at the wall. If you are discouraged about your life in any way — not just writing–  perhaps these tips can be tailored to your own situation. I’m praying for all of you who read this blog.)

You got excited. Inspired to write. Motivated to minister. Challenged to pursue dreams.

And, for a while there – surrounded by kindred spirits cheering you on – you could almost taste the success. A book published. A conference keynote scheduled. A popular blog.

But now. Now you live in reality. Of words that won’t come. At least not in the right order. Of emails that say your social media numbers aren’t high enough. Of family and friends who still treat your holy calling as a mere hobby.

Today discouragement is your new companion.

What’s a writer to do?  (feel free to tailor these tips to your own unique calling)

  1. Reflect and Review. Ask yourself the hard questions: Why am I writing? What is my unique message? When and how did I confirm God’s calling to share my story? Who are those who have encouraged and challenged me to do this – and what did they say? What scripture has spoken directly to me as I have sought to pursue writing and speaking? Which biblical character do I most identify with on this journey and what can I learn from them? Then take it all to your heavenly Father in prayer. Pray with surrender and supplication for guidance and provision. Be quiet and ask for peace deep in your soul over all things in the publishing industry which are causing fear, hesitation or confusion. God will meet you where you are. Open your hands. To both release and to receive. 
  2. Plan Strategically. What is your first step? An outline? A strategic blog? Chances are you have already begun to write and even gotten quite far along this path so far (submission to potential agents or editors, etc.) Still, it helps to write down the steps necessary to reach your goal. In doing so, you may just be reminded of something or someone you neglected to contact. Perhaps that writers conference workshop recording you haven’t listened to yet. Set realistic goals for each week of this fall and do your best to reach them.
  3. Reach Out. No matter how engaged you are with readers (or potential readers and audience) you could always use more “friends and followers” right? This is just part of how our world operates today. It won’t help to bemoan the process of platform building. Think of it this way – an opportunity to get your vitally important message out to hurting people who need to hear Good News! So yes, you are going to have to reach out and “invite” people to “like” you. Yes, you will need to spend time online (when, I suspect, you would far rather be writing) engaging with others in the field. Just do it. 
  4. Gather. Writing is such a solitary profession that it is vital you make time to gather with others for learning, prayer and iron-sharpening-iron growth. Are you in a local writers’ group? Even if you can’t find someone geographically nearby, there are online groups. And I highly suggest making it a priority to attend a Writers Event every year if possible. There you will meet other like-minded creative souls just like you. They understand. They know what it takes and will encourage and pray for you. 
  5. Do the Next Thing. I hope the first four tips haven’t come across as demands, but more of suggestions. As always, I am writing this blog to myself first. Reminders of what I already know after a lifetime of writing and speaking. And yes, a lifetime of occasional times of discouragement in both areas. Still, I cannot tell YOU what God is asking of you at this moment. He may be saying “lay it down” for a season. He may be “kicking you in the pants” and urging courage and risk. But I do believe that as you and I make all our concerns a matter of prayer, God will guide us to the next thing. Spend some time listening and you will know what your Next Thing is. Then, by faith and in obedience, do it. God will then give you another next thing…

“Be strong and courageous and get to work. Don’t be frightened by the size of the task, for the Lord my God is with you; he will not forsake you. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly.” 1 Chronicles 28.20 

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.EncouragingWords.net 

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

 

 

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When You’re in the Path of Destruction

When You’re in the Path of Destruction

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Is anyone else out there struggling with compassion fatigue?

As the death toll climbed into the thousands in Indonesia last week I could hardly wrap the tragedy around my heart. And the most recent hurricanes have threatened and destroyed vast areas where I grew up in both the Carolinas and south Georgia/north Florida. 

Some people lost everything.

What do we do with all these feelings of sorrow and helplessness? Well, of course, there will emerge tangible ways to actually donate or help in rebuilding and relief, and we must be proactive and generous. But meanwhile… I do the one thing I know how – I pray for all those suffering. And I suspect you are doing the same. 

Please feel free to Share this Prayer with those who need it most. 

A Liturgy for those who Suffer Loss from Fire, Flood or Storm

Leader: (reads regular font) O Christ in Whom Our Lives are Hidden

People: (read boldface font) fix now our hope in that which alone might sustain it.

O Christ in Whom Our Treasures are Secure, fix now our hope in You. In light of all that was so suddenly lost, O Lord, in light of all we had gathered but could not keep, comfort us.

Our nerves are frayed, O God. Our sense of place and permanence is shaken, so be to us a foundation.

We were shaped by this place, and by the living of our lives in it, by conversations and labors and studies, by meals prepared and shared, by love incarnated in a thousand small actions that became as permanent a part of this structure as any nail or wire or plank of wood. Our home was like a handprint of heaven. It was our haven, and now we are displaced, and faced with the task of great labors – not to move forward in this life, but merely to rebuild and restore what has been lost.

Have mercy, Lord Christ.

What we have lost here, are the artifacts of our journey in this world, the very things that reminded us of your grace expressed in love and friendship, and in shared experience. It is for these reasons we grieve the loss of our home and its contents – we grieve them for what they had come to signify in our stories, for they were charged with such meaning and memory, and woven with so much that is eternal.

O Father, we have suffered a hard loss, and one that we cannot endure alone. May we emerge in the months to come – even in our frailty – stronger than before, more deeply rooted in you, and more wrapped in the necessary arms of community. Give us humility to receive that which we need and cannot repay, when it is offered by others.

We thank you for the presence of friends who would share this burden of grief simply by showing up in the midst of it, and grieving with us. We thank you for small mercies and kindnesses extended. For the grace of thoughtfulness translated into the tiny details of life. For beauty. O Lord, let us not lose sight in our grief, of all that is yet bursting with beauty in this world.

Indeed, for anything spared and salvaged, we give you thanks. Let us see that even in disaster, there is grace still at work, for you know the limits of our hearts. Be with us now as we sift and clean, as we slog merely to reclaim some fraction of that which we once took for granted. Be with us as we navigate the countless details that must be tended and decisions that must be made between now and the time that we begin to feel normal again.

We do not even know yet today the full measure of what we have lost. Today is for mourning. So let us grieve together as those who know the world is broken, but who yet hold hope of its restoration.

Comfort us, O Lord, in the wake of what has overtaken us. Shield us, O Lord, from the hurts we cannot bear. Shelter us, O Lord, in the fortress of your love. Shepherd us, O Lord, as we wake each new morning, faced with the burdens of a hard pilgrimage we would not have chosen. But as this is now our path, let us walk it in faith, and let us walk it bravely, knowing that you always go before us. Amen.

©2017 “Every Moment Holy” Douglas McKelvey (Rabbit Room Press) ~ shared by Lucinda Secrest McDowell www.EncouragingWords.net

 Personal Note: Thank you to my readers for your constant prayers for my husband Michael in his recent brain surgery. He is now home and recuperating with the expert aid of visiting nurses, therapists, wife, son and brother. We are full of gratitude and hope… I promise to write a real blog next week.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.EncouragingWords.net 

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

 

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Those Words We are Longing to Hear

Those Words We are Longing to Hear

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

A few years ago, a nationwide poll asked, “What word or phrase would you most like to hear uttered to you, sincerely?” The top answers (especially number 3) might surprise you:

  1. I love you.
  2. You are forgiven.
  3. Supper is ready.

Sometimes grace looks a whole lot like supper. At someone else’s table. But before we can sit down, we must first be acknowledged, known, and invited. Not overlooked.

My eldest son, who has intellectual disabilities, has spent a lifetime overlooked by certain people who refuse to see beyond the exterior to the fun, wise, giving, and kind person he is. I wish you could see his ear-to-ear smile when anyone invites him to have a meal with them, whether in their home or at a restaurant.

Invited.

And so my mama’s heart feels deeply when I read in the Bible about Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. Lame in both feet, Mephibosheth spent much of his life in the shadows. Although the grandson of King Saul, this young man was not turning down invitations to parties.

But as God continued to work in the heart of the current king—David— he suddenly remembered a long-ago promise. “David asked, ‘Is there anyone from Saul’s family still alive that I could show faithful love for Jonathan’s sake?’” (2 Samuel 9:1)

Needless to say, an unexpected summons to the king frightened young Mephibosheth. But David surprised him with unexpected news, “Don’t be afraid . . . because I will certainly show you faithful love for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the fields of your grandfather Saul, and you will eat at my table always” (v. 7).

Mephibosheth was shocked and could hardly believe that he was being treated like one of the king’s sons. Even as he grew older, he was part of the royal household. “Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table. He was crippled in both feet” (v. 13).

Is this a reminder that you perhaps need to follow through on a long ago promise to someone?

How about beginning with an invitation to share table time—a simple homemade soup or even meeting at a local coffee shop?

Grace is said at tables because grace happens when we gather around a table. The meal is such a common biblical image that it beckons us to think of our table literally as a table of redemption, where healing occurs for the downcast, where joy is shared in Christ, and where the gospel is modeled to the unbeliever. Meals put people at ease and lower anxieties. The path to being heard by those who do not know Christ sometimes begins over an authentic dinner conversation. (Barry H. Corey)

“Lord, thank you that your love for us is never wasted. Keep us rooted in your word, eating at your table, and praying by your Spirit, so that we may remember when we fail that we are part of your family not because we deserve to be but because you want us. Amen.” (Common Prayer)

Who is waiting to hear you say, “Supper is ready!”?

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2017 Lucinda McDowell adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)       http://www.EncouragingWords.net 

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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“It’s Only Brain Surgery!”

“It’s Only Brain Surgery!”

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I was only 19-years-old when I first met a neurologist and a neurosurgeon.

I remember their names to this day: Dr. Brian Robinson and Dr. James Geissinger, both of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. You see, these men changed my life. They removed a brain tumor from my Daddy and enabled him to live almost forty years longer. I am forever grateful to them.

Recently I met my second neurologist and neurosurgeon.

It’s been many years in the interim and honestly, I think if I’d gotten to choose, I would have just passed on such new acquaintances. However, I believe that these two young men are brilliant and caring and worthy of treating my sweet husband’s brain.

Brain Surgery.

Why do those words carry such weight? Because it’s dangerous, intricate, and life-altering (in one way or another). And yet, it is also miraculous. I know this from experience with having Daddy back for many years after his tumor was removed.

Even I have been known to use the idiom “Well, it’s not brain surgery!” meaning, of course, that whatever you are attempting isn’t anywhere near as difficult and delicate as what Neurosurgeons spend a lifetime preparing for and executing. But what if it IS brain surgery?

I’m counting on the miraculous in the next few weeks.

Mike will have brain surgery October 1 – inserting a permanent shunt to relieve pressure on his brain from built-up cerebral spinal fluid (NPH – normal pressure hydrocephalus, though there is nothing normal about it).

We are hopeful. Full of hope. Because honestly, it’s been excruciating watching parts of my beloved diminishing before my very eyes – mobility, balance, cognitive problem solving. He says he wants his life back…

Both Mike and I believe that Nothing Is Too Difficult for God.

‘Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! There is nothing too difficult or too wonderful for You—Jeremiah 32.17 

So maybe I should be saying “It’s only brain surgery!”

What are you facing today that seems delicate or difficult, scary or surprising?

Oh friend, you are not alone. There is One who has experienced all such emotions and knows your heart. The One who will draw close and comfort, encourage and heal. Will you turn to God in these times of uncertainty and great concern?

Perhaps this liturgy will help – Mike and I pray it together for each medical procedure. Please pray it yourself or pass it along to someone you love.

A Liturgy for the Morning of a Medical Procedure

Intercessors: (read boldface font)                  Patient: (reads regular font)

Intercessors: You designed our bodies, O Lord, with wondrous capacity for regeneration and healing. You give wisdom and knowledge and skill to those who by long training in their professions learn to diagnose and treat ailments of the body. And you, by your Spirit, sometimes effect miracles of healing that even the most skilled of practitioners cannot duplicate.

Patient: Today, as I submit myself to this procedure, I ask, O Lord, that by all means your care toward me would be manifest, for I am utterly dependent upon you. Give to my body immunity and vitality that I might recover quickly. Give me strength and health to resist complications. Give to my medical providers wisdom, skill, and insight. And by your Spirit, transcend even what body and medicine at their best might do. Where it is needed, bring the healing of your own touch to bear in my mortal frame.

 Be merciful, O God.

Show your goodness to me, and to those who share my concern. Be now my physician, my mender, my healer. Even in the midst of this procedure, let me rest in you.

Amen.

As I approach this procedure I acknowledge my own fears at the possibility of outcomes I cannot control.

O God unshaken by any circumstance, be now my rock and my refuge.

Still my racing thoughts. Speak peace to this gale-storm of my insecurities. In the midst of my concerns, give me grace to receive without bitterness the presence and support of friends who, seeking to ease fears they cannot understand, might utter unhelpful things.

Give me also grace to trust, to rest my trepidations in you, for your purposes and your presence transcend all possible outcomes.

Whether the end result of this procedure brings news that is good, bad, or uncertain, nothing that is essential or eternal will have changed.

My great hope is secure. Let me rest in that.

At the end of this day, I will still be your child, utterly dependent on you, utterly loved by you. At the end of this day, my life will yet be hidden with Christ, even as it now is. I will remain an heir to the promise that this imperfect, mortal body, though it faces temporary decline, will one day be swallowed up in a glorious immortality.

We pray for good outcomes from this procedure, O Lord.

We ask for good outcomes, pleading that you would be mindful of our mortal frailties,

But we know that regardless of the tidings to come, you are tender and present and sovereign over all circumstance,

and what is more you love us fiercely and eternally.

Therefore I will trust you to lead me well along the paths of any wild and perilous country. You are my shepherd. This day will hold no surprises for you. Let me rest in that.

Amen.       ©2017 “Every Moment Holy” Douglas McKelvey (Rabbit Room Press)

Thank you for your prayers in the days ahead.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.EncouragingWords.net 

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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5 Exciting Things for Autumn in New England!

Here’s My Latest Newsletter!

5 Exciting Things for Autumn in New England!

  1. All the Senses Engaged – You know that smell…. Crisp. Clean. Cool. What we used to call “sweater weather.” And envision those colors – hues of vibrancy that only an Artist like God could create and splash on leaves of all shapes and sizes. The taste of pumpkin everything! I want to start my days on the screen porch, breathing in deeply and exhaling love all around me. You too?
  2. Words, Words, and More Words – Every single open door for speaking Encouraging Words is a pure joy for me to walk through. I am excited to see many of you at a variety of events this Fall; including a coffee shop, family camp, girlfriend weekend conference, mama gatherings, writing retreat, and book club (click on below photo for details).  I’d love to be invited to your group in the future. Ring me at 860.402.9551.
  3. Two More Books – I’ve long wanted to offer resources for younger women, encouraging a life of serenity and strength through healthy spiritual habits. So, I’m extremely excited to announce that I’ve just signed contracts with the good folks at New Hope Publishers to release my new devotional in 2019 and my new discipling journal in 2020. Grateful to work with editor extraordinaire Ramona Richards again. And I so appreciate your prayers for the writing process..
  4. Smell of New Pencils – Yes, I return to Wethersfield High School for my 10thyear as a substitute teacher covering all subjects. It’s a perfect opportunity to (hopefully) encourage teens, learn the latest lingo, serve my community and enjoy a job that leaves all the work at the office! Who in your circle is going “back to school?”
  5. Fresh Start – Fall is like our second New Year. Time to start filling in a brand-new planner (this year I’m using Emily Ley’s Simplicity Academic Year Planner) with goals and stickers. A time to join that new Bible Study or Book Study group. A time to focus on healthy eating, not just for you, but even for the kids’ lunchboxes. A time to get back to fellowship in your church, or even start looking for a faith community. What will you begin this September?

My Favorites of Summer 2018!

Movie –  “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” (Netflix)
TV Series  “Endeavor” on PBS Masterpiece Theatre
Non-Fiction Book  “Everybody Always” Bob Goff
Non-Fiction Spirituality Book – “Survival Guide for the Soul” Ken Shigematsu
Fiction Book – “Send Down the Rain” Charles Martin
Biblical Fiction Book – “Thief of Corinth” Tessa Afshar
Off-Broadway Show – “The Marvelous Wonderettes” at Kirk Theatre 42nd St.NYC  featuring Maggie McDowell  as nerdy Missy – comedy and music from the 50’s and 60’s, tickets on sale through November.
Summer Dress – Kohl’s Smocked Tank Dress in Navy Multi Paisley
Jean Jacket  Chico’s Floral Applique Denim Jacket (sale coupon)
Everyday Jean Leggings  – Time and Tru from Walmart!
Shoes –  Rothy Flats (from recycled water bottles, ask me for a $20 off coupon)
Best Date  Mike McDowell took me overnight to NYC to see daughter Maggie’ McDowell’s amazing Cabaret Show “Morning Person” at GreenRoom42.
Trip – London to watch precious grands for their parents’ 5-year anniversary trip.
Food –  Fresh melon balls with cottage cheese for breakfast!
Concert –  National Memorial Day Concert on PBS
Speaking Event –  I loved teaching daily at Camp of the Woods in the Adirondacks.

Most Popular Recent Blog


In my late twenties, when was still not married, I decided God needed some specific help! While many of my professional, educational and ministry dreams were being fulfilled, the lifelong hope of being a wife and mother was still incubating…

With no prospects in sight, I went on a day-long prayer retreat and made My List. I decided to write down exactly who I was praying for in a husband. When the day was over I had a list of 24 attributes which I promptly typed and put in my planner.

Then I began praying diligently for each and every one to be fulfilled…. always ending my prayers in the prayer He taught us – “Thy will be done.”

When you read my list you might think of me as bold, longwinded, too picky or ‘shooting for the moon’ but guess what? I was/am all those things! You see, I believe in praying specifically yet always leaving it to God to winnow out and whittle down as He sees fit. Why should I pray a small prayer for something as important as a husband?

I’m still praying Big Prayers!

     “God is for you. If you don’t believe that, then you’ll pray small timid prayers; if you do believe it, then you’ll pray big audacious prayers. And one way or another, your small timid prayers or big audacious prayers will change the trajectory of your life and turn you into two totally different people. Who you become is determined by how you pray. Ultimately, the transcript of your prayer life becomes the script of your life.” (Mark Batterson, “The Circle Maker”)

My List

Lucinda Lee Secrest   – August 1981

Want to See That List? Click Here for the Rest of the Blog

There are a Few Spots left at reNEW – retreat for New England Writing in West Hartford CT October 5-7!  If YOU feel a tug towards writing or speaking and are searching for a like-minded community, excellent faculty, writing time and a spiritual retreat amongst 46 acres of New England autumnal beauty, then Register Soon! All details here at www.reNEWwriting.com

Please FOLLOW ME on INSTAGRAM – Click Here!
May the JOY and HOPE of Jesus Fill You This Fall!

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net 

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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The Day I Chose to Smile

The Day I Chose to Smile

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

It was only half a tooth. But it was half of my front tooth, and it had broken off completely.

When I looked in the mirror, a shocked and snaggle-toothed woman stared back at me. I numbly finished combing my hair and walked downstairs to where my weekend hostess had breakfast waiting. In the quiet of her beautiful, Victorian, seaside home, I burst into tears.

My looming fear was that my tooth could never be fixed or that we couldn’t afford to replace it and I’d always look that way. Then a secondary dread emerged: I had to speak to hundreds of women for an entire day, AND a videographer had already been procured to capture my lectures on film!

I had become Exhibit A of brokenness on display for all the world to see.

It’s in moments like that when all the insecurity and vulnerability of even the most seasoned, professional speaker can kick in. First, I deliberated on opening with an elaborate funny story of “what happened on my way to the women’s conference.” Then, I considered using it as an illustration for my third presentation, entitled — are you ready? — “Brokenness.”

But I wasn’t feeling especially jovial, and I realized immediately that a broken front tooth was hardly a blip for so many people who were truly suffering and broken. So, I finally chose the third path…

CLICK HERE to Continue Reading the Rest of My (in)courage Blog!

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net 

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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What I Learned After I Knew It All

What I Learned After I Knew It All

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I was once young and full of it. Ideas. Opinions. Advice. Me. Truth-as-I-saw-it. Then… Life. I grew up and learned how much I really didn’t know.

So I began a new quest. For Vision. Purpose. Compassion. Truth. Hope. Grace. My Story….  Wisdom.

Today I’d love to share with you What I Learned After I Knew It All…

  1. I am deeply loved. You are too.

This is where I hang my ultimate identity – I am “God’s Beloved”. If that sounds a bit presumptuous, so be it. In the Bible God says “I have loved with you with an everlasting love; I have gathered you with lovingkindness.” (Jeremiah 31.3) That’s good enough for me. So, you can take any titles or status or other identity-marker away and this is what I’ll be – simply and purely God’s Beloved.

  1. There is evil in the world.

Do not be naïve – there is (and has always been) an ‘enemy of your soul’ who will do anything to destroy your life and keep you from being the person God created you to be. His wiles are many – but they usually start with whispers, doubts, distractions and making us believe lies… When people give in to this enemy, they do horrific things which destroy their lives and others lives. We are at war in the spiritual realm but we know Who has the power to win the final battle. Stay strong!

  1. The only way to grow in faith is to spend time with God.

A lot of people want to be spiritual. But the truth is, most people don’t want it enough to do what it takes to be godly, wise, and yes, holy. We cannot know God and live the life He calls us to by simply having a weekly spiritual rhythm (church, a Bible Study). We must spend time with Him in prayer, meditation/study of His Word, and worship through a daily spiritual rhythm. This is not ‘new news’, it is the ancient practice of spiritual disciplines. And there truly is no other way. Trust me.

  1. Being grateful is much better than whining and complaining.

I had a bumper sticker on my old suburban which says “Have You Thanked God Today?” Well, have you? Have I? Stop complaining and whining and dwelling on all the negative stuff. Instead, try to identify at least one thing you can Thank God for every single day. If you write it in a small little datebook, you will have a long list of blessings to ponder and remember. By the way, this will change you/me.

  1. God loves my children even more than I love them.

I spend a lot of time and thought and prayer over my (now) six young adult children. They are not living in my nest because they are all out discovering how to live their unique lives and fulfill their callings. They are scattered far and wide and are each great adventurers. Sometimes I ache and cry and want to ‘fix’ life for them, but I can’t. Sometimes I worry and want to protect them but I must continually remind myself that even though I love them enough to be willing to die for them, God loves them (and my three grands) even more than me and He is a perfect parent. And through His own Son, he did that very thing.

  1. We are not alone.

It’s so hard to feel all alone in a crowd. And it’s also hard to feel alone whilst alone. No one understands. No one knows. No one can help carry this particular ‘load.’ But the truth, as Christ told us upon leaving earth, is “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.20) We are not alone after all. He is only a prayer away. It often helps for me to envision Him sitting in the passenger seat of my car, on the empty chair across from my sofa. I find His “presence” my greatest present most days…

  1. Prayer is powerful.

True prayer is made up of a whole lot more than a list of things to ask God for…   I try to use the acronym TRIP to remind me to include

  • Thanks (praise),
  • Repentance (confession &asking forgiveness)
  • Intercession (praying for others) and
  • Petition (praying for me).

The most important thing about prayer is to DO IT. But I find that making lists and consulting the Psalms (God’s prayerbook) as well as ancient prayers help me focus each morning and beyond. I have discovered there is nothing that can refresh, revive and support me daily as does praying both in the morning and evening. 

  1. We are guided through both opened and closed doors.

I love open doors and fresh beginnings and when someone says “Yes” to a request. A new book contract, an invitation to speak, a job offer, a budding relationship… But the truth is, in my own life God has also used closed doors (sometimes slammed in my face) to guide me to where He wants me. And I have almost always come to be grateful for that ‘severe mercy’ of deliverance. remember this and hope it takes the sting out of disappointment. He is sovereign. He is in control.

  1. In every season of life, we have something important to offer.

This year was a Big Birthday for me! Certainly beats the alternative… But it also means that with the years I want to also have the wisdom and passion to make each moment count and to do the important things, not just the same-old thing. I don’t always know what I have left to give, but I’m determined to wake up each day and take feeble steps forward as a Kingdom Builder  — with encouraging words on my lips and a thankfulness in my heart for the privilege to grow older with grace.

  1. The only proper response to God’s gift of grace is to receive it and pass it along to others.

When I finally discovered that I didn’t have to strive to earn God’s love, but could rest in His grace because I was the recipient of that amazing gift I did not deserve, it literally changed my life. My only response was to seek to be a grace-giver to others. But that meant letting go of ‘shoulda-coulda-woulda’ living and judgmental attitudes. I haven’t always done this perfectly, but I join our literary friend Jean Valjean (he of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”) in knowing that when we have received much, we give much — “to love another person is to see the face of God” (final sung moments in the musical). I know this is true. For a while I lived the other way. Today I choose to live in grace.

What are you learning along life’s journey today?             

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net 

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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Because Today We Need to Trust

Because Today We Need to Trust

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I looked up at Daddy with wide-eyed, ten-year-old amazement, “I can’t believe you burned down ‘Brookside.’”

The fire had left its devastation — everything around us was black and charred. There were no tall grasses left, no bushes, no wildflowers. ‘Brookside’ was our family’s small farm just outside town, a place where we fished, hunted, played, rode horses, and spent campouts at the cabin dubbed by my parents as “The Last Resort.”

“Oh, Cindygirl, I didn’t burn down ‘Brookside’,” Daddy replied with a grin. “This is what is called ‘controlled burning’ – setting carefully guarded fires to clean out the underbrush and make way for new spring growth. Remember, I’m a forester. This is what we do every year.”

I wanted to trust Daddy, to believe that what he said was indeed the truth.

But the blackened ground didn’t look like it would ever see green again. It seemed more reasonable to trust what my eyes saw instead of what my ears heard. Tentatively I sought to grasp what he had said. “So, it only looks like you destroyed ‘Brookside,’ but what you were really doing is preparing it for growing?”

“Exactly, “Daddy explained. “Those weeds and tall grasses would have choked back the new plants and flowers coming this spring. So we clear that away, and before you know it, this whole area will once again be covered in beautiful green.”

For another moment I experienced an internal battle between what the person I trusted was saying and what I was actually seeing.

I knew that my daddy loved this farm – that he enjoyed walking through the trails and boating on the two ponds and driving the jeep from the brooks that bordered each side of the vast acreage. I also knew that he always replenished the lands that provided wood for his pulpwood business.

Most of all, I knew that he was a person I could believe with all my heart. I chose to trust him because I knew him so well.

And my trust was rewarded with visible evidence — by the very next weekend there were tiny shoots of green peeking up all over the farm!

The psalmist encourages us to Trust in God at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”      Psalm 62.8

When we are young children, our parents should embody the same kind of safety, refuge and trustworthiness as our heavenly Father. In my life, I was privileged to make an easy transition from trusting a trustworthy father to trusting my heavenly Father. But sadly, we know that is not always the case.

How can we live out the word ‘trust’ when others have betrayed our trust so many times that we have become wary?

 In this verse, the word trust is translated from the Hebrew word chacah, a verb which means to seek refuge or put trust in God. Its noun form, machacah, is actually interchangeable with our English word ‘refuge.’ So when we speak of trust, we are also speaking of a safe place to dwell – actually living in a refuge of trust.

As my childhood story suggests, one of the stumbling blocks in trusting is that trust involves saying no to our natural tendencies and yes to what sometimes appears impossible. That’s where faith comes in.

My father was a worthy object of my trust and so I chose to believe what he said instead of what I mistakenly deduced from my surroundings. I could wholeheartedly put my trust in him because I knew his heart.

What do you see when you look at your life today? Is there devastation? Have dreams been shattered? Are resources depleted? It’s pretty easy to trust that what you see must be the final reality.

But you might be wrong.

The burnt-out brush of your life right now might very well be a carefully ‘controlled burning’ orchestrated by your heavenly Father to provide ideal conditions for new growth. Maybe something in your life has to go so that God can replace it with something even better.

Will you trust Him to do that in His way and His time?

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net 

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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I Did A Drastic Thing Today!

I Did A Drastic Thing Today!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Look what I found in the Bible!

“Hair that is turning white is like a crown of honor. It is found in the way of being right with God.” Proverbs 16.31 NLV

You mean all that natural white hair I’ve been hiding for ummm… a few years… is actually a Crown of Honor? Found on those who are Right with God?

Who knew?

I decided to reconsider some of my choices. Like maybe to give in to my genes and begin sporting the white that is my heritage.

I thought I had a good reason for staying blonde. Because I don’t feel old I didn’t want to look old. But then I realized that God, the Artist, designed my youthful attitude and my lighter hair to perfectly complement each other in this season of life.

Drastic Thing Today? Embracing life in my natural hair color – sorta beigy/white.

See these three beautiful ladies here? That’s Mama (91) with her younger sisters Aunt Carol (80) and Aunt Rebecca (77). In the Hasty/Chastain branch of our family, many of the women’s hair naturally turns white in their thirties, others reach that gorgeous color later in life. I think they look wonderful, but mostly they ARE WONDERFUL women!

A few other wonderful women gave me great thoughts on silvery living.

My dear friend Liz Curtis Higgs proudly began showing her silver when she was fifty! “One mature woman clucked her tongue at me and said, ‘Honey, you are aging yourself ten years with that hair.’ (It was really hard not to snap back, ‘And you, honey, are fooling no one with your color not found in nature!’ But I didn’t. Honest.)” Liz has discovered that many women under thirty appreciate her silver crown, “Wild, right? Could be they’re happy to see an older woman take what God has given her and run with it. Why not?”

Fellow author friend Kendra Smiley’s white locks were definitely in the minority at a recent high school reunion where age is no secret, but she prides herself on being a “natural woman!” Can’t you just hear Carole King belting out that song right now?

Why not?

So I’m now on my way… Just one more step on this year’s journey of

  • Simplifying my Life,
  • Focusing on the Essentials, and
  • Learning how to Live Steadfast & Soul Strong.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net 

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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Are You Really Wearing That?

Are You Really Wearing That?

 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

We get dressed every day. Occasionally, several times a day.

Depending on our personality and the occasion, we sometimes give a lot of thought and attention to what we wear. It took me months to find an appropriate mother-of-the-bride gown. Twice.

Other times, we throw something on without thinking. Just grab the nearest sweater and comfy jeans and we’re good to go.

Most of us wouldn’t dream of walking around naked…

Perhaps that’s why Paul knew he would have our attention by using this imagery – to clothe ourselves. “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3.12)

Except he doesn’t complete the sentence with the expected ‘fashion tips’ like cloak, sandals, or robe. He throws in a twist.

He tells us to get dressed up in kindness. To button up gentleness and step into patience.

Well, what in the world does that look like?

Earlier in this letter to the believers living in Colossae, Paul has reminded them that they are new creatures in Christ. Referring to the ways they used to walk, he suggests they get rid of (“take off”) a long list of unholy practices, and then “put on the new self.” (Colossians 3.7-10)

Before the ‘new clothing’ is listed, Paul reiterates the most important truth of all – that they are “chosen, holy, and dearly loved” by God (v.12). Embracing these facts is key, because our identity always precedes our actions and attitudes. We are new creatures through our faith in Christ, by no merit of our own, who have a significant role to play.

We must decide put on Christ each day, just as we put on clothing.

When we freely choose to dress in spiritual clothes every day, the Holy Spirit produces change—change in our personalities, our priorities, and our prayer. What is alive in our hearts shines out from us.

The five ‘garments’ mentioned in today’s verse are what I would call somewhat muted clothing. They don’t make a huge splash, like bright jewel colors and bling, but are instead lovely and quite powerful in their subtle beauty:

  • Compassion (Greek word oiktirmos: meaning mercy, feeling sympathy for others’ misfortunes) – as we wear compassion we will be better able to come alongside those who are in pain and trouble.
  • Kindness (Greek word chrestotes: meaning to extend goodwill, kindness and helpfulness) – those who wear kindness are quick to offer help and a good word to anyone.
  • Humility (Greek word tapeinophrosyne: a lowliness of mind and attitude, modesty) – when we wear humility, we are content to work in the background, not calling attention to ourselves.
  • Gentleness (Greek word proutes: describing meekness, obedient submissiveness to God) – clothed in gentleness, we are more apt to speak quietly, move slowly, and carry out God’s ways in a loving manner.
  • Patience (Greek word makrothumia: which means long-suffering, handling injustice or difficulty well) – those who wear patience will always be welcome as a tribute to fortitude and serenity in the midst of the unknown.

Are you clothed in these today?

My best ‘fashion tip’ is to remember that you are holy, chosen and deeply loved. You have taken off the grave clothes and are now putting on grace clothes.

All dressed up with somewhere to go — out into the world!

under the mercy, Lucinda

“O Christ, clothe me with Yourself. Be for me a warm garment that will protect me from catching the cold of this world. If you are away from me, dear Lord, all things will be cold and lifeless. But if You are with me, all things will be warm, lively and fresh. As I cover my body with this article of clothing, please become the clothing of my soul. Put upon me mercy, meekness, love, and peace. Amen.”     John Bradford (1510-1555)

dressedbradford“WOLF HALL” Factoid: The above prayer was written by a godly man who lived during the time of Henry VIII and his many wives. In fact, Henry’s daughter, Queen Mary, burned John Bradford at the stake simply because he was a Protestant and she was a Catholic. Known as “Bloody Mary” this daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon had 280 Christians burned at the stake during her reign. Still angry about the whole Church-of-England-and-get-rid-of-Queen-Catherine thing I guess. So many repercussions of sin…

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net

adapted from “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014 

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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