Whatever You’ve Done… Just Show Up

Whatever You’ve Done… Just Show Up

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 Let’s say you’ve done everything wrong.

  • Demanded money from people who love you.
  • Turned your back on familiar for the lure of exotic.
  • Flirted with vice and grabbed forbidden pleasure.
  • Bought lots of stuff and tried to buy friendship.
  • Eating, drinking, partying.

All along thinking that maybe this will finally fill the hole. The one in your heart that longs for more.

But it never does.

Until that day you turn around—alone, filthy, starving, and totally lost. And all you can think about is that your father’s home is looking pretty good about now. But returning is out of the question. You are defeated, shamed, dirty, broke, outcast.

Not the sort of homecoming you once imagined.

But you have nothing. And nothing to lose. So you start the journey with faltering steps. Drawing closer to familiar terrain, you slow down.

Your father is running toward you.  And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 A “compassionate” father.

This is a word derived from two Latin roots: cum (with) and pati (to suffer). To show compassion means actually entering into someone’s struggle and coming alongside his or her pain—to “suffer with.”

The word used here in New Testament Greek is splagchnizomai, literally defined as “to be moved in the inward parts.” Today we believe the physical seat of our emotions is the heart or brain, but the Greeks believed that all emotions were centered in the splagchnas—heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

This father is experiencing the deepest of feelings in the deepest of places.

Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son hangs in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Upon seeing it for the first time, Henri Nouwen said: “My intense response to the father’s embrace of his son told me that I was desperately searching for that inner place where I too could be held as safely as the young man in the painting. With his son safe within his outstretched arms, the father’s expression seems to say . . . , “I am not going to ask you any questions. Wherever you have gone, whatever you have done, and whatever people say about you, you’re my beloved child. I hold you safe in my embrace. I hug you. I gather you under my wings. You can come home to me.” 

Are you ready to come home to the community of faith?

If so, look no further than your own compassionate heavenly Father, who is ready even at this moment to welcome you.

Why do you think Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son?To make it clear that a compassionate God joyously welcomes repentant sinners into His house.

“What a word of encouragement, consolation and comfort! We don’t have to sift our hearts and analyze our intentions before returning home. Abba just wants us to show up. We don’t have to be perfect or even very good before God will accept us.” (Brennan Manning)

HOME.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

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You Are Not Her!

You Are Not Her!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

  • “I can’t believe the Joneses are vacationing in Europe, and we can’t even get to the beach.”
  • “Why did she get a book contract when I’ve been writing longer than she has?”
  • “I sent the steering committee my résumé, but they chose a younger person with less experience.”

 

Don’t do it, friend.

Compare. Compete.

Because it is simply a dead end. Personally. Professionally. Spiritually. God has called you to follow Him, glorify Him, and further His kingdom through your own unique story. Not hers.

Can you trust Him for that? A chance to live out the grace you received as a free gift?

Paul reminds us today, “Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competingYou already have all you need.” ~ 1 Corinthians 4:7 MSG

We were created, redeemed, and sustained so that we may live our unique stories—yes, with all the mess, mistakes, meanderings, and even miracles.

Those who need to know us will be put in our path by a sovereign God. Her success does not mean my failure.

A few years ago, Tracie Miles was thrilled to be invited to speak at a large women’s conference. But as she sat in the hotel lobby and observed the other speakers, her confidence began to slip away. “I began wondering whether the other speakers were more experienced than I was, if their messages would be more encouraging than mine, . . . if they were more successful in their ministries, if the attendees would like them better, on and on it went. As I compared myself to these women, my mind was filled with thoughts of insecurity and inferiority.”

Every time we compare ourselves with someone else, we are in danger of believing the lie of rejection—that our own lives are not important.

Did you think you were the only insecure person around?

Everyone suffers from comparison. “So much of our own unhappiness is rooted in assuming that someone else is living the happy life we want. The person you’re measuring your life up against? She is measuring her life against someone else’s. And someone is comparing herself to you! It’s a whole cycle of comparison that doesn’t end until someone says enough is enough.” (Jennifer Dukes Lee)

Okay, I’ll say it: “Enough is enough!”

Here’s how I fight the comparison battle:

  1. I truly believe that I am loved and chosen by God.
  2. I obey what He is calling me to do and be.
  3. I encourage, promote, and lift up others. I go first. I pray to be a generous and grace-filled person.

You were not created to be her.

Isn’t that a relief? Now, go forth and become the very best version of yourself, by God’s grace.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

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You are Surrounded!

You are Surrounded!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Do you feel alone today? Alone in your decisions? Alone in your struggles?

Actually, you’re not alone. You are surrounded — by more Love and Protection than you can possibly imagine…

A missionary once told the story of biking for two days into the nearest African city to purchase supplies for his small field hospital. After treating the injuries of a man he encountered, he visited the bank and supply store, and then continued his bike journey home, camping one night in the jungle. 

Two weeks later, when the missionary returned to the same city, the young man he had bandaged up previously pulled him aside and made a surprising confession.  “My friends and I knew you carried money and medicine, so we followed you to your campsite, planning to steal everything and kill you. But just as we were about to attack you, we saw twenty-six armed guards surrounding you.”

          “You must be mistaken; I was all alone that night,” the missionary answered.
          “Oh no,” the young man said. “All of us saw the guards. That’s the only reason we didn’t kill you.”
          While home on furlough, the missionary shared this story with his home church and a man interrupted him, “What was the specific month and day this happened?”
          After being told the date, the man explained, “At the time of this incident, I was on the golf course for some morning practice. I was about to putt when I was struck by a sudden urge to pray for you. It was so strong I left the course and called some men at our church to join me in praying for you. Would all you men who prayed that day stand up?” One by one the missionary counted the men.

There were twenty-six — the exact number of ‘armed guards’ the thwarted assailants had seen.

          When I heard this story I was immediately reminded of Elisha in the Bible… One day the prophet Elisha and his servant awakened to discover they were surrounded by the enemy.

Though his servant panicked, Elisha could see that spiritual protection was also in place. He told his servant, “Don’t be afraid,” Elisha said, “because there are more of us than there are of them.”  Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.”

The Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw that the mountain was “full of horses and fiery chariots surrounding Elisha.” (2 Kings 6.16-17 CEB) So then Elisha prayed that his enemies’ eyes would be blinded. They were, and Elisha led them directly into the hands of the king of Israel.

  You are surrounded today. Perhaps by distractions and duties and discouragement. But also surrounded by God’s presence and power; even in the form of heavenly guard!

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” Psalm 125.2

The psalmist compares this protection to the city of Jerusalem and rightly so. “In ancient times there was no more militarily secure position for a city than to be behind encircling mountains. Trusting in God is like being in a mountain fastness. How? Trusting God is also the way to eventually get breathtaking sights of God himself. Most of all, trusting God means connecting yourself to the one person who will endure forever. And that means you will endure as well.” (Tim Keller)

In a world in which seemingly everything changes and nothing lasts,  remember that God surrounds you. Always. 

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

Order “Ordinary Graces” today from Cokesbury ($10)

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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!

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Reading GRACE to You ~ a Confession, a Dedication and an Introduction 

Reading GRACE to You ~ a Confession, a Dedication and an Introduction

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Everyone loves a gift!

And God has given us so many, including His GRACE – the gift we don’t deserve and can never earn. He declares we are already loved, already accepted, already created in His image.

The question becomes, will we truly receive the gift? Will the reality of it actually change the way we think and notice and reach out?

Yesterday I opened a gift which has been a lifetime in coming —  the hot-off-the-press first copy of my new book Ordinary Graces – Word Gifts for Any Season.” Hubby grabbed the video and caught my EXCITEMENT in seeing the finished product here

Q ~ Tell us about your new book.

“Ordinary Graces” offers 120 daily devotions that are simultaneously short yet deep. Each of the four sections – Grace, Strength, Gratitude and Life – reveal a variety of biblical words through story, study and practical help that prompt the reader to find courage, deepen faith, reach out to others and celebrate with gratitude. Readers will especially enjoy the flexibility of choosing any word in any season, covered on two pages.

Q ~ Who did you write this book for?

“Ordinary Graces” is written for women and men of all ages who are eager to know God better and to understand all He gives for navigating life today. Busy people who can mine the depths of just one word a day filled with grace and wisdom. Those who enjoy nuggets of truth from a variety of sources, as I include many quotes from writers through the ages. It’s also for that person who wants to touch base with God each day, but is not sure where to begin.

Q ~ What is the overall theme?

“From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John 1.16    Last year’s devotional with Abingdon Press was “Dwelling Places” where I featured words that draw us closer into the presence of God – words that evoke peace and serenity, refuge and hope. In “Ordinary Graces” I introduce words that convey the many gifts God bestows on us – grace gifts that will help strengthen our souls and provide courage to live adventurously. Gifts just waiting to be received, unwrapped and incorporated into our hearts, souls and compassionate actions.  What wonderful words are included here – beloved, treasure, worthy, rescue, endurance, kindness, story, promises, real, footsteps, overflow, wise and encourage.

Do you have a few more minutes? Then, may I please READ TO YOU, beginning with a confession that started it all, a dedication to my readers, and the first page all about ordinary graces?

I am embarking on a Fabulous Fall — speaking just about every weekend on God’s grace gifts for us all. Check out my Schedule Here – sure would love to see you face-to-face…

Meanwhile, many THANKS to these outstanding authors who agreed to read “Ordinary Graces” this summer and share with you what they thought of the book. I am humbled…

“Lucinda’s gift is that she plays richly the full octave of life — she can reach toward the sanctified high notes, and half a sentence later, draw us into the depths of the blessedly human heart and soul. It’s her fluid interplay of light and shadow, high and low that makes her a maestro. She lays bare hurt and heartache, struggles and strain — striking a deep common chord, a sense of simpatico — and then, before we finish the next in-breath, she fills us with reason for hope, for healing, she fills us with sustenance. Ordinary Graces and the extraordinary Lucinda Secrest McDowell belong tucked close to the heart. She opens Scripture, draws me in to its sumptuous folds, like no one I know. She is pure love — and her words, and her heart, come filled with a tenderness you never want to let go.”  – Barbara Mahany, author of Motherprayer and Slowing Time
“Both eloquent and profound, Ordinary Graces will infuse your heart with wonder through  a fresh take on ancient words. Lucinda excavates and lays bare the hidden riches of a single word, proving that the riches are stored in the secret places (Isaiah 45:3), not to be skimmed off the top by the casual observer, but mined from the deep.” –  Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Executive Director of The Praying Life Foundation, author of Live a Praying Life ®
 “Ordinary Graces is filled with sweet surprises.  Lucinda Secrest McDowell presents her readers with one powerful word gift a day.  She skillfully defines it within a biblical context, and then challenges us to take an action step.  This devotional will transform the way you live each day.  I highly recommend it!” – Carol Kent, speaker and author He Holds My Hand 
“When I buy a devotional, I want to know that I’m getting profound insights that are theologically grounded, yet relatable to my everyday, ordinary life. That’s exactly what Lucinda Secret McDowell offers in Ordinary Graces. I wanted to underline something in every paragraph, and I found myself reflecting on her words when I went about my day as a mom and a wife. This beautiful devotional will minister to your heart and lead you straight to the source of all grace: Jesus.” – Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of The Happiness Dare and Love Idol
 “Little did Lucinda Secrest McDowell know that my ‘life verse’ is John 1:16: ‘For of His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.’ In Ordinary Graces, Lucinda has conveyed the strategic importance of looking for and finding God’s grace in our everyday lives. His grace does transform our lives. Gently. Tenderly. Wonderfully. The words she has chosen are exquisitely real and important to my life—and yours. Indulge in the grace-filled truth she is sharing. Take it for yourself.”  – Ruth Graham,author In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart
“Whether read one day at a time or in a season of refreshing, Ordinary Graces by Lucinda Secrest McDowell offers focused reflection on key, attitude-altering words. McDowell’s interweaving of quotes from other thoughtful considerers adds even more depth to the beautifully expressed ponderings.”  – Cynthia Ruchti, author Mornings With Jesus and As My Parents Age
“In Ordinary Graces, Lucinda skillfully guides us through a daily word that will help us begin to comprehend the unfathomable grace of God.  Practical and powerful, this book will be a recurring reminder to readers of all ages of just how much God favors us and wants us to excel through His love.” – Deborah Smith Pegues, bestselling author of 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue
“Ordinary Graces is an excellent short daily devotional, including Scripture and practical ways to put the presence of God in the forefront of our day. Each day features a word we use in our everyday lives which Lucinda Secrest McDowell knows how to capture in an excellent illustration.  She writes beautifully and succinctly of the things we need to hear, usually with some humor and sharing a fascinating story. At the end of each day’s devotion, she writes a short intimate message from God to us, always aligned with the truths of Scripture. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to grow in knowing God.” – Valerie Elliot Shepard, author Devotedly, Jim (letters of Jim & Elisabeth Elliot)
“What a delight to slow down for a few minutes of quiet with this beautifully written devotional, Ordinary Graces.  In a world of hurry, Lucinda’s words remind us there is grace and strength available if we will just stop to receive.  Each day’s reading will speak to you from Scripture and change your life for the better.”  – Arlene Pellicane, author of Calm, Cool, and Connected
“In the beginning was the Word … and there were words … and they all had meaning and they were good for the spirit of man. And then Lucinda Secrest McDowell came along and took ordinary words and ushered in ordinary graces. These are the words you’d expect in a book such as this, words like gift and life. But there are also words one doesn’t expect, words like broken and anger. And perhaps my favorite word of all, sleep. In Ordinary Graces, Lucinda gives us a glimpse of the ordinary to the extraordinary, highlights of her heart, and moments within the heart of God. Close enough to hear His heartbeat.” – Eva Marie Everson, CBA Bestselling Author, President, Word Weavers International
“Ordinary Graces is the sort of book I can return to again and again for wise and gracious words that encourage, challenge, inspire, and comfort. A feast for the soul.” – Sharon Garlough Brown, author Sensible Shoes novel series
“Author Lucinda Secrest McDowell has given us an extraordinary book with her newest release, Ordinary Graces, Word Gifts for Any Season. Although this wonderful resource is one you’ll always want close at hand, it’s also one that you’ll find yourself sharing with those you meet who need encouragement and hope. McDowell is an author you’ll turn to again and again when you’re looking to connect with our Heavenly Father in a deeper, more intimate way. Truly a book that is a gift to us all.” – Edie Melson, Award Winning Author, Blogger, and Speaker
“Lucinda always brings me to a place  closer to God, deeper in the Word, happier in relationships and more joyful in life with Ordinary Graces.” – Pam Farrel, author of 45 books including Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti and 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman
“We all want to do something great for God. Ordinary Graces reminds us that we can miss the extraordinary hand of God in the everyday practices of life. Through Scripture, thoughtful illustrations, and compelling questions, Lucinda Secrest McDowell reminds us to discover grace in the abundant life we already have.” – Melissa Spoelstra, author Total Family Makeover
“With warmth and wit Lucinda McDowell befriends us readers and shows us how to notice God’s graces and promises in the everyday circumstances all around us in Ordinary Graces. You will find scholarly insight and encouragement from each devotional reading from this masterful writer.”  – Janet Holm McHenry, author of 20 books including the best-selling PrayerWalk 
“Lucinda Secrest McDowell follows her award-winning, impactful devotional, Dwelling Places with the next installment, Ordinary Graces. Full of moving quotes and interesting stories, the new devotional has pithy images that stay with you, like “Kevan wasn’t your typical twenty-something taking a backpacking trip to Europe. He was actually in the backpack.” Her words often challenge you to cling to God — “I shall trust in the slow work of God”– and to live out your faith. If you like devotionals, start with Dwelling Places, and make your way to Ordinary Graces.” – Tessa Afshar, author Bread of Angels
“Proverbs speaks of the goodness of a word shared in due season. Ordinary Graces exemplifies this truth with beautiful words of hope and life for whatever season you face. Each devotion left me feeling inspired and encouraged. A truly worthwhile read.”  – Jen Weaver, author A Wife’s Secret to Happiness

Writing is a joy but it is also hard work. There are two pages in the back of “Ordinary Graces” to express all my “Gratitudes” to those who helped. 

And to YOU, my readers, THANK YOU for continuing to read this blog, my books and to listen when I speak. I am humbled. I am grateful.

For you are a true GRACE GIFT to me…

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

Pre-Order “Ordinary Graces” today from Cokesbury ($10)

Pre- Order “Ordinary Graces” today from ChristianBook ($11)

Pre-Order “Ordinary Graces” today from Amazon ($15)

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!

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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But What If God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers?

But What if God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Perhaps you are one of those people whose recent prayers were not answered.

Or at least not answered in the way they had hoped. Their home was still destroyed in the hurricane. They didn’t get the job. They still miscarried. And no, chemotherapy has not healed their cancer.

What do we do when we feel God hasn’t answered our prayers?

Well I distinctly remember hanging up the phone and crying…

That answer was not the one I had hoped for. Prayed for.

I wanted “yes.” Would have settled for “wait.” But what I got was “no.”

I had followed Paul’s instructions: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.” (Philippians 4.6)  But how could I take the hardest step of all, to “thank him for his answers?” 

Yes, even if it wasn’t the answer I wanted. The one I needed.

I have lived my entire life on these words today from God’s Word. In fact, I memorized this same translation as a teenager with my brand new dark green Living Bible. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything;”  

What are you worried about today?

Okay, go ahead and write down three of your current concerns.

  1. _______________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________

Now, what would happen if you chose instead of worrying, to pray about them? Go ahead, do it. Offer each one to God in prayer.

A great model for life.

But only if we always end our prayers with “Thy will be done.” After all, that’s how Jesus taught us to pray. After being very specific about our wants, our needs, our great concerns, we then relinquish all that into the powerful and worthy hands of our Savior. Allowing Him to answer in His way and His timing.

Because, we really do want His will to be done. And even if we think we know exactly the path that should take, we must hold our expectations very loosely.

When I was much younger, Elisabeth Elliot once encouraged me to tell God everything I was feeling about His answers to my prayers. She pointed out that He already knew anyway. But she warned me to share with others discreetly; “God can take it — others sometimes can’t.”

From what she had shared, I knew that even this strong woman of God occasionally struggled with getting a disappointing answer to prayer as she told me,  “I have often asked why. Many things have happened which I didn’t plan on and which human rationality could not explain. In the darkness of my perplexity and sorrow I have heard Him say quietly, Trust Me. He knew that my question was not the challenge of unbelief or resentment. I have never doubted that He loves me, but I have sometimes felt like St. Teresa of Avila who, when she was dumped out of a carriage into a ditch, said, ‘If this is the way You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few!'” (Elisabeth Elliot)

In the Old Testament God, through the prophet Jeremiah, not only encouraged us to cry out to Him, but assured us that He would always answer. “Call to me and I will answer and reveal to you wondrous secrets that you haven’t known.” (Jeremiah 33.3)

That answer? The one you didn’t want? It may just contain a “wondrous secret” later to be revealed.

Trust Him and keep praying. Always with thanksgiving.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

Pre-Order “Ordinary Graces” today from Cokesbury ($10)

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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!

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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What Have You Got to Lose?

What Have You Got to Lose?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

               “All I can offer you is a chance to die.”

These are the terms outlined by Amy Carmichael as she responded to letters from English women who were considering missionary life with her India. In 1903, rescuing young girls from temple prostitution was groundbreaking early work in human trafficking.

Challenging. Dangerous. Humbling.

Yet Amy served there for fifty-five years without a furlough, establishing the Dohnavur Fellowship, which housed nine hundred children at the time of her death in 1951. These wounded and broken children called her “Amma,” the Tamil word for “Mother.”

Amy Carmichael understood the paradox in Jesus’ words: “If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:24) Early in her missionary career, when crossed by a coworker, she had clearly heard the voice of God before she reacted in defense: “See in this a chance to die.” And thus began her journey of dying to self in order to give life to others.

In the middle of her vibrant ministry, Amy suffered a fall and was bedridden the last half of her life. She kept her windows and doors constantly open to the children, and she wrote volumes of poetry. (The epigraphs for sections in both my books Ordinary Graces and Dwelling Places are from Amy Carmichael’s poems.)

In today’s verse,  Jesus is reminding us that as we release with open hands of surrender, we will be filled with grace gifts we never dared hope for. Give up your perceived right to control; and discover that God’s sovereignty will orchestrate everything better than you possibly imagined.

Early missionaries did not pack trunks as they set off on long voyages across the world to take the gospel to hidden tribes. Instead, they each packed a coffin, one that would eventually be used to bury them in their new land. What does this say about commitment? They knew their venture would end in death, yet they still chose to do it—the loss was worth the hopeful kingdom gain.

Flannery O’Connor once said, “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”

Do you realize that every gain comes through loss?

I am writing these words on the thirty-fifth anniversary of the death of a young wife and mother of three. What a loss this was to all who loved and needed her.

But it was my eventual gain. Only God.

Three years after her death, I received a priceless gift when I went to court in Seattle and adopted those three precious children. They have filled this mama’s life with more joy, purpose, on-my-knees-prayer, and hopes than you can imagine.

“The only way anyone gets to adoption is through a door of loss and unless you fully feel the depth of that loss, the door you’re walking through leads to nowhere honest.” (Ann Voskamp)

What are we willing to lose in order to know Him more fully? Our reputation? Our stuff? Our control? Our own dreams?

Only God.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell in Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

Pre-Order “Ordinary Graces” today from Cokesbury ($10)

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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!

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What I Learned When Mama and Daddy Crushed My Childhood Dreams

What I Learned When Mama and Daddy Crushed My Childhood Dreams

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

50 years ago this summer I met my childhood idol — Hayley Mills.

We were both aboard the final voyage of that great ocean liner, “Queen Elizabeth.” It was a heady moment, I assure you. And, of course I have a “selfie” to commemorate it.

For those of you too young to remember, Hayley Mills was the Disney darling who starred in many films such as Pollyanna and The Parent Trap.

Not only was I a fan and admired her, I actually wanted to be her.

To the extent that for at least a year I styled my hair the same as she did in Pollyanna and even wore drop waisted dresses with black stockings. Oh yeah.

One day, at age ten, I sat down and wrote Hayley Mills a letter. I had decided if I couldn’t be her, I could possibly be the next best thing – a child movie star. But I needed her advice…

I began (as any good fan letter does) with a full-on gush – “You are my favorite movie star!” and continued on to the meat of the matter… “How do you become a movie star? I want to be one while I am a child.”

Then, of course, I listed a few credentials to impress her: “When our school has plays or recitals I always join in. I’m not scared to go on stage at all. I’ve been the leading part on most of my plays. I’m not bragging, I just want some tips on acting. I can sing, act, and dance. I’ve been taking music for 2 years.”

Wow. Two whole years of music lessons! Now that I had her attention and formed a kindred spirit bond, we could get to a few more details… “You’ve sent lots of my friends postcards and pictures. But I want and need a long letter from you.”

There you go. Surely Hayley would begin to open doors to my new career as a child movie star! What with all that talent and experience why I might even give her some competition for the next Disney movie…

Nonetheless, my insecurity resurrected as I prepared my closing and I was not too proud to beg. “Please, I want to be a young movie star so bad. Please write me a long letter. Your best of friends, Cindy Secrest, 10 years old.”

I know you are waiting on the edge of your seat to discover what kind of reply I received from Hayley Mills. The answer is – nothing.

But since I have in my hand a faded and wrinkled piece of paper that looks strangely like the original I asked my parents to mail, I can only surmise that, due to not knowing her address, they absent mindedly tucked it into a file somewhere only to be retrieved a few decades later.

I don’t blame Mama and Daddy for singlehandedly putting the kibosh on all my child acting dreams. I’m not bitter.

When I met Hayley Mills on the “Queen Elizabeth” I was a young teenager coming home from the London sights of Carnaby Street and Abbey Road, Twiggy and the Beatles. I was way too cool to ask her for acting tips… (early selfie to the left here)

Half a century offers valuable perspective.

You see, God had other plans for that bold, outspoken, singing, dancing, acting character who was never afraid to go on stage.

I kept pursuing dreams. I tried on a few hats – some were a terrible fit and others stayed on for awhile. And the whole time I was dancing through life I wrote things down. On lined paper. In journals. Using a large print typewriter Daddy gave me. Using a flair pen. In letters and cards. And eventually on that marvelous invention – a personal computer! I also found myself on stage occasionally and discovered that when Holy Spirit power poured through me I was in a personal “sweet spot” – sharing stories and words of encouragement.

What sage advice would I give that 10 year old Cindy Secrest?

  • Keep writing letters to anyone you wish – always begin with praise and don’t hesitate to ask questions. What’s the worst that can happen? If they say no, move on.
  • Realize that some letters you write are best never mailed.
  • Always ask yourself the motivating factor for why you want to be or do something that has any amount of fame involved. You might need to recalculate…
  • If you aren’t afraid to be on stage or speak into a microphone, that doesn’t necessarily make you brave — it’s probably just the way God wired you.
  • Be willing to adjust your goals and dreams as experience, mistakes, victories and critique help show you who you truly are.
  • When you look back over a lifetime, thank God for the unique way He created you and seek with all your heart to honor Him in all your pursuits. If that happens to include music, stories, and the occasional stage, then honey, give it all you got!

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell 

Would you enjoy reading “Dwelling Places”  this summer? It was just awarded Christian Retailing Best Award for Devotional – voted by the bookselling/publishing industry professionals.

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