That Day I Answered the Phone and Discovered a Beautiful Gift

That Day I Answered the Phone and Discovered a Beautiful Gift

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“Is this the author Lucinda Secrest McDowell?” came the lovely southern voice at the other end of the phone.

I had been tempted not to answer. In my daily ritual of decompressing after a busy day at high school, I was sitting on the porch, drinking strong Earl Grey tea and — to be honest —  feeling a bit discouraged.

“Yes…. this is Lucinda,” I tentatively answered.

Artists Kristina & Polly Jo

Polly Jo introduced herself as one of my readers from Raleigh, North Carolina and then spent the next few minutes saying how much my one-word-a-day devotional “Dwelling Places” was ministering to heart and soul.

“In fact, my dear friend Kristina and I have just finished art-journaling all 40 of your words from the Lenten section ‘Renew,’” she concluded.

“Why that’s amazing! I’m not really even sure what art-journaling is,” I confessed.

“After reading that day’s devotion, we sit with the word, meditate on it, and then creatively pull in all kinds of mixed media to portray our thoughts and promptings as a picture in our journals,” Polly Jo explained. “Would you like to see some of our pages from those words?”

Of course I would. And when she sent them to me, they were exquisite expressions of how God had reached into the soul of a teachable woman and prodded her with One Simple Word.

How could I not share some of Polly Jo and Kristina’s creations with YOU, my readers? Here are a few from ‘Renew’ section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, in late May I received word that these precious Raleigh women had decided to spend this summer going through the ‘Grow’ section of  “Dwelling Places” and art-journaling each word.  So here are a few from this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t you just love how God created us all so uniquely – with gifts that compliment one another? Gifts that differ and yet are used to help build the Body of Christ?

I am so grateful that my two new friends – Polly Jo and Kristina – followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to call a complete stranger and thank her for writing a book that is being used in their lives.

Do you even know how humbling this is for me?

And another thing, after a school day with noisy teenagers, when I am out on my screen porch during Quiet Tea Time, if you ring me, I promise to Answer the Phone!

Because one never knows when God will send a whisper that sounds so much like, “Cindy, yes, you are living in the Right Story I have for you… Keep going…”

“For we are God’s MASTERPIECE. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can DO THE GOOD THINGS he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2.10 NLT

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell 

One of these artists offers beautiful Notecards and Art Journeys – check out www.PollyJoGreen.com 

Would you enjoy reading and perhaps even art- journaling “Dwelling Places”  this summer? It was just awarded Christian Retailing Best Award for Devotional – voted by the bookselling/publishing industry professionals, which is miraculous in itself (being my 12th book and first book award, smile).

Order my award-winning book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my award-winning book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

Website/Blog 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!

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A Mama’s Choice

A  Mama’s Choice

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

A few years ago my eldest daughter chose life – to become a mother. And it caused me to think back to the choice I made the day I  walked out of a Seattle courtroom as her new mother.

Do you remember when you first became a mama? Parenting is a privilege, an honor, and lifelong commitment. We are not only life-givers at the beginning, but every subsequent choice we make either gives life to our child or takes a piece of it away.

Our Heavenly Father knows all about hard choices. Though His own children had rejected Him time and time again, God always offered them a second chance – a choice: “Choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord Your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.”  (Deuteronomy 30.19-20)

Love Him. Follow Him. Obey Him. And the reward? Life. A full life. Who wouldn’t want that for their children?

And yet, even the best parent falters and fails. I know I have.

I entered motherhood with great desire and determination to pour love, courage, joy and hope into the boys and girls God entrusted me with for such a short time. And I meant it. So I tried to do it – with a full measure of grace and mercy.

But sometimes I made poor choices.  Have you ever chosen self over others; temper over temperance; control over release; fear over trust; loud over quiet; or settled into lethargy rather than actively respond to God? Yeah, me too.

Eventually, my ultimate choice was to parent with the grace I had received – allowing my children to learn the hard way, even to fail. To help them know that God (and I) offer second chances, actions have consequences, and choices do make a difference.

Wouldn’t you like to be a Mama who:

  • Promotes Security – assuring children they are accepted and loved, no matter what.
  • Offers Significance — helping them understand their unique gifts and leanings and then urging them to courageously pursue all God has for them.
  • Provides Strength – cultivating inner fortitude to keep going in difficult times and placing their hope in God.

Think of the ever-widening ripple effect of such a choice for life. Our children will change a future we will never see!

As I hold my grandchildren close, I believe this with all my heart.*

under the mercy, Cindy

* selected from Day 31 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014

ON SALE JULY ONLY AMAZON $12 

Website/Blog 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!

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Hush!

Hush!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves and silenced the shouting of the nations.  Psalm 65.7 

            When God says “Hush” we had better listen! He is, after all, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, able to silence nature as well as nations.

            Do you find yourself only half-listening to a conversation because you are mentally crafting your own brilliant response? Are you tired of your own voice yet?

            Sometimes God bids us to be quiet – to speak small and listen large.

            Even if such practice goes against our nature. Even if we actually have something important and worthy to say. But especially if we haven’t invested sufficient thought and prayer into what the words will be that come forth from our mouth.

            Jesus said that it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6.45). So perhaps we need to make sure these fickle, fragile hearts of ours have sufficient tending. Listening for God’s still small voice. Resting and relying on His words to fill us with both truth and trust.

      Is it time for you to HUSH?

            H – Hear God’s voice through reading His Word.

            U – Understand His will through prayer.

            S – Silence your own voice, in order to receive.

            H – He will quiet your soul.

Lord, my mouth is shut and ears are open. Please speak. Amen.

under the mercy, Cindy

This is one of my ten devotions now appearing in “Just Breathe” the brand new journal/devotional from Ellie Claire and Worthy Publishing, 2017 Click on PHOTO to order your copy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

My latest book, “Dwelling Places” just received the Christian Retailing Best Award for Devotional – voted by the bookselling/publishing industry professionals. I am so honored and humbled and grateful to share these words from the Word with you and many others…

Order my award-winning book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my award-winning book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

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My Own Gift from the Sea

My Own Gift from the Sea…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Will you be spending some time this Summer at the Beach? Do you know that being by the Sea can restore your soul? Of course you do, that’s why you’re going

This lucky gal just returned from a few days at the seaside and can attest to the fact that there is nothing quite like ocean waves, shells on the shore, and sand between your toes. Early mornings looking out at the vast expanse of emptiness (not really empty) brings me Calm, Serenity and a sense of God’s Presence unlike any other place.

What I take away from such focused and rare experiences is truly a GIFT.

seagftsNot long after I was born, Mama turned to one of her favorite authors – Anne Morrow Lindbergh – for some inspiration on life through a brand new book “Gift from the Sea.” I am so grateful she gave me a copy when I was a young girl. No surprise that this book is now a classic (and so am I)! If you haven’t yet read it, do yourself a favor and go buy a copy. Right now.

This busy mother of five kids in mid-century America, married to the world’s most famous aviator (Charles Lindbergh, you may have heard of him), echoed many of my own thoughts as summer begins: “My life in Connecticut, I begin to realize, lacks this quality of significance and therefore of beauty, because there is so little empty space. The space is scribbled on; the time has been filled. There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad, or empty hours in the day, or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself. Too many activities, and people, and things. Too many worthy activities, valuable things, and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well.”  (*Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “Gift from the Sea”)

I know your life is cluttered with Important Things, not just superfluous stuff. Mine too. But it is so crucial to take time periodically to pull away from all that, to unplug, and just sit beside the ocean waves and drink in the Silence of God’s goodness and restoration.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  – Jesus in Matthew 11.28-30 MSG

Last week as I wandered along the shore and gathered shells, each one seemed to have a name – someone for whom I am praying. A few were perfectly white and symmetrically shaped, obviously young and new. Others were chipped and weathered, witness to many storms already but nonetheless full of beauty. I placed them in a small pile at my feet as I read my prayer book and witnessed the rising Sun. God knows them all – us all – even though what I have gathered here, both in my hands and all the people in my life, are just a fraction of His Beloved.

seanecklaceThough I am not wholly alone during this beach visit (I am sharing the experience with 3 loved ones) I can identify with Lindbergh who chronicled the benefits of her sojourn by the Sea “There are not too many activities or things or people, and each one, I find, is significant, set apart in the frame of sufficient time and space. Here there is time; time to be quiet; time to work without pressure; time to think; time to watch the heron, watching with frozen patience for his prey. Time to look at the stars or to study a shell; time to see friends, to gossip, to laugh, to talk. Time even, not to talk.” (*AML)

When you go to the Beach this summer I hope you, too, will take some time “not to talk” or text or listen to anything other than the still small Voice of the God who loves you more than you can even imagine. After all, He created all this beauty just for us!

Summer is well underway. Mine already is filling up with family visits, professional meetings, adventurous recreation and writing projects. Fact is, I’m a bit worried. I want so much to do it all and do it well, but I know that I have limits. My prayer is that I can fulfill what is the most important and focus well when I am with people, and work well when I am not.

What is your prayer for the summer?

Celebrating Mama’s 90th Birthday at the Beach with all 3 of her Daughters!

Many years ago Anne Morrow Lindbergh stated hers: “I want first of all to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out my obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact, to live ‘in grace’ as much of the time as possible. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God.” (*AML)

Is it at all surprising that one of God’s greatest gifts from the sea is Grace? And perspective too. I need perspective because it was hard for me to say good-bye to my beach companions…

“Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach-living: simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of a relationship is valid.” (*AML)

seadwellshellWhy not pick up a shell and write on it your own  gift from the sea you received this summer? Place it on your desk or kitchen window sill or home altar so you can always remember those whispers from that still small Voice. The ones that made life clear back in the summer of 2017…

 under the mercy, Cindy

CLICK FOR 1 Minute VIDEO: Here I am AT THE OCEAN sharing some words with you….

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell from “Dwelling Places” 

Today’s Blog is excerpted from “Dwelling Places” which has just today been awarded Christian Retailing Best Award for Devotional – voted by the bookselling/publishing industry professionals. I am so honored and humbled and grateful to share these words from the Word with you and many others…

Order my award-winning book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my award-winning book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

*excerpted from Anne Morrow Lindbergh in “Gift from the Sea” (1955)

Website/Blog 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!

 

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Where Do I Belong?

Where Do I Belong?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

            I read the word several times before investigating it’s meaning — FoMO. When I discovered the definition, the widespread use made sense to me.

            Fear oMissing Out.

            Added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013, “FoMO” is defined as “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”
            Basically it is the 21st century equivalent of keeping up with the Joneses. Where is everyone and what are they doing and why don’t I belong there too?

           A recent article in Forbes elaborated:  “Thanks to social media and digital technology, we’re faced with constant comparisons of our vacations, our clothes, our relationships, our social lives, even our life choices, with those of others. Naturally, that ever-present stream of perfection leaves us feeling sub-par. You start to question and doubt yourself, thinking things like: Where does she get those amazing power outfits? My desk looks like a disaster, not a pretty Pinterest board. I wish I could afford a week in the Mediterranean on the salary I make.” 

            We have a need to feel that we actually belong. Somewhere.     

            But too often the social media posts, rather than bringing us into a place of belonging, only exacerbate our sense of lack. There is always someone who has more — more invitations, more grandchildren, and a more beautiful home decor. 
            Where do we belong in the scheme of things?

Thousands of women this year invested precious resources to experience a stadium event called “Belong.” The title alone drew many of them in, as one of the speakers elaborated on the appeal of that name “Belong”: “Because you do. Your friends do. Your neighbors do. Your colleagues do. We are setting a big table, girls. Come to us. You can trust us with the fragile hearts you love. We will hold your stories with tender hands. We are for you.” 

            I don’t know if they all found what they were looking for.

But, had these women asked, I would have said that our ultimate sense of belonging is only found in our union with Jesus Christ. In our verse today the apostle Paul writes to the new believers at Corinth “I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts He has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 1.4          

What are some of those gifts? Who are some of those gifts?

As we begin to thank God for all He has given, a new sense of belonging seeps into our soul – that the reality of what we already possess in Christ is far better than the controlled posts on Facebook and elsewhere.

            We already belong. Right here with Jesus.

under the mercy, Cindy

Website/Blog 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 book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

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Have You Ever Been The Last One Chosen?

Have You Ever Been The Last One Chosen?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I was usually the last one chosen.

For sports teams during elementary school recess. Back in the day, the captains of each team would take turns choosing players. Raised hands and shouts of “Me!” echoed until they grudgingly accepted the final leftover people.

Kids like me. Chubby. Non-athletic. Slow runners.

Is it any wonder I spent much of my life silently pleading, “Choose Me?”

And then one day I realized that Jesus had. Chosen me. A gift for all to see – “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit.”John 15.16 

             Choose in the New Testament Greek is eklego, which means to “pick out or select, especially with the motivation of love and kindness.” God’s grace is a gift to all and, as we embrace it, we become a chosen one — specially selected. “He chose to love us and we must choose to love others. God has chosen us in spite of our shortcomings. Our social standing or material wealth mean nothing to him — he chooses us purely out of love. But we must choose whether or not to accept God’s offer.”

Do you realize you have been chosen? Or, are you still raising your hand and trying to get His attention by doing stuff to make yourself worthy?

One young mother struggled with trying to be like someone else in order to be chosen: “Being rejected means we have no worth. Being chosen means we have it all. So we contort ourselves in whatever impossible positions we can to make ourselves chooseable. We let go of our will, conform our lives to make others approve, and lose our personalities at the altar of being picked.” (Mary DeMuth, “Worth Living”)

But remember, another’s success does not mean my failure.

It is only when we know ourselves as Beloved that we can settle down as fully desired and chosen members of the Jesus Team. Secure. Serene. Loved. “When I write to you that, as the Beloved, we are God’s chosen ones, I mean that we have been seen by God from all eternity … long before you were born and became a part of history you existed in God’s heart. Long before your parents admired you or your friends acknowledged your gifts or your teachers, colleagues, and employers encouraged you, you were already chosen. The eyes of love had seen you as precious, as of infinite beauty, as of eternal value.” (Henri Nouwen, “Life of the Beloved”)

God says to you today, “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.(Isaiah 41.9)

You are chosen.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog 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 book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

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Sometimes Hidden Treasure Shines Through the Cracks

Sometimes Hidden Treasure Shines Through the Cracks

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

       I always wanted to be a Ming Vase for God.

        Beautiful. Exotic. Perfect. Wouldn’t that be a powerful witness to my great God? Think of the people who would flock to faith once they experienced me in all my loveliness — always being, saying and doing the Right Thing!

        Alas, it was not to be. 

        No Ming vases here. I saw in the mirror a clay pot — the gal next door. 

        Finally, I was where God wanted me to be.

Now He could pour His light and treasure into my simple vessel and thus it would be noticed for what it was. God’s power. God’s glory. God’s beauty. Manifested from the center of an ordinary life.

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.” 2 Corinthians 4.7 

Yesterday my live radio interview host, Lynne, had read my new one-word-a-day devotional, “Dwelling Places,” and was sharing about the words that had most ministered to her. One was the word “return,” about returning to the Lord and what that can mean in our lives. Lynne said that just after she read those two pages, she encountered a prodigal — a woman who insisted she was now closer to the devil than to God. Since Lynne had just read all those words of hope and grace and mercy that Jesus extends to the wanderer, she passed along what she had learned. 

        “May I read your closing prayer from that day – ‘return’ — on the air right now?” she asked. 

        As I listened to words I had written only a year before I began to weep quietly.

        I was so deeply aware that God was the one who had put those words in me to share with others. He is the “hidden treasure” inside this ordinary person. And because I allowed Him to use me, He was glorified and perhaps a broken soul was encouraged.

            In this text we are called  “unadorned clay pots.”  How easily we break! How utterly chipped and cracked, faded and fragile we are — particularly after a lifetime of pouring out. We wonder if we are too damaged to be used, too weak to fight the battles. But the more holes in our armor, the brighter our light shines from within.

        Madeleine L’Engle observes, “If we are qualified, we tend to think we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’ work with our own or God’s glory with our own.”

        When we finally meet — and I sincerely hope we will one day — you will see an older woman with laugh lines, bling, extra pounds and big hair. A woman who fails daily, but finally has enough sense to confess and receive forgiveness, tentatively moving forward in my favorite cowboy boots.

Actually, you might not even notice me. Well, except for the light.

I sure hope on the day we meet, a glow just happens to be peeking through from where my heavenly Father dwells deep inside. Then you will know the truth about me.

        It really is All About Him.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog 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 book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

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