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Reflections

What Breakthrough Does Your Mind Miss When You’re Too Busy?

Have you ever been too busy to notice what was happening around you? Can you recall a time when you were so deep in thought you completely overlooked details that were right there? I sure have! And it makes me wonder.

What Breakthrough Does Your Mind Miss When You’re Too Busy?

Blinded by busyness, Example 1

I have an example from recent experience. My apologies if this is TMI (too much information), but I was seated on the porcelain throne next to the bathtub. The shower curtain was closed and hung mere centimeters from my right shoulder.

I lingered there, physically. But my thoughts were elsewhere, occupied with mental lists, strategies and plans. When my business was done, I leaned over to flush. Because of the tight space, my face practically brushed the shower curtain.

My mind suddenly dropped all other thoughts and joined me in the moment. Something was not right! You know that feeling? My scream was choked into silence by my heart as it jumped into my throat to hide from the hockey puck-sized black spider just chillin’ on that white curtain.

Black spider on a white surface
Photo by Paul Knut on Pexels.com
Not the actual spider. I didn’t have enough wits about me to think of taking a photo.

Had it wanted to, it could have reached with one of its long legs and touched me as I sat, I’m sure. My eyes frozen wide, I stared at it. How had I not known it was there?

There was certainly no missing it now!

I had been too busy ‘in my mind’s eye’ to see it, but now that I had, I couldn’t take my gaze off it. I am not a fan of spiders, especially big ones! I gathered my wits, a wad of toilet paper, and all those legs. A second flush and my heartrate returned to normal.

Blinded by busyness, Example 2

Maybe you can relate to another, less creepy, example. Have you ever had trouble with a word search puzzle? With so many letters creating busyness on the paper, sometimes a word can seem impossibly hidden. Then, once someone points it out, it almost appears to jump off the page.

Word search with one word found and highlighted.
As if this puzzle understood it was an object lesson, I had to ask my son to show me where “Memorable Impression” was. I couldn’t see it until he showed me. Now it is obvious!

The breakthrough my mind missed when I was too busy

I missed a breakthrough last week. Well almost. The two examples above helped me understand how it happened.

I cannot write all that was going on in my heart and mind – the busyness on my life’s page, if you will – so I am leaving that to your experienced imagination. I am just going to point out the pertinent, connecting letters. Let me know when you see the spider. (Can I merge my two examples that way?)

  • My husband and I have been talking and praying about a way to serve at our new church. We’ve been hesitant to dive into anything because our fall season is full of uncontrollable unknowns (medical procedures, travel, etc.).
  • The Youth Pastor asked my husband and I to take part in a Vision meeting for upcoming year.
  • Cindy Dawson printed the following quote in her realchristianwomen.blog.

“If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God.”

D. L. Moody
  • We attended the Vision meeting. We saw a need we could fill. We were assured our help would be welcome, even with the uncertainty of our schedule.
  • We left the meeting, still praying for God’s direction. (I’m sure you see the spider. We didn’t yet. We were preoccupied.)
  • Meanwhile, I walked the trails. God showed me his amazing wildflowers and I wrote the “Something to See” mini-series.
  • I had hurriedly written the rough draft of post #4 just before attending the Youth Group meeting. I wasn’t sure it made sense. I almost erased it, but I didn’t have time.
  • The next morning, I opened the blog to “fix” what I had written. When I read what was there, I broke down and cried. One paragraph stood out especially.

And, just like a summer blossom, my time to display His wonder will fade away. It is imperative that I invest in others, especially those younger than me, while I may. I need to sow seeds of my own.

Mama Lava, Spaces Surging with Stunning Splendor are Something to See #4

Suddenly, the dots connected, the letters fit in order, and I saw the spider in front of me. We were supposed to get involved in youth ministry.

God had practically paved the way in neon. Looking back, I could see the signs. But until then, each was isolated. My busyness obscured the connection.

Now, it seems so obvious!

God was answering my questions and I didn’t get it because I couldn’t focus. My mind missed the breakthrough because I’d been too busy.

Instead of scolding me, my Heavenly Father directed my attention to His beautiful flowers. He showed me the seeds in various stages of their lifecycle. He stirred me to write what He ministered to my heart. And then He used those words to inform me as He unveiled the breakthrough.

I published that post, exactly as I had written it. Turns out, it resonated with some of you too. How great is our God!?

What about you?

Are you busy? I am not only referring to the errands, commitments, and chores of life. It could be anything which drowns out the voice of God.

Music, screens, and people provide constant distraction. Worries, daydreams, and replays of conversations fill our heads. We can barely finish our own sentences, let alone listen while God completes His.

Are you too busy? What breakthrough might your mind be missing?

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Reflections

One Unexpected Way the Beautiful Trees Exalt Our God

The forest in which I live is spectacular! It treats my senses every day. The elevated trails I wander put me where I can see the treetops and they go as far as my eyes can see in every direction.

The Beautiful Trees

It would not be unexpected for me to say that the trees exalt God. There are many aspects of them which signal His greatness. They are beautiful, strong, and useful, implying a powerful and creative, Intelligent Designer.

Standing among them, feeling small and in awe, the trees put me in my place. And the shapes of them, especially the pines near which I live, point directly up to their magnificent Creator. What a perspective they provide!

A forest of pine trees
I feel so small among the trees!

Yesterday, the beautiful trees exalted God for me in an unexpected way. My husband and I were in a different part of the forest than we usually walk. Many trees were marked with an orange stripe. My hubby had seen that when he was young, in another forest in another state. There, it meant the tree was marked for removal.

I looked around and could not even attempt to count the number of trees with orange stripes. It hurt my heart! I hoped the marks meant something else and wondered if it would make God sad if so many of His beautiful trees were, indeed, slated for removal.

The Unexpected Exaltation

I suddenly felt an overwhelming awe of God flush over me. He is aware of every tree. Not just the trees in the massive forest where I live, but every single one across the county, state, country, continent, and the world!

A dense forest of pines
God sees every tree on every hill, mountain, and valley, everywhere!

He knows how many trees are out there. And not just that! He is acquainted with every creature which makes its home in every leaf, needle, fruit, branch, trunk, and root of every single one. He is aware when one tree falls, and when another sprouts – across the entire planet!

“I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”

Isaiah 41:19, 20

“He gives food to every creature.
His love endures for ever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures for ever.

Psalm 136:25, 26

I was struggling to grasp the enormous number of trunks with orange marks. But God not only knows every one of those trees, He knows of every one He has ever made anywhere! That made my head spin.

My head – yes, that’s right! God knows the number of hairs on my head. And he is acquainted with every star in the sky. Of course He sees each and every tree.

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Luke 12:7a

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”

Psalm 147:4,5

Next time you’re in a forest, I encourage you to stand at the trunk of a tree and look up. Then look around at how many trees there are. Maybe you can go there now in your imagination. What do you feel about God in that moment? What perspective does it put on your relationship with Him?

Perspective from the ground, looking up the trunks of a some very tall pines
Photo by Marco Trinidad on Pexels.com
How many branches, how many needles, how many animals, how many birds, how many insects…? How Great is our God!

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

Isaiah 55:12

Good on those trees! In that moment, they were exalting God. They were revealing His splendor to me.

“Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.”

Psalm 96:12

For me, it was an unexpected reminder of how marvelous, majestic, and mighty our God is. Those trees exalt Him every day just in their existence. Do I? Do you? We also were created to exalt Him. What do others see about Him when they look at us?

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”

Psalm 148:13

I want to be a vessel of praise alongside the beautiful trees. They have certainly reminded me of His greatness. May we all exalt God in unexpected ways!

Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 148:1a, 7-13a, emphasis mine
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Reflections

Three Ways Sappy Stuff Sticks and One Fantastic Challenge

Well, my granddaughter left. Who knew a whirlwind could be such fun? I did very few chores, while she was here, which weren’t related to her care. Since my daughter and grandson are about to arrive for a few days, I decided to tend to my tasks ahead of time.

To that end, I was out sweeping my long driveway early this morning. We’ve had some incredible windstorms as well as the beautiful monsoons. This amazing weather makes a mess of whatever lies below the trees. Pine and oak particles almost completely hid the concrete from view.

About halfway through my job, I noticed that many sticks and leaves were stuck to the cement. I adjusted my sweeping motion to pry them loose, but some just wouldn’t budge. I leaned on my broom for a second and a little voice inside my head said, “the sappy stuff sticks”.

The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff brushes easily aside!

A pine tree with inner trunk and sap exposed
The sap in a pine tree is plenteous and sticky! I suspect our backyard porcupine ate the outer layer off this trunk, exposing the sap inside. Can you see it glistening?

Ah, I see! “The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff brushes easily aside”, I repeated to myself. Suddenly a thought process unfolded and I understood three ways this is true and one fantastic challenge!

Three ways the sticky sap stuff rings relevant:

1. This is why I’ve had a hard time with my devotions lately.

I’ve been reading in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I’m into Joshua now, but I’m still struggling. There is a lot of repetition, chronology, and law. I know it is important. God put it in His Word intentionally. Some of it is downright fascinating even! But my mind wanders in these passages.

I would rather read about Jesus healing people and loving on the least likely. My thoughts breeze ahead in the pages to valiant heroes and poems of praise. The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

2. This is why so many clamor to this trend of following Jesus while rejecting God.

I’ve noticed that Jesus has become trendy. Have you seen it? He was accepting of everyone, humble, and full of compassion. Pretty much everybody can rally around a deity like that these days! Problem is, it is only half the story. Jesus accepted everyone as they were, but they couldn’t stay as they were. Their encounters with Him changed them. They either bowed in repentance and reverence or they ultimately rejected Him.

“‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus, Matthew 7:21

Jesus was humble and compassionate in his role as King of Heaven on Earth, but He is also part of the triune God. He was present in Genesis 1:1 and all the way through the Old Testament. We cannot honor Jesus and reject God. Jesus is God. But the sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

“I and the Father are one.”

Jesus, John 10:30

3. This is how social media, Hallmark, and advertisements choose their content.

Can you imagine a movie about real daily living? The part where dust accumulates, people battle cravings, and new shoes cause blisters? Or an ad about fainting in line at Disney or falling asleep at the museum?

This is real life! But no, the parts we see on the screen are the minutia – the moments people fall in love, are happily surprised, and overcome with joy. The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

One fantastic challenge:

It was as if Jesus were out there sweeping with me and pointing out all these things. It was incredibly encouraging! You know why? Because, in this context, it was the dry and hard stuff that I appreciated the most. It was the satisfying part of my job. It brushed easily away while the wet and sappy stuff stuck.

I think Jesus wanted to challenge me to give credit where it is due. The dry and hard stuff has its merit. I need it. It provides fantastic balance.

And somehow, being reminded by Jesus to appreciate the dry and hard stuff was a sappy experience. It is just the way my heart feels when I talk to Him. I’m sure the lesson will stick with me for a good long time.

Hopefully this lesson is so sappy it sticks for you too! I know you’re dealing with dry and hard stuff. It is there for a reason. Lean in, my friend. Ask Jesus to meet you in it.

I want to challenge you – if you haven’t already, get to know Him for Who He truly is – Almighty God. It means everything to realize that the God of the Universe, of the Old Testament and New, wants a relationship with you. He desires to know you and be known by you. Please, let that sappy stuff stick!

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Reflections

Out In the Pines, I Understand The Popular Mountain Vibe

“What is the vibe of Northern Arizona?”, our friends asked us. When we first fell in love with the place on our vacation in fall of 2020, people wondered why. I don’t think it was the vibe then, although we definitely noticed there was one.

“Outdoorsy”, was our answer. People ski, play disc golf, raft, climb, bike and hike, just to name a few of the most popular pastimes. Residents of the area work hard and play harder, outside in the fresh mountain air.

In the first week after moving here, I commented to a friend that the whole region smelled like Christmas. The fragrant cover of fresh cold pine reminded me of tree lot excursions and piles of bough wreaths. Being outside and inhaling deeply made my heart happy in an almost giddy way.

“The smell of pine needles, spruce and the smell of a Christmas tree – those to me, are the scents of the holidays.”

Blake Lively

I suddenly wonder whether outdoorsy people are drawn to the mountains or if the mountains draw people outdoors.

Mama Lava
Blooming cactus coming up amidst the pine needles and pine cones.
When you live in the mountains, but it is also the desert, you get pine cones and cactus. This is spring in the mountains of Northern Arizona.

But now that spring has sprung, and the sun has warmed the pine needles, the musky scent is an altogether different kind of wonderful. It smells like camping trips and adventure. I can barely stand to be inside. I suddenly wonder whether outdoorsy people are drawn to the mountains or if the mountains draw people outdoors.

I suspect it is the latter. Out among the pines, I understand the popular mountain vibe. It beckons me to join, and I feel helpless to resist.

“The ground’s soft with pine needles and the occasional crunch of a cone. The air smells like it’s just been born.”

Libba Bray

“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.”

Helen Keller

“God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works. He is transcendent above all His works even while He is immanent within them.”

A.W. Tozer

“Lord, you have been our dwelling-place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

Psalm 90:1-2
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Reflections

10 Little Updates and Latest Looming Praise Reports

Good morning and Happy May! I wanted to come to you today with 10 little updates and latest looming praise reports. I know many of you have been praying for us as we’ve settled in a new situation, in a new house, in a new state. There have been glorious answers to your prayers regarding our move to Arizona and it is my privilege to share what God has done!

  1. We LOVE it here! We aren’t as content as we will be when we finally reach our eternal home, but while we’re on earth, Northern Arizona is awesome! We are so grateful for the kick in the pants God gave us. My faithful readers know that I waivered a bit, but God was clear with His direction and I am fully awed by His gracious faithfulness. (*See photos below.)
  2. We found a great church! That might not seem like a big deal to some, but it was priority for us. We did a lot of on-line research, and we only had to visit two. The first one was nice, but we quickly discovered some theological differences and decided not to return. The second one checked all the boxes and then some! We’ve been attending ever since. Praise the Lord!
  3. We have been unaffected by the fires. You might be aware of a couple of major wildfires burning in Northern Arizona. A few of you have even reached out to check on me. Wow – thank you! We have not been “in the line of fire” but have been daily reminded to pray for those who are. It seems the hard work of many firefighters is paying off and the danger is subsiding. There has been no loss of life reported, but several homes have been lost and I’m sure those affected would be blessed by your prayers.
  4. I have a “prayer chair”. I’ve always wanted one. Several years ago, I read a challenge by Anne Graham Lotz to create a dedicated space for devotional time with the Lord. Since then, I’ve had my “typical spots” but, because I lived with so many people, my spots had to serve several purposes. That was ok. But now, I have my own prayer chair in the corner, overlooking the pine and oak trees. (**See photos below.)
  5. God has been so faithful! I found a prayer list I’d written last fall in regard to, what was then, our upcoming move. It had 4 specific requests. All of them were answered above and beyond what I could have imagined. The most touching part is that this list had gotten misplaced shortly after I’d penned it. I hadn’t prayed over it daily, as I’d planned. But you know what? Our God is not dependent on us to be organized. He answered every item on that list, buried as it as, and I was blessed and blown away when the piece of paper resurfaced today.
  6. My son got a job! 4 of my kids stayed in California for the time being. My youngest, Marcus, is 18. He left a job he enjoyed to move to Arizona with us. We expected he would continue working for the same company here. They don’t do transfers, so he had to quit and reapply, but he had great experience and glowing recommendations from the managers in CA. They had open positions in AZ. He applied. He went in person to introduce himself and drop off his resume. Nothing. He called. He went in person again. It was shocking to us when he couldn’t even get an interview. After a month, we had to assume God just didn’t want him to work there anymore. So, he applied somewhere else. He got called in for an interview the next day and was hired on the spot! Well, to God be the glory! He made His will abundantly clear!
  7. I’m enjoying quality time with my youngest child. By the time Marcus was born, we had a loud and busy family. It is true that the squeaky wheel gets the oil and he is the quietest of my bunch. I’ve told him over the years that his time would come. Eventually, he’d be the only one left in the house and he’d probably get more attention than he wanted. Well, that time is now, and we’ve found something fun to do together. He has a YouTube channel and we’re making a series of reaction videos. I’ve not seen any of the Marvel movies, so Marcus and I are watching them together, one by one, and he is recording my reactions. Who knew people would take an interest or would consider my newbie questions and expressions as entertainment, but apparently that’s a thing. I’m just enjoying the time with my son.
  8. My girls are doing well. One of my biggest concerns, which I wrote about before I moved, was the wellbeing of my daughters and grandkids. They needed to find affordable places to live. I put it out there, you prayed, God miraculously delivered. They are teaming up, taking care of each other, and this mama’s heart is at peace. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, prayer warriors!
  9. I’m settling into my new job with my old company. I had expected to quit before I moved but, at the last minute, was offered the opportunity to stay in a new role, working remotely from Arizona. The logistical transition has turned out to be more complex than any of us realized. I’m happy to report that I’m at least 75% settled in – maybe more, depending on the outcome of an open ticket with IT. God is faithful!
  10. I’m getting to explore the Arizona Trail! I am concluding my list of 10 little updates and latest looming praise reports with this detail because it was like a housewarming gift from God. We had no idea, when we applied to rent this home, that it was right across from the Arizona Trail. This relatively new trail runs the entire length of the state. North, it goes up to Utah. South, I can take it all the way to Mexico. I’m not likely to hike for days on end, but it is a wonderful escape which intersects countless other trails and offers hours of interesting exercise and conversation with Jesus. (***See photos below.)

I feel certain this update and praise report post would have been different if it weren’t for you all. You have prayed for me, encouraged me, and been an amazing support system. Today I find myself steadied, strengthened, and settled. Glory to God and gratitude to you! God bless you, my precious friends! Please enjoy some photos below.



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Reflections

A Complete Reset To The Factory Settings Of Life

I had an outlandish dream last night where something was going terribly wrong. I don’t remember the specifics, only that I was on a high balcony, of sorts, looking down on a skirmish.

skir·mish /ˈskərmiSH/ noun
an episode of irregular or unpremeditated fighting
(definition from Oxford Languages Dictionary)

The right side of the rectangular space, onto which I peered, was elevated above the left side. People from both sides were yelling at each other. The tension mounted quickly.

Someone from the higher side picked up a huge, stone statue from the corner, and hurled it down on the lower side. Just as it was about to crush the people below. I yelled “RESET TO FACTORY SETTINGS” and everything immediately returned to normal. The statue stood in the corner, and the people – all minding their own business, were eating, dancing, and chatting quietly amongst each other. Whew, that was close!

Dreams are often unrealistic like that. And sometimes, they are meaningful. Those words “reset to factory settings” have been reverberating in my mind all morning.

Girl biting her pencil, looking at computer
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
If you choose a complete reset to a device’s factory settings, your customizations will be erased, whether you like it or not!

I accidentally reset a device to factory settings once. I lost everything I had worked hard to customize and save. That was devastating!

I have also intentionally reset devices to factory settings. It creates a clean slate – a new blank canvas, so to speak. It can’t be done to reverse a skirmish. But I do believe God used my dream to teach me about what He’s done and what you and I can do.

What has He done?

In essence, when I accepted Christ, I was reset to factory settings. He threw my sin as far as the east is from the west, making me – in His eyes – as fresh as the day He created Adam. And every time I make a mistake, I can repent, and He will completely forgive me, taking me back to that setting of life.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:11, 12

I have an advantage in that I retain memory of my experiences when I am reset to factory settings. I have a clean slate AND the wisdom of lessons learned. That is the best of both worlds! What a smart program Jesus has built!

What can I do?

I can reset my relationships to factory settings. I don’t mean that I can maneuver other people’s lives before their creator, but I can wipe their slates clean, as far as it applies to me. I can offer complete forgiveness. I can give new chances and fresh starts to my people connections which have gone awry.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18
An iPhone with the introductory Hello screen
Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash
Taking it all the way back to Hello!

What can you do?

We don’t have the power to catch people getting out of control and simply reset them to factory settings, like I did in my dream. But God does. We must buy in to it, of course, but the offer stands.

Oh, what the skirmish must look like from His perspective! The statues have been thrown, so to speak. The idols of this world are heavy and we are sure to be crushed by the weight of them. But God.

Does your life need a complete reset to factory settings? Talk to God about it. He is faithful. He wants to wipe your slate clean. He will renew your right standing if you ask.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10