The GIFT of Friendship and Sonshine—and a FREE GIFT FOR YOU!

When Our Smiles Could Cover a Continent

When Our Smiles Could Cover a Continent

I got a Heavenly gift today, and it almost feels like Christmas and a birthday rolled up into one!  It should.  And I’d like to give it to you.  Here’s why:

You see, ten years ago TODAY I celebrated the birthday of my best-friend from high school.  Less than four months later, she celebrated her first birthday in Heaven—after cancer took her body and Jesus took her home.

It left me battered and broken.  But by grace—still believing.  And I only know God’s Word today and dare to write it because we dove into the deep end of faith together, and came up for air only when we had to.

Before I share today’s gift with you, I hope it’s OK that I share a quick memory.  I can still hear the shrill sound of the phone ringing, and feel my feet sliding across the floor to answer it.  What followed left me out of breath, and nearly out of words. A rarity.

 “Christie, Missy has cancer,”  her mom softly said. My heart dropped into my lap, unable to keep up with the pace of those words. I shifted mental gears into reverse, recalling the childhood years she’d been my secret keeper and the gatekeeper to my heart. She’d also been an answered prayer and a literal life-saver.  It was now my turn to return the favor.

Fast-forward to after that phone call, and we were side-by-side again.  For six solid months that changed me—for a lifetime.  I wouldn’t be here without her.  And I wouldn’t have the strength to endure more loss if it weren’t for what God did in me through her. That’d be a part of her favorite verse:  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

After one of our last outings, my tires crunched down her gravel driveway, and then settled in for a minute.  Before she grasped the door handle I said, “Missy, you KNOW why God created our friendship so many years ago.”  She said, “Yeah.”  We both knew.  And I told her, “For such a time as this!”  She nodded and those blue eyes just sparkled back at me.

And THAT brings me to the gift.  Today.  On her birthday.  For such a time as this.  As a thank you for reading along, I want to gift you with the opportunity to make a SONSHINE BOX.

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I made my first one back then when our closest friend shared how her mom used to make her a cheer-me-up sunshine box when she was a kid.  So the two of us got to work making one especially for Missy.  And then another.  And another.

We took the traditional “sunshine box,” and put my cheesy love of themes and words to good use, and the “SONshine Box” was born.  A gift box filled with seven wrapped items, wrapped up in love and God’s Word, that also included the condition to only open up just one a day for a week.  So she got a box enclosed with a week’s worth of gifts, but filled with a lifetime of God’s love for her.

In the decade since, I’ve continued to make countless SONshine boxes for friends and family, and even better, many of them have continued to make their own for those in need of encouragement and a reminder of God’s love.

When I committed to blogging in January, I made a pinky promise with Heaven and set a goal that by TODAY, I’d share this life-giving, Jesus-loving gift with others. Thanks to God and Heaven-sent friends, I made it.  I made the birthday and the box.  Now that’s a gift.

It’s pretty simple, but I’ll share the how-to’s and more pictures of how I put them together next week.  In the meantime, when you subscribe to this blog, you’ll get a free download to print out assorted bible verse cards and a gift card to place with your gifts for your very own box of Sonshine.

Ask God to place someone on your heart who could use a special reminder of your love and His.  And if you’ve already subscribed, just leave a comment, and I’ll send it your way.

So blessed to celebrate the GIFT of friendship and SONshine with you TODAY!  

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:7

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Thank you for walking along with me, one step, one word, at a time.  It would sure bless me if you’d subscribe to my weekly emailed blog posts, and I hope to brighten your day and bless you right back!

 

Kindergarten Faith

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What’s Kindergarten got to do with faith?  Well, everything.  And you don’t have to be a mama to get the elementary lesson God handed out for homework this week.  All you have to be is a daughter. And you are.  God’s beautiful, loved daughter.

A week ago, we dropped our beloved daughter off at school—for her first day of Kindergarten.  She would’ve leaped out of the car if we’d let her.

“You better stay in that seatbelt until I come get you, little girl!” Then finally, she got to take her big step forward while we reluctantly stepped back to watch her go.  Even superglue wouldn’t have held her, no matter how hard I hugged her or how tight I squeezed.

My husband and I flashed back to her first steps five years ago—and ours.  Though I’d been holding women’s bible studies, we’d never led a couples’ group together.

We re-traced our steps to that first group meeting.  Heart racing, red splotches creeping up our necks, praying to Jesus to help us remember our words—and our names.

We’ll never forget it.  It made the record books—of sorts.  Recorded on the pages of history in our spiritual legacy.

Way after God showed up and after the last couple left, we exhaled ourselves onto the living room floor. Heads bowed in reverence and utter relief.  And then uplifted in pure exhilaration. “We did it!”  Well, we knew God did it.

And just when our smiles couldn’t widen another inch, they managed to span another mile when we witnessed our first-born, at 9-months of age,  take her very FIRST steps to us.  Grinning, full of gums and gumption, she toddled straight for our hands—and our hearts.  We couldn’t be prouder.

No doubt, God perfectly planned and timed our first steps with hers.

A timely message to remind us that He’s so proud of each of His kids when we set out to take a bold step of faith, whether it’s leading a group, or leading a woman in the grocery store to the hand of Jesus.

All it takes is a mustard seed-sized faith—even a tiny Kindergarten-sized faith will do.  Just take a step, and He’ll do the rest.  I told you mine.  Now you tell me yours.  I want to hear YOUR FIRST STEPS STORY TOO.

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

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

Thank you for walking along with me, one step, one word, at a time.  It would sure bless me if you’d subscribe to my weekly emailed blog posts, and I hope to bless you right back!

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I WAS SCARED–BUT I DECLARED! {a weekend with borrowed mamas and BIG THINGS!}

BIG-hearted, borrowed Mamas!

BIG-hearted, borrowed Mamas!

I have a confession to make:  I was scared.  Yeah, last week I showed you my vintage, crunchy bangs.  That sure took obedience. And even though I can now do what was impossible in the pictures (like brush my hands through my hair like I just don’t care), I actually did care.

I cared about waving bye to my guy and my girls, and then hopping on a plane while gulping down gobs of nervous butterflies, and listening to the sound of Celine Dion’s “All By Myself” playing in my head.

In my last-minute nervousness, I didn’t want to go, and definitely not all by myself.  Yet I knew God wanted me to go solo. I didn’t like it, or the doubts that tried to jump into my carry-on.

I usually had family waiting in the wings to cling to and cry to when I faced Goliath fears.  And I always—always—had Mom on speed-dial to calm me down and straighten me out.  If she’d answer from Heaven, I would’ve dialed her up.

But God did what only He could do.  He showed up so BIG in my little wild obedience.  I can barely contain it, about as much as I can contain the ocean in my hands.  But I’ll share a few life-giving, God-hovering drops.

As soon as my feet hit the ground, my heart almost bounced up to Heaven.  There were only a few of us still lingering at baggage claim to see the show.  A family waiting with banners and signs and countless smiles that could light up a runway, all pointing to the girl who walked behind me.  I stepped to the side, stopped and stared, feeling out of place, but right at home.

Then a Mama emerged from the cheering crowd to embrace her missionary daughter. Streaming tears down cheeks and tangled arms that refused to relinquish told me it had been so long since their last embrace.

For a daughter still standing on fresh grounds of grief well over a year out, I stood frozen. Mesmerized.  And grateful for the living picture God painted before my eyes of what my homecoming would one day look like after I finish my work here—on this mission field of sorts.

I jolted back to reality when my ride pulled up to the curb to pick me up.  Like a mama picking up a school girl.  A local conferee, my first “borrowed Mama,” and a proud grandmother of nine, had graciously offered to pick this complete stranger up, who she’d never met, emphasis added.  For the love of God, why would someone do that?  Oh yeah—for the love of God.  Talk about a pure pick-me-up from Jesus.

And no sooner did I check into the conference hotel, I met a mom who had no room.  And here I was a daughter who had no roommate.  A match made in, well, you know.  We shared a room, and our hearts, throughout the weekend.

That would’ve been enough.  My plate was full.  Day one and done. But God piled on even more—BIG, Texas-style portions, doling on the gravy and richness, with precious God moments and transparent, pour-your-heart-out conversations.  Topped off with tender messages of sweeping love, freedom in Christ to tell our stories, to use our voice and hands to speak and write—and to give—to those who have no voice.

But on the third day, there it was again.  Unsettling fear.  I wanted to hurl.  And run.  Not because I was meeting with a literary agent, but because I had to throw my story on the table.  To do that, I had to be willing to rip my heart out, and just let it drip.

As I waited before my appointment, and before I could lose my words or my lunch, another precious borrowed mama, a “Mimi” close to my mom’s age, asked if she could pray for me.

“Jesus, heal her back—and all her broken places,” she requested with love and boldness. I can’t explain it, but it was just like I was praying with Mom. Like she was there.  Holding my hands while Jesus held my heart.

So I confidently walked in on a borrowed mama’s prayer, and I knew that I walked out with my own mama’s answered prayer. I also walked away with a new friend, who happens to now be my agent.  Yep, God did some BIG things in Dallas.  At the Declare Conference:

I went to learn how to be a better writer and blogger–I returned as a better person.

I went unknown and alone—and came home with new friends who feel like family.

I went to meet bloggers and an agent—and I met Jesus—in each and every one of them.

I gave a small seed of wild obedience, and God enlarged my heart and grew my faith bigger than the whole state of Texas!  Now that’s BIG y’all!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… Ephesians 3:20

Thank you for walking along with me, one step, one word, at a time.  It would sure bless me if you’d subscribe to my weekly emailed blog posts, and I hope to bless you right back!

I do DE-CLAY-UH! {DECLARE!} Here’s to Hair and Hearts as Big as TEXAS!

FOUR hearts beating FOR Him.

FOUR hearts beating FOR Him.

I’m about to go where I haven’t been in a LONG time.  Back to my sky-high hair days.  And all because there’s some “wild obedience” going on in Texas.

I’m trying to use my best Texas drawl here, but somehow it’s sounding more like the Louisiana chick that I am, horribly feigning a Scarlet O’Hara line.  And the only thing that’s ever been Texan about me was my Texas-size hair in the 80’s and 90’s. I’ve got the blackmail pictures to prove it, along with the sweet memory of my grandma and mom saying, “Pleeease Christie, can you make it go down–just a little?”  If only I’d listened to them.

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The reason I’m even having Texas-sized thoughts along with my God-sized dreams is because there’s a group of amazing blogging women who are meeting up in Dallas soon, and I’m linking up with them to share a few things about myself. As my bio. page says, I kinda dread this stuff.  I mean, can we talk about YOU and YOUR stuff?  OK. OK.  I’ll do it anyway.  I’ll obey.  Did I mention their theme this year is “Wild Obedience?”  Uh. Huh.  I hear you, Lord.

And what I heard even louder than their theme was their name. The Declare Conference. “Declare.”  A repeated word in my mental vocabulary and my call to write.  When I heard it, I thought of one of my life verses and what I’m currently writing about:

And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him, declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. Luke 8:47 (ESV)

Now on to the fun stuff.  It’s Declare’s  4th year in existence, so I’m answering 4 things in 4 categories. (I just wrote that in my best gameshow voice, by the way.)

4 THINGS ABOUT ME:

1.  I’m named after the Christian book, Christy, although my mom changed the “y” to an “ie.” Her motherly prerogative. She also loved that the name had Christ in it and means Christ follower.  I cherish the memory of being reminded of that by her in March of 2012.  Neither of us knew then that I’d have just 8 more months of those kind of encouraging reminders from her.  But God sure did.

And the weekend she reminded me of my name origin, I also met Diann Mills, a Christy-Award winning novelist.  I even got to ask her who her “Aaron and Hur” were in her writing life. (Remember-they were the ones who lifted Moses’ arms when he grew weary.)  I wanted to know who lifted her up when she felt like giving up, and who continued to encourage her to write and follow her dreams.  I thought of my man and my mom when she shared her answer. Tissues please.  We both needed some then, and I need some now. I love how cool God is.  And I live for these kind of God stories.

2.  I moved to a suburb of Baton Rouge, Louisiana the summer before 6th grade, and I ended up marrying the first kid I met. I was the new kid on the block and had prayed to find a friend before the first day of school.  However, he was disinterested in cootie-filled girls.  Fast forward 20 years, and God answered that prayer after all.  Did I mention we danced to New Kids on the Block at our reception?  Again, I just love cool God stories.

3. I have an unused law degree, of which I stubbornly pursued “just because I said I would” since the 7th grade. (Does stubborn qualify as an endearing quirk?  I didn’t think so.)

There’s some sweet irony here, though. I’ve been operating under “the law” for years, but now I’m seeking daily grace instead.

4. I LOVE to hear good God stories.  Even more, I live to write them. I said that already, but it’s worth the repeat.

4 OF MY ENDEARING QUIRKS:

Just four?!  And the “endearing” part is debatable.  It’s more like, enduring them. OK. Here goes.

1.  I snort laugh.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t happen too often.  Only if something is reeeaaaally funny.  Just pretend like you don’t notice.  It’ll be more comfortable for both of us.

2.  I’m kind of an incessant pile-maker.  Goes with being a note-taker and a thought-collector.  (Hey, I’ve heard note-takers ARE history-makers.)

3.  I love personality quizzes.  Meyers Briggs, can I get an Amen! After we’ve known each for a while (hopefully more than 30 minutes), I may or may not ask you to “tell me your letters.”  I’m a nerd like that.

4.  I get easily excited about the little things in life–especially all things quaint, cute, and coffee-related. You know those kind of people you have to caution to slow down and take time to smell the roses?  Well, “I ain’t one of those.”  Along with snort-laughing, I have no trouble snorting up rose petals.  In fact, you might just need to pry me out of the rose bushes.

4 THINGS ABOUT MY BLOG & WRITING:

1.  They were birthed from pain. So I don’t actually live in those rose bushes.  But I do live with some thorns in the flesh.  Specifically, herniated disks since 2009.  And after a fall in 2011, I finally asked God what He wanted me to do instead of telling Him what I was gonna do for him.  It seemed like writing was His answer.

2.  But truth is, it took losing a mom to finally force my writing and blogging hand.  So wild obedience didn’t come naturally.  It came painfully.  And with each weekly blog, I simply write out life in the light of His Word, from the Well of His Word.

3.  Since Christie Hughes was already taken for a blog name, I added the “at the well.”  I know.  It’s long.  

And the funny part is I recently learned I’ve been mentally referring to the wrong well.  I first thought of the woman at the well, and of course Jesus is the Well.  But unlike my bio. says, I’m not supposed to be sitting at the well.

Aside from sitting down, reading and writing, from the Well of His Word, I’m at the “Well” of His Word.  “Daughter, your faith has made you WELL.”  That’s me.  Daughter.  Just like the woman with the issue.  And she sure wasn’t sitting when she received her “well” kind of faith. I’m getting so excited thinking about that, I’m gonna have to type standing up.

4.  So along with blogging, I’m writing about that “well” kind of faith that turns a faith-filled woman with issues into a daughter made well.  And I’m learning that beautiful things can be birthed from painful events.  I look into the brown and blue eyes of two spunky little girls each morning and see smiling proof of that.  Which brings me to the last four things (and how my girls and their daddy are my “favorite things”).

4 OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:

1. Faith.  Family.  Friends.  Yeah, I know it SOUNDS like three and not one, but really, they can’t be separated.  Let’s just call it a 3-in-1.  It’s probably obvious here that I live with two mini-me’s who are nudging little negotiators (“Can I have just ONE more cookie, Mama? But what about just TWO MORE goldfish?”)

2.  Pictures.  I’m more about people than things, but if I select “things,” they’re gonna be sentimental.  The kind of things you grab if you’re headed for an island (besides the fire starter and knife).

3.  Words from those I love, including a letter from my mom in 2011 telling me, “God doesn’t put more on us than we can handle.  Sometimes that doesn’t seem fair, but ultimately we see in the end what he was doing and it is always for a purpose if we keep him first.  I admire the mother that you are.  I wish that I could go back and be more like you as a mother.  Pretty heavy statement, huh?  You don’t let circumstances rule you.  You rise above and find joy in your surroundings.  You have such FUN with your children.  I’m proud of you for that. I know you will continue to be the mother God wants you to be throughout their lives. And you have such a love for others.  You witness every chance you get.  I have no doubt your mansion in Heaven will be one of the most beautiful.”  Maybe I should’ve added tissues to my list.

4.  The Word.  Specifically, the Bible I grabbed from my mom’s coffee table the last time I saw her.  It’s a life-saver.  And there’s a bookmark of sorts now placed inside that sends a rush of hope through my veins each time I look at it.

It came in the mail a few days before she left for Heaven. A random item placed in a card from a stranger. I opened it at the exact moment I was telling my brother about praying with Mom and getting to see her lift her hands to Heaven and hear her tell Jesus that she was claiming all FOUR of her kids for the Kingdom.  Not one.  Not two.  Not three.  But all FOUR.  Yep.  You see it right.  It was a vintage playing card.  The four of hearts.

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Allow me to say it ONE more time–I just love cool God stories like that.  And from my heart to yours, thanks for reading and playing along with me.  Now it’s your turn.  What are your 4 things?  

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 (ESV)

You’d sure bless me if you’d scroll to the bottom or hop over to the sidebar to subscribe to my weekly emailed blog posts.  I hope to bless you right back.