Why I loved NYC: Part 2 Unpacked

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It sure wasn’t this.

One month ago today I left my Guideposts weekend, and truth be told, I’m still unpacking my time in New York.  So while I’m truth telling, I might as well tell ya my suitcase is also still on the floor.  And there’s no better time than now to completely unpack it.

Because exactly two years ago today, I left life as I knew it when Mom left here for Heaven at 57.  My hospital suitcase remained cemented on the floor then too for weeks—and weeks.  Until in a desperate dialogue with God—in one of those “fist-shaking, life-quaking” moments—I implored, “WHY’d you let it happen like that? Just her and me.  With futile blows of air, to no avail. And WHAT am I supposed to do now?”

I begged for an answer, sitting on the cold tile floor, head hunched over, hugging my knees and rock bottom, tunneling through my own ground zero.

And then my eyes shot across the floor to my suitcase, before my hands followed suit.  I flipped it open to find my journal.  Lost and abandoned. Now found.  I’d been looking for it from day one to let my pen and my heart scream out.  And now a soft banner flew across my mind, as I read the rippling words and listened to the whisper: “Just write.”  Not in the darkness of a bed-side drawer, but with the light of the world—and the Word.

God used the Guideposts selection as a sweet affirmation of those words.  But it’s what He did after the mansion and in the city that grabbed my attention and stole my heart.  

It wasn’t the high rise corner suite with sweeping views of Central Park. And it sure wasn’t my man and me being picked out of a crowd for front row seats at Letterman.  It wasn’t even the highlight of getting up close and personal with Lady Liberty on her birthday.

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It wasn’t this.

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Or even this.

Instead, it was God taking me from the top and letting me see—and love—those scraping the bottom.  My first chance came as we exited a church across from Ground Zero.  We took off down the sidewalk at a New Yorker pace, and then noticed the turned heads, the double takes, the slow glances of fellow passerbys before discomfort and conscience sped up their feet.

My eyes locked in on what caught their attention and scared them away.  She was in her 20’s, sitting on a cold cement slab, head hunched over, hugging her knees and her own rock bottom, across from Ground Zero.  Holding a sign: Homeless. Hungry.  Maybe for food.  Maybe for drugs.  But no doubt for LOVE.

What am I supposed to do now? I thought, as I passed her up too, right after dispensing my own uncomfortable glance. That was just before the whisper and the rippling banner that turned me around:  “Go tell her I love her.”

Right now?  With all these people? But my doubts couldn’t stand up under the heavy weight of love. So I earned my way in with a few dollar bills, but I didn’t get her ears or her eyes until I said, “Don’t let the lipstick and the jewelry fool you.  I’m really no different from you.”

Her grey-blue eyes, the color of my daughter’s, rolled up and away in disbelief.  So I kneeled down beside her and told her my story.  And God’s.  I got her ears and her eyes—right before her heart.

And then I loved her, and I hugged her, as I inhaled the smell of months on the streets and the timeless scent of  grace.

I felt God breathe new life into both of us, rebuilding beauty from ashes and replacing broken pieces as I unpacked His truths.

After three life-changing, God-orchestrated encounters with women along the streets and the subway, God reminded me why I’m here—why we’re here.  Maybe to write. Maybe to speak.  But no doubt—to LOVE.

And to top off the three, he gave me one more.  Over and above, like only God does.  Just as we made our way through the subway, I followed the sound, to a girl and her bagpipe, playing God’s tune—Amazing Grace.  How sweet the sound.  Reminding me that my purpose was once lost, but now it’s found.

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The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:1-3

Thanks for reading along and allowing me to share my time in New York and even my luggage with you.

It would sure bless me if you’d subscribe to my regular blog posts, and I hope to bless you right back with a free printable. (Just scroll to the bottom or hop over to the sidebar to subscribe.  The free printable for a Sonshine Box will be in the confirmation email.)

How to Make a Sonshine Box

How to Make a Sonshine Box

When Dreams Come True!

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is LIBERTY. 2 Cor. 3:17

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is LIBERTY.
2 Cor. 3:17

My head’s been in the clouds, and I feel like I’m standing as tall as the Statue of Liberty.  I should.  Because I’m going to “NEW YORK CITY!” Yep, I said that just like the old Pace Picante commercial, complete with southern drawl and all.

I owe the woman who delivered the good news a brand new pair of ear drums after I let out a shrill squeal.

Turns out I won a slot at the Guideposts Magazine Writers Workshop Contest.  About ten out of thousands of stories are chosen, and the writers are flown to New York for a week-long writing training by the Guideposts editors and author Debbie Macomber.

Here’s the kicker—and my personal tear-jerker. It’s a dream come true. Literally.  

Not the trip, but the win.  Yep. I dreamed it, and now I’m about to live it.  But before I step forward, would you mind walking back with me for a few sacred steps?

Days after losing Mom at the end of  2012, I really did dream I won the contest. The dream, the win, made no sense in the wake of tragic loss.  The last thing I wanted to do was write—or dream.  I barely wanted to breathe.

Before she left, I had just recently entered the Guideposts’ contest on a last-minute whim, and of course didn’t get selected.

So in the dream I told God that it was over, and I wasn’t chosen.  As if He didn’t know.

I then saw a hand giving me my submission back.  And I heard, “But you will. It just needs both of your signatures. Yours and your mom’s.” I awoke, told my husband, shook my head, and then didn’t look back.  Until recently.

My 2012 submission didn’t include her.  But my 2014 one shared a personal story of how faith made a difference in my life, with Mom playing the “supportive role.”  Naturally.  And it had her signature all over it.

I’m stilI shaking my head here, and I bet Mom’s still nodding and grinning from Heaven. I can almost hear her, “Christie Charlene, I told you you should write.”  

I know it’s no coincidence I’ve just been celebrating being able to share Sonshine Boxes here on this blog Gifts that are given during times of discouragement.  When we question moving ahead while life shoves us back. When we even question our worth—and God’s plan.

And then—His gifts of grace arrive—just in time.  His time. 

This Heavenly win arose after the depths of earthly loss.  Pulled straight out of God’s Sonshine Box, made just for me.  He has one for you too.

Filled with victories and wins, perhaps after long seasons of loss.  This win sure didn’t happen overnight.  They rarely do.  They often come through sleepless nights, tear-filled days, minute by minute, hands to the heavens, and knees to the ground.

With prayers and cries that charge through the “Why’s?” and the “When’s?” well before the win.  

I shared in prior posts that God will bless us for going through stuff, in the junk drawers in our home—and our heart.  And there will even be a reward for the hardest part—sharing. Not so others will know our stuff, but so others will know our Savior.

And I‘ve told you before how I found lost keys, and right here—write here— I’ve found lost dreams.  But most of all, I’ve found Him.

So through rain or shine, win or lose, we can choose to believe He’s still working all things for our good. Romans 8:28 

Would you share with me your win, your loss, your highs, your lows? And know that I’m praying for you through them all. That’s the best part.  I told God whoever He brings here to read these words, I’ll bring Him back loads of prayers for them.  For you.  And thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 15:57

Thank YOU for walking and reading along with me.  It would sure bless me if you’d subscribe to my weekly emailed blog posts, and I’ll bless you right  back with a free printable—and some free encouragement. (Just scroll to the bottom or hop over to the sidebar to subscribe.  The free printable for a Sonshine Box will be in the confirmation email.)

I’LL TAKE DESSERT FIRST—OR IS IT DESERT?

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God loves dessert—or He just really loves His kids.  I’ll go with both.  And He’s as sweet as it gets.  Here’s why I think so.  

About a week ago I zoomed down the road, trying to follow the speed limit while my mind was racing 90-to-nothing. I was in full-throttle faith mode, eager to begin my year-long study on the life of Moses.

Even more, I couldn’t wait to meet the fifteen women God entrusted me to shepherd. We’d soon be crinkling through the pages, sailing down the Nile, trodding through the desert, shaking sand from our sassy sandals, and then finally lapping up some milk ‘n honey while we chomped on His promises.

The first day’s always my favorite.  I just HAVE to be there.  It’s the chance to bond, set the scene, and melt the ice.  So I was riding high, and looking like I’d arrive early—now that’s a miracle already.

And then came the speed bump.  Right before the call.  And the u-turn.

“Mrs. Hughes, can you come pick up your daughter, she just vomited in the hall. She’s fine now, but you still need to get her.”  I exhaled, thankful that she was OK, and then shifted into gear.  Surely there was somebody to call.  And a way I could meet my ladies, and then go get my girl.

I tried plan A.  It failed.  B followed suit.  And then there was C.  Just me.  Arguing with God. “But you kneeeew how much I wanted to be there.  You know how I don’t like to let people down.  And I just thanked you for the healthy kids—and all the green lights.”

And then I went where it hurts.  “You know if you hadn’t taken Mom, I could’ve called her.  She’d have been there. In a New York second. I know it.  She should be with me right NOW. Thanks alot.”  Oh yeah, I went there.  Straight for my jugular—careening for the ditch.

How can we—or maybe it’s just me—be so full of faith, on top of the mountain one minute, and then down in the dumps the next?

Ironically, the opening lesson was about the multi-mamas God provided Moses.  The one by birth and the one by destiny—and God’s plan.  A faith-filled mama held her baby for what seemed like a minute so that God’s kids could finally taste freedom in His great plan of eternity.  An example of trusting Him—even when His plans collide with ours. So I picked myself up, and then I picked up my girl.

The secretary shared that my daughter had been crying—not because she was sick, but because she didn’t want to miss school.  She never even made it into her class.  Oh, how I felt her pain.  Like daughter, like mother.

And then this is where it finally got sweet.  All comfy on the couch, my little mini me aimed her brown, puppy dog eyes at me and said, “Mommy, thank you for taking care of me.”

I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that minute—or God’s plan—for the world. 

So yesterday I belatedly led my first Bible study this Fall.   It was bittersweet, but with honey on top.  We’ll soon be digging our way through the desert—but first came dessert.  Literally.

One of my ladies had visited her mom in Metairie, right outside of New Orleans, the day before.  I’d mentioned that I used to love a certain coffee shop and a sweet dish on the menu.  “You should take your mom there,” I said.  So when she walked into the classroom, she served up a smile followed with, “I brought you a treat.”

When I saw what it was, I just about poured my tears into a bag of buttery sweetness.  Because what I hadn’t told her was that this dessert was the last one I’d shared with my mama. Just weeks before she left.  We never met a bread pudding we didn’t devour, or a latte we didn’t slurp to the very bottom.

Also on the menu had been me sharing my fears, along with God’s promises. And Mom sharing her wisdom—as strong and as stern—as the coffee.  I blinked back tears of that memory and said, “Now that’s what I call a treat straight from Heaven.”

I thanked her—and my sweet Savior—for dessert and the even sweeter reminder that my praying mama was with me after all.  Now it just doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

I can’t wait to dip my sandals into my land of promise—and my spoon into white chocolate bread pudding—made with milk and honey.

On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of Egypt into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands. Ezekiel 20:6

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

Comment below to share a time when God showed up with the dessert of His presence when you encountered some bittersweet moments in the desert.

Thanks for walking and reading along with me.  It would sure bless me if you’d subscribe to my weekly emailed blog posts, and I’ll bless you right  back with a free printable—and some sugary encouragement.

How to Make a SONshine Box {and a FREE Printable!}

How to Make a SONshine Box {and a FREE Printable!}

How to Make a Sonshine Box

How to Make a Sonshine Box

On my last post, a dream came true. I shared my SONshine Box with you and the inspiration for it.

Now I get to share what’s INSIDE the box. I’m a few days behind, but it’s worth the wait.  Or I should say, she is worth the wait.  Because although I’d initially planned to make the Sonshine Box that you see here just for the blog, it turns out God already had a heart picked out to receive it.  A precious mama in need of a Heavenly Father’s healing hand. Now isn’t that just like God.

She opened up her last item today.  So now that the “gifts are outa the box,” I can finally share the contents with you.  But before I do, I hope it’s OK that I share a few words.

After all, it’s a special box that’s been years in the making—literally.  Months after my beloved friend passed away, I prayed for God to show me what I could do to keep the faith that He’d set ablaze in my heart alive, and to reveal how I could honor the gift of time spent with her while sharing His transforming love with others.

I received His answer in verses He nearly plunked down from the sky.  Right after that prayer-filled and tear-stained moment on Aug. 7, 2005, I opened my Bible to find the answer.  The words lit up, hopped off the page, and landed in my lap.  A Heavenly gift.

And of all days, my calendar showed it was on Friendship Day.  How do I know that?  Because when God does the cool God stuff that only He can do, I check the date and jot it down.  To remember on days like today.

And to top it off, the next person I gave a Sonshine Box to sent me a thank you card in the mail with Bible verses canvasing the cover.

I almost dropped the card as soon as I saw them. Yep, the same ones God had already given me:

And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.  As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words! 2 Cor. 9:11-15 (NLT)

That’s what we’re doing here. When we make Sonshine Boxes for others, we’re bringing our gifts.  For them—and for Him.  

So when you’re hard pressed to think of a gift to give a friend or family member who needs uplifting, there’s no greater gift than a Sonshine Box filled up with love and God’s Word.

Examples of times I’ve given them are when loved ones are going through: cancer and other physical illness, depression, loss, discouragement, loneliness, the challenges of being a single mom or a widow, as well as for Birthday blessing boxes, Christmas blessing boxes, and the list goes on.

But you don’t need a reason to love—and you don’t need a reason to give.  Just love.  Just give. He’ll do the rest.

Why the Sonshine Box

Why the Sonshine Box

 

FINALLY, WHAT’S IN THE BOX:

Contents of the Sonshine Box

Contents of the Sonshine Box

A WEEK OF GIFTS AND A LIFETIME OF GOD’S LOVE.  Here are the 7 GIFT ITEMS shown above with attached verses that correspond to the gifts:

1.  FLOWER PEN:  The Lord will always lead you.  He will satisfy your needs in dry lands and give strength to your bones.  You will be like a garden that has much water, like a spring that never runs dry.  Mark 12:29-30

2. BOOK (Heaven is for Real):  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor. 4:18

3.  CANDLE:  I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.  Isaiah 42:16

4.  JOURNAL:  Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

5. BIBLE:  The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of God remains forever.  Isaiah 40:8

6. HEAD MASSAGER:  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:7

7. REMINDER NOTES:  Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle. Psalm 103:1-5

(8. WHAT YOU DON’T SEE, BUT THEY FEEL:  Prayer.  Pray for the gift recipient before  you give the Sonshine Box.   I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:18)

*These are only a few examples of gift items you can include.  The key is selecting a bible verse that corresponds with each of the gifts.

Examples of other gift items: lotion, bubble bath, nail file kit, coffee mug, etc. They can be simple and inexpensive items, but with His Word attached and your love thrown in, they’re priceless.

Although I use picture boxes from craft stores to place the gifts in, my family member wraps empty shoeboxes with yellow wrapping paper, and keeps them on hand for the many times God’s prompted her heart to make one. Then you simply wrap each item in tissue paper or wrapping paper, tape your Bible verse card to each item, and you’re done.

And when their week of unwrapping gifts is up, they’ve still got bible verse cards–and His word–to hold onto forever. 

Gift card that explains the box

Gift card that explains the box

Bible verse cards

Bible verse cards

Sonshine boxes are super easy to make on your own, and fun and rewarding to make as a group. I enlisted helpful hands and received answered prayers for the featured one photographed here. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention who some of the helping hands and praying hearts belonged to.  Stacy Naquin of Stacy Naquin Interiors helped me make the pictures as cute as they could be.  And in a prior post I told you of one of the borrowed mamas God connected me with.  After I shared my heart (and box) with Merri Dennis of Bible Crafts and Activities at a blogging conference, she contacted me afterwards and offered to make the Sonshine Box printable file for my site.  (Can you say God is good?!) Thank God for gifts—and friends—too wonderful for words. 

When you subscribe to this blog, you’ll be given a free printable file of the above gift card and 24 bible verse cards for you to print out and select from for your Sonshine Box. Print them onto card stock so they’re durable. (You subscribe by scrolling all the way to the bottom, clicking on follow,  and entering your email for a weekly emailed blog post.  The pdf file will be in your confirmation email. From a computer, the subscribe option will be on the sidebar.)

And please, when you make and give your Sonshine Boxes, come back here and tell me all about it.  I already know the God stories you’ll have.  I’ve prayed for them—and your answers are in the making.

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. Malachi 4:2 (NLT)

Thank you for reading along and walking along with me.  It would sure bless me if you subscribed to my weekly emailed blog posts, and I hope to bless you right back.

 

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!

 

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.