We’re home in France! I am sitting in the chaise lounge behind the house, drinking a cup of chai tea from my favorite mug bought in Aigues-Mortes two summers ago, with my Bible and prayer list and freshly cut ‘belles de nuit’ sitting on the little wrought iron table beside me.
This is My. Place. With. You. Lord. Being alone with You in our backyard in Rochetaillée, sipping tea in the morning while doing my devos or sipping wine and popping nuts in my mouth for apéro in the evening, as I did last night.
It is a perfect late summer day, the sun gradually creeping up to warm my toes. Soon I will have to move the chaise to the shade on the right, but for now, I am happily ensconced in the wonder of being home.
We are sleeping in the guest suite behind the house and that feels perfect because we are, in a sense, guests in our own home. We’re back here after a whole year in the US filled with so many unexpected things in our lives and in our world. We thought we’d be there for four months, but life and Covid and many other events, both delightful and difficult, changed that.
But now, right now, we are back and we are taking time off. This is a delight.
I remember Paul’s labor of love to turn this big old garage into a spacious suite for our newlyweds, Andrew and Lacy, eleven years ago. Since that time, countless others have enjoyed the rest and refuge and simple beauty of this room, not the least of whom are we, are us! A little haven and retreat where we are surrounded by reminders of Your goodness and faithfulness to us, where every photo and quilt and piece of used furniture tells a story of Your provision throughout the years. This is the story of our guest suite, of our home, of our lives in France serving a God who cares for His children, a God who provides.
I smile, seeing Paul’s handmade wooden frames that surround pastels of water scenes from some of our favorite places in Europe that we’ve been privileged to visit:
There are little candle holders from Athens and dried hydrangeas from the yard, held in old wine bottles and vases given to me at book events or picked up at a neighborhood garage sale. The birdhouse and wrought iron bird candle holder, gifts from our good-bye party in Montpellier all those years ago, chirp at me from atop the old armoire, one of the first pieces of furniture we bought in France at the used furniture store near our apartment home in Montpellier way back in 1990.
It is these simple things, Lord, that bring such joy.
After I finish my devotions, I step inside the house to where Paul is reading his Bible in the green leather chair that we won—yes, we won—from a furniture store that was just opening its doors when we first moved to Lyon seventeen years ago.
Paul looks up at me with those tender, kind, loving hazel eyes and says, “Thirty-eight years ago—no, thirty-nine years ago—today was the day we met.” And I grin and kiss him and we say, almost in unison, “The best almost-forty years of my life.” We stand in awe of the God who brought together two starry-eyed recent college grads, ready to change the world for Jesus.
All these years later, we know, we know, that WE are the ones Jesus has changed. By His grace.
And now, I’m sitting in my Writing Chalet, my sweet tool shed that I redecorated last year during the pandemic, the place where nine of my novels have been penned and where I’ll soon be editing the newest one. It is another delight to look out the window at the newly-mowed lawn and see the geraniums perched on the well. We returned to a complete jungle and have happily spent the last few days taming our garden.
Yesterday, we received a What’sApp video from Andrew of the grandkids’ delight—especially eighteen-month-old Lena’s—as they played with a bucket filled with little frogs. Then Andrew called us on Zoom and we spoke en francais with him and Lena. He speaks only in French with her! Yes, we miss our family, but how we rejoice in the full year we were able to be near them.
Later in the evening we zoomed with the new newlyweds, Chris and Ashlee, home from their honeymoon and living for one more week with my sweet Daddy. We plan to host them here next summer in the ‘nuptial suite’! For now, we listened as they shared about shipping all their belongings to Boston where they’ll be moving on August 31, our 36th anniversary.
And we talked with my father. He was the hardest to leave, especially because of the shock we received right before Chris and Ashlee’s wedding. Daddy has pancreatic cancer. In God’s kindness again, I was able to go with him to see the surgical oncologist the day before we flew back to France and hear the doctor reassure me that I should return to France for a brief time, that my father is doing well right now. But, oh, it was hard to leave him.
Paul and I will be back in the US by mid-October because we have two conferences with our mission scheduled on the West Coast, conferences that had been postponed several times due to Covid. And we’ll stay for awhile, who knows how long? At least through January, 2022, when Baby #5 is due to arrive for Lacy and Andrew!
But for this month, the leadership at our mission has mandated a time of rest and refreshment and renewal for Paul and me, a time away from our usual responsibilities of pastoral care for workers around the world. We are grateful for their concern, for seeing the signs of fatigue and burn-out that have been hovering around us for quite a while.
A month to reflect and read and sit before the Lord, to take some vacation. A month to rest.
Letters to the Lord will be paused for the next four weeks as will my presence on social media. Oh, I may pop in with a photo or two now and then. Or not. It is hard for me to take a break. But I am really, really going to try. Because I need it.
And I’ll just bet you do too.
You may not be able to take time off right now. But my prayer for myself and for each of us is that, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, we can take a deep breath, pause in our spirits, and thank our God for His goodness and faithfulness so far in our lives. Doing just this simple act of worship changes things, doesn’t it?
So much is wrong in this world, but our God is right, and we can find rest in Him.
“Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62: 1-2
May you find rest for your souls this month, dear ones!
ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog
Wonderful Kim Platt joins Letters to the Lord today with a message about Warning Messages. Enjoy!
Does your phone ever give you that message, ‘you are off-line’. It usually happens to me when I’m trying to use Google Maps. You know when I’m really trying to find some place or even when I’m lost.
I’m happy to have a bargain data contract on my phone. I can afford to be on-line all the time, no problem. So when I see that message, I’m pretty confused. Because hey, I should be on-line.
This week it has me thinking about prayer. You see with God I am always connected. Always hooked up. Never out of signal. Never used up on my data quota—nope I’m all good. That’s because my relationship with him isn’t based on some technical hook up. It doesn’t require me to be in a certain physical space with my antenna up. And it isn’t dependent on battery life.
Now that data is cheap—battery life is an issue. What good is data with no power. But with God I’ve got a good signal and power. In a spiritual way I have a free connection to the national grid. The Holy Spirit connects us all and his power doesn’t run out after a long day.
But I do think that the Holy Spirit does send warning messages. ‘If you don’t recharge now your phone will shut down in two minutes.’ Ever gotten that message? Well I think the Holy Spirit says things like that. Hey, it’s the sabbath, shut down and rest. Or hey, you have some corrupted files—run the cleaner program—confess and repent. Or how about it’s been 275 days since this phone was backed up—do you want to back up now? Do you want to review and remember what God has done for you?
Or how about this one, ‘you have 47 messages waiting’? Have you taken time to read the bible lately—or listen to it on audio.
Would you like to run the tutorial? Yes, tell me how to do this life thing.
You have a friend request waiting—oh Jesus, I know you wait for me so many times.
Thank you Lord that I’m never off-line. Thank you for warning me about so many dangerous situations. Thank you that your spirit lives in me. That Jesus is closer than a brother. That I have the mind of Christ. That you always see where I am—location sharing is always on.
Where can I go from your spirit signal? Unlimited texts and calls with my saviour. If I go to the hinterland, even there the spirit signal is strong. You see me when I’m texting, you see me when I’m scrolling, you see me when I’m watching youtube. You know which apps are draining my batteries. You know when I’ve gone over my monthly allowance. You see me when I’m charging. You see me when I’m plugged into the grid but the socket isn’t turned on.
Thank you Jesus, the best provider. Always online, never down for servicing.
I’ve been living cross-culturally since 1988. I love listening to people and helping them hear themselves and hopefully hear God. I love speaking and teaching. I’m recovering from breast cancer that shook me to the foundations in 2017. I live by the seaside in Wales and work from home with my husband. I’ve raised 4 children in countries ‘foreign’ to me and am now enjoying 2 grandchildren. I’m a member care specialist with One Collective. You can read more of my devotional thoughts on my blog: https://plattmom.blogspot.com
On Saturday, our younger son, Chris, married his love, Ashlee. The whole week has been filled with wonder and wonderful memories which I will tell you about soon. But today, I’m honored to share this blog post from my niece, Meggin Musser, who attended the wedding with her husband and our oldest nephew, Austin.
I had the rare privilege joy of spending a few hours with Meggin alone (she’s got five kids under ten years old) on Sunday afternoon while Paul and Austin removed the last remaining items from Ashlee’s apartment. This blog post of her reflections on this wedding weekend touched my heart deeply as I’m sure it will yours. Yes, she’s talking about Chris and Ashlee’s wedding, but also about my wonderful father’s life. Enjoy.
Austin and I were away for a wedding this weekend. It was a beautiful wedding, two people ready to start building a life together. Weddings always trigger a hope and wonder within me, a remembrance of the important things in this life. Watching two people commit to love each other, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death parts them. It’s a bold promise, it is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. It is one that brings blessing and challenge. Watching two people make this commitment to each other is one of life’s utmost joys. As I was sitting there, I was reflecting on how my own wedding day, combined with the day I chose to follow Jesus, and the five days that my children were born, make up the best and most important days of my life. Sure, there are a million moments in between and so many of those are important too, but these stand out as the emotional highs of my life. These are the moments of the most intense joy and emotion.
I had the pleasure the next day of spending some time with the groom’s grandfather. He spent time walking us around the beautiful property that he owns in Atlanta, the home where he raised his children. There are so many memories and so much love that poured out of that home as he walked us through it. Pictures abound of his children and grandchildren, a map with pins showing every place that he and his wife travelled in the world, and the barn where his wife kept all of her beloved horses and taught others to ride. As we walked around I couldn’t help but think of my own children and all the special moments that we’ve shared in our home. If I was reflecting back, my version might sound a little different– here is the mud puddle where the kids like to make mud cakes, this is the patch of poison ivy that put one child in the hospital, this is the deck that we’ve been working on for two years. But in all seriousness, home is a space full of memories and love. It is the space where a majority of our life together takes place. There are memories of tears and of laughter and of a lot of in between.
Mr. Goldsmith sat and told us many stories of his childhood and of how he met his wife and married at 23 (she was 19). He told us of how his three children came along, including the surprise of one 13 years after they thought there would be no more. As I sat and listened, I felt as though I was watching a man reflect and tell the story of his life well lived. When we asked him about his profession, he told us politely about it for a few minutes, but these weren’t the memories that excited him, this wasn’t the heart of the life that he lived. When he talked of his family, his kids, his wife– that’s where the smile came, that’s where the joy was evident.
I couldn’t help but walk away seeing the beauty of life. I witnessed a beautiful beginning on Saturday as two people said “I do,” and then I witnessed the beautiful reflection of a man who is nearer to the end. Both so sweet in their own way. Austin and I are somewhere in the middle. Day in and day out we are building those memories that someday others will hopefully want to listen to. These moments right now, they make up a life. Those big, emotional high moments that I mentioned before, Mr. Goldsmith didn’t mention a single one. Each of the memories that he shared were of the everyday moments along the way. He didn’t tell of his wedding day, but he did tell us of how he met his wife when she sat right down on his lap! He didn’t tell us of the day the children were born, but instead he told us about their personalities, how they interacted with each other, funny stories of their childhood. He told us of the everyday moments. This man built a beautiful life and family. I look forward to having similar reflections when we near the end of days here on earth, reflections of a life well lived.
Hi, I’m Meggin. I am a wife and mom of five energetic, complex, and delightful kiddos. My small people range in age from two to eight years old and they keep me learning, growing, laughing, and occasionally crying. I’m excited to meet here with you each week. I hope that this is a place where you can come to laugh, grow, and occasionally cry right alongside me. Thanks for joining me.
You can find Meggin’s weekly blog posts here at My Hamper Runneth Over.
It is such a joy to be able to write to you all today, I am so grateful to Elizabeth Musser for her kindness in giving me the opportunity to share what’s on my heart right now.
Today, I was reflecting upon what it looks like to have a thankful and grateful heart before God. Lately, I have struggled with seeing the good things God is doing in my life and others’ lives as well, while still watching the bad things that continue to happen to really wonderful people who have been a blessing in my life. When I struggle with the unfairness of this realization, I often have to check my heart and see if I disbelieve the goodness of God or if I just distrust that his promises are true. If I had to relate to one person in the Bible who meets Jesus, it would definitely be “Doubting Thomas”. I don’t ever feel tempted as Peter did to deny Jesus before men, but I do more often wonder why God allows suffering and how it can be a part of his perfect plan. Reading C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Problem of Pain” helped me since realizing that a great thinker and scholar like Lewis also struggled with this contradiction as well. Questioning God’s movements and his plan for our lives and the destiny of the world is something that happens when I forget the goodness of God. Just the presence of difficulty in the lives of others can be troubling though when you know that they carry a heavy burden. All I want to do is make it easier somehow for them and myself, but this is not possible, and so I get stuck sometimes.
What I like about Elizabeth Musser’s characters is their realness. I feel they are real life friends that I know. I struggle right along with Lissa Randall as she grieves and wants to give up, or how Mary Swan is angry at the world after she loses her mother, or when Perri Singleton’s world is falling apart during the Great Depression. She illustrates how they need to reach out for help, and not struggle alone but also how in our own loss and grief we truly become aware of the needs of those around us. Difficult times and suffering in our lives take off the rose colored glasses we may have worn before and show us the challenging reality of the lives of others living all around us. What I learned from the lives of the characters in Elizabeth Musser’s books and in my own life as well, is that for some, from their first day on earth things have never been rosy at all.
To believe in the goodness of God is doubly harder and more challenging when the “unkindness (of one’s personal experience) makes it unbelievable to find kindness elsewhere”(to quote another favorite character – Elinor Dashwood from Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”). I think that honest and truthful relationships are the key – real friends and family who will boldly speak truth into our lives, especially when the voices inside our heads or even of people around us only speak words of sadness or despair. It is so valuable to have friends and family who point us back to Christ, his character and his goodness – and not back to the circumstances themselves for all the answers to the questions we are facing.
Sharing our troubles, prayers and requests to God in a small group Bible study is such a blessing, because the act of sharing with each other and bringing it to God in prayer keeps our focus on Him and also reminds us that we are not alone on this journey. This is the gift of communion and fellowship in the body of Christ. Keeping a journal to record the things I am concerned about and giving them to God in private prayer is an essential exercise for me. And I am astonished when I look back even only weeks or months later to see how God has provided or given me even something else instead of what I wanted to happen.
But it was always for my good, usually the way I wanted things to be is clearly not right later upon reflection and does make more sense in hindsight. I love going back and adding little notes with a new date beside – “prayer: answered! It turned out ok” or “actually this didn’t work out but instead God gave me this…” Truly, as forgetful as I am, writing down the troubles, the prayer requests, the struggles with sin, and naming the victories is one of the most liberating things I get to do while spending time with Jesus. Because I write so much and so often, I have a record of how many things that God has done in my life – to remind me when I doubt his goodness in the present circumstances. I love how he really meets me there each time – holding all my fears, my worries and concerns and lovingly answering and providing for me in his own perfect timing.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.”
An attitude of praise and thanksgiving literally changes our whole self. It is challenging to be grateful in times of blessing and even trials we experience on earth. And to find the good in things is not an exercise in ignoring difficult reality but recognizing that the greater reality is already established in who God is – and so we can truly put our trust in Him. Our health in our bodies literally improves when we trust in the Lord and sing his praises, even when our own minds and emotions are dragging us down by difficult times and circumstances.
And perhaps the most precious part is the end of that verse…His love endures forever! We can give thanks and be truly thankful because God is good.
In the second book of the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, Mr. Beaver says to the ever cautious Susan in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, “Safe?…Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He is the King, I tell you.”
Before she can commit to an unknown adventure and before she can open up herself to the possibility of loss in her life, Susan wanted to know if she could really trust Aslan. Mr. Beaver assures her that she can trust Aslan both because of his greatness and his goodness. I know that Susan certainly has her faults in the stories, but truthfully I think I relate to her most because of her practical and straightforward view of things, wanting to see the evidence and doubting the appearance of goodness. It is an incredible leap of faith for her to believe that Aslan is the Great Lion and that he is good. When she does choose to follow Aslan, she experiences not only the adventure but also the safety that she really wanted – protection from the dangers that she was afraid of.
Since Aslan represents Jesus in the story, I love how C.S. Lewis is showing us through the eyes of a little girl what it looks like to put our trust in the great and good Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ. Little Lucy Penvensie leads her family into the magical snowy wood guarded by a single lamppost where she believes at once in Aslan and decides to follow him. Her faith is simple – Aslan is trustworthy because he is both great and good. While Susan and Edmund needed some more convincing, I think that C.S. Lewis knew all of us are somewhere in between all of the four Penvensie children and can relate to how we choose to follow Jesus. The fact that Jesus Christ is both great and good at the same time is at once a logical contradiction in our minds as well as a wonderful miracle upon deeper reflection.
If you stop and think about it, one without the other is really pointless. If someone was supremely great but entirely wicked, the world would be at the mercy of the whims of a total selfish all-powerful being with the ability to exert their selfish will on everyone else. Many religions believe in such a cruel and all-powerful version of a god whom they have to appease through deeds in the god’s name and sacrifices. However, what pleases a wicked all-powerful god will lead to wicked deeds done in the god’s name.
On the other hand, while it might be nice to think of a god who was only supremely good, this would not be of any use to anyone else either. The world would perhaps be blessed by the goodness of the deity, but without the power to wield the goodness and make things right, the good deity would be passive or worse, unable to act and wickedness would still prevail more often than it already does in this world. There would also be no true justice for the vulnerable people in the world because only through the power to do good is justice given to those in need.
Yes, our God is both supremely great and supremely good! Praise God!
When it is hard to trust in God, despite our circumstances, we know we can because of God’s true character. Putting our whole dependence and trust in Him is actually the safest place, because while there may be dangers to face, the truth is we would face them with or without God’s help and loving presence in our lives. Wouldn’t you rather have Jesus by your side while you face the dangers in your life? I certainly would. When I try to rely on my own strength, it is truly terrifying and not worth the risk at all. Better to trust in the loving arms of our precious Savior, Jesus Christ.
“But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me.”
Trusting in God is a gift of the Holy Spirit. I truly celebrate when I can put my trust in Him, even when my emotions are spent or my mind is playing horrible tricks on me. The act of faith in God with his power will carry me through because “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world!” (1 John 4:4)
God’s unfailing love is worth rejoicing for! He rescued us once, and He continues to rescue us, over and over again – like the forgetful sheep that we are. And because God is good, we get to sing His praises! My heart needs to sing, I need to remember what God has done, either by writing it down, praying it aloud or sharing it with others. This testimony reorients my own gaze back to Jesus, knowing that He has done it all. He has paid it all and he continues to work in our lives in both total goodness and total power.
I hope this encourages you today, I am still working on these things myself, but the struggle in the journey is certainly worth it because of the wonderful, loving, kind, powerful and good God that we serve.
Blessings to you,
Meghan Lacey was raised in sunny and warm climate of Central Florida and has spent the last ten years living in the beautiful foothills of Georgia. She credits her mother, Lyn Lacey, as her inspiration for her artistic endeavors. While still in high school, Meghan received classical drawing and oil painting instruction from Chris DiDomizio from 2008-2012 and watercolor painting instruction from Dylan Scott Pierce from 2009 until 2012. From 2014 to 2015, Meghan took private lessons from portrait artist Leah Burchfield Mantini. She has taken workshops from renowned artists such as Don Sondag, Jordan Sokol, Amaya Gurpide, Mia Bergeron, Anne Blair Brown, Dylan Scott Pierce, Brett Weaver, and Suzy Schultz. During the fall semester of 2016, she studied abroad at Oxford University through the Scholars’ Semester at Oxford, where she studied History of Art as a registered visiting student. Meghan graduated with her B.A. in Art and Design, with a Concentration in Painting and a Minor in Art History at LaGrange College in May of 2017. During the growing season of 2020, she learned the art of organic farming at Serenbe Farms, GA. As of Spring 2021, Meghan is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in Painting, through the Academy of Art University, in San Francisco, CA. She recently was privileged to have her artwork featured in British Vogue’s April, May and June 2021 print and online issues.
The Little Girls in the Room—Praying with the Imagination
Recently, I did a prayer exercise called ‘Praying with the Imagination’ with my spiritual director, Letha.
If you’ve never heard of this exercise, the following may be a stretch for you. But stay with me for a minute.
Life has been challenging lately. That feeling of Just. Too. Much. Good stuff and bad stuff and lots of stuff in between. Several events have triggered knee-jerk reactions in me that sent me spiraling back to old habits of negative self-talk, what Eugene Peterson calls ‘Debilitating self-criticism’. I was feeling like Elijah, alone and exhausted on Mount Horeb. (I Kings 19).
So Letha had me imagine myself in a room with all these different voices. She asked me which ones needed to be shown the door for a while and which ones I needed to lean into and listen too.
As I sat in the silence, here’s the scene I imagined:
I’m in our den downstairs. I’m sitting on the blue couch and to my left, in front of the picture window, are two young girls with their hair in pig tails. At first I think they are young women, but the longer I look, they become girls. And they are both pitching fits and screaming at me. One is “Failure in France” and one is “Failure in Fiction”. They are so loud and distracting and so I finally say, “Stop it! Just stop it! We’ve already talked about all this many times before and it’s been settled. So leave!”
They keep throwing their tantrums, but inch toward the front door and finally they leave. Then in the quiet, I see myself, as I am now, at my age. I’m sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace and one after another, my family comes to sit with me, practically in my lap. And my arms just keep expanding so that they reach around all of them. And it is sweet and tender and safe. And I’m saying, “It’s going to be okay.”
And then Jesus is sitting behind me, holding me tightly, and He’s the One who is holding everyone in His strong arms, in His righteous right hand as it says in Isaiah 41:10. He’s the One who is holding us all, and He is gentle, and we are all okay.
Then Letha had me go back into the room and see if there are any other voices present and if so, what are they saying to me. Are there any other voices I need to hear?
And suddenly I saw two little girls—one was tiptoeing down the steps and peeking out between the banisters. She was “Joy in Writing”. I met her at the stairs, leaning down to her level. She had sad but hopeful eyes. She was begging me for time to finish creating my story.
Then another little girl ran in from the new sun room with happy, mischievous eyes. She was “Planning a Party”. And she wanted me to enjoy planning the rehearsal dinner, to take the time to do whatever was needed to make it FUN!
So I took both of the little girls by the hands, and we sat at the little table I use for tea parties with the grandkids, and we had a tea party. We laughed and enjoyed, and I looked over my shoulder and Jesus was smiling at us, His arms securely around all my family, pleased with me, winking, and saying, “I’ve got them, and you’ve got this.”
And so I will rejoice in my creativity and how God made me, and I will delight in finishing my story (deadline July 31) and preparing for the rehearsal dinner and wedding (August 6 and 7).
Merci, my precious Lord, for meeting me in exactly the way I needed today. Je t’aime.
Where do you need the Lord to meet you today?
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look around you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog.
Another summer break is just around the corner, and we have not booked a holiday apartment yet. Again. (It is already really hot here, but the school year in Austria isn´t finished yet). This year we desperately want to finally spend some time at the sea! Beaches, waves, wide open spaces!
We have already spent a few hours searching the internet (such searches are really exhausting and time-consuming). For 5 adults it´s not that easy to find something cheap AND nice. We are just one person more than an average family, and nobody likes to sleep in a kitchen corner. Croatia and Italy are our possible destinations by car. Our country has no coast, and the pandemic has caused changing traveling conditions. Although we can´t find a house directly at the beach, there is still something. If only we knew for sure that in a month it would still be possible to travel and that restrictions would not suddenly be imposed again! We don´t want to pay for cancelling. So we are watching the development a little longer. And waiting.
In fact, it has never really been certain whether you can start a journey or not. There are a lot of things that can happen anytime. This pandemic has unsettled us and shaken our confidence in planning the future — although our future has never been in our hands. It is sobering, but good, to see that God alone knows the future and that all our planning depends on him. We can plan and move forward, even if we don’t see anything. And we can remain open to His intervention. Be attentive to His hints.
The Israelites followed the Pillar of Cloud. When the Cloud rose, they moved on. When it settled, they set up camp — and never knew for how long. God knew what they needed and what was good for them. Only with the Cloud was it safe to travel.
God stood in Balaam’s way when he rode to Balak to curse Israel. Balaam himself was not attentive enough to God’s will. Only his donkey saw the armed angel who blocked their way. It was good that at least the donkey listened to God. This saved Balaam’s life and opened his eyes. I wish that I could also have a God-fearing donkey nearby when I am on the wrong path. But it could also be a broken car, if necessary. In any case, I want to remain steerable! Jesus says that we must let him lead if we want to follow him. That means giving up control.
We love being in control of our lives. Making plans. We want to know what will happen next. But — God knows better what we need. We must fix our eyes on Him, and not on our plans. I want to remain steerable, not only with my holiday plans. Be open to His suggestions. Do I really think I know better? Do I still want to force my own plans and make my life more complicated and stressful than necessary? I could save a lot of energy by looking at Jesus, trusting and following His lead.
I’m stuck in a traffic jam and late for an appointment? What’s the point of pulling up my shoulders, gritting my teeth and nervously looking back and forth between the traffic light and the clock? I have to accept the circumstances and make the best of the situation. Let go. And this also applies to other areas of life. As in the wise prayer: “God give me the serenity to accept things that I cannot change. The courage to change things I can change. And the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.” Old, but still true and good. Something we have to practice again and again.
Sometimes God leads us down difficult paths that we do not want to go down. We dig our heels into the ground and refuse to go any further. But the good shepherd has a plan and knows what lies ahead. Perhaps there is a wonderful pasture just behind that dark, dangerous gorge! However, we do not want to go through the valley. We would rather stay and look for the last dried-up blades of grass. Will the sheep trust the shepherd enough to follow him anyway?
Do I trust God more than my own sense? More than my feelings? Even more than my experiences?
Is this Shepherd really wise, powerful, good and full of love? The expert for everything, including me?
Letting go and following is not easy for us. Children clearly have an advantage here! Peter and the other disciples were horrified when Jesus told them that he would suffer, and they protested. They wanted to protect him! They wouldn’t let that happen!
Here’s what Jesus says: “You have no idea how God works. Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You are not in the driver´s seat; I am. Don´t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” (Mark 8:34-37)
I know I can’t get everything I want.
But maybe it is still possible to spend some time at the sea this year?
How blessed all those in whom you live,
whose lives become roads you travel;
One day spent in your house beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
He leads through lonesome valleys but also to cool springs.
All sunshine and sovereign is God,
generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn´t skimp with his traveling companions.
It´s smooth sailing all the way with God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
I just made myself a cup of tea. It´s an Asian tea that happens to have proverbs on the tag.
God has a sense of humor: “Your true nature is trust” is written on it!
Hello, my name is Julia Kramer-Wiesgrill, and I am Austrian. I live in Hall in Tirol, in an ancient little town in the alps, but I was born near Vienna.
My husband and I came here to work at a small church and help in different tasks. We have three teenagers (15,17,19) and are very proud of them! I love reading and writing, going for a walk in the woods by my own, and I love water (creeks, lakes, the sea). I also love cats, Earl Grey tea and chocolate. I really like to learn and it´s the same with my spiritual journey, where I´m not even close to the finish line yet. God is so much bigger than I know and his love for me so much deeper and profound than I can imagine. He is the one who gave a new identity to me. I am his beloved child, no matter what! In knowing this I become free and courageous, because he is the one standing behind me, covering my back.
Elizabeth encouraged me to follow my dream of writing and gave me some really helpful tips to actually get started some years ago! Now my first book (a children´s novel about friendship) will be published next year (in German)! I´m very excited about it! Elizabeth pushed me to start my own blog, which I did during the pandemic. You are welcome to visit my blog! https://juliakramer-english.jimdofree.com/
Two Crosses, the first novel I wrote way back in 1995, is on sale for $.99 as an e-book today. I thought you might enjoy reading the story I penned in 1994 that tells of the events leading up to receiving my first contract for my first book:
The Transfer Ticket
A few weeks ago, I flew from Atlanta to Chicago to attend my first writer’s conference. The conference took place in downtown Chicago, but I was staying an hour north in the suburbs. So on Monday morning at six a.m., as rain pelted my umbrella and splashed onto my tennis shoes, I stepped onto the train and into the world of commuters.
I had planned to take a bus from the train station to my destination: LaSalle and Chicago St. But the rain convinced me to catch a taxi on this first day. I was nervous enough about the conference. I couldn’t deal with being late or, perhaps, getting lost.
The taxi got me there in style. But on the way home that afternoon, as the skies had cleared, I decided to take a bus back to the station. Politely a student at the Bible College directed me to walk eight blocks in the wrong direction to catch the nearest bus. My backpack was bulging with books, as I proceeded down the street into a neighborhood that looked rather questionable. “There has to be an easier way to get a bus,” I muttered to myself after twenty minutes of walking.
The next day I headed out again. No rain pursued me, so I had no excuse to take another taxi. Today I would find the right bus. But no one was around to help me. Everyone was walking very briskly in precisely the right direction. I followed the crowd down to where I’d caught the taxi the day before. Across the street stood the bus stop. I quickly dashed across the street as a bus approached. I knew I ideally needed to get on bus #56. This was #57. Oh well, I reasoned, that’s close enough.
As I jumped on the bus, I asked the bus driver, “Does this bus go to LaSalle Street?
“It stops at LaSalle and Washington,” was his reply as I desperately fumbled for the right change. No one else seemed to be fumbling. They looked composed, relaxed, assured.
As the bus lurched forward, I stumbled to a seat, still not having paid for the ticket. I took out my worn Chicago city map and studied it. Always rather baffled by directions, I realized I was going east to the right road but that I would still have to walk 15 blocks up the road to get to the conference.
I groaned to myself, “What a waste. Now I’ll still have to pay for a taxi or either walk all that way and be late.”
I managed to count my change and shuffle forward to drop the coins in the little black box by the bus driver’s seat. The bus had stopped, and it was time to get off. As I approached he asked, “Do you need a transfer?”
“A transfer?” I was dumbfounded.
“Yes. Where are you trying to go?” His tone was more sympathetic than impatient, rare in these parts, I’m told.
“I’m trying to get to Moody Bible Institute. Is there another bus to get me there?” I felt hopeful.
“Yes, just cross the street right here and catch the bus. It will let you out right in front of the Institute at the corner of LaSalle and Chicago. That’ll be 30 cents more please.”
People were staring by now. Desperately I sifted through my change. If I could find 30 cents, I would have a transfer. A transfer! Why hadn’t I thought of that before?
Fingers shaking, I located a quarter and a dime tucked in the corner of my change purse. It rattled down into the box as the driver handed me a transfer ticket. Elated, I slipped off the bus and into the crowd of pedestrians, whispering a joyful, “Thank you, Lord, for transfer tickets.”
As I stood waiting for the next bus, I was overwhelmed by a thought: God is in the business of giving out transfer tickets. He does it first when we understand the concept of salvation. He transfers us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We are on the wrong bus going the wrong direction, but if we just ask (and often even when we are too ignorant to ask), He’ll give us a transfer ticket. The charge isn’t 30 cents. It is free, yet it costs our whole life.
But God doesn’t stop with salvation. Time and again in my life, I have thought, “You’ve really blown it this time, Elizabeth. You’ll never get where you want to go in life. You needed more education way back when, or a different job and now you’ve poured your life into these children, and you’ll never get back onto a career track…. You’re so far behind that you’ll never catch up.”
I feel like I’m standing on the corner of LaSalle and Washington, 15 blocks away from where I want to be with no time to get there.
Then God steps in with His transfer. He gets me where I’ve been wanting to be (where He wants me to be) no matter how far away I am or on what bus I’m riding.
There’s a verse in the Bible that has been quoted so often it seems to be cliché. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good to them that love Christ, to those who have been called by His name.” (Romans 8:28) We quote that verse to explain inexplicable tragedy, and it falls trite on grieving ears.
But the verse is far from that. Rather, it is intricate and rich in its promise of God’s transfer tickets to us, time and again in our lives.
Have we ever stopped to think how vast and brilliant is the mind of God? He does not panic when His kids all rush to Him at once for a ticket. He knows He has a plan for each of us, and He knows what it is. We in our bumbling cannot frustrate that plan. We are His forever, and He will never run out of transfers. He loves us and lives to accomplish His work through us. He holds the map, and He will get us where we need to be. On time.
As a perfect ending to this story, four months after I stepped onto Bus #56 in Chicago, I received a contract for my first novel from an editor I met at that writers’ conference.
~Elizabeth Goldsmith Musser
ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog.
I’m a citizen of two countries. I hold two passports. I speak two languages. And I celebrate two independence days. And I am the richer for it.
I am proud to be an American, and I am proud to be French. On July 4th I celebrate America’s Independence and on July 14th I celebrate France’s.
And although there are many things that look different in these two lands, when it comes to celebrating, some things look the same. Each country has ruled that its Independence Day is a holiday, and each marks the occasion with some combination of family, friends, food, and fireworks.
In France, at 9 p.m. on July 13, Paul and I leave our yard, cross the street, and walk down by the river where our little village and the neighboring village set off fireworks from an ancient bridge. On the night of the 14th, we drive up to the high hills behind our house and observe the fireworks exploding on the Fourvière Hill far in the distance.
When in France, our barbecue looks like this, and we are most often with friends since our family is far away in the good ole US of A.
When in America, as we were on Sunday, we had the joy and delight of celebrating with our older son, his wife, her parents (I call them our ‘out-laws’) and our four grandkids—with one more on the way!
Paul manned the grill while the grandkids enjoyed slip-sliding in the small pool. Then, slathered in mosquito-proof spray, we gathered behind the house to eat yummy food and delight in each other’s presence. We even got to celebrate a lost tooth!
But my citizenship, my real, deep down citizenship lies in that far-off country that sometimes seems so close, the one that has a thin veil, a liminal space between the now and the not-yet. The Apostle Paul said it best, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3: 20)
There is this piercing longing in my heart for that other world. And often, as I’m celebrating in one of my countries, I can hear that heavenly joy in the laughter of children and taste it in corn on the cob, lathered in butter, and watermelon so sweet and chilled that I shiver with pleasure.
I am so grateful for my two nationalities and for my heavenly citizenship which makes all the hard stuff and good stuff of this present time well worth it until we get to the not-yet.
ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog.
The Transfiguration: “ After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain by themselves to be alone. He was transfigured in front of them, and his clothes became dazzling—extremely white as no launderer on earth could whiten them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here. Let’s set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”— because he did not know what to say, since they were terrified. A cloud appeared, overshadowing them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him!” Mark 9: 2-7
Lord, sitting with this text one morning this spring, I was struck by some very powerful words: transfigured, dazzling, extremely white, terrified, overshadowed.
Strong words in a strange and striking account. I cannot truly imagine the scene—but I’m sure I, like the disciples, would have been terrified if suddenly Jesus started glowing and two other glowing figures appeared beside Him.
Would I fall to my knees, would I run away, or would I babble nonsense like Peter?
The words that stood out to me were: Listen! And Overshadowed.
Oh, Lord, how I need to be overshadowed by You, even as Your cloud overshadowed the disciples. Your presence descended on them and You basically said, “Shut up and listen to Jesus!”
So much of my thought-life is about me, Lord. It is hard work to turn my eyes upon Jesus and truly listen to Him. Even as I try, the needy little girl in me keeps yanking on my skirt, demanding attention, trying to turn the conversation back to be about me.
I need You to come again and overshadow all the junk in my thought-life so that I pay attention to Your voice, not mine. My voice is scattered and scared and babbling nonsense that I’ve grown to believe over the years. And I know that unless I replace the voices in my head with Your voice, Lord, I will spiral down into depression. Because those voices in my head, although they’ve been repressed and I’ve learned over the years how to quieten them, are still untamed. They become that roaring lion seeking someone to devour.
I think it will be a fight until I get to the other side, Lord. In fact, You promise it will be, that I’ll be battling those voices, those enemies that are not flesh and blood, for as long as I’m on earth. But You’ve given me the way to do battle: I let You overshadow me, envelop me in Your cloud of protection, and listen to You.
Please OVERSHADOW me again today, Lord, so that I hide in the shadow of Your wings!
“Oh, God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek You. My soul thirsts for You, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods. And with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed, I remember you, I think of you throughout the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63: 1-8
Once again I welcome Margaret Kirby as my guest blogger today. Her beautiful post gives us much to ponder alone with God.
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalm 84:10).
I went through a period last year, and many of us probably did, where the vision of my mind’s eye, content with introspection, grew to know nearly every bend and fold in the rippling fabric of my mind. Thoughts which once hid in the corners and outer fringes slowly became familiar to me as I separated myself from my life and looked around. The whole world slowed and I finally felt as if I had found the pace my life was meant to be lived in. Now, over a year later, I can’t help but stop and think about where I was this time last year– moving slowly and savoring things I never knew could be savored. Where did that self go? The one who stepped softly on the flowerbeds of her life and remembered to breathe deeply? Now that it’s nearing the end of June, I’m thinking back to this past April and May when I heard the people around me saying “the world has picked up speed again whether we’re ready for it or not.” I know I wasn’t quite ready.
But the extremities, the vast change in the pace of my life from last year to now, help me see more clearly just what exactly happened between now and then. The onrush of social activities, getting to converse with friends in person again, and fill my schedule to the brim, all of these things left my mind feeling like a garment turned inside out. Rather than pondering my thoughts, rather than pulling them from the edges of my mind with care, I was simply saying them aloud to whichever friend felt fitting. And before my thoughts ever had the chance to really stick in my brain, they were already gone and my mind had switched to the next thing. Granted, I think our minds can handle a great many thoughts at once, and that’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve learned. Indeed, we’re meant to share what’s on our mind or else no one will ever be able to draw near to us and love us– but I’m learning that a life where we only give our thoughts to those around us without first taking time to hold those thoughts within ourselves can be a strangely empty and numb life. Introspection keeps our vision alive to the kingdom of God around us.
As I sat down to read some scripture this morning and spend some time in prayer, I felt as though the Holy Spirit was telling me: “that’s why this time with me is so crucial– I’m the only one in the whole wide world with whom you can share your thoughts with and they won’t fly away from you.” Fellowship with Him is actually, by some mystical and inexplicable reality, solitude itself. He dwells within us. Sharing thoughts with Him is a more careful holding and stewarding of thoughts within ourselves — no other fellowship of person-to-person is like this. When we speak with other people, we inevitably have to let go of our thoughts or else we cannot share them, but with God, our thought-sharing is somehow entirely inward and contained, intimate and protected.
Time with Him in his throne-room, sitting around and talking about ideas with our Heavenly Father, choosing to search for the thoughts He himself has thought, and hearing the echoes of his responses to us in that hushed place is far more important than the exchange of thoughts over coffee with a dear friend, or a conversation with a loved one. I’ve been prioritizing the latter lately and I’ve felt as though I’m scattered in a million places, and maybe you have too. But there is One who wants to gather all our pieces up together and hold them for us. He wants to hear what’s on our minds, what’s troubling us or making us smile. All of our impressions about life, all of our wonderings and ideas– he wants to hear them and he will hold them for us in a way no one else can.
And, I can’t quite put it into words, but when I walk into his throne-room, the thoughts I once thought were so good and beautiful somehow melt from my hands to his, and even if I’m bringing harmful, bad thoughts, those slip away somewhere in all that melting and goodness slips in instead. When that happens, His thoughts mingle into mine and then I can’t quite tell which are mine and which are His to begin with, but somehow they’re all mine now to hold and own and they’re all so dear to my heart that I never want to let them go– that’s what scripture and prayer does to you. And it is a beautiful, wondrous thing. “So longing, I come before thee in thy sanctuary to look upon thy power and glory. Thy true love is better than life; therefore I will sing thy praises. And so I bless thee all my life and in thy name lift my hands in prayer” (Psalm 63:2-4).
Margaret Kirby is a junior at Samford University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English with a double-minor in Classics and Philosophy. She is a member of Sigma Tau Delta, the Wide Angle editorial staff, and she sings in the A Cappella choir. Some of the things she loves most are the sky, old books, the smell of coffee, and the way food brings people together. She especially loves her Southern authors (mainly Sidney Lanier and Eudora Welty), and she also considers George MacDonald to be her grandfather in the faith. Her main purpose in life is to re-discover the magic of being a little child in the kingdom of God. So when she isn’t reading, writing, or singing, you can probably find her out gazing at clouds, wandering through forests, or looking for fairies.
You can find her on instagram @margaret.kirby.writing
All I can say is “Thank you”, Lord. And Merci!
I had no thought of receiving this honor, especially since I was entered in the category of Literary Fiction with very talented authors from the general market–not the inspirational market. But on Saturday, as I lay sick in bed at a lodge in Western Kentucky (where I was supposed to be enjoying a family reunion), the news flashed on my phone: The Promised Land won the Georgia Author of the Year (GAYA) Finalist Award for Literary Fiction. I was shocked.
Even sweeter was reading the judge’s comments about the novel:
Finalist: The Promised Land by Elizabeth Musser
Elizabeth Musser’s The Promised Land revolves around three characters who, facing a metaphorical crossroads in their lives, venture toward a literal one along the Camino pilgrimage route in France: Abbie, dealing with the break-up of her marriage; her son Bobby, discovering his artistic ambition while on a gap year; and Caroline, coping with the disappearance of her best friend. In straightforward but agile narration, the novel explores how pathways, between strangers, between generations, can sometimes converge in unlikely places. The result is a quiet marvel of grace. Musser draws subtle connections between the characters’ lives in Atlanta and what they find in France—the Beltline as its own sort of French Camino—and uses those connections to weave a beautiful, heartfelt portrait of what it means to be a Georgian, a Southerner, an American, and, most importantly, a person in the world.
The week before I learned that The Promised Land won third place in the Selah Awards at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. Again I was so honored.
And earlier this year, The Swan House won the GOLD Illumination Award for Enduring Light Fiction.
ENDURING LIGHT CHRISTIAN FICTION
The Swan House
by Elizabeth Musser
Lord, You know that we authors are fragile creatures, often doubting that our words have any relevance to the big old world out there. So it is always a huge encouragement to receive an award or or a positive review or a glowing letter from a reader. I’ve said it at least a hundred times across the years, Lord, but once again, every time I hear good news about my novels, it’s like receiving Your gentle, delightful hug.
And on all days, good and bad ones, I try to say ‘thank You, Lord,’ for allowing me to write stories of brokenness and healing, faith and hope, as a way to celebrate my love for You. Sometimes that is all it takes to send me back to my desk, heart filled with gratitude, to pen my next novel.
You will make known to me the way of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16: 11
The week was everything I hoped for and more, and I was exhausted. When you have twenty-one people spanning four generations together, it can be. Joy and drama packed in together.
The second day as Paul and I were finally heading to the beach, our youngest nephew greeted us at the bottom of the steps with: “Sorry to bring bad news but Andrew just got stung by a stingray and it’s really, really bad.”
So instead of going to the beach, I headed upstairs to the condominium where my almost-thirty-three-year-old son sat in a tub of hot, hot water while his wife Lacy explained how he was playing Frisbee in the shallow water with all the cousins and landed on the stingray. She’d never see Andrew is so much pain. Evidently getting stung by a sting ray is one of the most painful things you can experience. Our younger son Chris had gone through this a few years earlier on a family beach trip to Hilton Head.
On our fifth day at the beach, Andrew’s six-year-old son, Quinn, also got stung by a stingray, and I came home from a shopping trip with my granddaughter to find him sitting in the sink in our bathroom, the only place where the water got hot enough to extract the poison. Andrew and Lacy were with him, telling him how brave he was as he howled in agony.
And so the vacation had had its ups and downs.
It had been filled with one-year-old Lena’s giggles as she began launching out on her own.
The three older grandchildren had each ridden their bikes with Mamie (me) to Harbour Town, our beloved favorite spot in the world, to have a treat at the bakery and then buy a special something.
I’d also had wonderful conversations with my brothers and sisters-in-law as we sat on our porch overlooking a lagoon and watched an alligator swim by.
Paul and I had had special time with Andrew and Lacy (not only during the sting ray episode!) as well as with younger son Chris, (my eighty-seven-year-old father’s housemate for the past three years), engaged to Ashlee who was at the beach with us too.
There were several wonderful evenings where the cousins, as we called them, my father’s eight grandchildren, were laughing and playing games and being teenagers and young adults, and I and Paul and my brothers and sisters-in-law and my sweet father were laughing with our own sweet memories.
And so the week had gone on, me spending time with each of my loved ones, joyfully. It was chaotic, of course, but delightful.
But then I snapped a photo on the last morning and got back in the car and drove blithely home not knowing that my life, already a bit complicated, was about to change forever.
(Actually the above sentence came to me on my last morning walk as a potential first sentence for a new novel. But that’s another story=).
Long bike rides and long beach walks; lovely hours of babysitting all four grandkids so that Andrew and Lacy could have a morning beach date; time to sit on Daddy’s porch with him and drink tea.
Time to shop with the girls…time to celebrate Andrew’s 33rd birthday…
…time to enjoy delicious meals cooked at the condominium and shared at the beach club.
I even made a discovery at the Harbour Town bakery that ties in perfectly with the novel I am in the process of penning–part of which takes place on Hilton Head.
And so, dear Lord, our week at the beach held moments of rest and rejuvenation for me in between a whole lot of times of sweet connection with my family members.
My cup overflowed with Hilton Head Happiness. And today, I simply say, “Merci!”