North Carolina is adopting the look and fragrance of spring. I love the hope and new life this season ushers in after the long winter. The flowering dogwood tree is a hallmark of our state—its blossom, our state flower.
It's doubtful the dogwood tree was used for the cross of Christ as suggested in the well-known legend of the dogwood, but this beautiful flowering tree blooms during the Easter season and its distinctive blossoms remind Christians of Christ's death and resurrection.
The tree’s pink or white blossoms have two long and two short petals that form the shape of a cross. Each petal contains a red-stained indentation representative of the nail prints and the blood of Christ. The cluster of stamens in the center of the bloom symbolizes his crown of thorns.
As you breathe in the beauty and fragrance of the dogwoods this spring, know that the story of Christ's death and resurrection is far from legendary. From his suffering came forgiveness and new life for all who believe and receive him as Lord and Savior.
"For Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18, NASB).
Now it's your turn: Share an early Easter memory or tradition.
A huge thank you to everyone who participated in yesterday's Reasons to Smile book giveaway. Whether you subscribed to my blog, dropped in to browse, left a comment, or blessed someone with a random act of kindness to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day, I can assure you, you gave this gal a reason to smile.
As promised a Reasons to Smile gift book will be on the way to two new blog subscribers. Congratulations to Pam Flippin and Becky Cortino whose names were selected at random from my jar of dreams. Please private message me your addresses so I can get your books to you.
Thanks again to everyone who visited my Bringing Life into Focus blog. I hope you'll return.
Hi Everyone...Today is World Down Syndrome Day. To celebrate give someone a reason to smile with a random act of kindness. And don't forget to sign up for the random drawing for the Reasons to Smile books. I'll announce two winners tomorrow. You'll find the details on my previous post. Thank you! Hugs, Starr
My husband and I are privileged to be the parents of a beautiful daughter with Down Syndrome. God placed Ashley in our care 42 years ago to love, protect, guide, and teach. Today, I look back through the years and question who is teaching whom.
Ashley exhibits more unconditional love and grace for life's journey than most of us will begin to comprehend. Although she chooses not to converse a lot, I stand amazed at the impact she continues to have on the lives of those who know her and witness her sweet spirit and winning smile. Regardless of how our day has gone, Ashley continues to give us reasons to smile.
In 2016, two of my stories and photos of Ashley as a child were published in a book called Reasons to Smile: Celebrating People Living with Down Syndrome https://www.amazon.com/Reasons-Smile-Celebrating-People-Syndrome/dp/0764350404. I’m honored that my stories were accepted and published along with 50+ others from around the world.
On Wednesday, March 21st in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, I will give away two of these beautiful photo gift books by random drawing. To earn a chance to win one of these beautiful books (1) subscribe to my blog by typing your email address in the sidebar above and (2) type Celebrate Down Syndrome Day in the comment section of this post. I’ll announce the winners on Thursday, March 22nd.
DON’T FORGET TO VERIFY YOUR SUBSCRIPTION THROUGH YOUR EMAIL NOTIFICATION.
Good luck and thank you for visiting my blog today through Wednesday in honor of families living with Down syndrome.
“I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up. Not me!” —Peter Pan
Chiming in on this mantra as a child, seemed like a noble quest—like something I should crow about—but in reality, as an adult, I know this way of thinking is only fun in fairy tales. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for fun and games, but refusing to own up to grown-up attitudes and responsibilities ushers in mountains of hardship and pain, not only for me but for others.
God’s word tells us, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV). What childish ways do you hold onto? In what areas do you refuse to grow up? Have you spoken like a child, thought like a child, or acted like a child lately? I think not, you say? Think again. When was the last time you insisted on your own way? Took something that wasn’t yours? Didn’t care what others thought? Wasted time? Talked about someone behind their back or spoke unkind words to their face? Stings, doesn't it? Believe me. I feel your pain. Perhaps we should change our mantra. How does this sound? "I wanna grow up. I wanna grow up. I wanna grow up. That's me!" Yep! Letting go of our childish ways is definitely something to grow as well as crow about. Ready? All together now...
“Immediately, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on
ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.After leaving them, he
went up on a mountainside to pray. Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake,
and he was alone on land.He saw the disciples
straining at the oars, because the wind
was against them.”
―Mark 6:45-48a NIV
Our ship left Prince Edward Island and sailed up the
Gulf of St. Lawrence toward Quebec City. The waters were relatively calm,
considering we’d left Boston on the heels of Hurricane Earl.
forecast—a strong gale and rain.
We hadn’t interpreted strong gale to mean 70 mph winds and 50 foot waves that would rock us sleepless. Perhaps
that night, I experienced some of the same emotions the disciples did in their
After a full day of ministry, the disciples waited in the boat for Jesus.
Would the throngs of people ever leave? Moments must have felt like hours
as the storm clouds gathered overhead. Imagine their readiness as Jesus gave
them the green light to go ahead of him to the other side of the lake. Serving their Master was invigorating.A few
storm clouds would never dampen their spirits.
Then...the storm rolled in.
The disciples were vulnerable
and afraid. As the waters threatened to overtake their small boat, they struggled to
stay on course. Surely Jesus knew the storm was coming. Why would he send them
out to face it alone?
Where was Jesus when they needed him?
Mark 6 addresses the common misconception that following God assures
smooth sailing. Jesus wasn’t oblivious to the storm. He sent the disciples out knowing they would encounter it. Uprooting them from their comfort zones
and placing them in a situation which required extreme faith, would reveal
their weaknesses, strengthen their spiritual muscles, and ultimately summon
them to new depths of dependency on him. The experience would allow them to see the futility of braving life’s difficulties
in their own strength.
Jesus ordained the storm, but his compassion for his disciples
Although the disciples lost sight of Jesus, he never lost sight of them. From the mountain, he watched and prayed to his Heavenly
Father for their safety and at just the right moment, he intervened.
Storms come to us all—even believers.
not shelteredfrom them, but
we are shelteredin them. Perhaps, you’re experiencing opposition as you strive to
do God’s will? Are you straining at the oars? Can you relate to the futility of self-effort? Don’t allow storm clouds to
dampen your spirits.
Rest in the following truths.
Jesus’s eye is always on
His prayers continually cover you.
He will meet you in the waters of
Rejoice! Help is on the way.
Now its your turn. What is one of your go-to scriptures when storms threaten to capsize your ship.
I love a brand-spankin' new New Year that moseys out of the gate and gives me the opportunity to reflect on the past and look toward the future. For me, setting New Year’s resolutions fell by the wayside years ago. In 2000, I selected a focal verse for the year and have continued to choose one annually. In 2013, I jumped on the my-one-word bandwagon and now consolidate my chosen verse into one word for a more precise focus. My One Word 2018--PERSEVERE Focal Verses: "Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!" Hebrews 12:1-3 (The Message) My prayer for 2018 is that I’ll step into the purpose God calls me to and never quit. That I'll cut the fat (in more ways than one) and release everything that threatens or hinders my progress. That when I become weary I'll continue to put one foot in front of the other and not lose sight of my goal. That when my faith flags I'll pull myself up by my bootstraps and fix my eyes on Jesus--the one who blazed the trail before me and will continue to make a way where there seems to be none. I pray not only to finish strong this year but also in life as well, and that I’ll leave a godly legacy with my family, the people I meet, and the places I go. And finally, I pray when I cross the finish line accompanied by a great cloud of witnesses that I’ll reap the reward of my labor and above the applause I'll hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." And for that... I’ll persevere. Now it's your turn. Please join me in my tradition and select a verse and a word for your life as well. If you already have, please encourage us all and share it here. I always welcome your comments. Happy New Year!
for he is good: because his mercy endureth forever."
—Psalm 118:1 KJV
As Thanksgiving approaches, our homes and activities begin to reflect past family traditions. We spread tables with old family recipes, decorate trees with heirloom ornaments, send long-distant relatives and friends sentimental greeting cards, and gather loved ones to watch It's a Wonderful Life and the immortal A Christmas Carol for the trillionth time.
Who can forget that chilling visit to Scrooge from his dead business partner, Jacob Marley—his ghostly spirit bound with chains? Condemned to wander Earth weighted down due to his greedy and self-serving life, he’d returned with the hope he could spare Scrooge the same fate.
“You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the ghost. "I made it link by link and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
Life gets heavy. Sometimes the heaviness is a direct result of carrying chains we’ve forged for ourselves, while at other times we’re weighted down by circumstances beyond our control. Some people bear physical chains, while others struggle underneath mental and emotional ones.
The Apostle Paul was unjustly imprisoned and held in iron chains, yet his spirit roamed free. He professed he was “in chains for Christ.” He chose to lighten life’s load by thanking God in his trials and focusing on his blessings. We can do the same.
Perhaps a part of your family’s tradition has been to make paper chains in anticipation of a special event—summer vacation, a holiday, or someone’s birthday. As family members took turns tearing off links, you counted down the days till the celebration. If you’ve never participated in this meaningful activity, November would be an excellent time to start. But, instead of counting down—let’s count up. Let’s use the links of our chains to count our blessings daily as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones.
To create a Thanksgiving chain, cut fall-colored strips of paper or use the web address provided to print out decorative strips for links. Cut the strips apart and ask family members to write each day something they’re thankful for. Then tape the links together. By Thanksgiving Day, you’ll have a festive decoration to hang near your table or to use as a table runner. Before your meal, pass around the chain and have each person read one of the blessing links. Continue to pass it around until all are read. Then with grateful hearts, thank God for the blessings he provides—blessings that connect his heart to ours and ours to the hearts of others. Now it's your turn. Share a holiday tradition your family enjoys? I always welcome your comments.
Happy Thanksgiving! Starr
(To access the chain printable, click the following link: http://ow.ly/MkXj30fbVaQ. For a more colorful chain, print images on both sides of the paper.)
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time
we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
—Galatians 6:9-10, NIV
Is God's promise of reward enough for us to keep on keeping on? In light of our human frailty, the answer is no.
We must look beyond the promise. The hope of God's promise serves as our motivation, but the Promiser is the only way to persevere. Christ gives strength to the weary and enables us to reap the harvest of well-doing.
The promise is never enough,
but the Promiser is always more than enough.
When the lives of Joseph's family members hung in the balance (Genesis 45), he was able to provide for them. Since he'd kept his eyes on the Promiser, his storehouse was full.
Don't come up empty.Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith, and claim the abundant harvest he has in store. In seedtime and harvest, God is faithful. Keep on keeping on as if your life and the lives of those around you depend on it...because they do! Now it's your turn. What are some ways you fix your eyes on Jesus when the going gets tough? I always welcome your comments. Blessings, Starr
Are you constantly on the move yet at the end of the
day wonder what you’ve accomplished? Do you spin your wheels only to
find, you're stuck? Like me, You may have days when you question if you're
even moving in the right direction? In Alice’s pursuit of the White Rabbit in Lewis
Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland, Alice
said to the Cheshire Cat:
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from
"That depends a good deal on where
you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where—" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
times, I’m directionally challenged,
but unlike Alice―I do care where I’m going. It’s frustrating when
my GPS takes me miles out of my way, or the directions someone
has given me are wrong. Sometimes, we need a good old-fashioned road map, or better yet, someone to
was driving my car down a narrow two-lane road. Fog and rain made it difficult
for me to see, but I spotted a tractor-trailer pulling out from the
intersection ahead. Typically, I don’t
want a truck in front of me, blocking my vision and slowing me down, but that
night, I was thankful the truck was there. It was easier for me follow its
taillights along the dark and winding road than to navigate the route alone.
In Joshua 3, the Israelites camped along the east bank of the Jordan River
at the edge of the Promised Land. They were waiting for God to instruct Joshua
on when to move out and claim the territory for themselves. As they faced the
raging Jordan River and an area occupied
by the enemy, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. He reminded him that
he would go with them and would never
leave or forsake them.
The same applies to
us. As believers, God calls us to do his will. Although the way is not always easy to
discern, he doesn’t intend for us to chart our own
course. He’s givenus his Word as a roadmap and has sent the Holy Spirit as our guide. We have
everything we need to navigate the perilous roads ahead.
cares where you’re going. Wait for him. Place his Word before you and
thank him for his guidance. He’ll lead you safely to your destination.
"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice
behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it'"
(Isaiah 30:21, NIV).
Now it's your turn. I always welcome your comments.
**This article was first published in Thrive magazine, March 2017
The art of kintsugi, which means “golden joinery,” is a Japanese repair
process that turns ugly breaks into beautiful fixes. The method goes
beyond making a broken piece of china as good as new; it makes it
better than new.
Allegedly, the art began when fifteenth-century Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa
broke his favorite tea bowl. Distraught, he
sent it to China for repair. When the bowl came back, he was horrified by the ugly metal staples used to
join the broken pieces, so he instructed his craftsmen
to come up with a more appropriate solution. By adding gold
dust to an adhesive resin and filling the cracks with the blend, they not only
transformed the broken bowl into a useful vessel but into a beautiful work
Kintsugi proposes that repair can be beautiful. “Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but
the repair is literally illuminated,” says Christy Bartlett in Flickwerk:
The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics.
Life has a way of dealing some mighty hard blows—events that not only shatter our
hopes and dreams but chip away at our sense of self-worth and purpose. By
looking back over some of the most difficult times of my life, I’ve seen that
God has counterbalanced my hardships by supplying family and friends to take
the role of “Jesus with skin on.” As they lovingly walked alongside me in
my brokenness, counseled me, prayed with me, and encouraged me, they hastened
my restoration. God used them like gold
in my life to fill the cracks of my brokenness and illuminate my darkness.
hesitate to let others see the cracks in your facade. We’re all earthen vessels
in need of repair. When we don’t attempt to hide the damage, broken things can
become blessed things—beautiful works of
art in the hands of a loving God. If you’re in the midst of a crisis, remember
Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and often uses others to assist him.
Begin the process of your restoration by handing
the broken pieces of your life over to God. Then pray and seek someone
trustworthy to confide in. Allow them to walk beside you, giving God the
opportunity to use them like gold to fill the cracks of your brokenness.
When God does the mending, his repair illuminates
our lives, and in time, he’ll use us like gold to fill the cracks of others.
“And we know that all things work together for good to
them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”
(Romans 8:38, KJV).
Now it's your turn. Has God used someone as gold to fill the cracks of your brokenness? Take a moment to drop them a note of thanks.
I always welcome your comments.
**This article was first published in Thrive magazine, February 2017