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Monday Motivation

Monday motivation: Find the gift in today

Need a positive thought to start the week? Yeah, me too! A bit of Monday motivation is never a bad thing in my book.

I’ve enjoyed collecting quotes for years — inspirational quotes, book quotes, motivational quotes. And what better time to share one than a Monday morning, especially when it’s paired with a Bible verse to help anchor it?

“Every day is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” How many times have you heard that? Probably too many to count, like me. What I like about today’s quote is that it acknowledges our responsibility in accepting that gift.

“Untie the ribbons.” A gift is useless until we open it for ourselves. Most of us don’t hesitate to rip through the paper and ribbons of a gift someone hands us. But the intangible gift that’s given to us each morning? That can be easier to overlook in the midst of all the other things of the day.

I also like the reminder that each day has its own gifts. No two days are the same but they all have gifts waiting for us, if we’ll just look for them.

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Psalm 118:24

Living in Faith

5 things I’ve learned since working from home during COVID-19

I left work on March 13, 2020, with a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. My laptop, keyboard and cables were in my backpack. Several project files, my favorite pens, my spiral-bound notebook for meeting notes, and an assortment of other things filled a white cardboard box I’d snagged from our department’s work room.

We had been told to begin working from home “until further notice” because of COVID-19 (which at that time we still referred to as “the novel coronavirus”). We had no idea how long “until further notice” might mean, but I’d be willing to bet none of us imagined it would stretch beyond a few months.

But now it’s a year later (or tomorrow will be) and I’ve only been back to our building once, to pick up a few more things in mid-July. It’s been a year of fear and faith, of happiness and sorrow, of adjustments and learning.

Here are five of the many things I’ve learned (or relearned) since working from home during COVID-19.

  1. The little things really do matter. Two years ago, I never would have imagined being happy to walk into a store and see an aisle with fully-stocked shelves of paper towels, toilet paper, and Clorox wipes. But I’m pretty sure I sent a picture to our kids when I saw it for the first time in months after all this started (give thanks for all things … Ephesians 5:20).
  2. Time together is great, but time alone is still important. Our kids both came home from college at Thanksgiving and finished the semester online. They were home for about eight weeks before returning to their campuses for spring semester. I will always cherish those weeks with them because our days together at home are dwindling. But I’m also wired to need time alone to regroup and recharge, which can be hard to find when you’re all under the same roof 24/7 with very different schedules. Early in the morning, Jesus went to a solitary place to pray … (Mark 1:35). I have a fuller appreciation for that now and found that getting up earlier for my quiet time really does make a difference in my day.
  3. Boundaries between work and home are a must. I worked from home for 17 years while our kids were growing up, so being home all the time wasn’t as difficult for me to adjust to as it was for some people. My current job can have some long days and unpredictable hours. It can be hard to turn the workday off and for a few months it seemed like some of us rarely did, just because of the nature of our jobs. But we have to step away from the deadlines and demands. We have to rejuvenate ourselves – physically, mentally, spiritually – so we’re better at our jobs and better for our families. Even God took time to rest (Genesis 2:2), so why should I feel guilty about doing the same?
  4. A great team is a great team, whether you’re in the office together or only meeting over Zoom. In some ways, I think we collaborate and rely on each other more now than when we were face-to-face. I miss the spontaneous interactions and breakroom conversations but you feel like you know someone better when you see their home environment, whether it’s the cat waltzing across the table behind them, the cool artwork in the background, or the suit-wearing VP who now seems to live in wrinkled t-shirts.
  5. Life goes on – so enjoy what you can. Within our department we’ve had illness and death and grieving, and I would never undermine the importance of those things. But we’ve also had many causes for celebration: a pregnancy and birth, new homes purchased and settled into, graduations, an engagement for one co-worker and a wedding for another, and more. I think those things have been made sweeter against the backdrop of COVID-19.

Through it all, God is God and nothing about all of this has surprised Him. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve been reminded of again and again.

Life will never go back to the same “normal” we knew in 2019. In many ways that makes me sad, but there are lessons and experiences I hope to keep with me – many more than the five I’ve shared here.

What about you? What kinds of things have you learned during COVID-19 that have impacted you positively? I’m not asking because I’m trying to downplay any sadness or grief, but because holding to something positive – even if it’s the smallest of things – can help get us through those tough times. Maybe your positive lesson can help someone else.

Book Love, Christian fiction

Book Review: The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

Book cover The Story PeddlerBack cover copy: Selling stories is a deadly business.

Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories — she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down … and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers … and they’re after her too.

My review: My favorite part of The Story Peddler was the magical “system”—colored ribbons literally flow from the hands of people who are gifted as storytellers as they share tales of the kingdom, crystallizing into objects that represent the story. How cool (and imaginative) is that? Tanwen is exceptionally good at storytelling, especially considering that she’s not old enough to be a registered storyteller yet.

Years ago, storytellers were appreciated and had a wide repertoire from which to entertain their audiences. But that changed when King Gareth gained the throne and outlawed any stories that didn’t show him in a favorable light (known as “crowned stories”). Tanwen knows this and follows the rules when she’s selling stories. But odd feelings begin to crop up while she tells stories—odd feelings that get harder to squish into submission and that begin to show themselves as rogue story strands that alarm Tanwen, her listeners—and the king himself.

As Tanwen runs from the king and his henchmen, she learns valuable lessons in trust and loyalty from a rogue group of weavers who take her under their protection. She also learns that there’s a lot more to family than the people from your bloodline and that making dreams come true often involves layers both good and bad that you never imagined.

The story didn’t have a definitive faith plot thread, but that’s not a deal breaker for me. There are references to the state-sanctioned religion based on goddesses (which is quite corrupt and often ignored )and mentions of a Creator, but nothing extensive. Values such as honesty always being best—even when it carries a cost—are a big part of the story and Princess Braith is one of the few people close to the king who routinely shows compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness. That’s a message in itself: setting an example and standing true to your convictions no matter what the people around you might think.

Who should read it: Tanwen’s story continues with The Story Raider and The Story Hunter. I’m not planning to read them right now because I have so many other books on my to-read pile, but might look at them someday. If they’re along the same lines as The Story Peddler, I would classify them as good material for middle school or early high school. See my first peek at The Story Peddler in this First Line Friday post from January and learn more about author Lindsay A. Franklin on her website.

Living in Faith, Scripture verses

Being faithful like Moses

I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m looking for parts of the Bible to read, I don’t normally gravitate toward Numbers. But a couple of verses from my devotional a few days ago really struck me. In them (Numbers 12:6-8), God is talking to Moses and his siblings Aaron and Miriam:

“Listen to my words: When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.”

There’s no doubt that Moses had a different kind of relationship with God than most people. Although even Moses wasn’t allowed to see God’s face (Exodus 33:20), he had such a close relationship with Him that God spoke to Moses like a friend (Exodus 33:11).

And, thankfully, so can we – thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.

Numbers 12:7 bible verseI don’t expect to ever be anywhere close to Moses’s caliber in terms of my faith, but there’s nothing wrong with working toward a closer relationship with God. Sometimes I get frustrated because I’m trying to hear God’s voice and don’t seem to be getting any answers. Sometimes I think it would be so nice to see God face to face, even for a split second. And when I do get nudges (or whacks over the head) that I think are God’s responses to my questions, it sure would be nice to get it straight instead of feeling like it’s all a riddle.

Will I ever get to that point? I don’t know. But in the meantime, I can work on the little gem hidden near the middle of these verses: “He is faithful in all my house.” I want God to say that about me! Whether I’m spending time with my family, talking with friends, writing something for work, noodling the next chapter of my novel or buying groceries – I want to be faithful to God. I want to stand up for Him and for what I believe He says is right. I want to share Him with others through my words and actions. I want to trust Him with everything instead of falling in the traps of doubt or deceit (which is where these verses originated, because Aaron and Miriam were grumbling about God speaking through Moses, but that’s a story for another day).

How about you? What’s your favorite gem from these words of God? How can we stay faithful to and humble before God in the middle of everything else? I’d love to know how you approach it.