Friday, September 30, 2011

Creative Energy - Being Spent In the Right Places?

We are such creative human beings.

We can come up with the most amazing ideas. We decorate rooms, hotels, and theme parks with flair and stunning beauty. We create electronic devices that no mind would have imagined 100 years ago. We solve complex problems. We stop diseases in their tracks.  We write moving stories and create emotional movies to go along with them.

Our brains – they are powerful. They are intricate.  They are full of ideas.

Sometimes I just wonder if we don’t put our energy into the wrong things.

We spend hours and hours organizing a drawer or closet – or playing a computer game. We get intricate creating a scrapbook of memory, placing stickers and cardstock just “so.” We painstakingly plan out a garden or embellishing the perfect dessert for company.

I don’t think any of those things are wrong. Some of them are good for our soul. To give us time to think, breathe, and renew. Some of them are gifts that God has given us to minister to others in His name.

What I wonder is – where do we put our time and energy? Is it in the “thing” or is it in the Lord? Where does our passion lie?

Just think what we could accomplish if we put our creative minds and hands to work for God? What if we spent our energy on His people instead of on hobbies and time-wasters? Better yet – what if we used our hobbies to better His people?

Sometimes I think we let certain joys in life grow to become idols. They become too big in our hearts. We put too much time and energy into them.  Those things may not be harmful in and of themselves – decorating is a beautiful thing. Traveling is lots of fun. Sports are great. But they grow into larger-than-life passions in our lives shadowing over anything  and everything else.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:11-13

We do live in a very diverse world. God gave us our creative minds for a reason. We have the right to enjoy where we live and the time we’ve been given….as long as we aren’t mastered by them. As long as we don’t put our energy into those “things” instead of the ONE who gave us those things to enjoy in the first place.

Sometimes it’s important for us to be able to step away from the very things we are putting all of our time into – whatever they are. The  harder it is to break away; the more important it becomes for us to realize we need to re-prioritize where that thing places in our life.

We are blessed people to have been gifted with such creativity, passion, dreams, and talents. We just need to take stock once in awhile in whether our energies are driven in the right place.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stop Diminishing Your Value

I often do that. Diminish my value. I don’t really realize I’m doing it at the time. Someone will compliment me and I’ll wave it away. They’ll ask about my writing and I’ll minimize it.

Why do we do that?

I think it’s because we compare. We compare ourselves to someone who is better.  Someone who is more beautiful, more eloquent, more gifted than we are.

So, maybe they are. But does that mean we don’t have worth? Does that mean we are not also gifted? And who “weighs” giftedness anyways?

I was recently in a conversation with someone about my writing. I told them that I may not be the most gifted writer around, but that I still believed God had things and words in me that He could use.  What this person told me in return meant a lot to me and showed me how I was minimizing the gifts that God had given me. They said, “you are a great writer because you write from the heart. I would much rather read something that is genuine and comes from someone who is "in the trenches" raising a family than someone who has a PHd and all of it comes from a "clinical" perspective. Don't discount how valuable your skills are. All that matters is that we bring God glory in our work. You do that in an outstanding way.”

Wow. WOW! They not only encouraged and affirmed my gift of writing, they gently told me not to discount and diminish the skills that God had given me!

We are each unique and individual. For a reason. We each have something different to bring to the table. Just because one person can bring the main course doesn’t mean that the appetizer is any less delightful or memorable.

We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and instead work on flourishing what we’ve been given. God has gifted each one of us in different ways.  We can be thankful for what He has given us instead of wishing it were stronger, bigger, wider, or fancier. We cannot be all that He intended us to be if we only focus on what we don’t have and can’t give.

Let’s stop diminishing our value.

Stop discounting how valuable our skills are.

Stop minimizing who we are and what we can contribute.

We each are outstanding in our own way and we each have something valuable to give. Enjoy it. Love it. Embrace it.

For you ARE valued and you DO have value to give.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Where Is The Story of Your Life Going? (Giveaway)

***Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winner -- Christena Hammes!

There are certain Christian leaders that I look to - to encourage and to advise me in life. Certain leaders that I know will speak from a heart that is led by the Lord. Max Lucado is one of those leaders. A man who speaks words that I trust.

Max has a new book out called, "God's Story, Your Story." Take a look....

Doesn't that sound great? I don't know about you, but I want to know what my life looks like when God's story becomes my own personal story. To be reminded that I'm not just witnessing something or  reading about something - but that I'm a part of that something.

"All of us long to know where we came from...and where the stories of our lives are going."

According to Max Lucado, there IS "a cohesive story line to the chaos, confusion, and clutter of our daily lives."

I'm so excited to read this book and to share it with you, as well. I am giving away one copy of "God's Story, your Story!"  

Just leave me a comment below - briefly telling me why you'd like to win the book. I will randomly pick a winner by this weekend.

~ Dionna

(I received this book free from the publisher.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

You Can Be Defeated Or You Can Be Determined

My youngest daughter is playing volleyball for the first time ever. She is trying to learn how to serve… not an easy feat.  She tends to get very stressed out and hard on herself.

Every member of my family has been out in the back yard with her at different times trying to help her out, offering advice and tips.

Sometimes, we just can’t get past the defeated girl who says she “can’t.”

I remember her older sister who was in the same position her first year of volleyball. She couldn’t serve the ball over the net either. Oh how far she has come! She is a great volleyball player today. So I KNOW that my youngest can come far too.

Every time my youngest would try to serve and it would hit the net, she would groan. Her face would tense all up and she looked near tears.  Till finally, I told her – “You can be defeated or you can be determined. It just takes practice.”

Joyce Meyers said something similar. She said, “You can’t be both pitiful and powerful at the same time.” And I’ve found it to be so true! If I’m whining and feeling sorry for myself, I can’t move forward. I can’t change my situation.  It was so obvious this was the case with my youngest as well. Every time she would groan and get upset, her serves would be terrible. But when she got fire in her belly and got focused a little bit, she would often come close to getting it over, or get it over all together!

She looked at me and tried to tell me that emotions had nothing to do with her serves – but I told her they had EVERYTHING to do with her serves. And they have everything to do with whether or not we can succeed in life. If it’s a dream or simply a state of mind (like feeling happy, loved, or content) our attitude and outlook determine it all.

There have been so many times where like my youngest, I have said, “I can’t.” I have felt defeated.  But God has shown me how when I change that weak , overwhelmed, and incapable feeling into one that is persistent and determined – He moves mightily with me and for me. And I move forward.

I don’t know about you, but I want to always be moving forward. And I want my daughter to learn how to move forward as well.

We can’t be pitiful and powerful at the same time. We can’t be both defeated and determined if we want to make progress in our lives. We just can’t.  So let’s get some fire in our bellies and throw out the “I Cant’s.” God has another level in mind for us. Sometimes it just takes some patience and practice to get there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Those Unexplainable Things

I often try to make sense of things in life. I try to explain things or rationalize them in my head. I don’t like chaos or confusion. I don’t tend to like things that don’t seem “right” or explainable.

Sometimes I think good judgment and discernment help me understand when something is not quite right, or “off.” I have this inner voice that tells me something is wrong if it’s not logical or clearly defined.

The thing is… God often works in the unexplainable. And I need to remind myself of that.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” Proverbs 3:5

Such a well-known verse. It hits home how much we need to trust God. Yet it also tells us to not lean on our own understanding…something we each struggle with.

If we don’t understand something, we tend to write it off. Take a miracle, for example. If someone tells us a story and tells us about a miracle happening to them, do we believe them? Or do we tend to think their facts must have been wrong somewhere along the way? How about in our own lives? Do we tend to write off certain callings in our lives or other things that God may be a part of because they simply don’t make sense?

I am a very logical person. But lately I’ve realized how much I need to expand my own horizons and vision to include those “unexplainable” things in life that I may not understand. My deepest desire is to see God at work; to hear Him and to feel Him. I want to be open to the creative ways in which He may choose to impact my life. I want to see beyond the understandable, to the things that are supernatural, miraculous, and only from God.

We limit ourselves when we limit our lives. There is so much we won’t understand. That doesn’t mean those things are bad or wrong. It may simply mean they are from God.

Lean not on our own understanding…but TRUST in Him. Trust His heart and His vision for us. If we do, I think our lives will start getting a whole lot more exciting. And I’m ready for that.

*Originally published at


Monday, September 19, 2011


Life is so fast.

People walk fast. They eat fast. They drop in and out of friends’ houses fast. They drive fast and they sometimes talk and hug fast.

Everything seems to be “amped” up.

We are busy. Our schedules are jam-packed. Even sleep can seem fast on those days when we drop into bed late and rise way before we’d like to.

It’s all just…so…fast.

My children are growing up – fast. Time seems to be going by – fast.  Yet I just want it all to slow down.

I want to linger.

I want to linger on my walk and enjoy the beauty around me.

I want to linger while I eat. Relish the food I’m tasting and the atmosphere.

I want to linger with my friends and linger in bed in the mornings so I feel rested instead of rushed.

I want to look around me. Smell things. Taste them – not just gulp them. I want to soak in the relationships and people God has placed in my life.

Do you remember -  lingering?

I remember lingering after church when I was a little girl. I’d walk around this square bench that went around a tree. I’d walk down one side, up the other, down the other, and then the other and back around again. I wasn’t bored. Sometimes I’d skip. Or just walk slowly. But I enjoyed it.

I remember lingering over meals when I was dating. Just trying to stretch time out to the maximum. Looking into each other’s eyes and delving deep into each other’s hearts with conversation and caring.

Lingering means something. It focuses outward instead of inward.

Lingering renews. Refreshes. And enjoys. “Fast” simply runs and accomplishes.

If I could choose between the two – I’d definitely choose lingering. How about you?

What choices can we make today to linger a little bit longer?  To find and tap back into that “something” that we all know we are missing in our daily life?

Don’t buy into “fast.” It’s not that pretty or popular and it will overstay its welcome quickly. Opt instead for “linger.” It’s genuine, authentic, and caring. And it will add more to your life than the time you could ever give in return.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Standard of Living

I hated cleaning and doing chores when I was a kid. I detested anything that had to do with it. It wasn’t fun to me and it took up so much time! Now, I have a daughter who is just like I was. Yes, I know the irony – it’s not lost on me. Maybe I’m more patient with her because I understand. I understand that reading is so much more pleasurable, drawing, and writing, and playing– so much more imaginative and creative.

I still hate to clean. I procrastinate housework as much as I possibly can and I’m just not motivated unless forced to do it a lot of the time. Luckily, I’m a pretty organized person and I get stressed if things are messy or out-of-control. Those things keep my house presentable. It must be that God built in those traits within me.

As much as I hate housework, it must be done. This is what I explain to my daughter. Everyone has a job. She has hers, and I have mine. You just have to suck it up, put on a great attitude and do it sometimes. I tell her that our character and attitude shine the most in the circumstances we least like. That’s when who we are truly comes out.

Although I tell my daughter you have to do things you don’t enjoy sometimes (like housework and chores), I also have come to learn that they have their place and their priority in my life. There are days when I just don’t feel like picking up, doing the laundry, or wiping something off. There are days I’m tired and I need a break.  I think on these days, it’s important to give myself a break – time off. Let things go for a bit.

I can have the goal of having a home that is warm, comfortable, and pleasing to the eye. It can be free of messes for the most part. But I can also prioritize where those goals fit in with caring for my growing children, having valuable family time, and using my home for the Lord.  You see, housework will always be there. There will always be something to dust, clean, pick up, and wipe off. But my children are getting closer and closer to the stage where they won’t need me daily anymore. That’s a fact.

So who says I need to have a home that looks like it was created for a magazine? If it takes the place of valuable time with my family – not me.

Everyone has different standards for living. Living conditions should be clean and presentable. Organized is very helpful and keeps away a bunch of stress. But we can let those goals have their time and place. We can declutter as much as possible and replace things as we can when they get broken, or worn out. There is beauty to be found in a home. Pleasure. Love. Laughter. LIFE. The most important thing is that in striving for the beauty and pleasure that you don’t lose the life that exists there. The life that can’t eat popcorn on the new sofa or touch the window. It’s not worth it to lose the life that wants to wrestle in the living room next to your favorite artifact, or run and jump on your bed in the morning with tousled hair and a huge smile. Life wins out over image every time in my book. In fact, I’ve come to discover that that’s where the real beauty in my home lies.

So – although I don’t like to clean and think there are a million reasons why I shouldn’t have to – and although I believe I’m more like Mary than I ever could be like Martha – I do it. For life is about growth, learning, and balance. I want to be a good steward over what God has given me. I just don’t want to elevate it to be more important than it truly is.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This Is For Keeps

This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Ephesians 6:12 (MSG)

The good and the bad in life. Sometimes I think we forget where it often comes from. We think it’s coincidence. Fate. Our own doing. I guess sometimes it is. But it’s also a battle. A very real battle that is going on all around us…for our very souls.

When that bad man shows up at our house at night to rob us and maybe do worse, was our house really picked at random? Or did Satan target us? When everything seems to fall apart when we already are dealing with a health crisis, got laid off, and are feeling lonely… it just bad timing? Or is Satan doing everything he can to steal, kill, and destroy us?

Life is for keeps. There are no re-runs. No repeats. We can’t just wave away things in the hopes that they don’t matter. In the desire that they’ll go away. For we are in a fight whether we like it or not.

I know a lot of people get freaked out and really scared when they think the “devil” will aim for them. And rightly so. He is clever. Deceiving. Yes – powerful. He knows just what our buttons are and how to push them. The thing is; no matter how much we might be afraid of him, it doesn’t protect us or make us safe to pretend he’s not out to get us. It doesn’t arm us or give us strength to battle him. No, it only makes us easier targets.

We need to take the blinders off and realize that the battle, the fight, the war has come to us. Like it or not. It will engage us on many levels and in many ways.  Will you be ready for it?

Everything you need to protect yourself and get battle ready is in God’s Word. Read it. Ponder it. Embrace it. USE it. God put it there for a reason. He loves you. And He doesn’t want us to have to struggle so much (although some struggles are necessary and even productive.) But as our Father, He cares about us and the wars we will fight. Let Him guide you. And the next time Satan comes calling, he’ll find you’re ready for him.

Make him flee.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Can Make Chips Work With Any Meal

I’m a French fry lover. I’ve never met a French fry I didn’t like. I like them skinny, fat, with skins on, crinkled, curly, and spiced. They are just delicious.

I think I’m also a chip fanatic. Now – chips don’t quite rate up there with French fries because I don’t like all chips. No – not all chips were created equal. The dill pickled flavor – nasty. Pork rinds? Gross. No – there are only a few varieties that are outstanding.

What I find humorous is that I decided I wanted to cut back on my chip intake. I’m laughing inside as I type that – because it’s an almost impossible task. I have a chip-loving family so chips are always around.

But I think I tried to fool myself for awhile with my chip-loving ways.

I decided instead of eating chips with a sandwich, I would make a hearty soup. I throw in some Progresso chicken noodle (which I love), corn, garbanzo beans, onion, extra chicken broth, fresh shredded chicken – and I’m good to go. Except that I usually have to throw in some tortilla chips or barbecue chips on top. May sound weird, but it’s very delicious.

I started enjoying rice. So I would buy those little Minute brown rice cups at the store. You pop them in the microwave for about a minute and your rice is ready. I’d add some beans, chicken, onion, red pepper – and scoop it up with a tortilla chip.

Are you starting to see a trend?

We make these rice and chili tacos that are rolled up in a flour tortilla with cheese. Yep – tortilla chips to scoop out the middle are a delight.

Taco spaghetti? Gotta have some tortilla chips to either mash in or scoop up.

I think I’m a chip-scooper-aholic.

And I won't even begin to tell you how much I love chocolate covered chips at Christmas time...

I don’t resort to putting chips on my sandwich though, so there is hope for me, right?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Way It Could Be

Can you imagine things the way they “could” be if you’d only handled them better or made the right choices? For example, can you imagine things the way they “could” be if you thought less of yourself and more of your spouse? Can you imagine things the way they “could” be if you truly enjoyed raising your children and spent more time with them? Can you imagine things the way they “could” be if your swallowed your pride and called that person or sent them a note? (You know – the one whom you haven’t spoken to for a long time because of “issues?”)

I just wonder how much happier we would be.

How much more joy would live in our hearts if we “could” do that thing that we wish we could do? Or even that thing that we dread doing but we know we need to do?

Could’s can be can’s. You CAN. You can humble yourself to repair a broken relationship. You can fall in love with your spouse all over again if you look for the good instead of the bad. You can enjoy housework if you think about the people you love and who you are tending it for.

The way it could be is the way it should be. It’s the way it can be. You just need to believe. Pray. Dream. Muster up the courage and do it. Do it afraid. Do it with joy. Just do it!

No more wishing. No more whining. No more putting it off. Your life is here. Today. Now.

Are you going to make the most of it? Are you going to be that person you know you “could” be?

Go for it. Smile along the way. Laugh. Cry as your heart heals. Ponder. And thank God. Thank Him for second chances. And third.

No more longing for the way things could be. God can empower you TODAY to change your “could’s” into “can’s.”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Forever Climbing

I think it’s amazing. How quickly you can fall.

Just when you are finally feeling empowered, Satan has a nasty way of toppling your renewed spirit to the ground. In pieces. Tiny ones.

Why don’t we see it coming?

It’s like we finally can see things from the perspective of a mountaintop only to realize that someone snuck up behind us and pushed us off the cliff.

Then we’re looking up again and wanting so badly to feel strong and victorious once again. To feel like nothing can defeat us.

I hate how quickly those moments can pass. I hate that as soon as I feel a spiritual victory; Satan knocks me off my feet. And I’m on my knees again.

Forever climbing. We’re forever climbing to get back up on that peak again, aren’t we? Maybe that’s the point. To never feel so steady on our feet that we’re able to have the wind knocked out of us. To never be so sure of ourselves that we stop looking at what is coming up behind us. Maybe the climb is what brings us victory – not the standing at the top, part. Maybe.

I have learned that being on my knees is not a bad thing. In fact, that is where I find my source of strength when I am on my knees before the Lord in prayer. That is where I can truly lift my head up and see Him and see a glimpse of His perspective. Even if it’s only a glimpse, it shows me that the climb is worth it. The climb is necessary.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

There Is No Such Thing As a Perfect Friend

There is no such thing as a perfect friend.

I think we are hard on those around us at times. We expect a lot out of them and then when they let us down, rise up short, or fail to meet those unsaid standards, we are disappointed, discouraged, and frustrated. We fail to see that people are human. They will say the wrong thing at times, hurt our feelings, and even let us down with – or without intending to.

It’s imperfection at its best.

I think that’s what’s so precious about parenting. We love our children regardless. We know ahead of time that they will make mistakes – yet we love them. We expect them to be angry with us at times and we forgive them. It’s built inside of us; that ability to love despite being hurt. We could use some of that sometimes in our friendships. Our friends are just as human as our children are. They have their own quirks and personalities that are pre-built. We can’t change them. We can inspire them, love on them, encourage them, and pray for them – but we can’t change them. We need to understand ahead of time that there will come a moment in time where they may not be there for us in our time of need.

If we are always looking for perfection in a friend, I think we may just always be looking for a friend. There is no perfection to be found. But there is laughter to be found in the cheer that someone else’s charm brings your life. There is a special bond that can be found when someone doesn’t understand your heart and yet still loves you and supports you. There is freedom to be found when you share something you feel silly about or something that deeply humbles or embarrasses you and you are met with wisdom or camaraderie in the disclosure of an equally silly or embarrassing thing from your friend’s heart.

Friendships need room to breathe and grow. We only suffocate them if we put confines on them. We stifle any natural blooming that could otherwise take place.

We all could use some slack when it comes to our own role in friendships. We let our friends down at times or fail to be there for them. We don’t call or write as often as we should and we forget birthdays. We say the wrong thing at the wrong time and we get our nose bent out of shape too easily. We could use some grace extended our way at our “less-than-perfect” ways. And so do we need to offer it in return.

There is no such thing as a perfect friend but there are really GREAT friends. We just need to see that sometimes they are standing right in front of us – imperfections and all.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Learning To Speak Up

I watched part of a movie recently that my girls had already been watching. It was about a teen girl who was dating an abusive boyfriend. Her friends knew, and only one of them tried to get the girl away from him. The rest did nothing. The end result? The girl was murdered.

Not very uplifting is it? Even if it was just a movie – it brought up a good discussion between my girls and me. Not only to talk to them about being in an abusive relationship, but what to do if they fear for a friend.

If It’s one thing I’m trying to get across to my girls it’s that they need to speak up.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King Jr.

How many times do we have a friend who wants a divorce and we fail to speak up? We are more afraid of them getting angry with us or losing their friendship than we are of trying to help them salvage their marriage.

How often do we witness a parent being overly critical or harsh with a child? How about someone joking about hurting themselves…or someone else? Do we see a friend “sext” someone else – or receive one?

How about some situations that we’d call the “lesser evil?” Yet they are still wrong. When someone obviously “works” someone else and takes advantage of their love and kindness – time and time again? Do we speak up when we witness someone being dishonest about paying a bill?

There are so many scenarios. And yes, there are situations that are none of our business. But if we care about someone and we see him or her morally, emotionally, or spiritually in danger – it is our responsibility to speak up and in love – confront them.

It is one thing to respect someone else’s privacy and choices in life – it’s another thing to simply be afraid that we’ll damage our image or lose the relationship.

I think we’re all in danger of living in a society that is so used to “to each his own” that we’ve lost sight of being our brother’s keeper. We’ve forgotten that we are here for each other – to take care of one another.

You can’t take care of someone else without sometimes saying and doing the hard thing.

Speaking up doesn’t have to be harsh or unkind. It can be done with a gentle voice and a loving hand. As long as it’s done.

I think we’d all agree that we’d hate to look back and think that we could have done something to intervene on behalf of someone in a positive way. Love someone enough to speak up for them. Sometimes that’s the best way you can show you truly care. They might not see that right away – but some day, they just might thank you for it.