The Dynamic Duo: Compassion & Power

the force.jpgI love that my kids have awesome imaginations. Of course, their ways of expressing their imagination is all different – one uses drawing, one – writing, one- crafts cool stuff out of a various assortment of things,…but all love dress-up. My fifth grader inherited some amazing Nerf weapons from his older siblings and these necessary tools,for destroying imaginary enemies, are his joys.

It just so happened that recently he misplaced on of his swords. Maybe I should say THE sword. A Nerf Master Sword (if you actually know what that means, you receive 5 points). This was a BIG deal. He looked everywhere…twice, with no result.

I knew what it was like to lose something I loved. I have a favorite pair of earrings floating around in the world somewhere that I’ve never been able to find. So we sat together, prayed for help, and I tried to comfort him as best I could.

superheroes-2Then I remembered him placing it on a piece of furniture and wondered if maybe have fallen in behind a difficult nook behind that piece of furniture. So we looked. Sure enough, there it was. Not only was it in a difficult to reach spot, it was also stuck beneath the weight of this large bookshelf. Definitely in a spot my 11 year old couldn’t get.

Thankfully, my arms are longer than his, so after shuffling the bookshelf around a little, then reaching my arms down inot the narrow crevice of doom, the sword came free and I had a happy son.

As simple as this sounds, it made me think of something eternal.

There’s something beautiful about compassion. When you feel as if you’re not carrying a burden alone, but others see the difficult and share in the struggle by showing kindness. Compassion serves a wonderful purpose of connection and comfort.

But compassion can only go so far. I could try and comfort Samuel about his lost sword, but he’d still hurt from the lossness.

kids1However, I had something else. I had power. Power to remember where I’d seen his sword last and also power to move stuff around to reach the coveted sword. Compassion paired with power is AMAZING.

You know, that’s what we get in Jesus. Just think about two stories in Mark that are told back-to-back. First the feeding of the 5000 and then Jesus walking on water. Jesus had compassion on the hungry people – because not only were they hungry for food but hungry for His words. His compassion was beautiful – but he could do even more. He had the POWER paired with compassion to make a difference.

We all know that power by itself isn’t necessarily a good thing. It’s been misued for centuries to the detriment of millions -but paired with compassion it’s world-changing.

day5pAfter the feeding of the 5000, Jesus sees his disciples trying to cross the sea only to be met by strong winds slowing them down. What does he do? He goes to them…walking on the water. If he was just trying to show off power, he’d have kept walking right passed them, but he doesnt. Compassion for his wayward disciples pauses him and even compels him to still the winds so they could make it across the sea.

I find such comfort in this! Why?

Life happens! – with all of its messy, storming, achy, heart-bending brokeness.

And though God is a god of compassion – and that compassion can comfort in part, He is also a God of power, which makes the comfort whole.

He is able to take on the storm, the hungry, the broken…the mess, and do something about it out of his overwhelming goodness. If you’re struggling with finding your hope, remember, He not only showers His children with compassion – He has the ability  “to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesian 3:20-21)

The outcome might be what we expect (ie…water walking😉, but it will be what we need most. At our cores. And it will be wrapped in his love.

That we can count on.

 

uk2k16 -Edinburgh 1

day5To continue with my love for England, I’m going to take you on our quick trip to Edinburgh.Oh my, this might have been our favorite part of our recent trip. I plan to take some time in the future to talk about other England adventures, but Edinburgh was amazing – a city that didn’t feel like a city.

But…to start, since it was Sunday, we worshipday5oped in a wonderfully historic (and evangelical) church called All Souls Langham Place.What a wonderful place to visit! Such a warm and friendly church where you could feel the welcome and community of faith. We witnessed a baptism, learned some new songs, and enjoyed a chat with another
visiting American family…and OF COURSE we got to spend time with our new friends Peter and Ilona.

Well, after church we picked up a quick lunch in Kings Cross station and then day5chopped on the train for our 4 hour ride to Edinburgh. It was such an enjoyable trip. On the way up, we all actually got to sit together in a four seat set with a table in between. The scenary was lovely – we saw the English coastline just
before we crossed over from England to Scotland. BEAUTIFUL.

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It’s around 5 by the time we get to Edinburgh, so we load up in a taxi, take our bags to our hotel, and walk directly to Arthur’s Seat. But on the way to the hotel, and looming directyl over the train station, is the amazing Edinburgh Castle. Oh my, day5djust turning around and seeing this medieval fortress towering above you is impressive enough, but knowing we were going to get to tour it made it even more exciting. Again…photos seem SO small!!

day5eArthur’s Seat is part of Holyrood Park – 360 acres attached to the Queen’s Scottish residence Holyrood Palace.  The hike is probably considered a moderate one, until you get near the top – which is more rigorous – but we didn’t get the opportunity to hike all the way to the ‘Seat’ because of the lateness of the hour. However, we hiked halfway and had an amazing view day5kof Edinburgh and even the North Sea.  Hailed as one of the possible sites for the legendary Camelot, it immediately becomes a place filled with stories waiting to be told (or that’s how it was for me anyway😉

I’ve posted a few videos below so you can see our hike in real-timday5le🙂 Lydia and I had lots of fun creating videos, so if you want to see more – we’ll have links at the end of the post.

After our little hike, we went to grab some DELICIOUS burger at Byron’s. Wow! Yum!! And the hot chocolate was stupendous. Our waiter, Ross, was wonderful – with the endearing mix of Scottish accent and dry humor. Definitely a future character in a book!! (well, his personality paired with a waiter we met the next day…adorable young men who need day5hto be in a book)

We then attended a free piano concert inside of St. Giles (the ‘home’ of Presbyterianism). I’ll tell you more about St. Giles in my next post because we actually toured it then, but needless to say, it has a lot of history and fantastic accoustics.

Photos truly do not do this city justice! Beautiful! and OLD!

 

Grabbing Thoughts

biltmorewithphoebe16My nine year old daughter came downstairs after ‘going to bed’, her eyes red from crying. I expected the occassional bad dream explanation but instead she told me that a little girl at school had shared a scary story with her about dolls coming to life and hurting a family.

(Ugh….not my favorite scenario)

Anyway, her words were “I can’t get the scary out of my head.”

I pulled her up on my lap and she cuddled up against me, a hold I appreciate more and more the older she gets (because she’s doing it less and less). I said an internal prayer for help and wisdom before speaking to her.

“I’m sorry somebody told you something scary. I’m afraid because this world is so broken you’re going to see lots of scary things in your life, so the best thing to do is figure out how to deal with them right now.”

She nodded and sniffled.
“What does the Bible say about our thoughts, Phoebe?”
“I don’t know?” she shrugged.
“Well, the Bible tells us what things to think of first of all. (Philippians 4) Some of the things it says is to think on things that are true and lovely. Is the doll story true?”
She shook her head.
“It definitely doesn’t sound lovely, does it?”
“No,” she whimpered. “But it’s still stuck in my head.”

Yep, I knew that feeling. I’ve been strugg
ling with my own brain spinning fears lately.

“Let’s both try two things. What do yousay? First, the Bible says to take every thought captive.”

“What does captive mean?” Thankfully, she’d stopped crying by this point.cslewis23

“You know when a knight or a soldier captures an enemy? What does he do to capture them?”

“He grabs them?”

“Yep. Captive is kind of like ‘grabbing’. God tells us to grab those thoughts and see if they fit God’s types of thoughts to think. If they do, we keep them. If they don’t, we toss them. And if those bad thoughts get sticky to our minds, we have to put good thoughts in to push away the bad until there’s no room for the bad.”

We talked a little longer about some thoughts she could think instead and off she went. When I checked on her twenty minutes later, she was asleep with her Jesus Storybook Bible on her chest.

I got the opportunity to remember my own words later that night as my mind filled with sticky thoughts. They spun with worry and fear, sending my heart into a patter.
Were my thoughts true? Maybe some of them.
Were they lovely? Definitely not.
But they were not excellent or praiseworthy because they brought fear with them.

Taking my own advice, I began to fill my mind with prayers for others instead of continuing to spin my fears. I caught those thoughts, looked at them, and measured them against the truth.

God is good. Faithful. Filled with compassion. Powerful.
And I am His.
No matter what.

Did I fall asleep right away?
No, sticky thoughts aren’t always easy to remove.
Did I fall asleep eventually?
Yes – and hopefully next time I will even faster.

Because in those moments I desperately need to remind my heart about what my head knows. Who is in charge and to whom I belong.

It’s a good reminder from one traveller on this life-journey to another.

Blessings,

Pepper

#uk2k16 – Day 4 – Oxford

day4As we continue on our whirlwind trip to the UK, today I’m going to take you on our excursion to Oxford.

OH what a fun day- but the best parts happened outside of the actual college area. Of course, there are wonderful photos to share of the historic university and all of its many buildings, but some of our most interesting and humorous adventures today happened on the ‘fringes’ of our plan. Isn’t that how things usually go, though?

Again, our morning involved leaving our hotel and boarding the Tube during the crowded London rush hour, but this morning we rode from Monument to King’s Cross train station (you know, like King’s Cross in Harry Potter! And yes, there was a Harry Potter store AND a 9 3/4 – to which Lydia fan girled a little bit. I think I have a video for you about that)

day4dThe train took us to meet our guide for the day, Peter. He picked us up in his car and we drove toward Oxford. What a fun ride!! Truly, everyone needs to experience of riding on the other side of the car on the other side of the road!

Our first stop, and one of my favorites of the day, was a visit to author, speaker, and theologian, C.S. Lewis’ house, aka The Kilns. This place was lovely, as you can see. Flowers in the garden and a resident cat named Warnie (C.S. Lewis’ brother’s name). The house is used for college students to study and visit, as well as ‘groups’ to stay, so it was occupied while we were there, but one of the guests came out and talked to us about her studies and the house.

day4cWe also walked behind the house to Lewis’ little haven in the back. The pond, bomb shelter, and wood surrounding The Kilns’ in which he, Warnie, and Lewis’ wife, Joy, walked and talked. It was a lovely little space in the middle of an otherwise crowded subdivision. The quintessential English cottage. Seriously. Lovely windows, rose covered ways…beautiful.

After visiting the Kilns we traveled down the road a short distance and parked. Down a narrow lane through the wood, we came to a lovely and small old church called Holy Trinity Church in Headington, Oxford. We weren’t able to visit the inside of the church (which has stained glass windows representing Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia), but we did see Lewis’ grave. What a day4elovely, green, and quiet setting for this amazing man’s resting place.

From there we traveled to Oxford for lunch. As we walked through the streets, Peter told us about the Martyrs memorial in the middle of the street. A powerful statue memorializing the men who were burned on that spot for their faith.

To keep with the amazing historical trapse about Oxford, we ate at the Eagle and Child – meeting place of The Inklings! And we happen to get there early enough to sit in the actual booth amazing authors like CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, sat in as they discussed literature, theology, and day4ifantasy!!

The kids enjoyed Fish & Chips (their usual fare for the trip) and then we went off to explore the university.

Magdelen College was my favorite of the ones we visited. The cloister was beautiful, filled with blooms. In back was New College (new meaning built in the late 1700s🙂. Lewis stayed here during his teaching at Oxford.  A few photos down day4kyou will see the building. The window with the red flower under it is the room where Lewis stayed.

There is a bridge here that takes you on the famous Addison’s Walk – the beautiful woodland path that Tolkien, Lewis, and
some of their friends, walked. It was on one of these walks that Tolkien and Hugo Dyson talked to Lewis about Christianity in terms of Christ’s sacrifice being like the myths Lewis loved…except it was a ‘true myth’. Lewis’ journey of Christian faith came to a pinnacle at this point and propelled him into a new understanding of the Gospels and the faith he’d once shunned.

We also visited Christ Church with its amazing stained glass windows. Our tour of it was cut short by a wedding party. Lots of weddings happening in day4lvaroius places during our trip🙂

After spending a little more time in Oxford, we traveled down the road a little way to a large cemetery where, after some searching (and sign following), we found the grave of JRR Tolkien. People had left their tributes to him in various forms. Coins, papers, even a quill and inkwell. The inscription on his grave was created by Tolkien’s day4mson, Christopher, in a beautiful memorial for his parents and celebration of his father’s legacy.

We traveled back with Peter to his house and had the wonderful opportunity to meet an unforgettable character…Henry.  Henry was the former head of Scotland Yard. A man with a big personality, he also happened to have a car owned by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of  Sherlock Holmes. Oh my goodness, this man was hilarious. I might even venture to say meeting him was one of the highlights of the trip for me, Ben, and Lydia. His humor was fantastic, laced with thick sarcasm and a deep laugh.

day4oOn this theme, we ended our day back in London in search of 221B Baker Street. To Lydia’s delight, we found it!!

What a full day!!! So thankful for this quick trip to places some of our favorite authors visited.

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The Thorn Healer – Cover Reveal

TTHgraphicYou guys know I love any excuse to party! And today I have a great one!!!

The third installment of the Penned in Time series (my very first series EVER published) has a cover! The Thorn Healer!!

And you all know that I’ll wait to the very end of the post to show the cover, right?….(okay, how many of you scanned down there early? Are you the same ones who read the last page of a book first?)🙂

Anway, The Penned in Time series has such a special place in my heart because of the time period, the depth of story, and the fact that I survived writing two additional books within a year! The Thorn Healer is also close to my heart because, not only does it touch on some deep spiritual truth and take place in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it has a completely adorable hero! ADORABLE!!!

TTH graphic2August Reinhold!!! YAY!!!

If you’ve been following along with the series, you’ll recognize three main female characters introduced in the first book, The Thorn Bearer: Ashleigh, Catherine, and Jessica.

Each has her own story – and The Thorn Healer is Jessica’s. Ironic that the one who needs healing the most is also a nurse. We’ve seen Jessica throughout each book until finally we get to read her story…and hopefully, she gets to find her happy ending too.

The novel was the hardest of the three to write. I think it might be because Jessica’s personality was the most different from mine than the other three heroines, but I’m not sure. I might have been from exhaustion too🙂

Releasing three books in a year and writing another within that same year is an incredibly difficult and daunting experience when you also have a day job, a full family, and other responsiblities. But I’m proud of this story of hope and peace.

TTH graphic1The story takes place in the real tow of Hot Springs, NC – a very small place couched by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Unfortunately, the amazing Mountain Park Hotel no longer stands, but remnants of the hotel are still visible on the site – and the hot springs are still in use.

As far as the German internment camp goes, I found most of my information from Jaqueline Painter’s amazing pictorial entitled The German Occupation of Hot Springs. Up until rather recent history no one knew of the camp’s existence because the residents of Hot Springs refused to talk about World War 1 era Germans once World War 2 hit. It became a shameful memory, but Mrs. Painter (a native of Hot Springs) unearthed pictures and stories so that this amazing tale could now come to life in The Thorn Healer.

So…….

Without further ado, here is the most AMAZING cover of the three (in my opinion)

The Thorn Healer, available November 28, 2016

The Thorn Healer Final

And here it is – The Penned in Time series.

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Uk2K16 – Cambridge

day3So I’m back to give more account of our UK2k16 trip and day #3 was a beautiful tour of Cambridge. We stayed in a hotel that was near London Bridge, so we took the Tube at Monument each morning on the days we ventured out from London. It was a crowded ride during rush hour.

Cambridge was a beautiful city – small. After being in London the previous two days, Cambridge provided a nice reprieve for this country girl’s heart🙂 It’s also safe to say that it had one of THE BEST bookstores EVER!

day3bAgain Peter and Ilona Greyline were the best hosts and guides. Peter took us to Magdalene College, just over the Cam River and across from the Pickerel. C.S. Lewis lived and taught here when he became the chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature there. He would live in Cambridge during the week and travel back to The Kilns on the weekend by train.

The dining room at Magdalene College is one of the few dining rooms left without electricity. Each night, a formal dinner is offered by candlelight. Absolutely stunning room.

Trinity College had a beautiful courtyard. A fountain stood in the center of the courtyard and our guide told us that day3eLord Byron, one of the graduates of Cambridge, used to skinny dip in it. Interesting… Not exactly what you’d expect to see in the posh surroundings. Notable other graduates who day3jwere more fully clothed, were people like Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Alfred Tennyson, King Edward VII, John Milton, and Francis Bacon (among many more)

King’s College was also here – and one of my husband’s favorite sites. The King’s College choir performs a Lesson in Carols every year. The inside is magnificent. We learned that there isn’t heat inside the chapel, so people would usually sit for the Christmas service with their coats wrapped tight.

So many of the flowers were in bloom, I couldn’t help taking pics of the scenary. Well, I couldn’t help taking pics of the scenary anyway. It was CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND.

day3iThis day was notable for another reason. We had our first taste of Fish and Chips. Ilona took us to this fabulous restaurant called Coast. Oh my goodness, the food was delicious and I can safely say that Ben and Lydia ate Fish & Chips for almost every meal after that introduction. By the way, lunch is a lot later in the UK than it is in the US. Typical eating time seemed to be 1:30 or 2pm.

After lunch we visited the wonderful Heffer’s Bookstore. This place was three stories of a reader/writer’s dream. Ben made is first day3kpurchases here (of the 13 books he bought on the trip). Even in the middle of the week, this place was crowded with #booknerds like us!!

The train took us back to London after this wonderful visit and we had just enough time to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum. I’d love to return to it some day when we have more time to peruse all of the history. Amazing costuming!

day3mThe day was full, but we were particularly glad to get back to the hotel for some rest (particularly Ben since he’d been toting around 5 books since we left Heffers)

 

 

 

From Dawn to Dusk – #uk2k16

day1Oh it seems way too long since I returned from my ‘heart home’ in England, but I love getting to revisit the memories and pictures of the trip.

Today, I’m taking you with us on day #2 – London.

It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep and a great English breakfast can do for energy levels.🙂 And boy, did we need the energy for THIS day!

 

We started our morning with a 25 minute walk to St. Paul’s Cathedral to meet our Christian Heritage Tour guide on the steps.

day2Peter Greyling was such a wealth of wonderful knowledge, taking us on a two hour walk through some of the quieter streets of London to learn more about the less popular stories of Christianity.

We walked in areas where the Wesley brothers had walked and hear their stories. Learned of martyrs, world war veterans, and early Christian fathers – all who walked along the same paths we walked. It was pretty spectacular.

We visited the church where the Wesley brothers preached, saw day2bthe remains of the 2000 year old Roman wall, touched WW2 bomb marks on the walls of buildings, and even stubmled upon the street where “Sherlock Holmes” died (in BBC’s/Benedict Cumberbatch version). (Note Lydia’s ecstatic expression about this little discovery)

 

 

Then we toured the gothic and historic Westminster Abbey. Being among the tombs of so many powerful people of history was an interesting and humbling experience. The day2 sherlockarchitecture, age, and overall beauty only enhanced the awareness of memories painting the walls. At noon, a clergyman addressed the group to engage in corporate prayer for the nation and world. I was glad to be a part of the prayer, because despite the fact that some in the crowd may not have prayed at all, I knew to Whom I prayed….and that He was listening.

After a brief chat with a very nice policeman in the giftshop of Westminster (I tend to talk to EVERYBODY), we went to lunch at St. Martin’s in the Crypt. Yes, you read that right. THE CRYPT. We had lunch in a crypt. (and not creepy). We met another tour guide here, a guy who became an instant friend, day2westminsterKeith Berry, historian and past of New City Church in Hammersmith🙂 Keith took us on a tour of the British Museum, where we focused particularly on some Biblically significant ancient history. Assyrian, Persian, Egyptian….all these priceless artifacts were housed in this building and many were thousands of years old.

Of course we saw the Rosetta Stone, mummies, and even some fashions of different times, but the ancient wall carvings and paintings were my favorites. Why? Because they told stories🙂

We headed through St. James Park where hundreds of people day2jenjoyed the balmy day with by having picnic lunches on the grass, and of course we spied Buckingham Palace along the way. We also saw beautiful window boxes filled with flowers (I have a weakness for lovely window boxes).

And then we traveled to the British Library to check out the “Treasures” Room….filled with manuscripts from centuries old to more modern (you know, 1600s ), just kidding – it had handwritten lyrics from the Beattles😉. This room houses original copies of The day2oGutenberg Bible, Magna Carta, Leonardo DiVinci’s notebook, Shakespeare’s handwritten notes, King Henry VIII’s letters, an original copy of Utopia, and so much more.

We stopped for a bite to eat before heading to the theatre!! What a fun treat to watch a live production of Into the Woods in a small intimate theatre called The Chocolate Factory (where, of course, I had to eat some chocolate). It was a small cast with amazing talent!

The night ended with a walk back to our hotel over London Bridge. What a great day!!