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Beneath the Thorns

Can you see the roses in your life beneath the struggles?

Flowers bring life to any setting. Their color, smell and texture add something that lifts our spirits and changes our moods. My back deck is filled with annuals and perennials that bring me joy each spring and summer. I laughed as I told my daughter recently that there is a secret ingredient to healthy flowers. "You have to water them," I said. She attempts to grow a few flowers each year, but doesn't give them enough of the secret ingredient, so they try to survive, instead of thrive.

As I was on my back deck this week, I noticed a bright green sprout tall and erect in the middle of a rose bush. I had attempted to make a rose garden several years ago; a different rose bush representing each female in the family. Only one survived. It too, has been neglected. Canes were not pruned, leaves were not dusted and the bush looks almost dead. Except for one tall sprout. The sprout shot straight up past all the old brown ones and managed to produce multiple buds with canary yellow tips peeking out.

Photo by Ann Wayne

This reminds me of life. Most of us have a lot of junk that we have to go through. The old brown thorns represent the sin and struggles. Baggage that we have needs pruning and cutting away.  It is not beneficial to us.  It only chokes us and keeps us from being productive. The new green cane full of buds represents new life. They are fresh, beautiful and full of growth.

As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ this Easter Sunday, may the hope of new life fill you with joy.  The crown of thorns is history. Jesus paid the price for all of our sins and baggage.  He is alive and He wants us to be filled to the overflow with His love and peace.

" My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."  Galatians 2:20 (NLT)

Happy Easter!

Are U Staged?

Photography by Ann Wayne


Ready for What's Next...
 
I have been cleaning out my house like a mad woman.  Getting rid of things I don't use or need.  I'm trying to simplify and downsize a bit.  Recently, I made one of the biggest decisions for my future that I have made in a long time.  I'm moving. Don't know exactly where or when, but it is clear that I am supposed to make this change.

Over a year ago, I started the journey of processing the idea of moving from the two story farm house that my children were raised in. Memories of picking up buck eyes from the five-trunk tree in the fall, toys and books in the attic, gnawed window sills in the barn from the horses, and a pond for labradors to cool off in the summer have painted this tapestry for over twenty five years.

All the children are grown now and out on their own. So it is time to "stage" it for someone else.  My realtor came in recently and began plucking things off of the counter to prepare for potential clients to come and visit.  She grabbed my container of kitchen tools and put them away. I said, "But that's a sign of a good cook!"  She laughed and told me they had to go.  "The cleaner the counter tops, the bigger the room looks," she said.

I began to think about this process called "staging." It simply means to be ready - to set up a room to look clean, crisp and clutter-free. To get rid of the unnecessary stuff.

Isn't that what God calls us to do in our Christian walk so that we're always ready to witness to someone or minister to their needs? Sometimes we have to get rid of the junk in our lives before we can be used by God.

In Bill Hybel's book, "Just Walk Across the Room," he encourages us to live in "3D."
  • Develop Friendships - make friends with people from all walks of life so we can be open to opportunities to share the Word with them.
  • Discover Stories -  listen to their life stories before sharing your own story and eventually God's redemptive story.
  • Discern Next Steps - allow the Holy Spirit to direct you in how to handle the next step in leading a friend to Christ and sharing hope with them.
Evangelism is sort of like "staging."  We must be prepared for whatever God is calling us to do. By spending time in the Word and communing with Him throughout the day, we will know when and what to share with the people He places in our lives. In 1 Peter 3:15, we are told..."in our hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect." NIV

We must ask ourselves, "Am I staged?"  Am I ready for the next step?

Are You a "Courageous" Father?

Once again, Sherwood Pictures, in Albany, Georgia has produced another hit that touches the hearts and homes of families. "COURAGEOUS", released Sept. 30th, was filmed around Albany, the town where Sherwood Baptist Church is located. A team from across the country came together and filmed this movie about families and focused on fathering.

Four law enforcement officers; Adam Mitchell, Nathan Hayes, David Thomson, and Shane Fuller face a challenge that none of them are truly prepared to tackle: fatherhood. But they quickly discover that their standard is missing the mark. When tragedy hits one officer's home, these men are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, their faith, and their fathering.


Moviegoers will find themselves laughing, crying, and cheering as they are challenged and inspired by these men in uniform who long to be the kinds of dads that make a lifelong impact on their children.

Don't miss this action-packed police drama about four men who come to realize what it really means to be "courageous."  You may even want to consider a ceremony at your church for fathers to make a commitment to be "courageous" for their families.

"Flywheel," "Facing the Giants," and "Fireproof" were the first three films to hit the box office from Sherwood Baptist Church's movie making ministry.  Each movie has presented a spiritual message to moviegoers, challenging them to have a closer relationship with God and take a stand for their families and communities.

Holding Power!

Experience God's arms around you in troubled times!

My heart was racing. Breathing was difficult. My body went limp. PANIC ATTACK! In my late 20's and early 30's, I experienced a lot of anxiety. When I was 32, I had a level 3 panic attack. I thought I was dying. We rushed to the hospital. Vitals were monitored and my veins were injected with a drug to calm me. Within minutes, it improved my demeanor. This major panic attack took a toll on my body for several months. Only time and change allowed me to fully recover from this episode.

I realized that I must set boundaries in my life and with the people around me. Overwhelmed with life's demands, I knew something had to change. I began seeking resources for taking better care of myself. God put people in my path to help me and walking became my new sport to help balance the serotonin levels in my brain to calm the anxiety. Most importantly, I steeped myself in the scriptures for assurance of God's love and care. I simply needed God to hold me and reassure me of His love and steadfastness.

Photography by Ann Wayne

My sun room and the Psalms were my favorite places to dwell early in the mornings. They brought the peace I was seeking. I go to the Psalms today and discover the same highlighted scriptures that brought me comfort in those days. "I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4 is one of the many verses that remind me of God's covering over my life.

I am going through a season of uncertainty now as I write this. Again, I go to God's word for comfort. "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN.

I talk to a lot of people who have lost jobs, who could lose their homes, who are dealing with illness, who are going through separation and divorce, or who have troubled children. Because I have faced a lot of adversity, I believe that we are supposed to reach out to those struggling. It has become my life mission. Many times, I will point them to the Psalms.

Are you struggling with something? Nothing can give you peace like steeping in the Psalms. Try it. You may find that you like to highlight the verses for later references. GOD'S WORD HAS HOLDING POWER! It could change your life!

THE GRACE CARD

 
Witness the power of forgiveness in this amazing movie...

Last week, I wept like a baby and clinched a pack of tissue as I sat and watched the “Grace Card – a powerful message of grace, forgiveness and overcoming racism. My emotions were so stirred that I almost exited the theater to regain my composure. I was so moved that I am urging all my family and friends to see this movie.

It takes an intriguing story to draw me to the movie theater. A “must see”, this movie was packed with drama telling the story of two policemen, Sam (Michael Higgenbottom), white, middle-aged and deeply troubled, and Mac (Michael Joiner), a young African American, who felt called to full time ministry.

First-time director David G. Evans and his co-writer Howard Klausner create an incredible portrayal of unforgiveness, grace, anger and finally forgiveness. Mac, consumed by despair over the death of his five-year-old son eighteen years earlier, becomes a squad car partner to Sam, a man of faith who is dealing with his own frustrated professional ambitions and prejudices. The men work toward overcoming their differences and face a serious situation when Mac’s seventeen year old son is shot in a robbery.

This evangelical drama draws inspiration from Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” The movie’s conclusion is not only powerful and surprising; it reveals just how incredible God’s mercy and grace are and the power of forgiveness.

Unfortunately, most Christian based films don’t have a long showing season at theaters, so go quickly. Theaters make decisions about whether or not to continue showing a movie by the number of viewers on opening weekend. One of the most important things we can do is go see Christian films when they first open.

Some Christian producers choose to release movies directly to DVD, mostly for financial reasons. It costs a lot to produce a film and even more to get it into theaters. An estimated cost of $2000 per screen to show a movie and additional costs for advertising prevents some movies from ever reaching the theater. For a new filmmaker or small production company, it can be difficult to fund a theatrical release or find investors for it. Some Christian filmmakers – many of them churches; have used their own money to get a film into theaters and prayed it would cover costs. Their goal and purpose is not usually monetary. It is changing lives and bringing glory to God.

What Can We Do as Christians to Promote Christian Based Movies

• Tell your circle of friends, family, and co-workers about upcoming Christian movies – send emails, post on Facebook, Twitter, websites and blogs
• Pray for Christian filmmakers and their financial supporters
• Organize a church movie event
• Financially support Christian filmmakers
• Print out and post Christian movie information on church, school, community and work bulletin boards for those not active on the internet.

Interview with Speaker/Teacher Stephanie Stanford of Stanford Ministry

Sometimes you just know certain things. The confirmation is so evident that you don’t second guess it. A few years ago at a women’s ministry event, a young woman stood up and commissioned the women to go forth in confidence and boldness to share the gospel. I remember thinking…WOW, this woman needs to be speaking to women’s groups.

The young woman was Stephanie Stanford. She spoke with the boldness of Christ, the authority that only God can give and her words were anointed by the Holy Spirit. It was clear to many of us at that event that Stephanie had the gift of teaching and speaking.

After many years of Bible teaching and leadership in women’s ministry, Stephanie felt the Lord nudging her to accept the call God placed on her life. She and her husband Phil gave this fervent prayer and consideration. In 2010, through the leading of the Holy Spirt, they launched Stanford Ministry. It is a ministry with the goal of equipping people through scriptural teaching.

Stephanie and Phil have been married for 20 years. They have two sons, David and Caleb, who are able to help out in the ministry. Stephanie also loves being a homemaker and ministering through hospitality.

Hope you enjoy the interview below with Stephanie.

Ann: How long have you taught Bible studies and when did you teach your first class?

Stephanie: I have taught classes at various times for many years. I taught my first class when I was a teenager.

A: How did you know that God called you to step out in faith and begin your own speaking/teaching ministry?

S: God kept providing opportunity and encouragement through friends and family. I felt an incredible passion for allowing the Lord to use me to assist in teaching believers.

A: When did you and Phil make the decision to begin Stanford Ministry?

S: Phil and I felt the Lord's direction last year when the ministry really began to come together.

A: Does your family support you in this new adventure?

S: Yes! Yes! Yes! They’re all amazingly supportive. The boys are helpful in critiquing and coming up with creative ideas for me to use at speaking events. David, the oldest, enjoys helping with research on some of the material. Phil is the spiritual covering for the ministry. It is truly a family ministry.

A: What advice would you give women who also feel the call from God to step out and teach, speak or write and share the gospel?

S: Go for it! As the Lord leads, He provides. He equips us for whatever task He calls us to. I remind myself; if He can use a donkey; He can use me! (see Numbers 22: 22-33)

A: Tell us about the Esther event.

S: I believe the Esther event is going to be a great blessing? The Lord has brought a great team of people together to lead worship, pray, decorate, and promote, etc. I think it’s going to be an anointed evening.

It is with great joy that Stanford Ministry announces the first ministry event in the Charlotte area. On Friday, March 18, 2011, at Harvest Community Church in Huntersville, I will be portraying the life of Esther, a woman who lived a life of purpose.

This evening will give you greater understanding of the Biblical character of Esther. We will look at this extraordinary woman in a way few have witnessed. She will tell her own story. A story of struggles, fears, love and finally, triumph. As we see through the eyes of this woman, we will also look to our own fears and struggles and the purpose for our presence in this day.
I hope the women and young ladies of your congregation will mark it on their calendars to attend this special evening. They will be blessed!

A: What motivated you to portray Esther in your one-woman drama on March 18th?

S: I guess the days in which we’re living seem very similar and the Lord prompted me to share it in a different fashion. I think portraying Esther in a drama has really appealed to a wide variety of people.

A: How do you think the portrayal of Esther applies to modern day women?

S: I can’t give it all away, but I think we would do well to have some of her characteristics – like courage and humility (modeled in her obedience).

A: How were you able to pull together your first local ministry event since the launch of Stanford Ministry?

S: With tons of help from a group of awesome people the Lord brought together.

A: Ladies, you are all invited to attend this event…Esther – Living a Life of Purpose Now! The event is FREE. Feel free to bring your husbands too! Men, if you are receiving this blog post, consider bringing your wife or lady friend to this event. It would be a great date night! Check out the sidebar on this blog to find out more about the event or go to Stanford Ministry’s website at www.StanfordMinistry.com. Thanks, Stephanie, for your time.

Mega Love

About a month ago, I woke up in the middle of the night. I had been dreaming, which is unusual for me. I was in a craft store looking at charms. Because I enjoy making jewelry, sorting through unique charms is typical every time I stop by a favorite craft store. But in the dream, there was only one charm. A megaphone. When I woke up from the dream, it was so vivid.

Now, let me give you some background. I was not a cheerleader in high school and I'm not known as a loud, talkative woman. I don't need to be the center of attention. But I will state my opinion. Boldly, tactfully and with all due respect to those around me.

I pondered this dream and asked God what it meant. During those few moments some friends came to mind that were going through some trials. And it was as if God spoke to me and said, "Go tell them how much I (God) love them." It was difficult for me to go back to sleep that night because I had such a passion about telling these friends how much God loved them. My heart was so moved because of the "megaphone" dream and what God had revealed to me.

In Ephesians 3:18 the scriptures reveal to us the vastness of God's love. "And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is."
Photography by Ann Wayne

Then, why do we have difficulty loving unconditionally and have unforgiveness in our hearts? We are commanded to love one another as God loves us. Jesus did this well. He told sinners to go and sin no more. He loved them unconditionally. So why can't we love this way? I guess our humanness holds us back.  I have asked God to search my heart and reveal to me if there is anything in it that would keep me from loving unconditionally.

My next visit to a craft store will probably draw me to the charm aisle. I plan to look for a unique "megaphone." It will dangle from a custom made bracelet and remind me of my dream, what God revealed to me and my duty as a Christian in telling others the vastness of God's love.

I encourage you to go to someone who is suffering or going through a trial and ask, "Do you know how much God loves you?" You may even need to go out and buy a "megaphone" charm as a reminder of sharing God's love.

Position Yourself


About a year ago, I had the opportunity to go on a Caribbean cruise with a group of Christian writers, speakers and singers. I was drawn to this trip because I knew some of the people that would be teaching the writing classes and I had never been on a cruise before. As it turned out, I was intrigued with one of the speakers and asked to meet with her one day for breakfast. I shared with her that I felt like I was spinning my wheels with my writing, speaking and a few other areas of my life. She had some excellent insight and passed forward to me what someone had shared with her. She told me to “get myself in position.” I remember taking a deep breath and thinking what a profound statement that was. After the trip, I began taking a more serious look at my priorities and why I had not achieved all the goals that I had set. It was clear to me that I had not spent enough time focusing on areas that I wanted to improve or goals that I wanted to achieve.

      Photography by Ann Wayne

It’s amazing how God speaks through people, circumstances and most clearly through His word. In a recent sermon, the senior pastor at my church stated that “we must position ourselves” to get results and experience growth. He shared the scripture, 2nd Chronicles 20:17 (NIV). “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions, stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you.” This was another confirmation that I needed to “position myself” in certain areas of my life to get results. So exactly what does that look like?

Well, there were three areas that I desired improvement in. First, spending more time studying the Word. I’m not the robotic Christian that has the same schedule every day, so I have had to find some creative ways to study and spend time with God. There are a few favorite places at my house where God and I have some great conversations. My sun room hosts a lot of prayer and sets the mood for reading while my black lab lounges beside me. The only problem with this scene is that sometimes she lays her head on my Bible or laptop. Late at night, I enjoy sitting on my bed by the fireplace propped up with lots of pillows, reading until I fall asleep. And when the weather is warm, my deck at the back of the house is a haven early in the morning. The birds even provide a free serenade while I read and study.

Another area to improve on is my writing and speaking. I can’t seem to set aside the same time each day to write. So many obstacles bump the writing to the back burner. No wonder the book that I have started is still in the computer instead of on a bookshelf. I have found though, through my writing; that I am able to study the Word almost as much as if I just sit down and read. It may be first thing in the morning, late at night, or sitting in a coffee shop in the middle of the day. The Word comes to life for me in the most unusual circumstances. Some of my best writing is cultivated by simply observing people in public places. So again, I’m not the cookie cutter writer, sitting at a desk all day. You may even find me out at the pond sitting on the end of the pier with my laptop. The “chorus of the bullfrogs” may set the tone for the next masterpiece. As for speaking; the doors just haven’t opened up yet. But I know they will. I have to get out of the way of me! I’m trying to psyche myself up to step out of my box and onto the stage.

And finally, an area that I have prayed about setting goals is finding a husband. Now you may not agree with me on this, and that is OK. First of all, let me state that I don’t chase men. But I know that the Word tells us in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds’ and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” And also in Psalm 37:4, David tells us to “delight ourselves in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our heart.” How much simpler can it get? I believe a God-centered marriage can be great. I desire that! So now you’re wondering…how is she going to find a husband? I have “put myself into position.” I have asked friends to pray with me. I am open to meeting new male friends through Bible study groups, Christian online groups and through close friends who are my accountability partners. I don’t think I am supposed to sit still and wait for one to fall out of the sky!

As you look at the goals you are trying to achieve, are you “in position” to answer God’s call on your life. Are there hindrances that are keeping you from running the marathon that He has set before you? Try "positioning" yourself; first for spiritual growth and then for prioritizing the others goals that you believe God is calling you to accomplish.

Blessings,
Ann

Our Words: Are They Seasoned with Salt?

During the holidays, my faith was tested. Through some incidences, I was put on the spot. I think God allowed me the honor; to see what I was really made of. In the most unique situations, I had to give an “off the cuff” response. And amazingly, God gave me huge doses of grace.

I was given the opportunity to write a couple of Christmas letters for a man in New York who is a landlord. Someone I had never met and most likely will never see. He requested these letters on Craigslist. So being the great letter writer that I think I am, I responded. The first one was written to a family from England who were his tenants in New York. They were to return home soon and he wanted to show them his gratitude for their friendship and hopefully future communication after leaving the states. He commended them for their parenting skills and praised the children’s respect for adults.


The second letter was even more unique. This landlord began to explain how he was made fun of each year at his family Christmas gathering. So much, that it had been years since he had attended. It was evident that his heart was broken. He then told me that he had a lifestyle that his family did not approve of. My first thought was to react just as his family had. I knew that I did not condone this, but was it my place to condemn? The Spirit stopped me before I spoke. Instead of throwing darts at him, I was able to share with him the love of Christ. I told him that even though I did not agree with this choice, I felt that it was important to show Christ’s love to everyone. I crafted a letter for him to his family with those same thoughts and how he longed for a healthy relationship with them. I only hope that the message made a difference this Christmas for him and for his family. I pray that this “dose of grace” helped him to see that God loves him, no matter what choices he has made.


In Matthew 7:1-3 (NIV), the scripture tells us..."Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"


Another opportunity sent me to the floor for a little gutt wrenching, old-fashioned ,“on my knees” prayer. You could say that I have learned what unconditional love really is. Some friends going through adversity shared their story with me. It’s was as if God said, “Ok, Ann, what cha’ gonna’ do with this one? You can cast the first stone or you can view the situation through My eyes."


It is only because of Christ’s love that lives within me that I was able to love unconditionally in this situation. This is simply what the Spirit prompted me to do. My human side would have reacted like most others. I’m not perfect and I desire unconditional love from those around me.


In Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV), we are instructed to “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”


As you approach the new year, I pray that you will spend time in God’s word and be ready to give an account of your words. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 12:36 (NIV). “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Yes, I know there were times that Jesus responded with a righteous anger when people were being mistreated or when the moneychangers were taking advantage of the poor people in the temple, but when someone was lost in sin, he responded with unconditional love and grace and he told them to sin no more.


My New Year’s resolution this year has several goals, but at the top of the list is to strive to be more Christ-like in my responses.


May your New Year, Twenty – Ten be filled with unconditional love and huge doses of grace!


Blessings,

Ann




Symbolism: What is on your Christmas Tree?

It was a quiet evening at home. I sat by the fire while my black lab, Bailey, snored in the leather recliner. The chair is her favorite spot to sleep. Christmas music set the tone in the background. Memories of Christmases past brought vivid images to mind as I gazed at each ornament on the Christmas tree. My oldest son’s first ornament with his named cross stitched on a red wood stocking adorns the tree each year. A sparkly gold and clear carousel ornament for my daughter represents her senior year in high school when she was the Carousel Queen. A red bass guitar ornament for my youngest son dangles on a branch to remind me of his unexpected purchase last year. He walked in the door with the real instrument in his hands – something that was a surprise to all of us. He has never had any musical talent.

Each year, I carefully place the quilted bells, stars and stocking shaped ornaments on the tree that I made the first year I had my own tree. They are thirty something years old now and are very sentimental to me. There was simply no money to buy ornaments. As I hang these, I tell the story to my family and I’m reminded of the many blessings since that first year.

Do you get the drift? All of these ornaments represent something unique in a particular year. We have continued this tradition through the years and now I look forward to finding a special ornament for two grandchildren. Emma Grace will open her ornament with excitement from Grammy again this year and Little Benjamin will receive his first ornament for the tree. Even the dog at my house gets an ornament. But she doesn’t get to open it because it would never make it to the tree. Or at least if it did, we probably would not recognize it.

There are other ornaments on the tree that represent joy and pain. Ornaments from trips taken bring back fond memories. Others signify accomplishments of a particular year or hobbies of my family. There are lots of fish and deer on the tree and even some western ornaments on the tree from our “horse years in the 90’s.” An “angel of comfort” ornament hangs on the tree holding a small black dog. This ornament was given to my younger son the year after his father left. There is a paw print ornament representing that same dog who was hit by a car while I was out running one morning a few years ago.

But near the top of the tree hangs a Chrismon. It was given to me by my step-grandmother over twenty years ago. The ornament was hand-made by some church lady at the Lutheran church that my grandfather’s family attended for many generations. When my step-grandmother was preparing to go to heaven, she gave family members things that would have special meaning to them. She was right. The chrismon ornament is one of my favorites.

A chrismon is intended to represent aspects of the Person, life or ministry of Jesus Christ and the history of the Christian Church. It is usually a single image, emblem or monogram. The term "chrismon" comes from the Latin phrase "Christi Monogramma", meaning "monogram of Christ."

Perhaps most commonly, chrismons are used to adorn Christmas trees during Advent and Christmas, where they are made from various materials. They

                   Photography by Ann Wayne


can also be found as decorations in and outside of Christian church buildings and homes, and even found on gravestones and personal stationary. Many of these symbols have histories dating back to the earliest times of the Church. Even though there is only one chrismon on my Christmas tree, the Christian symbolism reminds me of the reason we have Christmas. It is in the shape of a Greek Cross. The Greek Cross has arms of equal length. This particular symbol has circles on the arms, representing eternity.

The celebration of Christ’s birth this season and the reminder of his death on the cross bring all of us hope. In the four gospels, we witness the life of Christ. In Matthew 1:21, the writer portrays the big picture of Christ’s life. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” And in John 16:33, Jesus tells his disciples “these things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” We have a promise from God himself, through his Son, that we can overcome adversity, struggles, sin, and temptations if we simply believe in Him and trust in the Holy Spirit to guide us daily.

As you place your ornaments on the tree this year, I encourage you to hang at least one special ornament that represents the life of Christ. It will be a wonderful reminder for your family about the reason we celebrate Christmas.

May your family be blessed this holiday season!

Ann Wayne

Sunday, Nov. 15 - "I Love to Write Day"


Today, Nov. 15th, was "I Love to Write Day" across the nation. People of all ages were encouraged to write something: a poem, a short story, an essay, a letter to the editor, start a novel, or write a letter to a friend or family member. This marked the eighth "I Love To Write Day", a grassroots effort to have people of all ages practice their writing skills. Created by Delaware author, John Riddle, "I Love To Write Day is an opportunity for people of all ages to become stronger writers," he says. Many schools participate in this wonderful writing opportunity and teachers use creative ways to encourage their students to write. Check out the website at this link. www.ilovetowriteday.org

As I thought about this national day to celebrate writing, I was reminded of the many letters and emails that I have sent or received over the past nine years or so. I am currently working on a notebook compiled with such letters. It will be titled "Letters From the Heart." I thought you might enjoy reading some of the excerpts from a few of these. All of them have impacted my life in some way.

February 20, 2001
My Dear Son...Isaiah,

As I write this letter, my heart is looking toward heaven, thanking God for you. Since the day that you were born, I knew that God had a special plan for you. I'm so proud of you - making the President's List at CPCC is quite an honor...I also want you to know that I'm very pleased in your decision to date Denise. I have prayed for you for a long time - that God would send someone like her across your path. She seems to be an outstanding young woman in every way. Whether you marry her or not is up to God and you.
(They have been married now for 6 years.)

March 4, 2002
Ann,

Hello from Hong Kong! I miss the evenings of hanging out at your house and having a wonderful Ann-cooked meal followed by the best brownies from the box I ever had. You never realize the things that are important to you until you leave them behind.
(an email from my son-in-law, Darren, who was in college, studying a semester in Hong Kong)

May 12, 2002

Hola!

Hey everyone! I'm finally here in Nerja, and let me tell you that this place is absolutely gorgeous. One side is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, and the other side by beautiful mountains. I am staying with Sra. Carmen Martin who told me to call her mama...Hope all is well in the States!
Hasta Luego,
Heather
(my daughter was studying in Spain for a month the summer before her senior year in college)

November 22, 2004
Good morning family,

I just wanted to thank Ann again for hosting a wonderful Thanksgiving meal! It is truly a blessing to have grown up with this family and to continue to stay connected as our lives change and develop. Now, we can watch the next generation grow up with the same love all around them.
(my niece, Adriana, sent this email)

July 24, 2006

Hey Ann!

I hope you are well. I just wanted to share with you something very exciting that has happened in my life. I have recently been saved by the grace of God and it is so exciting. I could go on about the things He is doing in my life and the prayers that he has answered. It is so amazing the peace and happiness you know when you truly have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. I know you know what I am talking about....I am going to be baptized on August 11th.
(my niece, Alicia, sent me this email)

October 17, 2008
Ann,
What a great article! Thanks for sharing.

I'm sure you have heard from someone by now of my transformation, and I'm sorry that I haven't had a chance to tell you about it. I will soon. There were many things that helped me to finally have an intimate relationship with Christ, but Romans 12:2 was the ignition for me. "Stop being like the rest of your business colleagues! Challenge your mind, give yourself to the lord….renew your mind" is what I heard from God. I attempted to think that for the rest of the retreat and then things started to click. We had amazing discussions, did some amazing sacrificial things and I gave myself to God. I have given myself to him before, but more out of tradition, i.e., through Confirmation at Church, through altar calls, etc, but I have never given myself to Him because I WANTED TO, instead of because someone was pushing me to. it is a truly different feeling. I finally have some sort of understanding of what it means to know God…but I've just scratched the surface.

I know I haven't shown it, but you have been a true inspiration through Christ. It's hard to explain, but when someone does not know God, they think the people who do are a little questionable. I see that now. what's great is that I believe I can relate to people who question a personal relationship with Jesus. I questioned myself all the time. It comes at different times to different people in different ways. I pray now that everyone I know gets to experience what I am now experiencing.
(my niece's husband, Brian, sent this email, he is an attorney in Charlotte)

"Letters From the Heart"... you can see how they have touched the lives in my family. I hope that you will take the time to write a letter to someone in your life that has made a difference. Get out your pen and paper or your computer, and let your heart pour out what is waiting to touch the lives of those you love!

You will be richly blessed and may even make a difference in someone's else's life!

"My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer."

Psalm 45:1

Blessings,
Ann

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Sometimes we take for granted looking in the mirror. We stare at our reflection daily as we prepare to go out and meet the world. Our attempt to improve our image seems to fade as time goes on. But if you stop and think about it, our image should improve over time.

Through life experiences we have had opportunity to sharpen our wisdom and discernment. Adversity and trials should have taught us how to persevere. But what is our image reflecting?

Seeing my new little grandson, Benjamin, (Hebrew origin meaning "son of the right hand") and his mom, Heather, in the reflection of the mirror reminds me of the responsibility I have as a grandmother. The example that I set could be reflected for as much as four generations to come.

In Deuteronomy Chapters 4 & 5 (NIV), Moses is introducing the laws that the Lord has given him to share with the Israelites. In Chapter 4, verse 9, Moses says “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Even in the Old Testament, we are given instruction about the responsibility as grandparents to help nurture and teach our grandchildren. We should have more wisdom and life experiences to share with them than even their parents have acquired.


After Moses shared the Ten Commandments with the Israelites, he reminded them again in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (NIV) that “these commandments are to be upon your heart. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”


I am reminded of my responsibility as a grandmother of a precious little girl, Emma Grace, who is three and a half years old and my new little grandson, Benjamin August, who is three months old. My influence in their lives will help pave the way for them. Taking the straight and narrow path will ultimately be their decision, but God will hold me accountable as a grandmother to help teach and nurture them.


Each time I look in the mirror, I am reminded that I'm not the only one who sees the reflection.

A Writer's Dream


The Blue Ridge Conference has become one of the highlights of my year in writing conferences. It is held each year at Ridgecrest, a Baptist based Christian conference center in Black Mountain, North Carolina. National authors, publishers, editors and agents are available to meet with writers and critique their work and instruct new writers in every genre possible. It is a writer’s dream conference in May each year.

Each morning and evening a keynote speaker shares their innermost thoughts and life experiences pertaining to writing. The information is like finding a gold nugget in a river of scattered thoughts and attempted manuscripts. The speakers are entertaining and well prepared. Classes are offered on every topic that would benefit writers from beginners to professionals. It is brain overload. But every piece of information is stored for later use.

I would like to share some of the main points from this year’s conference with those of you who write or dream about writing someday. Hearing these fine artists share their hidden treasures helped confirm some of my thoughts and goals for writing. Keynote speakers were Angela Hunt, Cecil Murphey, Steven James, Chip McGregor, Ron Benrey and Alton Gansky. Each one offered tidbits of advice from their own experiences.

Some Thoughts from Keynote Speakers about Writing
  • We are the speakers, writers, and communicators for God’s word – we are the scribes.
  • It takes energy and effort to be successful in writing; you must be consistent.
  • If God is calling you to write, there will be satisfaction and peace and you will have a passion for it.
  • Rejection is part of the business.
  • When we become honest about our pain, we improve our stories.
  • Who you are becomes what you write.
  • Jesus used words to reconcile – there is healing in words.
  • We live in a world that is unreconciled – God gives us messages of reconciliation
  • Our words will go out and give hope to people we never meet.
  • Seeds are planted through writing. Someone’s life could be changed.

Each morning and evening, our worship was beautiful. The music was sweet and Spirit-led. It set the tone for the day as we worshipped God through praise songs and hymns.

I also had the opportunity to meet John Riddle (in above picture beside of me) at the conference. He is the founder of the national “I Love to Write Day.” It is a day set aside to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to write something. “I Love to Write Day” is in its 8th year and will be celebrated on Nov. 15. Go to http://www.ilovetowriteday.org/ to learn more about this celebration.

The final speaker was Alton Gansky, the director of the conference. He commissioned us to go out and plant seeds through our writing. If you really think about it, each word that is read is like a seed planted, only later to be harvested in ways and in places unknown to the writer. Sound familiar? In the book of Matthew, we are commissioned to go out and spread the gospel. As communicators, we can do this through the spoken and written word.

19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20.

This was the second year for me to attend the Blue Ridge Conference. It was truly an investment in my calling to write the words inspired by God. May you be blessed by these words from my heart.

Psalm 45:1
My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

Blessed Be the Tie That Binds


It was the kind of day you dream about. The warmth of the sun was just enough to keep the slightly chilled breeze from sending us inside. Dogwood flowers had burst into bloom in the woods while birds were chirping choruses that spring was finally here.
The table was set for guests down by the pond. 

               Photography by Ann Wayne

My daughter brought tablecloths patterned with pastel flowers and appliqu├ęs to adorn the tabletops. A feast of meats and vegetables covered the large table near the front porch. A handmade crocheted tablecloth was the overlay on this table. It was either my grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s. We were celebrating Easter Sunday, Southern style. My daughter-in-law even made her delicious banana pudding.
Our gathering was small this year. Just my children and I, my daughter-in-law, son-in-law and little three year old Emma Grace, my granddaughter. The blessing was full of praise and thanksgiving. My heart was overjoyed to be in the midst of my descendants as the spiritual covering for the family.
After lunch, I sat there and pondered the years gone by. I was trying to remember how long it had been since we had enjoyed our Easter Sunday meal in the front yard. Couldn’t quite recall the year, but I knew it had been a while. You see; the timing has to be just right. No rain, mild temperatures and of course, the family and all the family Labradors.
When I saw Emma Grace frolic through the front yard, parading her blue and white checked dress, I realized that God’s promise of new beginnings is so true. And I felt my daughter’s unborn child kick for the first time. God is so good. He keeps his promises.

I was reminded of the scripture in Joel 2:25 (NIV)

25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm

my great army that I sent among you.
The Lord was promising His people that He would restore the land and fill their vats to overflowing. Divine deliverance was promised. The Lord told them that they would be restored and never again be put to shame.
I recalled the years of healing for our family from a time of brokenness and pain from divorce. It all became so clear to me as I sat and listened to conversation and observed the camaraderie of the day. This Easter Sunday will always be a reminder of God’s grace and goodness; His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Just as Jesus died on the cross and rose again to save us from our sins and the heartaches of the world, we celebrated this Easter with an extra dose of praise and thanksgiving.
As my son-in-law left that afternoon, he humbly and gratefully said, “It was a perfect day. " The meal, the conversation, the weather, and of course, the family gathering made it perfect. We were so blessed this Easter Sunday. We finally remembered the last time we had celebrated Easter on the front lawn. It was the year 1999, when he and my daughter graduated from high school.
A decade of change and healing. A time of new beginnings and new life.

1 Corinthians 1:3-4

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God"