Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all! I always get a little melancholy about this time of the night on Christmas because I know it's about to be over--so indicative of my outlook on life. Anyway, you probably don't really care about that...

I wanted to share with you something a friend of mine posted on Facebook last night. He said he was at a Christmas Eve service and sat next to a homeless man. When the offering plate was passed, the homeless man dropped in three pennies and two nickels--assumably all he had. Then he listed his address as "Salvation Army."

This story brought me to tears and humbled me as I suddenly realized all the many blessings I take for granted. I mean, we say we're giving God our all, but what if our "all" looks like that? This story reminds me of Luke 16:10.

Here's the verse in King James: "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much."

And in the New Living Translation: "If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities."

I am reminded by these verses of our responsibility to give back to God the gifts He's freely given us.

Be blessed this Christmas season because--no matter what you're dealing with in life--you already are.


Holy Hearts

You've probably heard the verse in Matthew about the pure in heart being blessed "for they shall see God." That's always been a curious idea to me, being able to see God. In what ways can we see Him if we're pure? In our lives? In our thoughts? In the blessings around us?

Lately I've been thinking about the importance of guarding our minds. My high school Bible teacher always used to say that the mind it is where the battle takes place, and it's so true. Actions are just ripe thoughts, really.

As writers, we bear a special responsibility to guard our hearts and minds. Popular literary theory would suggest that there is no intrinsic connection between an author and his or her work, but I disagree with that completely. In my opinion, you can't escape your own preoccupations, and your values will find their way into your writing whether you intend for them to or not.

So just a reminder, as the Bible says, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." It's important to write your characters as flawed--otherwise, they'll be boring--but remember we also hold a high calling to let a light shine through our writing, especially as inspirational authors, and the best way to do that is to guard our minds in the first place.

How have you found your thoughts working to shape your actions in our own life?


Two Dog Bowls and One Seeking Heart

If you know me very well, you know I adore animals. I've always been an animal lover and even became a vegetarian at the age of five upon the sudden realization that meat comes from a different source than apples.

My love for my own dogs, though, is pretty difficult to put into words.

Sometimes I get the impression people think I'm a little over the top. I don't know what it is that gives me that feeling... perhaps it's the strange looks I get when I dress the dogs up for each holiday, the expression of panic most visitors get when they come over to my house and immediately get licked in the face with puppy kisses, or maybe it's the fact that Maddie sleeps on pillows like a human.

But the fact of the matter is, my dogs are like furry children to me.

Humor me for a second and let me tell you a little about their stories. Maddie was born at the Humane Society. God bless those people. Her mother and father were found wandering around on the side of the road, and her mother was pregnant at the time. Some gracious person picked them up and took them to the Humane Society. In other circumstances, the dogs could've easily been hit by a car or taken to the kill shelter. But they weren't.

All the puppies were adopted within weeks from the Humane Society, but Maddie was returned about five months later for tripping her elderly owner. That just so happened to be about the time my husband and I were looking for a puppy. And the rest is history.

A few months ago, though, we decided Maddie needed a friend. I'm a huge believer in animal rescue, as there is currently a terrible problem with pet overpopulation in America, so naturally I started researching dogs at various local rescues.

I didn't want a shelter dog (from a kill shelter) because shelter dogs have a stigma. They're not always vaccinated. They sometimes come with emotional baggage. And let's face it, kill shelters are terribly sad.

But then I found Schroeder, my handsome purebred Cocker Spaniel, and he changed all that. We took a chance on him, and oh, what a glorious "chance" it turned out to be.

So you can see how my dogs teach me daily about redemption. They came from awful situations, and now they're sleeping on Brookstone blankets. At least, when we're not looking.

That's where this blog fits in.

Maddie has this obsession with their food bowls. She wants their food to be in both bowls. If one bowl has food but the other doesn't, she will paw at the empty bowl until someone comes to fill it up. So the other day, there I am, sitting on the couch and watching TV, and Maddie walks over to her food bowls and proceeds to shamelessly paw at the empty one in an effort to get my attention. I told her, "Maddie, you have plenty of food in the other bowl. Eat out of that one." Reluctantly, she walked over to it and ate from it.

And in that moment, I thought to myself, how many times does God say to me, "Ashley, you have plenty of food in the other bowl. Eat out of that one."? Sometimes we get so distracted with what we think is the perfect means of sustenance that we miss out on the bigger bowl. We're so filled with discontent that it blinds us from seeing provision.

In what ways do you find yourself focusing on the empty bowl, and how has God called you to a bigger one He's already provided?