The gift of dreaming

“If God cares about us and delights in us and therefore cares about the things we care about as a Father cares for the joy in His children, then we can exhale…He put the very ability to long in my soul. He gave me the gift of dreaming so I could have vision in this life.”–Sarah Mae, Longing for Paris

woman on beach
woman on beach

Summer is in full swing here in Missouri, with 3-digit temps some days, making even my husband Ray who hates snow long for cooler days. I look longingly at my friends’ beach pics on Facebook, their pretty painted toenails in the sand. The beach is my place of peace and refilling, and I miss and crave it in my soul.

When I was a child, every summer our family took vacations at the beach in Florida. My home town of Valdosta, GA, is about the last stop you can make in Georgia before you see that “Welcome to Florida” sign.

Several times we went to the idyllic Jekyll Island in Georgia, as my dad’s Civitan Club conventions were held there. But we also tried other beaches in Florida, such as Daytona and Panama City, where the current is so strong that you feel as if you’re going to be sucked right under the surface of the waves and carried out to sea, forever lost.

purple sky and ocean
Ocean

At the beach, my usually reserved father, a workaholic in his home business as a CPA, finally relaxed. He’d drink some beers, looking out on the ocean at night under the moonlight, and he’d actually laugh–a rare event. And when he relaxed and laughed, my mother–an overweight, stressed-out, usually screaming woman on the verge of madness–would laugh, too, and they might even hold hands on the patio. One time we kids actually saw them kiss, and I was shocked as they never did this at home in front of us. We all giggled. 

During the day, we’d head for the beach, my mother making us slather our bodies with sunscreen, and my older brother Greg yelling, “Last one in is a rotten egg!” as he dove with exuberance in the waves. One year on the beach, Greg got stung on the foot by a jellyfish; they seemed to be everywhere in the water and on shore that year. While the sting was painful, he recovered and was okay.

jellyfish Image source: Pinterest-gacpr.com
jellyfish
Image source: Pinterest-gacpr.com

Another year, we thought that Greg had drowned to death, as the strong current and a giant wave suddenly snatched him underneath the sinister surface. I recall the frightened calls of my parents, “Greg! Greg!”, as they frantically searched for him, and suddenly he reappeared out of the ocean like a Loch Ness monster, looking larger than life, but red-eyed and sputtering salty water. Thank God he was alive!

It wasn’t the only time that God spared his life. Years later, he was hit by a drunk driver when Greg was riding a motorcycle. He was in a coma for days, doctors unsure if he would ever wake up and not knowing the extent of any brain or internal injuries. 

Motorcycle accident
Image source: Google

When Greg was in the coma, it was one of the few times in my life that I remember my dad, a strong, prideful, independent man, ever crying. I was at our high school’s prom when the accident happened; or at least, I was supposed to be there. My boyfriend and I were doing what was called “parking” back then, in a dark driveway by the town’s football field, when my boyfriend’s dad drove past us and spotted his son’s car. He’d been driving all over town to find us, to let me know about Greg’s critical accident; my parents had called him to find my whereabouts when I wasn’t at the high school.

Remembering his own high school days, he had a hunch what we might be doing, and found us just by a fluke. Imagine our surprise when he parked on the side of the road, got out of his car, and tapped loudly on the car window, interrupting us!

When he told me that my brother had been critically injured in a car accident, we rushed to the hospital. As I walked frightened into the ICU room, my father was furious with me, demanding to know where I’d been instead of at the prom. At the moment, my “activities” with my boyfriend (which were innocent enough as we’d only been kissing) seemed to be more important to him than my brother laying on his possible deathbed.

IV needle Image source: Google
IV needle
Image source: Google

But then the doctor came in, and my father’s and my mother’s attention turned back to him and their oldest son, Greg. I stared in shock at my pale brother, with whom I was close friends back then. He was hooked up to a lot of machines that blinked and beeped ominously, the IV needle stuck in his vein and the fluids flowing into his limp body. Yet he looked peaceful and asleep. 

My brother Greg (middle), with his beautiful Russian wife (left) and my sister Maria (right)
My brother Greg (middle), with his beautiful Russian wife Ilona (left) and my sister Maria (right)

Miraculously, Greg awoke several days later from the coma, his life spared and although he was shaken, he was fine. He sued the drunk driver, and they settled in court for thousands of dollars. Today he is a successful business man, married to a beautiful woman from Russia with a grown stepson, and is a Presbyterian minister, preaching the gospel of Christ. God protected and saved him for a glorious purpose. 

But I digress…back to the beach vacation days! I’d walk on the wet shore, collecting sea shells to take home, wanting to forever preserve the memory of the beach. Why couldn’t we just stay here? I loved the beauty of the ocean and the sunset, smelling the salt in the air, and hearing the waves as I lay on a towel, warm sand on my feet.

At night, I slept restfully because we kids had played hard, delighted to wake up to the sound of the ocean the next morning and anticipating more fun swimming in it that day after breakfast. By lunch we were famished. Mama usually brought groceries on the trip so that we could save money, and we’d devour our sandwiches and chips. It was hard to wait the hour following lunch; mama claimed we’d “get cramps” if we swam too soon after eating. 

Daddy would usually take us out to eat at one nice seafood restaurant during the vacation, the highlight of the trip for my mother, as well as her being able to swim in the ocean. She had been an excellent swimmer in high school and swam effortlessly as a mermaid in the water.

Mermaid Image source: https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/are-mermaids-realI
Mermaid
Image source: https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/are-mermaids-real

Mama seemed to feel young and sexy again in her one-piece swimsuit, diving under the waves, and letting her greatly freckled skin dry in the sun–but not too long, as she and us kids seemed to burn so easily. We’d usually get burned anyway, and mama would rub Noxema or something to cool down our skin. The fun seemed so worth it!

Never stop dreaming

My dad and my sister Maria had olive complexions and would get dark, and I’d be envious of her, walking around in her itty-bitty bikini, sporting her new tan. But nothing could take away my happiness completely, because we were at the beach, our once a year, only, fun vacation. The stuff dreams are made of.

I’m reading a book right now by Sarah Mae called Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty, and Adventure–Right Where She Is. She’s a wife and a busy mom of young kids; Sarah dreams of traveling to Paris. Me, too–and of every continent!

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”–Susan Sontag

Sarah Mae still hasn’t gone to Paris, even after writing this book! I confess that I am frustrated about this. The reasons are never really clear–the expense? Because she has kids and we all know that moms can’t travel to exotic places? Who really knows why?–but I understand. I’d be traveling all over the world to many nations right now if only I had the money to do so!

Traveling woman Image source: Google
Traveling woman
Image source: Google

Still, what is stopping me from saving every single dime until we have enough money for me (and/or my husband and our kids) to go where we want? 

Sarah writes:

“We give our dreams and longings to God, trusting Him to do as He pleases, knowing He cares about us, our growth, and our total trust in Him…We recognize our longings are in us for a deeper purpose.”

“Use your imagination…go on, close your eyes and dream. What would you do if you could go to Paris (or another place that calls to your heart)? What would you want to see?”

 

I’ve actually been to Paris…twice. Once in high school with my French teacher and our class. It was the first time I’d ever tried champagne or any alcohol, and I confess that I got drunk with my classmates, because I didn’t realize how potent alcohol was! My French teacher, Mrs. Gandy, threatened to kill me if I told my mother and father. To this day, I hardly ever drink, except a glass of sweet, red wine over dinner with Ray once in a blue moon.

I was enthralled with the Eiffel Tower (it’s beautiful, fascinating, and so tall!), the gorgeous art in Le Louvre musem (especially the Mona Lisa; I stared for an hour at her), and I loved dipping the French bread into hot chocolate in the morning!

Eiffel Tower Image source: https://viralrang.com/5-reasons-visit-eiffel-tower/
Eiffel Tower
Image source: https://viralrang.com/5-reasons-visit-eiffel-tower/

And once, speed forward years, I went to Paris again on Ray’s and my 10th wedding anniversary trip. We traveled there briefly by train when we flew to Europe, renting a car and driving all over Switzerland.

We stopped for a couple of days in Italy, France, and an unheard of place called Lichtenstein, which borders Switzerland and Austria. There at a beautiful castle on a high hill, I boldly and secretly buried a piece of paper with a Scripture in the ground, proclaiming the word over the area.

Ray said we couldn’t walk around inside, since it didn’t look open to the public. (We found out later that the Princely family lives there!) After I furtively buried the Scripture in the ground, immediately a strong wind blew through, and I realized I had probably stirred up some demonic principalities of the air! But God’s word had been prophesied over this nation!

French bread Image source: Google
French bread
Image source: Google

In Paris for the second time, I cried seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa again, and I simply couldn’t get enough French bread baked with chocolate and French cheese. In many of our pictures from this trip, you see me standing in line for chocolate bread! Sometimes I’ll buy baguettes and French cheese to recreate the feeling of being in Paris again, an idea of wishing, which Sarah Mae encourages in her book Longing for Paris.

“Grab your kids and hunt for something French! Maybe you will discover the best croissant in your town together. Or maybe it will be the best macaron. Take a side trip to the library and check out The Little Prince or Madeline or The Story of Babar–adventurous tales with a French twist.”

For me personally, it’s not enough to pretend to go to Paris, eating the Americanized version of French bread (the baguette is actually much thinner and longer) with imported French cheeseI want the real thing.

Beth Jones- Jasper National Park, Canada
Me when I traveled across Canadian Rockies by train Jasper Park, Canada

I want to truly travel abroad all over the world! I believe dreaming is a gift from God and He wants to give us the desires of our hearts, just like we as parents want to make our own children happy and laughing.

I believe it’s important to never give up your dreams and to go for them, as much as possible. God can miraculously make the way for them to become true!

woman in bonjour shirt
Woman in Bonjour shirt & skirt

Sarah writes, “When my son draws me a picture, he is so excited to give it to me, not just so that I can see his talent, but because he loves me and wants me to take pleasure in it. This is what God does with us; He wants us to take pleasure in the beauty He’s made and in the gifts He endows us with.”

Never stop dreaming; never give up. Be the girl (or guy) who goes for it!

Woman with camera
Woman with camera

What is your big dream? Remember that NOTHING is impossible with God? To be encouraged to go for it, check out my book, The Cinderella Story: The Power of Dreams, at Amazon, by clicking here.

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Still time for your (God’s) bucket list

pumpkin
pumpkin

This year has sped by, hasn’t it? Again.

The older you are, the faster the years go. You grasp at time, but it rushes through your hands like turbulent rapids in a river, and there’s no stopping it. That’s why it’s important to be present in the moments each day and to savor your time with loved ones. To live intentionally.

rapids
rapids

Christmas is around the corner and the new year. I think it’s important to live each day fully, and there is still time to get things accomplished this year. What things?

Writing a to-do list
Writing a to-do list

Whatever matters most, what is important to you personally–and to God. I highly recommend reading the book What If God Wrote Your Bucket List? 52 Things You Don’t Want To Miss.

family pic
family pic

 

coffee pic
coffee pic

 

fall decos
fall decos

 

For me, that would be:

  • Using my spiritual gifts for God and living out my purpose daily;
  • Working on healing my marriage to Ray;
  • Staying connected with our 3 beautiful daughters and 4 precious grandkids (soon to be 5!);
  • Having my “coffee with God” time each morning, praying, journaling, & reading the Bible;
  • Walking/jogging at the track and eating healthy to become fitter;
  • Enjoying this new fall season (pumpkin scented candles, mm; pretty sunflowers decos);
  • Traveling to new places;
  • Being an example of Christ to all those God brings across my path each day.

What about you? What is left on your bucket list that you’d like to do before this year ends?

fall trail
fall trail

 

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God’s sweet grace: My speaking event at ladies’ retreat in Liberty, Missouri

This past Sunday, October 15, 2017, I had the honor to speak at the Precious Blood Retreat Center in Liberty, MO, for a women’s retreat. I’ve been speaking for over 10 years now, and in all that time, I’ve never received such a generous gift as the event planners and women gave me at this one! 

Carla, me, & Kathy (event planners for retreat)
Carla, me, & Kathy (event planners for retreat)

 

chapel
chapel

 

center
center

 

statue in garden
statue in garden

The event planner, Carla, told me that as a small church, they had a tight budget and might not be able to pay me a lot. Not only did they give me twice the amount of speaking fee I was expecting, but they also gave me a bag of chocolates, the goody bags they gave the attendees, a beautiful journal, and an entire cute, white crate filled with new gifts the women had bought me! I was in shock and so touched by this! WOW! What a blessing!

white crate of gifts
white crate of gifts

 

the generous gifts
the generous gifts

 

2018 planner, dip bowl, prayer note cards, bird deco
2018 planner, dip bowl, prayer note cards, bird deco

 

cute measuring bowls
cute measuring bowls

 

hand-made blankets
hand-made blankets

 

coaster
coaster

I was just blown away by their generosity!

ladies at retreat
ladies at retreat

 

women at weekend retreat
women at weekend retreat

The women were so sweet and made me feel so welcome. Several ladies came up after I spoke to thank me for sharing my testimony and said that it blessed them. Their theme for this retreat was A Chocolate Life Devotional by Deb Burma. I tailored my presentation to this, sharing my story and talking about God’s sweet grace.

me as keynote speaker
me as keynote speaker

 

A Chocolate Life devotional
A Chocolate Life devotional

 

Here in the pictures below, the women are writing their thank you cards to Jesus for the blessings He has given them in their lives. The event planners, Carla and Kathy, put so much work, planning, and organization into this; I was so impressed! The ladies went through all of the devotionals in the book on Friday night and Saturday. It was a full weekend of teaching from Carla. And of course, there was LOTS of chocolate! (I brought some Dove chocolates for them, too.)

women writing thank you's to Jesus
women writing thank you’s to Jesus
women at ladies' retreat
women at ladies’ retreat

 

teen girls
teen girls

This beautiful lady, Jennifer, is the mom of two beautiful twin girls. Jennifer is a nurse at Saint Luke’s hospital in Overland Park, KS. I enjoyed talking with her and am so glad there were all ages there, including youth! They have a powerful testimony, almost dying at birth.

Jennifer and her twin daughters
Jennifer and her twin daughters

These ladies, Kathy and Karen, are sisters, too. Karen bought my book on 8 women’s powerful stories of spiritual warfare, and greatly encouraged me about what I’d shared. Here we were outside, on the fun scavenger hunt. We looked up Bible verses for the clues.

Sisters Kathy & Karen on the scavenger hunt outside
Sisters Kathy & Karen on the scavenger hunt outside

This cute, little older lady is Fran. She chose to be my partner when we worked on the scavenger hunt. She was so sweet!

Fran
Fran

I always give away a gift bag when I speak at events, including a free copy of one of my books. In this gift bag I included my memoir, a pumpkin scented candle, and a cute orange notepad with a cat on the front, which read “Meow! Meow! Meow!” I asked God to help me pick the right woman to receive it and asked, “Who loves cats?”

gift bag for Paula
gift bag for Paula

I chose Paula, who is in the pic below with me. She was so happy; she’d never won anything before. She has an orange cat named Garfield! God knew!

She blessed me so much, giving me a big hug. She also hand-made one of the beautiful blankets in the white crate gift!

me & Paula
me & Paula

The night before, it had stormed badly and there was even a tornado watch there at the retreat center, with the power going out a couple of times. But Sunday was a gorgeous fall day. The sunshine and cool weather were exhilirating!

It was a gorgeous fall day!
It was a gorgeous fall day!

At the end of the retreat, each woman could choose a beautiful journal to take home.

journals
journals

 

trust journal
trust journal

I chose the one which had the scripture on love.

love journal
love journal

The Precious Blood Retreat Center is by a beautiful lake with a walking trail. It was so peaceful there. I was very impressed with the center, and contacted the staff today about possibly hosting my own ladies’ retreat there next spring or fall 2018. It has a building with a meeting room, a big kitchen and a dining room, numerous bedrooms upstairs and downstairs, bathrooms (including showers), and a washer and dryer room. BIG PLUS: it has a Keurig coffee maker and cups in the dining room, and Wi-fi!

retreat bedroom
retreat bedroom

 

writing desk in bedroom
writing desk in bedroom

 

Keurig coffee maker & cups
Keurig coffee maker & cups

 

retreat lake
retreat lake

 

fountain
fountain

 

beautiful lake
beautiful lake

 

I had a perfect ending to this event; I had chips and salsa and soft chicken tacos at a nearby Mexican restaurant!

chips and salsa
chips and salsa

 

chicken tacos
chicken tacos

It was such a blessing and privilege to meet Carla and all the ladies at this event and to speak there. If you are an event planner or know someone who needs a speaker for their women’s conference, retreat, or event, you can contact me here.

me, women's retreat, Liberty, MO
me, women’s retreat, Liberty, MO
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