Questions from a Cruise

I went on a cruise! It was lovely, exhausting, indulgent, and full of unforgettable hours. As always, I looked for life lessons in the process. Let me share a few with you.

1. Ask (and heed) the wisdom of those who’ve gone before you.

When preparing for our trip, I read travel blogs and checked out opinions regarding excursions. I looked for tips on how to make the best of our vacation time.

Do you know someone whose wisdom and experience could keep you from learning things the hard way?

2. Stay focused so that you don’t miss out.

The most important moments of any day were rarely what I expected. The big shows were fun, but conversations over early morning tea were more precious,

What’s happening right now, in your everyday life, that deserves your full attention?

3. Turn off your phone.

I didn’t have cell coverage, so I was never on the internet, and life rocked on just fine without it. What a lovely reminder to me to keep the chatter of life down to a need to know basis! ‘Helped me focus on the experience at hand.

Really, how much do you need to know?

4. Be courageous.

I shy away from heights and speed, but, for the sake of my grandson, rode a really fast waterslide. It was delightful! (I rode it six more times.) If it’s safe, moral, and legal, go ahead—step up to try that new thing that gives you butterflies.

Is fear holding you back from something good?

5. Let people be your priority.

When all was said and done, it mattered far more who was with me than where I was.

Who could use a call or a hug or a visit from you this week?

6. Pray about everything, and submit even the lousy moments to God.

God has often surprised me in the way he works things out. Bugs in our bathroom at 1 am (ugh!) led to an amazing upgrade.

Have you joined the “pray without ceasing” club yet?

And have you learned a good lesson while traveling or on vacation? If so, I hope you’ll tell me all about it!

Photo by Georgy Trofimov on

Be Happy, and Smile!

“May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God. May they be happy and joyful” (Psalm 68:3). Yes, I know. I’ve quoted that verse here before. And, most likely I will again. But today I want to pair it with this line, found on one of those cute wooden signs we all see in gift shops.

Be Happy, and Smile.

Are you happy? I hope so. If you put the word “happy” in the search bar of my blog, or click the link at the bottom of this entry, you’ll find plenty of content about happiness. Today, though, I want to remind you to SMILE.

“If you’re happy and you know it then your face will surely show it.”

Well, that’s a great line, but I’m wondering if it’s true. Are you ever happy on the inside, but a bit dour, or at least neutral, on the outside? I know I am sometimes. I’ll catch myself in a photo or in the mirror and think, “Who’s that grump? That’s not how I’m feeling!” Smiley faces aren’t always our natural bent. It’s time to try to change that.  Why?

“You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” Okay, not a bad sentiment. And smiles do make most of us look better.

“Smiles are contagious.” If you have any doubt of that, run an experiment next time you are out and about. Smile at the baby in the stroller, the lonely senior citizen on the park bench, or the worn out checker at the grocery store. Better still, try the same test out in your own home. My bet is that your smile brings a smile, and probably a bit of unspoken encouragement flows out with it.

“Smile. It makes people wonder what you’ve been up to.” Isn’t that something we want to induce? Don’t we want people to ask us why we’re happy? That’s one of the very best openings to a conversation about what a joy it is to live a life of total trust in our Lord.

I hope you will make your own little sign and post it somewhere. Supposedly, it takes 30 days to adopt a new habit. Let’s adopt this one together:

Be Happy, and Smile!

Read more here: (happy | Search Results | Smoother Sailing (  

Why Do We Give Chocolate to Children?

Photo by cottonbro on Please note that this is not a photo of my grandson!

As you’ve gathered from earlier posts, I have grandchildren now. I also have a generous supply of chocolate chips—white, dark, milk, and caramel. While Steve and I certainly get into my stash from time to time, I keep those chip jars full primarily for the sake of the little ones in my life. Today they sprinkled them on top of pans of pumpkin muffins. They’ve insisted on adding them to our quarts of homemade frozen yogurt. Sometimes, though, I just dole out small piles of chips into each of their eager hands.

But why? Why do any of us give chocolate (or sprinkles, or ice cream or…) to children? We all know it’s not particularly healthy. I think we do it because we take pleasure in delighting those we love. I enjoy the broad smiles and pure excitement a few chocolate chips can evoke in my grandchildren. I like giving them what they like. It makes me happy.

I think God takes pleasure in delighting those he loves—that’s us. Of course, every blessing he gives us is 100% good. The questions I want to ask you today, though, are these:

  • How good are you at delight?
  • Do you keep your eyes open for God’s blessings and please him by enjoying what he gives you?
  • Do you take good things for granted or, worse yet, deny yourself the pleasure of His gifts because you know you don’t deserve them?

My grandchildren often say, “I’m so excited…” When I hear that, I’m challenged to rekindle my own excitement, to renew my recognition of the pleasant things in life, all of which are gifts from God. I want to urge you today to up your level of delight in the Lord, not just in who he is, but also in all he provides.

And won’t you please take a moment to tell me about it here?

And one more thing: Last week’s blog was written by my mom, Beth Smith. Some of you received it by email before it was properly credited. ‘Just want to set the record straight!

The Thaw, Or Emergency Preparedness

Last week, a good friend urged me to write about the Great Texas Freeze. Now, though, as I look out at our sunny skies, I realize my topic of choice is actually The Thaw.

We had inches and inches of beautiful snow. It’s gone now. Did I gaze often enough, enjoy deeply enough, a sight I might never see again?

We had 36 electricity-free hours. In our house, the temperature dropped and the population rose as neighbors and loved ones without fireplaces gathered around ours. My living room is warm now, and empty. I hope I noticed enough, valued deeply enough, the chance to be close to those who graced our home.

Our neighborhood nearly ran out of propane, but didn’t because of a radical effort to conserve. We have plenty now, and I’ll never look at turning on our heat the same way again. Was I at peace enough through the uncertainty? ‘Not so sure,

My grocery order was cancelled as shelves emptied at the local HEB, yet we never ran out of fresh food. When I watched my refrigerator become emptier by the day, I toggled between the delight of seeing how we always had what we needed, and wondering if we’d be eating dry cereal and canned beans for a while. As soon as stores re-opened, neighbors resupplied me although I never asked.

Then, of course, there was the week-long threat of pipes freezing. Some did. Ours didn’t. We own property in another city now, and there wasn’t any way to check on it until the roads cleared. It was fine. Most of the time, so was I.

When the thaw was complete and our lives back to normal, I had plenty of praising to do. I also found myself wondering how much goodness I missed by forgetting lessons I try to teach.

How much did I practice the verbs of these verses?

  • Cast your cares on Him.
  • Let not your heart be troubled.
  • Rejoice always.
  • Trust in the Lord.

When I did those things, the freeze and the resulting thaw brought joy to my heart. Peace held. When I let the maybe’s and might’s and what if’s assail me, forgetting to bat them away with the Word of God, then my smile faded and my energy waned.

We are in The Thaw! I am thankful. A freeze like the one barely over may not ever come again. But something else will—to you and to me.  Get ready!

  • Sure, store a bit of extra food and water and medicine and paper goods.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full.
  • But, most importantly, keep practicing these verbs of the Bible: Cast. Let not. Rejoice. Trust.

Then you’ll be ready for anything.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Sometimes I have trouble gleaning life lessons from Old Testament history. Such was not the case last week. Here’s what I read in Isaiah 10:12-15 (emphasis mine.)

I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes.  For he says, ‘By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. I removed the boundaries of nations, I plundered their treasures; like a mighty one I subdued their kings…’”

To which God responds:

  • “Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it,
  • or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
  • As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up,
  • or a club brandish the one who is not wood!”

In the verses that come next, the wrath of God is described in most disturbing detail, providing a strong warning.

We talk—and write—a whole lot more about what pleases God than about what displeases him, but I was struck by this passage. When we are blessed with goods or accomplishment, success or victory or achievement of any kind, it is always a gift of God, meant to be credited as such. We are only the ax, the saw, the rod, the club. He is the wielder in every case.

Soli Deo gloria! To God alone be the glory!

photo credit: josch12 via

Thank You Days

A single day in November seems too small a portion of time to set aside for giving thanks. Yes, I know we give thanks at meals and many other times, but there’s something special, powerful even, about setting aside a whole day. I’ve also found Thank You Days to be an effective deterrent when anxiety or “the blues” are threatening a take-over of my joy. So, even though—or maybe even because—these are troubling days, I want to tell you what a Thank You Day looks like for me. (‘Sorry, no turkey.)

I’ll start my morning prayer with something like, “Lord, you know all of my needs and concerns. I know I don’t need to list them, so I leave them with you. Help me to thank you all day long. Open my eyes. Thank you for…” In some part of me, that prayer continues all day long. I’m not saying we should abandon all intercession for the needs for others, not by a long shot. But, just for one day now and then, couldn’t we turn our thoughts and prayers to thanksgiving alone?

My Bible reading for those days is taken from passages of praise, mostly the Psalms.

I might choose to skip the news as a matter of focus, or simply thank God for his sovereignty over all things even as I listen to disheartening reports.

And, for me, music matters. I’ve found I can work best at my desk with instrumental praise streaming in the background, switching to something more lively when it’s time to exercise or knock out household chores. (Message me if you’d like to know my Pandora favorites.)

We know God wants us to praise him. I believe this is for his glory, but for our good as well. Praise, worship, and giving thanks are inextricably intwined, and when I engage in them, I am more fully aware of our Lord’s presence. Loads are lifted. Joy—and perspective—return.

A Thank You Day: Try it. I think you’ll like it!