Dec 24, 2013

The Man with a Gift

I love to shop right before Christmas - you know, just days before, when crowded stores, long lines, and parking lot jams test everyone's patience. I enjoy watching people, young and old, searching for just the right gift at just the right price. And I enjoy shopping with Jesus - He always leads me to the best gifts! 

Dec 21, 2013

Perspective and Hope

I am so blessed, and so thankful for my life! I am healthy, my family is doing well, and we'll get to see all of them at Christmas (except one). I have a rewarding job and work with great people, I have faithful and caring friends, and to top all that off, I have the best husband on the planet.

Most importantly, I am thankful that I have the Creator of the Universe as my Daddy, my Savior, my Counselor, and my Lord. I'm thankful that Jesus was born to die for me so that I could have eternal life, and live life to the full here on earth.

But I haven't always felt this way - I haven't always appreciated the life I've been given.

Dec 16, 2013

Wives, Respect Your Husbands

Rats! I didn’t get a chance to do the laundry this weekend. Too busy doing fun stuff. And now it’s time to go to work, so I can’t start it now.

Hmmmm, Don may get home early, and he sometimes does the laundry. OK, I’ll take a few minutes and sort it for him…just in case he has a chance to do it.

Dec 6, 2013

Sacrifice, Part 2: God's Answer

Yesterday, I wrestled with my schedule in Part 1, and with the sacrifices required to keep it. Today, God’s answer.

God patiently waited for me to work through this in my mind, then gave me a revelation on how He viewed my sacrifice:

I sacrificed being led by the Spirit for being driven by a schedule!

Dec 5, 2013

Sacrifice, Part 1: The Dilemma

It all started with a dream.

Last night, I dreamed I had to give up writing so I could work. I don’t remember much detail, only that I felt overwhelmingly sad. After waking, I went through my usual routine of bible study and prayer (still in the Planted study). Despite the hopeful message, I still felt burdened and sad by the message from the dream. I sat in bed and silently cried, and asked for a scripture.

Nov 29, 2013

Crossing the Fine Line

I’ve always enjoyed sharing what I’ve learned. But I haven’t always shared in the best of ways.

When I first started learning about healthy eating several years ago, I passionately shared my experiences with my family and friends. I learned the difference between just counting calories, and being aware of harmful ingredients in processed foods. For me, the information was life-changing, and I knew they’d all want to make the same changes in their diets.

But not all of them agreed with my views. 

Nov 22, 2013


The Lord has kept me faithful to walk every weekday morning ever since March. I’ve enjoyed the benefits of looser clothing, more energy, and reduced weight. I’ve learned that regaining my health and fitness is a process, and sometimes it’s tedious and boring work.

But not when I can ponder as I walk.

Nov 16, 2013

Good Enough

What, exactly, is "good enough"?

Whether it's our diet, our walk with God, our jobs, or just plain living life, seems we always try to measure up to something. 

We stress and strive to be "good enough".

Nov 11, 2013

Honor and Celebration

On this MultiColor Monday, I'm honoring the loyal, faithful, and dedicated service men and women who have fought for our freedom: our veterans.

And I'm celebrating another blessed weekend with another group of wonderful God-fearing women. 

Nov 8, 2013

What's Cookin', Part 2: the Missing Ingredient

Good morning, y'all, and Happy Fitness Friday! 

TODAY'S CHALLENGE:  Are you frustrated with trying to change yourself? If so, I hope you find encouragement in this message.

I've been meaning to write Part 2 of What's Cookin' Part 1 for a while now, but kept getting side-tracked. If you haven't read the first message (or like me, if you need a refresher because it's been so long!), please read now or some of this post may not make sense.

Back to the beans...

Nov 4, 2013

What Are You Promoting?

As I thought and prayed about what to write this morning for MultiColor Monday, I remembered a rap song I heard a few months ago. In the song, the artist names 12 men and women and calls them "false teachers" for a variety of different reasons. 

What is the artist promoting?

Details aren't important here. What IS important are the incredible reactions of agreement and judgement within the body of Christ to one man's judgement of another person's faith, motives, and teachings. 

What were the people promoting with their comments?

Oct 28, 2013

Blessed by Diversity: The Journey Writers

Greetings, y'all, on this beautiful MultiColor Monday!

Don and I recently joined a church in our area, Journey Church. We had been searching for a while, and settled at Journey because we are blessed by the worship, the teaching, and the hearts of the people we've met. We both found areas in which to serve, and groups in which to "connect" at a deeper level.

My Connect group is The Journey Writers.

Oct 25, 2013

Fitness Friday: One Step Back, From Feelings to Following

If you eat whatever you feel like eating, exercise only when you feel like it, or in general, allowed your feelings to lead, how healthy, energetic, and productive would you be? 

Last Saturday night at church, I felt weary and burdened.  I lamented to the Lord during worship about two ongoing struggles that had become worse in the past few weeks. As He does so well, He answered with questions…questions for which He knew that *I* already had the answers.

Oct 4, 2013

Fitness Friday: Who are we Kidding?

Have you heard the expression, "You don't have a poker face"?  

It's sometimes accompanied by it's closest-of-kin, "Your thoughts are written all over your face!"  

Sep 30, 2013

MultiColor Monday: Show Your True Colors

"NOW she's showing her true colors!"

How many times have you heard this expression? What does it really mean?

Sep 27, 2013

Fitness Friday: The Perfect Writing Schedule

I had to laugh at myself today.

It was a tension-relieving, head-shaking kind of laugh. You know, the type of laugh that results from an “ah-ha” moment when the light comes on. Let me explain.

Sep 23, 2013

MultiColor Monday: Who Am I?

Isn’t it amazing that with a limited number of features – eyes, nose, ears, mouth, skin color, and hair color – we all look different?

And if we all look different by God’s design, wouldn’t He also want us to be different in personality, likes, dislikes, and gifts?

Then why do we spend so much time trying to act/dress/look/BE like someone else?

Sep 20, 2013

Fitness Friday: Finding Time and Motivation

“I don’t think I’ll walk today. I have too much to do, and it’s too late. I’ll just start tomorrow.”

Sound familiar to anyone? 

Sep 16, 2013

MultiColor Monday: Celebrate!

I'm celebrating today!!

First of all, it's my birthday...a date I used to dread because it meant I was getting older. (OK, for a hint at how old, let's just say that I remember TV without remote, 8-tracks, and $.35/gallon gas.) And older means slower, less energy, and less ability to do most anything I could do a year ago.

Sep 9, 2013

MultiColor Monday: Escape from KAOS!

No, this is not the title of an old war or science fiction movie.

But you’re close!

Taken from the old TV show Get Smart, KAOS was a fictional "international organization of evil", run by Mr. Big. Maxwell Smart was an agent for CONTROL, the good guys, and their boss was known only as The Chief. The agents of CONTROL were in constant battle with KAOS to stop their evil ways and "save the world".

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Sep 6, 2013

Fitness Friday: Prideful or Equipped?

I’ve been prideful.

I’ve fallen away from regularly reading my Bible, thinking I don’t need it.

I’ve made excuses…like, “well, I’m praying instead”; “I’m worshiping while I walk”; “it’s not in my heart to read the Bible regularly right now – I’m not in that season”. 

And here’s the big one:

Sep 2, 2013

MultiColor Monday: This Past Weekend

Have you ever felt threatened by people who:
  • didn't talk, look, act, or dress like you?
  • were smarter/prettier/taller/shorter/funnier (you name it) than you?

Aug 30, 2013

Fitness Friday: Intentional Fitness - the Long Road to Print

It’s said that no matter how long the road, the walk down that road starts with one step. My first step was on 12/2/1995:

"This is the beginning of my “I wanna teach” journal…a place to collect thoughts, analogies, themes, and inspirations on possible preaching subjects."

Then a little more than a month later, I realized the road was not a freeway:

Aug 26, 2013

MultiColor Monday: Try Something NEW Today

Greetings, everyone!

And welcome to MultiColor Monday.

With technology today we are blessed to have instant access to words of encouragement that will lift our spirits. Many talented writers have blogs, websites, and Facebook pages where they share what God has placed on their hearts. Each one has a unique way of weaving a tapestry of hope with their words.

Starting today, I'm going to set aside each Monday to share a theme from the wealth of words I am blessed to read.  When you click on the links below, a new window will open where you can read (and respond to) the author's message.

Aug 23, 2013

Fitness Friday: Intentional Fitness, Countdown Continues

Over the past few weeks I’ve shared some of the content from Intentional Fitness: Working Out Your Salvation so Others Can See Jesus. Today I’d like to introduce my fabulous cover girl Lucy, created by my fabulous niece Katlan.

Heeeeeeere’s Lucy!   

She has a little bit of attitude, likes to have fun, and has lots of class and style. Most of all, she loves Jesus.

This is her trademark “Hi, pleased to meet you” pose. As I write books, she’ll be sporting a variety of different looks to help illustrate what the book is about.

And speaking of illustration, her creator, Katlan Graziano, has always enjoyed drawing, and the challenge of creating and illustrating characters.  Lucy is not her first published character.  Among others she has created is a messy pig named Greg who taught children about manners.  Katlan recently graduated from JMU, and is looking forward to future illustration opportunities.

When we first started talking about cover ideas for this and future books, it was Katlan’s idea to create a central character who could be on all the books. Here's Lucy on her debut cover, and a short excerpt from the back of the cover.

“Therefore, my dear friends . . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling . . .” Philippians 2:12 (NIV). We know how to work out our problems, work the kinks out of our backs, and work out at the gym, but we’re not exactly sure how to work out our salvation.  Is this working out of salvation anything like other work-outs with which we are familiar? Will this work-out take discipline, denial, and diet? Will this work-out require intentional effort, possibly even a daily commitment?

The answers are yes, yes, and yes.

I’m so excited and humbled to see how God is bringing everything together for the re-release of my first book. Katlan and I are in the final review stages now, so the book should be ready for release by the first week of September.

I don’t know what He has planned for this book or for any others, I just know I need to write them and put them in His hands. I am so blessed when my fingers are on the keyboard and words are pouring out! Our God is amazing in how He creates us, and then gives us gifts and talents that bring Him glory and fill us with such joy.

Happy Fitness Friday!  Give someone you love a BIG hug today, and be thankful God brought them into your life!

COMING NEXT WEEK:  The original idea behind the book, and the top 10 suggested uses for the book.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE:  What gift or talent has the Lord given you that brings Him glory and blesses your socks off? Are you spending your talent, or hiding it under a bushel?  God longs to see you shine brightly with His joy in a world that so desperately needs Him!

Aug 16, 2013

Fitness Friday - Counting Down to INTENTIONAL FITNESS Release!

STAYING FIT (excerpt from Chapter 4)
When working out at the gym, it’s not uncommon to have someone review all of the equipment with us and help us determine which equipment will bring the most benefit. For eating right, we may consult books and other avenues that can help us know which food will be best. In both cases, we are looking to an expert who has experience and can guide us along.
Spiritually, in addition to the Bible, we have the Holy Spirit—the Counselor, Helper, and Guide—as our expert. We need to learn more about how to hear His voice and allow Him to rule our lives. I’ve already mentioned the first step to knowing His voice, which is reading the Bible so that we can know God and what He says about us. The next step is getting things out of the way that interfere with His voice.

Aug 9, 2013

Coming Soon: Intentional Fitness

Have you ever made up your mind to start an exercise program?

You join the gym and the staff leads you on a tour of the exciting new world of shiny equipment that will transform your body in just a few short months. Your eyes light up and you set your mind saying, “This time it will work. I will come to the gym. I will make the time.” For the first few weeks, all is going well. You are motivated to make your schedule work, and nothing stands in your way.

Then it starts to get a little old—same time, same routine, same equipment. What was once shiny and new becomes bothersome and mundane. Concurrently, the busyness of life sets in. Kids need rides to soccer practice, help with their homework.

And well, they need to eat.

Aug 2, 2013

Fitness Friday: Daniel Fast Reflections


I feel like a 2-year old on the last leg of a 3-hour car trip to Grandma’s, asking every 5 minutes if we’re “there yet”.  For me, “there” is tomorrow:  the day when I am no longer on my fast and can eat anything I want. 
Of course, I really want to eat it NOW.

But I won’t.  This close to the finish line, I can’t quit the race.  (Even though I really want to!)
“Focus, Mary…not on the food you can’t have, but on how thankful you are for the awesome results of the past 3 weeks and all the Lord has revealed to you.”

And I am incredibly and overwhelmingly thankful! 

Jul 28, 2013

The Lord Totally Engineered...a Bike Ride?

I was almost back to the car when I rode past them: a young couple pushing their baby in a stroller and walking their dog.  At a glance, they had it all—youth, new baby, faithful friend.  Then the Lord spoke to me.

“As happy as they are right now, they are missing something because they don’t have Me.”
This morning, Don and I went to a local greenway trail for our weekly bike ride.  As usual, Don’s stamina outlasted mine. So I left the main trail to head back to the car and he kept going. That’s when I saw them.

The Lord totally engineered our separate routes, or I would have been talking to Don.

Jul 26, 2013

Fitness Friday: One Habit that should NOT be Daily

Woohoo, down two pounds since yesterday!

OK, holding steady, that’s good.
Man, how could I have gained a pound?  I’m barely eating ANYTHING!
OK, lost that one again plus one more, back on track.
What, no change?  I’m eating even less now than yesterday!  What’s the use.

Now we’re talking, another pound bites the dust.
And another one gone.  Looks like my efforts are paying off…FINALLY!
Sound familiar to anyone?  

Jul 19, 2013

Fitness Friday: Seven Seconds of Pleasure

Mmmmmmm, nothing like biting into a MagnumTM ice cream bar.  The chocolate outer coating gives that little bit of crunch, the caramel in between the two chocolate layers is sweet and smooth, and the ice cream is rich, cold, and creamy.  My taste buds are in heaven!

Jul 16, 2013

Daniel Fast Update: FOCUS!

It’s mid-afternoon, day three of my Daniel Fast. I’m sitting at my desk, working on a tedious schedule. I wasn’t hungry, and yet I wanted something to eat. Visions of Cheez-its danced through my head. I could taste them, smell them, and I wanted them. The more I thought about them, the more I craved them. My mouth started to water in anticipation of that first bite.

Jul 12, 2013

It's Fitness Friday!

Today is the start of an ongoing series on my blog titled “Fitness Friday”.  I wrote a soon-to-be-republished book titled “Intentional Fitness:  Working Out Your Salvation so Others Can See Jesus.” (Old title, “Fat to Fit: Working Out Your Salvation”).  I believe the Lord calls all of us to be just as intentional about our spiritual fitness as many of us are about our physical fitness.  So each Friday I’ll be posting something about fitness.

Jul 6, 2013

What's Cookin' - Part 1

Don and I are having a cookout today, and I decided to try making homemade baked beans.  Step one is to soak the beans, which I did last night.

Step one, check.
Step two is to put them in a pot with 5 cups of water and bring them to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. I added a bit more water, just to be safe.

Step two, in the pot, stove on high, check.

Oh yes, I need to send an email to someone who is coming today and ask them a quick question.  Won’t take but a minute.  I’ll be right back down.

Jul 3, 2013

Overcome Evil with...Tweets!

Today I had my first Twitter shock.  I discovered that people post pornography on Twitter.  Lots of people.  Lots of pictures.

But that is not the shocking part. The internet is full of pornography, nothing new here.
The shocking part is that Twitter allows it.  And that you can get a Twitter account at any age.  Which in my mind equated to, “Twitter Supports Exposing Minors to Pornography”.

Jun 30, 2013

Get in the Water

I stood timidly near the pool, watching the action from a safe distance. Body to body, people of all sizes jumped, splashed, yelled, and laughed.  The moving water formed peaks and valleys, continuously reforming around the spontaneous movement of the people. 
I looked over to the shallow end.  Same body-bumping play, just smaller people.

I wanted to join in the fun, really I did! I even stuck my toe in once, but it barely made a ripple. 

Jun 24, 2013

That One Little Thing

Last week at a prayer time with John and Missy, we talked about struggling in our walk with the Lord, struggling with people, struggling with work—you name it, we struggled with it.

As we talked, I diligently worked on untangling a lump of necklace. I kept breaking off the end of what appeared to be a hair. I didn’t think that one little thing was much of a problem, though, so I kept taking parts of the necklace over and under, under and over, over and back under. My frustration was on the rise, and my blood pressure along with it.

Jun 17, 2013

Eating My Own Words

I always enjoy eating my own words.  

OK, well, maybe not always, but I enjoyed them this past week.
During a weekly prayer time with two coworkers, one of them confessed a struggle with finding motivation to read his bible and pray.  A few months ago he attended a men’s conference, and, as often happens with many conferences, he came home excited and highly motivated to read his bible and pray more often. 
Then, as he put it, life happened.

Jun 3, 2013

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

This past weekend, Don and I shopped for a truck for him.  We searched for used trucks with lower mileage so we could get something nicer and higher-end for less – we had an “under 20” budget.  We quickly realized we were looking for a he-man luxury truck at a juvenile bare-bones price.  So we had two choices:  up the price, or lower our qualifications.

Jun 2, 2013

They Didn't Know

This morning after church, my husband and I ventured out to a local paved greenway trail for a bike ride.  The sun was hot, sky blue, breeze cool, trail in excellent condition, symphony of natural sounds all around, and only a few folks out and about.  We were enjoying everything about the ride!

Until I spotted it – an empty Dunkin Donuts cup on the side of the trail. 

May 30, 2013

Wide Open Spaces

Psalm 119:45                        

AMP:  And I will walk at liberty and at ease, for I have sought and inquired for [and desperately required] Your precepts.  
MSG:  And I'll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom;

One morning, this verse grabbed my attention.  I had been struggling for a week or so with busyness and trying to get everything done, and almost flattened like a pancake by the burden and weight of what was NOT getting done.  In fact, I was up at 4AM with my thoughts having an Indy 500 race in my mind, seeing which one would win my attention.

May 26, 2013

Stoop Down and Reach Out

Galatians 6:2

Bear (endure, carry) one another's burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it]  (The Amplified Bible). 

Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law (The Message).

One day as I read this verse, the Lord showed me how I immediately think of those who are troubled by specific circumstances in their life – no job, recently lost a loved one, sick, car troubles, problem children, etc.   I have offered financial help, prayed for them, counselled them.  I've invested my time and given them my support. 

But how often do I “stoop down and reach out” to those with “troublesome moral faults” vs judging them for their struggles? 

May 22, 2013

Thank you for the rain!

Today was just another ordinary day at the writer's conference ... I had my plan and God had His.

May 20, 2013

Cease Striving, and Start Praying!

One morning, Don (my husband) and I were talking about owning your own business, and how stressful and burdensome it can be when work is not coming in like you expect it to.  Yes, you have work, but you are within a week or two of work running out.  And when you keep hearing that your competition is getting jobs right and left, you wonder what's wrong because new jobs are NOT coming in for you.  You ask, why is God blessing them and not us?  And what if work stops, what about the employees, what will they do?  What can I do?  

May 17, 2013

NOT about me!

This morning on my daily walk around the neighborhood, I passed one of the regular dog-walkers. 

May 16, 2013


Welcome to the blog for Life is Not a Formula...but it IS the sum of our choices!

The Lord gave me that name in the midst of worship at a writer's conference 5 years ago, and along with that the over-arching theme for how to live my life:  in joyful, trusting, day-at-a-time obedience - free from the burden of trying to figure everything out.  That is one of the most difficult concepts for my analytical mind to release - I want to make what works repeatable and thereby try to control my success and limit my mistakes.  Conversely, the Lord knows we have no idea what is really best in any situation, and that apart from Him we can do nothing.

Is it always fun or easy to obey and follow?  


Does it sometimes require flat out obedience in the midst of trials or grief?


And sometimes, for me, obedience is more of "OK, I'll do it, but I'm not gonna like it"....after throwing a 2-year-old stomp-your-feet tantrum.  And I've failed many times over, missed opportunities, and sometimes even went my own way for whatever reason - imagine that!  

But He has always been faithful to embrace my return to Him, and to continue to love and bless me right where I am.

For many years I have been writing about my life with the Lord - all the amazing things He has shown me, how He has healed me, and how He has given me words to minister to others even in the midst of my own mess.  He has worked His character in me along the way and transformed me from the inside out.  

My prayer is that my sharing will encourage you that if I can, so can you - with Jesus, all things are possible!