All posts by Sally Ferguson

Hi! My name is Sally Ferguson and I have been a freelance writer since 1996. Over 100 devotionals have been published in Pathways to God (Warner Press). I’ve also written for Chautauqua Mirror, Just Between Us, Adult Span Curriculum and Thriving Family. Warner Press released my coloring book, What Will I Be When I Grow Up? January 2006. As a speaker, I enjoy connecting with women and seeing them find affirmation for the phase of life they face daily. I am passionate about helping women find encouragement from God’s Word, as well as supplying the tools to help them apply what they’ve learned there. I love organizing retreats and seeing relationships blossom when we take time away from our daily routine. Our Women’s Retreat just celebrated its 10th Anniversary! Parenting has its own set of challenges. My kids are grown but the nest keeps growing. Join me on the journey as we figure it out together!

Book Review: Thin Places by Mary DeMuth

Mary DeMuth says thin places are where the mundane meet other-worldly, where we get a glimpse of eternity. Her memoir, Thin Places, is the opportunity to see how God intersected the story of her life to bring redemption to rape, abandonment and fear. It is the profound grace of sharing painful realities and yet finding hope on the other side.

Mary E. DeMuth is an author, speaker and mentor. In over 30 books and with five translations, she seeks to bring truth and transparency to difficult places. Her work with authors is legendary and purposeful in bringing art to the surface.

Mary’s words touch the raw places of my heart, where the deepest fears lie. Am I loveable? Am I worthy to be given attention? Does God see me? The result of wrestling with God is where we learn God is enough. He is there for us. He allows the difficult so that we will lean on Him and find grace enough to share with all who will listen.

Mary gives examples of ways others spoke redemption over her life by kind observations and affirmations. It makes me wonder how often I spread praise, and if it is enough to lift someone else out of their despair? She says the kindness of others created opportunity to glimpse the lavish kindness of God. We really never know the full impact for good we can make on another life. And Thin Places provides motivation to try harder!

If you’ve ever struggled with the need for approval, jealousy or being critical of yourself, you’ll resonate with this book. Mary’s writing compels you to take a look at pain and release it so that you can find contentment in God alone. Is He enough? Will He understand me? Will He be okay with my messy heart? “Yes,” Mary says, “because He redeems my messes. Cleans them up. Polishes them until they shine so bright the reflection of Jesus smiles back.”

Dig into this book and find a holy anticipation welling up within you. Mary says, “I get to the end of myself more often now. Before, I found this perturbing, but now understand it to be God’s severe mercy. He loves me enough to show me how silly my lists are, how futile my self-flagellation is. He shows up in my need, my weakness – His paradoxical way of wooing me to His way of thinking. My way does not produce life in me. But when I acknowledge my need for Jesus, when I dare to let Him be my conscience, I experience… freedom all over again.”

Yes, freedom is God’s design for our thin places!

Sally

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book plus a book bundle from Zondervan in exchange for my thoughts and opinions of Breaking Busy.

Book Review: When God Made You

When God Made You opens from an attractive cover, showcasing movement and anticipation, into an explosion of color and prose. The ensuing pages do not disappoint, as the theme carries inside to fill up the pages with radiant action and a play on words.

The author, Matthew Paul Turner is a best-selling author, writer, storyteller, photographer, speaker and blogger. He has traveled considerably around the globe with World Vision. Matthew lives with his family in Nashville, TN.

The artist, David Catrow is primarily a writer and illustrator of books for children. He has worked extensively in film/TV, spending over a year creating the visual development for films such as Horton Hears A Who, Despicable Me, and others.

Together, the teaming of Turner and Catrow’s genius has produced an amazing, masterful use of story and pictures to bring out solid principles:

  • You are uniquely loved.
  • You are a masterpiece designed by God.
  • You are a part of God’s story.
  • Your personality and gifts showcase the glory of God.
  • You were brought into this world for a purpose.
  • Your creativity, insights and passions bring an important contribution to those around you.

Wow. I cannot say enough about the brilliance of creativity and tone in this book. Both the wordsmith and the illustrator color it with such vibrancy, it draws you into the rhythm with pure delight. I could not say I like one over the other, because they work hand-in-hand. It’s as if their collaboration came from one mind to create a fun and fantastic adventure for young and old alike.

Did I mention how much I like this book?! You don’t have to be in the target audience of ages 3 – 8 to appreciate an affirming word. Get it for yourself and see what a boost it will give you!

Sally

FTC disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

SenseSational Christmas!

It’s been fun highlighting the five senses this week. Today, we’ll look at the fifth: the sense of touch. In what way can you add your personal touch to Christmas? Make an extra effort to send cards? Add a distinct flourish to packages? Even attention to details on a gift card can make someone feel special because their name has been emphasized.
What makes you feel cherished? Chances are, sharing that gift with someone else will bless them too. I grew up in a home where we held hands around the table as we prayed for God’s blessing on the food. We passed that gift of touch on to my family, even though it was a stretch for teenagers. Now, I’m reaping that contact with my grandchildren and I’m soaking it up!
Be generous with your hugs. We all need connection.
Terry Willits pulls it all together by saying, “The God of all Comforts came to this earth as a child and experienced for himself loving human touch. Christmas is about giving. Touch is about giving, too. And touch is a precious gift to give in our homes at Christmas. Just as Mary gave Jesus her tender touch, we can share loving touches to make our homes a place of comfort this holiday.”
Let the touches you add to your home say, “You are welcome here!”
Sally
Originally published at Sally’s Words
Leave a comment: In what ways do you add the sense of touch to your day?

Related Posts:
Do You Hear What I Hear?
The Tastes of Christmas 
How’s your Sense of Smell? 
The Five Senses of Christmas 
Looking for Christmas

Do You Hear What I Hear?

What are the sounds that sing of Christmas for you? The choir practicing? The bell-ringer standing at The Salvation Army bucket? A favorite carol?

One of my favorite albums is Amy Grant’s: A Christmas Album. And I love the day after Thanksgiving, when our radio station plays non-stop Christmas music! However, in Simply SenseSational Christmas, Terry Willits says “At least one night this Christmas season, when the kids are in bed, turn off the television and enjoy the precious sound of silence. Take in the beautiful silence of a snowfall or a quiet, starry night. Sit on the sofa and talk with a loved one, or read a book in front of a crackling fire with no more sound than the turning of a page.”
I have to admit that the silence of Christmas is just as precious as the music. I love that time of the evening when everyone else is asleep and I can sit in front of the tree with all the rest of the lights off. The popping of the firelight casts images across the ornaments and settles me into a reflective mood. Yes, there are wonderful resolutions made in those quiet moments. Maybe that’s why God chose a silent night so long ago to announce the birth of His Son!
Lord, fine-tune my hearing, that I might be receptive when you speak. Amen
Sally
Originally published at Sally’s Words
Leave a comment: What are your favorite sounds at Christmas?


Related Posts:
The Tastes of Christmas
How’s your Sense of Smell?
The Five Senses of Christmas 
Looking for Christmas

The Tastes of Christmas

When you look at Christmas treasures and smell the beautiful aromas, your mouth begins to water!  Aren’t you ready for some of those family recipes that are especially pulled out at Christmas?  Two of our must-haves for the holidays are my Mom’s homemade Eggnog, and Monster Cookies with red and green peanut M&M’s. Our taste buds add to the fun of the season!

Terry Willits reminds us that we need to be sure to serve up healthy but simple meals during this season of sweet temptations.  Our immunities need an extra boost when we’re sampling all of that extra sugar.  

Aren’t you glad the Lord gave us taste buds?  We have the ability to experience flavors because we have 10,000 taste receptors in our mouths!

The Bible also tells us to taste and see that the Lord is good.   Make time to read His Word. Get to know the Author. Sit down at His Banquet Table prepared for you. The Bible is filled with good morsels to chew and ingest.

Did you know that people get a taste of what’s inside of you when you speak?  What rolls off of your tongue?  Do your words build up or tear others down?  Look for ways to soften stress in someone else’s life by encouraging them today!

Here’s another Christmas decorating tip from Terry Willits:  “A wooden bowl filled with a variety of nuts invites anyone to sit down and crack open a healthy holiday snack.  For function as well as a festive look, have a nutcracker soldier stand guard beside the bowl.”

Here’s my favorite recipe for Hot Cocoa:

 

Hot Cocoa Mix

Instructions for a hot mug of deliciousness: Stir 4 tablespoons mix into one cup hot water to make one serving. Add a dash of mini marshmallows.

1 c powdered sugar

½ c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 c non-dairy cream powder (French Vanilla is incredible!)

¼ tsp salt

2 ¾ c instant nonfat milk powder

Whisk all together in 4 c container with a tight-fitting lid. Label with instructions for individual servings.

 

Happy Sampling!

Sally

Originally published at Sally’s Words 

Leave a comment: How do you taste God’s goodness?

Related Posts:

How’s your Sense of Smell? 

The Five Senses of Christmas

Looking for Christmas

How’s Your Sense of Smell?

Terry Willits says “Smell is the most influential sense we possess.  God wired up our noses to our brains so that the slightest smell can affect us.  Fragrances stir our emotions and affect our behavior.  The smell of peppermint perks us up and enhances concentration; the scent of pine or cedar soothes and calms.  The more pleasant our environment smells the more pleasant we are – reason enough to make our homes smell heavenly this holiday season!”

I’ve been thinking about the smells I love to have coming from the kitchen…warm cookies, fresh rolls baking, a turkey roasting.  I guess anything from the oven can create an enticing smell in the house!  What about when you’re not baking?  Flavored teas, coffees and hot chocolates can do the trick.  And French Vanilla creamer adds a touch of the sublime. Candles also come in many aromas, and pinecones thrown in the fireplace give off a woodsy bouquet.

Yesterday I hunted all over the office for the source of someone’s snack left behind.  I finally realized it was the vanilla-scented candle that I had gotten out with the Christmas decorations!  It wasn’t lit, but still crated an incredible smell that filled the whole room.

Today, when the kids got home from school, they popped some popcorn.  Wow – does that ever smell good!  It’s amazing how little it takes to alert the nose.  But it gives great benefits to the brain as those fragrances register!  Go ahead and look around the house for items you can use to tickle the nose.  You probably have some on hand right now!

Join us tomorrow when we taste (hint! hint!) Day 3 of The Five Senses of Christmas!

Sally

Originally published at Sally’s Words 

Leave a comment: What smells remind you of Christmas?

Related Posts:

The Five Senses of Christmas

Looking for Christmas

The Five Senses of Christmas

Boxes of Christmas decorations come down from the attic and create havoc in my home. But the treasures that emerge overrule my dismay. Joy of joys, the kids are eager to help, and I am letting go of dictating where things must go. Their excitement at being involved is a greater gem!
One of my favorite jewels to unpack is a book by Terry Willits: Simply SenseSational Christmas. It provides candy for the eyes as you saunter through the pages.  Today, for Day One of Five, I want to highlight what she says about the Sights of Christmas.
Terry says “Beauty attracts. Making our homes visually appealing for Christmas will hopefully draw others in so relationships can grow.”
The idea that your home is a place for relationships is a motivator to make it charming! As people feel cherished, they will relax and connect. But Terry warns against making it complicated. Keep it simple! Here are four areas she suggests to highlight: the front door, the mantel, the Christmas tree, and the table and chandelier where you will serve your holiday meals.

It perks me up to dress up the house! Setting up various nativities, greenery and candles builds anticipation and entices me to make more time for hospitality. Did you know that people enjoy being invited into your home? It gives them a chance to see you in your natural element. At the holidays, it lets them observe your favorite traditions and feel included in your life.
So bring out the twinkling lights, the colors of Christmas and the treasures in your attic. It’s time to prepare our hearts and homes to celebrate the birth of our King!
Sally
Originally published at Sally’s Words

Leave a comment: What are your favorite Christmas decorations?

Looking for Christmas

Do you ever wonder what the wise men were thinking, as they sought the Christ child? Maybe it went something like this…

As I kneel before the babe, I wonder at the new life before me. What kind of world changer would be introduced in such humble beginnings? What manner of life would unfold to one, who of necessity, is hidden away from the rulers of the land? Why would any power be worried about an infant from a poor family?

We’ve traveled so far. My companions first told me about the phenomenon in the sky many months ago. We couldn’t help ourselves; we had to make hasty preparations for our departure. It was a pilgrimage, really, a time of soul-searching for all of us. We could be considered religious by most. Yet, we knew something was missing in our lives; some void that begged to be answered. Now, here we are, face to face with the tiniest of humans, innocence that draws us to our knees in worship of our most holy Creator. And we know, deep in our hearts, we know. This is the One  for whom we have studied our whole lives in earnest, to seek the fulfillment of our yearning. And it is the greatest honor of our days to bow in humble adoration of what God will do through one so human, yet so divine.

There’s a quote that says, “Wise men still seek Him.”

So often, I find my attention span spread thin during the holidays, and I realize I haven’t been wise. I get caught up in the season’s movies, shopping, wrapping, menu planning and lights.

It requires intentional effort to remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas. I want things to be different. I want to share the quest of the wise men, to be completely in awe of Jesus’ birth. I want to have a thirst for God that is so consuming it drives me to my knees.

May this Christmas be the time we seek the Lord’s coming; when Emmanuel, indeed comes to live with us. My wish for all of us is that the wonder of the Christ child would be born again in our hearts, every day!

Sally

Leave a comment: How do you seek the Christ child at Christmas?

Book Review: Becoming Women of Worth: Stories & Recipes for the Holidays

The delightful stories in Becoming Women of Worth: Stories of Sugar & Spice and Recipes for the Holidays remind us to come into the kitchen and set a spell. We’ll swap stories of cooking and child-rearing and catch up awhile. Enchanting tales of recipe fails and culinary successes inspire the baker in all of us to craft some tastes to treat our tribe. And woven in-between are memories of loved ones, long since gone, but not before leaving their mark on our lives.

Kristen Clark has compiled a treasure trove of recipes and stories that sweeten a walk down memory lane. I am elated to be included in Becoming Women of Worth: Stories of Sugar & Spice and Recipes for the Holidays, with my contribution of “Lessons From My Bread Basket.” Working with Kristen as an editor was gratifying, and I am proud to be part of the finished product from 18 authors, including Dorothy Hill, Dorothy Johnson, Laurie Smith, Shawn Kay Sidwell, Beth Lynn Clegg, Karey Christensen, Cindy Hansberry, Jere Pfister, Linda Burklin, Janis Bell, Brenda Fiola, Leslie Fink, Terri Lacher, Hannah Williams, Peggy Redelfs, and Tasha Wilks. Recipes include bread, pie, cakes, puddings, and more.

Becoming Women of Worth: Stories of Sugar & Spice and Recipes for the Holidays would make a lovely gift for a seasoned cook or a budding baker; a great way to show your appreciation at any occasion!

Sally

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated to write this review, nor do I receive proceeds from the sale of this book.

Why? Why? Why?

Guest post by James N. Watkins

If you have children, nieces and nephews, or younger siblings, you know that a three-year-old’s favorite word is why.

“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”

“Why?”

“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and a three-ton SUV, the truck is going to win every time.”

“Why?”

“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals . . . Just take my hand!”

And on it goes-right into adulthood!

“Why didn’t God heal my friend?”

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“Why do I still have acne at 50?”

I’ve worked up way too much spiritual perspiration trying to answer why my second-grade Sunday school teacher committed suicide, why I was laid off from the perfect job in publishing—twice—or why bad things happen to such good people as you and me.

I have learned that while why is often a futile question, God is more than willing to answer other questions. But, like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are in the form of a question.

What can I know?

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).

So, while I’ve struggled with hundreds—probably thousands—of questions about God’s workings, I have grown in my knowledge of who he is. While agonizing about an estranged relationship, I burst into tears—for God. I had described to a friend my pain: “It feels like my heart has been cut out with a chainsaw, run over by a logging truck, and then fed through a wood chipper.” If I was feeling this excruciating pain for one broken relationship, how was God feeling about billions of heartaches? It was one of the few times I actually felt I understood God.

I can also find the answer to . . .

How can I grow?

I’ve always leaned into Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

But what is that “purpose”? The very next verse answers: “To be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). So do other verses:

“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b).

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1).

That’s our purpose! So ask, how can I grow more like Christ through this difficult time.

Who can I show?

Second Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:

“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. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (NLT).

The Greek word translated comfort is paraklesis. It is a calling near, summons for help; a prayer, a plea; exhortation, admonition, encouragement; consolation, comfort, solace, refreshment; or a persuasive speech, motivational talk, instruction. And it’s feminine case. No one comforts like a mother.

We offer our best comfort to those experiencing what we have personally gone through.

So, sorry, we can’t always answer the why questions, but we can answer these three.

Condensed from The Psalms of Asaph: Struggling with Unanswered Prayer, Unfulfilled Promises, and Unpunished Evil by James N. Watkins. Browse and buy at jameswatkins.com/asaph