Monthly Archives: February 2018

Practice in the Waiting

With the Winter Olympics wrapping up, I need to confess that I have failed to watch more than a couple of videos on Facebook of some of the highlights. However, watching even a few minutes of Shaun White tumbling through the air high above the ground reminds me of the commitment to practice and determination that is required to compete on this level. We don’t get see the bruises and tears—the sheer exhaustion that must come at the end of a week of training. Most of us can’t imagine the kind of dedication it takes to become an Olympic athlete. Most of them won’t stand on the podium, and yet they keep practicing, striving for that goal. Some will fail but return more mature, stronger, more agile. Maybe it will be their time, and they will win but what if they don’t?

More to the point, what are us average humans striving for? Some days, I’m patting myself on the back because I figured out a way to make supper without returning to the grocery store. I mean, sometimes that takes real ingenuity.

  A year ago I attended the Florida Christian Writers Conference. I had just completed my third book and spent significant time honing my skills. I cringe to think I actually let people read my first book, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say, after reading several craft books and listening to experts, my writing had improved. Most of you know that I found a great deal of success at the conference, so I won’t bore you with those details. (Click here to read that post. ) I really thought I was ready for publication. I had an agent and two books—wasn’t it my time? Apparently not, but I say that with thanksgiving. Since that time, I have learned so much more about writing and the publishing world. When I spoke to my writing coach and mentor yesterday, she even mentioned how much stronger my writing is now than it was then. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the picture of patience. I detour into doubt. But there’s something about training to be better, trying new things, and exploring alternative approaches that keep me going. Looking back even six months, I know I wasn’t ready. In the process and the practice, I know God is preparing me for just the right time.

“He has planned something better for us so that only together with us would we be made perfect.” (Heb. 11:40).

Few of us will win the big prizes, so where does that leave us? I’m so excited to let you know: it leaves us with Jesus. In this reality, we are just like the athlete wearing a gold medal. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Co. 9:24-25). I’m thinking that crown might just rival a gold medal.

Granted some days, it feels like we’re swimming against the tide, but God is always working. He has marked out a race for us. Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run with perseverance with our eyes fixed on Jesus. (Heb. 12:1-2). When our patience is growing thin and our faith is shallow, we must remember that God works in his time and that what we are learning while we wait may be just the thing we need when it is time. I love that I can look back and see how my writing has improved with practice (Well, maybe love is a little strong, but I’m certainly encouraged that the time has been well spent.) What’s even more important is that I can see how I’ve grown in my faith, and hopefully, when God asks me to do something for him, I will be ready. I know I will be ready to give him the glory because he has molded me into the right person for the right race.

When the drills seem too difficult or the rejection too hard remember this: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Phil. 1:6

What are you practicing for today? What is hindering you from following God’s calling?

Complaining about Blessings

Recently, I’ve become sensitive to people complaining about what I would consider blessings, and I’m almost certain they would as well. With our abundance of things and activities, we become burdened by the very blessings we sought. But for me, the real zinger is when we complain to a person about a problem that she would be happy to have because that means she would also have the blessing. Have you ever realized you were doing this? I didn’t until I was on the other side. When the person is complaining about the very thing, the very activity that I’ve been praying and working to obtain, I think how happy I’d be to have that problem. I just know I’d never complain about it; at least that’s what I like to tell myself.

In Philippians, Paul writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” (Phil. 4:11-14)

Honestly, when I read those words, and I think about the living conditions of people around the world, I’m embarrassed that I complain about anything. However, I am comforted that Paul continues to be thankful for someone to share his troubles. What is it to understand our blessings, to be content?

This year for Lent, my family is giving up complaining. I know it sounds crazy, and we will likely fail miserably, but we think it’s an experiment worth trying. But there’s more to this plan. For every complaint, the person must put a quarter in a jar and write on a chart the complaint and the blessing. (My daughter said to take her to the bank to trade out a twenty for a couple of rolls of quarters.) At the end of Lent, we will donate the money to the City Rescue Mission. These people have real needs—real problems. Hopefully, we will learn how blessed we truly are and maybe it will be something that we consider before we open our mouths in the future. If nothing else, a good charity will benefit a lot. One trip to Libby’s school during rush hour should result in several dollars.

What are you doing for Lent this year? Are you giving something up or adding something beneficial? As we draw closer to the cross, I pray that this year we can all gain a greater perspective of God’s amazing blessing of grace.

Croquet Kiss

It’s the first week of the month, and I’m excited to share my first published flash fiction piece. Croquet Kiss was first published in the August edition of Spark magazine. It is set on Jekyll Island during the time when millionaires holidayed on the Island. They often visited during the month of February, fleeing the cold winters of the Northeast. I hope you enjoy.

Croquet Kiss by Leslie DeVooght

Tap.

Clarice’s yellow ball rolled to a stop beside John’s black one. With her precise putt, she’d created an irresistible target.

John pulled back his wooden mallet and swung with gusto. His competitive spirit vanquished his manners.

Thwack.

John’s ball smashed against her ball, sending it sailing over the manicured lawn. It rested in the rough under a sweeping oak. His shot went beyond defense and social graces, but her ball couldn’t have landed in a more perfect location.

Rowdy cheers rose from the gentlemen, entertaining her friends on the veranda of the Jekyll Island Club House.

Jekyll Island Club

Clarice glanced to the spectators.

The ladies paused—their glasses of lemonade suspended. They breathed a collective sigh, while their wide brim hats swayed like sailing yachts on an undulating sea.

With a smug grin, John tipped his hat to his friends. His chest swelled, confident of his skill. Surely this surge of masculinity would encourage him to act on the sparks that flew between them.

Clarice bit down on her lip, a smile pushing at the corners. Before John caught a glimpse of her expression, she tossed her white, lace sunhat and marched across the croquet court. She swung her mallet like a drum major’s baton, feigning irritation.

Last night, she’d tarried with John in the beam of the moon on the stoop of her uncle’s vacation cottage. And when John leaned into her, she tilted her chin, lips puckered—ready. But instead of warm lips on hers, he’d lifted her hand and politely pecked the back of her fingers—merely childhood friends.

Ire rose in her, warming her cheeks—time to take matters into her own hands.

“Tsk, tsk, Clarice.” John fell in line behind her. “What will you do now?”

“Hmmph.” She pulled her shoulders back and dabbed a renegade bead of perspiration daring to escape her hairline.

“Come on, please don’t be mad. I was simply following our President’s advice—‘speak softly and carry a big stick.’”

Undoubtedly, Teddy Roosevelt wouldn’t approve of his words being used to describe a lawn sport. And of course, John focused on the stick and not the speaking softly. Besides why were they discussing politics at all—certainly, a twist she hadn’t anticipated. What else could she do to show her willingness and still be called a lady?

She spun and faced him. “I—”

John nearly collided with her, as he waved to his cohorts. He snatched his hand down, and his fingers tangled with hers, then their eyes entwined.

Maybe he’d stop dawdling and draw her to him. Shivers dashed up her arms.

“Sorry.” He broke the trance, pulling his hand from hers.

Her cheeks burned—maybe not.

Click here to read the rest of the story.