Reserving my Spot

by Deborah McCormick Maxey

            I’m always among the first to register for a favorite writer’s conference held at a massive complex, tucked into the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. What a blessing to learn from top professionals in Christian writing, share laughs and meals, crazy costumes on genre night and deep and moving praise time together. Not to mention that my mountain girl heart soars looking out on the majestic scallops of those blue mountains lining the horizons as I walk in the woods. I feel so close to God in outdoor cathedrals.  

But the reason I book super early is I always want the same room. Every year. You might wonder why I would request a room that overlooks a huge parking lot and the backside of a mountain.  But the reason is beyond the asphalt and the wooded hillside directly across from my window. What draws me to that room requires me to look up. Like the first step in worship.

High atop the hill that my window faces is a massive white cross that can be seen on the interstate from miles away. I look forward to doing my devotions every morning in a small chair pulled up to the window and focusing first on that enormous cross and what it represents.

No matter what I do throughout the conference, when I unlock that door and return to my room, I feel a sense of home at the foot of the cross.

But the first morning of the last conference I attended, when I prepared to do my devotions, I positioned the chair and opened the drapes only to stand in stunned silence, flooded with disappointment. Fog. Fog so dense I couldn’t even see the parking lot.

After I read my devotions, I turned to prayer, starting with praise.

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

So, digging deep, I thanked God for the fog and whatever reason He had for it. Within minutes warm tears of gratitude slid down my cheeks. I felt His presence, loving me with a fog lesson, recognizing that even though I could not see the cross, I knew for certain that it was still there. In those times when it seems as though my prayers hit the ceiling or I pray but don’t feel Him near me, it is just like the fog, my limitation. My emotions and thoughts, seasons, years, cultures, government, even white crosses on a hill can change. But not God.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (KJV)  

My worry, doubt, fear, disconnection, or emotional numbness is only a temporary internal fog.

We walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7(KJV) 

I am so grateful that unlike a manmade sculpture our Father is indestructible, steadfast, unchanging, and waiting faithfully in the fog of my humanness with outstretched arms. Arms that reach as far as the east is to the west (Psalms 103:1 KJV), to welcome me back from my internal nearsightedness.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey retired from her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website that focuses on miracles.  Her debut novel, The Endling is available for preorder on Amazon, and will be released by Firefly Southern Fiction/Iron Stream Media, May11, 2021. https://deborahmaxey.com

Join the conversation: What Scriptures have encouraged your heart lately?

Clean Jars

 by Deborah McCormick Maxey

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. Colossians 3:23 NKJV

I love new beginnings: a new store, class, book, craft, or skill. I still get a new notebook every fall and organize it with colorful dividers. And don’t expect me to downsize my big stack of blank journals, because they all have the potential for a new beginning.

But I had to learn to face beginnings I didn’t like. The summer I turned eight, my grandmother had exactly that lesson in mind. Involving my nemesis…. spiders.

When I “sassed,” her about a chore, she was ready. I followed her outside as she opened the door to a crawl space and pulled out a galvanized tub filled with old canning jars. Without tops, they were filthy with, dirt, bug parts and…dead spiders.

As I helped her move the tub to the sidewalk, keeping my arms stiff to create as much distance as possible, she gave me my instructions. “You are going to get these jars to sparkle. And I’m going to be listening for the most important part, you’ve going to pray out loud the whole time you’re doing it. Talk to God. Find ways to thank him.” Looking up she saw my scowl. “You can ask Him for strength or courage or whatever you need. But talk to Him. And Deborah…you’re not coming back inside until it’s done.”

We unloaded the jars on the sidewalk and carried the hose, hot water, and detergent to the tub. She left me sitting on the sidewalk pouting, believing she was torturing me just to get her jars clean. Glancing at the spider parts gave me major heebie jeebies. Granny poked her head out of the back door to make sure I was praying out loud, so to elicit sympathy and reconsideration I prayed for help. (Okay, there may have been some drama involved. Just saying.)

I was stubborn, but so was Granny. I knew I was going to have to clean those jars. So, I offered a sincere prayer for help. The next thing I knew I realized I could take the hose and squirt out the jars before I loaded them into the soapy water. I’d never touch the bugs!

That started prayers of true thanksgiving. I thanked him for the bubbles and soapy water, the way I could splash and make a mess, the warm sunshine, the shiny clean jars that could hold His beautiful flowers or the delicious fruit He gave us to make jelly. Happily, I talked to God in a continuous stream.

When I called Granny outside to see my finished chore, she asked me what I learned.

“Well…not to sass you back.”

“And?”

“Even with an icky job once I got going and saw I could do it, it turned out to be fun.”

“And?”

I was stumped. But as I started to speak, I started to understand. “Oh…I never felt alone. When I stopped complaining and started thanking Him, it felt like He was right there with me, like a friend. And He was having fun too.”

“Yes. Now load them back in the tub and we’ll put them back where they came from.” The depth of her teaching started to dawn on me. She didn’t need the jars. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23 NKJV).

Just like the water hose idea came after prayer, He would always show me where to begin. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV).

Granny was big on memorizing verses and this is the one she gave me afterwards: “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV).

“That’s what it’s all about,” she said. Her lessons have lasted a lifetime.

This article was brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: A licensed therapist, Deborah McCormick Maxey retired from her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christian fiction, devotions, and her website that focuses on miracles.  

The Endling: A Novel by [Deborah Maxey]

Deborah’s first novel, The Endling, will be released by Firefly Southern Fiction/Iron Stream Media early spring 2021. Native American Emerson Coffee is the last surviving member of her tribe. When US Marshals inform her she’s being hunted by a mob hit man, Emerson declines their offer of witness protection. But when three innocent children become caught in the crosshairs, Emerson must decide if she will risk it all—her mountains, her heritage . . . even her life—to secure their safety. 

Join the conversation: Did you have a relative that was a good influence on you in your developmental years?

The Alchemy of Focus

by Deborah McCormick Maxey

I was so excited in February 2020 when I retired and sold the building that had housed my counseling practice for thirty years. Hubby and I had big plans: time with our grandchildren, travel, cruising, camping, activities at church, and painting. And finally, I would have time to write Christian fiction.

But…it was February… 2020. Two weeks after I shut my office doors for the last time, COVID-19 was announced. Suddenly, because of our age and a several health conditions, hubby and I were quarantined and cancelling instead of making plans. Church, cruise lines, campgrounds and restaurants were shut tight. I couldn’t look forward to celebrating my retirement, birthdays or even the big one, our 50th wedding anniversary.

Much as the Israelite slaves in Egypt did to claim Passover, I immediately posted these verses on our front door, calming my anxiety when it reared its ugly head by quoting God’s promise:

No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. Psalm 91:10-11 NKJV

So, my days became Bible study, long talks and lots of laughter with hubby, walks with our dogs, naps, plunging through my “to be read pile,” and writing. Lots and lots of writing.

By April, the lake we live on was teaming with life. Selah, my little garden tucked in front of my art studio, became an incredible source where my efforts were rewarded daily. Everything flourished, my works in progress sharpened and took off. I entered and received notices of acceptance in anthologies and placement in an international contest. My studio was alive with new painting projects. The yard was alive with flowers, butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. We were living surrounded by beauty.

And my spiritual life…oh the joy. Finally, I had time to truly immerse myself in the Word, to commune constantly with the Lord, with so few distractions. Worship music filled our house and ran through my head even when I awakened at night.

By April I realized I was having a Jacob experience.

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it” (Genesis 28:16 NIV).

Quarantine held so many blessings! I was rested, relaxed, joyous, motivated, and thriving. When others would lament that 2020 was a horrible year, I could praise God that despite conditions beyond my control and events I would never wish for, He was constantly using it for my good.

We don’t know what 2021 will bring. But even if it is chaotic or confusing, we can focus on how He is loving us constantly. We are His beloved children. We can start our year with joyous expectation and praise.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NIV.

About the author: A licensed therapist, Dr. Deborah McCormick Maxey retired from her counseling practice in 2020 to joyfully invest her energy in writing Christians fiction, devotions, and her website that focuses on miracles.

Dr. Deborah McCormick Maxey’s debut novel, The Endling, is available for preorder on Amazon, and will be released by Firefly Southern Fiction/Iron Stream Media, on May 11, 2021.

Join the conversation: How has the Lord used the events of 2020 to bless you?

Counterintuitive Peace

by Deborah McCormick Maxey, PhD @DeborahMaxey2

…he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.                                                                          Psalm 91:4 NRSV

“Brain surgery.” Never had two words produced so much anxiety in me. I had prayed the world renown medical team would suggest I try yet another pill. My mind constantly replayed what it would entail to create a “hole in the head”: scalpels in my grey matter and affixing a titanium plate.

It was the first week in December, and instantly I knew that other than my husband, who was with me, God was calling me to keep this scary news from everyone else. I could not let the joy of the Christmas holiday be marred with the fact that I would undergo this on New Year’s Eve, I would undergo this procedure.

At first I was mystified, as a worship leader and a prayer warrior, by God’s direction to not ask for prayer. But eventually I understood: He wanted me to look up, not around, for support.

A few days later I felt God moving me to message a Facebook acquaintance whose sister is a pastor. They both advised me to memorize Psalm 91 and to think of it as “911” to God, because of His promises of protection it held.

I began intense study on that psalm. Verse by verse I journaled deeply into the meaning of the words. As a visual person, it was not enough to understand what the Scripture said, I wanted images to spring to mind as I recited the words in praise and petition.

For the above verse, I googled “birds protecting their young” and found pictures that brought me peace. Birds stretch out their huge pinion feathers and fold their young beneath their wings to shield them. Huddled safe from everything, the babies sleep peacefully while the parent bird stands watch, taking the blows from any attacker. Just as Jesus did on the cross.

I found another reassuring image in verses 11-12 (NRSV): For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up.”

Verse 15 (NRSV) also promises God will not fail. “When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.” Each verse brought joy and confidence that the Lord would be there for me through everything that lay ahead.

En route to Duke University on the day of surgery, Psalm 118:24 (NKJV) spontaneously repeated in my head: “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” And unbelievably, I felt the truth of those words.

Before leaving for the hospital, with a Sharpie, I had written “Psalm 91” in the palm of my hand, ready to grasp it like a squeeze ball if I needed extra strength. But there was an unintended effect: several hospital staff saw it, recognized it, and prayed with me on the spot. Folks I never met on the surgical team, found me afterwards to say that they also saw it and prayed.

I suffer from a chronic neurological disorder, Trigeminal Neuralgia, known as the “The Suicide Disease” because seventy two percent of those diagnosed end their lives within two years of onset. But through the surgery, which had been so scary to anticipate, God greatly reduced my 24/7 pain. He knew all along that His grace would be sufficient when I sought and trusted in him.

When things look overwhelming, and it feels counterintuitive to trust fully in Him, we can know He has a plan, a lesson, and a blessing in store. Over time, prayer, and the study of His Word, we learn to discern His voice. And His presence in our discipline brings us peace.

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Counterintuitive Peace – encouragement from @DeborahMaxey2 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deborah maxeyAbout the author: Deborah Maxey, winner of numerous writing awards, has several short stories soon to be released in anthologies. Her first novel, “The Endling,” is scheduled to be published by Firefly Southern Fiction, Iron Stream Media. Along with a love for storytelling, Deborah is worship leader at her church, devoted wife, mother, grandmother, fine artist, and a licensed professional therapist in Lynchburg Virginia.

Join the conversation: What has been counterintuitive for you in your relationship with God?