In the Palm of God’s Hand

“Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m being held in the palm of God’s hand.”

I heard that today and I thought, me too. What does it really mean to feel held in the palm of God’s hand? I’ve always thought it meant that I am trusting that God has got me–that no matter what I am going through, I am held. I am supported. I am able to relax and to know that someone else is carrying me.

I love the story in the gospel of Mark of the four friends who carry the paralytic man to Jesus. The amazing part of that story is what Christ says to the them is that it was because of their faith the man was healed.

What must it have felt like to have been carried by those four? Has someone ever carried you? Your face is in their face, there is no where to hide. That man had to allow those friends to carry him. He had to be willing to receive their help. So many times others have lifted me. So many times I have needed help. Why is it that we are a group of folks who are so comfortable giving to others, yet receiving we are not so great at. We go out of our way to do something, something big or small to show others we are there for them, yet saying ok I am in over my head here and I need some help is not only difficult, it can be almost unbearable. We would rather stand on the deck and sink rather than sending out a mayday. It doesn’t make sense, but I am here to confess that I do it too.

Recently I was really behind the eight ball with a small travel detail I was trying to work out. It was really not that big of a deal, but I called a friend, who I knew would understand it. I said, “ok help me brainstorm some solutions for this situation.” A single thought came out of her mouth about how she could help and my dilemma was solved. I felt so silly. Such a burden was lifted and she kept saying, “this is not that big of a deal.” I had fretted, worried, dreamed and problem solved, all alone of course. The minute I opened it up and let someone in, it was done.

What, my friends, are you waiting for? There may be something in your life that you feel is too overwhelming, too difficult, too shameful or like me, too complicated to find a solution for. That’s a lie, but you have to share it. The thing that’s hard is that you have to tell someone about it before it can be resolved.

The same is true with God. I want God to guess what I need, to guess what is troubling me. I am sure it is already known, but there is something wonderful about surrendering and resting in the palm of God’s hands. The first part of that is rest.

This past weekend while at a youth retreat, I encouraged the youth to find someone to get knee to knee with to share what is going on in their lives, to trust that God has provided and is providing what they need, if they would simply look around. The last night of the event one of the students on the retreat sent me an email. He had spoken with one of his youth leaders and he said, “I feel a burden has been lifted, like I have taken one step closer to God.” Ok, I need to take my own advice, that we would share each others burdens, that we would turn to God at these times and lay our burdens down. I know is the desire of a God who spoke, time and again, a simple message that we are not alone.


I recently heard a talk where one of the illustrations was for us to view ourselves with a large sign over our heads. We were to imagine something on it that positively stated who we are. I thought about what my sign might say. The speaker essentially was saying that we become what we believe about ourselves. Last month I went to asummer evening gathering of women and again was told to look in the mirror everyday and to tell myself, “you are loved and you can do whatever is before you today.” Have you thought about how you see yourself? While talking to a friend about these thoughts, she mentioned that she sees herself with extra weight, more wrinkles and grayer hair. As she continued, I said “Are you kidding? What I see is your smile, your laugh and your light. I see you through the eyes of love.”

How can we all write on our signs those kind of things about ourselves that would reflect how God sees us and how we see ourselves through the eyes of love? I think my sign would be a mixture of who I believe myself to be and and how I want to view myself, something like,”I am loved and unsure and joyous and scared and blessed” All of it crammed into one sign.

In addition to working on my next book, this summer we are pretty much at home and we are teaching swimming lessons to preschool and elementary children at home with Max and Zach, covered with bugspray and sunscreen, saying over and over again, “you can do it, put your face in the water, reach and pull with your arms!” Most are beginning swimmers, with signs saying “I’m afraid.” One little precious boy, during his first time ever in swimming lessons, when asked to put his face in the water, said “That too tary!”(scary) During his last lesson after he put his face in, he laughed. What a journey from beginning 8 days ago, at 11 AM his sign said, ” that too tary,” and today, “I can do it!” What I know made the difference is Ron’s arms under him, holding him and telling him repeatedly, “I’ve got you and I’m not gonna let go of you.” Doesn’t matter what I allow on my sign, I do feel loving arms around me.

While at the grocery store in the produce I knocked over a box of cookies in a plastic container. Cookies went everywhere. As my son Zach and I began to pick them up — one of the deli workers just appeared and said, “I’ll take these ma’am.” “Oh no,” I quickly replied, “I’ll pick them up and please let me pay for them.” My sign said, “I’m embarrassed and I want to leave.” Apparently not. as she smiled. and said, “Don’t worry about it.” As we headed toward the bread aisle. I looked at Zach and said, “I don’t know why stuff like that bothers me, I just feel so embarrassed, I was moving too fast’.” Zach interrupted, “mommy, mommy, it’s okay it happens.” He took my hand and something changed, really changed. I was lifted. The problem was not gone, there were cookies everywhere. But there was another reality, of it’s ok — more importantly — I’m ok. I am ok and all that is in front of me that seems too tary is not too tary. I am known, I am loved and most importantly I am not alone.

Before I take my first step of the day, I started sitting up on the side of the bed in the morning. I put my feet on the floor in front of me and I say to myself “I’m living, I’m loveable, I am loved and I am not alone.” I also spell the ABCs with my feet. (When I ran I got fasciitis in my right foot and that was my runners’ re-hab.) I say to God help me let go of today, I give it to you.

Say it with me… “Today, I’m living, I’m loveable, I am loved and I amnot alone” There is nothing too tary, that today I cannot face!

Have a cookie today, I am gonna let go of today and see what happens


Scripture, Romans 8:28 — We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

P.S. Congrats to Tanner 5 1/2 who passed the swimming test that consisted of swimming a lap in the Olympic sized pool and treading water for 30 seconds, so that she could go down the big blue slide at the YMCA all summer long! Way to go!

To Rachel 18, in NY who graduated this June, Congrats! My text message to her on her last day of high school was “The best thing you could have learned is how loved you are, how special you are and how all things are possible.”

You both did it and we knew you could!

apple trees

Consider the lillies… (or the Apple trees for that matter) — Matt 6:28b

So I’ve go these apple trees in my front yard–four of them. They are too small to climb and they have only produced apples one of the seven years we have lived here. That was the year my dad stayed with us. He was 79 and my mom had just died. He visited us for three months and one day he said, “we need to work on your apple trees.” I do not have a green thumb was my first thought. I love to grow things, but things don’t love to grow for me. My dad always had a garden. He planted strawberries one year, always tomatoes, a pear tree one year and then there were his flowers. One place we lived had a two acre lot and he planted 50 different types of roses. My favorite were the kind that had a sweet fragrance. He said his favorite was Queen Elizabeth. I took flowers to school every week. If I was ever the teacher’s pet, it was because of my dad’s flowers. I also loved his pansies. They were dark purple with yellow accents.

My apple trees were not in the same category as his plants. Mine had spots and not just a few little spots–spots on almost every leaf. The trees were unruly and he said they needed to be pruned every year. They just needed a little care. I’m not big on pruning. I get my hair cut every 4 months whether it needs it or not. I’m not big on upkeep–I need plants that thrive on neglect. If they make it, they can stay. That philosophy didn’t go over too well with my dad, so we pruned. We watered and we went to the local hardware store to buy something to put on the leaves for the spots. It was maybe a fungus, a virus or some type of bug. Who cares what it is. I was sure we could not get rid of it, but he was determined to leave those apple trees in better shape than he found them and he gave it his best try. I laughed at the store. When we got to the pesticides isle, they all had warnings on them. I thought these might not be safe. Then I thought he’s almost 80, what harm can they do. So off we went with our bag of, let’s just say some form of poison. Dad used my cooking funnel and a mixing bowl to mix the ingredients. I threw that funnel and bowl in the trash that night. No need to try to salvage those. We hauled off 6 large black trash bags of pruned limbs. We sprayed and then we waited. Slowly over months, small sprouts began to appear. The day my dad had his final heart attack that left him bedridden for 6 weeks before his death, he was working on my apple trees. He loved the outdoors and loved to have his hands in nature. I love that he got to spend time at my home in that way.

After his death I came home from his memorial service to find those trees brimming with small apples. I kept the boys (aged 3 and 1 1/2) away from them most of the summer and remember Dad saying early September would be a great month to pick them if the birds haven’t gotten all of them. Those apples grew and grew despite me. One day Ron and I went out for the day in the middle of the summer and left the boys with a baby-sitter. When we came home, in their wagon were my dad’s apples. I was so shook. I’m not sure why those apples represented my dad’s time with me. More than our work together, they represented hope The possibility in life, even when things seem impossible, and somehow the possibility in me even me with my not-so-green thumb. It doesn’t make sense that I can grew something when something had not grown before. I sat on the front porch and cried as the boys proudly showed me their apples. I got my camera and began to laugh as they dumped them all on the ground too green to eat. Max said, “Mommy why are you crying?” Ron explained that the apples were not ready to pick. So the boys said simply, “we’ll put them back, someone get the tape.” It is funny how many things just can’t go back and sometimes it’s okay. Sometimes it’s better than okay.

September came and went and those apple trees have not born one apple since. It’s been 5 years and I’ve wondered should we just cut them down and replace them with something else. What good are they? I don’t have the energy to prune them, water them, love on them and they have not done a thing until… now. This week they have apples and a lot of apples, more than I have seen and on every tree, on every branch almost. I’m left wondering why. I so don’t deserve apples. I have not given those trees one thought much less any attention, but that ‘s when a story gets good isn’t it, when something happens that‘s unexpected, that’s not planned, that’s not deserved, that’s not explainable. My dad and I dreamed of what we’d do with those apples…apple pie, apple cider, apple sauce, apple butter. We would have so many he said we’d need to bag them and give them away to friends. Maybe we could eat them on the porch with boys. We would laugh and dream. I am thinking maybe this September we will do that. You never know if the birds don’t get them or the boys don’t use them during a battle while playing near the trees one day. You wait, you just might be having some apples come your way. So don’t worry about what you’re going to eat, or drink, or wear.

Apples, my apples. Who would have guessed, not me.

Matt. 6:25-31 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you —you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’

What’s next?

Springtime always reminds me of what is new and what is now… and what is about to be birthed that hasn’t been before. The subject of what’s next seems to come up frequently in my conversations with friends and acquaintances. What’s next with my life.. what’s next with my career… what’s next with the relationships I am in … What are the next risks that I need to be taking… This past weekend I joined a group of youth who are graduating from high school. One of the things I remember about my senior year was that it seemed like everytime I turned around someone was aksing me, “what school will you be attending? What will you be studying?” or “Who will you be rooming with?” On and on came the questions and to be honest with you, I decided many of those things at the very last minute. I know that does not shock many of you who know me. I did not have a clue many times. There were those days when so much was spinning around me that I felt like I was just along for the ride. I had no idea where those decisions would lead me or if when I got there I would be prepared for what lay before me.

Early in my singing I met a business man on a flight from Dallas. He shared some of his life story with me on our short trip. During an interview for his first job out of college, he was asked if he had any experience taking pictures out of an airplane. “Of course,” he replied enthusiastically, “that will be no problem for me.” He did get the job and as he left the interview, he thought to himself, “now how would one take a picture our of a plane?” The first day on his job he was shocked to hear the pilot jokingly say as they started the plane, “at some point we’ll remove this cover on the bottom of the plane. You need to be sure you tie yourself onto the rope provided on the side and ya best hold on; things can get a little bumpy. I’ve never had a photographer fall out while taking pictures and don’t want you to be the first.” “You know, Celia,” he said as he looked into my eyes, “I might not have known what was next in my life, but I was always up for the challenge. I might not have been here today if I hadn’t taken that first unknown step.”

Years ago I read a book about Georgia O’Keefe.. her life as a painter and sculptor. She painted very differently from those painting at the time. She said she loved to paint the desert because most people over look the beauty of the desert. She eventually moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico. One of my favorite paintings of hers is titled “Sky Above the Clouds.” On a trip to Santa Fe to sing, I snuck away to visit the Georgia O’Keefe Art Museum. Words do it that painting justice. Over the years, I have seen her work in museums across the country but this was breathtaking. One of the great surprises was seeing the original artwork of Sky Above the Clouds. I was expecting a small painting and when I walked into the room where it was on display I was struck by its majesty. The painting is the size of the room… huge and filled … bold and beautiful. Painters of the nineteenth century had always painted clouds as if they were looking up at them… she painted them as she saw them from a plane. Crazy. Yet, again in her style she knew her next would not look like her now. I have a poster of one of her works and the bottom quote reads, “ I wasn’t going to spend my life doing what had already been done.”

As I buckle in to write my second book, I feel that way today. I’m not sure all that is ahead of me. I’m not sure if I’m going to be prepared, but really that has never stopped me before and it shouldn’t stop me or you now.

What’s next for us? Really, I have a new glimpses… a few ideas… one thing I’m sure of … it will be new and fresh… if I can help it… I’m just gonna tie myself on and hold on with all my might and see where I end up…. I invite you to do the same…

Happy Flying Friends, Celia

Have Hope!

This past week Max and Zach went to a midweek program for children at church. Our children’s director told me afterward of her discussions with them. She told them the story of Jesus meeting the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) and asked each child what they thought Jesus would say to each of them, today. Zach shared, “He’d say… he’d say, ‘I love you’” Then he smiled and asked her if that was the right answer. “He’d say, ‘I love you?’ That’s a great answer, Zach,” his teacher responded. Next Max told his answer, “Jesus would say, ‘Have hope.’” Max followed “have hope” with “have peace.”

Wow! Have hope. What an answer! I wish I had said that. What kind of life would you and I have if we lived everyday with those two gifts–hope and peace?

I am ever mindful of times in my life when I have felt surrounded by hope. It was like diving into the deep end of a swimming pool and everywhere I turned was water. There have been moments when I have felt engulfed in hope. A hope that is calming and soothing in nature. A hope that is not flashy, nor boastful, but is constant and steady, unwavering and assured of its place and its ultimate power.

Recently, a friend of mine gave me a piece of art. It is a statue and it stands in my kitchen beside a large yellow silk sunflower and a picture of an apple tree that Max and I drew for my dad when he lived with us. It is a carving of Smiling St. Anthony of Padua. He followed the steps of St. Francis as a wealthy child who traded his riches for a life of piety and poverty. He was famous for helping find lost stuff and for lost causes. I got so tickled at the thought of this appropriate saint. Then I read her card. It seemed right and just, because she said, “you don’t have lost cause in your vocabulary.” It was the perfect gift for me. I don’t mind hearing the word “no” because I know that my yes is right around the corner. I love betting on the long shot. I love it when the underdog wins. I love when people say, “well, I don’t think that can happen.”

When my father asked if he could come to my home from the hospital for his last days. I remember talking to the head cardiologist in the hallway. He looked straight into my eyes and said, “Young lady, I’m not sure you realize how difficult this task will be. You have two small children and a touring career and a very ill parent. I don’t believe you can do this.” I felt such a peace when I told him , “sir you don’t know me too well. Can’t is not in my vocabulary. I believe that I can and I will.” We were home by lunch and meeting with a wonderful team from Willowbrook Hospice to care for my father as he lived out his days the way he wanted to. I never once thought,” You know he’s right. I can’t do this. I’ll fail. I’ll make a mess of it.” Have I failed? Have I made a mess of things? There’s no question that I have, but I won’t have to say that I watched that particular ship sail by and did nothing.

I am ever hopeful that in jumping into the deep end, I will realize that I’m right where I need to be. In a simple way I do believe that I’ll have what I need in those moments. I believe that‘s what faith is and I do hear in my life Christ saying to me, “have hope.” My prayer is that you listen with me for those words.

all my love, Celia

On Fear

LaPlace, Louisiana was the location. The task was to learn how to ride a bike. The parsonage was a small three-bedroom house. It was the first house on the street. We lived across from a racetrack. When you live that close to a racetrack, you know exactly when the cars are running. I gonna guess the church got a good deal on it — location, location, need I say more? The front yard had a ditch that always flooded when it rained. On an average day, it held enough water to be full of crawfish. I spent many a day catching those crawfish. I remember my sister and brother coaxing me onto my bike. It was faded pink with pink tassels on the handlebars and a pink and white banana seat. As we went down the road, I remember screaming, “Do not let go! Never let go!” My sister and brother would take turns running with me and I remember my dad coming out to give them a break. They would run along side the bike. I screamed the whole way, “Don’t let go.” They screamed, “keep peddling” and finally they would let go. The bike and I would wobble for a few yards and then crash. One thing I remember distinctly was my fear. How I hated the feeling of no control of my bike, of my entire life in that moment. I hated it more than liver and onions. My mom liked liver and onions, but I digress. I hated it more than a cold. I hated it more than when I split my pants at school right before recess and had to wait in the principal’s office till my mom dropped off another pair of pants we called gouchos (they were in fashion at the time.) I hated fear more than being dumped by a boy in my adolescence. I knew what fear looked like and I did not want anything to do with it. And then one day riding the bike was easy. The fear was gone. The next thing I remember about biking was riding down thrill hill in my next home in Many, Louisiana. There I remember riding with all of the neighborhood kids. We gave each other rides on our handlebars. Riding on a friend’s handlebars, now that should have caused great fear but nothing like learning how to ride could compare.

Since then I have had moments like that experience, when fear takes hold of me. It is as if someone grabs me around the neck. And it seems to squeeze all the good stuff out, and everything goes black, except of course the fear. I remember that same fear finding me on Mount Magazine in Arkansas. We were on a youth outing called “Senior Summit” and I was about to dangle my body off of a rappelling rope that disappeared off of the edge of a 150 foot cliff. Words cannot adequately communicate the fear I felt stepping off of that mountain It felt like death and I could not get my breath, like things would never be right again. I remember halfway down the mountain, I finally enjoyed the descent. As quickly was the fear had come, it was gone–like the onset of hiccups–there they come and there they go. Poof the fear was gone and I was in the middle of joy.

Last week, our family was in central Illinois visiting some of our extended family from Ron’s side. Some cousins were riding bikes and doing jumps off of a ramp and our oldest son Max, who we have only seen ride a bike with his training wheels, jumped on one of there bikes and started riding. I do not mean trying to ride, I do not mean learning to ride—he was riding, There was no mom or dad holding on. There was no yelling or wailing and gnashing of teeth. In Chicago, we learned an expression that Cubs fans use. When a homerun is hit completely out of the park (on the left field side), it lands on a street called Waveland Avenue. Max did more than just kind of ride the bike, he “hit it onto Waveland.” He glided past us and I remembered when I was 8 and I remember how hard it had been for me. We clapped and celebrated. Fear had passed over him on this one and he was captured not by fear, but by joy. There was a simple beauty in the moment.

Some things are just going to be easy and others so awfully difficult and we do not know which will be which. This past year I watched the show “Lost.” Why someone who travels on planes would watch that show, I do not know. The season started with a plane crash. One of the characters talked about fear. He said he gave fear only 5 seconds. He really felt the fear with all his being and 5 seconds was all the time he was going to give it. I thought about that concept.

In my life, I can jump in without fearing fear. I can refuse to be afraid that I will fall apart or break or somehow get stuck in fear. I can survive moments that seem scary, because I have seen the joy that lies beyond. So I trust that joy waits, out of sight on the other side. When I have felt that grip, the next thing that follows is a prayer that usually begins with, “help me please…” and ends with “…thank you Jesus.” Sometimes life is as easy as gliding and other times I am holding on with white knuckles, but I try to remember to breathe, and to remember that God is with me in both the fear and the joy.