A Library Box of Blessings

“God works all things together for good.”

Yes he does.

Here is the latest example in my life. Over the past year I have heard a little bit about Debbie Macomber. I learned that she is a writer. And a Christian. And a friend of World Vision.

But that was about the end of it. Usually I feel a bit inferior when learning someone is a published author, since a writer is what I claim to be, though I have only been published once, a short meditation, through The Upper Room, and all my other work has been self-published. Real authors, I assume, will be kind, but inwardly will look down upon these meager accomplishments.

Then at World Vision’s annual conference, I met Adele, Debbie Macomber’s daughter. We were placed randomly (really?) in a small group together and I learned more about Debbie’s widely read novels. Adele mentioned that Debbie’s novels are especially loved by women in the Middle East. Both Debbie and her daughter are huge supporters of World Vision, and so are my husband and I. Adele expressed wonder and delight at the way God was using her mother’s work in the world. I became curious.

I had never picked up, or even looked up, the work of Debbie Macomber.

So it was startling to find one of her books staring back at me in a roadside library box less than two weeks later. It was actually my first time depositing books I had read in this take-one-if-you-want-one box. Realizing it was surely no accident, I brought home this perfect condition paperback by Debbie Macomber.

Then I read it. Though romance novels are not my usual reading fare, I was drawn into the story. Debbie has written over a hundred books, many in series, and the book I picked up is Silver Linings, part of the Cedar Cove series, which has become a Hallmark Channel television series. I found myself wondering why Middle Eastern women would enjoy these books.

I was about halfway through the book when a package arrived in the mail for me. Our World Vision representative, Robin Folkerts, had send me a birthday gift. It was a “Blessings Box,” a lovely collection of items put together by none other than Debbie Macomber.

fullsizeoutput_5753The Blessings Box contains a lovely contemplative journal, written by Debbie, along with some incidental items like a candle, jam, tea bags, recipes, a pen, stickers and a tote bag. A precious box of things to make you joyful, which is no coincidence, since Debbie’s word of the year is JOY.   I would be buying these same boxes for many of my friends if they were still available, but sadly the last one has been sold.

I finished the book and learned how Macomber makes her books so popular. She portrays characters who have honest feelings, who get angry, who forgive, who love deeply, who find loyalty and honor and humor and happiness. The book I read has a thread involving military deployment in Iraq, and relationships with Muslims there. I can see now why the women of the Middle East find Macomber’s books captivating.

Anyway, I love the way God weaves our experiences together for maximum impact. It turns out that Debbie Macomber donates $5 from each Blessings Box to World Vision Education efforts. And she is a spokesperson for World Vision’s Knit for Kids program.

I am awestruck by how God uses her talents to bless the world.

I wonder what he will show me next.

Mardi Gras Joy

IMG_5657Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, or the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.  Another king cake season is ending and beads and doubloons will be put away or recycled til next year.

I am learning to see more in Mardi Gras.  What other event draws out both the grieving widow with her grown sons and babies less than six months old sporting “my first Mardi Gras” shirts while ensconced in Baby Bjorn front packs?  How do native-born New Orleanians watch dozens of parades from the same location year after year and never tire of reaching hands up to catch beads?  Why is it still exciting to even the most elderly to make a sign and find a friend who is handing out glittered shoes off Muses float 20?  Gigantic marching bands with 3 or 4 groups of dancing, twirling or cheering girls behind rows and rows of IMG_5673tubas, trombones and drums, parade night after night during the week leading up to Mardi Gras.  Even kids as young as five will don a uniform and carry an instrument or flag or what have you.IMG_5667

Mardi Gras is truly a celebration of life itself. These parades are not for show, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade or the Rose Parade.  They are not done for TV.  The floats are sometimes beautiful, but mostly a little tacky.  They are functional carriers of masked, costumed people and beads to be redistributed to the masses lining the route, especially to the wildly waving children atop their ladders.

And traditionally, because of snarled traffic and crowded streets, people picnic for hoIMG_5655urs along the sidewalks and the medians (neutral grounds) eating king cake and fried chicken and drinking whatever suits them.  Neighbors and tourists and family open up and talk, eat, and laugh together.  It is a party like no other.  Inclusive, integrated, intoxicating.  It brings people together.  Colorful wigs, tu-tus, and hats give the impression of insanity, while making everyone feel comfortable.

If you have never experienced Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you should add it to your bucket list.  And we should all celebrate life a little more intentionally, spending more time with people than with our electronic devices.

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!