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Remember, I have moved my book reviews to their own blog. Tracy's Book Nook is now active.

Friday, June 27

Laughing ~ For Fiction Friday

Fiction Friday is hosted by Patty Wysong, at her blog Patterings. For more great fictional stories, by Patty and other writers, please click Patterings or click on the Fiction Friday icon to the right. This post was transferred from my other blog, Random Reflections, which I've discontinued.



As Sara stormed to the corral, she kicked the ground, not caring if she scuffed her new boots. Ugh, she thought, I’m so mad I could spit. Or scream. Or cry. What was he thinking, when he entered her in that barrel racing competition? She’d told him she’d never compete again. Now she’s stuck. If she backed out, everyone would know why and start talking again. Why couldn’t he have listened to her? He thought he was doing the right thing, but really it was more like meddling. Dang!

Sara looked at Stormy and smiled sadly. She walked over to him and looked into his beautiful brown eyes while stroking his face. She knew word weren’t necessary – he understood. That’s the way it is with best friends. That’s what Stormy was to Sara. He was more than just a horse he was her best friend. Though lately they hadn’t spent much time together. Not since that day.

She’d been around horses all her life. Her family had several there on the ranch. Her mom taught her to ride when she was just a little girl –grew up on horses in fact. Her mom was passionate about riding and that was something Sara seemed to get from her. They’d ride together often, starting with Sara and her mom straddled atop one horse, then as she got older she’d take her own mount. It was their favorite way to spend time together. Her mom taught her everything she knew about horses, riding and competition. In fact, her mom got her into competing. They worked on it together, as a team.

When they were riding they had lots of fun, laughed and talked. Boy, did they talk! Things got real then. They talked about life, love, God, friends and even boys. Her mom taught her that life is a succession of choices. You got where you are by the choices you made and how you chose to handle the things that happened to you.

As she stood there with Stormy, she started thinking back to when she first got him. What a surprise he’d been. She’d been complaining for forever it seemed that she needed her own horse. She didn’t want a family horse. She wanted her very own, nobody’s but mine, horse. She came home from school the day she turned 16, went to the stables to do chores and there he was. A big, beautiful, 2 year old chestnut horse with a huge bow around him and a banner above that read “Happy Sweet 16.” She screamed, cried, and then laughed. Her mom had arranged it all – including convincing dad that she needed her own horse. From that time on it was all Stormy, all the time. That was 6 years ago.

Everything was different now. She hadn’t ridden Stormy for five months now. Not since the day her mom died. It was a senseless accident really. Her mom was riding a new horse that got spooked and bucked up. It should have been an easy thing for her to handle, but the horse tripped in a gopher hole and they both fell to the ground. Her mom hit her head on a rock. That was all it took. There was nothing Sara could do to help her. She simply never woke up. It wasn’t even the horse’s fault; it was something that just happened.

Sara looked at Stormy again. She knew he was ready, but was she? Figuring there was only one way to find out, she saddled him. With nervous anticipation she mounted Stormy and said a silent prayer. She rode around the corral a couple of times, gaining confidence and feeling a weight lift. It was time to leave the corral. She’d start training for the competition later. This was different. This ride was for her mom, for Stormy and for her.

I guess he did know what he was doing by entering me in the competition, she thought. It’s was done now and there was no undoing it. Sara realized she was no longer angry with him for doing it. It was time to move on. It was time to choose life. She couldn’t change what happened, but she could start moving forward. She looked back at the house, knowing he was watching her. Sara leaned down and whispered in Stormy's ear, "Are you ready, boy?" He whinneyed as if to say "Yes!" Then she rode, with her long hair flying in the wind, and she did something else she hadn’t done for a long time. She laughed.

***Author's Note: This was my first FaithWriters Challenge Entry and it received a ranking of "Highly Commended."

(C) Tracy Keck 2008

Wednesday, June 25

A Fruity Kind of Kindness

Having survived my brief intermission at the Fruit of Patience, it is time to continue on my journey of the Fruit of the Spirit. The current destination is to the Fruit of Kindness. Now this promises to be a good place to sojourn for a bit. Kindness. Just saying or thinking of it, puts a smile on my face and in my heart.

Kindness in life is essential. A little kindness goes a long way, and the warmth it brings lasts much longer than the moment it is experienced. It would be easy to focus on the lack of kindness that is shown in the world today, but it is my desire to promote kindness in love, not judgment. What is the best way to define kindness? Simply put, it is to be nice, compassionate, thoughtful and forgiving, just because. It is to act in these characteristics without regard to self. It is being nice to someone, not because of who they are or how they act, but because of whom you are and how you choose to represent yourself. Acting in kindness is so important it is even emphasized in the Bible. Proverbs 3:3 reads, “Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.”

Years ago, there was a movement to promote social kindness, and it even had a name. It was called “Random Acts of Kindness”. People were encouraged to do something nice to another, for no reason other than to be nice and perhaps brighten their day. It was the original “Paying It Forward” theory, in that the only thanks desired was to do something nice for someone else. It still goes on today, but you don’t hear about it as much. I had the unexpected pleasure of being a recipient of this campaign years ago. I’d gone into an ice cream store, placed my order and when I prepared to pay for it, I was told it was already taken care of by another customer who’d been in earlier. The cashier explained that the customer had given an extra $20 to pay for anyone else who came in. I was both thrilled and shocked. So what did I do? I gave them the money I was going to use, and then some, to keep it going!

Though practicing kindness is by its own nature selfless, it’s one of those funny little things that often times does as much good for the giver, as it does for the receiver. How does that happen? Well, as we give kindness to others, we tend to feel better, happier and more at peace with ourselves. Knowing we did something nice or helpful to another person has a tendency to brighten our own day. Kindness given can make the receiver feel blessed, loved, cared for and welcomed. It can also give hope, friendship, warmth and aspiration. And it can help to push back fear, sadness, emptiness and loneliness.

There are many stories that could be told about acts of kindness. Simply Googling it will bring up numerous results. Reading the Chicken Soup for the Soul books will give you an abundance to choose from. All are heart-warming, most are touching, and some will downright make you cry. The one I want to focus on now though is the kindness that is shown to us perpetually by God our Father. The kindness He shows is displayed in the love He gives us, in the grace He has for us, in the blessings He showers on us and in the sacrifice He made for us. By giving up His own Son, to die on a cross for us, while we were yet estranged from Him, He gave us the opportunity to be reconciled with Him and have all of our sins forgiven and forgotten. Because of His kindness, we have an eternity of love and joy and light to look forward to, rather than an eternity of despair, darkness and separation from Him.

Obviously we can’t repay God for His kindness to us, so what do we do? We become more like Him and extend kindness to others. In doing so, we show people the love of God, through our actions. The Bible reinforces this, by stating in 2 Cor. 6:6, “We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.” There are endless ways to show kindness to others, from a simple smile, to a meal for someone in need, to holding open a door or giving up a seat for someone who could use it more than you. How you choose to extend kindness is up to you. It could be based upon need, or it could be simply because you want to. It could be done openly or anonymously. When we show kindness to others, we are merely imitating God our Father. Now that is paying it forward!

Usually I end with a scripture verse that is fitting to the topic. Today I’m adding some nice quotes I found about kindness as well. I hope you enjoy.

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” ~ Eph. 1:6-8

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. ~ Mark Twain

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness. ~ Seneca

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not. ~ Samuel Johnson

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves. ~ Amelia Earhart

Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver. ~ Barbara De Angelis

Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind. ~ Eric Hoffer

Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence or learning. ~ Frederick Faber

© 2008 Tracy Keck

Unexpected Consequence

Recently I discovered an unexpected consequence to planting myself and developing roots. Jeff and I have lived in this house for several years – 7 for him and 6 ½ for me. That is by far the longest either of us have ever lived anywhere. For him, the previous record was about 3 years and for me it was 2 years. He grew up as an Air Force brat and I, well I just moved a lot – particularly as a child. That I remember I went to about 12 different schools before I graduated and for Jeff it was a lot too. For different reasons, we both continued our nomadic lifestyles as adults.

But then we bought this house (actually, he bought it and I got it with the marriage) and though we expected to move again in a fairly short period of time, we are still here. And more importantly, we think we’ll be here for quite awhile! So I guess you could say that for the first time for either of us, we have roots. It has been nice keeping the same address for a long time. No change of address forms have been needed, thank you very much!

So what is this recently discovered, unexpected consequence to remaining in one place? Belongings. Stuff. Clutter. Whatever you want to call it. I have always been a weird sort of packrat. I have always been one to keep things and pack them away, for a time. But I always sorted, donated and discarded (a lot!), when I was packing for a move. It was always my goal to move as little stuff as possible, so consequently every year or two, I’d do major dumping of stuff. During these dumping frenzies, I lost some sentimentality and got realistic (do I really want that badly enough to move it?) about what I actually wanted. It worked.

I have looked around my house lately and thought where did all this stuff come from? There is stuff everywhere. Do I really need or use all of it? No, I’m sure I don’t. Now to be perfectly honest, some of it’s not ours. We’re storing stuff for his mom and for a friend who is out of the country. But still, we’ve got a lot of added stuff, that frankly I’m getting tired of looking at and dealing with. Even though I’m not planning to move anytime soon, I think it’s about time to work up a good dumping frenzy and do a little de-cluttering. But not now - I think I’ll wait till summer is over – this is Arizona (and HOT) after all!

Tuesday, June 24

A Kitty Tale

I've already mentioned that I do other writing besides my blog here at Blogger. One of the places that I write is at FaithWriters. I love participating in the Weekly Challenges because it's fun and really gives me a chance to grow and develop my writing skills. I thought it would be fun to publish one here. Recently, I particpated in a Challenge in which the topic was about 'The Family Pet'. Having 5 furry family members, I had to decide which to write about. I chose my eldest cat, Prissy. She is a beautiful, long-haired Calico, is 12 years old, quite large and still pretty timid. Here is her story.

"I Was Adopted at PetSmart"

I was adopted at PetSmart. It’s true. My 29th birthday gift to myself was a cat. But I thought I would be the one doing the choosing. How wrong I was.

I have always loved animals, especially cats. At this point in my life, I was living by myself for the first time in quite awhile and I couldn’t wait to get a cat. My apartment didn’t have any furniture, but I was going to have a cat – I had my priorities in order, after all, I didn’t mind sitting on the floor! So off I went, with my friend Julie in tow.

As far as I was concerned, there were really only two things that I was set against in the type of cat I would adopt. The first thing was a kitten. I didn’t want a kitten because as cute as they are, I knew from personal experience that they are excessively rambunctious and have a slight tendency toward terrorism! The second thing I knew I didn’t want was a longhaired cat. Now, there’s nothing wrong with longhaired cats, per se, but I have enough of my own hair to deal with!

Armed with those two requirements, I set about the task of choosing the lucky cat that was to go home with me. I say lucky because I know that I’m easily trained. The Adoption Center had many different cats of wonderful variety. There were some cats that I paid attention to and some that I didn’t even give a second glance at because they weren’t within the confines of my requirements.

It was Julie who noticed it. Noticed ‘her’ actually. She started watching one cat in particular, that oddly enough, was watching and responding to me! She drew my attention to a very beautiful longhaired calico cat that was quite pudgy. I patiently explained my requirements again to Julie, like one would to a child. She responded by telling me that this cat that doesn’t fit my requirements, was watching me and would walk back and forth in her cage, trying to follow me, and that in addition, she would put out her paw, as if trying to touch me. I hadn’t even noticed!

Naturally, this drew me to the cat, which immediately ran up to me to be attended to. I backed off and Julie approached and the cat quickly withdrew to the back of the cage. That was it, I couldn’t resist and I was now taking home this beautiful, fat, longhaired calico cat. I began the adoption process and while being interviewed was asked what would I do if I got a boyfriend (I had disclosed that I was single) that was allergic or didn’t like cats. My response to this was simply that it had been my experience that the cats tended to last longer than the boyfriends. I was immediately approved.

With a happy heart, I went home with my new cat all prepared for the hours of petting and cuddle time we’d share. I went into my apartment, let her out and set up her food, water and litter box areas and decided on a name. Prissy disappeared immediately and I knew it was normal for a cat to take a bit of time to get used to a new home, so I wasn’t worried about it. Where could a cat hide in an apartment without furniture, you ask. That’s easy. In the darkened spare room, at the back of the closet. Finally, after a couple of days she started to come out a bit.

I knew she’d been abused before I got her. I guess she knew I’d be patient with her. Ten years later, I still have Prissy and love her to pieces. Since then three other cats (two with longhair), one dog, a husband and now a baby have followed. She’s never gotten over her timidity, and has only recently started really trusting Jeff. I’ve never forgotten that day, when I was adopted by a cat, that was everything I never knew I always wanted – my Prissy.

(C) 2008 Tracy Keck

Monday, June 23

Changes Are A Comin'

Hi there! As you may know, I've actually had two blogs, Seed Thoughts and Random Reflections, though Seed Thoughts has been my focus. In an attempt to simplify, I have decided to merge the two into one. So I will be adding a couple of my posts from Random Reflections, to Seed Thoughts - there are about 3 of them. I apologize for any inconvience and if you've not read the others, I do hope you enjoy them. Thanks as always for reading my blog and the kind comments I've received. Blessings!

A Fruity Kind of Patience

Spending time with the Fruit of Peace has been good. I’ve lingered there much longer than I probably should have. I knew what was coming. I can’t say that I didn’t consider changing the next Fruit on the list from patience to procrastination. I’m naturally much more comfortable with procrastination, but I realize that would be more fitting of the Fruit of the Flesh, than the Fruit of the Spirit. So here I am, having dragged my feet to this next stop on my fruity journey.

To be honest with you, I think I kind of forget about patience when I decided to do this study. I’ve always been more like the person who prays, “Lord give me patience, but do it NOW!” Of course, I don’t actually pray that prayer, because I realize that He may grant that prayer by increasing the amount of situations I’m in that require patience. Lord knows, I don’t want that!

Reflecting on my life, I see how I really have grown in the patience department. Maturity, marriage and motherhood have been good on me in that regard. However, I certainly have not gained enough of the Fruit of Patience. Not by a long-shot. In fact, nothing can make me lose my patience quicker than being in traffic. (I swear I don’t know why they let some people drive, but I digress.) Please understand, that as I write this, I truly am preaching to myself here.

There is a reason that patience is listed as a Fruit of the Spirit. One thing we know about God, is that He desires us to live beyond just us. It does us good to think about others and to consider them and not just ourselves. When you really think about it, impatience is controlling, narcissistic, prideful, selfish, and egoistic - all about self. It is about having things our way and now. Often times, we don’t consider, even for a moment that maybe our way isn’t best, or that there may be a good reason for a delay. Maybe sometimes, we even need to just chill out a little and let things go. It says in Proverbs 19:11, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience, and it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

We live in a fast food, microwaveable, instant gratification society. Credit card companies encourage us to buy now, pay later. Advancing technology allows us to reach out and touch someone, at any time, in any place. Cosmetic surgery gives us the ability to see result in our physical appearance almost immediately. The internet and satellite media gives us world-wide information right now. Isn’t it funny though, that no matter how quickly we get things, or how quickly we travel, it’s never quick enough?

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to observe patience in action, from an unlikely source. Reagan is now nine months old and is learning and growing by leaps and bounds. It amazes me, at how often she shows patience through the learning process. Now it’s not always, I mean the child isn’t perfect, but it is incredibly often. She typically tries things over and over again, with a cheerful spirit. Particularly if the ‘thing’ she is trying is chasing our cat! Though they are still much quicker than her, it’s like she knows someday that will change, if she just keeps at it. I’m astonished at how much patience she shows when she is tired or hungry or getting a bath (especially the washing and drying of her hair). It’s like she instinctively understands, “The end of a matter is better than the beginning, and patience is better than pride.” Eccl. 7:8

There are times when a situation maybe justifies that we are indeed correct in our analysis of said situation. We may actually be right. If we witness or experience an interaction with a person who is driving dangerously, for instance, we know that that individual is driving/behaving badly. However, whatever is in our own hearts is what dictates how we respond to that. Do we let it go, or do we take it personally and let it actually affect us for a period of time? What about with our family? If we continually treat poorly and snap at our loved ones because of something they are doing or not doing, are we not then putting the importance of that activity above the importance of our loved one? Is it really necessary to be right all the time and at any cost? Some say they are most impatient with their loved ones because their relationship gives them that freedom, that they don’t have to mind what they say or do, but I think we should treat them with more patience because we love them.

In truth, growing our patience is growing our grace for others. Growing our patience is developing good character. And growing our patience teaches us that it’s not ‘all about me’. Of course there are times we do have to correct and train, but we know most people respond better with patience and understanding rather than impatience and contempt. There will always be things we want our way and in our time, but if we choose to grow our patience through these times, just think of how much better off we will be! The Bible says we can clothe ourselves with patience – that means we can make a conscious choice to put it on. It says in Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” If it’s still difficult to do, think about God and the patience He offers us daily. I know I’m grateful for that patience, and the best (but certainly not easiest) way to show Him that I am, is to extend that same type of patience to others.

“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, ‘The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.’ Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15: 1-6

© 2008 Tracy Keck

Thursday, June 19

My One Word Responses

A friend of mine started this on her blog and sent out a challenge to participate. It was a series of questions that had to be answered in a single word. It was fun to do, but a little challenging too, on some of the questions. (Or maybe I'm just too "wordy"). Feel free to copy and insert your own one word answers. I hope you enjoy.

1. Where is your cell phone? purse
2. Your significant other? amazing
3. Your hair? ponytail
4. Your mother? Seattle
5. Your father? Absent
6. Your favorite thing? chocolate
7. Your dream last night? dream?
8. Your favorite drink? cold
9. Your dream/goal? published
10. The room you're in? warm
11. Your ex? who?
12. Your fear? snakes
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Montana
14. Where were you last night? home
15. What you're not? wimpy
16. Muffins? chocolate
17. One of your wish list items? acerage
18. Where you grew up? Arizona
19. The last thing you did? vacuumed
20. What are you wearing? shorts
21. Your TV? off
22. Your pets? furry
23. Your computer? slow
24. Your life? full
25. Your mood? content
26. Missing someone? Yes
27. Your car? small
28. Something you're not wearing? make-up
29. Favorite store? Target
30. Your summer? HOT!!!
31. Like(love) someone? definately
32. Your favorite color? PURPLE!
33. Last time you laughed? morning
34. Last time you cried? hmmm?
35. Who will re-post this? someone

Wednesday, June 18

A Fruity Kind of Peace

As I continue on with my Fruit of the Spirit study, I’ve journeyed beyond the comfortable resting place of joy, and have found myself trekking on toward peace. I found myself at a loss as to how to best describe the peace that God gives us. Try as I might, I couldn’t think of a good example or story to tell, that would accurately portray what I wanted to say. Then I received a phone call.

It was a message actually, left by a dear friend, telling me that another friend of ours had given birth on Father’s Day. Normally, this is the kind of news a person would love to receive. But not this birth, not this time. My friend is now, for the second time, planning a funeral following the birth of her child, rather than a homecoming. It was not until during this pregnancy that a rare genetic disease was discovered.

How does one make it through such terrible tragedy, not just once, but twice? Only by the grace of God and the peace he gives us. John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” See, He never tells us that we won’t have trouble. On the contrary, he assures us that we will. It’s a fallen, broken world and bad things happen, even to good people. But that’s not the end. A second look at the verse reveals that we can have peace because He has overcome the world.

For most of us, it didn’t take long in life to realize that things aren’t fair and we can be deeply hurt by other people and by circumstances that are beyond our control. We understand that dark, ominous clouds can roll in at any time, bringing a frightful storm. Sometimes we may have some sort of warning, but other times it’s seemingly from out of nowhere. It can be downright terrifying and it would be easy to be panicked or hysterical, if it were not for God. If we allow Him to, He can step right into the midst of the storm and command peace. That’s what happened in the fourth chapter of Mark. There was a great storm on the sea and the disciples were terrified, so they woke Jesus. The verse reads, “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace! Be still! And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39 Jesus commanded peace to the storm, which brought about calm.

When he was walking on this earth, Jesus taught that trouble, trials, tribulations and storms of various sorts would arise. The degree of severity may fluctuate, but all have the potential to ravage us. It is staggering to consider the potential for loss we all could face. The loss of a job, a home, a dream or a relationship could be a tough burden to bear. The loss of a loved one, especially a spouse or a child could seem to be unbearable. And on our own it probably is. We need to take comfort from something and without God that something could be alcohol, drugs, sex, food or any of a number of things we could do to numb the pain and mask the fear. But when we have God, we can lean on Him and receive the peace He has to give.

In Philippians 4:6-7 it says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” My friend has suffered multiple losses that I would never even want to imagine. But she is strong in Christ and I believe that even through this awful time she is experiencing this peace that surpasses all understanding. I believe she knows that she is a daughter of the King, and that her Father is still on the throne. While she is yet grieving, her heart and mind are guarded from hopelessness and despair.

In no way does this peace make one to be a “Pollyanna” or in denial, but rather it is an understanding that even though we may be facing trouble, trials, tribulations and storms, we are not facing them alone. In God we have someone who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. In God we know that there is someone bigger than us to help us bear our burdens. In God we understand that we will make it through whatever we are facing and this life, with its ups and downs, is only temporary. Our eternal home is with Him in heaven, where there will be no tears, pain, sickness or death. But while we are yet here, He has given us His peace, so that we are not merely survivors, but rather we are over-comers.

Often we hear war protesters chant “Give peace a chance.” Though they are referring to another type of peace, I agree. In Christ, we should give peace a chance indeed!

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

(C) 2008 Tracy Keck

Friday, June 13

An Everyday Hero

I’m really looking forward to this Sunday, which is Fathers Day. Having not ever known my own father, this is the first one I’ll be celebrating and honoring someone I love, my husband Jeff. This is the first year we’re ‘officially’ parents (I’m told the 4-legged kids don’t count). Our sweet baby girl, Reagan, is nearly nine month old. She has been a blessing and a joy for us both.

Just the other day I was asked, what had recently moved me deeply. I promptly responded. Not long ago, I saw Jeff singing to and dancing with Reagan. The scene was perfect and I was immediately moved to tears. It was so beautiful – a man (who doesn’t like to dance, by the way) holding his baby girl close to him, singing and dancing, seemingly oblivious to anything else. It was a sight that truly blessed me and is one I’m not likely to forget.

In that moment I realized how happy I was for my daughter. She has a daddy who loves her more than anything. She is so special in his eyes, and he can’t wait to see her when he gets home at night. Though he is often tired from a long day at work, he still takes time to play with her and just be with her. He has a good, strong work ethic and provides well for his family.

Jeff is a godly man. He has more honor and integrity than anyone I know and his walk matches his talk. He is strong, yet gentle and a great natural leader. Jeff is a very deep person and doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, he has something to say. Something that should be heard. There is a natural wisdom that comes out from deep within him. He’s really intelligent, but also down to earth. He loves his wife and his little girl greatly. He truly is a wonderful man and while the world may not recognize him as such, to us, he’s a hero!

I’ve heard it said that a girl is naturally drawn to guys like her daddy. If that’s true, then I know that many, many years from now, she too will find and marry a good man. One who will love her, take care of her and cherish her the way she deserves to be. Because that is what is modeled for her now… If she’s ever allowed to date, that is!

(C) 2008 Tracy Keck

Thursday, June 12

A Fruity Kind of Joy

I recently set off on a journey, down the path of the Fruit of the Spirit. The first stop was the Fruit of Love. I lingered there briefly, taking in what my Father spoke to me about love. It was a time to appreciate the love He showers down on me always. Though I was happy to bask in the wonder of His love, I did not linger long, as it was time to journey on. I set off down the path again, this time to find myself stopping to experience the Fruit of Joy.

To have the Joy of the Fruit of the Spirit is not the same as being happy. To be happy is fleeting. It’s something that comes and goes and seems to change with the wind. Or if you’re like me, it changes with the traffic. Happiness is not something to count on or trust, because in our busy, hectic, always in overdrive world, it’s very easy to go from happy to irritated, or happy to sad, or happy to frustrated, or, well, you get the picture. The point is, happy can turn on a dime.

Joy, on the other hand, is more than happy. Joy is something that goes deep inside you, to the dark recesses of your soul, and fills it with light. It is the light of having a relationship with God. It is a light that stays lit even when darkness looms. The joy of the Lord doesn’t come through external circumstances, but rather from an internal peace and knowledge that no matter what the situation, God is in control and His love and power will carry you through. I know this from personal experience.

Just over two years ago, I had a miscarriage. I’d never experienced such grief. But in the midst of that grief, I still had joy. My Father, in His great mercy and grace, showed me that my little one was with Him in Heaven, and would never know pain, sickness, sadness or tears. I was able to draw strength and comfort from the joy that was deep within me. No, it didn’t take the sorrow away, but it did give me hope, and it helped me to make it through. Was I happy? No, absolutely not. But the joy of the Lord never left me. At that time, I really understood Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Spiritual joy, or the joy of the Lord, rises up from deep within us, regardless of the circumstances. The Bible tells us in Nehemiah 8:10, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” When we are in the midst a storm in our life, we can trust that if we choose to offer up a sacrifice of praise to the Lord, if we choose to draw on the joy He has deposited in us, we will then be strengthened to withstand whatever may come. This joy of the Lord gives us strength to endure to the end, knowing that if we do not grow weary in doing good, we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up (Galatians 6:9).

So, how do we grow in joy? That’s where external factors come in. There are various activities one can engage in that help to build the joy in your life. Living a life that is holy and pleasing to God builds our joy. Practicing hospitality and helping others who are in need builds our joy. Giving an encouraging word to someone who is hurting or lonely builds our joy. Knowing we are doing something to make another’s life better builds our joy. In other words, laying self aside and doing things that are not about us builds our joy (and kills our flesh). Isn’t that something to rejoice over?

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. – Hab. 3:17-19

(C) 2008 Tracy Keck

Monday, June 9

A Fruity Kind of Love

Last week, I was feeling a little in need for some fresh fruit in my life. Some fresh Fruit of the Spirit, that is. The first characteristic listed as “fruit” in the Fruit of the Spirit, is Love. As I was contemplating Love, one thing kept going through my mind. It’s a song that Frank Sinatra sang called “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.” What the heck does that even mean anyway? But it got me to thinking that there’s no shortage of songs, movies and books that portray an idea of what love is – wonderful, beautiful, passionate, all champagne and roses and happily ever after. We’re led to believe that being “in love” is the pinnacle of achievement emotionally, and when we finally attain that, everything will be okay. Wrong. Like anything else in life that matters, love takes work.

Love, real love, is so much more than a feeling. It’s an emotion that we experience in many kinds of relationships. There is love in familial relationships. There is love in romantic relationships. There is love in platonic relationships. There is love in the relationships we have with our pets. There is even love in chocolate relationships! Certainly there’s a difference in the types and the depths of love we may feel, and that’s ok. Obviously, you’re going to have a stronger love for your child than your friend. You may even have a stronger love for a dear friend than you would for a family member, based on the specific relationships involved. It is important to mention that love is only as healthy as the person who loves.

Love is also a choice and an action. Sometimes we have to choose to love even when we don’t feel like it. When we’ve been hurt by someone we love, it’s not easy moving past the pain, but it can be done if choose to do so. The Bible tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. If we really love someone, we can forgive them when they’ve hurt us or let us down. If we really love someone, we can choose to see beyond their actions, to know their heart and believe in them even when they’ve disappointed us. Special Note: Love is not abusive. If you are in an abusive situation, get help and get out, especially if there are children involved.

The love between a woman and a man can be powerful and passionate, but when the passion fades, what’s left? If they had real love, built on a solid foundation with friendship, shared beliefs, common interests and real commitment, then they still have all of that and their relationship has not crumbled. Passion is good, but there is a natural ebb and flow with passion, it is fluid, not something you can build up or stand on in times of trouble. If that’s all you have, then really you have nothing to hold on to.

There is another kind of love that can occur between a parent and a child. This is a love that is felt no matter what. This love enables a parent to sacrifice their own needs or wants to provide for their child. This love turns a mild-mannered, polite, decent person into a raging, fierce and fearless force to be reckoned with, when their child is in danger. This love gives a parent the strength to go without sleep when their child is sick and to mete out discipline when necessary, to build character and teach the difference between right and wrong. Sadly, this is not experienced by every child, because like any other type of love and relationship, the love that is given is only as healthy as the person who is giving it and if a parent is unhealthy emotionally, they are unable to express or even experience a healthy kind of love.

The best, sweetest and most pure form of love is the love God has for us. It is called agape and it is the only kind of love that is completely without condition. God loves us so much He sent His own Son to die on a cross for us. He loves us so much, that He forgives us when we ask Him to, no matter what we’ve done, and see’s us as His child, forgetting what He’s even forgiven us for. This agape love is what we all want, to know that someone loves us no matter what. When we experience this kind of love, it changes us. It helps us to love others more freely, more compassionately, more unselfishly. It helps us to love the unlovely, and to forgive the unforgiveable. This kind of love is available to all of us, but it’s up to us. We have to choose to receive it.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” ~ Psalm 103:11-13

Normally, I end with a portion of scripture that I feel fits the topic. Today I’d like to finish with something else. While pondering this piece, I was inclined to look up something I’d seen before on the internet. Here are a couple of examples of how children would describe love.

~ Love is that first feeling you feel before all the bad stuff gets in the way.

~ Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.

~ Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.

(C) 2008 Tracy Keck

Thursday, June 5

Feeling Fruity

I’ve been thinking about and wanting a lot more fruit lately. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to cut back on sugar and fruit is naturally sweet. Maybe it’s because it’s summer time and in the hot Arizona summer fruit is cool and refreshing. Maybe it’s because cherries are almost in season and I love cherries! Whatever the reason, I’ve been feeling a bit “fruity”. I really do love so many different types of fruit. Some of my favorites are cherries, strawberries, apples, oranges, cherries, pineapples, bananas, cherries, watermelon, cherries, well you get the idea. There’s so many to choose from! And they’re not just tasty, but they’re good for us too!

Not too long ago, I was kind of on an apple kick. Not any one particular kind of apple, but I was really enjoying many different apple varieties. Some were tart, others sweeter, all were crisp. They were yummy! Right now I have melon in the refrigerator - both cantaloupe and watermelon. Mmmm… What I really want though, what I’m waiting for, are cherries. Oh sure, there’s a few bags at the store, but they’re not really all that good yet and are way too expensive. But the time is coming very soon, that I will have cherries a-plenty. Yeah!

Thinking about all this fruit has led me to thinking about the Fruit of the Spirit. We all bear fruit in our lives. Meaning the characteristics we display. What fruit are we displaying? The Bible tells us we are known by our fruit. Just as a tree is identified by the fruit that grows on it, we are identified by our actions.

I’ve read the Bible a few times, and I know that the Fruit of the Spirit is listed in Galatians 5:22-23. I even have a plaque of the Fruit of the Spirit in my kitchen. So I know what characteristics make up the Fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Pretty simple, right? Well I guess if you’re just reading a list, then yeah, it’s pretty simple. But what about trying to live them out? That’s a bit harder, isn’t it?

So here I am, examining the fruit in my life. Yikes. If I were to be totally honest with myself, and with you, I’d have to say my fruit needs a bit of tending to. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control. Yep, all of these need some work. This task could be a bit daunting. I can already feel my flesh starting to bristle at the thought of my working once again to put it to death. I know this is not a destination, so much as it is a journey, but it’s time to start moving along that path again. I know I’ll never be perfected in this life, but that doesn’t alleviate my responsibility to grow and improve while I’m here.

In this, I’m comforted in knowing that I am not alone. Once again, God will work with me, lovingly, joyfully, peacefully, patiently, kindly, faithfully and gently. Hmm, isn’t it wonderful that He gives us Himself to model after? I am so thankful that though I fail him, often it seems, He loves me anyway and is always ready to forgive me. He never gives up on me. Sometimes I don’t know why, but I’m thankful that He doesn’t.

I intend to examine and write about the Fruit of the Spirit, one characteristic at a time. I hope you’ll join me on this journey, and maybe even tend to some fruit of your own. I’m sure the Lord will speak to us and bless us for our effort.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23

(C) 2008 Tracy Keck