When Family is “Complicated”

Let’s face it. Great Uncle Horace is not going to change this year. He will still be obnoxious, drink too much, bring totally inappropriate gifts and end up snoring in the recliner during the family Christmas gathering. Yes, he’s a piece of work. But he’s your family’s piece of work! Ahhh…. extended families during the holidays. Can someone say, “It’s complicated?” Even if we didn’t have all the drama with in-laws and outlaws and custody…

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A Time to HUSH!

Remembering that day I ran away from home. I ran away from the endless noise of ringing phones and television; the constant responsibility of laundry, meals, and bills; the high piles of deskwork; and even the lovely interruptions from my sweet husband. In other words, I ran away from my life. My gift to myself was three silent days on the shore at a spiri­tual retreat center aptly named Mercy by the Sea. It was…

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A Soul Full of Gratitude

Australian novelist Morris West suggests that at a certain age our lives simplify and we need have only three phrases left in our spiritual vocabulary: “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” English minister John Henry Jowett once observed, “Gratitude is a vac­cine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.” What better cure for what ails society today—choosing to have a grateful heart! Who knew? For a long time, gratitude wasn’t even listed in the Encyclopedia of Human…

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Why Kindness Matters

Today is World Kindness Day. Who knew? Frankly, I believe every day should be World Kindness Day. Because we can choose each day—each moment really—to act kindly, to take the high road and not react with indignation, irritation, or impatience. Sadly, this choice to be kind is more often the exception than the rule these days. Recently I had business at the Department of Motor Vehicles—an out­ing most people dread due to the incredibly long…

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Because Encouragement is a Choice

Because Encouragement is a Choice Lucinda Secrest McDowell As a child he was called Fat Freddy. The other kids bullied and viciously mocked him. He carried this pain inside, hidden to many who knew him. To combat the loneliness he often felt, Freddy used stuffed animals and puppets to create whole new worlds in his bedroom. Places of safety and acceptance. And he determined that ‘victim’ would not define his life. He would be sensitive…

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What She Surrendered…

What She Surrendered… Lucinda Secrest McDowell Sitting on the floor of the attic after uncovering a little ceramic plaque, I realized anew how letting go must be one of the hardest choices a person ever has to make. The plaque displayed a Dutch prayer, the English translation carefully handwritten on the back by a young Dutch mother who had made her home in the United States. Father, I lay the names of my children in…

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How Story Could Change the World

How Story Could Change the World Lucinda Secrest McDowell “Daddy, please tell us a story!” we begged. We had just finished another supper of corn bread, Georgia field peas, baked ham, fresh tomato slices, and, of course, sweet iced tea. My sisters and I had cleared the dishes, and now came the time we eagerly awaited as we sat at the family table. Which one would it be? The one about great-grandfather Pratt, an inventor…

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Mercy Way Back in the Cove

Mercy Way Back in the Cove Lucinda Secrest McDowell My 1968 Ford rattled across the rickety bridge deep in the hollows of Kentucky, literally driving on a wing and a prayer. Rounding the bend, the scent hit me before I even caught sight of the Caudhills’s place. The old weathered house stood on a hill. On the porch and throughout the yard were piles and piles of old clothes that well-meaning people had donated to…

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Are You Ready to Choose What Matters Most?

Are You Ready to Choose What Matters Most? Lucinda Secrest McDowell All the things. Good things. Worthy things. Extraordinary people, adventurous journeys, breathtaking beauty, life-changing words, fulfilling service, quiet moments, and soul-stretching creativity. But how do I choose? My own life is full of obligation, deadlines, hurry, complicated relation­ships, overdue bills, medical challenges, juggling jobs—all seasoned with occasional bouts of guilt and insecurity. Because I can’t do it all. I can’t be it all. Too…

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Leighton Ford’s Deep Influence

Leighton Ford’s Deep Influence Lucinda Secrest McDowell Is your influence on others deep or wide? Today’s culture extols the wide reach. For people in my profession, worth is measured by how many followers we have on social media and how many people come to speaking events or purchase books. Mega­churches are often considered more significant than small country chapels. The time and investment it takes to go deep in another person’s life—to have that kind…

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When the Worst Thing Happens

 When the Worst Thing Happens Lucinda Secrest McDowell What does a 34-year-old man do when he hears these two phrases only days apart: “Congratulations, you have a baby daughter!” and “I’m so sorry to tell you that your wife has liver cancer?” He makes a choice to move forward into each new day, trusting in God’s strength and seeking to fulfill his calling as loving husband and father. He perseveres. At least that’s the way…

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Are You Too Weary to Climb that Mountain?

 Are You Too Weary to Climb that Mountain?  Lucinda Secrest McDowell “How much farther to the top?” I panted to my hiking companions. My Furman friends and I loved to spend weekends climbing in the Great Smokey Mountains, but I inevitably seemed to drift into that unenviable position of ‘bringing up the rear.’ “Not too far, Secrest. You can make it. Keep going,” one of them yelled down. I turned and leaned my backpack against the…

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