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One aptly spoken accolade can go a long way toward motivating positive change, giving strength to the weary, and perseverance to those trudging through the mundane. And to the contrary–silence can sap a friend, ministry team member, child, or spouse’s strength. Consider the following: My daughter loves art, and I believe she’s quite good at it. But… she didn’t start out good. No one does. Everyone begins with scribbles which progress to stick figures. Sure, some will show more aptitude than others, but aptitude alone doesn’t necessarily lead to growth. There’s a key ingredient, I believe, in growth and that is encouragement. Hearing someone say, “You’re good at that,” often motivates one to try harder and be better.

In Hebrews 10:24 Paul encourages us to be one another’s cheerleaders when he says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (NLT). Today my sweet friend and coffee buddy, LoRee Peery takes a deeper look at this important word, sharing tangible ways we can stand behind and walk beside our brothers and sisters in Christ. As you read her fun devotion, I encourage you to pause to take time to look up and read each verse, asking God to help you put it into practice.

But first, I wanted to announce the winner of last week’s give-away! Sheila Hall, congrats! You won a copy of Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s novel, Rodeo Family! I’ll contact you shortly! 

And speaking of give-aways, Amazon is practically giving away my debut novel, Beyond I Do! They’ve marked it down, print and kindle copy, to two bucks and change! If you haven’t read it and were wanting to, now’s a great time to grab a copy. You can get it here. Might want to stock up for all those upcoming birthdays as well. :)

ENCOURAGING WORDS by LoRee Peery

Writers are all about words. Some words jump off the page with meaning. Consider the word encourage. The motivation for encouragement is LOVE. Love abounds in God’s people when we are open to opportunities to encourage one another.

After all, we are continually encouraged through the Holy Spirit as we dig into what God has written to us through the Bible. As the children of God, we have a responsibility to pass on encouragement.

E = EDIFY                        love edifies                                                                   1 Corinthians 8:1_LOW7494small

N = NOURISH                constantly nourished on the words of faith          1 Timothy 4:6

C = CARE                         have the same care for one another                       1 Corinthians 12:25

O = ONE ANOTHER     build up one another                                                 1 Thessalonians 5:11

U = URGE                       urged to encourage the fainthearted                      1 Thessalonians 5:14

R = REFRESH                they have refreshed my spirit                                  1 Corinthians 16:18

A = ACCOMPLISH        prayer accomplishes much                                      James 5:16

G = GIVE                         more blessed to give than to receive                      Acts 20:35

E = EXHORT                  spiritual gift to come alongside.                             Romans 12:8

Hebrews 3:13 reads “But ENCOURAGE one another day after day.”

Sometimes encouragement doesn’t require words. How much do you smile when you’re out in public? I try to make eye contact and smile. Sometimes that’s hard if I’m concentrating on my next purchase, especially in the grocery store. If I’m not a woman on a mission, though, I do try to acknowledge others.

Now, my husband is a retired salesman. He smiles and talks to almost everyone he meets. Sometimes those people don’t even have to be looking at him. But I’ve seen him brighten a stranger’s day many times over. On occasion he doesn’t use many words. He may reach for something too high for an older shopper. He opens doors, he’s put packages in trunks, and he’s aided those dedicated spouses struggling with the wheel chairs of their mates. I can’t count the times some woman has said to him, “You’re the first man to ask if I needed help.”

I encourage you to take these thoughts to heart and make someone’s day by a word or act of encouragement. We are in this faith journey together.

CreightonsHideaway_w11172_300

Creighton’s Hideaway:

Needing to finish her thesis in order to keep her job working with youth in a residential treatment center, Shana Arnold sequesters herself on Creighton Rice’s Nebraska ranch. She expects the secluded hideaway to provide a peaceful environment. What she doesn’t expect is to become the victim of identity theft and a crazed home invader. Creighton Rice has been content to live alone with his God–until he meets Shana. He’s drawn to her, but must fight the attraction. Getting close makes him face a lifetime’s accumulation of scars. Plus, Shana doesn’t share his faith. But when Shana’s life is threatened, Creighton must protect her–even if it means letting her in. Will Shana discover that even when a woman loses everything, she can regain courage and strength through faith in God, and can Creighton allow God to heal scars and open the door to a lifetime with Shana?

Buy it here!

 

 

 

A Nebraska country girl, LoRee Peery attempts to see God’s presence every day. Often that gift comes from nature, and she is most relaxed in the outdoors. The call of a cardinal draws her to look for the distinctive flash of crimson. A meadowlark’s melody always transports her to the farm where she grew up. A rainbow holds special significance, since one appeared the day of her father’s funeral and means the promise of the Lord’s presence in her life. She clings to I John 5:4 and prays her family sees that faith.

You can find her at www.loreepeery.com or the Pelican Book Group site http://tinyurl.com/kwz9enk

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! I’ve heard it said, people will rarely remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel. We are a tired, discouraged, insecure bunch in desperate need of encouragement. Who can you encourage today, and how? Perhaps make a list. Maybe make a list daily. Your friends, family, and co-workers will love you for it. :)

Share your thoughts and ideas here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

For those following my book-launch tour, here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Today I stopped by Angela Meyer’s to talk about the best possible response to a chaotic day. You can read more here.

Yesterday I participated in a book give-away (which is still going on). Give-awa, and talked about how God uses everything–every tear and regret–to bring about His glorious purposes. Knwoing this should bring us great joy and peace, regardless of our circumstances. Read more here.

Yesterday was a busy day, cyber-space speaking. Ginger Solomon interviewed Jacqueline Dunn, the main female character in my sophomore novel, When Dawn Breaks. You can read that here. I also encourage you to read a short story I wrote through the eyes of one of America’s forgotten children. You can read that here.

I also got all mushy and sentimental yesterday on Gail Pallotta’s blog as I talked about what I really wanted this Valentine’s Day. You can read my post here.

Reviewer Sarah Ruut invited me to visit her blog to talk about my novel and passion for writing. You can join our conversation here.

An old writing mentor, Fay Lamb, had me on her blog this past week, starting with a guest post, then a character interview, and finally an author interview. Pop by to learn more about me, my novel, and Jacqueline Dunn.

OLATHE_Slattery signing_JAN15-FBThis weekend I’m heading back to Kansas City (Olatha, KS, actually) to do a signing, and I have to say, my Northland church family has blessed my socks off by their outpouring of encouragement and support. I was touched not only by their actions but by the knowledge that God spurred them to it, which was like a gentle hug from my Savior and a clear reminder that He’s in this writing thing. To my Northland family, I love you guys! Can’t wait to reconnect! :)

The following weekend (Feb. 7th) I’ll be speaking at the Art of Marriage conference here in Papillion. I’d love to see you. I cannot recommend this conference enough. It’s one my hubby and I go to annually. It’s that good, and that important! That afternoon, I’ll be signing copies of both my novels at the Bookworm in Omaha (at 4pm). I’d love to see a slew of Christian fiction readers come! I love supporting secular stores that support carry Christian fiction. :)

ACFW 5

Shannon and I at the ACFW conference in 2009. Or 2010. I can never remember!

Moms, do you ever feel like the gimmees have infiltrated your home? Like your child’s main focus is himself? Since our ancestor Adam first bit of the forbidden fruit, mankind has been dominated by selfishness. Yet, according to many, this generation is the worst. I’m not sure if that’s true or if technology simply makes our character flaws more evident, but regardless of where we measure up compared to those who lived before us, it’s no secret, we’ve got a bad case of the MEs! Our children included. So how do we counter this constant pull toward selfishness? Today multi-published author Shannon Taylor Vannattor shares her thoughts with us.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of her romance novel, Rodeo Family, to a reader randomly selected in the comments left on today’s post.

But first, I want to announce last week’s winner. Pat Dyer, congrats! You won an e-copy of Stephanie Prichard’s novel, Stranded. I’ll email you shortly to discuss the best way for her to get that to you.

(Shannon, we need a new picture! Let’s plan to go to a conference together soon!)

Children Learn by Example by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

From the time my son’s motor skills were firing, whenever we went shopping before Christmas, I’ve given him money to put in the Salvation Army buckets. Anything from one to five dollars. I’ve always explained that the money is to buy Christmas gifts for kid’s whose parents don’t have any money. By the end of the season, we probably contribute $200.00.

Over the years, he’s kept me accountable. If I don’t have any cash, he gives me the I-can’t-believe-we-just-snubbed-the-bellringer look. When we check out, I add cash back to my total, so we can put money in on the way out. We also take coats my son has outgrown to the bellringers.

At thirteen, he tries to get me to put the money in these days, but I still make him do it. Hopefully, someday far in the future, he’ll teach his child to put money in the bucket.

For the last several years, our church has donated shoeboxes to the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child ministry. After all the money and items are donated, my son and I volunteer to shop for items with the donated funds. Before our shoebox packing party, he goes with me to the church and helps me sort all the items and set up tables by age and gender. At the packing party, my son packs shoeboxes for a boy his age.

The other night, we were watching Survivorman, one of his favorite shows. The host goes to remote areas and gives tips on how to survive if you get lost. Survivorman was in Papua New Guinea. He got sick and the villagers offered him shelter. They lived in huts with slatted walls you could see daylight through.

I took the opportunity to explain to my son that the kids who get our shoeboxes live in houses like that.

His eyes saucered. “Really?”

ID-10033025

Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

This past year, as the packing party neared, I had a horrible virus and was afraid he’d been exposed. We didn’t get to do the shopping or help pack boxes. I missed it and wondered if he did. I hope seeing those children living in such poverty made him anxious to pack shoeboxes next year.

For local ministry, we have a battered women’s shelter in our area. Over the years, we’ve donated furniture, clothes, and toys. Our church takes any leftover meals from funerals to the shelter and our members have bought Christmas gifts for the kids. We have to call and let them know we’re coming, especially if there are men helping with deliveries. My son has been there on several occasions.

Our association of twenty-three churches recently bought a food services van. Once it’s finished, the van will go anywhere in Arkansas where a natural disaster has occurred, serve food, and witness to survivors. Arkansas is in the middle of tornado valley. I’m hoping this summer, we can take a training course as a family and be available for this ministry when tragedy strikes.

By including my son in helping others, I hope all of the small gestures we make stick with him. That he’ll always remember there are those less fortunate than us and that he’ll always be willing to help.

Rodeo Family coverRodeo Family:

TORI EATON IS READY TO START OVER 

She’s beginning a new chapter in Aubrey, Texas, away from her abusive ex-boyfriend. As she picks up the pieces of her broken life, Tori’s surprised at the helping hand the church’s new song director, Brant McConnell, offers her, and at the warm emotions he inspires.

Brant is drawn to Tori. And as their friendship grows, so do his feelings for her. But Tori is still hounded by her past, and the walls she’s built around her heart are high. Can he convince the wounded beauty that he’s exactly the kind of man she needs—and deserves?

Buy it on Christian Book Distributors here!

Get it from Amazon here!

Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.

She has ten published titles and is contracted for five more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Visit her website here to learn more about Shannon and her books and check out her real life romance blog here to read true stories from other writers. 

Connect with her on FacebookGoodreadsPinterest, and Twitter by searching: @stvauthor.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this!Raising godly children is such a tremendous responsibility and such an incredible honor. What a blessing to think God has entrusted us with these most precious gifts. May everything we do honor that great calling we have received. What are some family habits or events that have produced positive behaviors in your children? What are some things you are doing now to grow certain character traits in your children? What are some behaviors you’d like to counter, and what are some ways you can do that? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before you go, I have some fun news! My debut novel, Beyond I Do is on sale at a limited time for $3.34 in print and kindle form! If you haven’t read it yet but have been wanting to, now’s a great time! You also might want to stock up on Mother’s Day gifts, birthday gifts, and next year’s Christmas gifts! :) Because the book presents a clear gospel message, some readers have been buying numerous copies to give to nonbelieving friends as evangelism tools.

Now, for those following my book launch tour, here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Yesterday on Takin’ it to the Streets’ blog, I reminded readers to rest in God’s strength. You can read more here.

I also visited A Word of Encouragement to discuss the question: Is venting biblical. You can read more about that here.

Tuesday I visited fellow Living by Grace hostess, Maria Morgan’s blog to share how God used one woman’s surrender to bless many during Reality Church’s first ever Women’s Connection Event. You can read about that here.

On Monday I stopped by Novel Rocket to discuss ways for writers to keep their heads in storyworld when life tries to pull them from it. You can read more about that here. 

I also stopped by Karen Beery’s blog to discuss Christian fiction and how imperfect characters reveal God’s grace. You can read that here. 

I also visited Writing Prompts to  chat with my sweet friend, Jennifer Hallmark, contributor to A Dozen Apologies and Sweet Freedom. You can join the conversation here.

On InspyRomance.com, I shared some ways you can revive a dead marriage (or make a strong marriage stronger). You can read my suggestions here. 

Finally, on Friday I visited with Lena Nelson Dooley, where I shared a bit about my novel and an excerpt. You can join that conversation here.  One of the characters in When Dawn Breaks stopped by Infinite Characters to talk about widowhood and true love. You can read that here. 

OLATHE_Slattery signing_JAN15-FBAnd before I go, for those of you in driving distance to Olathe, KS, I hope you’ll join me next Saturday (Jan. 31st) at Lifeway Christian Book store where I’ll be signing copies of both my books, then afterwards, whoever wants to is invited to join me and some other authors at Homer’s Coffeehouse in Overland Park to chat about books and other pure randomness while we gorge ourselves on heavily-flavored coffee! Holly Michael, author of Crooked Lines will be there. Yay!

Steph's Rools of Grammar-1 smallUnanswered prayers we can deal with, but what happens when the very thing you pray fervently to avoid occurs? In secular psychology that’s called aversion therapy. In Chrsitiandom it’s called unexpected grace. Today Stephanie Prichard, author of Stranded, shares a time when God brought about the very thing she’d been praying He keep her from. As you read it, pause to consider your prayers and protective hedges, then dream about what life might look like if those hedges were removed.

GIVE-AWAY! Note: Stephanie has graciously donated an e-copy of her novel, to be given away to one reader chosen randomly through the comments left on this post. 

Before I continue, and as long as we’re shouting out book deals, I wanted to let you all know, Amazon currently has Beyond I Do on sale for under $6! Print and e-copies! Get yours here. Read a free 36-page excerpt here.

Pleeease, Not Ice! by Stephanie Prichard

Because I’m somewhat expressive (I say “imaginative,” my children say “drama queen”), I occasionally lack credibility with my offspring. Take the winter I was in Chicago helping my daughter recover from surgery. Every day I walked my grandchildren to and from school, loving the stroll with them between rows of condos on a street bustling with traffic. A right-hand turn down a quieter, tree-lined street led to the school.

It was that quieter (read “deserted”) street that caught my imagination when the sidewalks turned into sheets of ice the very hour I needed to get the kids. “I can just see myself falling and breaking my leg,” I told my daughter. “I’ll be lying there, unable to move, and along will come some man. ‘Can I help you?’ he’ll say, and when I tell him I can’t move he’ll wring his hands in delight and go ‘Mwhooohooohooohaha!’” I paused at my daughter’s rolling eyeballs.

“It’s your last day here, Mom. The kids will be disappointed if you don’t walk them home.” She handed me a scarf and mittens and pushed me out the door. Well, it felt like she did, anyway.

Hoo, were those sidewalks slick! Barely maintaining my balance, I slipped and slid and skidded ten steps forward, heart thumping, sweat gushing from my armpits. Dare I crawl on my hands and knees? If I could make it to the corner, maybe someone would help me stand and cross the street. But what if no one was there? I’d have to crawl across the street in front of the stopped traffic, and they’d all laugh at me. We drama queens do have our limits, you know.

I eyed the patches of lawn between the sidewalk and condos. Well, duh, why not walk on the grass? The blades, though glazed with ice, would provide texture to tread on. With a sigh of relief, I stepped onto the frozen grass.

And fell.

Yep. Onto the hard sidewalk. With my foot twisted under me. And I couldn’t move.

“Can I help you?” A man appeared out of nowhere.

As if following my own script, I said, “I can’t move.”

I stiffened, waiting for the “Mwhooohooohooohaha!” Instead, he pulled out his cell phone and asked, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”

“Please! And can you call my daughter too?”

Within minutes, she was skidding across the winter wonderland to kneel beside me. Tears spilled from her eyes. “Mom, I’m so sorry!”

How could I say “I told you so” to that?

An ambulance ride and five hours in the emergency room later, I learned I had broken my ankle. Ouch. The very circumstance I had feared … had come true.

That little drama effected a mighty change in me.

I was a coward, and I had ended up in exactly the situation I was afraid of. What if, instead of squaring off my anxiety against circumstances (pleeease, not ice!), I had addressed my character deficiency (I need to be brave)?

ID-10075996Until this incident, my prayers for myself and others had pretty much asked for avoidance of any kind of suffering. Please, heal his cancer … give her a happy marriage … don’t let him lose his job. My prayers spoke only to circumstances, not to character transformations. Now I pray, Please, may he trust in Your plan for his life … may she learn to forgive her husband … may he see his shortcomings at work.

We don’t know if it’s God’s will to change a circumstance, but for sure we know it’s His will for us to grow in godliness.

***

Stephanie is an army brat who lived in many countries around the world and loved it. She met her husband at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where she majored in English/Literature. She and Don have lived in Indianapolis, IN, for forty years, and in retirement have turned to co-authoring novels now that their three children are busy raising a beautiful crop of grandchildren for them.
All Marine Corps reservist Jake Chalmers wants is to give his dying wife a last, romantic cruise to the Philippines. Unable to save her in a mass murder aboard ship, he washes ashore a jungle island, where he Stranded Front FAC72discovers three other survivors. Heartbroken that he failed to save his wife, he is determined not to fail these helpless castaways.
Federal prosecutor Eve Eriksson rescues a young girl and her elderly great-aunt from the same ship. They badly need Jake’s survival skills, but why is he so maddeningly careful? She needs to hurry home to nail a significant career trial. And, please, before Jake learns her secret that she’s responsible for his wife’s death.
LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. What do your prayers center around? I find, if I don’t actively pray against it, I can be incredibly self-centered. When that happens, my prayers become largely about my comfort and self-preservation. But when I turn my focus off myself and put it onto Christ and others, my prayers change and become more eternal focused. What about you? Have you had a learning moment, like Stephanie did, that altered the way you thought or prayed? What do you do to keep your prayers focused on Christ and His mission, whether in you (your growth) or in the world at large? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.
And speaking of prayers and God’s attentive handiwork, join me on Kimberly Rose Johnson’s as I talk about testing, addressing the question: If God’s all-knowing, why would He test us? 
AND, before you go, I encourage you to stop by Faith-filled Friend’s new blog to sign up for our newsletter and receive two free ebooks, Sweet Freedom volumes one and two along with great, free content every quarter, including:
Healthy and family favorite recipes, scenes from a novel that will grip your heart and increase your faith in Christ, devotions, and more! Visit Faith, Friends, and Chocolate (our new name!) and click on the newsletter sign-up button in the right hand column/side bard. (Go here.)
For those wanting to follow my launch, here’s where I’ve been this past week:
GIVE-AWAY! Yesterday I visited the Engrafted Word where I shared how God used a painful event to reiterate and impassion my call. You can read the interview here, and engage in the conversation to get entered into the give-away drawing.
On Monday I visited Simple Country Faith to share a time when it seemed God’s leading directly contradicted my husband’s will. So what do you do when you’re certain God is asking you to do something but your spouse is strongly set against it? Read more here.
On Thursday I chatted with blogger and book reviewer Cindy Loven about my latest release, When Dawn Breaks. You can join our conversation here.
BooksigningposterforFCLincolnpublicity-page-001 And for my fellow Nebraskans (or those looking to embark on a road trip :) ) I’ll be at Family Christian in Lincoln a week from Saturday and would love to see you! And if you have any friends in the Lincoln area, please share the event with them. I’d love it if you’d share the event picture on your social media sites as well. :) I love my publishing company and all they do in regards to missions and would love to see them thrive. :)
To my Kansas City area friends, I’ll be in your area at the end of the month. Details to follow.

ID-100161689I’ve often said, forgiveness is rarely a one-time event. Nor is it an emotion, at least originally. It usually begins with a choice, sometimes a teeth-gritting, white-knuckling, Lord Jesus please help me, choice. One that must be made again and again and again, every time old wounds and negative emotions resurface.

Forgiveness is rarely easy, but it is possible, with God’s help.

Today my friend, Janet Sketchley, Author of Secrets and Lies, shares her thoughts on Janet Sketchley headshot 350x350 (1)how we can begin to move toward forgiveness, and the freedom and healing that offers.

BUT FIRST I wanted to announce last week’s give-away winner.

LoRee, congrats! You won a copy of When Dawn Breaks! I’ll shoot you an email so we can talk about the best way for me to get that to you. :) In the meantime, you can read the first two chapters here. 

And now, for Janet’s encouraging thoughts.

Forgiveness by Janet Sketchley

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12, NLT

Someone hurts you. Next day, she apologizes. Do you say it’s okay, not a big deal? Pretend nothing happened, for the good of the relationship? Or do you refuse to forgive? Can you forgive, if it’s a major hurt?

Forgiveness is more about the victim than the offender. We’ve all been both. As the wounded parties, we can find healing and wholeness by acknowledging what happened and letting it go. Otherwise it stays inside us and continues to do damage.

“But you don’t know what she did!” No, but I know the hardest things are beyond our power to forgive without Jesus helping us. It can take years to start forgiving a traumatic hurt, and that may be just the first step. It may need regular repetition until that forgiveness “takes” at our deepest levels.

Forgiveness (1)

Dismissing a hurt, or learning to work around it, isn’t forgiveness. Honest forgiveness is a hard choice and it takes time, and we still have the after-effects of the hurt. If I steal from you and you forgive me, wisdom says you shouldn’t put me in charge of your bank password.

God’s forgiveness is different. If we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross to buy us back from destruction, He forgives us. Every time we ask with a sincere heart. Even for the same offense, again and again.

He never denies the effects of our sin, and we may live with  its consequences. He forgives, but He doesn’t brush it off—the chance at forgiveness came at a great cost. But He removes it.

People may struggle to forgive, or may say they do without really meaning it. With God, we can believe that once He forgives, He truly does put the matter away. Not forgets, not dismisses. He marks it “paid.” That allows us to see the depth of the cost, the strength of the offense. But it doesn’t leave us with a burden to prove ourselves or to earn our way back into His good graces.

God knows our hearts and intentions—and our weaknesses. He likely wouldn’t put an embezzler, for example, back into the same position of trust. There are consequences in our world. But He regularly forgives and cleans us up, knowing that despite our best intentions we’ll mess up again. He doesn’t keep a tally that will eventually cut us off. Instead He offers as much help as we’ll take. As often as we need it.

In the mean time, He acknowledges the weight of what we’ve done, minimizing nothing. Jesus Himself paid the price. Now He works in and with us to remake us. How strong a love is that?

***

Janet Sketchley is the author of Heaven’s Prey and Secrets and Lies, two novels of suspense and redemption. She also blogs about faith and books. Janet loves adventure stories, worship music, tea and Formula 1 racing. Like Carol in Secrets and Lies, she loves music and tea. Unlike Carol, Janet isn’t related to a dangerous offender, has a happy home life, and has never been threatened by a drug lord. May those tidbits continue to hold true! You can find Janet online at janetsketchley.ca. Fans of Christian suspense are invited to join Janet’s writing journey through her monthly newsletter: bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews.

Visit Janet online at:

Website: http://janetsketchley.ca/

Join Janet’s author journey – sign up for her monthly newsletter: http://bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews

Secrets and Lies page (includes purchase links): http://janetsketchley.ca/books/secrets-and-lies/

Read a sample chapter here. 

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livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! We’ve all been hurt, betrayed, let down by someone we love. So how do we handle that? How have you dealt with past pains? Did you find forgiveness took effort and perseverance, or did God grant you a miraculous emotional healing and change of heart? Or perhaps you’re still hurting, still trying to fight for forgiveness. If so, did Janet’s post help you? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. 

Other posts and articles you might find helpful:

Fighting to Forgiveness

490 Forgiveness

Freedom in Forgiveness

How to Trade Bitterness for Blessings

For those of you not on Facebook but who would like to follow my book-launch blog tours, signings, and interviews and such:

Yesterday on Bonnie Leon’s blog, I shared the time I asked God for permission to quit. You can read that here.

Tuesday I chatted with Greg Vogt, station manager of Omaha’s KCRO about my new release and the inspiration behind it. You can listen to our on-air discussion here:

Monday and Tuesday I participated in two blog interviews.

Join me on Kelly Liberto’s blog here.

Join me on Grid-iron Granny’s here.

On Saturday, I visited with Alexis from Capturing the Idea. You can read our chat here.

ID-100264082They say, actually, I’ve said, blog titles matter. A lot. Most of you–like 89.7% of you, decided whether or not to read this post by my title alone.  I have a feeling this is doubly true for my subscribers. Fail. (Actually, I’m wondering if any of y’all are receiving my posts in your inbox because my hubby’s signed up but hasn’t.) Another 5% of you, well, of them because clearly if you’re still reading, you’re in the top 5.3%. … Or is that the bottom? Regardless, unlike that other 5%, you have not checked out after this long and rambling paragraph. And for that I applaud you. (Or pity you.)

But it’s the holidays, and my brain is saturated by a bit too much junk and random storylines (only one of them being my own.) Plus, I just learned from two sweet blogging friends, Renee Blare and Eileen Rife, that I’ve been nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers award.

How fun is that? I’m normally pretty bad about those types of things because well… I can be technologically lazy. But this one intrigued me, and like I said, I’m in a jing-jingaly (AKA goofy, adventurous mood), and I thought some of you might be interested in a pre-2015 update. (Is that a thing?)

Oh, but first, fun news! Book reviewer Julie Arduini chose my debut, Beyond I Do as her favorite fiction read for 2014. :) You can read her review here. Here’s hoping she WhenDawnBreakspreliminary(and all of you) likes When Dawn Breaks even more! And if you’re up and looking for an encouraging message to motivate you toward spiritual greatness this New Year’s, visit Cynthia Simmons Heart of the Matter online show to listen to our discussion of surrendering our giftedness into God’s hands, enduring the often painful growth process, and allowing Him to use you and your uniqueness to minister to others and build His kingdom. You can listen live at 9:30 EST here, and I should have a link to the archive soon.

Now for the blog award. Having accepted, here are the rules I now must follow:

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the 10 questions they’ve sent you.
4. Make up 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.

So, here’s the questions Renee posed. I’ll post and answer Eileen’s after. (For those of you really up for massive amounts of Jennifer-randomness. ha!) Come back Saturday or Monday (I’m not sure when I’ll post yet) for a regularly scheduled yet rescheduled blog post. :)

1. How is your blog different today versus the day it began?

You know, I think it’s pretty much the same–Christian living based, mainly testimonial in style. I do have a lot more guests now than I did initially, and I love that. I feel that makes it more well-rounded. After all, we need each other. We all have unique insights into spiritual matters, unique experiences and unique yet universal challenges. :) (Come back… uh… next time (maybe Saturday?) to read a great post from Stephanie Prichard on forgiveness. (Perfect timing post the holidays, maybe?)

2. If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?

Easy! Spur every Christian to live out what they believe. Can you imagine what our world would be like–how many hungry would be filled and hurting would be healed if we all got off the church pew and started BigLivetangibly showing the love of Christ? I’m seeing this happen more and more at my church, and it’s awesome. Truly beautiful. Life changing, like truly. We see life change every day.

3. Who or what would be your ultimate post?

Oh, this is hard, but if I could somehow write one succinct, clear, and powerful post on surrender that stuck with my readers, truly stuck with them, I think my answer to question 2 would happen naturally. Now, if I could find and maintain a position of surrender myself…

4. In 2015, what are your plans?

Oh, my, I have a lot! Were you wanting a novel answer, Renee? ;) First, I’m working on an exciting fundraising project for Takin it to the Streets, an Omaha Metro ministry I serve with. I also have two books releasing this year (one that has already released, When Dawn Breaks, and the other that is scheduled to release in October). So, I’ll have edits and such to complete. I’m also working on a new story, one I recently realized I need to majorly gut and start over on, but that’s a good thing. A great thing, because I know the changes will be awesome. Necessary. I’m going to the Mt. Hermon conference in Northern California this year and hope to meet my editor in person. Yay! Then my loves will meet me in San Jose and we’ll head south to San Diego. Then in September my hubby and I will celebrate our 20th in Seattle, where my 4th novel (scheduled to release in winter of 2016) is set. Busy but exciting year. :)

5. Do you have a favorite day of the year?

ID-100298323The one I’m in? haha. You know, when we first moved to the midwest, I hated winter. But a few years in, I’ve found I love every season. Though I probably love fall most. The colors, scents, flavors, activities. Valas Pumpkin Patch, Nebraska City with its beautiful, vibrant foliage.

Oh! Do you mean day-day? That’s Easter, hands down. My life would be devastatingly different if not for Christ’s death and resurrection.

6. Why and how did you start blogging?

I’m not entirely sure. I’ve often wondered if it’s just part of the writer’s brain, as if we need to someone include the ENTIRE WORLD in everything we think and do. It’s like I’ll be reading a Bible passage and God will speak to me through it, and I’ll think, “Oh! I need to write about this!” Or I’ll be having a fun day with friends and will absolutely have to chase down a random stranger to cajole into taking our picture so I can post it here. Or on Facebook. Most likely both. As to how, I just started. This blog is hosted by WordPress, and they make it pretty easy.

7. What do you like about blogging?

It gives me an outlet to share the 5,000 conversations zipping through my brain every day. :) It also makes me feel more connected to my readers, well, when they converse back. :)

8. What have you discovered through blogging?

That God is amazing. Faithful. Loving. Gentle. Attentive.

9. Who or what is the one thing that means the most to you?

One thing? I’d have to say Christ, but can I add two more? My hubby and princess. Love them both to pieces. 2012-06-23 22.29.50

10. What do you want the readers of your blog to know about you?

That I have been dramatically changed by grace, and that that same grace is available to them. :) Really, I hope they know less about me and more about Christ in me. Because truly, I’m a let down. But knowing Christ on an intimate level? Now that’s life abundant!

Now, for the 1.5% of you who have made it this far, you really deserve a cookie or something. Well, now, isn’t that a great idea! If you’ve made it this far, let me know in the comments what one thing you’d like me or perhaps others to know about you, and you’ll get entered to win a copy of my latest release, When Dawn Breaks. :) Considering everyone else has long since closed out this window, you stand a great chance of winning. :)

Now for Eileen’s questions. 

1. What is your foremost prayer in this new year?
I’m not sure if it will remain my top prayer, but this morning I wrote down Psalm 105:1-4 as my first memory passage and have determined to make it a prayer. (I love personalizing and praying Scripture!) The verse is: Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;
    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
ID-10075996Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.
I could expand on and camp out on each line indefinitely, but I really love verse four–search for the Lord and for His strength; continually seek Him. Each day, I long to do just that, asking the Holy Spirit to help me.
2. Name three goals that you’d like to shoot for.
To consistently memorize Scripture, to draw near to God at regular intervals throughout the day, and to follow a prayerfully planned schedule each day.
3. What is your current writing project?
I’m working on a sequel to Beyond I Do. Here’s the blurb:Sixty-one year old Angela Meadows is ready for a clean slate, to launch a career, and to embrace her new life in Christ. But self-loathing and remorse for a life forever lost hold her back. When she encounters a single mom married to an incarcerated felon and her children, Angela’s shame becomes swallowed by something greater—compassion. Her past draws her to them, but will it drive away the only man she’s truly loved?

4. What do you enjoy doing for fun?
Spending time with my hubby, daughter, or amazing friends. And if I can get them all in the same room, it’s even better!
5. Other than the Bible, name the book that’s had the most impact on your life and why.
thProbably Living Proof: Sharing the Gospel Naturally. It’s really helped me understand nonbelievers more, has greatly shaped my evangelism efforts, and has had a tremendous impact on how I do ministry. It’s a phenomenal book!
6. What will you do in this new year to reach out to someone else other than your family?
Oh, my, this could be a long list. :) I serve in numerous ministries, so I have plenty of opportunities to share the love of Christ. Our church does a great job of facilitating events designed to get our church family off their pews and out into the community. Our next one will be an epic Easter celebration. :) In addition, I’m part of a women’s connection leadership team that plans monthly events designed to facilitate closer friendships, spiritual growth, and to help each of us reach out to nonattenders. (You can read more about some of our events here.)
7. Explain why you like to write.
Writing is and has always been how I process my thoughts and feelings and dig deeper into learned truths. That God could use something He’s used to grow me for years to grow others is simply amazing.
8. What legacy do you hope to leave behind when you die?
The hope of Christ.
9. Do you consider the local church important? Why or why not?
Oh, my, yes! God has placed us in a local body for a reason, and that is to be interdependent. Our gifts can build others up, and theirs can do the same for us. The local church is also God’s action plan for bringing the world to Christ. So yeah, the local body is a big deal.
10. How can women who feel alone overcome isolation?
Hm… I know the pat answer–draw near to Christ, but even so, we all need human connection. It’s how we were created. Sometimes God places us in a period of isolation for our growth, but most times, I believe He longs to see us in deep and authentic community. I think getting connected with a local body, focusing on the needs of others, and finding ways to get plugged in (most often through serving) are great ways to form authentic, healthy connections.
So now for my questions…
1. What is the best thing that happened to you in 2014?
2. What is one thing you’d like to do differently in 2015?
3. What is one thing you learned in 2014?
4. In what ways do you grow your most important relationships?
5. What one verse has stood out to you most in the past year?
6. In what ways did you see Christ this past year?
7. In what ways did you try to reveal Christ this past year?
8. Has God given you a word to focus on for 2015?
9. How has your view of grace changed this past year and why?
10. If you could be known for one thing, what would that be?
I nominate my Writing Buddies: Carole Towriss, Marji Lane Clubine, Joanne Sher, Mary Watson Hamilton, Ginger Murphey Solomon, and Lillian Kohler.

Just when I’d begun to dive full-in to this faith thing, questions began to arise. Big questions. Questions that, depending on the answers, had the capacity to completely derail my faith. And that terrified me. It was ID-100181314as if, with every question, I was teetering on the verge of hell. Luckily, God was holding tight to me, using my doubts and questions to draw me deeper into Him.

He’s amazing that way.

And I just realized… my short story, without explanation, will leave you baffled, wondering how it possibly connects to physics and Marcia’s excellent post. So, let me explain. :) My questions had to do with biblical authority and credibility. I wanted to know if there was evidence to back up what I read. How did we know this book was God’s Word? How did we know Jesus truly was who He said He was? A man swallowed then regurgitated by a whale? Seriously?

These questions didn’t just arise my curiosity. They completely unsettled me, and I had to pursue them, regardless of where they led me. (I’m insanely stubborn that way.) So I spent the next three-to-five years studying EVERYTHING I could find: flood geology, archeology, astrophysics, the writings of the apostolic fathers, and the list goes on.

IMG_1976Here’s what I found: God uses it all. He is in all, the Creator of all, and the One who holds everything together. And yes, He can and will  even us physics to reveal another layer of His unfathomable glory. This is a hugely long intro into an amazing post written by Marcia Gunnett Woodard.

Faith and Physics by Marcia Gunnett Woodard

            God speaks to each of us differently. With me, it’s often through words and ideas—His, mine, or someone else’s. Math and science, not so much. The other day, though, He and I had an interesting conversation about physics and walking on water. I was reading the story of Peter going to Jesus, walking on the water.

Matthew 14:25-31

…He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him…they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus [said], “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  (NASB)

 

I heard God whisper, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

It was the same old story it had always been, but I sensed Him wanting me to see it through new eyes. I looked at it again and heard Him whisper again.

“How many times have you jumped in a pool? What’s wrong with this picture?”

I started thinking about jumping into a pool, about how short the time is, between when you leave the land, and when you are completely immersed. That was when I saw it!

I searched physics websites, asking the question, “How long does it take a six foot tall, 200 pound man to drop six feet?” I gave Peter the benefit of the doubt, though it is highly unlikely that he was that large. You know what I discovered?

They estimate the amount of time for a 200 pound man to drop six feet would be…ID-10064783

0.15 seconds!

15/100 of a second!

Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t that just make you want to wave your hands in the air, shout “Amen!” and get up and dance? It doesn’t? Maybe I should explain.

The Scripture says Peter saw the wind, got afraid, and began to sink. Then he called out, “Lord, save me!” Or in another translation, “Master, help me!” But from the time Peter was standing on top of the water to the time the water closed over his head should have been 0.15 seconds! Do you know how much you can say in 0.15 seconds? I timed it with a stopwatch.

            In 0.15 seconds, the most you can say is, “Muh!”

What if it means that in spite of the wind, in spite of his fear, in spite of the fact that Jesus didn’t seem to be near enough to reach him, or help him, or get there in time, Peter wasn’t really sinking? The Scripture says, “…he began to sink.” His feet may have been getting wet, but it sounds like he wasn’t going under! Jesus’ miracle-working power was still keeping him above the waves.

And the same is true for us. No matter how bad the circumstances around us look. No matter how frightened we are. No matter how far away Jesus feels in that moment, He is there! And His resurrection power is at work in us, keeping us safe ’til the storm passes by.

How about it? A lesson on faith from a law of physics? Can I get an “Amen”?

 

***

        Marcia studied English and writing at Indiana Wesleyan University, and has been a published writer for over 30 years. She has written devotional and inspirational articles, newspaper stories, theatre scripts, short fiction, and children’s books. She is also a freelance editor and writing consultant. Her “day jobs”—newspaper carrier, Avon lady, barista—have fed her incurable fascination with people, and she enjoys writing to explore the commonalities and diversities of the human race. She sees her mission as using the parabolic arc of story to launch projectiles of truth and grace past barricaded minds and into walled-off hearts. Visit her online at her blog, It’s All About Marcia and website, and connect with her on Twitter (@MarGunWoo) and visit her Facebook page: Marcia Gunnett Woodard

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Did Marcia’s post increase your appreciation of this miraculous account? When has God captured your interest with a story, sentence, or word, inviting you to dig deeper, and what were the results? I’m pretty sure we all have times of doubting and questioning. Can you share yours? Did God use your questions to deepen your faith, and if so, how? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before you go, I invite you to view the Christmas story through, perhaps a deeper lens. God chose a rather unlikely cast to share in the glorious incarnation. Kinda makes you wonder why, huh? And what was the real reason Mary and Joseph couldn’t find a place to stay? Join me on Renee’ Blare’s blog as I talk about this Unexpected Christmas Cast.

Oh, and some fun news! Readers have been messaging me to tell me Amazon is shipping my second novel. Woo-hoo! I can’t wait to hear what they (and you?) think of it! And I absolutely can’t wait to get myWhenDawnBreaks_N154102_300dpiRGB author copies. It’s always fun to hold an actual copy of your book. And to blast pictures of you doing so all across FB. haha.

Throw back Thursday--I took this picture of our princess on a special family day. Memories matter, and time passes quickly. Make it count.

Throw back Thursday–I took this picture of our princess on a special family day. Memories matter, and time passes quickly. Make it count.

Oh, my, does today’s post hit me smack in my momma-heart. With our princess so near launch age, everything in our home has become more… intentional. Because we know our time is short, and we want every moment to count. It’s like we’re trying to cram all these memories into her already exploding brain. I’m not sure if these memories are for her or us. ;) I suspect both.

I often say, parenting is the hardest, most important, most rewarding, heart-wrenching and heart-lifting job a person can have. And there aren’t any do-overs.

Okay, so that thought sent a jolt of adrenaline shooting through my gut. Let’s just say, there are numerous moments I’d like to do-over. But praise God He’s in the restoring, healing, transforming business and can turn my biggest parenting mistake into something beautiful. (If anything, I’ve helped our daughter see plenty of things she doesn’t want to do when she becomes a parent. ha!)

Maria headshot LLBDToday my sweet friend and fellow Living by Grace hostess, Maria Morgan, shares her thoughts on influential parenting. If you haven’t read her book to your kiddos yes, you absolutely must. I’ve heard it’s becoming many children’s favorite.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy (I believe e-version) of her children’s book, Louie’s Big Day! The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments left on today’s post. 

Making Your Influence Count

By

Maria I. Morgan

What kind of influence are you having on your kids? Our only child will be getting married in less than a month, and over the course of her engagement I’ve had ample time to reflect on that very question.

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. It comes with both wonderful experiences and some difficult challenges. In spite of all of our parenting blunders, I’m confident the Lord will continue to work in our daughter’s life. God’s Word is reassuring:

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

No guarantees

To the best of our ability we’ve pointed our girl to the Savior and tried to live out what God’s Word teaches. I’m so thankful for His grace where we’ve fallen short.

As parents, we have a big responsibility to teach and counsel our kids based on the truths of the Bible. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for families that began with a godly heritage to walk away from the Lord a generation or two later.

A sad commentary

Remember Ahaziah? His grandfather was Jehoshaphat. God’s Word describes Jehoshaphat as a man who,

“…sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.” 2 Chronicles 17:4

But Ahaziah’s father, Jehoram, decided to follow a different path. He married Athaliah, a woman who worshipped idols, and he chose to follow in the footsteps of the previous kings of Israel. In the space of one generation, the true God had been denied.

The advice of a mother

By the time Ahaziah began ruling Israel after his father died, he was already entrenched in evil practices. His mother had left a lasting impression on him:

“…for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly. Wherefore he did evil in the sight of the Lord like the house of Ahab: for they were his counselors after the death of his father to his destruction.” 2 Chronicles 22:3b-4

I’m thankful for the examples of others who chose to follow God in spite of parents who were unbelievers. Godly parenting doesn’t guarantee godly children. Each person must decide who to follow: God or Satan.

This doesn’t negate our parental responsibility to teach our children the truth of God’s Word. Each day as we submit to the Lord and clothe ourselves with His armor, He will equip us with the ability to do so.

Your turn

Are you leaning on the Lord as you parent your children? What step will you take today to teach your kids God’s truth?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for working in my life and the lives of my kids even when I fail. I know I’m not 100% responsible for how my children turn out, because each of them was created with a free will. But I also know I am responsible for teaching them Ad for December issue Book Fun Magazine-page-001Your truth. Help me to do so today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*It’s so important to teach our kids godly truths. And just in time for Christmas, I’ve released a children’s book that can serve as a tool to help accomplish that goal. Louie’s BIG day! features timeless characters who learn about purpose and friendship. The book concludes with questions to stimulate conversation and help re-emphasize biblical concepts. It’s fun for the whole family! Available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon.

Maria Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker who has a passion for sharing God’s love and truth with others. Visit her online at MariaMorgan.com

***

Let’s talk about this! Life can get so busy, and there are so many issues we as parents or grandparents must deal with *now*. And yet, I’ve found I can get so busy chasing fires, it’s easy to lose sight of my longterm plan. How am I preparing our princess for adulthood? Am I pointing her to Scripture? In our discussions, am I speaking love, grace, and truth?

livingbygracepic.jpI encourage you to ask yourself those same questions. Are you parenting with intentionality? What can you do, starting today, to build spiritual truths into your children? Make a realistic and attainable plan, then start today. I encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas with us. Then we can all learn from one another. What makes intentional parenting challenging for you? What have you found to work? How do you free up time in your crazy-busy week to train up your children and build lasting and meaningful memories? Share your thoughts here or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

 

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