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Archive for the ‘Kisses from God’ Category

Life is full of hardships; hardships that leave unanswered questions, perhaps the greatest of which are “Why?” and “How long?” I know many of you are dealing with extremely difficult situations: financial, health, loss of loved ones. Situations that can easily rock one’s world and faith.

Driving to church last Sunday, with me coming out of an extended and painful “flare”, my husband said, “You need to trust.”

Being in no mood to hear anything, I scowled, arms crossed. “Trust what?”

“Trust God. That He will protect you.”

Wrong answer.

Though my husband, in his amazingly patient and loving way, was trying to encourage me, I knew if my trust rested on God’s “protection”, there was a good chance it’d be broken. My trust needed to rest in His nature, sovereignty, and wisdom, and in my full and unconditional surrender. For that is where the peace and blessings come from.

Ginger picToday a dear friend who’s had her share of difficulties talks about one of the most poignant songs in contemporary Christian music. After you read Ginger Solomon’s devotion, I encourage you to listen to the song embedded below, and as you do, surrender and trust that God is good and loving and faithful.

Mercies in Disguise

The other day I heard the song “Blessings” by Laura Story. It’s been around for a while, but for some reason this time something about the lyrics struck me. It’s like reading that same Scripture over and over and then one day it comes to life in your heart.

I can relate to these words in so many ways. I know that blessings can come through raindrops – the first date I had yellow-leaf-1087751-mwith my husband it was raining. I know that healing can come through tears – I have cried to the Lord and felt a physical hug from Him that healed the broken places in my heart. I have doubted His goodness and His love, and I have spent countless nights awake and wondering what the next day would bring. And yet, through it all He has loved me WAY too much to let me stay in a place of comfort too long.

Through the greatest disappointments in my life I know God has been beside me. I may not have felt like it at the time, but feelings are fickle creatures and should not be trusted. It reminds me of the Footprints in the Sand picture. Sometimes when we least feel God it’s because He’s carrying us rather than walking beside us.

James 1:2-3 (NKJV) says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” This verse doesn’t say IF, but WHEN. We’ve all had trials, and we’re likely to have a few more before our time here on earth is complete.

In One Choice, my heroine, Cahri, is angry at God because her parents were killed in the country where they were missionaries. She felt God had abandoned her. Then she was summoned to participate in the Bridal March. She once again felt as if He had forsaken her. We all know God is always with us and will never forsake us (Heb. 13:5), but how often do we forget it when we’re in the dark places? Cahri feels God’s presence at various times throughout the book, and finally remembers how much He loves her later in the book – three long years after the death of her parents.

Will we allow God to turn our raindrops into blessings and our tears into healing?rememberings-675103-m

Will the sleepless nights send us to our knees crying out to God?

How long will it take us to remember that God always wants the very best things for us?

***

Pause to listen to Laura Story’s song titled Blessings:

Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer — in that order (mostly). When not homeschooling her youngest five, doing laundry or fixing dinner, she writes or reads romance of any genre, some sci-fi/fantasy, and some suspense. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, president of her local writing group, and writes regularly for three blogs. In addition to all that, she loves animals, horses especially, likes to do needlework (knitting, crocheting, and sometimes cross-stitch), and loves to sing in the choir at church. Visit her online at A Bed of Roses…Thorns IncludedWriting Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas…Oh My!Inspy Romance BlogFacebook, Twitter @GingerS219, and Pinterest

OneChoice 453x680One Choice:

Cahri Michaels is American by birth, but Belikarian by choice. Being selected to participate in the Bridal March forces her to give up the independent life she’s created for herself. She’s not ready to be anyone’s wife, much less to a man she doesn’t know.

Prince Josiah Vallis despises the centuries old tradition—the Bridal March—that is forcing him to choose a wife from fifty women. Why does it matter that he’s twenty-five and still single?

When Cahri and Josiah meet, sparks fly. Will it ignite a godly love that can see them through or will they be burned, never to be the same? Buy it on Amazon, at Barnes and NobleAstraea Press and Smashwords

 

 

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. How have struggles deepened your faith and relationship with Christ? How has God walked you through moments of pain or fear? How has He revealed Himself through it or offered blessings that came through raindrops?

Looking back over my life, I’ve found my darkest moments have also led to my greatest growth. Living with chronic illness, most specifically, autoimmune issues, is a perfect example. There’s an inherent uncertainty that comes with health struggles, an that uncertainty, for me, keeps me centered in the cross and focused on eternity. On my good days, it spurs me to action, motivating me to make the most of every ounce of energy and health, because it could be gone tomorrow. On my bad days, it draws me to Christ’s feet where I experience comfort and love. Ultimately, it’s deepened my relationship with God in a way I know wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.

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

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bethlehem-star-remix-2-695143-m

I’m the queen of distraction. I easily get caught up in the tinsel and carols and cinnamon smells of the season, but this year God used a squirrel-like husband and a box of old ornaments to center me in Him and the essence of Christmas. You can read more about that crazy yet emotional morning here.

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 (NIV)

Before there was time, the God-head envisioned His creation, a universe filled with radiant light as millions upon millions of stars glimmered throughout infinite space. The earth, now but a vision in the mind of God, would soon abound with life.

Ice-capped mountains would glisten in the sun and gently flowing streams would weave through flower-filled meadows. Jay Larks and Robins would fill the air with song while newborn cubs tumbled over grassy plains.

But the crown of His creation? The creature that brought a song to the Creator’s lips and tears of anguish to His face?

Man. Humans, just like you and I. People that would fight against Him at every turn and ultimate drive Him to the cross.
God made man, knowing man would betray Him. Knowing man’s rebellion would result in His death. And yet, He created humans anyway, molding flesh from a mound of earth, breathing life into a lifeless body.

The first man to be created was named Adam. In the beginning, God and Adam enjoyed sweet fellowship, an intimacy unparalleled by any other creature roaming the face of the earth. An intimacy that penetrated to the very depths of the soul.

Fear was unheard of.

Loneliness was unknown. Everything was bliss, like a melodious love song echoed in united hearts.

But then something happened and this heavenly union was shattered. The creature God had created, the creature God loved infinitely and immensely, turned on Him, and the perfect love-bond was broken.

Suddenly the child created to rest in His arms fought against Him, spurning the very love scream-924206-mthat would save Him.

In the depths of man’s heart, bitterness took root, weaving its entangling web around everything that was once good and pure and lovely.

And all the while, God watched with breaking heart, knowing the day of total restoration would come.
But it would cost Him everything.

His cross-church-1386416-mvery life.

Merry Christmas, my friend! And as you and your family unwrap your Christmas, pause to remember the Christmas story, from beginning to the glorious, victorious end.

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TeresaPollardCroppedWatching your daughter fight for life must be unbearable. Hearing her gut-honest questions–questions that appear to have no answers this side of heaven–is unfathomable. So how did Teresa Pollard answer the heart-wrenching question–why do bad things happen to good people? Not with words, but with love. Today, after her daughter’s death, she addresses the question again. Not with anger or bitterness nor a raised fist at God, but instead, with the answer that can only come from surrendered faith.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

By Teresa Pollard

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope.      Romans 5:3-4

There are several important themes in our novel Not Guilty, but possibly the main one is:  why does it seem sometimes that bad things rain on good people like monstrous thunderstorms, while (at least for a time) bad people keep getting away with their malicious and evil deeds?  Candi Pullen and I both lost our daughters at very young ages, so it’s a theme that’s become extremely important to us even though the novel was actually written before either death occurred.

When my daughter, Kara, lay dying of cervical cancer, 1100587_hospital_handthis was the question she kept asking me.  She wanted to know what she had done to deserve such an early death.  She knew she was saved and had a home in heaven, but she had a young son who needed his mommy, and she didn’t want to leave him.

I didn’t really have an answer for her.

All I could do was tell her I loved her, and that I knew that God loved her too.

I think one of the first songs I ever learned as a small child was Jesus loves me.  When Kara was born, her daddy sang it to her in the delivery room while the doctors worked on me.  She believed that Jesus loved her, but she didn’t really understand why a loving God would let cancer happen to her.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the last six years pondering the same question.

The Apostle Paul pondered it too.  He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, hungry, thirsty, in danger from all directions, and in great emotional distress.  Was he some kind of a super Christian who could endure things that just aren’t possible for us normal folks?  No.  He was a man just like we are.  He admitted weakness.  In fact, he said if he had to boast about anything, it would be his weakness, because he knew that it is in our weakness that we find God’s strength.

In the thirteen months between the diagnosis and Kara’s actual death, I shed countless tears.  I ranted at God, and I prayed and begged Him to spare her life.  He said “no.”  I was helpless.  I would have given anything to be able to save my daughter’s life, but all I could do was entrust her to the Lord’s keeping.  And that’s where I found strength.  That’s the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian.   We have hope.

This earthly life isn’t the end or even a large part of our existence.  It’s a tiny speck of time.  But it’s the speck that determines where we will spend 248782_carnations_pink_2eternity.  Not only that, but it also determines our rewards in that eternity. One of Kara’s last deeds before she became too ill to go anywhere was to take 300 carnations with messages of hope to patients in the hospital where she had spent so many of her days.   The Bible tells us that God even rewards a cup of cold water given in His name.  I wonder what the reward is for 300 carnations given by a dying mother to bring hope to patients in great need of that hope.

In Psalm 73:3, Asaph said, “I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”  Then God gave him a vision of how the wicked will end—an eternity of destruction.  On the other hand, I know I will see Kara again someday, and we will spend eternity together in heaven.  If you haven’t read Randy Alcorn’s Bible study on heaven, I highly recommend it.

Why do bad things happen to good people?  God isn’t finished with me yet, and I still don’t have all the answers.  I know we live in a fallen world.  I’m still not to the point where, like Paul, I can “exult” in tribulation, but I do know God promises in Romans 8:28 that “all things,” both the good and the bad, “work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”   I can understand that somehow they’re for my good and for the good of others.  What we don’t really understand when we’re in the middle of things is that it’s not really about us at all.  It’s about Him.  It’s about the kingdom.  If even one person spends eternity in heaven instead of hell because of our suffering, isn’t it worth it?  Suppose that one person were your son or daughter?  Wouldn’t it be worth it then?

NotGuiltyFrontCover3x4-5Not Guilty by Teresa Pollard and Candi Pullen:

It’s 1974 and Carrie Shepherd, daughter of the minister at Windspree Community Church, is a college senior with plans to be a missionary in Africa. Raped by a masked assailant, Carrie is so traumatized she tells no one until she realizes she’s pregnant. Refusing to have an abortion, she must find the courage to face her family, her fiancé, her friends and a gossiping, angry congregation, which may include her attacker.  Can Carrie find the strength to cope with the secrets, silence, and shame?  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1938708067

Teresa Pollard is from Richmond, Virginia, and was saved at a young age. She has a Masters degree in English and Creative Writing from Hollins College, and has served as a Sunday School teacher and children’s worker for most of the last forty years. Married for forty years, she was devastated by divorce and the death of her youngest daughter, but God has blessed her with a new home and another grandson, and she now resides in Dacula, Georgia.

  ***

I love the song, Blessings, by Laura Story.

In it, she sings about some of our greatest blessings coming through pain and trials. I’ve never lost  a child and can’t imagine the pain those who have must feel on a daily basis, but I have experienced trials. And I’ve found, it is often during my moments of greatest pain that I sense God the most. And it is often following intense periods of struggle that I experience my greatest freedom. But more than that, when I look at our world with all it’s pain and suffering, I’m reminded, and grateful, that this is not my home. No, God has something much better planned for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. But while we are here, through trial and triumph, what He longs for most is that we point others to Him and His life-saving gospel. For this time is short, and often wrought with pain. But eternity? That will be glorious, my friend, if you know the Lord. For those who don’t? Well, there’s still time to send out invitations. :)

Let’s talk about this. Are you or a loved one going through a difficult time right now? How might your response to pain reveal the depth of your faith? And what might that say to a watching, hurting world? Pause to think of what Teresa’s daughter did, shortly before her death. She used every last possible moment not to grow bitter or isolate, but instead, to reach out with the love that had taken hold of her, to spread hope.

Share your thoughts and stories in the comments before or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

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God created us to be feeling beings, and many times, our emotions can be our safeguard. A knotted stomach can signal danger, frustration or Deb's_Pic_for_Bioanger can stir us to pray. But our feelings can also be deceiving. There are times when we can’t feel God’s presence, but that doesn’t mean He’s left us. In fact, the opposite is true, for God Himself promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

If you are struggling to sense and receive God’s ever-present love today, I hope you find the following post, written by my dear friend and fellow ACFW writer, Deborah K. Anderson, encouraging.

Through the Eyes of Bear by Deborah K. Anderson

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

(Psalm 46:1 KJV)


Several years ago, my father-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer. At the same time, my elderly mother suffered a second mini-stroke, followed by a fall. In addition, I was going through personal trials of my own. I desperately needed a touch from God.

No matter what I said, though, or how hard I prayed, I couldn’t hear God’s voice or feel His presence. I pressed on anyway, hoping to move the heart of God.

“God, where are you? Why do all these things keep happening?” I hung my head and wept.

A few moments later, my cat Bear sashayed into the room, bellowing. I adore my cat (and all other animals for that matter), but I didn’t want to be bothered. I felt as though I was ready to snap.Bear_&_Tuncie_2

I looked down at him, and as usual, the black ball of fur tugged at my heart with one glance.

“What are you crying about?” I picked him up, scratched behind his ears, and kissed the side of his face. I knew if I coddled him a bit, he’d go back about his business. Soon, he began purring, so I put him on the floor. Within seconds, he started meowing again.

“What is wrong with you?” I said. He just looked at me. I was sure the poor critter was sensing my feelings, so there would be no shutting him up any time soon.

 

I headed downstairs, hoping to find a quiet place to pray. As I reached the last step, Bear’s paws came padding down the stairs behind me.

Please, God, make him go lie down or something. I can’t take much more.

But the little critter persisted following me through the house, no matter where I went.

I finally ducked into the living room, thinking I had lost my private-eye kitty. Seconds later, he jumped in lickety-split behind me.

“MROW!”

I threw my hands up. “Okay. That’s enough! What are you crying about? I’m standing right here in front of you. Why do you keep howling at me?”

As I looked in my animal’s eyes, something strange happened.

I’m standing right here, in front of you, too, daughter, so why do you keep crying and asking where I am? Why do you keep 1104793_crosswandering around looking for me?

Tears filled my eyes as I looked at Bear. He had suddenly grown quiet, his golden eyes wide in wonder. I then noticed how he’d tugged at my heart without ever making a sound—the same way I had tugged at God’s heart, only I didn’t realize it at the time.

I picked up Bear and rested him over my shoulder. I began stroking his fur. Soon, he was purring, content in my arms.

“Father, forgive me,” I said.

It still amazes me how God used my cat’s eyes to open mine. Perhaps it was because of the love I had for this beautiful creature. God knew how to get my attention. Whatever the reason, I’m so glad that He did.

When the storms of life come our way, it can be so difficult to see, especially when the rain begins pelting us. But God is always there, even when we don’t think that He is. It’s during those times we can find rest in His arms.

Deborah has written stories for Focus on the Family, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and numerous other publications. She is a member of TWV, ACFW, SCBWI, FCW, and YALITCHAT.ORG. Married 31 years, Deborah and her husband enjoy country living in the Midwest. She also spends her time rescuing cats, reading novels, and taking nature walks. Deborah recently completed a supernatural suspense novel for young adults. You can contact her at: DAnderson955@aol.com. Visit her blog at: www.deborahkanderson.com. 

Let’s talk about this! Share a time when, during a time of sadness or difficulty, God made Himself real to you or let you know He was with you. We all have moments when our feelings betray what we know to be true. What do you do when God feels distant? Do you have any verses you like to remember or meditate on? One of my favorites is James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. I claim this as a promise, reminding myself that the moment I turn to God in prayer or worship, He is already taking three steps toward me, whether I feel His presence or not.

We’d love to here from you.

Let’s talk about this!

Share your thoughts and God-moments with us in the comments below or join the Facebook discussion at Living by Grace.

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Once again, as I post today’s Reach Out story, tears sting my eyes. Oh, the beauty of love and grace poured out through God’s children to those in need. Obedience isn’t always easy or comfortable, but I have a feeling Julie Arduini would tell you, it is always, always so worth it.

But before you run to grab your tissue, I wanted to announce last month’s winners. Diana Brandmeyer won September’s Reach Out gift basket with her touching story, Silver Streets. And Judy Burgi won a copy of Tapestry of Trust by Mary Annslee Urban. (Ladies, I’ll be contacting you shortly to get your gift/s to you.)

Stretched to Overflowing by Julie Arduini

You’ve heard the saying, “Be careful what you ask for, because you’re going to get it?”

Well, it took God less than 48 hours after I asked Him to grow me for Him to act on it. A mentor challenged me to step out of my comfort zone where I pray and encourage people I already know. She asked me to pray and believe God would orchestrate opportunities for me to serve Him to a stranger.

As soon as I heard the woman behind me in the grocery line, I knew it was time to step up.

“I’m sorry, kids. I only have $40, and that’s for these groceries and the medicine we have to get. There isn’t money for extras.” The mom counted her single bills and glanced every few seconds at her items.

“Not even for this?” A girl who looked to be about my daughter’s age at the time, about six, waved a chocolate bar.

Lord, do you want me to buy the child a candy bar? I can do that.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. We can’t get anything more, not even that.” The mom kept sizing up her items as they moved forward on the conveyor belt.

The child didn’t even pout. She put the candy back and stayed at her mom’s side.

No, my child. I want you to pay for all her groceries.

I scanned the entire conveyor belt. How much would my things plus hers cost? This was a little trip for things we didn’t find during our weekly trip. We were near the budget, and my husband kept a good handle on finances. I didn’t want to disrespect him.

But I knew by ignoring God’s offer to grow me through paying for her groceries would disrespect my Heavenly Father.

The mom thought aloud as the cashier started ringing up my order. “I know last time we got that prescription it was $15. I think with these things plus tax, I’m spending $24…”

I pivoted enough to see her items. There was nothing frivolous. She had grocery staples, the basics to keep a family fed.

“That’s $16.35.” The cashier smiled.

I slid my check card out of my wallet and started the electronic transaction. As I waited on financial approval, I closed my eyes and prayed for strength. I could speak in front of a thousand without fear. Yet trying to find the courage to pay for someone’s groceries was inciting sweat throughout my body in the dead of winter.

“Thank you. Have a great day.” The cashier handed me my slip, but I stood still.

“Wait.” I turned toward the woman next to me.  “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I’d like to pay for your groceries.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, no. You don’t have to. I have enough.”

“I know you do. I don’t have to, I want to. Really.”

Tears spilled over and fell on the belt. “Thank you. This is such a surprise. A gift. Bless you.”

I looked at the little girl. “If it is okay with your mom, you can get the candy bar, too.”

The mom nodded.

The cashier started ringing her out. “I’ve never seen anyone do that before.”

I smiled. “I’ve never done it before, either. It feels good. Really good.”

My fear returned on the drive home, fearful that I went over the weekly grocery budget. I confessed what happened to my husband, who broke into a grin.

“Honey, I know spontaneous things are not natural for you, and that you fear spending money. You’ve never been reckless; I probably put too much pressure on you when you shop. Of all the wonderful things you’ve done to encourage others, this is my favorite one of all.”

Julie Aduini is a writer and speaker. Her passion is to encourage audiences to find freedom through surrender. Whether you read her blog on the front page of her website, check out her writingspeakingbookshelvesinterests, or the free gifts she has for you, you will find a surrender theme. One of my surrender stories is M&M’s for breakfast so you know I also have a love for chocolate.

Visit her online. She invites you to grab a piece of chocolate, sit down with a mocha, and stay as long as you like.

And before you go, I leave you with a verse and a thought. It’s often said you can never out-give God. Our family has found this true again and again. When we give–whether of our plenty or our few, God takes care of our needs. This doesn’t mean He’ll gift us a mansion on a hill, but it does mean He’ll provide for us. This enables us to serve and obey God fully, without fear.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38 NLT

I’d love to hear from you. Has God ever asked you to give to someone when your own finances were tight? What happened? Or maybe you are the one in need. Can you share a time when God used someone else to provide for you financially? I think the giving is easier than the receiving, but receiving God’s gifts and provisions come easier when we remember they are just that–gifts and provisions from God. He owns everything, and He can distribute His abundance as He wills. If you ever find yourself on the receiving end, before your spurn your gift consider how receiving it could bless the giver by allowing them to experience God working and loving through them.

And the next time you see someone in need, don’t let your pocket book overshadow your view of God’s power and blessings.

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I’ve often wondered, if we could see all that God does on our behalf, how many seemingly random instances would turn out to be miracles. That detour that avoided a crash, or a stop light that placed us in the right place at the right time for a hidden blessing. Every once in a while, we catch glimpses of God’s hand, but I believe He does so much more–each moment in each day–then we’ll ever realize, until maybe we get to heaven.

Today, Gail Pallotta, fellow Clash of the Titles’ hostess and author of Love Turns the Tide, reminds us of how God works behind the scenes, often through His children, to provide for our needs. As you read it, ask God to show you His love and mercy, sprinkled throughout your day. And then, when He does, make sure to thank Him, turning each moment into an act of praise. (Gail is also a Reach Out donor this month.)

God’s Constance Care by Gail Pallotta

Each year members of my Georgia Sunday school class chip in with other churches to provide bagged lunches for homeless children in the community. This year we planned to make our sandwiches one day in mid July. When the Sunday school teacher called to get us on the schedule, the coordinator told him they had plenty of food that week. They didn’t have enough the week after July fourth. The teacher told our class, “I agreed to supply them when they needed them.”

Years ago someone asked us to make the lunches. Sure. We could do that. It meant spending a few bucks each then putting cheese and turkey on bread and cookies in bags.

That’s only part of it. It means the children who come in every day during the summer trusting there will be something for them to eat, find it. In my mind’s eye I saw the youngsters running in hot and sweaty from playing, talking and chattering, teasing each other and giving one another friendly jabs as they sat down and ate their treats.

Then I thought of all the times God works behind the scenes in our lives to meet our needs.

Gail and Rick Pallotta picked up one hundred bagged lunches this July at their church in Georgia to deliver to their community’s homeless children.

The night before, they joined their Sunday school class to make the meals in the church’s large, commercial kitchen. Each bag holds a turkey and cheese sandwich, vanilla wafers, peanut butter cookies, applesauce packets and boxed drinks.

Love Turns the Tide:

In Love Turns the Tide Cammie O’Shea faces a traumatic split-up with her fiancé and has to leave her family and friends to take a new job in Destin, Florida. Heartbroken and alone, she needs God more now than she ever has. But for some reason she can’t explain she feels more estranged from him.

A feature writer, she dreads meeting her new boss, the editor of The Sun Dial, a newnewspaper. However, her real source of angst turns out to be Vic Deleona, the influential real estate tycoon she must write about to help get the paper off its feet. While she refuses to open herself to another painful relationship he attempts to court her. Trying to get over her heartache, she continues to read her Bible and say her prayers. Then break-ins at her and her friend’s condos make her doubt the wisdom of living in Destin even more.

Vic comes to their rescue. He even launches his own investigation into the crimes. Just when Cammie sees a different side of him she gets an offer to return home to her old job. Will Vic solve the crimes and win Cammie’s heart or will she leave?

But it here!

I’d love to hear from you. Has there been an event or encounter that seemed random at the time but later, you realized it was a divine appointment or open door? Or perhaps God has provided for you in an unexpected way. Tell us about it! And may we all be alert to God’s daily provisions and care.

As I close out the month of September, I want to give a shout-out to September’s Reach Out Donors:

Simple Faith by Eddie Snipesthe Road to Mercy by Kathy HarrisThe Other Side of Darkness by Linda Rondeau, and Love Turns the Tide by Gail Pallotta. Kathy Harris, is also donating Karyn Williams’ musical CD entitled Only You.

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We’ve all had times when the world seems to be pressing down on us. When we receive tragic news and are in desperate need of comfort. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (NLT).

God sees every tear we cry and, amidst our pain, reaches down to comfort us–most often through His children.  Today author Sandra Robbins shares a touching and courageous story of how God used her to bring comfort to a precious woman facing the unimaginable.

Reaching Out on an Airport Shuttle by Sandra Robbins

People who know me find it hard to believe that I am really a rather reserved person. I have never had trouble standing before an audience to speak or to sing. In college I received a degree in music with the piano as my major instrument, and I have never feared playing in front of large groups. The problem for me has always been the one-on-one experience when I must put myself out there to another person. I am very private and don’t share my thoughts easily even though I encourage others to do that with me.

So when it comes to reaching out to another individual I find myself out of my comfort zone. A few years ago, though, I had an experience where God urged me to respond to someone I didn’t even know but who was evidently suffering.

I was excited that day as I arrived at the airport to fly to Texas for a visit with my daughter’s family. But I wasn’t as excited as were the men on the packed shuttle bus that picked me up in parking lot. Since this was during March Madness, I knew right away from their clothing and their boisterous voices that they were on their way to a basketball game. I squeezed past the ones standing in the aisle and reached a bench that ran along the side of the bus. I sat down, my knees almost touching a woman sitting on the bench facing me.

A man sat beside her, his arm around her shoulder, and she shook with sobs as she stared at a picture in her hand. I was stunned to find someone in so much agony sitting in the midst of so much merriment. Although I tried to look away, something made me reach out and touch her knee. When she looked up, I said, “Is there something I can pray for you about?”

Fresh tears streamed down her face. “Yes, please,” she said. “My sixteen-year-old daughter was in a wreck on her way to school this morning when the car her boyfriend was driving skidded on some ice and hit a tree. She’s not expected to live, and I’m trying to get to her.” She held out her hand. “This is her picture.”

I stared down at the face of a beautiful young girl in a cheerleader uniform, and my heart broke for this mother. As I began to offer up my prayer for this young girl, we arrived at the terminal, and the mother was off the bus almost before it stopped. I caught a glimpse out the window of her running toward the terminal door.

I don’t know who she was, where she lived, or if her daughter did indeed die. The only thing I do know is that God nudged me to reach out to a stranger who needed comfort, and I obeyed. It was enough that she went with the knowledge that a stranger prayed for her in her time of need. I still think of her often and pray she has peace in her life.

My Book

            I’m really excited about my new historical romance Angel of the Cove, the first book in the Smoky Mountains Dreams Series, that released August 1. It’s 1894, and new opportunities are available for young women who want to become nurses. Anna Prentiss’s dream of becoming a student at Bellevue Hospital in New York and working in their maternity ward after graduation depends on the report concerning her abilities that her family gets from a legendary mountain midwife in the Smoky Mountains.

Anna is determined to prove herself as she travels to Cades Cove, Tennessee, a remote valley in the mountains, to assist a midwife who practices under primitive conditions, but she hasn’t counted on meeting Simon Martin, a mountain preacher who grieves his own lost dreams. She has withstood her family’s objections to going to New York, but she never expected her heart would also become her adversary.

As attraction between the two grows, Anna is determined nothing will keep her from her goal, and Simon fears he is losing his new dream of having Anna stay in the Cove with him. Will they continue to dwell on their personal desires, or can they surrender their futures to God and allow Him to make them one heart that is responsive to His will?

But it here!

Sandra Robbins and her husband live in the small college town where she grew up. Until a few years ago she was working as an elementary school principal, but God opened the door for her to become a full-time writer.  Her books have been finalists in the Daphne du Maurier Contest for excellence in mystery writing, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the Holt Medallion, and the ACFW Carol Award. Since Sandra is a Southerner by birth, she enjoys setting her historical romance and romantic suspense books in both the past and present-day South. To find out more about Sandra and her books go to http://sandrarobbins.net or send her an email at sandra@sandrarobbins.net

Thanks to August’s Reach Out Donors!

Eddie Snipes with I Called Him Dancera novel quite fitting for this campaignJoAnn Durgin with Second Time AroundEileen Rife with Second Chanceanother novel with an outreach focus; Sandra Robbins with Fatal Disclosure, and Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity.
Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. Authors, agents, and publishers, if you have a book you’d like to donate to my Reach Out Campaign, shoot me an email at the same address.

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On Mother’s Day, our family spent the afternoon looking through old photo albums. As we flipped through page after page, I was struck by how quickly time had passed. Glancing at my daughter–taller than me and of course much wiser. :) — I had a strong desire to draw her close, to pull her into my lap like I used to.

But she doesn’t fit, and she balks at snuggles and butterfly kisses.

I wanted to hold her tight just the same, to cherish what little time we have left before she launches into adulthood.

Little did I know, God was stirring my heart for my next big task–one that hits a bit closer to home. It’s funny how He does that. He can (and sometimes does) command us to do something we’d rather not. But most often, He stirs our hearts first, planting a seed of desire.

1 Philippians 2:13 “For it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purposes.”

On Wednesday, we sat in our KC house, packed boxes all around, my daughter crumpled in my arms, crying. The next day would be her last day of school. She’d have to say goodbye to some dear friends, to a wonderful church, to loving neighbors … to embark on the unknown.

But what she fears most is loneliness. I feared the same–a long lonely summer of her stuck in the house.

Driving that evening, I poured my heart out to God. I know He values community. I know He longs for us to live in close relationships, to avoid isolation. I knew He had a solution, I just couldn’t see it.

So He showed me. This summer, I will be her friend. We’ll turn this event into an extended vacation–an opportunity to explore, have ice-cream, sight see, and giggle over silly things.

Incredible joy swept over me as I realized God had been setting this up all along. It began with a fledgling of a desire, stirred by a very real need, that blossomed into a solution.

What a tender heart He has!

So that’s what I’ll be doing this summer. And while we’re exploring Omaha, I’ll use our time–this move–to show her:

1) God is good, loving, faithful, and true. In all things, always.

2) God can and does turn all things to good. (Romans 8:28)

3) Blessings abide in every storm cloud … if we’d but avert our focus.

4) A faith that is not dependent on our circumstances, but instead, that is rooted in the truth of God.

5) How to trust not in our home, our savings, our friends, but instead, in God’s unfailing love.

Psalm 147:11 “No, the LORD’s delight is in those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His unfailing love.

What an opportunity God has provided! Making lemonade indeed, and my, is it ever sweet.

Let’s talk about this!

We all experience tragedy, hurdles, storm clouds that attempt to shroud our view and distort our vision … if we let them. But Romans 8:28 tells us God works all things out for our good. That doesn’t mean He’ll fix everything, but instead, that He will use every event, painful and joyful, to mold us into the men and women He created us to be. And that is cause for celebration.

Sadly, I often spend so much time bemoaning my circumstances, I miss out on these hidden and unexpected blessings. Blessings that abound in each day, each trial, each storm cloud. The question is, will I focus on the rainbow or the rain?

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about making pitchers of lemonade.

And congrats to Dicky To and Nichole Parks, May’s book give-away and gift basket winners!

Dicky, you’ve won a copy of Deborah Rainey’s Remember to Forget.

Nichole, you won the gift basket bundle listed on the May Donors page.

I’ll be contacting you both via email to get your mailing addresses. Be sure to join us Monday for another inspiring “Reach Out to Live Out” story.

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This past month, my husband’s schedule has changed slightly, and he’s spent a few days working from home. In the beginning, each day as I performed my daily chores he’d ask, “Are you in a cleaning mood?” By the third time he asked this, I had to laugh. What was routine for me Monday through Friday seemed out-of-place for him because I rarely do major housework while he’s around. Most likely, he doesn’t give the clean floors and folded clothes much thought. (And I’m sure there are countless things he does each day I’m not aware of.) If left undone, however, I’m sure he’d notice!

I think this is true of God as well. We notice and talk about the big things–a miracle healing, a special verse that pops off the page when we need it most, but each day, God works behind the scenes, watching over us, guiding, loving, nurturing. In Matthew 6:23 Jesus said: “But if your eyes are bad, then your whole body will be full of darkness.”

Bad eyesight leads to distorted vision. If we can’t see God’s hand, the problem lies with us, not Him.

Perhaps it’s time for a vision check. :)

Let’s talk about this. How often do you think we miss God’s blessings because we’re not looking? Throughout the Bible we are told to live lives of praise and gratitude. Do you think negativity can distort our vision? What else hinders our ability to see God’s hand? How might “counting our blessings” change that?

And on a fun note, what are some unexpected or perhaps easily overlooked blessings that came your way this week?

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about ways to enhance our spiritual vision. :)

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How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways ….

My husband is quite the romantic. He rarely buys me glitzy jewelry or takes me to five-star restaurants. He doesn’t read me poetry or take me dancing (perhaps you remember why. If not, you can read the reason here.), but he does buy me candied almonds when he’s at the outdoorsman store. He buys me jelly beans and packs of gum … just because. He sends me one sentence—uh … one word—emails, and calls me with absolutely nothing to say. :) It’s like a trail of love, small actions sprinkled throughout our sixteen years together, easily overlooked if I’m not paying attention, and yet able to penetrate deep into my heart if I am.

If you belong to Christ, you have a husband even more tender, more thoughtful, more attentive than mine. Daily, Christ showers us with love, for no other reason than because we are His beloved. His treasure.

Today my sweet friend  Elizabeth Veldboom shares how God sprinkled tokens of love before her, like hidden rose petals waiting to be discovered and cherished.

***

As I held the small angel ornaments in my hands, ready to purchase them, tears came to my eyes even as a smile touched my lips. I fingered the pretty white lace, and breathed in the words the angels held in their embrace: love, and joy. Yes, I had love. And I had joy, for I was loved.

But let me rewind a little bit. One morning last December in my prayer time I felt as if God were asking me to focus on “love” and “joy.” Love and joy? I thought, crinkling my brow. Could you be more specific, God? That’s kind of general.

If only I knew then how specific He could get.

A few days after that, I came across a blog post about the widespread phenomenon of the “one word for 2012” campaign. Basically, instead of concentrating on a huge resolutions list for the new year, participants were asked to consider focusing on just one word for 2012. They could do this through prayer, journaling, and just by asking God how He would have them apply that word throughout daily life.

The idea intrigued me, and I decided I, too, would focus on one word for 2012. As I mulled on it, my conversation with God a few days earlier came back to me. Focus on love and joy. Could those be the words God wanted me to concentrate on for 2012? I hoped not. They were two very broad terms. Besides, they were just that:two. I needed one word.

A week later found my mom and I at a craft fair. In the first room we entered, a woman selling lace angel ornaments caught our eye. As we ventured nearer, I felt a gentle tugging in my spirit to pay attention. Curious, I tried to listen closely to what God was trying to tell me. But instead of my ears, it was my eyes God used.

Looking up, one angel stood out from among the many. Love, I read. That would have been enough to make me wonder, but then I felt another gentle urging to keep looking. I swept my gaze to the side, and immediately recognized what I was supposed to see: joy, said another angel. I couldn’t believe it.

That was at least two months ago, but the words “love” and “joy” have kept resurfacing everywhere I go. And I’m not a bit surprised.

You see, I serve a God who takes joy out of the little things. Who never overlooks the smallest detail or tiniest trouble. Who orders and plans and organizes our steps. He is a God of greatness, yes-but He is also a God of the still, the small, the silent.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT.)

Every detail? Yes. Even the smallest: a single tear wetting the pillow; a snowflake drifting from the skies of heaven; the lace in an angel’s skirt.

No one is ever too insignificant for Him to notice. No problem too small for Him to care. Knowing He delights in and takes care of every little detail in our lives, we can rest easy and without fear.

I love that God delights in the details and in the small things. But even more-I love that God finds delight in the details of my small life.

I Hear Ya: In what small ways has God shown that He delights in the details of your life recently or in the past? What one word would you choose for 2012?

Elizabeth Veldboom is devoted to God, a small town girl, and a freelance writer.  She has previously been published in places like Guidepost’s Angels on Earth Magazine and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters. Visit her blog anytime at www.thefearlist.wordpress.com- the place that is for the faint of heart. **And visit her blog today to get in on a fun give-away! She’s giving away a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

And come back here Saturday as we talk about our spiritual vision. God’s always working, loving, speaking, guiding. If you can’t see His hand, perhaps you need to get your vision checked. :)

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