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Archive for the ‘Praise’ Category

If you’re reading this post right now, God has a plan for you. A glorious, fulfilling plan that can quicken even the most lethargic pulse. One that can give meaning to the mundane and add joy to the most excruciating–or mind numbing–of trials.

I’ve stayed home for over seventeen years now. That’s been 17 years of making beds, doing dishes, and ID-100144935washing stinky socks. Seventeen years of completing tasks most would never noticed and many of which would only need to be completed again.

I must have spent hours playing dolls. Yes, I know, engaging in “floor time” with our children creates priceless memories and deepens the maternal-child bond. I got that, and I was grateful for it. But a grown woman can only burp a plastic doll so many times before her sanity begins to wane.

When our daughter was young, and my days were spent singing lullabies (the same ones over and over) and waiting, in a silent house, for her to awake from a nap, the monotony of it all became unbearable!

I felt insignificant and unvalued, and began to wonder, what if I never made the bed today? What if I let the dishes sit? Extrapolate this out… What if I did nothing but occupy space and take in air? Would anyone notice? Would anyone care?

In other words: Does this--whatever this was at that moment–really matter?

But then one day, an idea hit: What if I used our play time as an avenue for learning? About numbers, colors, shapes, letters, Jesus? And so, I began to count the dolls clothing as we dressed her for the hundredth time. Our Barbies went to church and learned to pray. We formed shapes and created patterns with the Legos, and halved our pancakes at breakfast and sandwiches at lunch.

As we did, as I began to see purpose in every activity, the monotony gave way to excitement. Because the mundane had meaning.

We were created to do, but not just to do; to do that which has meaning. Meaning that will last beyond today.

I love how Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:10  “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” (NLT).

God’s masterpiece. Handiwork. Workmanship. Lovingly, attentively, purposefully crafted, moment by moment, experience by experience, with every trial, setback, and triumph.

All of it has deep and eternal purpose.

Each of us have a deep and eternal purpose, a role to play, one that was planned by our Creator long before we took our first breathe.

Pause and contemplate that for a moment. Throughout our life, from the times we took our first steps to this day and until we breath our last, God has been watching us. Molding us. Directing us.

Leading us from the meaningless and mundane toward the abundant life Jesus promised.

Our job? Keep stepping, with our eyes on our Lord and Savior, in surrendered obedience.

Let’s talk about this. Where are you today? Have you discovered your purpose and calling? If you have, let me ask you–what is the human element? In other words, in what ways are you, right now, using your gifts to reach out to others, encourage them, and point them to Christ?

Look back over your life, evaluating the joys and sorrows, in light of grace. Can you see God’s hand? His molding, crafting, stretching, and guiding? Before I go, I’d like to leave you with a verse, one I wrote out and have sitting on my desk.

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of His call. May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do” 1 Thessalonians 1:11

So much truth packed in that verse! Whenever I read those words, “worthy of His call”, I can’t help but think of all Christ gave–His very life–to save me. Truly, I will never be worthy of my call, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pursue it with all that I am and have. For His glory, and this is key, for it’s very easy to get so caught up in the call, we soon lose sight of the One who called us, allowing insecurities, pride, or selfish ambition to cloud our view.

I hope to revisit 1 Thes.1:11 in my next post. To my blogging friends, I invite you to join me. As iron sharpens iron, we can all learn from each other, and I’d love to read your perspectives on this verse. :)

LivingbyGracepicWhat are your thoughts on this verse? Do any words stick out to you? Do you have any favorite verses that help you remain focused on the eternal? If so, share them with us! Join the conversation here or at Living by Grace on Facebook. If today’s post sparked an excitement within, I encourage you to join our month-long study on surrender. Find out more here.

Before you go, I encourage you to pray both of the verses I’ve shared this morning. Then, prayerfully listen to this song, making it your heart’s cry to God today.

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ID-100149509Do you ever feel like you’re done? Wiped out, ready to toss out your clocks, to-do lists, and pocket calendars and head back to bed? For ever?

We all have those days, periods of time when it feels as if we’re on a rapidly moving treadmill. Or three. All going in different directions. I’ve heard it said the Christian journey is similar to a marathon. I’ve also heard it’s more like a series of sprints. I say it’s like sprints in the middle of a marathon. ;) And when we’re in the middle of it, it’s easy to veer towards the sidelines. And sometimes that’s okay, for a period. But many times, I believe, God calls us to keep running.

Because time is short and eternity is long.

When I remember that, focus on that, everything becomes easier. But when I focus on me? Oh, my! Everything begins to snowball, and before long, my spiraling emotions take my energy down with them. It’s amazing how a shift in perspective changes everything!

Consider David, the biblical character whose story is told in 1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 1 to 24, among other places. You can read his story here. I’ll paraphrase. Anointed king and proven to be a mighty, victorious warrior, by chapter 22, he’s hiding out in caves in fear of his life as a man David served faithfully relentlessly pursues him.

Relentlessly. Wearing David down day by day.

Perhaps you can relate. When facing a battle–spiritual, physical, or emotional–it’s fairly easy to approach it with strength, hope, and faith, in the beginning. But after a while we grow weary, and in our weariness, it’s easy to also grow hopeless. To start looking for our flag to surrender; to do an about face, ready to retreat.

And the more we stay there, the more we contemplate our weariness and struggles, the more drained we become.

Consider David’s words in Psalm 39:1-7 (NLT)

I said to myself, “I will watch what I do
and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue
when the ungodly are around me.”
2 But as I stood there in silence—
not even speaking of good things—
the turmoil within me grew worse.
3 The more I thought about it,
the hotter I got,
igniting a fire of words:
4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude
6 We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.

Let’s unpack this. According to the Tyndale study notes, in verse 1, David is resolving not to complain about his struggles. Though he is likely referring to the consequences he is facing for a sinful act detailed in 2 Samuel 11-12:1-24, I believe the principle applies to all trials. Complaining doesn’t help anybody. To the contrary. Negativity breeds negativity, within ourselves and our listeners. That doesn’t mean we can never share our struggles, but may we be known more for our praises, and may we never forget, we are NOT victims. No! For in Christ, we are more than conquerors.

Do our words and actions reveal that?

Are we centering out thoughts on that truth, or are we, like David did in verse 3, allowing negativity to dominate our thinking:

3 The more I thought about it,
the hotter I got,
igniting a fire of words:

What, then, is the solution? How can we combat this cancer of negativity and self-centeredness? Because that is exactly what it is. When we’re playing the poor-me role, we are focused entirely on ourselves, and self-centeredness leads to sorrow, defeat, skepticism, and frustration. Every. Time.

To combat this and to reignite our joy, we need to turn our thoughts to eternity:

4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.

This isn’t to say we should continually spend ourselves to the point of exhaustion for even Jesus our Savior took time to rest. But even then, our ID-10032933-1focus should be on eternity. When we rest, we do so in order to rebuild and refuel so we can jump back in that race.

We can raise the flag in surrender but may we never retreat.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. As you read the above passage, what thoughts came to mind? In what ways has focusing on eternity helped you get through a rough or tiring stretch? For those who battle fatigue, does negative thinking ever exacerbate that, and if so, how? Join the conversation here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

For those of you following my cyber-book tour, here’s where I’ve been this week.

For those of you who have read “Beyond I Do” (Still available in Kindle and Nook version for $2.99!) and would like to form a book club or simply did deeper into the novel, you can use the book club questions posted on my publisher’s blog. (I hope to launch an online discussion/Bible study group mid-November that will use the book as a discussion starter.)

I feel like I took up permanent residents down at KCRO/FM 100.7 The Fish’s studio this month with two interviews on KCRO (different times) and one on the Fish. I hope to have the recording of the Fish interview, and I think I posted my first KCRO interview. Here’s a link to the second one.

I’ll be on Deborah Piccurelli’s site all month. You can read my interview here (and get entered into the drawing to win a free book!).

For those in or visiting the Omaha area this Saturday, I’ll be at Barnes and Noble in the Oakview Mall doing a book signing. Details here.

AND for those wanting to hang about a little longer, I’d love if you’d follow me to my church’s Halloween Bash that evening from 5-7pm, located at Reality Church, 10695 Portal Road, LaVista, NE.

Yesterday I shared some stories of three men we’ve served at Takin’ it to the Streets–three very broken lives greatly changed by love. I hope you’ll be encouraged. You can read that here.

I camped out on Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s blog all week (and she’s doing a give-away). I shared my real-life romance story–an evolving love–on Monday. You can read that here.  On Wednesday, she interviewed my heroine. You can read that here. On Friday she posted an excerpt from the novel. You can read that here.

And before you go, if you’re a writer, I encourage you to read my friend Jennifer Hallmark’s post on ways to overcome writer’s block. You can read that here. 

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I’m formatting this post through tear-blurred vision, amazed once again by God’s mercy and grace. Those who know me personally know I’m not the most advanced-thinking, detail-oriented writer on the web. Lately, with book edits and launch responsibilities, this has proved more true ID-100160717than ever. The result–I don’t often read the guest posts authors send me until the last minute. (Which can result in scrambling if I find what my guest has written isn’t a good fit. You’d think I’d learn.)

Similarly, with the gunk I’ve faced these past two years, you’d think I’d learn … to choose to praise when I want to isolate. To persevere when I’d rather stay in bed. To lean on Christ, who’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, when I feel defeated.

I’m learning. Slowly, and at times with gritted teeth.

Profile Pic mainLong intro to say, today is one of those days, and just when I was beginning to slip into poor-me mode, I read Misty Beller’s post on trials and reminded myself once again, God is in the gunk and the glorious, and He can and does use every tear, trial, and triumph for eternal good.

The Blessings of Trials by Misty Beller

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

I’m not sure who came up with this nifty saying, but for so many years it’s been my life’s motto.

The fact is, trials happen. Life is hard. But through the pain, God has taught me two vital truths.

  1. Sometimes you just have to buckle down and get through it.

Over the last year, my family’s gone through a lot of hard “stuff”, from a miscarriage, to an accident where my husband broke multiple bones in his face and neck. Since then he’s had six surgeries, each rendering him mostly an invalid for about four weeks, and me the sole breadwinner and caregiver for our girls, age seven and three. There were so many times that I could only take one day—one hour—at a time. There was no room to worry about the future, I could only buckle down and focus on what had to be done in the next hour.

But that was a hard lesson for this former control-freak to learn. It took God stripping away layers of my perceived ability to control. I couldn’t know which doctor appointment would bring to light more broken bones, requiring immediate surgery. I couldn’t know when the call would come from the babysitter that one of the girls had thrown up five times in the last hour. God was the only one who could see ahead, and I had to trust that He would bring us through it. There was no other option for me.

  1. The blessings can’t come without the trials.

This concept didn’t become crystal clear for me until recently. It’s not just that God will bless us through the hard times, with patience and strength, and maybe a few token bright spots. But it’s not possible to receive the best He has in store for us, unless we go through the hard times. Kind of like looking at a river on a map. You can’t reach the ocean until you’ve followed the path of the river.

My writing journey is a great example of this. There were so many times I thought I’d found the perfect avenue for my book. An agent or editor would send an optimistic response to my initial query, and they would ask for the full manuscript. But God gently shut each of the wrong doors, opening little windows of light in the direction He had planned. At the end of the day, I’m so thankful for the “No” answers I received, because they brought me to the point where I could see Him pointing toward the right door. And now, my debut novel The Lady and the Mountain Man released in September, and I have no doubt I’m exactly where God has planned for me in my writing journey. But I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for the awful times of rejection and uncertainty and frustration.

These two truths aren’t new, and may seem fairly obvious. But when you’re in the darkest times, wondering if you’ll even make it to morning, knowing these two facts—along with the absolute truth of God’s love for you, His child—may be just what you need to see the light. I know that’s been the case for me.

I’ll be praying God blesses you with perseverance and the fullness of His plan for your life, even through the hard times.

Blessings,

Misty

***

Misty Beller was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and two daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

Writing is a dream come true for Misty. Her family—both immediate and extended—is the foundation that holds her secure in that dream.

You can find Misty on her website, blog, Goodreads, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Mountain Man coverThe Lady and the Mountain Man back cover blurb:

Leah Townsend, a recently orphaned heiress, flees Richmond after discovering her fiancé’s plot to kill her after their wedding. She needs a safe place to hide, and finds herself accepting a newspaper marriage proposal from a God-fearing young rancher in the Montana Territory. But when Leah arrives at the mountain ranch, she learns her intended husband was killed by a grizzly, leaving behind a bitter older brother and a spunky younger sister.

When Gideon Bryant finds a city girl standing in his log cabin, his first thought is to send her back where she came from. He’s lost too many people to the wild elements of these mountains––his parents, his wife, and now his brother. His love for this untamed land lives on, but he’s determined not to open his heart to another person.

But when an accident forces Leah to stay at the ranch for seven more months, can Gideon protect his heart from a love he doesn’t want? Has Leah really escaped the men who seek her life?

Buy it here:

On Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. When I’m going through a tough time, physically or emotionally, it’s easy to focus on the here and now and forget the eternal. But God is ever faithful to remind me of His sovereignty and love, a love that is bigger than anything this sin-cursed world can throw our way. And He sees. He knows. He cares, and He is always working to mold and equip us and to fulfill His eternal plan.

Eternal. I often lose sight of that, but in truth, trials are a tangible reminder that this world is not our home. (Praise God for that!)

What about you? When have you received blessings from your trials? How has a trial (grief, sickness, material struggles, etc.) encouraged you to remember and focus on the eternal?

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

And now, for those of you who aren’t on FB, here’s where I’ve been this week.

Yesterday I shared an article on Rest Ministries that fits quite well with today’s theme. In it I share how God has used my chronic illnesses to bless and grow my family. You can read this piece here.

Yesterday I also learned my debut novel had been nominated for the fiction category of the ECPA awards. Yay!

Today I’m on Deborah Piccurelli’s chatting about my novel, where the inspiration for the story came from, and how I hope the story will impact my readers. You can read the interview here.

Deborah also read and reviewed my novel. I enjoyed reading her perspective of the story. You can read her review here.

I also did a book give-away on fellow author Sara Ellen’s blog, one which she has extended. So, if you haven’t read my novel yet and would like a chance to win it, or if you’d like to win it as a gift for a friend, you can enter the drawing here.

Author Catherine Castle invited me to visit with her readers on her blog. You can join our chat here.

On Monday I stopped by Jessica Everingham’s to talk about living a life without regret. You can read this post here.

That’s my week. (Most of it, anyway.) What about you? What have you been up to? What has God been showing you?

On Monday I talked about the life-transformaing power of grace on Wordsmith Woman. You can read that post here.

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Two brothers, one blessing, and a mother who effectively turns one against the other. Family dysfunction forever recorded in the pages of Scripture.
How would you like to leave that as your legacy?
cookdishwashing001Legacy.
Does that word make you cringe? If you’re a parent, I’m pretty sure you’ve struggled

with guilt, fear, and feelings of defeat on more than one occasion. Maybe daily! As I was listening to my Pandora this morning, lyrics I heard really encouraged me. Of course, now I can’t recall them, but in essence, the singer said each day he’d give all he had, and that would be his legacy.
Pause to consider that for a moment. When everything goes crazy and it’s all you can do to keep those nasty thoughts from flying off your tongue, give your all.
When your kids are sick, or crabby, the air conditioner breaks, and your bank account dwindles, and you haven’t got a dime to spare. When it’s all you can do to share a smile and maybe a cup of tea with a lonely neighbor, give your all.
When you want to serve in a half a dozen places but time, young children underfoot, or a failing body holds you back, and it’s all you can do to send out emails or phone calls or encouraging texts, give your all.
That will be your legacy, and that is enough. Because worship and surrender is a heart issue.
Today my sweet friend talks about giving God our all when our self rises up, demanding our full attention. As you read her thoughts on perhaps the most famous feuding brothers in all history, consider her question: How do we–how do you–know when we’re seeking God’s best?
beth picSeeking His Best by Beth Farely
There is such deception that takes place between Jacob and Esau. The brothers both wanted their father’s blessing, but Jacob eventually stole Esau’s blessing. They were seeking their own selfish best, not God’s. Genesis 25:29-34
How do we know if we are seeking God’s best for our lives and not seeking self-gratification? I admit there have been times in my life where I get into a mood and feel that I can do whatever I want and convince myself it will work for me. That is not an example of seeking God’s best for my life.
Stay Focused
When I am focused on something I’ve desired, it always has a way of showing up. A huge piece of cake, an over-spending shopping trip; a white lie…yup, there they are right there in front of me.  Are they God’s best? Absolutely not!
Stay in the Word
What does it mean to seek God’s best? It means seeking His will by being in His Word–reading the Bible daily. It really means giving up of self and adding more of Him in your life. Like Esau and Jacob, we can become jealous of others and allow that jealousy to rob us of God’s best for our lives. Unbelievers may see this as God being the dictator of our lives because He calls the shots. But He is not a dictator; He gave us the free will to choose. Jacob and Esau didn’t have to be so jealous and evil toward each other; God did not choose that for them.
Stay in His Will
God holds the key to an abundant, joy-filled life. His way is really the best way. The world tells us to make our own path, to do it “my way.” But the Bible teaches that true freedom comes from living under the loving care of our heavenly Father. Understanding how God’s sovereignty impacts our lives helps us enjoy a life of greater meaning and purpose; His perfect purpose.
Beth Ann Farley lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband and six grown children and 13 grandchildren. She wrote for www.bookfun.org., Toot n’ Town magazine. She has recently been published with Landline magazine, Teachers in Focus, Horse & Rider, Mature Years, Indian Life and Wesleyan Publishing.  Her poetry has been featured in Sweet Freedom written by Jennifer Slattery. She’s guest blogged on thewriteconversation@blogspot.com by Edie Melson and Poppy Smith’s Inspiring Women to Thrive blog. Beth is a co-host on Living by Grace, a faith-based Facebook community. She often writes for the Senior Smart Network; a network devoted to senior citizens. Visit her online at FirstHalfDay.
LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Do you ever wish you could do more for God? What are you doing with what He’s giving you today? Are you seeking His best in every moment, in the gunk and the joys? Because he who is faithful in the little things will also be faithful with the big. ;)
As a fun aside, I recently learned my novel is now available for purchase in ebook form and at a discount–under $8 in fact! You can get your copy from CBD here.
Other news and updates–seems I’ve been all across the web this week. Join me on fellow LbG hostess Maria Morgan’s blog as I talk about my novel and what God’s been showing me about faithfulness. You can read that here.
On Internet Cafe’ Devotions I talked about our need to cultivate listening ears. You can read this here.
With school starting and all the chaos that brings, I wrote an article for Crosswalk on how we can live by the Spirit when life gets crazy. You can read that here.
Last Friday I chatted with another LbG hostess, Jessica R. Patch about my writing and my debut. You can read that interview here.
On Saturday I visited with Crystal Barnes from Stitches in Time. Join us here.
Monday I chatted with fellow ACFW author Casey Herringshaw. Join us here.
And finally, yesterday I camped out over at Takin’ it to the Streets where I talked about slipping and falling, and responding to others who do the same. You can read this devotion here. (And don’t forget to mark your calendar for our first annual Hope for the Homeless event, coming next month!)
That’s all that’s new with me. :) Now it’s your turn! Share your thoughts, your news, your celebrations with us over at Living by Grace on FB or in the comments below.

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shutupSometimes I think I’d do well to bind my mouth with duct tape before going out. From blurted inconsideracies to complaints and arguments over trivial things that, when pointed out, reveal more about me than the actual issue.

Why, oh why is the tongue so hard to tame? Or am I the only one eating my feet a good chunk of the time? footnmouth-1

If only I’d remain safely behind my computer with its delete key.

My biggest problem? OJM disease–overactive jaw muscles and a very me-centered brain that likes to believe I have the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and necessary input for every debate.

The problem with this? Proverbs 10:19 puts it so well: “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (NLT).

I suppose it’s a law of averages thing–you spew enough words some of them are bound to be sinful, hurtful, not productive or effective.

So what’s the solution? Invest in duck tape? Hide out in my bedroom? Throw up my hands with the concession that this is who I am?

None of those options progress the gospel, which is a huge problem, me being Christian and all as quite frankly, it is for the sake of the gospel I–and other Christians–are still here. On earth, I mean.

So once again I ask, what’s the solution?

Gritting my teeth and proceeding with the utmost determination won’t solve this, not long-term, anyway, because the moment I relax or get distracted I’ll revert to my old, verbose ways.

PrayerwThe best, the only solution is to continually draw near to God, allowing Him to work in and through me.

Pausing to acknowledge Him while I wash the dishes.

Praying while I fold the clothes.

Singing songs of praise, out loud or internally, while I go about my daily tasks.

Checking negativity and consciously focusing on my Savior and all He’s done instead.

For Christ-like behavior comes not from me but from Him.

Consider David’s words in Psalm 139:4 “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD” (NLT).

In other words, God knows, the moment you sit down to read your Bible each morning, when you’re going to flub it in the day ahead.

And He’s already got a plan in place. More than that, He’s ready and able to communicate that plan, to guide you, your thoughts, and your words to those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. (Phil. 4:8)

God is true. God is honorable. God is right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

See where I’m going with this?

What’s the solution to a wayward tongue? To fix our eyes–our thoughts and focus–on God, checking in with Him throughout the day, pausing to acknowledge His presence when we’re stopped at a stop light or waiting in a check-out line. Listening to His soft, gentle whisper that guides us throughout the day and continually draws us to Himself, the only place we’ll receive the strength and peace needed to speak words of love, grace, and truth.

Because living the Christian life isn’t about trying harder but rather, drawing closer to our Savior.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. What is your greatest struggle? How might checking in with God throughout the day help you in that area? How might centering your thoughts on Him fill your heart with praise and peace?

How much room is there for angst, frustration, or ungodliness in a heart filled–saturated–with praise?

If you enjoyed this post, you might find the following helpful:

Grabbing Hold of God Moments

Don’t Try Harder, Love More

Cultivating a Thankful heart

Oh, and since my book launch is but a few days away, and since some of you aren’t on Facebook, I thought you might want to know where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Yesterday I chatted with the editor of Family Fiction about my book, where the story came from, and what I hoped y’all would gain from it. You can read the interview here.

On July 4th and 11th, fellow ACFW writer Janet Sketchley interviewed two of my characters from Beyond I Do. You can get to know Ainsley here and Richard here.

On July 7th I chatted about books in general (and my addiction to them) on Writing For the Soul. You can join the discussion here.

On July 28th, I was honored to be on June Foster’s Author Spotlight. You can join me here.

My sweet friend Jennifer Hallmark was interviewed regarding her contributions to Sweet Freedom, the book itself, and her writing journey. You can read about all that here.

Next month, book launch month, I’ll be all over the web, but unfortunately, I’ve run out of time for link posting. ;)

As a fun aside, I recently finished plotting book three in my Midwestern Romance series, two stories that continue where Beyond I Do leaves off. Here’s hoping my publisher loves the plot and premise for books two and three as much as I do! I should also add, with my books release but days away, the pre-release discount will soon be over. So… if you were planning on buying the book, now’s a great time.

 

 

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ID-100208307Ten years ago, one could go to a restaurant and see families actually talking. They could hold a conversation–like a full, twenty minute one–without the beep of an incoming text or emails halting it.

But then came smart phones and Facebook and all those alerts and instant messages that come with it, and suddenly, these things that we thought would free our time actually hold us in bondage. Those devices that we believed would keep us connected actually distract us from the very people we most want to connect with.

And I am by far the most guilty of this. I think it’s the instant ID-100103470gratification thing. Or maybe some sort of conditioning–you know, like Pavlo did with dogs and dog food. The bell rang; they got dog food until the bell alone could make them salivate. Now swap dogs and dog food with humans and instant messages. ;)

This week, I’ve been focusing on living fully present in the present. This started on a particularly hum-drum day when my body decided to rebel but my mind wanted it to behave like it had five years ago. I think that’s maybe the hardest part of chronic illness, well, the hardest part of adapting to it; realizing that life has changed. And that you can still find joy in that.

Unless you’re consumed with thoughts of what once were or what one day might be.

Because you can’t live–fully live–in the present if you’re always searching for a way back to the past. Nor if you’re trying to leap up ahead. It’s like maybe we feel we’re missing out on something.

Which we are. If we’re not living fully present in the present. We’ll miss out on a lot.

And we’ll never really enjoy the blessings God is giving us now.

Today I focused on doing just that. I put my to-do list, hum-drums, concerns for tomorrow or thoughts of yesterday aside and spent a wonderful afternoon with my princess.

It started with a trip to the UP building to join my hubby for lunch. The weather couldn’t have been better. Overcast, a slight breeze, maybe 75 degrees. Plus, I had annoyed my daughter a total of 0 times on the drive over. (If you didn’t believe in miracles before…)

We get there to find my husband waiting, inching toward the exit. We’d fully expected to eat in the company cafe’, which is lovely.

But he–and God–had other plans.

My husband surprised us by asking if we’d perhaps like to eat somewhere else, saying he “had time”. Guiding us out of the building and toward the historical Old Market area with it’s cobblestone streets, amateur musicians, eclectic stores, and every flavor of cuisine one could imagine.

We chose to eat at Blue Sushi Sake Grill as sort of a thank you for the generous donation they gave to the Hope for the Homeless event. Then my husband returned to work and my daughter and I spent the rest of the afternoon being silly-goofy.

Being fully present in the present.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. You can’t fully enjoy today if you’re trying to cling to the past. Nor if you’re always looking ahead for what might be. And it’s easy to allow all those momentary distractions to occupy our time, but though they may give us “pleasure”, they’ll never give us joy. Rather, left unchecked, they’ll steal from us those very things that do bring joy: close relationships, peace, solitude, gratitude, and praise.

In what ways are you living a partial life? What have you allowed to hinder your joy of today? What can you do today, right now, to live fully present in the present?

For those of you wanting to go deeper in your friendships, you might find my latest Crosswalk article helpful: How to Maintain (Imperfect) Friendships.

 

 

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WhiningThat noise! It grates on our every last nerve and sets the hairs on our neck on edge. It’s worse than nails scraping on chalkboard or our spouse grinding their teeth at night. It’s that high-pitched, face scrunched, body slumped whine. Parents, you know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?

God does, too. Only He gets it not from one child but from oh, a few billion. Nonstop.

Kinda makes you cringe, huh?

We’re all guilty of this. We have times, more than we’d like to admit where, surrounded by blessings, we zero in on the inconvenience or struggle and soon our heart’s a mess of frustration and discontentment. Even in our greatest struggle, we’re surrounded by blessings. Always. We just lose sight of them, is all.

This is why we are to thank God with ALL of our heart–every last nook, cranny, and crevice. Leaving no room–nada–for angst, frustration, or discontentment.

This has been my focus this week, and to help with this, I’ve posted Psalm 111:1-3 throughout my home:

“Praise the Lord!gratitude-2

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
    as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!
    All who delight in him should ponder them.
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
    His righteousness never fails” (NLT).

I will thank the Lord with ALL my heart. Every last crevice and fiber, pushing the discouragement, worry, fear, angst, frustration–everything other than gratitude–away, choosing to praise.

And I will surround myself with people who do the same, because gratitude and praise is contagious. (v. 1b)

In fact, since gratitude and praise are contagious, I will determine all the more to cultivate a thankful heart, so that my words can build up and strengthen others.

When I am tempted to fret or fall into a rut of negative thinking, I will ponder the deeds of the Lord.

This week, I’ve been doing just that, and I’ve found, if I were to attempt to list all God has done, I’d never finish!

Perhaps that’s the point. ;)

Finally, as I’m contemplating the deeds of the Lord, I’ll pause to reflect on who He is, for everything He does, big and small, reveals His glory and majesty.

This week I challenge you to cultivate a thankful heart, pondering all God has done in your life, then consider what each deed reveals about God’s character. At our house, we’ve made a list. During dinner, we reflect on Psalm 111, sharing two things God has done–one from the past and one more recent–and then we discuss what this tells us about God. Through this, we’ve seen His incredible faithfulness, noting even our times of greatest struggle turned into wonderful blessings.

Because as Ephesians 4:6 says, God is over all and in all and living through all.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. How have you seen that to be true in your life? Pause to reflect on the past year. In what ways has God been faithful? How has He revealed His glory and majesty to you? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Other resources, articles, or posts you might enjoy:

Are You a Complainer or a World Changer

Joyful Living by Rhonda H. Kelley

True Contentment by Rhonda H. Kelley

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