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Today’s post comes from a sweet woman I first met at the Writing for the Soul Conference in Dallas. Elizabeth is one of those people that brighten up a room–always smiling. She radiates the love of Christ in all she does. The story she shares with us today is a perfect example of how.

Strange Praying

by Elizabeth Veldboom

            One day when I was working as a receptionist I went outside to enjoy my lunch. As I rounded the corner to my favorite spot, I stifled a groan. A man I didn’t know was sitting at my table. Normally, I liked having lunch alone. It gave me a chance to think and re-energize for the rest of the day.

I decided to sit at the other table across from him, smiling and nodding. Maybe he’ll leave soon, I hoped.

I can’t remember how the conversation started, but I know one did. The man told me about how he had to ride the bus because he didn’t have a car, how he didn’t have a car because he’d been too nice to his ex-wife after their divorce, and how he had a meeting nearby at 2:00 with some people who were going to help him find some housing.

            2:00? I thought. That’s two hours from now! I guess that means company for lunch.

I winced with guilt at the thought. This man didn’t have a home, and there I was, upset because of my disturbed lunch hour.

I studied the talkative man across from me. He didn’t look especially scary, but I rarely spoke to strangers. I’d actually listened to that talk when I was younger. I could hear my dad’s warning voice clanging like a bell in my mind, and I thought about what I should do. From the man’s talk I surmised he was homeless, or close to. He had a big belly that hung over his old shorts, a long scrape going down one of his skinny legs, a face full of haunting eyes, and a head full of disheveled hair. Not exactly “respectable” company, but not dangerous, either.

But I was all alone, and he was poor. The perfect situation for a lot of bad things to happen. Still, something in his demeanor told me he wasn’t going to hurt me. I decided to stay.

The man-who later introduced himself as Richard-said he’d been waiting since 10:00 that morning for his meeting because it was the only time the bus could drop him off without making him late. He said he’d walked across to City Market and bought himself a water to pass the time, and only had two dollars left. He brought his hand out of his pocket to prove it but was surprised when he found three instead.

I stared down at my $5.00 lunch.

“It might be enough to buy me a beer somewhere,” he said. “I haven’t had a beer in three years. I might go buy one.”

Was he a drunk, and that’s really what had gotten him into his current financial situation? Or was he just an occasional drinker, longing for a treat he hadn’t partaken of in years? Either way, it didn’t make sense to me. Why spend your last few dollars on a beer?

“Why?” I finally asked.

“Because it’ll make me feel good,” he shrugged.

My heart tore for him. I couldn’t imagine an existence where a beer was a person’s only source of comfort. As we continued talking, I felt more and more sorry for him.

“Dropped out of school to join the army. Seventeen, and jumping out of airplanes,” Richard said.

He’d been through three divorces and was once a vacuum salesman. He never spoke of children, and his wives seemed to want to have nothing to do with him. My heart grew heavy for this man Richard as he shared his story, and I yearned for some way to help him. He’d had such a sad life. I thought about offering my lunch, but I’d already eaten half of it and didn’t want to offend him. I could give him money, but what if he just used it to buy a beer? Then I remembered I didn’t have any money with me anyway.        What I wanted to give him most of all was a relationship with Christ.

The thought entered my mind that I could pray for him. But I’d never prayed out loud for someone before. It was a fear I’d wanted to conquer for some time and was considering putting on my blog (each month I faced a fear of mine and chronicled on my blog what happened when I did) but was I brave enough to do it right here, right now?

I knew it was the most important thing I could give him. I knew it was what I wanted to give him. So I prayed how I was comfortable at first- silently with just God and I.

            Oh, God. You know me. I’m bad at these things! Please, please, please give me the courage. If you want me to do this, you’re going to have to give me some kind of opening, because I really don’t know how to do this.

It was only minutes before I needed to be back at work, and I was running out of time. I needed to do it if I was going to. But I hated praying out loud! Whenever I did, my prayers became awkward, fake, and staged. It seemed so wrong to condense the Living God into a plastic prayer, as if He weren’t actually listening. And yet, that’s what I did every time. It was easy for me to speak to God when it was just Him and I, but praying out loud and for other people was another story. It felt strange, unfamiliar.

I looked helplessly again at my purse. I don’t have any money to give him.             Suddenly, I was reminded of a similar situation in the Bible. It was Acts 3 when Peter and John went to the Temple and met a beggar lame from birth. When the beggar approaches them for money Peter says, “‘I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!’

Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.”

That was it! God had given me my opening. I knew what to do, and how to do it.

I leaned forward, all apprehension gone. “I have to leave soon, but before I go, there’s something I’d like to do. I don’t have any money to give you, but can I give you what I do have? Can I pray for you?” I held my breath.

He paused. “Well, I guess it couldn’t hurt, could it?”

I shook my head with a smile and bowed my head. ”Father God, thank you so much for giving me the chance to meet Richard today. It was great getting to know him, and I pray you’ll bless him. Give him money where he needs the money, and let him know you and how much you love him. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

As I looked up, I saw the most precious sight, one I’ll never forget: tears glistened at the corners of his eyes.

He let me see them for only a moment, straightening and blinking. Still, his voice was a little husky when he spoke. “I feel the same. I’m glad I got to meet you.”

My prayer was nothing special. It was one of the shortest and most simple I’d ever heard. It wasn’t what I’d wanted it to be, but it had still seemed to touch him.

I’m not sure I’ll ever know what happened to Richard. I don’t know if he got his life turned around, or started a life with Jesus as his Savior. But I do know I will never regret praying for him or seeing those tears.

I believe in the power of prayer and in the name of Jesus, so I have no doubt God moved. How he moved is His business. But it might just have left a man broken from birth leaping and dancing. At least, that’s what I’m praying.

***

Bio: Elizabeth Veldboom is devoted to God, a small town girl, and a freelance writer. An Apprentice graduate from Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, she has previously been published in places like CBN.com 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.

***

Before you embark on your busy day, I’d like to ask … Where will you spend your lunch? And who might you encounter while there? Perhaps pause to pray that God would keep you alert to the open doors He provides–open doors to show, tangibly, the love of Christ to a hurting world.

I want to give a shout-out to our June donors:

Sandra Robbins with Dangerous Reunion, Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Run and the Promise of Deer Run, Sherri Johnson with ebook To Dance Once More, Jerri Ledford with ebook Biloxi Sunrise, and Shannon Taylor Vannatter with Rodeo Hero.

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Today’s post is a bit off the cuff, so if you see an abundance of typos and awkward phrases, bear with me, please. :)

Many of you have shared such kind words regarding our move. For those of you who read  The Gift of No, I wanted to give you an update–a praise worthy, grace-infused update. :) (If you haven’t read it, you might want to. Today’s post will make more sense.)

But before I do, I did want to touch on Thursday’s post. Yesterday I received an email that indicated the post had the potential to be misunderstood. In no way was I suggesting emotional repression. Nor was I trying to minimize the grief that comes from trials we face. My intent was to share what God showed me during our difficult time–that He is still good even when life is hard.

This doesn’t mean my daughter doesn’t still mourn her old friends, doesn’t still struggle with the move. It does mean that He wants me to walk beside her, to show her a love that is strong and true. And that was the message I want to convey to her, and that I’d hoped to share with all of you.

On my drive, God also showed me not to miss out on the potential blessing of connecting with my daughter–because I almost missed it.

Now back to closed doors and divine nos. :)

A few weeks ago, I shared about a home we made an offer on. It was in a great neighborhood, walking distance from the high school, was spacious, fit our budget. Or so we thought. But God said no.

We are now living in the house–the neighborhood God showed us … after the no. The house He said yes to. (This house is in a different city–a suburb of Omaha.) It’s smaller, not fancy, but … home. With a lovely walking trail that connects to our neighborhood. Those who know me know how much I cherish my walks. That’s my Jesus time. The day after we’d moved in, I left the boxes and clutter, grabbed my Iphone (with it’s Pandora Radio) and went for a walk. God met me on that path, and showed me it was His gift to me.

On Sunday, we went to a church ten minutes from our house. An outreach focused church full of welcoming Christians. We met the youth pastor, and on Wednesday, my daughter joined them for a dinner and movie night.

This Sunday, our love for the church grew.

On Wednesday, our daughter will spend two hours with the HS tennis team. She’ll do the same each Wednesday and Friday this summer. Two days a week of connecting with HS kids. Kids who will provide familiar faces on my daughter’s first day of school, some may even lead to great friendships.

You see, God knew all along.

Once again, praising God for the gift of no, and His love that never ends, never leaves, always guides.

Happy Sunday!

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We lived in Louisiana when Katrina hit and saw first hand the devastation storms can bring, but we saw so much more! We saw communities unite, churches and Christians mobilize, and a blanket of love encompass the area. A short time after Katrina hit, when our city was full of storm refugees, the Billy Graham crusade came through. Storm victims were living in our cities’ churches, surrounded by Christ’s love, and our cities were filled with an influx of caring, serving, giving Christians coming to see the crusade. As I saw people actively demonstrate Christ’s love, I was reminded that even during the storm–especially during the storm–God was there.

Today’s post comes from multi-published author, Cara Putman. When a powerful tornado ravished Joplin, Missouri, God called her to be His hands and feet–to share His love with the hurting. Despite looming deadlines, family commitments, and all the other demands on her time, Cara accepted God’s call. Because of her obedience, many hurting families experienced the love of Christ.

http://www.wlfi.com/video/videoplayer.swf?dppversion=9248

At the end of May 2011 and beginning of June, I tackled a project that grew exponentially. A little idea that took on a force of its own with the help of local media. As a result massive amounts of time disappeared as I collected and sorted boxes and bags of items for Joplin.

After the tornados that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, last year, I’ve been burdened by their horrific paths of destruction. I first asked God what I could do when I saw the horrific images of Alabama. Then the weekend storms hit Joplin. A third of the town…gone.

It’s almost too much to fathom.

But the burden wouldn’t leave. So I kept praying. A donation didn’t seem like enough, though I did that, too. I wanted to do something tangible. Something the kids could participate in like giving of clothes and books to those who have lost everything.

I mentioned an idea to my pastor’s wife, and literally, in twenty-four hours God exploded it into something so much bigger. I love how He does that! Our church is a collection point for material goods to go to a church in Joplin where my pastor’s brother serves as a worship pastor. I sent out a facebook message to 41 friends (don’t you love social networking) and three local churches partnered with us. I worried about how we would transport the goods, and one of those churches had a box truck we used.

So what can we do?
• Pray. I absolutely believe prayer is key.
• Give. There are excellent organizations like Convoy of Hope and Samaritan’s Purse that are on the ground making a difference.
• If you want to help with physical items when a disaster strikes, make sure you work with a church or organization already on the ground there.
• In Joplin, we learned desperately needed items included:
o Baby food
o formula
o diapers
o kids’ clothes from infant on up
o toys and books are welcome too, but think small since we’ll have to transport everything.
o tarps in all shapes and sizes.
o hygiene products — everything from hotel sample sized to full sized

But those needs may change based on the disaster. I refuse to stand paralyzed in the face of disaster. Instead, I choose to do something and be the hands and feet of Christ to those in desperate need.

***

Cara C. Putman lives in Indiana with her husband and four children. She’s an attorney and a teacher at her church as well as lecturer at Purdue. She has loved reading and writing from a young age and now realizes it was all training for writing books. She loves bringing history and romance to life.

An honors graduate of the University of Nebraska and George Mason University School of Law, Cara left small town Nebraska and headed to Washington, D.C., to launch her career in public policy.

Cara is an author chasing hard after God as she lives a crazy life. She invites you to join her on that journey. Learn more at: http://www.caraputman.com, http://blog.caraputman.com, http://www.facebook.com/caraputman, http://www.twitter.com/cara_putman, and http://www.pinterest.com/caraputman.

A Wedding Transpires in Mackinac Island:

Attorney Alanna Stone vowed long ago to avoid Mackinac Island. Although it may seem the perfect place to heal, for Alanna it holds too many memories of a painful past.

But an exhausting high profile case and an urgent plea from her parents have brought Alanna home. Moving into the house next to Jonathan Covington doesn’t help her. Jonathan may have been her first love, but he was also her first lesson in betrayal. Now Alanna must protect her privacy and her heart. Then Secrets and a murder intersect, and she’s thrust into controversy again as tragedy turns public opinion against her and potentially her family.

For years, Jonathan has stubbornly resisted the urging of his family and friends to date, believing he’s already found the perfect woman. With Alanna’s return, he begins to wonder if he’s waited too long for someone who isn’t the right one after all.

We are to be Christ’s hands and feet, His instruments of love to a hurting world. Can you share a time when God called you to reach out to someone experiencing great loss or trial? Or perhaps you were the one struggling, and God loved you through others. Share your story here so we can all rejoice in God’s merciful, ever-reaching love.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book, and submit your “Reach Out” story for a chance to win a gift basket.

April’s donors include Mary Ellis with An Amish Family Reunion, Deborah Raney with Almost Forever, Cara Putman with A  Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, Vannetta Chapman with Falling to Pieces, Rebecca Lyles with Winds of Wyoming, and Gina Holmes with Dry as Rain. (Read more about all these great books here, and show your appreciating by clicking on their names to visit their websites.)

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When I was a kid, while walking to and from school, I’d see signs showing which homes were “safe houses.” Should trouble ever arise, I knew where I could go. The welcome mat on these doorsteps meant exactly what it said.

Although safe houses still exist, it seems many have been replaced by no trespassing signs as we isolate ourselves further and further from one another. But as followers of Christ, I believe our homes should extend a loud and hearty welcome. You never know when God will use you to be a beacon of love and hope to one of His broken children.

Today’s post comes from Kenneth W. Bangs, a man who extended a welcome instead of a barrier, and in doing so, spoke love and acceptance into two people’s lives.

***

Herschel lived down the road. First time I saw him he was sitting on his porch. I realized we had a new neighbor so I stopped to say hey. He stood as I walked up…tall and thin with a demeanor that told me he had done time. I shook his hand, chatted a minute…could tell he was really uncomfortable so I drove on.

Some months later I was on a tractor and saw him pull up. He shuffled over, head down and said, “Boss would it be ok if I brought my grandson over to fish in your ponds?” I told him sure and he said, “You know I done some time.”

“I know,” I said.

“It was over dope and it was hard time because I acted the fool in the joint.” He looked up at me and said, “You’re police aren’t you?”

“Used to be.”

He nodded and started talking…told me his whole life story. I’d heard it so many times before…so hard, so violent. I prayed with him and told him to enjoy the fishing. He brought his grandson by several times and then stopped. I got a call from a local pastor. He told me Herschel had cancer, no insurance and asked if we could help. Of course we did. I talked with him from time to time, watched as the disease consumed him. Then he was gone. I saw that little grandson as I drove past the other day sitting on the porch steps with his face in his hands. He loved his grandfather and his grandfather loved him…love – so important to give and receive…it lives on long after we’re gone…

***

Stop for a moment and consider the chain events that occurred because Kenneth extended a hearty welcome and created a bridge instead of a barrier. For a moment, consider the impact Kenneth’s choice had on the grandson. Consider the memories, the precious moments, Kenneth’s pond allowed the boy and his grandfather to share.

Now, consider the impact this had on the shame-filled man–the message of love, grace, and forgiveness Kenneth’s actions revealed.

Powerful messages.

But the blessing wasn’t done. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God brought this man to Kenneth’s pond prior to the man’s bout with cancer. God’s timing is perfect. By acting in love and obedience, Kenneth built a bridge that allowed him to speak love, hope, and truth into this man’s life when he needed it most.

Consider also the long-term impact each pond visit had on this precious child. I’ve often shared stories of the countless Christians God placed in my path when I was a child. (Read more here.) As an adult, when I looked back over each encounter, I realized it was God loving me through them. I realized, because of the love poured out through His children, that God had never left my side.

Powerful messages provided by such a simple act of love.

Who can you love on today? And how authentic is your welcome mat?

I’d love to hear from you. Have you, like the precious child in our story, experienced God’s love and grace through the actions of another? Or like Kenneth, have you extended a welcome and seen it blossom into something more–something of eternal value?

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book, and submit your “reach out” story for a chance to win a gift basket.

April’s donors include Mary Ellis with An Amish Family Reunion, Deborah Raney with Almost Forever, Cara Putman with A  Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, Vannetta Chapman with Falling to Pieces, Rebecca Lyles with Winds of Wyoming, and Gina Holmes with Dry as Rain. (Read more about all these great books here, and show your appreciating by clicking on their names to visit their websites.)

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I’m excited to launch my “Reach Out to Live Out” campaign! The Bible tells us to spur one another on toward good deeds and to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and praises. By seeing God’s love pour through others, we’re encouraged to allow Him to do the same with us. I pray the testimonies shared here will encourage you to live out your faith in obedience and love. As an added participation incentive, each month I’ll select one reader from subscribers and comments to win a free book, and I’ll invite you to choose your favorite “reach out” story. The winning contributor will receive the gift basket highlighted on the April’s Donors Page.

Today, multi-published author and “Reach Out” book donor, Mary Ellis shares a touching story of sharing Christ’s love with the homeless.

***

I had the honor and privilege of volunteering for several years with the program “Operation Homes” in Ohio.

About seven or eight churches rotated assistance to the county’s homeless for one week every other month. We fed them dinner each night in the church basement, provided cots for sleeping (families were kept together in Sunday school rooms) and drove those without transportation to where they needed to go the next day. We helped complete unemployment compensation forms, apply for jobs, select suitable business attire at Goodwill, obtain medical treatment, and line up permanent housing for those ready to stand on their own. But most of all, we prayed with them, listened to them, and demonstrated lessons taught by the Savior. Several of them joined our church afterwards. What did I gain from the experience? There, but for the grace of God go I. These people were no different than you or me. Loss of employment or a serious illness could place any of us into dire straits. I get down on my knees each night and thank the Lord for His continued mercy and grace in my life.

***

Mary Ellis lives her faith out loud through acts of service, like the one referenced above, and through stories God stirs in her heart. To motivate others to live out their faith, she’s donating a copy of  An Amish Family Reunion:

During a rumschpringe visit to Niagara Falls, Phoebe Miller meets Eli Riehl, a young man who charms her—and everyone else—with his exceptional storytelling ability. When Phoebe sketches scenes to illustrate one of his tales, Eli encourages her incredible talent, and together they embark on a lofty and unlikely business venture for two young Amish people—writing and illustrating a children’s book.

Eli’s kindness and appeal extend beyond his knack for words to reach inside Phoebe’s heart. But he is an only son with five sisters, and when his father suffers a heart attack, Eli gives up his writing to assume responsibility on the farm. Though willing to abandon his dream of becoming an author, he won’t give up his beloved Phoebe.

Can their love for a good story develop into something that lasts forever, or will Phoebe’s deep-seated fear of desertion stand in their way?

Buy it here.

Mary Ellis grew up near the Amish and fell in love with them. She has now written nine novels set in their communities. When not writing, she enjoys gardening, bicycling, and swimming. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. Her debut Christian book, A Widow’s Hope, was a finalist for the 2010 ACFW Carols. Connect with her at:

www.maryellis.net

www.maryeellis.wordpress.com

Facebook.com

Mary’s testimony reminds me how important it is to spend time connecting with others, showing them the love of Jesus, and praying with them. Do have any similar stories you can share? Maybe of a time when you started a service project to find God calling you to pause to take time to love? Or perhaps a time when God loved on you through someone else? Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book, and submit your “reach out” story for a chance to win a gift basket.

April’s donors include Mary Ellis with An Amish Family Reunion, Deborah Raney with Almost Forever, Cara Putman with A  Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, Vannetta Chapman with Falling to Pieces, Rebecca Lyles with Winds of Wyoming, and Gina Holmes with Dry as Rain. (Read more about all these great books here, and show your appreciating by clicking on their names to visit their websites.)

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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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Early in our marriage, with a young child underfoot and long hours changing diapers, cleaning blocks, and watching Teletubbies, I’d anxiously await my husband’s return from work. If only to have adult conversation. But back then his work schedule was crazy, with long hours, sometimes 14 day stretches, calls at all hours. We’d plan an event, maybe a trip to the ice cream store or an evening at the park, and invariably, his phone would ring. So what’d I do? I got upset, and soured the rest of our night.

Then one day it hit me. My attitude was hurting me, and my daughter. By throwing a fit and focusing on the negative, I was robbing us all of a chance to grab hold of the rare moment we had. I decided to change my attitude and my focus.

In today’s post by Anita Estes, her husband made the same choice, and the result was beautiful. As you read her account of her husband’s gift of grace, ask yourself how you can give your spouse that same gift this Valentine’s Day. Because we live in a fallen world with stress, disappointments, responsibilities, frustrations, and demands. Life’s going to throw hurdles your way. Most likely your spouse will also, on occasion. Will you respond with anger or with grace?

God Rekindles Marriages—
With Grace
By Anita Estes

My husband’s twelve to midnight schedule had the habit of ruining evenings together, especially Friday nights when he often slept through to Saturday. But this weekend held hope for a date night, since he’d taken the previous night off. We had planned on going to the movies, so on the way home from work I bought a newspaper with the theatre listings. It had been a crazy week for me with grades due for 700 students, Bible study, lesson plans and coursework, so when I came home I collapsed on the couch. Looking through the listings, the only promising show was across the river. I doubted he would go that far, but he owed me this one since he had cancelled our previous night out, and I desired to be with him.

Let me explain why. My husband and I have been married over thirty three years and it’s been a rocky road—one littered with broken promises, near poverty, problems with addiction, and marital strife. We’ve met with no less than five counselors and are now on our seventh. This one laid out some strict guidelines for my husband, who baulked at the reigns being tightened. You see, he has been a very independent person, partly due to his heritage and my independent personality, which kicked in when he pulled away from me. But now with the children out of the house (for the most part), I’ve really needed and wanted him.

For years he weaved in and out of a close relationship to God and me, fighting depression and bouts of addiction. This drove me into a strong relationship with Jesus and my children. They became my world, and my spouse would pop in and out of ours. I didn’t grow bitter, but my lack of respect became evident to the point of putting him down in front of the children. He reacted by withdrawing affection and love. At times we would move closer to each other, then something would happen again, and he would build a wall around himself. This went on for years with only minor improvement. At one time, I had contemplated divorce.

But now he and I are beginning to experience some real breakthrough. I am praying for his emotional healing and trusting God with the outcome. He is trying to love me for who I am, and we are both trying to accept our differences. We are learning to operate in grace towards each other and listening to our counselor’s advice. My assignment is to respect my spouse more, and his is to love me more. That’s what ensued.

Sitting on the couch, tired and in a bad mood, I announced the location of the movie, to which he barked back. “No way, I’m not going that far!” Annoyed, I threw down the newspaper and retorted, “You can never make any sacrifices for me!” He replied, “You’re being quite nasty. I’m not going anywhere with you.” A fight was brewing. Then suddenly he caught himself and said, “I’m not going to let this ruin the day. I’m going to choose to love you.” The fight fizzled. I backed down and apologized, which is hard for me to do. We smoothed things over, found a great movie and had a wonderful time together.

So what was different this time? The application of grace. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 2:9).” My husband extended grace to me like God does to us. It’s grace that gave me the ability to love my husband in good times and bad. It gave me the ability to persevere, to trust God’s timing and receive grace back from my husband. Grace poured over me when I didn’t deserve it; it poured over him when he messed up.

After thirty three years of marriage, I can see it’s becoming what God intended it to be, not the American dream, but the vision God has for us—a married couple working together to perform His will, bound together in mature love. We have endured difficult times with God’s grace. Now we are reaping the harvest as we submit to His plan for our marriage, to each other and to wise counsel.

To those of you in difficult marriages, my advice is: fall in love with Your Savior first, read the Word of God and let it dwell richly within you, take time for your relationship with Him and extend grace to your spouse. Seek the godly counsel of others and submit one to another. Love and respect each other. It’s a tall order, but God’s abundant storehouse of grace is limitless!

Recommended reading: Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

Anita Estes resides in the beautiful Hudson Valley of upstate New York with her husband and son. She is an art teacher, freelance writer and avid gardener. As an educator, she has been honored  in “Who’s Who of American Teachers” for 2000 and 2005. Her work appears in several compilations including God Allows U-Turns, A Cup of Comfort, Deliver Me and Adams Media books. Her devotions have been published in Penned from the Heart, “Upper Room” and on-line.
She is the author of When God Speaks: 40 Days of His PromisesTransformed—Inspiring Stories of Freedom and Letters to God on a Prodigal SonOvercoming Addiction through Prayer.  Her passion is encouraging others in their Christian walk, by calling the church to intimate and honest communication with God. She desires to help others break the bonds of addiction and pain through an understanding of God’s promises.  Visit her at www.anitaestes.com and http://anitaestes7.blogspot.com/
Anita Estes, author of When God Speaks, invites you to come along on a life changing journey through the landscape of God’s Promises. Your destination –the Promised Land. Once you embark on this forty- day excursion, you  will gain valuable insights into key promises in which God communicates concerning: Your True Identity, Divine Guidance, Resurrection Life, Hope, True Prosperity, Empowering Love, Healing and much more. Each day of When God Speaks is loaded with nuggets of wisdom that Anita Estes shares in her inspirational stories, prayers, application and evening meditation. As you reflect on these powerful verses you will be challenged and equipped to implement them into your daily life. God has given you everything you need for spiritual victory, but you must take the first step.
Letters to God, on a Prodigal SonOvercoming Addiction Through Prayer is the poignant, true story of a parent’s journey through the minefield of her adult child’s addiction. It is the heartfelt cry of a mother who finds peace in the midst of her tsunami and discovers the secret of victorious prayer! It is a potent journal packed with prayers, practical advice and key spiritual insights. Letters to God will unlock the secrets to successful prayer, not only for those dealing with prodigals, but for anyone facing their own storm.

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