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It’s mysterious. Powerful. Intimate. It holds the keys to life in all its fullness. It provides guidance in the most obscure and confusing situations, helps make the most difficult decisions clear, and for many … is a source of frustration, guilt, and regret.

If you identify with the latter, then keep reading. I think you’ll find what Wholly Loved’s Christa Cottam has to say encouraging and helpful.

Bible Reading–Moving From Obligation and Defeat to Love and Joy by Christa Cottam

Reading the Bible intimidated me. I don’t mean reading the whole thing. I mean reading any of it. Whatever Bible routine I tried to establish, Frustrated woman with books flyingwhether it was randomly picking verses or attempting to read from the beginning, I failed. The more I tried, the worse it got, until frustration pushed me to give up altogether.

I never told anyone that I didn’t read my Bible. I had far too much pride to admit that. Instead, I soothed myself with a slew of impressive excuses:

It’s boring.

It’s not that important.

I don’t have time.

It doesn’t do anything for me.

But the truth was, I didn’t understand Scripture.

I was surrounded by Christians who not only seemed to understand God’s Word, but also committed it to memory. And not just for recitation sake, but because it actually meant something to them!

So, what was wrong with me? I felt foolish and immature. And I was pretty sure I was screwing up this being-a-Christian thing. Worse yet, I was certain I was letting God down.

For years, my primary exposure to Scripture was secondhand—whatever I heard at church or read in books, blogs, or articles. Everything Biblechanged when I heard a sermon preached on 2 Timothy 3:16, which says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.[1]” The pastor explained that reading the Bible is the primary way we get to know God, and that He uses it to communicate with us.

It was a punch in the gut. I was completely convicted.

I recognized that if I was really serious about my relationship with God, reading the Bible wasn’t optional. I had to do it. But how? I clearly didn’t have a great track record.

At that point in my life, I had an infant and was exhausted. So, I decided I’d start small. I subscribed to receive a Bible-verse-of-the-day email. I have to be honest, my heart wasn’t in it at the beginning. My daily reading felt more like something to cross off my “to do” list than anything that would ever become understandable or meaningful. Over time though, a spark ignited in my heart, and I felt inspired to read the full chapter the verse-of-the-day came from.

I believe that what I did next was the key. I prayed specifically that God would help me create space in my day to read Scripture, bless that time, help me understand tough passages, and give me an insatiable thirst for His Word. Over time, God not only answered my prayers, but He also transformed my heart and mind. The more I read, the more I craved. I began attending a Bible study and was devouring daily devotions. I couldn’t get enough.

In the past, what drove me to read the Bible was religious duty. I approached it only to say I’d completed it, like an unmotivated student. But the deeper I got into God’s Word, the hungrier I became to know my Heavenly Father. The book that I’d long viewed as an impersonal work filled with mandates on how to live became an intensely personal story about love, not “law.” God’s heart—for you, for me, for all of us—is alive on every page, inviting us into a deeper relationship with Him.

Now I can’t imagine my life without the Bible. Its words, once fleeting in my mind, are now words of life imbedded in my heart, ready to remind me of God’s promises, protection, precepts, provision, and peace.

“I take joy in doing Your will, my God, for Your instructions are written on my heart” (Psalm 40:8, NLT.[1])

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with reading the Bible? What methods have you found helpful to keep you reading it regularly? What changes have you seen in your life or your faith as a result of developing a consistent reading time? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

***

Christa's headshotSpeaker and worship leader Christa Cottam is an energetic and spunky woman who has a fire in her belly to tell others about Jesus, and how He rescued her from a past of shame, guilt and unforgiveness. Christa has used her gifts in music, theater, and leadership to make a kingdom impact, serving with MOPS, working on church staff as a music director, volunteering as a worship leader, and leading a table at women’s Bible study. She is excited to use her voice in a new way, encouraging and inspiring women to go deeper in their relationship with God.

***

If you’re looking for help digging into Scripture, check out How to Read Your Bible for All It’s Worth by Gordon D. Fee. You might also enjoy my friends’ website, Discover One Thing, where they offer daily reading plans, an explanation on the SOAP method of Bible reading, and their thoughts on various passages.

Speaking of Bible reading, sign up for my free quarterly newsletter and receive a free, 36-lesson study from 1 Timothy. You can sign up HERE.

[1] Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1986, 1988 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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Two stark contrasts placed back to back. One an example of complete, unhindered trust and the other of self-reliance.

Parents, do you remember what it was like when your kids were young? When they followed you around everywhere and valued whatever you said? And when life became frightening, they ran to you for comfort and affection.

Little ones don’t worry about where they’ll go tomorrow or whether they’ll have enough to eat or drink.  They simply proceed with their day, laughing, playing, perhaps throwing a fit on occasion, but for the most part, enjoying life.

They come with empty but open hands. And 2,000+ years ago, when they were brought to Jesus, He said, in essence, “Take notice. Watch these little ones and learn. This is the kind of faith that pleases Me.”

And then “He took the children in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 13:15-16), and then He sent them away with peace and joy.

They came empty handed, humble, expectant, and left blessed.

Full.

Some time later, a rich young man came to Jesus with pockets full but heart depleted. Upon seeing the Christ, something within him sparked, and he soon broke out into a run. Kneeling before the Savior, he asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

What was the cost? Donate ten denarii to the poor? He’d do it! Say a certain number of prayers each day? No problem. Serve in the temple or in Man prayinghis community? Whatever it was, whatever Jesus asked, he was ready!

Until Jesus required the one thing the man wasn’t willing to give—his money. Upon first glance, it appears Jesus was calling him out for his wealth, calling him to a life of financial martyrdom. But that’s not the case. This went much deeper. Jesus was touching him at his core, asking him to surrender what he’d come to rely on most—himself.

To come humble, teachable, trusting, and with empty but open hands. Trading that which he held so tightly for something of much greater value—freedom.

The man decided that price was too high, and so, he walked away with full hands and an empty heart.

I don’t have great wealth, but I have plenty of self-reliance. So often, like the rich young man, I come to Jesus, longing to experience deeper freedom, while holding tight to the very things, like my agenda or well-thought out plans, that keep me from it. But if I want the joy and peace of a child, I need to learn to come to Jesus as those little ones from so long ago did—with empty but open hands, relinquishing those things I’ve come to rely on. To gain something much greater–intimacy with Christ.

Trusting God to lead me, to provide for me.

To fill me.

For those of you who like to follow my writing online, pop over to my blog on Crosswalk to read my post on living as Ambassadors of the God Who Sees.

And make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive great content, sent directly to your inbox. You can sign up HERE.

Messy RemodelChaos and confusion make me nervous. I like Well-orchestrated plans, and when those plans actually happen. When things appear to come unraveled, I go running for my to-do list, anxious to manage the mess. Unfortunately, life is not always that easily contained or cleaned up. But as my sweet friend Shannon Taylor Vannatter shares, sometimes God allows the mess … and for a beautiful reason.

When Our Messes Reveal Our Blessings
by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Sometimes it takes a mess to experience gratitude.

I’ve talked online lately about our major remodel. We’re swapping three rooms around including the kitchen. We also got a new roof and heat pump, plus a room addition – a closet and my office. Yay!!!! We’re doing most of the remodeling ourselves along with finishing out the closet and office.

Since the work never seems to stop, my husband and I are exhausted. And our many jobs have multiplied. The electrician had to cut into our drywall in the new kitchen to add wiring for appliances. Therefore, I had to replaster one entire wall.

For a while two rooms of furniture were smashed into one with a narrow walking trail around it. This makes it almost impossible to put pine planking on our vaulted ceiling. As I write this, most of our kitchen is completed but the plumbing isn’t hooked up yet. That’s tomorrow’s project.

And the list goes on.

The carpenter had to knock out our rock foundation to connect our addition. Completing my office isn’t even on the agenda while we focus on keeping our pipes from freezing and getting our main living area in functional condition.

Suffice it to say, our house is a mess. But in the midst of our disorder, four things put everything into perspective:

Odd sized windows to replace old, breezy ones and my kitchen sink had to be ordered. We waited and waited for the arrival date, but neither showed. We joked about our items coming on a slow boat from China. Lowe’s apologized and said all the hurricane victims were getting precedence on shipments of building supplies.

My house may be a mess. But I have a house.

One of our church members was diagnosed with cancer. Too late for treatment. Days ago, my husband visited her in the hospital. She was unresponsive with her grieving spouse holding her hand. We realized that poor man’s house was in a mess as the woman God gave him was shantiesslowly and painfully ripped from this life.

Our bedroom end of the house was cold for a few days until the heat and air people added vents to the addition.

People in third world countries don’t have a heat and air guy.

My kitchen sink still isn’t hooked up. It’s amazing how crippling not having water to cook and clean with is.
Sixty percent of the population don’t have indoor plumbing.

So as we dig out from under our rubble, I’ll try not to complain or feel overwhelmed. Instead, I’ll count my blessings along the way.

***

Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does.

She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.

Connect with her: Shannon’s Facebook, Shannon’s Goodreads, Shannon’s Pinterest, Shannon’s Twitter, and Shannon’s Amazon Author Page.

More about her latest release, A Texas Holiday Reunion:

His Christmas Homecoming 

With her foreman out of commission, Resa McCall needs horse trainer Colson Kincaid to run her family ranch through the holidays. But having the handsome single dad back in Bandera, Texas, is unsettling. Colson broke Resa’s heart years ago, and she can’t risk getting close again. Still, working with him and bonding with his sweet little girl is making the ranch feel merry and bright. Being at Resa’s side stirs up emotions Colson thought were long gone. But he has a powerful secret that could keep them apart forever. Can Colson give Resa the one Christmas present that might finally bring them back together—the truth?

Get your copy now:

 A Texas Holiday Reunion on Christianbook                 A Texas Holiday Reunion on Amazon

Let’s talk about this! Are you a neat and tidy type of person or do you thrive on change? I’m neither, but I’m also not a huge fan of mess or chaos. When my house feels chaotic, so do I. When life feels chaotic, I tend to clean and organize. And, unfortunately, get hung up on a lot of minor details, potentially losing sight of all the blessings God’s provided. What about you? What resonated most as you read Shannon’s post? When has God used a messy and chaotic environment to point you to a deeper truth? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Before you go, I invite you to join me at Crosswalk where I shared ways we can find strength in Christ. You can read that HERE.

Monday, I stopped in at Wholly Loved to share my thoughts on God’s favor and what that looks like when life gets hard. You can read that HERE.

If you’ve enjoyed today’s post and want to receive more great content sent free, directly to your inbox, then sign up for my quarterly newsletter. You can do so HERE. (Subscribers will receive a free, 36-lesson Bible study based on 1 Timothy titled Developing a Life of Love and Faith. I’ll be sending that out soon!)

It’s a case of too many choices, and it can lead to paralysis.

Have you ever taken a four-year old to a toy store and told them to pick one item? Hours and much frustration later, you leave with something randomly pulled from the shelf and tear streaks on your little one’s face, neither one of you happy.

We live in a world of abundance, of options, and many of them good. God-honoring. With so many possibilities, it’s easy to become paralyzed.

Some become so flustered, they jump on the easiest or loudest option. Only to find themselves stuck in something that doesn’t quite fit or wasn’t God’s will.

So how do we choose? Is God all that concerned with these minute details of our lives, or is He simply pleased when we’re seeking to live for Him?

Yes and yes.

Sometimes His guidance is quite detailed and clear. There’ve been numerous times when God’s nudged me to write that article or approach that person or start that ministry. There’ve been other times, many, when He’s simply nudged me forward. And then there were many other times when God asks me (often, via divine silence) to wait.

So how can we tell the difference? When bombarded with options, and most of them good, how can we possibly, confidently, determine God’s will?

In Philippians 1:9-11 Paul told the Philippians he wanted their love to abound in knowledge and discernment so they could approve (or test) those things that were excellent. Not just good or beneficial, but excellent.

Chuck Smith says, “Good enough is often the greatest enemy of the best.”

Daily, we’re each bombarded with a plethora of “good.” There are more ministries than we could possibly serve in. More causes than we have dollars to support. More options than we may feel equipped to sift through, knowing that to choose one is, in essence, to say no to another.

And so we wait. Pray. Seek wise counsel. Pray again. Wait some more.

Sometimes waiting is good. Necessary, especially if we take that time to draw near to God and grow in Him.

And yet, that waiting can feel incredibly uncomfortable, not because we’re in a hurry for hurry’s sake but rather because we fear we’ll miss something if we don’t act right now.

But God’s rarely in a hurry, and if something’s that crucial for us to jump on, He’ll let us know. He longs to lead us even more than we long to be led. That’s where trust comes in, and our trust often grows in the midst of uncertainty.

Other times, God presents us with numerous excellent options, and like a loving and gracious Father, smiles and says, “You choose, my love.”

And still other times, though many good choices might confront us, only one of those is God’s best for us. I’ve been praying over some options, a future direction. This spring, I’ll complete a Christian ministry degree, I’m asking: What now? Do I find employment in a church or a nonprofit? Full time or part time? And how would either impact my current responsibilities and marriage?

In determining which is which, here are some questions we can consider:

  1. Which best fits my unique personality?
  2. Which am I  uniquely equipped for?
  3. What best fits my availability (without causing undue stress)?
  4. Which would most bless those I love?
  5. Which would most fit the message God has given me?

I’ve found, if I’ve prayerfully weighed the above questions and still feel uncertain, I’m likely in the “wait” phase and am struggling with surrender or I don’t like the answers God’s revealed.

What about you? How do you discern the best from the good? How do you move forward (or wait) with confidence? Share your thoughts, stories, and suggestions in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another.

You might also enjoy:

When God Says Wait

When God Says Stay

When God Says No

Courage and Calling by Gordon T. Smith

 

 

 

 

 

As a frizzy haired, awkward elementary student, I entered the beauty shop with such hopeful anticipation. A few snips and some deep conditioning, and my aunt would tame my unruly tresses, causing heads to turn the moment I entered my fifth grade classroom.

Oh, heads turned all right, but not in the way I’d expected.

Then there was the time, with a quivering heart and stomach, I stepped out in faith, fully expecting God to bring fruit from my obedience, only to hit a major setback that left me confused and broken.

And last Friday, I wrestled with our bike rack, heaved and grunted and fought to secure my husband’s bike in it, then headed out to visit him while he was away on business. All the while thinking about the wonderful, romantic time we’d have come Saturday afternoon. The weather was supposed to be perfect. My husband would be off by three, and we’d spend the afternoon enjoying one another and one of our favorite, shaded paths.

We’ve had a relationship of bike rides—of me lacing up my shoes and heading for a run while my sweet man pedals beside me. Those are some of my most cherished memories, some of our sweetest moments. Those were times I was greatly looking forward to repeating!

Things didn’t turn out as I’d expected. First, the straps on the rack came loose mid-drive, leaving his bike dangling by its brake wires, which had somehow become twisted around the handlebars. Then, once I’d managed to untangle the bike, I was left trying to  get the incredibly heavy contraption in the back of my already packed car.

I almost gave up, leaving my poor husband’s bike deposited along I-29, but I’m cheap and stubborn, and after a great deal of effort, managed to squish the thing in the back, front wheel cockeyed, and continue on.

Convinced, with some minor adjustments and tweaking, we could follow through with our plans.

I went running by myself that Saturday, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.

Life is full of disappointments. When things don’t go as anticipated. When friends or loved ones let us down. When our best efforts are thwarted or lead to naught.

Some of our deepest hurts come from unmet expectations. Sometimes those expectations have felt so certain, we never fathomed things could turn out differently, only to find ourselves sideswiped by life or rejection or betrayal.

Did Paul experience this? I know those he trusted abandoned him. I know God abruptly shifted his plans on more than one occasion. I know he spent times alone, cold, hungry, and beaten down–literally (1 Corinthians 11:16-28). But I also know he lived with unconquerable peace and joy—during incredibly dark circumstances, like imprisonment (Philippians 1).

How was that possible? I believe the answer is found in how he refered to himself in Philippians 1—a slave for Christ. This was Paul’s mentality.

Slaves have zero rights and zero expectation except to serve. They live to honor another more than themselves. Their every focus is on their master, alert to the slightest command. Ready to do his bidding.

That is what it means to live for Christ.

People and life will let us down. If we expect otherwise, we will be disappointed. The only expectations we can count on are those rooted in Jesus Christ. It’s when we live surrendered to that truth that we find lasting peace and joy.

Let’s talk about this! Do you agree? When have expectations left you hurt or disappointed? What are some ways we can replace our worldly expectations with those grounded in Christ? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the discussion on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

If this post blessed you and you’d like to receive more great content, including short stories, recipes, and craft how-tos, directly in your inbox, sign up for my quarterly newsletter. (You can do so HERE.) I’m working on it now and plan to release it at the end of this month, along with info regarding a fun give-away contest for subscribers.

You may also enjoy:

Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong by John C. Hutchison

Count it All Joy

Finding Joy in the Chaos 

Joy in the What?

The Faithfulness of God in the Middle of Our Uncertainty

 

In our appearance-and-achievement focused world, it’s easy to feel less than. Insufficient. Unvalued. Unimportant. For moms, there’s often the added pressure to raise impeccable, pleasant, and well-behaved high achievers. Scratch that; that’s no longer good enough. Today’s children must be over-achievers (and as a result, over-stressed!), those who can juggle five hundred activities while learning three languages and standing on their head. Obviously I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, and yet, how often do societal expectations feel equally unreachable?

My guest today, Elizabeth Griffin, a sweet Christian woman with a precious son, shares how her struggle to measure up transformed into the ability to rest, and enjoy, and what God showed her through that.

 

Acceptable to the One Who Matters Most

By Elizabeth Griffin

“Can I wipe that black bean off your bottom lip?”

My wet thumb reaches out and gets in one good smear before Zack pulls away with a grunt. The action has only served to make the remains of his breakfast more evident, and I spend the following 10 minutes calculating my next move. But my 21-year-old son keeps his distance and refuses to let me make him presentable before he lumbers onto the bus that takes him to his school-to-work transition program.

How much of our time as mothers is spent trying to make our children presentable to the world? If we see their acceptability as a symbol of our value, we can become obsessed with it.

One of the most important lessons the Lord teaches me through our second son is how much He values every person, and that the most valuable things in His creation are often the ones this world has no inclination to deem as worthy.

Zack’s older brother Taylor fits the world’s definition of acceptable. At least he did before he decided to go into full-time Christian ministry! Prior to that, society had great plans for him—he has the chops to become a professional jazz pianist, the interpersonal skills to become a highly effective psychologist, and the brains to become a college professor. But he gave all of that up to serve Christ. And the job doesn’t come with a paycheck—he and his wife must raise their own support.

Try explaining that to non-believing grandparents.

My oldest is not the only person many misunderstand. Zack has fragile X syndrome and autism. That double-whammy means he operates at about a four-year-old level, has very little speech, and may never be able to complete a four-hour shift of manual labor. He’s healthy, kind, and has a great sense of humor. His spirit is incredibly tender, and he’s one of the most loving people I’ve known.

But in the world’s eyes, being dependent on others as an adult means you’re a drain on society. Those who view Zack through a utilitarian lens feel sorry for us. They don’t think it’s fair that we have to take care of our adult child. Some have voiced this opinion with firmness and authority—even family members.

That does nothing but hurt.

It’s not possible to explain the moments of my life that have been filled with Zack-love and how wonderful and healing and fun they are. Sure, I’ve had to clean up more messes than I did with Taylor, I’ve grieved over my son’s lack of ability and interaction between us that never existed, and I’ve spent many evenings feeling trapped with a forever-toddler.

But I also have someone in my life who comes running out of the house to greet me with a grin-to-melt-all-hearts every time I come home. I share a million inside jokes that require no words with an adult child who always thinks I’m funny. And I’m given daily affection from the sweetest of man-boys.

I stopped stressing about making Zack presentable to the world a long time ago when none of my attempts, or the work of many therapists and teachers, could do it. And that’s all right, because He’s more than acceptable to the One who created him. He is “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

He’s exactly how God intended him to be. I may not always understand that, but I know it’s true in the deepest of my deep places.

And what about me? Aren’t there some remains of black beans visible on my face from time to time? As much as I try to cover them up, aren’t there things about me that appear glaringly unacceptable? And yet, just like Zack, I am dearly loved by my Creator. I am His child, regardless of my ability or lack thereof. I have been made acceptable through the blood of Jesus. And one day, both Zack and I will be made more than presentable—we will be made perfect.

***

We live in a quick-to-judge society, one where individuals are often evaluated by snapshots of externals. For example, when we see a child with a messy face or hair, or perhaps throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, it’s easy to form opinions of child and parent. But as Elizabeth’s example of the bean dip shows, we’re only seeing a blip in time, and one with absolutely zero context. Because of this, our quick assumptions are almost guaranteed to be incorrect. The result–parents who feel constantly judged and like they have to meet a set of  obscure and subjective standards. If you’re a parent, you probably know exactly what I mean. But we don’t have to give others power over our emotions or self-assessment. In fact, we shouldn’t. As Elizabeth points out, we should sift everything through the opinion of the One who matters most.

We all have a tendency to allow cultural standards and the opinions of others hinder our freedom and joy. But in Christ, we have the power to rise above and to embrace, fully, who God created us to be. Join me and my ministry team for our next Wholly Loved Conference to learn how to live fully loved and grab hold of the freedom that accompanies that. You can find out more HERE.

Did anything in Elizabeth’s post resonate with you or perhaps change your perspective (of your situation or someone else’s)? In what ways have you been evaluating yourself by the wrong standards, and what can you do today to shift your thinking? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

More stories about Elizabeth’s journey as a mom can be found on her blog “Follow the Dots” at elizabethgriffin.com. Her book Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs can be purchased through Amazon or by emailing her at elgrif@juno.com.

Did you enjoy today’s post? If so, I encourage you to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive more inspirational content (along with short stories, recipes, and craft how-tos and to be included in subscriber only give-aways) sent directly to your inbox. You can sign up HERE!

You might also enjoy:

Focusing on Those Traits That Will Help Our Kids Succeed by Brianna Swick

I know fear. I know uncertainty. I know the desire to cling to and remain in my comfort zone, and I’ve seen what happens when I follow God and step out, whether that means walking across the street to engage with a neighbor, joining a ministry, maybe galavanting across the nation–as I happen to be doing right now. 😉

If you were in the audience this past Monday, you learned I can easily allow fear to hinder my obedience. But I’m learning not only how futile many of my fears are, but where I need to place them–in Christ’s hands.

I thought of this, and my self-protecting tendency, when left on my own, as I read Laura Hilton’s post below. If you find yourself clinging to safety nets and searching for comfort zones, may you be encouraged, inspired–and challenged–by Laura’s devotion.

The Faithfulness of God in the Middle of Our Uncertainty

by Laura Hilton

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV). 

I am a coward. There is no other way to put it.

My son was graduating from A school with the Coast Guard. This is a school where Coasties are sent to learn the job they would be doing in the Coast Guard. My son is a DC rating and his job is “Firefighter” but firefighting is only a small part of what he does.

Basically, he is a “Damage Controlman” and does it all. Construction. Plumbing. Welding. Firefighting. And so much more.

So, my Coastie really wanted us to come to his graduation. This is a big moment for them. This, and when they graduate from bootcamp.

But I’m looking at the map from the northern part of Arkansas to Newport News, Virginia and thinking, “Um, we have to drive through Nashville, Tennessee.”

Terror strikes. I get freaked out driving through Little Rock, Arkansas and Springfield, Missouri. Memphis, Tennessee is a nightmare. And Nashville will only be worse.

Thankfully, my husband loves me. We loaded up the car with three of the five kids (one was in college and couldn’t come) and headed toward Virginia. And he googled the trip so we could take a bypass around Nashville.

But then there was Knoxville. He hadn’t googled to find a bypass for Knoxville and we hit it at five o’clock rush hour. Five lanes of traffic, going one way, all at a complete stop.

I was praying, shaking, but trying so hard not to freak out and scare the girls, because they were scared enough. Like me, they were used to rural Arkansas traffic where five cars on the road is considered a traffic jam.

But God came through. We survived Knoxville. And the Great Smokies and Appalachian Mountains we saw were absolutely gorgeous. Some of God’s best handiwork. I was able to stand on the Appalachian Trail (an item on my bucket list) and my children actually hiked a portion. And standing on the trail I knew why people hiked it to find God. There is just a tangible peace around that place.

And I saw the ocean. For the very first time. In real life. I handled it. In my hands. Another item on my bucket list.

Even though I was ripped out of my comfort zone, the trip was worth it. For more than one reason. I got to meet some Coast Guard Moms I’d become internet friends with. I planned to meet some reader friends (but that didn’t work out.) I met courageous young men my son talked about as they were in his classes in A school. I saw my son. And I checked two items off my bucket list.

God came through. And even though I’ll probably panic when facing a long trip through major cities again, I learned that God is able to protect us in rush hour in unfamiliar cities. And He has some pleasant surprises along the way.

***

Let’s talk about this! When have you felt fearful, uncomfortable, or insecure about something but chose to do it anyway? What was the result? Would you do it again, if given the choice? Did you learn anything about God during those times? About yourself?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

And while we’re talking about encouragement … I’ll be releasing the next edition of my quarterly newsletter this month! Are you a subscriber yet? If not, how come? You’re missing out on some fun and inspiring free content: short stories, recipes, devotions, and of course, info on where I’m at or what’s next for me. Plus, in the very near future, I’ll be hosting regular fun give-aways available only to subscribers. Want to sign up? You can do so HERE.

***

Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.

Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye. They currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.

When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas. Visit her online at

her blog,  follow her on Twitter @laura_V_Hilton, and connect with her on Facebook.

Second Chance Brides:

Hope for Happy Endings Is Renewed in Nine Historical Romances

Meet nine women from history spanning from 1776 to 1944 feel the sting of having lost out on love. Can their hope for experiencing romance again be renewed?

Love in the Crossfire by Lauralee Bliss – Trenton, New Jersey, 1776
Gretchen Hanson watched her beau go off to war and never return. She soon falls for an enemy scout who stumbles upon her farm. If Jake is discovered, it could mean death for them all. Will Gretchen let go of love or stand strong?

Daughter of Orion by Ramona K. Cecil – New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1859
Whaling widow, Matilda Daggett, vows to never again give her heart to a seaman. But when debt drives her to masquerade as a cabin boy on a whaling ship, a young harpooner threatens both her vow and her heart.

The Substitute Husband and the Unexpected Bride by Pamela Griffin – Washington Territory, 1864
Cecily McGiver, a mail-order bride, arrives in the rugged Washington Territory shocked to find herself without a husband—that is until Garrett, a widower, offers to take the position. Can the challenges that face them lead to love?

The Prickly Pear Bride by Pam Hillman – Little Prickly Pear Creek, Montana Territory, 1884
Shepherdess Evelyn Arnold left her intended at the altar so he could marry the woman he really loved. Dubbed Miss Prickly Pear, Evelyn is resigned to a loveless life and the ridicule of her neighbors. When Cole Rawlins sweeps her out of a raging river, she realizes even a prickly pear can find love.

The Widow of St. Charles Avenue by Grace Hitchcock – New Orleans, 1895
Colette Olivier, a young widow who married out of obligation, finds herself at the end of her mourning period and besieged with suitors out for her inheritance. With her pick of any man, she is drawn to an unlikely choice.

Married by Mistake by Laura V. Hilton – Mackinac Island, 1902
When a plan to pose for advertising goes awry, Thomas Hale and Bessie O’Hara find themselves legally married. Now Bessie and Thomas must decide whether to continue the charade or walk away. Either choice could ruin them if the truth gets out.

Fanned Embers by Angela Breidenbach – Bitterroot Mountains, Montana/Idaho border, 1910
Stranded in the treacherous railroad camp after her husband’s murder, Juliana Hayes has no desire to marry a ruffian like Lukas Filips. Can she release prejudice to love again? Or will they even survive the fiery Pacific Northwest disaster to find out?

From a Distance by Amber Stockton – Breckenridge, Colorado, 1925
Financial Manager Trevor Fox sets out to find a lady to love him and not his money, then meets and falls for an average girl only to discover she’d deceived him to protect her heart after he unknowingly rejects her.
Buy it HERE.