Help Me Celebrate Release Day!


We really should throw a party with lots of chocolate and coffee, of course. And maybe some goofy social media pictures. How about we all meet in our Walmart aisle for some impromptu story fun?

I know, you live too far away for that. But I’d love to see your fun Hometown Healing sightings anyway! Catch a glimpse of my next release on a store shelf, take a photo of it, and send the pic my way. That would totally make my day! In the meantime, here’s more about the story:

She’s home again, but not for long…Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart

Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

You can grab a copy HERE.

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When Hard Times Cause You To Question Your Faith — Guest Post

Sunrise amid clouds with text pulled from post

Everyone has moments of doubts. Some of us have years and even decades of wrestling with deep truths and what we’ve learned about God. But as I often say, doubts don’t so much cause the cracks in our faith as they reveal them. They show us false beliefs, misconceptions, and lightly held truths. In other words, our doubts, when presented honestly to God, when we seek Him and His answers, can pave the way to certainty. Read more from my guest today, Marla Bautista, to see what I mean.

When Hard Times Cause You to Doubt Your Faith

By Marla Bautista

I’ve doubted God, a lot. When my life was at its lowest, I had nothing. I was homeless, broke, and without support from family or friends. I didn’t understand why God allowed me to suffer and wouldn’t alleviate my pain. I was sure He’d left me alone in the world. I spent many nights on the streets, searching for who I was supposed to be, for hope, and ultimately, for peace. I stopped going to church and reading my Bible because I felt abandoned.

Have you ever felt this way?

Yet God promises to remain with us, to help us, and to strengthen us. Isaiah 41:10 reads,: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (ESV).

My life hasn’t been easy. Both my parents passed away before I turned ten years old. I was left with an abusive stepfather. I experienced sexual, emotional, and mental abuse throughout my childhood. I ran away from home many times. Taking my younger brother and sister, I sought refuge from someone, somewhere, to no avail. At the age of 18, I became homeless. I was confused, alone, and scared. I constantly asked myself what I did to deserve the life I received. When I went to church, I was prayed over and ministered to, but I left; homeless, still hungry, and still hurting.

While on the streets, I saw and did things that were far from God’s desire. I was lost. I attempted to restore myself. I struggled. Some days, I didn’t have a place to sleep, others, I slept in a jail cell. Many nights I cried out to God, begging for forgiveness, safety from harm, and most of all, mercy. But I lacked faith that God truly cared for me or wanted to restore me.

Over time, I fell into despair. I no longer believed God heard my prayers. Yet, along my journey, there were signs that He did. I was walking down a street one day, hungry, and in tears. I prayed, “God please, I’m hungry. If You can hear me please help me.” As I walked hopelessly for miles, I felt defeated. Later that day, something told me to reach into my pocket. I did and pulled out two dollars. Initially, I felt scared. I’d had those Jeans on for three days. If there was any money in the pockets, I would have known. Jesus, thank You, I said as tears rolled down my cheeks.

In that moment, God began to restore some of my trust in Him.

Having doubt doesn’t mean you don’t believe in God. It means you’re uncertain about your faith. When things occur that we don’t understand, we question them. Our faith is no exception. If you’re in a period of spiritual wrestling, take it as an invitation to get to know God through Scripture.

Throughout the Bible, it speaks about the restoration of faith through prayer, fasting, and obedience. God invites us to seek Him, then to hold tight to His response when He gives it. James 1:6 reads:

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by Wind-tossed waves and text from James 1:6the wind” (NIV).

I saw this truth played out in my life.

God revealed that He was always with me. He kept a hedge of protection over my life, even in the worst of times. I’m here today only because of His love. He continues to restore me and has equipped me to use my testimony to prove his undying love, and unfathomable mercy toward His children. He will do the same for you.

Are you experiencing a season of doubt? If so, I challenge you to submerge yourself in prayer for seven days. Ask God to reveal Himself and His purpose for you. Study Scripture, take your doubts to God in prayer, and most importantly, obey what He reveals when you read the Bible.

Let’s talk about this! Can you share a time when God met you in the middle of your doubts? What are some ways God has shown Himself real to you? Or maybe you’re struggling right now. What do you most need to hear from God?

Get to know Marla!

Marla Bautista a Military Spouse and mother of three children. She is also the published author of My Thoughts Abandoned, released in 2017. As a freelance writer and blogger, she has written for many publications. Her passion is giving back to people in need. Marla is the Founder of The Bautista Project, a custom décor and apparel company, which uses its profits to provide for homeless communities. The Bautista Project has provided food and basic living essentials to hundreds of people in need.

Visit her online at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Instagram.

If you’re going through a difficult time, especially if you’re in a period of waiting, you may find this video, taken from the Becoming His Princess Study, helpful.

I also invite you to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible app, 30-Days to Emotional Health, available on YouVersion. Find it HERE. And make sure to join our online community by clicking the button below. Oh, and almost forgot: Only five days to release day! Keep an eye out for my next novel, Hometown Healing, releasing in Walmarts and B&Ns near you on the 20th! Woot!

 

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Forgiveness quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The deeper the hurt or betrayal, the harder it is to forgive. There was a time when I viewed forgiveness as a self-sacrificing act of obedience. I’ve since realized, however, the enslaving power of nursed grudges and the incredible healing and joy that comes when we relinquish an offense.

My guest today, Tamera Kraft, shares her thoughts regarding a time when someone she cared about hurt her deeply and how God not only met her in that place but helped her move forward in freedom.

Freedom Through Forgiveness

By Tamera Kraft

A close friend decided to ghost me. She stopped being my friend, ignored me, and wouldn’t say why. Once in the grocery store, she saw me and darted to the next aisle to avoid saying hi. Then she started telling lies about me. Though I knew God commanded me to forgive, doing so didn’t feel fair.

My unforgiveness put me in a prison. I stayed awake at night worrying about what she’d done. Every time I went to church, I wondered what she’d said about me and to whom. Who believed her lies? Worse yet, my harbored offense affected my worship and devotional time. It felt as if a wall separated me from God’s presence.

Then I remembered all the times I’ve sinned against God and others, including when I wasn’t remorseful. Jesus forgave me of so much—every evil thought, wayward action, and rebellion I’ve done since my birth. That’s a lot, and He longs for me to reveal His love and grace in how I respond to others.

Forgiveness comes more easily when I consider Christ’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy toward me. quote pulled from post

How could I hold back forgiveness from this woman? I may not be able to trust her again, but I could decide to forgive her. I could the hurt from affecting my life and relationship with God and others. And I could pray for her. I don’t know why she did what she did, but she has to be carrying pain from the past to do this to someone she cared for.

We all need God’s mercy and grace.

I asked for God’s help and chose to forgive my ex-friend. Though the relationship didn’t heal, God healed my hurt from the broken friendship. Trusting my friends not to do this to me again took a little, but God taught me how to open myself again to share love and receive love.

When have you found it difficult to forgive?

How did choosing to forgive help your relationship with God?

Get to know Tamera Lynn Kraft:

Award Winning Author Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She is married to the love of her life, has two grown children, and lives in Akron, Ohio.

Tamera is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She has curriculum published and is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry. Visit her online HERE.

Check out her latest release:

Lost in the Storm: Ladies of Oberlin Book 2

Will war bring them love or will they be Lost in the Storm?

Lavena, a journalist during the Civil War, wants to become a war correspondent. She finally gets her chance, but there’s a catch. She has to get an interview from a war hero who has refused to tell his story to every other journalist, and she has to accomplish this impossible task in a month or she’ll lose her job.

Captain Cage, the war hero, has a secret that will destroy his military career and reputation. Now, a new journalist is trying to get him to tell what he’s been hiding. He wants to ignore her, but from the moment she came into camp, he can’t get her out of his mind.

Leading up to the turbulent Battles for the city of Chattanooga, will Lavena and Cage find the courage to love and forgive, or will they be swept away by their past mistakes that don’t want to stay buried?

Meet the Ladies of Oberlin, the causes they’re willing to fight for, and the men who capture their hearts.

Buy it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Before you go, if you haven’t already snatched a preorder copy, make sure to check out Jennifer’s upcoming release, Hometown Healing

She’s home again, but not for long…
Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart

Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

If you read Restoring Her Faith, I’d love to hear what you loved most about Sage Creek, Texas. Have you grown to love that sweet little hill country town as much as I have?

 

When Our View of God Clashes With Reality

quote on God's faithfulness

Sometimes our expectations lead to our greatest disappointments. They can hinder us from truly knowing one another.

They can hinder us from truly knowing God as well.

Have you ever had someone grow attached to the person they thought you were? Not who you were but an individual they’d conjured in their mind? I have, and the situation didn’t end well.

I met Anna* at church. Though we had numerous mutual friends, children close in age, and had been part of the same faith community for years, we didn’t really know one another. But then, after having read material I wrote, she initiated a conversation. We soon developed a relationship and began to go on walks and talk over coffee. Our interactions, though brief and sporadic, were pleasant enough, until I ceased meeting the woman’s expectations.

She acted as if I had deceived and cheated her.

Have you ever experienced something similar?

Have you ever felt that way about God?

I have. My relationship with Christ has swung from one side of the pendulum to the other, finally resting back in center. Early on, I viewed Him as hard and exacting, the One with the power and authority to send me to hell and who would be quite justified in doing so. I knew Him as the Rule Setter but struggled to see Him as loving and compassionate Father.

Steadily, one sermon, Bible passage, and Christ-centered interaction at a time, He transformed my thinking so that I began to view Him as my Savior and Friend. And for sure, He is both of those, but somehow, in the softening, I lost sight of the fact that His merciful side doesn’t negate His awesome sovereignty as the One who formed and retains full ownership of all creation, myself included.

As a result, I began to expect blessings and abundance. Oh, I never would’ve said that, if asked. I understood, at least in theory, that life held no guarantees and often horrible things happen to really good, God-loving people. I had read the book of Job, after all. But when that somebody was me, I grew sulky, frustrated, and at times, downright angry. I accused God of holding out on me, of not caring, and of not listening.

But really the problem lay with me. I allowed my self-created ideas of who I thought He was hinder my intimacy with the God who is and always will be:

Always good, faithful, loving, and true.

One day, when our daughter was young, I asked her to help me unload groceries from the car. She huffed and said, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t make me do this.”

I’m not sure if she really believed that or was simply trying to talk her way out of what she clearly deemed to be a rather torturous event. I suspect the latter. But she was so melodramatic about the whole thing, it was all I could do to keep from laughing. Once certain I could respond with appropriate sternness, I replied, “It is because I love you that I must insist you unload them all.” Then, pocketing my keys, I left her to it, adding, “I’m raising you to have a servant’s, not serve-me, heart.”

Then I went inside.

I wonder how many times God whispered similar words to my huffing and hemming heart over the years. “I know you want that promotion. I know you feel I’m being unfair withholding it from you, but I would rather raise a daughter who trusts in Me more than her paycheck.”

“I know you don’t enjoy having chronic illness. I know it hurts and is hard. But I want you to experience My strength made perfect in your weakness.”

Or perhaps most challenging, “I know you don’t like to see your daughter struggle in this way. I Know it breaks your heart, and it does mine as well. But you must entrust her to Me. I’m growing her, patiently and faithfully, just as I have you all these years.”

I’ve seen enough of His heart, of His faithfulness, to know just how true that is. I’ve come to trust Him, to see Him as Father and Savior and Friend and King. I still have areas of deception He’s working to rectify with truth, areas of misconception His grace will expel. But for now, I’m resting in this:

He is good. He is loving. He is faithful, and He is enough. Regardless of what my fickle feelings or faulty perceptions might tempt me to believe. And perhaps that’s the most glorious lesson He’s taught me—to question everything else but Him. To say, like the apostle Paul did in his letter to the Romans, “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

When our view of God clashes with reality, it’s an invitation to get to know Him better.

*Name changed for privacy purposes

Let’s talk about this! When have circumstances challenged your view of God? How did you respond? Did your understanding of Him deepen through that event?

If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available on the YouVersion app, 30 Days of Emotional Health. You can find it  HERE.

And join our Facebook community on Facebook to connect with other women and find encouragement as you grow in your faith. Join by clicking the button below, and make sure to follow us on Instagram. And if you’re a book lover, you can follow my author page on Amazon HERE. Contact me HERE to book me for your next women’s event or Bible study.

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Trusting God to Lead and Guide Through Closed and Opened Doors

Picture of a door with text from Revelations 3;8

Sometimes I can spend more time questioning if something is God’s will than actually pursuing it. Granted, it’s good to seek clarity and to bring every thought and passion to Christ for His direction, or redirection, whichever the case may be. But often, when I’m reluctant to move forward, my hesitation comes more from insecurity and a false fear of missing out than patiently waiting on God.

A statement made by a missionary couple nearly a year ago often inspires me to forward progression. They were relatively newly married and had recently sensed God’s call to missions. When I asked them how they discerned God’s will, I expected to hear a list of resources they’d read, conversations they’d held, and divine “aha” moments. Though I have no doubt those things occurred, as God is faithful to confirm His will, their reply reminded me of the power and beauty of obedience.

“A lot of can people get stuck,” Dan Medrano said. “When they don’t know for certain something is God’s will, they won’t move forward. We don’t want to do that. So, if we think God is leading us toward something, we’re going to move forward in faith until He says otherwise. If something’s not of Him, He’ll show us through prayer, Bible reading, the Holy Spirit, and trusted friends.” (Read their full story HERE, page 5.)

I love the child-like trust and full surrender revealed in Dan’s comment: “If we think God is leading us toward something, we’re going to move forward in faith until He says otherwise.”

Dan and his wife relied, completely, on God’s sovereignty and faithfulness. They believed He’d open whatever doors He wanted them to walk through and would close whatever ones He didn’t.

Early in my writing career, as I read God’s promise to the Philadelphian church in Revelations 3:8, I sensed His whisper in my heart, “This is for you as well.”

The verse reads, “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My Word and have not denied My name” (NIV).

God packed so much encouragement in those two precious sentences. His plans for me aren’t dependent on my strength, which will always be woefully insufficient. Nor will I miss them or mess them up. Rather, I live out His will, in all it’s fullness and at every moment, simply by leaning into Him and continually moving forward, trusting, if I offer my heart completely to Him, He’ll stir it in whatever direction He chooses.

Sitting in that place of full surrender, of total pliability, brings such peace. It reminds us that we don’t have to hear God perfectly. He doesn’t sit up in heaven, waiting to catch us in a misstep. He’s a good, patient, tender-hearted Father who continually walks beside us.

I suggest God receives the same joy watching us grow and explore as we do with our children.

When our daughter was young, she and I often went on “adventure walks.” We were living in a Southern California suburb at the time filled with crisscrossing, winding walking paths and parks less than a half a mile in each direction. Each morning, we ventured on whatever path she chose. I was less concerned with where we landed than each precious moment shared between us. There were times I’d redirect her, like when we neared a busy road or needed to meet friends at the playground. But most of the time, I simply enjoyed walking beside her, hearing her chatter, and watching her eyes light up at every “blow flower” we encountered.

When I get logged down with to-dos and ministry demands, I have to intentionally remind myself that Christ alone is my prize, and I am His. He longs for me—my heart, child-like trust, and my moment-by-moment surrender—more than anything I might do for Him. He wants me to remain pliable. This means, when I’m heading one way and hit a dead end, rather than getting frustrated or trying to force through it, I smile, gaze up at my good, good Father, and placing my hand in His, follow. And when the road ahead looks clouded and I can only see that next step, I lean closer to my Guide, knowing however and wherever He leads will be good.

Because He is good.

Let’s talk about this! What do you tend to value more—God’s guidance for what’s ahead or Him? Your relationship with Him or what you do for Him? How might your stress, anxiety, and uncertainty level change if, moment by moment, you reminded yourself that He alone is your prize and so long as you’re prioritizing Him, everything else will follow.

Logo image for Wholly Loved's Bible reading appIf you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available on the YouVersion app, 30 Days of Emotional Health. You can find it  HERE.

And join our Facebook community on Facebook to connect with other women and find encouragement as you grow in your faith. Join by clicking the button below, and make sure to follow us on Instagram. And if you’re a book lover, you can follow my author page on Amazon HERE. Contact me HERE to book me for your next women’s event or Bible study.

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Finding Emotional Health Through Daily Scripture Reading

Logo image for Wholly Loved's Bible reading appGod created us to live in freedom and deep connection with Him and others. Unfortunately, life experiences often hinder our ability to fully experience the abundant, beyond expectation, life Jesus died to give us. Many of us are hurting, struggling with insecurity, and tiptoeing through our days as we attempt to navigate the chaos. Still others of us are reacting to others with “fight” or “flight” responses–living in a continual state of avoidance and withdrawal or offense and defensiveness. So often, we attempt to fight these deep, heart-level battles with surface level tactics, but God wants to take us deeper. He wants to bring us to a place where we’re so grounded in Him, so encased and filled with His love, all the gunk of the world bounces off our wholly loved selves.

We want to help you take steps toward greater emotional and spiritual freedom, and we’ve designed a Bible reading plan, now available on the YouVersion app, to help you do that. You can find the app HERE.

 

How Prayer Quiet and Calms Us

Purple flowers with yellow background and text from post

If God is sovereign, why pray? If He already knows precisely how everything in all the world, my life included, will play out, what’s the purpose in laying my requests before Him? Why not simply bow my head, say, “Thy will be done,” and move on to more productive matters like serving in soup kitchens, orphanages, and nurseries?

I suspect we’ve all wrestled with these questions. I have. I’ve even brought them to God in prayer, as ironic as that may sound. And as I sat in His presence, He met me and showered me with His love and grace. My requests became conversations, my fears and anxieties pathways to certainty, and my unmet earthly desires avenues to becoming filled with something more sustaining and satisfying than anything I might acquire apart from Him.

Yellow background with text pulled from post.Through prayer, God redirects, instructs, and fills my heart while purging it of everything that gets in His way. He reveals hidden motives, undetected sins, and bits of deception that, if not dealt with, hinder my faith, my journey, and my relationship with Him. Often, I begin with a frustration or concern, but as His love reigns over me, it overpowers every angst filled thought with truth.

When I fear financial difficulties, He reminds me He’s my provider and that all the world, a thousand banks included, sit under His command.

When illness steals the health of those I love, He assures me He holds all of eternity, their life included, in His grasp.

When I’m watching someone I care deeply for flounder and fight their way to maturity, He gently directs me to Philippians 1:6, which tells me He is working, at this moment, to grow them in Him. He won’t let go, leave them as orphans, nor will He let up until His will, in their life and mine, has come to pass.

There’s such peace in knowing that. In recognizing that God has a good, loving, and hope-filled plan for each of His children and is fully capable of bringing it to pass. When I pause to reflect on that truth, promised numerous times throughout Scripture, my soul quiets itself like a weaned child resting in the arms of its mother.

You may be familiar with that reference of a content and satiated toddler, and of the story behind the man who wrote it. It’s found in Psalm 131, written by David, Israel’s second king. Anointed as a youth, he endured years of persecution and betrayal before seeing God’s plans unfold. In the waiting, he fled his homeland in fear for his life, hid in the wilderness, caves, and acted like a madman. But though sorrow and fears assaulted him, they never remained. God never allowed them to take root. Instead, as David sat in the presence of the Almighty, loved from the hairs on his head to the tips of his toes, God led him on a gentle but empowering journey to faith.

Psalm 59 is one of my favorite examples, written after David, afraid for his life, flees a murderous king by climbing out his window. His prayer begins with desperate pleas but ends with courage, confidence and peace.

“Rescue me from my enemies, O God. Protect me from those who have come to destroy me. Rescue me from these criminals; save me from these murderers. … I have done nothing wrong, yet they prepare to attack me. Wake up! See what is happening and help me!” (Ps. 59:1-2, 4b).

Can you sense his desperation? It’s as if he’s saying, “Don’t You see? Why have You allowed this?”

But then, in the middle of his turmoil, God draws him deeper into His embrace, and David’s heart overflows with praise. “You are my strength,” he says “O Lord our shield” (vs. 9a, 11b). “My enemies come out at night, snarling like vicious dogs as they prowl the streets” (v. 14). In other words, they’re real and terrifying, but David knew God was greater. “As for me, I will sing about Your power. Each morning I will Psalm 59:17bsing with joy about Your unfailing love. For You” not castle strongholds, weapons of warfare, or armed soldiers “have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress” (v. 16).

I love that last line and the promise it provides. God is our refuge and safety, and we can always rest in His love. As we come to Him with our heartfelt concerns, He quiets the angst within and replaces it with unshakable confidence and peace.

Though He may indeed answer our prayers as we hope, He anchors us in something infinitely deeper, more solid, and more enduring—Himself and His unfailing love.

I don’t know your requests or how God will answer. But I can promise this:

He sees you. (Psalm 34:15)

He hears you. (Psalm 34:6)

He loves you unfailingly. (Psalm 57:3)

He will fulfill His purposes for you. (Psalm 57:2)

He surrounds and defends you. (Psalm 34:7)

When your heart breaks, He holds you close. (Psalm 34:18)

He is faithful, strong, attentive and true. (Deut. 7:9, Ps. 28:7, John 3:33)

Let’s talk about this! Do you have any favorite Psalms, most specifically, those written by ancient Israel’s King David? If so, which ones and why do you treasure that passage? Have you ever used one of David’s prayers as a guide or springboard for your own? Share your thoughts, stories, examples, and questions with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage, challenge, and inspire one another!

Logo image for Wholly Loved's Bible reading appBefore you leave, I have fun news! Wholly Loved Ministries’ Bible will soon have a 30-day Bible reading plan available on YouVersion! I’ll share the link when I have it. In the meantime, I encourage you to join our closed Facebook group. It’s a safe place where women can share their struggles, fears, doubts, and celebrations. to join, click the button below.

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