Because You Both Can’t Lead

anger-19063_1920It’s the word that makes nearly every woman cringe, grit her teeth, stomp her foot and clench her fists. Probably because someone they’ve encountered has used this word to oppress and dominate, which is so far from God’s intention. But isn’t that just like Satan to twist something God meant for good into something burdensome and repulsive?

Before we go further, let me assure you, God never oppresses. He uplifts, equips, transforms, and sets free.

Jesus said, “The theif’s [Satan’s] purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them [us] a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT).

Satisfying. Abundant. The Greek word Jesus used here means “more than”, beyond what is anticipated, exceeding expectations, and going past the expected limit.marriageverse

That’s the type of life I want! I get it by living out God’s will, and in marriage, for me, His will is submission (Eph. 5:22-23). But before you cringe and close out this window, let me explain.

Things hadn’t been going well in our marriage. And when I say they weren’t going well, I mean our marriage stunk. Steve and I were so far from being the united couple we vowed to be, we spent most of our time living as enemies. In self-imposed isolation.

We had two options: divorce or get help. By God’s grace, we chose the latter.

Sitting in a small, homey counselor’s office, tears pouring down my face, I shared all the hurts I’d been holding on to for so long. I’m not even sure I made sense. All I knew was that I was lonely and felt rejected, and I was desperate for things to change.

When I’d finished crying, wining, and venting, the counselor looked at me with a rather stoic expression and said, “You want him to be the leader.”

I jerked back, blinked. Stared at her for a long time.

Um… what? Where in the world did she come up with that?

At the time, I thought she had completely misunderstood me, but looking back… she’d been right on. My heart was crying out for a spiritual leader. The problem was, every time Steve stepped up to lead, I slammed him down.

Through criticism. And “instruction.” Constant instruction. When he’d interact with our daughter: “Hold her this way.” “No, she can’t have that. Give her this.”

When he’d help around the house: “No, you’re folding those wrong.” “Use this cleaner.” “Those don’t go there.”

man-690201_1920And being the loving husband he was, he began to follow, and I’m pretty sure it was killing him. It for sure was killing our marriage. That afternoon as the two of us sat in the counselor’s office, God began to intervene, working in each of our hearts in order to create a united front. Helpmates.

The road getting there, however, was terrifying.

God’s inciting incident (for those familiar with writing lingo) happened at a quiet beach front house in a tiny fishing town in Oregon. My mom found and booked the place and the four of us–Steve, myself, my mom, and our daughter who was probably eight at the time–spent the greater portion of a week unwinding and reconnecting. With ourselves, one another, and God.

While there, my mom gave Steve and I a book, unfortunately I don’t remember the name, but it was about one man’s journey of learning to recognize and heed God’s voice. I loved the book and read it periodically on our trip. My husband, however, devoured it. Every time I looked his way, he was reading, his thick brows pinched in that studious expression that indicated he was deep in thought. He remained pensive for the rest of the trip and on our drive home from the airport after.

As we drove, he played one song over and over. It was by Third Day, “Take My Life.” You can listen to it here:

Watching him, I knew, I mean I knew-knew, God was doing something, but I had no idea what, nor did Steve tell me. Until maybe a month later when he looked me in the eye and said, “I’m quitting my job. And we’re moving.”

My stomach plummeted. “What? Where will you work?”

“I don’t know. Home Depot?”

“Where will we live?”

“I don’t know. Pick a place.”

At this point, I started to reach panic stage. This was so uncharacteristic of my husband. It didn’t make sense. But in my heart I knew, this was from God. I hated it. I was terrified. But something in me kept me quiet. At least, to my husband.

Fast forward another month, and with still no definite job in sight, we decided to put our home on the market. (Because I guess if one’s going to be jobless, they may as well become homeless, too, right? Oy.) The decision had been made–we were moving. Where? I had no idea, and I wanted my marching orders! So, as I tore our old, weed infested grass off our yard in preparation for re-sodding, I cried out to God, wining, venting, complaining, and begging–yes, begging–for Him to tell me what He was up to. Where we were going to go, and that everything would be okay.

He didn’t give me that. All I heard was, “Submit.” Again and again, “Submit.”

woman-83177_1280I’m not sure how or where I got the strength, but I did. Not because I trusted my husband. He was totally freaking me out at that point, but because I trusted God. Or at least, I was trying to. Maybe I should say I chose to trust Him, regardless of how I felt.

That was when God began to make a leader out of my husband. A strong, confident, sexy, loving, gentle leader. But he didn’t get there overnight, nor was the journey easy, for either of us. One of the biggest challenges for me? I learned I had to get out of God’s way.

Ouch, right?

This is a heavy, complex subject, this S word thing, and one that can’t be addressed, it seems, in a single blog post. Which is why I want to expand on the topic. Come back in two weeks to learn how I feel this biblical principle plays out in modern-day marriage. In the meantime, join me next week to hear from a very special guest, Tanya Eavenson, who will be talking about godly relationships in general and four in particular she believes God wants to cultivate.

FB Cover PhotoBut before you go, fun news! Breaking Free releases (online) in four days! Woo-hoo! (Which means I’ll be all over the Internet, and the midwest, in the days to come. 😉 ) (It releases in bookstores on April 4th.)

For those looking for deals, Christian Book Distributors is currently running a pre-order discount. Go HERE to buy the novel at 31% off! You can read the first 30-some pages for free HERE. You can check out scene location pictures HERE.

Oh, and for those who’ve read Intertwined, my publisher posted book club questions. Grab a friend and chat about your favorite parts of the novel and what it showed you. 🙂 You can find those questions HERE. And if you live or will be in the Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines, or Austin area, I’d love to see you! Visit my Event Page to see when I’ll be in your area.

Finally, for those in the Omaha Metro, my church is hosting an amazing marriage conference with free childcare the night before. Check it out and register HERE and HERE.

 

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! When have you felt God asking you to do something that made no sense or evoked panic? How’d you respond and what was the result? Do you have any thoughts on the S word? What do you think God means when he tells wives to submit? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

Advertisements

Learning to Follow

surrenderProverbsversepicStrength is great, until it turns to pride. Determination is great, until it becomes stubbornness.

How was it my most admirable traits quickly worked against me? Against us?

I was a young bride. Naive, incredibly self-centered, and at times, self-righteous. And insecure. And, as a new mom, utterly terrified. Maybe that’s where our marital problems arose. I don’t know, but what I do know is, left on our own, Steve and I wouldn’t be where we are now, deeply in love, twenty-some years later.

My first venture back into “church-world” happened on a Mother’s Day. Though my husband and I had attended on occasion prior, we eventually quit going. Neither of us were living our lives for Christ. God was more like a back-of-the-mind figure, one we’d call out to once in a while, when things got crazy or we wanted something in particular then forget entirely for long stretches of time. Meanwhile, our marriage began to disintegrate. Not that it’d been incredibly strong to begin with.

But then one morning, completely absorbed in my misery, I took our young daughter out for a walk. I ambled through the neighborhood, pushing her in the stroller. I don’t remember what I was thinking about, but I’m sure I was rehashing all the woes of my life. (Woes of my own making, I might add.) I turned a corner, and a woman, also out for a walk, drew near. Upon reaching me, she stopped and said, “You should come to my church.”

I blinked. Um… Oookay. Then listened as she told me where it was.

The next Sunday, Mother’s Day, I went. Alone.

It’s hard sitting in church by yourself on Mother’s Day, staring at the sea of couples all around you. And as I sat there, looking about, all I could think of was, “I want that.” I wanted the happy little family. I wanted my husband beside me, his arm draped over my shoulder, while we bounced our squirming infant between us.

That picture of peace, love, and intimacy seemed to far away, so unreachable. I knew what I wanted–whatheart-700141_1920 our marriage needed–only I had no idea how to get there.

But God knew, and that Sunday morning He began to lead us on a journey that was equal parts frightening, painful, and absolutely miraculous.

It started with Him prying open my strangled grip on my life as He whispered to my battered and terrified heart, “Let go, and trust in Me.”

Trust in Him. Not in my husband and his ability to be what I needed. Not even in myself and my ability to be the wife I so desperately wanted yet continually failed to be. Trust in Him to work through our messy lives, heal our broken hearts, and not only restore our faltering marriage but make it stronger than it’d ever been. Stronger than we’d ever imagined.

It started with surrender, and that surrender led me to another S word. One that may make you cringe. It certainly did me! Come back next Thursday and I’ll share more.

If God’s saying the same thing to you, this song, one of my favorites, might encourage you.

6In the meantime, speaking of marriage, my publisher has released a free excerpt of my upcoming novel, Breaking Free, which reviewers are calling gripping and suspenseful. You can read it HERE.

Plus, I hope it’s okay to share, but I’m just so giddy about this… The other day I received the best review ever. What made it even better is that, that morning, I was feeling a bit discouraged. (We writers can be moody and insecure. I think it must be inherent to the creative mind.) And it felt like God was saying to me, “Keep at it, girl.” You can read that review here: One of the Best Books I’ve Read in a Long Time

Other resources you might enjoy:

The Spindle Chair (fiction, but wow, a great marriage resource.)

How Death Can Bring Life to Your Marriage

You Gotta Fight (Ignore the crazy bad posture. My word!)

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Are you married? If so, I imagine you’ve had your share of ups and downs. What has God taught you, in regard to developing intimacy? Or maybe simply in regard to doing life together? Or if you’re not married but either hope to be one day or have watched other married couples with intrigue, what are some things you’ve learned that you plan to implement (or think your friends should!)? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other.

And… for those who are participating in our Brain Experiment–any verses you can suggest to help us find the strength and courage to surrender our significant relationships? Share them with us!

 

 

Living as a Gift

Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

How many challenges and setbacks can an individual encounter before he decides to give up?

I hate to admit it, but if I’d experienced even half of what Dr. Ohaju, director of St. Joseph’s trauma center endured, I fear I may have retreated. Thrown my hands up in defeat and turned down an easier path.

I could learn a great deal from Dr. Ohaju, not only about perseverance but about gratitude, humility, and what it means to have a servant’s heart.

I met this man during a very frightening and stressful time. My mom-in-law had gone into the emergency room with stomach pain and a distended abdomen. After an emergency scope, she was rushed into surgery where Dr. Ohaju saved her life.

I shudder to think what might have happened had God not placed my mom-in-law under his care that week, and it was a good week that she spent in the hospital as she began the difficult and painful process of recovering from major surgery.

While dealing with a cancer diagnosis. That stung, and created all sorts of questions and uncertainties. You could feel the apprehension in the room, a tension that instantly dissipated whenever Dr. Ohaju walked in. God’s love flowed from him and instantly set us all at ease. We knew immediately not only that we were in the presence of a brilliant and compassionate surgeon, but also that, through him, God had absolutely everything under control.

That’s what happens when we surrender our gifts and passions into God’s hands; He uses 12227841_1007588982632353_5276246818269330802_nour every act as a love letter from us to His hurting world. As he did for us through Dr. Ohaju, and as he does for numerous impoverished Nigerians to this day, also through Dr. Ohaju.

He grew up during the Nigerian Civil war, also called the War of Biafra. It was a brutal, terrifying time where innocent people were slaughtered and masses of children and the elderly were abandoned. Many starved to death.

During this time, Dr. Ohaju did whatever he could to survive while helping his family put food on the table. One would find him standing outside the train station, waiting to sell oranges or bananas or whatever he could find to hungry travelers. He went to school in starts and stops, when he was able. Until it came time for him to enter sixth grade, when, in Nigeria, one must pay to go to school.

There was no way Dr. Ohaju’s family could pay his tuition.

Until one day, a teacher had mercy, and offered him an opened doorway. One of many to come. Because God saw something in Dr. Ohaju—God saw past his devastating beginnings to the gift that poor little boy would one day grow to be.

I’ll be telling his story, which is quite extensive and nothing short of miraculous, over the coming year through a separate blog, but first, I’ll share the ending. Well, not the ending, as his story is still unfolding, but what this godly man is doing now.

By God’s grace and with the help of others, Dr. Ohaju came to America where he pursued a degree in medicine. It was an incredibly difficult and long journey. One marked by heartbreak, for while he was in America, his father, back in Nigeria, died. From a treatable condition. Like so many others in Dr. Ohaju’s homeland.

3d188271-22e4-4042-e130-87a7c8f5c5f3Many Nigerians are dying daily from illnesses and diseases that are easily treatable, a tragedy Dr. Ohaju is determined to do something about through the medical missions nonprofit he started. In 2004, the VOOM Foundation, named after his deceased father, was born. The mission’s goal: to bring medical care to the poor and indigenes of Nigeria. (You can read more of his story HERE.)

And you can help. I encourage you to check out his foundations website and visit them on Facebook, and prayerfully consider donating to his cause. I also invite you to visit a blog I’ll be starting at the end of this month titled Truth in Fiction where I’ll be sharing bits of Dr. Ohaju’s story in more detail. In addition, I’m hoping to capture the essence of his story in a full-length novel, one he’s graciously agreed to help me with.

In the meantime, pray for us both: pray that he stays encouraged and focused on the call God has infused in his heart, and pray for me that I can capture the beauty, miracle, and perseverance of his story in novel form.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What thoughts came to mind as you read about Dr. Ohaju’s story? How do you typically respond to setbacks? Have you ever sensed God calling you to something that felt so incredibly difficult, maybe even seemed impossible? If so, how did you respond? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other!

Photo by imagerymajestic taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by imagerymajestic taken from freedigitalphotos.net

I’m becoming increasingly aware of how difficult the holidays can be for so very many of you. Some of you have lost loved ones, others feel disconnected from those they long most to connect with, and still others are completely overwhelmed by everything the holidays bring. Life is hard, and the hard doesn’t go away just because we add some mistletoe or stockings to our doorways and mantels.

And yet, what if we were to peel all that back? What if we were to step aside and consider what Christmas truly is all about. Not to sound cliche’, but it’s not about the tinsel or the gingerbread cookies. It’s about a tiny baby who came to our sin-ravished earth during an inconvenient and busy time, to a tired, shunned couple who couldn’t find a place amidst the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem to birth their firstborn. It’s about a baby who grew to be a man, filled with the fullness of God and all that entails, who then spread His arms out wide and offered up all He was so that you and I might live.

Christmas isn’t about the lights or the music or what we serve for Christmas dinner–it’s about redemption Christmasverseand delivery. It’s about Immanuel–God with us, through the beautiful and the hard.

Today fellow ACFW writer Carole Brown shares what Christmas means to her. Whether your holidays are merry and bright or hard and dark, I hope the truth in her devotion brings you peace.

This is December by Carole Brown

“I will cry unto the Lord in my trouble, and He shall deliver me.”

This is December. The month we celebrate our Lord’s birth, the Son who came to earth to be our Savior.

But He not only came to save but to be our deliverer. For some, this time of the year is not a joyous season. Hearts are heavy, bodies weary, minds confused.

  • Are any of you distressed?
  • In sorrow?
  • Worried?
  • Pressured?
  • Blue and lonely?

Of course, many are, and today’s world and news doesn’t make us any easier in our minds.

The first of the year, I had a phone call of the surprising, awkward and horrible deaths of my cousin and aunt. An ordinary death is hard enough, but one that shouldn’t have been, one caused by pride and shame and ignorance–that one haunted me for days. I felt sadness and depression that I couldn’t shake.

I knew after awhile that I needed to be rescued from the depression the enemy held over me. My husband encouraged and prayed. I pled with God to intervene. And slowly, slowly, He delivered me from the depression. How?TrustingGodquote

  • I trusted God would come through for me. Their deaths were in the past and I couldn’t do a thing about their sad deaths.
  • I had to do my part. Follow God’s leadings in how He wanted to work in this situation of my life, what He wanted me to learn and how to move forward.
  • Action and focus. I needed to put my thoughts and actions into a new way of thinking. Instead of thinking so much of what had happened to these two people, I had to begin concentrating on my life and what God wanted me to go forward with.

Use the lessons God gives us in life to be a stronger, more active Christian. Be bold with your faith as God leads. Stand firm on what you know God wants you to do.

***

CaroleAug14 (14) croppedCarole Brown not only has her award winning (2015 Winner of the USA Best Books Award, 2015 Small Publishers Book Award, RWA International Digital Award finalist, Clash of the Titles Laurel Awards finalist, Selah finalist; Genesis semi-finalist) debut novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, available for purchase now. Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Sabataged Christmas1 front cover3Sabotaged Christmas (an Appleton WV Romantic Mystery Book 1):

Toni DeLuca, the Italian owner of DeLuca Construction, finds herself confronted with doubts about her father and his possible deceptions–all because of the mysterious pink notes she’s receiving.

Relations with Perrin Douglas who has a troubled history—but the first man in years who’s interested her–is building to a peak. Yet Perrin‘s own personal problems and his doubts about women and God, keep getting in the way.

Gossip, a Spanish proposal, an inheritance, and a sabotaged construction business all converge to play a part in ruining Christmas for Toni’s employees. Will the mysterious person behind it all succeed in pulling off the biggest scam Appleton, West Virginia has ever seen?

Will this culprit destroy Toni’s last chance at happiness with the man of her dreams?

Buy it HERE!

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! I believe God is sovereign, attentive, and actively involved in our lives. I believe He truly does use all things for our good. But sometimes that good, along with the first or next step toward it, can be hard to see. Especially if we’re in a tough place or hurting. I loved Carole’s commitment to seek God, even when tragedy hit. What an example of fixing one’s thoughts on those things that are lovely, true, and worthy of respect. This Christmas, what can you fix your thoughts on? What might God be asking you to do, and will you obey? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all learn from one another!

And tonight, visit Heart of the Matter Radio to hear my suggestions on how we can find calm and peace among the craziness of the holiday season.

Oh, and to my local friends, I’ve got two fun events you can join me at. First, my church is having a Christmas Coffee and craft. It’s going to be way fun, and it’s free, plus, we’ve got childcare! (Also free!) You can find out more and sign up HERE.

signingflyer-page-001Second, Sunday afternoon I’m doing a signing at one of my favorite bookstores–Barnes and Noble near the Omaha Oak View Mall. I’ll be there from 1-3pm. Stop in and say hi–and bring a friend!

Do You Ever Feel Like a Misfit?

How we perceive ourselves can have such a dramatic impact on everything–how we interact with

Photo by adamr taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by adamr taken from freedigitalphotos.net

others, how we perceive others interactions with us, how we perceive our world, whether we take risks or shrink back in isolation. No wonder Satan works so hard to distort our thinking in this critical area! Today a sweet friend, young adult author Mary Hamilton is talking to all the misfits among us, which I suspect applies to us all at some point or another. As you read her thoughts, ask God to show you where your self-image has become distorted and then ask Him to replace that deception with truth. Ask Him to show you who you are in Him.

Ever Feel Like a Platypus?

by Mary Hamilton, author of See No Evil

Photo by OpenClipartVectors taken from pixabay.com

Photo by OpenClipartVectors taken from pixabay.com

The platypus is a curious creature. His legs are way too short in proportion to his chubby body. He hunts for food underwater like a fish, has webbed feet for swimming and lays eggs like a water bird, but is considered a mammal. He has the body of a beaver but the beak of a duck. Even his name sounds goofy. Platypus.

 

Have you ever felt like a platypus? A misfit? Ever complained that you’re too fat or too short. Your nose is too long, your legs too chubby, your hair too frizzy/curly/straight? I know I have. At different times, I’ve wondered, why can’t I be athletic like him? Why can’t I look more like her? If only I could play an instrument or sing like So-and-so. In other words, God, why didn’t you make me different (i.e. better)?

Remember those funny mirrors that distort your image, stretching your body out long or squishing it together? That’s how Satan wants you to see yourself. Distorted. Out of proportion. A misfit. He’s been at it since the Garden of Eden, where his whole strategy was to make Eve dissatisfied.

Eve? Dissatisfied? She had a perfect husband–they were made for each other. She lived in a

Photo by evert taken from pixabay.com

Photo by evert taken from pixabay.com

beautiful garden home with pets of every kind, fresh food every day, and she and Adam walked with God every evening. What more could a woman want?

The one thing God declared off limits. “If you eat from that tree,” Satan whispered, “you’ll be like God.” Hear that hiss of dissatisfaction? Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to be the woman God made her; Eve wanted to be like God himself.

When we look into the perfect mirror of God’s word, we find that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, woven together by God Himself in our mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:14-15) Thread by thread, over and under, God wove each of us together—hair, eyes, nose, chin, body, arms and legs, hands and feet, fingers, toes and personality.
The next time the Enemy whispers dissatisfaction in your ear, remember that distorted mirrors give you a warped view of yourself. Look to the Lord for a true reflection of who you are, who God made you to be.

***

Alt. headshotMary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp in southern Wisconsin, much like the setting for her middle-grade Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Each book tells the story of kids who bring their baggage to camp—and learn how to carry it.

Mary is a graduate of Long Ridge Writer’s Group, a member of ACFW and CAN. Her writing has won recognition in several contests including the Genesis and Selah contests.

When not writing, Mary enjoys knitting, reading and being outdoors. She and her husband live in Texas.

Visit her online.

See No Evil:

(Christian fiction for teens / tweens / middle grade.)

Taylor Dixon knew having his younger sister at camp would be a pain, but he never expected the SeeNoEvilFrontDropCroppain to go so deep. At 15, Taylor dreams of getting his driver’s license and driving race cars when he’s older. His sister, Marissa, is the only one who believes in his dream, but her adventurous spirit keeps landing him in trouble. Consequently, Dad won’t let him get his license and predicts Taylor is heading for the same jail cell as his once-favored older brother.

Taylor returns to Rustic Knoll Bible Camp expecting softball, swimming and sermons. Then he finds a classic Mustang in the camp’s garage and jumps at the owner’s invitation to help restore it. But when Marissa falls for his snobbish cabin mate, the war of words and pranks escalates until it threatens both the car and his dreams for the future.

Will Taylor fulfill Dad’s prediction and end up in jail? Or will he finally learn the Truth found in the old car’s engine?

 

Won’t Be Defined

Photo by makunin taken from pixabay.com

Photo by makunin taken from pixabay.com

What if we viewed ourselves through God’s eyes? Imagine the peace we’d have. And what if, maintaining that vision, we then zeroed in on what He was calling us to do, and pursued that with everything within us.

What might we accomplish?

This is something God has been encouraging me to do. If we’re Facebook friends, you likely read my post this morning with the quote from Real Women Leading With Proverbs 31 Values (an awesome book!). I’ll post the quote I pulled from the book here:

Speaking of influencers, the author said, “They are driven to do something that matters. They seek God for what His call is on their lives, and they are focused on what He created them to be.

Focus. Unwavering. Obedient. Surrendered.

Todays post, by a sweet sister in Christ who is pursuing God’s call with everything within her, shares her journey from the beginning of a dream to full pursuit.

GIVE-AWAY ALERT! As a special bonus, Jessica is giving away 3 of her albums. Winners will be randomly selected from the comments and shipping is only available to those living in the continental US.

But first, I want to announce last week’s give-away winner. Jennifer Hallmark, congrats! You won a copy of Cherie Burbach’s latest release, 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends. I’ll message you shortly to chat about getting that to you.

Won’t Be Defined by Singer/Songwriter Jessica Angelique

“I won’t be defined by what other say. I won’t be confined. They won’t get in the way of God’s love and His perfect plan. I won’t be defined in His strength I’ll stand. I won’t be defined.”

-from the title track “Won’t Be Defined” on 14-year-old Jessica Angelique’s album “Won’t be Defined.”

When I was a young girl there was this inner joy inside of me that made me happy. I never could imagine my life without God. I always remember believing in God. In the years before I started school I had no trouble being defined by God and not what others said about me, even through challenges I faced.

I have an eye condition called Duane’s Syndrome and I have trouble seeing and reading. The good news is that it’s hardly noticed, but I still struggle even today to read, but I am overcoming it.

photo taken from freedigitalphotos.net by Ambro

photo taken from freedigitalphotos.net by Ambro

My first few years of school were challenging. I was in Dual Language spending half the day speaking English and the other half speaking Spanish. Halfway through third grade I went to a different school without Dual Language. At my new school, I was bullied at the young age of nine and I had no friends, no hope. I felt alone like an outcast. I was being me, and that wasn’t accepted.

In school you’re supposed to like sports and dance, but I loved to sing and instead took piano and guitar lessons.

When I went into fourth grade I moved schools again because of the extreme bullying. I left the school so I would never have to see that bully again.

I was the new kid again. I felt excluded, but not as bad as at the other school.

When I started middle school in fifth grade, it got a lot easier and I made friends. I felt like the same kid I was before I started school, remembering I’m defined by God and not by what others say. A huge bJessica Angeliqueurden was lifted. I did not have a care in the world– except math class.

I’ve always loved music and singing. When I was very young I would sing songs at the top of my lungs and my brother would scream at me to shut up, but I never did. I always knew I wanted to be a singer, like every other girl in my class. Instead of just daydreaming, I decided to do something about it.

I started doing talent shows and playing for family and friends. Participating in a national talent competition gave me the inspiration to do this for the rest of my life. One day I attended a Christian concert featuring Moriah Peters. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a Christian singer. I started in the Christian music field and I don’t think I could do anything else.

I was encouraged to write songs and then wrote enough to make an album. My dream became a reality. Your dream can too with God’s guidance and with the help of those who nudge you in the right direction.

If I didn’t know God, my life would be hopeless. I’ve just started, and I have a lot more to do to make a difference and inspire people to be defined by God, not by what others say. My goal is to inspire one person at a time, follow God, and see where He takes me.

Like Brandon Heath sings, “He’s not finished with me yet.”

Jessica Vogt_021
14 year old, Jessica Angelique has a God-given gift beyond her years to write music that helps others going through doubts and insecurities, inspiring people to love Jesus and love themselves.
Through her own struggles with bullying she wrote the title track to her debut album,”Won’t Be Defined,” telling the story of a young girl learning that God defines us, not what others say. It’s a story every Mom will want their daughter to embrace.

Visit her online HERE.

Let’s talk about this! First, for those of you who joined me at Reality Church’s Women’s Connection Weekend last weekend, hopefully,  you’ve been prayerfully asking livingbygracepic.jpGod to help you do as Jessica encourages, which is to allow God and God alone to define us. (For those who weren’t able to come, I may be posting all three main sessions online. I’ll let you know…)

In what ways have you allowed others to define you? What inner lies are you clinging to, regarding your identity, and what Scripture can you meditate on and pray to center your heart and mind in God’s truth? Are you pursuing God’s call on your life, and if so how? If not, what’s holding you back? Share your comments here below or on Living by Grace on Facebook.

 

Christian Friendship

Photo by Serge Bertasius taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Serge Bertasius taken from freedigitalphotos.net

How does Christianity translate into our friendships? Author Cherie Burbach offers the answer in today’s guest blog post. As you read, keep in mind those friendships you want to nurture, and remember the ones you want to begin too.

But first, I want to announce the winner of last week’s give-away. Elizabeth Dent, congrats! You won a copy of Darlene Franklin’s latest release, Christmas Mail Order Angels. I’ll be contacting you soon to chat about the best way to get that to you.

For those of you who didn’t win, don’t fret; you have a chance to win an equally awesome novel today!

GIVE-AWAY ALERT! Cheri is giving away one free copy of her latest release, 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends. A winner will be randomly selected from the comments and shipping is only available to those living in the continental US.

Christian Friendships by author Cherie Burbach

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor.

One reason I like writing about relationships is because it’s universal. No matter who we are or where we come from, we all share a desire to be liked, to feel cared about, and be respected. We just want to get along. Despite the strife and arguments the world experiences, in the end we really do want peace.

As Christians, it can be difficult to show our best to people. And yet, we must do this.

ID-100367200

photo taken from freedigitalphotos.net by tiramisustudio

John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

A very wise friend of mine once said, “We’re called to love one another. Not like each other.” Loving is harder. It involves rising above pettiness and the exterior of someone’s personality and looking instead at that person the way God would. God doesn’t always agree with our choices but He loves us. We can do the same. We can simply open our hearts and move beyond the things we don’t agree with, leave judgement to God, and show love. Friendship is the first step to that.

About 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends:

51xZ3DOlc5L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The more friends you have, the more you’ll have the right people in your life to give you the support and connection you desire. Having more friends means you’ll consistently connect with new people and also keep the good friends you already have. If your friendships don’t seem to stick, you’ll be making friends and losing them quickly. The key to having more friends is increasing the number of people you meet on a regular basis and holding on to the great pals you already have.

This book contains one hundred suggestions on how to make new friends and also strengthen the friendships you already have. The tips are varied, with suggestions on how to meet new people interspersed with ideas for nurturing your new and existing friendships.

Cherie Burbach has written about relationships for over a decade at places like About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, Christianity Today, and more. She’s penned 17 books, her latest of which is 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends. Visit her website for more info, cherieburbach.com.

Let’s talk about this. Lately, numerous women have toldlivingbygracepic.jp me they have a difficult time forming friendships and making connections with other women. I think there are numerous reasons for this (and for those who are local, I’ll be talking about this at an upcoming Moms group meeting in January), more than can be addressed in one blog post. But I do think forming and maintaining meaningful connections takes work, and perseverance. And it requires us to embrace risk, because reaching out can be scary.

Do you feel you have meaningful connections, and if so, do you have tips to offer others who may not feel the same? If not, is there something you can do this week to connect with others? Also, look at your relationship history. Do you tend to cycle through friendships or maintain relationships? How do you handle conflict when it arises? What do you do when a friend hurts you? Do you walk away or do the hard work to move past the hurt and deepen the relationships?

Heavy subject, but an important one, I feel. Share your thoughts and experiences in the commends below, because we can all learn from one another!