When Others Hurt Us

Image by Gokil on Unsplash

My friend’s comments and attitude stunned me and left me clamoring for a reply. At first, I had none. An evening excursion I’d anticipated with joy, that I’d set aside time for, paid money for, was quickly turning to regret.

The words tumbling out of my friend’s mouth weren’t only hurtful, they were unjustified. It was almost as if she were searching for things to criticize and condemn. Though I persevered, doing my best to enjoy the rest of our time together, my mind kept rehashing every painful statement.

My emotional reaction would’ve been different had she had been calling out sin, or perhaps lovingly pointing me to growth. Then I would’ve known her remarks came from a place of love. But that didn’t seem to be the case. Every declaration appeared to erupt from a place of … indignation.

Why was she so angry? Did she really view me the way her words implied?

The next day, still nursing the sting from the night before, I was rehashing it all through prayer to God. Every statement she’d made, why it was wrong and unfair, and what each revealed regarding the state of her heart.

About two minutes into my rant, God’s voice swept through my mind: “Be the friend to her you quote pulled from text on green backgroundwant her to be to you.”

In other words, show grace. Recognize that, yes, her words and behavior had been ugly, but there were countless times mine were as well. If I were to list every time I’ve done or said something hurtful to someone I love, I’d be buried in paper and ink.

I never have and never will love others perfectly.

Neither would my friend. Most likely, her behavior the night before stemmed from something completely outside of our encounter. She was probably hurting or experiencing stress or uncertainty in some area. Or perhaps she’d merely slipped into a sinful state. We’ve all done that.

But God’s love and gentle presence remains, and knowing we still have a great deal of growth ahead, He lovingly convicts then picks us up and carries us to that next level of grace.

Philippians 1:6 tells us all who belong to Christ are in a state of progress. We’re teetering someplace between who we once were and who we’ll become. This verse brings great comfort when we’re the ones who’ve tilted back toward sinful behaviors, but this hope-filled promise involves those who hurt us as well.

With every interaction, especially the most painful and disappointing, may we all remember that each one of us are in a state of becoming. God will complete the work in us, and perhaps most importantly, He carries the bulk of the weight.

Get Satisfied

ContentmentVerse“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6 NIV).

And discontentment? That will make you plain miserable. When I encounter the same theme again and again, I start to take notice, because chances are, God’s trying to teach me something. If we’re connected on Facebook, you likely saw my Internet Cafe post yesterday on how discontentment stole my joy. (Read it HERE.) Then I open my inbox this morning to begin formatting Angela’s devotion, and bam! Another devotion on contentment.

Kinda makes me wonder if God feels this is an area I need to grow in. Uh… yeah. Of course it is, because the moment I turn my eyes of Christ and all He’s done, my inner monster begins to grumble. Making everyone miserable, myself most of all.

As you read Angela’s thoughts on how to remain satisfied–deeply pleased–in all circumstances, ask God to show you how you can do the same.

But first, some housekeeping stuff. Starting in March, I’ll be launching two blog series, one here and another, well, everywhere. (Or wherever I guest post.) On Mondays, here, I’m implementing Momma-Mondays where I’ll be writing about ways we can parent (or grandparent) to our children’s heart, Brainexperimentjpgpartnering with God as He perfects that which concerns them and molds, trains, and equips them for their future calling. I’m also launching a series humorously titled the Brain Experiment, where I’ll invite readers to saturate their thoughts with Scripture in order to replace the lies with truth, fear with faith, and insecurities with confident hope. I’ll start that here on the 25th and will list where and when I’ll be sharing follow-up devotions. I hope you’ll join me! (Note to other bloggers, if this sounds like something you’d like to do as well, email me and we can chat.)

Get Satisfied

By Angela Ruth Strong

french-quarters-589004_1920On one of my first dates with my husband, we went to the mall and ate Cajun food. It was greasy and delicious, and I really should have saved half of it to take home rather than shovel it all into my mouth. But it was sooo good. As I got back into his truck, I said, “I am satisfied.”

For some reason, he thought that was the cutest thing ever and he laughed so hard he couldn’t even get into the truck. He kept repeating, “I am satisfied.” Now we say that phrase as a joke whenever dinner is really good.

The thing was that we weren’t only satisfied with the food, we were satisfied with the company. According to the MacMillan Dictionary, we were “pleased with what had happened.” We were in a place where we were so comfortable and happy we could laugh about nothing and simply enjoy life. It’s a great feeling. So good I want to remind myself of this feeling even when I’m not pleased with what is going on around me.

My word for the year is “satisfied.”

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to keep stuffing my face with Cajun food. That means that no matter what happens, I will remind myself of the gift God has already given me. Whether my furnace goes out (ahem, we had the repair guy here today), or my car decides not to let me pump gas into it anymore even though it’s empty (does this stuff ever happen to anybody besides me?), or I get another painful rejection from a publisher who expressed interest in buying my work, I can still be satisfied.

“When I awake, your presence will satisfy me” (Psalm 17:15b, ISV).

He is enough. I know this because I told him to test me once and then I lost everything. But it wasn’t because God wanted to test me. No, He’d lovingly prepared me for heartbreak. So when I had nothing else, He was able to remind me, “You know I’m your all, Angela. You know it.”

The great thing about having nothing is that when God restores what was taken, you are more grateful than ever. You are satisfied. Which is how I want to live not only this year, but the rest of my life.

“Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content” (Psalm 131:2b the Message).

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Angela Ruth Strong studied journalism at the University of Oregon and published her first novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010. With movie producers interested in her book (Read about that HERE), she’s decided to rerelease it and write sequels as a new series titled Resort to Love. This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhope Writers to encourage other aspiring authors, and she’s excited to announce the sale of her first romantic suspense novel to Love Inspired Suspense. For the latest news or to contact Angela, visit www.angelaruthstrong.com.

Finding Love in Sun Valley CoverFinding Love in Sun Valley Idaho:
Actress Emily Van Arsdale has returned to her Idaho hometown – with an entire film crew in tow! With its stunning scenery and reputation for hosting celebrities, Sun Valley is the perfect setting for Emily’s newest romantic comedy. Tracen Lake is happy to work as a stunt consultant for the movie but not as thrilled to deal with a bunch of high-maintenance Hollywood types. But Tracen is surprised to discover in Emily a down-to-earth Idaho girl who does all her own stunts and loves the outdoors. As filming wraps up and Emily heads off to her next gig, will she be able to leave Sun Valley – and Tracen – behind?
Let’s talk about this! Pause to evaluate your life. Are you content? What have livingbygracepic.jpyou allowed to steal your contentment (and therefore, your joy)? What are some steps you can take, this week, to find contentment? Share your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions with us, because we can all encourage and learn from each other. Join the conversation here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.
Resources you might enjoy:
A Still and Quiet Soul by Cathy Messecar (I contributed a story to this one.)

Why Do We Worry?

What kinds of things do you worry over? Do you ever let worry overwhelm you to the point you forget just Who is in control? Today Sarah Ruut reminds us that though we may worry and fret over many different things in this life, there is One whom we can trust to hold everything in His hands.

But first, for my book-loving friends, I wanted to let you know Intertwined is still on sale for under $3! (ecopies). You can get the kindle version here, nook version here, and CBD’s transferable e-version here. PLUS, CBD has my next novel up for pre-order for 31% off regular price here. (You can read some of the early reviews that have come in here.)

Why Do We Worry? by Sarah Ruut

It had been a long day. I finally headed to the store with my four kids (7 and under) for groceries. The problem? It was 5 o’clock.

why do we worryI knew they were going to get hungry and fussy, but I didn’t know what to do about it. I was already pinching pennies, so a fast food meal – or even a snack – was out.

The 30-minute drive did not bring any ideas. Instead, I spent the time fretting and stewing, tying my stomach in knots instead. I just knew the next hour would be miserable for us all.

With the youngest in the seat of a cart, I boosted my daughter into the main part of the basket. As we started walking into the store, the kids got excited.

“Look, Mommy! I found a dollar!”

I turned, expecting to see an ad or receipt. There in her hand was indeed a dollar. But not just a one. She held a ten-dollar bill out for my inspection.

What do you do with stray cash? I looked around to see if there was anyone who could have left it, but no one paid us any attention. No one was walking from the area as if they had just left a cart.

People just don’t leave ten-dollar bills laying around, though. Who even pays cash these days, right? The whole situation, after the worrying I had been doing about my finances, was a bit shocking.

We continued into the store, and the Lord spoke very clearly.

“I feed the birds of the air and clothe the lilies of the field. Why don’t you trust me to take care of your children?”

I fought tears as the full reality washed over me. My fretting was the exact opposite of faith! If I truly trusted God, I had no need to worry.

We used the money for a box of granola bars and a drink, which we paid for and consumed before doing our “real” shopping. The kids survived the trip, and I kept my sanity. But the lesson that day has never faded.

There are so many times in our day-to-day lives when it is easy to worry. Whether leaving a baby with a sitter or allowing a teen to take the keys, sitting with a loved one in the hospital or watching a tornado bear down on a town, there are things beyond our control that we fret about.

person-371015_640But if we truly believe that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will, do we really have any reason to worry?

Doesn’t He love our children (spouse, family, friends, etc.) even more than we do?

Can’t He calm the storm with a spoken command?

Doesn’t He own the cattle on a thousand hills?

We don’t have to worry. We don’t have to fix it. We don’t have to have all the answers.

We simply have to trust the One who has it all under control!

Sarah Ruut Pic
Sarah Ruut is an avid reader who loves sharing about books and their authors on her blog. You’ll find devotionals as well as reviews of Christian fiction, interviews with amazing authors, giveaways and more at sarahruut.com. You can also connect with Sarah on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

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livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What are some worries that you tend to focus on? How do you work through those worries? Do you delve into the Word, pray, or both? What are some of your favorite verses to think on when you begin to feel worry? Can you think of a time when you felt His peace and provision so deeply, the worry disappeared? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other!

Coming soon I’ll be doing a blog series titled “The Brain Experiment” where we replace negative, anxiety-producing, and self-defeating thoughts with truth and watch how this impacts our emotions and behaviors. So, stay tuned! 🙂

dependent-441408_640Never under estimate the power of even the smallest acts of grace. A smile given to a lonely old woman, a five minute conversation with the cashier at the pharmacy, an unexpected compliment to your spouse. Many of you are probably familiar with TobyMac’s song, “Speak Life.” You can listen to it here:

Today’s guest, Joi Copeland, reminds us to use our words to sprinkle grace, no matter where we are, how busy we are, or how we’re feeling. Because people matter.

imgresAND… as a fun bonus, she’s giving away an e-copy of her novel Sheriff’s Bride, Rob’s Story to one lucky reader randomly selected from comments left on today’s post. (You can see the rest of her novels HERE.)

Words Matter by Joi Copeland

As I write this, my family and I are sitting at the All Star Music Resort at Walt Disney World. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and began our Disney Adventure here in Orlando for the very first, and probably last, time.

While I am having a great time, I’m remembering how very important the spoken word is. I’ve watched people walk around these theme parks, tired, grumpy, and done after a long day. I get that. However, my life is more than just a theme park for a week. I want every person who I come in contact with to receive love and grace, and a smile for their work.

That’s been my goal over the last 3 days. I will smile at someone who is ringing up my order and speak to them by using their name. After all, they have a name tag for a reason, so why not use it? I ask them how people-431943_1280their day is going and once again, give them a smile as I thank them for helping me. Each time I do it, I find the cast members more willing to help because they are appreciated and someone has taken time to ask how they are doing.

This morning, I woke up wiped out. Orlando is doing something wicked to my allergies, and I’ve been having watery eyes, sneezing like never before, and just plumb tuckered out. When I went to the restaurant to get my breakfast, the last thing I wanted to do was talk to someone. But the lovely woman from Africa looked like she needed a smile, so I gave her one and asked her how she was doing. She told me she felt like crying for the last few days because her life is a mess. I told her I was so sorry, but I was glad she was here today so I could see her beautiful smile. She got teary eyed, thanked me, and sat a little straighter.

I don’t write this to toot my horn. I fail more often than not at caring for those who I come in contact with. But this week, I’ve noticed on more than one occasion how much people like it when I use their name, when I smile and say thank you, and when I tell them how much I appreciate them.

That may be my theme for this year. Or better yet, maybe that needs to be my theme for the rest of my life. Give encouragement when I can, put others above myself, smile, even when I don’t feel like it. Go on. Give it a try. You’ll find the reward is far greater than anything you’ve experienced yet.

***

CopelandphotoJoi Copeland is married to a wonderful man, Chris, and has three amazing boys, She is living the dream in beautiful Denver, Colorado. Joi loves being a wife and mom and also enjoys spending time with friends over a good cup of coffee or tea. She’s been a Christian for over twenty years. She’s the author of two books, Hope for Tomorrow and Hope for the Journey, and three novellas, Christmas Rayne, Letters of Love, and Sheriff Bride, Rob’s Story. She and her family are hoping to be missionaries in Ireland in July of 2016 where Joi will continue to write novels of hope and redemption.

Let’s talk about this! I think we’d all agree, words have power–the livingbygracepic.jppower to encourage or discourage, to heal or to wound. When has someone said something to you that inspired you, comforted you, or made you feel valued and loved? Share your experiences in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace. (And while you’re on Facebook, make sure to connect with me, because I love making new friends! You can find me HERE.)

Sheriff’s Bride, Rob’s Story:

This is the fourth book in the series. Make sure to read about Rob’s other sisters in Sheriff Bride. Sheriff Bride Jo’s Story, Sheriff Bride Dan’s Story and our final book Sheriff Bride Christmas (The Inside Man)

Sheriff Rob Hardin has a tough job. With her three sisters no longer acting as sheriff along with her, her brother-in-law insists the town hire a deputy. Rob agrees, but reluctantly. Leslie should be a huge help, and it brings her some comfort to know another female will be sharing her living quarters.

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Leslie arrives in Waterhole, but is nothing like Rob expected. Nothing at all! What will happen between the two? Only God can take an unexpected situation and turn it into something neither Rob nor Leslie ever dreamed.

Cherishing What Matters

Photo by Stuart Miles taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Stuart Miles taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Sometimes I approach Thanksgiving with a bit of a hum-bug spirit, thinking of all the to-dos and obligations. Other times, like this year, I toss those to-dos and self-imposed expectations aside to simply be. To enjoy time with family, the colors of fall, the smell of roasting turkey.

This year feels especially significant as it’s our daughter’s first Thanksgiving home, post college. Oh, how we’ve missed her, which might seem strange, considering she’s only 45 minutes away, and comes home quite often. But if you’re a parent, you understand. Our hearts hold tight to those precious gifts God once placed firmly in our hands. Today my sweet friend and fellow ACFW writer Ginger Solomon tells us about a special Thanksgiving blessing she received one year. As you read her post, think of your family and the love that holds it together. Or, if family is tough, think of the close relationships God has developed in your life. And hold tight to them. Invest in them. And thank God for them

A Special Thanksgiving Blessing by Ginger Solomon 

On this day twenty-two years ago–well, technically yesterday, but it was Thanksgiving Day that year—I delivered a turkey of my own at 2:19 in the morning. My turkey weighed 9 lbs and measured twenty-two

Photo by kangshutters taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by kangshutters taken from freedigitalphotos.net

inches long. He’s a big boy now, or rather a man, growing to a pretty tall 6’5”.

Every year, I give thanks for that child and the six others God has blessed me with.

Psalm 127:4-5 says, “Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” (NLT) Well, I’m not a young man, but I still feel blessed.

Many people thought I was crazy after I announced pregnancies four through seven. I mean really, didn’t I know what caused that? Yes, people did have the audacity to ask those types questions. Most times I just smiled and ignored them.

Sometimes when I took them all to the store with me, which I did have to do for a while—my oldest was thirteen when the baby was born—I’d get odd looks, or a my-you-have-your-hands-full.

But even though I had some tough days—as most moms do—I wouldn’t trade any one of them for the world. They are unique individuals and will bless society with their gifts and abilities.

IMG_0496My first child (24) will graduate from nursing school with an RN next month. Child two (22)—mentioned above—graduates in May with a BS in Engineering(Computer). Child number three (18) just started college, aiming for a BS in Engineering(Mechanical). Child number four (girl #1; 17) will graduate high school in May. She wants to be a children’s pastor. Children five through seven (15, 13, & 11) don’t quite know what they want to do yet, but whatever it is, I’m ready to be amazed by God.

So this Thanksgiving as you wipe dirty hands and faces, worry about spilled something, struggle with getting a child to bed because he or she ate too much dessert, be thankful. That child will grow up and teach you much about trusting God.

And if you don’t have a child of your own, or yours are grown, help a mom out when she looks a little frazzled. Carry her groceries. Wipe a face. Hold a hand. Clean up a spill. If you’re a stranger, offer to push her cart while she carries the baby or consoles the toddler. Pay for her groceries, her lunch, or just a can of soda.

Even if all you can offer is a smile, she will be grateful that you’re not frowning at her because her child is having a bad day.

I pray blessings on your family from our family. Happy Thanksgiving.

Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer — in that order (mostly). When Solomon author imagenot homeschooling her youngest four, doing laundry or fixing dinner, she writes or reads romance of any genre, some sci-fi/fantasy, and some suspense. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, president of her local writing group, and writes regularly for two blogs. In addition to all that, she loves animals, likes to do needlework (knitting, crocheting, and sometimes cross-stitch), and is a fan of Once Upon a Time and Dr. Who.

Visit her online at her Website, her group blog Inspy Romance, her Facebook Author Page, on Twitter @GingerS219 and Pinterest

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. What’s your Thanksgiving and Christmas look like? Will you have family close? For those who have strained family relationships or are mourning the loss of loved ones, I’m sorry. That’s tough. I hope you have a strong support group around you to help you enjoy this time. I hope you’ll find a way to make Thanksgiving special, however that looks for you. For those who will get to spend time with their loves ones, don’t let the to-dos take away from the must-dos of showing love, spending time, sharing laughter… eating massive quantities of pumpkin pie. With a decaf, almond milk latte, of course!

Pride isn’t Pretty

Maria headshot LLBD (1)

Pride is something that everyone struggles with. In today’s guest blog post, author Mariah Morgan discusses how pride affects our relationship with Christ, and how we can combat it. As you read, be thinking about how you can fight your prideful nature.

Pride isn’t Pretty by Maria Morgan

Pride isn’t pretty. It takes on many forms – thinking we’re superior to others, making decisions without counsel, even putting ourselves down. Whether we want to admit it or not, all forms of pride are rebellion against God.

Pride has been around since the beginning of time. Once an angel, Lucifer (Satan) was cast out of heaven because of pride:

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High,” (Isaiah 14:12-14).

Where it begins  

Notice where pride began: in Lucifer’s heart. He held a prestigious position. He was the anointed cherub according to Ezekiel. Maybe his position caused him to get puffed up. Maybe it was his good looks (Ezekiel 28:17). Whatever the case, he desired to be God – serving God was no longer enough.

Satan used pride to get Eve to question God’s goodness in the Garden, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1b). Basically, Satan wanted Eve to think God was withholding something from her and Adam. Wasn’t it possible God just didn’t want them to be “gods, knowing good and evil”? (Genesis 3:5).

Wayward steps

Photo by tiverylucky taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by tiverylucky taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Eve looked at the fruit of the tree. It did look beautiful and ripe. What harm could come of taking just one bite? Without seeking Adam’s input, Eve plucked the fruit and gave some to her husband.

Before we’re too hard on Adam and Eve, don’t we do the same thing? Instead of living within the parameters of His will, we want to be the ones calling the shots. Our will seems to make more sense. One wayward step becomes two and pretty soon we’ve established our own little kingdom where we’re on the throne.

God is good

Fortunately, the Lord is well-acquainted with our weaknesses. With every temptation to give in to pride, He gives us a way of escape, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it,” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Because of the payment Christ made for our sins on the cross and God’s goodness, we can be victorious. When we’re careful to submit to God’s will, and resist the devil, pride won’t have a foothold in our lives. Walk in victory today!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for reminding me that there is a very real battle going on in my life between pride and humility. Help me fortify myself with Your Truth so I can stand against the enemy’s schemes. Today I submit to Your will knowing that You must increase and I must decrease. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

V4 - Louie and the Leafpile cover3Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker. She is the award-winning author of Louie’s BIG day! Her newest release, Louie & the Leaf Pile, shares the truth about pride in a child-friendly way. Regardless of the age of her audience, her goal is the same: to share God’s truth and make an eternal difference. She lives in the muggy South with her husband, two retrievers, and two Maine coon kitties ~ the perfect mix to fuel her creativity for years to come!

 

 

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Let’s talk about this! How would you describe pride? How do our small prideful acts take us farther from God’s will? When you are focused on your own wants and goals, what brings you back to God, and what can we do to avoid falling into temptation? What steps will you take to walk in humility today?

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

For those of you who are local, this month on the 7th, I will be having a book signing at Divine Truth. For those of you who aren’t local but would still like autographed copies of any of my novels, either for yourself or as Christmas gifts, contact Rodney, the store manager at 402-592-4866 and he’ll make that happen!

For those of you who enjoy following my blog tours, here’s where I’ve been this week:

Today I’m visiting Ally Carter’s blog, talking to moms about making the most important thing most important. You can read this post HERE.

Yesterday I visited Ralene Burke’s blog to talk about finding confidence in the uncertainty, and the part unhindered, unconditional obedience plays in that. You can read that post HERE.

At Faith, Friends, and Chocolate, we celebrated our subscriber give-away winner and released our latest newsletter edition. You can check that out HERE.

On Friday, I visited Sharon Scrock’s to participate in a “Wild Card” interview. You can read the interview, along with an excerpt from Intertwined, HERE.

 

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!

A Deeper Look at Baltimore

Photo by Stux taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Stux taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Do you ever wish you could find some hidden, remote closet to hide away in? Do you ever feel like the Internet–most specifically social media–has become a breeding ground for hate? Can good–love, peace, compassion, sacrificial service, dialogue–truly overcome evil? And in the case of Baltimore, do we even have a clear idea of what evil looks like, or have the lines become blurred?

Last night, after skimming through the Facebook wars, I went to bed feeling completely overwhelmed and emotionally charged, so I asked myself why. After a bit of thought, the answer came: because I realize behind the posts, tweets, and news headlines exist hurting people. I think we forget that. It’s so easy to zero in on behavior without ever taking the time to look deeper.

To truly understand the root.

Before I get too far, let me make it incredibly clear: I do not condone rioting, vandalism, and open hatred. But neither to do I condone secret hatred hidden in passive aggress social media updates. Nor do I condone sneaky hatred, spoken in racial epitaphs, jokes, and callous stereotypes.

And in all our posts and comments, we forget, or fail to realize:

Hatred and prejudice still exits. 

A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a business woman who happens to be a Japanese American. Somehow our conversation turned to racial tension and stereotypes, and I mentioned how my brother, a Korean American, often experienced prejudice when we were growing up. Her comment, “You mean you saw it?”

In other words, often, the greatest damage is done when others aren’t looking, and those of us watching from the sidelines only see a fraction of the hate our ethnic friends experience.

Then again, even once is enough to deeply wound. I can think back over my childhood to teachers that have said hurtful things, friends who’ve misjudged me, and those things stay with me. I have to work to forget and forgive.

I could give numerous examples of prejudice I’ve witnessed or heard of, but I suspect you can, too. And if you can’t, I’d say widen your circle. Engage with the world at large. Take time to listen to other people’s stories and to understand their perceptions and hurts. If you live in middle-class whiteland, get to know, really know, those who are different than you. Spend time in the inner cities. Serve in inner city ministries. Get to know those on the front lines of this issue.

There’s a video making the Facebook rounds of NFL player Ray Lewis condemning the rioters for their behavior, as I think many do, myself included. But if we take the time to truly listen to what Mr. Lewis is saying, we’ll notice he acknowledges hatred, oppression, and discrimination does exist. He’s merely saying, “This isn’t the way to fix it.”

Let’s not jump on the sentiment, “This isn’t the way to fix it,” without taking time to figure out what the way to fix it is.

So what is the way? Or perhaps I should say, what are the ways?

Invest in inner city missions, helping families in poverty find a leg up.

Invest in our youth, especially those who, through their behavior, demonstrate a sense of hopelessness.

Walk beside our single moms so that they can raise their kids how they want. (I could go on and on about this one, but sadly, this post is already nearing TMW stage (too many words–a novel worth, actually).

Photo by artura84 taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by artura84 taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Poverty leads to hopelessness.

When we lived in Kansas City, our family reached out to a Sudanese family that came to America from the refugee camps of Kampala. Life was so different for these teenagers! So many things we take for granted were completely foreign to them–like the fact that landlords are responsible for the care and upkeep of their buildings.

It was an insanely hot summer, and the complex this family lived in had window units. The teenage girl called them fans, but I’m pretty sure they were AC units. Anyway, most of the units in the complex were broken. (Did I mention it was an insanely hot summer? Like the type that routinely soared into the triple digits?) When she shared this with me, I told her she needed to talk to her landlord. She said her father–a working, single father, by the way–had, but the landlord hadn’t done anything. I told her this wasn’t right and that she should contact the city. This idea threw her as she had no idea she had a right to, well, rights period. She and her family felt at the mercy of her landlord, and as they were completely broke, they also felt they had no other options but to endure. And the “fans” were but one instance.

Stereotypes and quick judgements only make things worse. 

How easily we throw out opinions on things we don’t understand. How easily we lump individuals with beating, bleeding hearts together. How easily we remain on the surface without taking the time to really dig. To engage. To dialogue and find solutions.

But love engages. Love listens. Love helps. Love breaks down barriers and finds ways to form bridges. Love links arms with those in need of help, support, encouragement.

This post (hopefully) begs the question: What now? Where do we go from here?

We find a way to rise above, to reach out, and to saturate this country with love and grace. Folks, let’s go deeper and find a way to be part of positive change.

And, on a happier note, Mark Bethea of New Hope Publishers interviewed me via Skype the other day. And I learned something. Pink reflects! Watching the below linked video, at first I thought, wow, why is my neck so red? Was I embarrassed? But then when my head bobbed (lesson two, keep head still!) the red crept up to my chin then back to my neck. Pink reflects! Even so, it was a great conversation, and I was glad for the chance to share my heart.

Jennifer Slattery Video Interview from New Hope Publishers on Vimeo.

Let’s talk about this. What are your thoughts about this issue and my post? Am I completely off base? What are your experiences with prejudice, injustice, and racial oppression? What are your thoughts about the posts and comments making the social media rounds? Where do you think America should go from here, and how do you suggest we begin moving in that direction? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. Speaking of… are we Facebook friends yet? If not, how come? Connect with me here! 🙂

Will Your Hope Dissapoint?

Photo by cuteimage taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by cuteimage taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Is your hope rightly placed or are you headed for are you headed for a painful fall?

I’ve had many times, way too many, where I’ve placed my hope in the wrong things. My abilities, our stock portfolio, my husband’s job, friends. And each time, those things ended up disappointing me for various reasons, but one rock–a firm, unmovable foundation–remained unshakable. Today a sweet friend–my coffee-drinking buddy!–Angela D. Meyer, author of Where Hope Starts, shares her thoughts on rightly placed hope.

But first, I wanted to announce the winner of last week’s give-away. Audrey, congrats! You won again! I select winners quite randomly, so I’d say the fact that you won again must mean God really wants to encourage  you. I love that about Him! I’ll send you an email shortly connecting you with Johnnie.

Rightly Placed Hope by Angela D Meyer

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy publicity pic for bioSpirit, whom he has given us.

Romans 5:5 (NIV)

I was only five at the time my grandpa came to visit us. As I remember it, I was playing in the backyard and Grandpa was just sitting there enjoying the out of doors. (He was a farmer, more inclined to the country than the city).

I really wanted my grandpa to play. After much cajoling (I have to admit to taking a bit of license on this point with the memory of a five-year-old) he finally relinquished.

He looked me in the eye. “You know what? If you’ll run around the house 5 times (Maybe it was less or maybe it was more. The point – he wanted me out of his hair for a bit.) you’ll have 2 baby cows following you.”

“Wow.” And off I ran. Just like that I put my hope in what my grandpa promised. I wanted to have a couple of cows of my own.

If you haven’t caught it by now, my grandpa was pulling a joke on me. When I arrived at his chair after rounding the house the required amount of times, he was laughing.

I was crying. “There aren’t any cows.”

Photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

He laughed some more and pointed to the back of my legs. “There are two calves following you right there.”

The light bulb went on in my mind and I understood. But it didn’t feel like something to laugh about. I was vastly disappointed.

When we place our hope in the word of man, we will eventually be disappointed. But God always keeps his word. It may look different than we expect, but God always comes through.

Does that mean we kill all desire for people to do the right thing? No. But it does mean we recognize that people are not perfect and they will fall short of our expectations. And our joy, our peace, our life does not depend on them coming through for us. 

Opening ourselves up for the possibility of the best from people, will open the likelihood of being hurt. But with our hope in God – we will be comforted, we will be strengthened, we will find peace in the midst of the pain.

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD”  (Psalm 31:24 NIV).

***

Whether through story, blog posts, or video devotional here on the pages of my website, my books or a connection on one of her other social media sites, Angela D. Meyer’s desire is to  eencourage women in the midst of a broken life on their faith journey. Because life goes on even when its a mess. And when broken pieces litter the path, we need a little extra encouragement. Connect with her online at AngelaDMyer.com

Where Hope Starts Cover resizedWhere Hope Starts:

Karen Marino’s life is a nightmare. The New York City restaurant manager is a professional success, but her marriage is in shambles. When her husband, Barry shows up drunk at her restaurant, she loses both. She flees The Big Apple and returns to her Midwestern home to sort through her options. But instead of answers, she finds an old boyfriend ready to rekindle romance, a family full of secrets and an angry brother bent on revenge. Karen wants to do the right thing, but how do you forgive the unforgivable? As she searches for the answer, she uncovers a family secret that threatens to tear them all apart. Can she find her way back to the place Where Hope Starts?

Buy it here!

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Can you share a time when you’d placed your hope in something or someone other than Christ? What happened? How does centering our hope in Christ lead to lasting peace and joy? (Please not, by joy I am not speaking of a temporary emotionally happy state but rather the deep assurance that comes from knowing Christ and resting in His will.)

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

And before you leave, make sure to check out the next stops on our Call to Praise Blog Hop:

March 21: Allyson Carter will discuss Psalm 103 verse 3, hosted on Carol McClain’s blog

March 24: Sarah Ruut hosted on Marji Laine’s blog, discussing how God’s Blessings in our lives can give us strength.

March 26: Delia Latham will visit Carol McClain’s blog to talk about verse 6 and how God’s justice makes a difference in our lives

March 30: Susan Aken will visit my blog, right here, to discuss Psalm 103:9-12, focusing on God’s underserved grace

I also encourage you to sign up for my free quarterly devotion, which I and 7 other Christian authors put out. In it, you’ll receive scenes from a serial story available only in the newsletter, devotions, short stories of varied genres, recipes, and more!

Subscribe to our free quarterly newsletter!

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