Learning to Lean

2012 was an incredibly tough, incredibly painful year for me. That was the year everything changed, but it was also one of the  most incredibly beautiful periods of my life because that was the year when, day by day by day, God revealed the depth of His love and the unshakable shelter of His abiding presence. I thought back to Johnnie Alexanderthat painful, frightening time as I read Johnnie Alexander’s beautiful post today.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away an ecopy of her novel to one lucky reader, chosen randomly from the comments left on today’s post. 

As you read her testimony, may you be reminded of God’s unchanging, ever-present, love-filled nature. I also encourage you to pray for her, and for one another, as many of you are going through some incredibly difficult situations. You don’t need to know one another’s name or struggle to pray for your sister and brother. God knows. However, if any of you would like to openly share your trials in the comments below, giving me permission to share your prayer requests with my readers next Thursday, please feel free. For the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective.

The Whisper

By

Johnnie Alexander

It would be overly dramatic to say my world was falling apart. But morning after morning, I curled up in my comfy chair—the oversized multi-pillowed one tucked into the bay window—and wondered where I’d be a year later.

As I read both my Bible and insightful devotionals by Sarah Young and Oswald Chambers, I prayed I’d stay within God’s will for my life. But I questioned how to reconcile what I believed was going to happen with what I knew of Scripture.

Ex33-14picGod’s presence was clear during those quiet times as again and again I read the promises of His steadfast love and His provision. Whatever the future held, I was assured He held me in his arms.

During this time of insecurity, I visited a gift shop in our small town. As I walked in the door, my eyes were drawn to a ceramic bluebird perched on a shelf. I cradled it in my hand and smiled at the words on its wing:

Be brave.

I placed it back on the shelf, not intending to purchase it even though it had touched my heart. But when I set it down, I felt a clear and sweet whisper surround me.

It’s for you.

I hesitated a moment. After all, nothing like this had ever happened to me before. And yet I knew the message was real, and I knew who it was from.

More than a year has passed, and my life has taken a path I once thought impossible. I still stumble a little over the D-word, so let’s just say my marital status has changed. While I wish this wasn’t my story, and it Ps32v8picbreaks my heart that this is my children’s story, my trust in God’s promises has only gotten stronger. He had prepared the path I was to walk, with all its pits and snares, before I ever knew I’d be on it.

I left my comfy chair behind but not my treasured bluebird. When I unpacked it, I paused a moment to whisper a prayer of thanks for this reminder of God’s tangible presence.

Indeed, His love is steadfast.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a; NIV).

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34; ESV).

***

Johnnie Alexander writes inspiring stories that linger in the heart. Where Treasure Hides, her debut novel, won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011) and Golden Leaf Award (2014). The first of her three contemporary romances, Where She Belongs, releases from Revell in January 2016.

She also has won Best Novel and Best Writer awards (Florida Christian Writers Conferences), and Bronze Medalist (My Book Therapy Frasier Contest).

A graduate of Rollins College (Orlando) with a Master of Liberal Studies degree, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, and stacks of books. She lives in the Memphis area where her morning chores include feeding dogs, cats, chickens, and a small herd of alpacas.

Connect with her online:

at her blog, on FacebookTwitterGoodReadsPinterest, and at her Amazon Author Page

Where-Treasure-Hides-682x1024 new coverWhere Treasure Hides:

Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.

Read the first chapter here!

Buy it here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Christian Book Distributors

Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.

As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What a gift God’s presence is! I think sometimes I take His abiding, ever-present love for granted and either wallow in self-pity rather than drawing close to and leaning hard on Him, or allowing the busyness of life to steal my joy, praise and focus. But when my world crashes down, I’m reminded, He is and always has been there. When has a particularly hard, frightening or painful time reminded you of God’s constant presence and unchanging nature. Share your experience with us! And don’t forget about our ongoing Call to Praise Blog Hop! Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Receive more devotions, author updates, and segments to a serial story only available to newsletter subscribers by subscribing to my joint-author newsletter here:

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Before you go, (wow, this is one loooooooooooooooong blog post!) I wanted to let you know my debut novel is still on sale, print and kindle version, for under $3! If you haven’t read it but have been wanting to, get it here! 
And to my Nebraska friends, I’ll be in Lincoln tomorrow chatting with book lovers at the Bethany Branch library, and Saturday, I’ll be signing copies of both novels at Divine Truth Christian Bookstore in LaVista. If you can’t make it but would like a signed copy, call the store at 402-592-4866 and they’ll get ya’ hooked up! 🙂

The Waves of Life

When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, (Ugh. Did I really just admit my illness, one with so many myths, judgements, and misconceptions surrounding it, online???) I felt ready to break—physically and emotionally. I thought the intense pain shooting through every ounce of my body would last forever.

I’ve since learned those waves, or flares, as the medical community calls them, won’t last forever, and knowing that brings incredible peace. Knowing there is an eventual end to the pain makes it bearable. And knowing God has a purpose in my pain, which He does, makes it glorious.

Life is like that, isn’t it? Stuck in the muck, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and defeated, to focus on the tumult rather than our Savior. But today my sweet friend and highly-valued critique partner, Majie Lane, MarjiLaine-260x300shares some encouraging thoughts on these “waves of life” we all go through and what each one can do for us.

The Waves of Life by Marji Lane

My latest release, The Love Boat Bachelor is set on a cruise. It had me thinking all things oceans. Looking back on the last few years which comprise my writing life, I can see how waves of circumstances can change the way I think. Even the way I live. I could get fancy like the Starbucks down the corner and call the different waves Tall, Venti, and Grande, but I think I’ll just call my waves small, medium, and large.

The small waves are circumstances that mold us. The way God teaches us through daily life. They tend to take on the appearance of seasons – football, holiday, busy, vacation. Even more seasons if you still have kids in your home – prom, musical, contest, performance, the list goes on. All seasons that enrich, but also complicate our lives.

These small waves can give us a beating when attitudes are sour or other waves are overwhelming.

Medium waves are those that are more of the way we define ourselves. Our jobs, locations, and relationships make up the medium waves. I’m a wife and an author. I’m also a wavesmom and a teacher. I’m a
Texan. I’d find it very hard to change that, but we’ve come close a time or two.

The medium waves aren’t usually the overwhelming ones, but they can throw in turbulence when they have a change. Even then, they only change our title and sometimes a perspective. They don’t actually change who we are.

The deep-water waves, those are the ones that can have the largest effect on us. They comprise the broader seasons of our lives: years with babies in the house or school children, supporting aging family members, retirement, having teenagers, being the aging family member that needs support.

wave 3In deep water, the waves seem to move slowly, almost imperceptive from the height of a cruise ship. In the same way, these particular waves of our lives change over periods of years, decades even.

It’s when any of the waves, especially the large or medium ones, are jarred that the Lord works in our lives. When the water shifts unexpectedly, He’s there supporting and strengthening us through huge directional adjustments.

But Jesus said He’d never leave us comfortless. (John 14:18)

When we are at our most vulnerable, we tend to listen to Him better. Pay attention more willingly. And we’re the most malleable. So that He can perfect us, His creations.

He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)

When we are broken and humble before God, He can use us to do the work He needs us to do. And true contentment comes when we’re able to look at the waves we’ve been through and know that none of them conquered us. We can throw back our heads and smile at God, knowing full well He holds us close and will give us whatever we need to accomplish His work.

Your turn: What waves are you dealing with right now, and how is God using them to strengthen you?

Marji Laine, a homeschooling mom, lives with her husband, their four grown and almost-grown kids, and a spoiled black Lab in the Dallas area. When she’s not fighting for quiet time and a space of her own to visit with her characters, she’s indulging in photography, watching NASCAR, and lately helping her oldest with wedding plans.

She works part time as the children’s music director at her church, leads a college-aged Bible Study, and teaches high school writing. She loves acting in stage plays, sings in small groups and a large choir, and has a passion for sharing about the relationship that the Lord wants to have with His children.

She has so loved being involved with Write Integrity Press and their last four collaborative novellas. “What an amazing group of creative and talented people!:” Contact her at MarjiLaine.com or find her on Suspense Sisters ReviewsFacebookTwiiter,Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+.

TLBB CoverThe Love Boat Bachelor:

Romance is a joke.

After the love of Brent Teague’s life came back into his world only to marry someone else, Brent is through with women. He might be through with being a pastor, too.

Brent was so sure that God brought Mara Adkins home to him so they could marry and live happily ever after. Six months after her wedding to another man, that theory is obviously a dud. If Brent could be so wrong about that, who’s to say he’s not mistaken about God calling him to pastoral ministry?

Tired of watching Brent flounder for direction, Brent’s feisty older sister boots him out of Spartanburg and onto a cruise ship. Brent’s old college buddy manages the ship’s staff, and he’s thrilled to finagle Brent into the role of chaplain for the two-week cruise.

As the ship sets sail, Brent starts to relax. Maybe a cruise wasn’t such a bad idea after all. But there’s just one little thing no one told him. He’s not on any ordinary cruise. He’s on The Love Boat.

What’s a sworn bachelor to do on a Caribbean cruise full of romance and love? He’ll either have to jump ship or embrace the unforgettable romantic comedy headed his way.

Grab your copy here!

Let’s talk about this. I know many of you are going through some very painful times. First, to those of you who have shared your struggles with me, know I’m praying for you. For all of us, may we draw ever-nearer livingbygracepic.jpto Christ when we feel ready to ship-wreck, for He is our strength, our comfort, and our closest friend.

To repeat Marji’s question, posed above:

What waves are you dealing with right now, and how is God using them to strengthen you?

I encourage you to prayerfully consider the latter part of that question, because that’s the glory-phrase. Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

I’ll share mine. Living with chronic pain has a way of centering one’s heart in eternity, which in turn gives passion and focus to my ministry. Each day I’m reminded that this sin-and-pain-ravished world is not my home, and that’s a reminder I need.

Training by Example

ACFW 5

Shannon and I at the ACFW conference in 2009. Or 2010. I can never remember!

Moms, do you ever feel like the gimmees have infiltrated your home? Like your child’s main focus is himself? Since our ancestor Adam first bit of the forbidden fruit, mankind has been dominated by selfishness. Yet, according to many, this generation is the worst. I’m not sure if that’s true or if technology simply makes our character flaws more evident, but regardless of where we measure up compared to those who lived before us, it’s no secret, we’ve got a bad case of the MEs! Our children included. So how do we counter this constant pull toward selfishness? Today multi-published author Shannon Taylor Vannattor shares her thoughts with us.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of her romance novel, Rodeo Family, to a reader randomly selected in the comments left on today’s post.

But first, I want to announce last week’s winner. Pat Dyer, congrats! You won an e-copy of Stephanie Prichard’s novel, Stranded. I’ll email you shortly to discuss the best way for her to get that to you.

(Shannon, we need a new picture! Let’s plan to go to a conference together soon!)

Children Learn by Example by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

From the time my son’s motor skills were firing, whenever we went shopping before Christmas, I’ve given him money to put in the Salvation Army buckets. Anything from one to five dollars. I’ve always explained that the money is to buy Christmas gifts for kid’s whose parents don’t have any money. By the end of the season, we probably contribute $200.00.

Over the years, he’s kept me accountable. If I don’t have any cash, he gives me the I-can’t-believe-we-just-snubbed-the-bellringer look. When we check out, I add cash back to my total, so we can put money in on the way out. We also take coats my son has outgrown to the bellringers.

At thirteen, he tries to get me to put the money in these days, but I still make him do it. Hopefully, someday far in the future, he’ll teach his child to put money in the bucket.

For the last several years, our church has donated shoeboxes to the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child ministry. After all the money and items are donated, my son and I volunteer to shop for items with the donated funds. Before our shoebox packing party, he goes with me to the church and helps me sort all the items and set up tables by age and gender. At the packing party, my son packs shoeboxes for a boy his age.

The other night, we were watching Survivorman, one of his favorite shows. The host goes to remote areas and gives tips on how to survive if you get lost. Survivorman was in Papua New Guinea. He got sick and the villagers offered him shelter. They lived in huts with slatted walls you could see daylight through.

I took the opportunity to explain to my son that the kids who get our shoeboxes live in houses like that.

His eyes saucered. “Really?”

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Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

This past year, as the packing party neared, I had a horrible virus and was afraid he’d been exposed. We didn’t get to do the shopping or help pack boxes. I missed it and wondered if he did. I hope seeing those children living in such poverty made him anxious to pack shoeboxes next year.

For local ministry, we have a battered women’s shelter in our area. Over the years, we’ve donated furniture, clothes, and toys. Our church takes any leftover meals from funerals to the shelter and our members have bought Christmas gifts for the kids. We have to call and let them know we’re coming, especially if there are men helping with deliveries. My son has been there on several occasions.

Our association of twenty-three churches recently bought a food services van. Once it’s finished, the van will go anywhere in Arkansas where a natural disaster has occurred, serve food, and witness to survivors. Arkansas is in the middle of tornado valley. I’m hoping this summer, we can take a training course as a family and be available for this ministry when tragedy strikes.

By including my son in helping others, I hope all of the small gestures we make stick with him. That he’ll always remember there are those less fortunate than us and that he’ll always be willing to help.

Rodeo Family coverRodeo Family:

TORI EATON IS READY TO START OVER 

She’s beginning a new chapter in Aubrey, Texas, away from her abusive ex-boyfriend. As she picks up the pieces of her broken life, Tori’s surprised at the helping hand the church’s new song director, Brant McConnell, offers her, and at the warm emotions he inspires.

Brant is drawn to Tori. And as their friendship grows, so do his feelings for her. But Tori is still hounded by her past, and the walls she’s built around her heart are high. Can he convince the wounded beauty that he’s exactly the kind of man she needs—and deserves?

Buy it on Christian Book Distributors here!

Get it from Amazon here!

Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.

She has ten published titles and is contracted for five more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Visit her website here to learn more about Shannon and her books and check out her real life romance blog here to read true stories from other writers. 

Connect with her on FacebookGoodreadsPinterest, and Twitter by searching: @stvauthor.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this!Raising godly children is such a tremendous responsibility and such an incredible honor. What a blessing to think God has entrusted us with these most precious gifts. May everything we do honor that great calling we have received. What are some family habits or events that have produced positive behaviors in your children? What are some things you are doing now to grow certain character traits in your children? What are some behaviors you’d like to counter, and what are some ways you can do that? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before you go, I have some fun news! My debut novel, Beyond I Do is on sale at a limited time for $3.34 in print and kindle form! If you haven’t read it yet but have been wanting to, now’s a great time! You also might want to stock up on Mother’s Day gifts, birthday gifts, and next year’s Christmas gifts! 🙂 Because the book presents a clear gospel message, some readers have been buying numerous copies to give to nonbelieving friends as evangelism tools.

Now, for those following my book launch tour, here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Yesterday on Takin’ it to the Streets’ blog, I reminded readers to rest in God’s strength. You can read more here.

I also visited A Word of Encouragement to discuss the question: Is venting biblical. You can read more about that here.

Tuesday I visited fellow Living by Grace hostess, Maria Morgan’s blog to share how God used one woman’s surrender to bless many during Reality Church’s first ever Women’s Connection Event. You can read about that here.

On Monday I stopped by Novel Rocket to discuss ways for writers to keep their heads in storyworld when life tries to pull them from it. You can read more about that here. 

I also stopped by Karen Beery’s blog to discuss Christian fiction and how imperfect characters reveal God’s grace. You can read that here. 

I also visited Writing Prompts to  chat with my sweet friend, Jennifer Hallmark, contributor to A Dozen Apologies and Sweet Freedom. You can join the conversation here.

On InspyRomance.com, I shared some ways you can revive a dead marriage (or make a strong marriage stronger). You can read my suggestions here. 

Finally, on Friday I visited with Lena Nelson Dooley, where I shared a bit about my novel and an excerpt. You can join that conversation here.  One of the characters in When Dawn Breaks stopped by Infinite Characters to talk about widowhood and true love. You can read that here. 

OLATHE_Slattery signing_JAN15-FBAnd before I go, for those of you in driving distance to Olathe, KS, I hope you’ll join me next Saturday (Jan. 31st) at Lifeway Christian Book store where I’ll be signing copies of both my books, then afterwards, whoever wants to is invited to join me and some other authors at Homer’s Coffeehouse in Overland Park to chat about books and other pure randomness while we gorge ourselves on heavily-flavored coffee! Holly Michael, author of Crooked Lines will be there. Yay!

Don’t Ignore God’s Prompting

Have you ever felt a nudge, a niggling deep in your heart, urging you to do something, something that ID-10075996seems so strange, or perhaps so uncharacteristic for you, you decide you can’t possibly be hearing God right? Therefore, you conclude that thought to be but a passing brain flutter, triggered by a sappy commercial or perhaps last night’s dream.

But then it comes again, and again, and your heart begins to prick as excitement builds. And yet, before you put feet to the thought, another follows and then another as your brain lists all the reasons you shouldn’t do that thing.

It doesn’t really matter what the thing is, does it? It can be something as simple as getting up and getting your spouse a glass of water when you’d rather sink deeper into the couch. Or maybe it’s volunteering to serve in a new ministry, or perhaps it’s writing a check for a missionary family you recently learned about.

If we belong to Christ, each day, I believe, we receive countless promptings from the Holy Spirit to, in some way, live out our faith. But I’ve found, those proddings are often much too easy to ignore.

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I was a young mom, and though I accepted Christ at a neighborhood Bible club, I was just beginning to grow my faith. It hadn’t been terribly long since I’d been on the streets, and as a result, I lugged around a great deal of shame. And had developed a habit of hiding. Of wanting to step out, but, well, I didn’t. Instead, I went to church, sat in the back by myself, (my husband wasn’t a believer at the time), then, when the sermon ended, grabbed my daughter from the nursery and hurried home.

Week after week, I did this, and week after week, as listened to the sermon and sing praise songs, an odd thought would flit through my brain: You should go to the nursing home.

It was the strangest idea ever. I didn’t know anyone in a nursing home and truly had no reason to go. Besides, I had enough to manage keeping my toddler occupied. And what would I do there? Did nursing homes even allow such a thing–random strangers to come in, and do what? Sit?

No. It was absurd, and so, I shoved the thought aside and resumed my routine: Go to church, sing songs, pray, go home. Repeat.

But the thought wouldn’t go away, and every time it came, a hint of excitement followed, which was as odd as the thought. Why such a thought should bring any kind of emotion at all was beyond me.

But after a month of steady proddings, I went, and brought my daughter with me–only because I had no one to watch her.

I randomly chose the facility, marched inside with a toddler on one hip and a stuffed diaper bag bouncing against the other.

I met Frank that very first day. He was an old, sprite man full of laughter and jokes, and he adored my princess. The three of us quickly formed a relationship, one my daughter remembers to this day. She and I came often, Frank and I chatting about everything from the weather to… well, to be honest, I don’t remember. And it didn’t really matter, because sometimes, oftentimes, presence is enough.

But then one day, maybe two months since our first visit, we arrived to be greeted by one of Frank’s caretakers. We learned Frank had taken ill and refused to leave his room. He wouldn’t see ANYONE.

Anyone, it seemed, but my princess. When he learned we had come, he came out, and we talked, and again, I don’t remember what about, but it didn’t really matter.

Because sometimes, oftentimes, presence is enough.

God had prompted me, for over a month, to do something so simple yet so deeply meaningful–to sit with his dying child.

And I almost missed it.

When I read 2 Thessalonians 1:11, I think of this event.

“…May He [God] give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do” (NLT).

May God give us the power to overcome our selfishness, our anxieties and insecurities, our pointless busyness, and everything else that hinders us from responding to His promptings with anything but full and immediate obedience.

 

This verse, and the memory that always accompanies it, touches me so very deeply, I wanted to see what other sweet Christians friends had to say about it. I believe we grow in community, and it’s been fascinating and thought provoking to read my friends’ thoughts on this verse. I encourage you to do the same. You can read others’ thoughts on 2 Thes. 1:11 by following the links below:

Rocking My World: What’s the Therefore There For by Lill Kohler

Soaring With Butterfiy Wings: He Brings the Fruit by Susan Aken 

Thoughts on 2 Thes. 1:11 by Ginger Solomon

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Can you share a time when you sensed God nudging you to do something that didn’t seem to make sense? Did you respond with obedience? If so, what were the results? If not, what kept you from responding in obedience? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

From November 10th-December 10th, we’re going to be encouraging one another to surrender all we are and hold dear to Christ, embracing His call on our life–on our day! I encourage you to join us.

This study will be hosted on Facebook on Tuesdays and Fridays (those participants can interact daily, if they Biblestudyinvitechoose). Discussion questions and conversations will also be hosted here (on Tuesdays) and on Beth’s blog FirstHalfDay (on Fridays). I will also be creating a yahoo email group for those who prefer to interact that way. (Let me know if you’d like me to send you an invite to the email group.)

The study will follow the life of Ruth, as detailed in the biblical book of the same name, using my debut novel, Beyond I Do, as a springboard. If you haven’t purchased the book but long to, now’s a great time! CBD is selling it for a limited time for $0.79! You can get it here.

For those planning on joining our month-long Bible study, on Tuesday we’ll be discussing purpose in trials. Sometimes our calling–the catalyst of great, divinely driven action–can be birthed from great struggle or tragedy.

Our Bible reading: Ruth 1:1-8
Our book reference will come from chapters 1-2 as we discuss what we (you, me) believe drew Ainsley’s heart to the boy she encountered in the Kansas City inner city apartment complex.
Our focus will be: evaluating our past and present hurts in light of God’s sovereignty and grace.
Some questions you can mull over in the meantime:
What thoughts arose as you read Ruth 1:1-8?
We read about Naomi’s heartache but not much about Ruth’s. Why do you think that is?
What are some difficulties Ruth faced as a widow?
Why do you think Ruth chose not, at least from what we see, to voice her pain to Naomi?
In what ways can we see Ruth’s love for her mother-in-law?
In what ways did Ruth exhibit self-sacrifice?
What made self-sacrifice challenging for Ruth?
Have you ever felt God asking you to put someone else first? What about when you yourself were in a difficult or painful situation? When has God asked you to focus on others and not on your pain or trial, and what was the result?
ACTION PLAN: What might God be asking you to do this week?

 

The Blessings of Trials

I’m formatting this post through tear-blurred vision, amazed once again by God’s mercy and grace. Those who know me personally know I’m not the most advanced-thinking, detail-oriented writer on the web. Lately, with book edits and launch responsibilities, this has proved more true ID-100160717than ever. The result–I don’t often read the guest posts authors send me until the last minute. (Which can result in scrambling if I find what my guest has written isn’t a good fit. You’d think I’d learn.)

Similarly, with the gunk I’ve faced these past two years, you’d think I’d learn … to choose to praise when I want to isolate. To persevere when I’d rather stay in bed. To lean on Christ, who’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, when I feel defeated.

I’m learning. Slowly, and at times with gritted teeth.

Profile Pic mainLong intro to say, today is one of those days, and just when I was beginning to slip into poor-me mode, I read Misty Beller’s post on trials and reminded myself once again, God is in the gunk and the glorious, and He can and does use every tear, trial, and triumph for eternal good.

The Blessings of Trials by Misty Beller

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

I’m not sure who came up with this nifty saying, but for so many years it’s been my life’s motto.

The fact is, trials happen. Life is hard. But through the pain, God has taught me two vital truths.

  1. Sometimes you just have to buckle down and get through it.

Over the last year, my family’s gone through a lot of hard “stuff”, from a miscarriage, to an accident where my husband broke multiple bones in his face and neck. Since then he’s had six surgeries, each rendering him mostly an invalid for about four weeks, and me the sole breadwinner and caregiver for our girls, age seven and three. There were so many times that I could only take one day—one hour—at a time. There was no room to worry about the future, I could only buckle down and focus on what had to be done in the next hour.

But that was a hard lesson for this former control-freak to learn. It took God stripping away layers of my perceived ability to control. I couldn’t know which doctor appointment would bring to light more broken bones, requiring immediate surgery. I couldn’t know when the call would come from the babysitter that one of the girls had thrown up five times in the last hour. God was the only one who could see ahead, and I had to trust that He would bring us through it. There was no other option for me.

  1. The blessings can’t come without the trials.

This concept didn’t become crystal clear for me until recently. It’s not just that God will bless us through the hard times, with patience and strength, and maybe a few token bright spots. But it’s not possible to receive the best He has in store for us, unless we go through the hard times. Kind of like looking at a river on a map. You can’t reach the ocean until you’ve followed the path of the river.

My writing journey is a great example of this. There were so many times I thought I’d found the perfect avenue for my book. An agent or editor would send an optimistic response to my initial query, and they would ask for the full manuscript. But God gently shut each of the wrong doors, opening little windows of light in the direction He had planned. At the end of the day, I’m so thankful for the “No” answers I received, because they brought me to the point where I could see Him pointing toward the right door. And now, my debut novel The Lady and the Mountain Man released in September, and I have no doubt I’m exactly where God has planned for me in my writing journey. But I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for the awful times of rejection and uncertainty and frustration.

These two truths aren’t new, and may seem fairly obvious. But when you’re in the darkest times, wondering if you’ll even make it to morning, knowing these two facts—along with the absolute truth of God’s love for you, His child—may be just what you need to see the light. I know that’s been the case for me.

I’ll be praying God blesses you with perseverance and the fullness of His plan for your life, even through the hard times.

Blessings,

Misty

***

Misty Beller was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and two daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

Writing is a dream come true for Misty. Her family—both immediate and extended—is the foundation that holds her secure in that dream.

You can find Misty on her website, blog, Goodreads, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Mountain Man coverThe Lady and the Mountain Man back cover blurb:

Leah Townsend, a recently orphaned heiress, flees Richmond after discovering her fiancé’s plot to kill her after their wedding. She needs a safe place to hide, and finds herself accepting a newspaper marriage proposal from a God-fearing young rancher in the Montana Territory. But when Leah arrives at the mountain ranch, she learns her intended husband was killed by a grizzly, leaving behind a bitter older brother and a spunky younger sister.

When Gideon Bryant finds a city girl standing in his log cabin, his first thought is to send her back where she came from. He’s lost too many people to the wild elements of these mountains––his parents, his wife, and now his brother. His love for this untamed land lives on, but he’s determined not to open his heart to another person.

But when an accident forces Leah to stay at the ranch for seven more months, can Gideon protect his heart from a love he doesn’t want? Has Leah really escaped the men who seek her life?

Buy it here:

On Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. When I’m going through a tough time, physically or emotionally, it’s easy to focus on the here and now and forget the eternal. But God is ever faithful to remind me of His sovereignty and love, a love that is bigger than anything this sin-cursed world can throw our way. And He sees. He knows. He cares, and He is always working to mold and equip us and to fulfill His eternal plan.

Eternal. I often lose sight of that, but in truth, trials are a tangible reminder that this world is not our home. (Praise God for that!)

What about you? When have you received blessings from your trials? How has a trial (grief, sickness, material struggles, etc.) encouraged you to remember and focus on the eternal?

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

And now, for those of you who aren’t on FB, here’s where I’ve been this week.

Yesterday I shared an article on Rest Ministries that fits quite well with today’s theme. In it I share how God has used my chronic illnesses to bless and grow my family. You can read this piece here.

Yesterday I also learned my debut novel had been nominated for the fiction category of the ECPA awards. Yay!

Today I’m on Deborah Piccurelli’s chatting about my novel, where the inspiration for the story came from, and how I hope the story will impact my readers. You can read the interview here.

Deborah also read and reviewed my novel. I enjoyed reading her perspective of the story. You can read her review here.

I also did a book give-away on fellow author Sara Ellen’s blog, one which she has extended. So, if you haven’t read my novel yet and would like a chance to win it, or if you’d like to win it as a gift for a friend, you can enter the drawing here.

Author Catherine Castle invited me to visit with her readers on her blog. You can join our chat here.

On Monday I stopped by Jessica Everingham’s to talk about living a life without regret. You can read this post here.

That’s my week. (Most of it, anyway.) What about you? What have you been up to? What has God been showing you?

On Monday I talked about the life-transformaing power of grace on Wordsmith Woman. You can read that post here.

The Waiting Place

ID-10077787Oh, how I hate to wait! I will embark upon insanely strange endeavors to avoid doing nothing, often creating quite a mess in the process. I want to DO! Something! Anything!

Standing in line at the grocery? A perfect time to check emails!

Stop lights? A time to return phone calls.

Commercials? A wonderful opportunity to bounce from one pile of clutter to the other, creating a great deal of dust but never accomplishing much of value.

Those ten extra minutes I nabbed between dinner and Lifegroup? Why, that provides a few minutes to clear out my inbox, respond to folks on Facebook, and … get distracted by a video someone posted, causing me to be late.

*sigh*

I wonder if God’s ever tempted to whack me upside the head. “Woman! Sit still! How will you ever hear Me if you keep running in circles and running that endless, loud mind of yours?”

Yes, my thoughts can be quite dominating. Oy.

IMG_3790 cropped for TwitterToday’s guest post comes from a sweet ACFW author, Linda Rondeau, encourages us to indeed make our waiting time productive, but not by running around like a crazy person. Rather, she encourages to use every moment to draw near to our Savior.

While You’re Waiting by Linda Rondeau

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly (Psalm 5:3 NIV).

 

Are you waiting on God? Perhaps for answers, purpose, or fruit for your hard labor?

After what I thought would be a routine mammogram, the radiologist said, “There are spots. One of them is highly suspicious. You need to have it taken care of right away.” The urgency in the warning promoted me to quick action.

While I waited for results, of course my initial reaction was one of anxiety. It is the natural human response to uncertainty. Yet, the more God reminded me I was His child and that He’d be with me regardless of the outcome, my pleading became prayers of praise. I would not face this alone. And so I moved forward and kept occupied. When the news came that the tumor was indeed cancerous, God had already prepared my heart. He occupied my mind with book contracts and filled my spirit with laughter. I make a very funny bald person.

Waiting need not be a time of anxiety or stagnation. It should be a time of anticipation and activity.

In the song, While I’m Waiting, by John Walker, made famous by the movie Fireproof, the writer states that he will worship while he’s waiting. He will do so by remaining hopeful, even though he is hurting. He will worship in waiting by moving forward, serving, loving, and doing the things he knows God expects from him.

Joyce Meyer lists two important aspects of waiting on God: 1) to expect He has heard your prayer and will answer and 2) be eager with faith. “It’s just like when a woman is expecting a baby…even though she can’t see the baby, she knows it is there.” She prepares and keeps busy. Nine months can be a very long time if she were to simply sit in a chair and do nothing until the baby comes.

Sometimes we must wait through tragedy. During these times of grief, we want God to purge the pain. Yet it is in these times of deepest agony, ID-10055137that God seems the nearest. In the book, Song for Sarah, Paula D’Arcy chronicles her grief through a disappointing pregnancy. When she first learned she’d have a child, she wrote letters to her unborn whom she named Sarah. Later, she learned her baby was stillborn. In her deepest sorrow she continued to write to Sarah and spilled out her honest anger and resentment toward God. “Where are you?” she asked. Yet, while waiting, she moved forward. When the day of her delivery came, she felt God’s power and deliverance from fear. He had never been far away, but made His presence the most powerful when she needed Him the most.

Paul and Silas found themselves in the deepest part of a prison. Perhaps they felt abandoned and forgotten. (Acts 16). Perhaps they wondered why this trial happened when all they were trying to do was God’s work. Yet, they faced the hardest part of waiting by praising God with expectation.

Are you waiting for God? Faith prompts us to action. Doubt paralyzes. Our service and continued commitment during this time of anticipation is our song of praise.

Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18 c NIV).

LINDA WOOD RONDEAU

Cancer survivor, author, sometimes speaker but always a wife and mother, Linda lives in Jacksonville, Florida where she is able to golf year around with her more than patient husband of 37 years. She has won a few awards in life but her best achievements are her three children and grandchildren. Life is never as we planned but with God at the helm, always an adventure. Linda’s books reflect how God transforms our worst pasts into our best futures. She is always available to speak to your groups on God’s surpassing Love.

Facebook            Twitter              Google Plus               Goodreads                Pinterest

Linda’s Blog: This Daily Grind

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How well do you wait? Not just in grocery lines or rush hour traffic, but in those excruciating moments when you’re crying out to God and He appears to be silent? What do you do while you wait? Do you draw near? Do you worship? When facing the unknown, do you focus on the uncertainty and your angst or the known Person and character of God?

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

Speaking of FB, for those of you who aren’t on it, or who aren’t my FB friend (Um… how come? 😉 ), but who’d like to follow my blog tours/book launch events, here’s where I’ve been this past week.

On Monday I got to chat, in studio, with Greg Vogt, host of KCRO AM 660. You can listen to our fun discussion here: (Note, the interview starts about ten minutes in, after our fun discourse on Veggie Tales.)

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/169021040&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true

Today my article helping the betrayed find blessings, not bitterness, in their betrayal, went live on Crosswalk.com. You can read it here. How To Trade Bitterness For Blessing.

I’m also talking about life-changing fiction on Jo Huddleston. You can read my post here.

And as a final highlight, yesterday I turned in my substantive (big picture) edits for When Dawn Breaks, which means that novel is one step closer to going to print. Yay!

Longing Unfulfilled

ContemplativeIf only… Oh, the things I could do; the joy I’d have; the love I’d display! We’ve all had those days, times where we look at our hurdles, raise our eyes to heaven, and remind God of how different things could be if only He’d do X or Y.

Like we need–or even have the right–to tell Him anything. True, He could do X and Y and A through Z, but many times, He chooses not to. And we are left with two options: grow bitter or draw closer.

Really, it comes down to surrender.

Just this morning I had such chat with God, then I began working on today’s post. And remembered last week’s. I believe God might be trying to tell me something. Maybe He’s telling you the same thing.

Today Elizabeth Maddrey, author of Hope Deferred, shares a deeply painful longing she prayed God would fulfill, and what she learned–how she grew–from the experience.

ElizabethMaddreyHeadshotFor all those women struggling to conceive, I won’t even pretend to know what you’re feeling. But God knows. He sees every tear, hears every desperate cry. And He cares, intimately and passionately.

When Our Longing’s Remain Unmet by Elizabeth Maddrey

I never expected to struggle with infertility. I don’t think many people do. When my husband and I realized something was wrong, it was a punch in the gut. This wasn’t something I’d planned on. Nor was it anything I thought I could handle. The years that followed were some of the darkest of my life. I questioned everything—from God’s goodness to the purpose for my life. Everything became a struggle.

Gradually, as option after option failed to help us conceive, I felt God’s peace. It wasn’t an instantaneous thing, but a slow, subtle and almost sneaky deliverance from the constant questioning and heartache—even though I still had no answers.

Shortly after this, I began to run into people here and there and they’d mention infertility in one way or another. I’d compassionnever been particularly open about our struggles – my family knew and maybe one close friend. So to have these conversations occur felt random. And yet, as they shared their own struggles and questions, I was able to share with them my experiences from a little further down the path than they were. Though the pain was still raw, it helped me to see God using my experiences to encourage others.

Now, many years later, opportunities to share my journey have once again been cropping up. And I’m finding that I’m able to look back and clearly see God shaping and molding me through these trials. I don’t think we always get to see those results—we just have to trust that they’re there. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to see the results of Him working in me and that He’s seeing fit to use my journey to help others. But I’m also grateful because it’s a reminder that even when we don’t see His hand clearly, He’s still there and He still has a plan to use me if I’ll get out of the way and let Him.

HopeDeferredFrontHope Deferred:

Can pursuit of a blessing become a curse?

June and July and their husbands have spent the last year trying to start a family and now they’re desperate for answers. As one couple works with specialists to see how medicine can help them conceive, the other must fight to save their marriage.

Will their deferred hope leave them heart-sick, or start them on the path to the fulfillment of their dreams?

Buy it here!

Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity. She loves to write about Christians who struggle through their lives, dealing with sin and receiving God’s grace.

Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website www.ElizabethMaddrey.com or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethMaddreyTwitter: @elizabethmaddre, Pinterest:  and Google Plus

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. We all have times where our prayers appear to go unanswered and our struggles appear to mount. We all, daily, have to choose between self-centeredness (focusing on our trails, struggles, worries, longings, and concerns) and surrender (giving all we are to our Christ to be used by Him for His glory). One leaves us empty, the other brings joy and peace.

What will you choose?

On a lighter note, I have fun news to share. Yesterday I signed my third contract with New Hope Publishers. Here’s the unedited, preliminary back cover blurb:

Intertwined (working title that will likely change):

Abandoned by her husband, an organ procurement coordinator fighting to keep her job and her sanity encounters an old flame facing an unthinkable tragedy.

For Tammy Kuhn, being an organ procurement coordinator is more than a job. It’s a ministry. But when her husband of sixteen years leaves her for another woman, struggles with childcare, her absentee ex-husband, and an altercation with a doctor threaten her job. Embittered and overwhelmed, she fights to maintain her sanity when a late night encounter with an old flame stirs emotions long since buried but the ICU is no place for romance.

Much thanks to Ami Carr Koelliker for inspiring me to write this novel and for all the help she offered along the way! You rock, girl!

And as long as I’m naming books, I can’t remember if I mentioned my second book, When Dawn Breaks, which releases in 2015. In case not…

When Dawn Breaks: (I should be able to reveal the cover soon. 🙂 )

Jacqueline wants purpose and restitution, but must she relinquish her chance of love to find it?

A hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate. Looking to begin again—and reconnect with her embittered daughter—Jacqueline heads north. Reconciliation is hard, but she has a handsome new friend to lean on. Most importantly, she knows God is standing beside her.

When her daughter rejects her, three children abandoned by their mother open their hearts. But can God use a woman who dashed the hopes of her own child to bring hope to someone else’s?

Finally, if you haven’t purchased Beyond I Do but want to, now’s the time as the preorder discount (26% off) won’t last too much longer.