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.

Living as a Gift

Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming a Spiritual Cheerleader

One aptly spoken accolade can go a long way toward motivating positive change, giving strength to the weary, and perseverance to those trudging through the mundane. And to the contrary–silence can sap a friend, ministry team member, child, or spouse’s strength. Consider the following: My daughter loves art, and I believe she’s quite good at it. But… she didn’t start out good. No one does. Everyone begins with scribbles which progress to stick figures. Sure, some will show more aptitude than others, but aptitude alone doesn’t necessarily lead to growth. There’s a key ingredient, I believe, in growth and that is encouragement. Hearing someone say, “You’re good at that,” often motivates one to try harder and be better.

In Hebrews 10:24 Paul encourages us to be one another’s cheerleaders when he says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (NLT). Today my sweet friend and coffee buddy, LoRee Peery takes a deeper look at this important word, sharing tangible ways we can stand behind and walk beside our brothers and sisters in Christ. As you read her fun devotion, I encourage you to pause to take time to look up and read each verse, asking God to help you put it into practice.

But first, I wanted to announce the winner of last week’s give-away! Sheila Hall, congrats! You won a copy of Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s novel, Rodeo Family! I’ll contact you shortly! 

And speaking of give-aways, Amazon is practically giving away my debut novel, Beyond I Do! They’ve marked it down, print and kindle copy, to two bucks and change! If you haven’t read it and were wanting to, now’s a great time to grab a copy. You can get it here. Might want to stock up for all those upcoming birthdays as well. 🙂

ENCOURAGING WORDS by LoRee Peery

Writers are all about words. Some words jump off the page with meaning. Consider the word encourage. The motivation for encouragement is LOVE. Love abounds in God’s people when we are open to opportunities to encourage one another.

After all, we are continually encouraged through the Holy Spirit as we dig into what God has written to us through the Bible. As the children of God, we have a responsibility to pass on encouragement.

E = EDIFY                        love edifies                                                                   1 Corinthians 8:1_LOW7494small

N = NOURISH                constantly nourished on the words of faith          1 Timothy 4:6

C = CARE                         have the same care for one another                       1 Corinthians 12:25

O = ONE ANOTHER     build up one another                                                 1 Thessalonians 5:11

U = URGE                       urged to encourage the fainthearted                      1 Thessalonians 5:14

R = REFRESH                they have refreshed my spirit                                  1 Corinthians 16:18

A = ACCOMPLISH        prayer accomplishes much                                      James 5:16

G = GIVE                         more blessed to give than to receive                      Acts 20:35

E = EXHORT                  spiritual gift to come alongside.                             Romans 12:8

Hebrews 3:13 reads “But ENCOURAGE one another day after day.”

Sometimes encouragement doesn’t require words. How much do you smile when you’re out in public? I try to make eye contact and smile. Sometimes that’s hard if I’m concentrating on my next purchase, especially in the grocery store. If I’m not a woman on a mission, though, I do try to acknowledge others.

Now, my husband is a retired salesman. He smiles and talks to almost everyone he meets. Sometimes those people don’t even have to be looking at him. But I’ve seen him brighten a stranger’s day many times over. On occasion he doesn’t use many words. He may reach for something too high for an older shopper. He opens doors, he’s put packages in trunks, and he’s aided those dedicated spouses struggling with the wheel chairs of their mates. I can’t count the times some woman has said to him, “You’re the first man to ask if I needed help.”

I encourage you to take these thoughts to heart and make someone’s day by a word or act of encouragement. We are in this faith journey together.

CreightonsHideaway_w11172_300

Creighton’s Hideaway:

Needing to finish her thesis in order to keep her job working with youth in a residential treatment center, Shana Arnold sequesters herself on Creighton Rice’s Nebraska ranch. She expects the secluded hideaway to provide a peaceful environment. What she doesn’t expect is to become the victim of identity theft and a crazed home invader. Creighton Rice has been content to live alone with his God–until he meets Shana. He’s drawn to her, but must fight the attraction. Getting close makes him face a lifetime’s accumulation of scars. Plus, Shana doesn’t share his faith. But when Shana’s life is threatened, Creighton must protect her–even if it means letting her in. Will Shana discover that even when a woman loses everything, she can regain courage and strength through faith in God, and can Creighton allow God to heal scars and open the door to a lifetime with Shana?

Buy it here!

 

 

 

A Nebraska country girl, LoRee Peery attempts to see God’s presence every day. Often that gift comes from nature, and she is most relaxed in the outdoors. The call of a cardinal draws her to look for the distinctive flash of crimson. A meadowlark’s melody always transports her to the farm where she grew up. A rainbow holds special significance, since one appeared the day of her father’s funeral and means the promise of the Lord’s presence in her life. She clings to I John 5:4 and prays her family sees that faith.

You can find her at www.loreepeery.com or the Pelican Book Group site http://tinyurl.com/kwz9enk

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! I’ve heard it said, people will rarely remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel. We are a tired, discouraged, insecure bunch in desperate need of encouragement. Who can you encourage today, and how? Perhaps make a list. Maybe make a list daily. Your friends, family, and co-workers will love you for it. 🙂

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

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

Today I stopped by Angela Meyer’s to talk about the best possible response to a chaotic day. You can read more here.

Yesterday I participated in a book give-away (which is still going on). Give-awa, and talked about how God uses everything–every tear and regret–to bring about His glorious purposes. Knwoing this should bring us great joy and peace, regardless of our circumstances. Read more here.

Yesterday was a busy day, cyber-space speaking. Ginger Solomon interviewed Jacqueline Dunn, the main female character in my sophomore novel, When Dawn Breaks. You can read that here. I also encourage you to read a short story I wrote through the eyes of one of America’s forgotten children. You can read that here.

I also got all mushy and sentimental yesterday on Gail Pallotta’s blog as I talked about what I really wanted this Valentine’s Day. You can read my post here.

Reviewer Sarah Ruut invited me to visit her blog to talk about my novel and passion for writing. You can join our conversation here.

An old writing mentor, Fay Lamb, had me on her blog this past week, starting with a guest post, then a character interview, and finally an author interview. Pop by to learn more about me, my novel, and Jacqueline Dunn.

OLATHE_Slattery signing_JAN15-FBThis weekend I’m heading back to Kansas City (Olatha, KS, actually) to do a signing, and I have to say, my Northland church family has blessed my socks off by their outpouring of encouragement and support. I was touched not only by their actions but by the knowledge that God spurred them to it, which was like a gentle hug from my Savior and a clear reminder that He’s in this writing thing. To my Northland family, I love you guys! Can’t wait to reconnect! 🙂

The following weekend (Feb. 7th) I’ll be speaking at the Art of Marriage conference here in Papillion. I’d love to see you. I cannot recommend this conference enough. It’s one my hubby and I go to annually. It’s that good, and that important! That afternoon, I’ll be signing copies of both my novels at the Bookworm in Omaha (at 4pm). I’d love to see a slew of Christian fiction readers come! I love supporting secular stores that support carry Christian fiction. 🙂

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?”

ID-10033025

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!

Are You Repellant or Attractive

Are you repellant or attractive? Pause to think of that for a moment. Consider your interactions with others. Are people drawn to you or do they try to avoid you? How do they feel after having spent time with you? This is an area I feel God has been challenging me in lately. Daily, He’s challenging me to take my eyes off myself, off my agenda and challenges, and look around. Because it’s hard to love others when I’m consumed with me.

Today my sweet friend Julie Arduini, author of Entrusted, shares her thoughts on lighting up our world.

melodylodgekoct132_editedThe Attractive Light by Julie Arduini

We moved into what we’re believing is our “forever home” a couple months ago. It’s a place where we can have ministry events, entertain, encourage, and I even have an office to write. What’s also new for us is it’s in a development. Even after daily errands we’re still like tourists gawking at the homes and finding new things to enjoy each day.

Earlier this week I noticed something. One home has a gorgeous light in their foyer that when turned on is something you can see as you drive by. The home was designed to showcase that light and it’s attractive. I’m drawn to it every time I drive by. When turned off, it looks like every other house. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was “that house” until I looked closer and realized the fixture was there.

Isn’t that the same for us as believers in Christ? For the most part, we’re an easy group to find. You can see the joy in faces. Kind eyes. Smiles that allow others to put down their guard and share. Trust. And hopefully accept the invitation to a relationship with the One who invites through His love.

The world? It’s a place that isn’t eternally attractive. There isn’t much warm and inviting about it, and people are driven to fill a gap with superficial things that will be as productive as a hamster wheel. When I’m at events that aren’t ministry related or church-affiliated, it feels dark. Honestly, I wish a lot of the times I could pass by and avoid it all.

But we’re called to be like Him. To be that light. And as I drove by the house later that day the light was back on. For me it was a reminder. This has been a stressful year and I’ve been tempted more than once to check out. Ignore the need I saw. Keep a grudge when I was ID-100179171wronged. But that’s a mentality much like the beautiful house with the light turned off.

It’s a dark world filled with people craving light. Let’s re affirm our commitment to be the vessels He will use to bring light.

***

Julie Arduini is an author with a passion to encourage readers to find freedom through surrender. Her first Adirondack contemporary romance, Entrusted, gives readers hope to surrender fear. A Walk Through the Valley will soon be available as an infertility devotional with 5 other authors. She blogs every other Wednesday at Christians Read and is a frequent contributor to Jasmine’s Place. To learn more about her writing and love of chocolate, visit http://juliearduini.com. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.

Entrusted FRONT Cover_editedEntrusted:

Jenna Anderson, sassy city-girl, plows—literally—into Speculator Falls with a busted GPS, arriving in town as the new senior center director. She has only one goal—that of belonging no matter how out of place she appears and how angry she makes town councilman and grocer Ben Regan.

Her new life is so rural there are no traffic lights, and when she learns her car isn’t equipped to handle the mountain terrain, Ben’s grandmother offers her late husband’s vehicle, further alienating the local businessman.

As she endears herself to the seniors at the center and creates a vision full of ideas, programs, and equipment, she ruffles Ben’s plans to keep Speculator Falls void of change, including the store his grandfather built.

The two work through community events and shared heartbreak only to face off in a town council meeting where Ben publically rejects her proposal for the senior center, causing Jenna to react out of her fears about belonging.

She returns to Ohio where she realizes she needs to surrender her plans for the center and fears about belonging and trust her Heavenly Father when facing fear, change, loss, and love.

Buy it here.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Pause to think of people you know. Do any of them draw you to them? Make you feel special? Valued? Loved? Why is that?m Now pause to ask yourself this question: How do people feel around me? Am I acting like a light? What can I do to shine more brightly? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before I go, I wanted to invite my Omaha Metro friends to my next book sighing, which will be held this Saturday. Come, bring a friend, and your sweet tooth because there will be chocolate! (And candy corn flavored taffy, my new favorite candy! 🙂 )Jennifer Slattery Poster_Community (1)-page-001 And be sure to pop by Beth’s blog tomorrow for our next Beyond I Do Bible study lesson. 🙂

Other posts you might enjoy:

Shining in the Dark

Are You Cancerous or Contagious

 

 

 

 

Sowing With Words

I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but I love words. Not just stories or articles girl-on-phone-489957-mor devotions, but words in and of themselves. And everything–everything–has a backstory… Including the backstory. 😉 But sometimes, I’m so wordy, things spill out of my mouth before I’ve allowed them to swirl through my brain long enough to come out with coherence and effectiveness.

 

sydauthorphoto_smallThis is unfortunate for the words we speak truly do matter. They have the power to tear down or heal, to bless, to encourage. Today, Hope Spring Books author Sydney Avey shares her thoughts on sowing with words.

Sowing Words

Sydney Avey

Thanksgiving is a time to acknowledge the bounty we receive daily from God in the words He whispers to us. The seeds we receive to sow in His service vary according to the talent He has given us. Seeds that yield a harvest can be time or money, but they can also be words. Knowing my words have been used to challenge someone to think differently or feel blessed brings me joy. Words are my store of seed.

What do you see when you look into your seed bag? Have you stored up treasures that need to be scattered so they can root and grow in the hearts of others? Seeds are tiny things—words you write, notes you sing, pennies from your pocket or minutes of your time contributed to someone else’s success in life.

A blog subscriber emailed me and said, “I used your ideas in a devotional I shared with my church choir. The idea struck a chord across the generations.”

My pastor used these lines from my poem A Desert Meditation to illustrate a point in his sermon about priorities:

Like the Saguaro Cactus

Know that your roots in this world are shallow

let your reservoirs tap Living Water

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Seeds, small bits of wisdom that sow thoughts and ideas in others; how are they come by?

Spiritual Practice

In addition to spiritual insights, the Gospels offer wisdom that has practical applications. Consider this verse:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

The context for this verse is judgment. It tells us that as we show mercy, mercy will be shown to us. I also see in this verse a process for gathering words into thoughts that will bless others.

Writing poetry is a way to measure our experience by compressing thought, shaking together disparate ideas and watching words expand into new meaning. When we suspend judgment-conclusions we jump to about others or words we understand in limited context, we open our hearts to see and share the world in a new way, God’s way.

In the same way, singing old songs to new rhythms may feel awkward at first, but as you yield to the Holy Spirit’s teaching you may renew the vigor of an ancient word. Watch that word float on an unexpected note, like a parachute seed, to bless the listening ear of a hungry heart.

You may think you don’t have enough talent to write a poem, or join the choir, or mentor a child, but God promises to increase your talent and your influence as you take this step of faith and sow your seeds.

Here is a lovely verse for the season:

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

2 Cor 9:10 (NIV)

***

Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her workhas appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney blogs at sydneyavey.com on topics related to relationships, legacy, faith, and the writing life. Her novel, “The Sheep Walker’s Daughter,” ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6 will be released from HopeSprings Books on December, 2013.

Her novel is called The Sheep Walker’s Daughter (available Dec. 3rd!):

bookcover400x600A Korean War widow’s difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of Dee’s father. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency?Why is Dee’s own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that heisn’t telling? The Sheep Walker’s Daughter pairs a colorful immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with onewoman’s search for spiritual identity and personal fulfillment.

livingbygracepic.jpPaperback ISBN 978-1-938708-19-0 Kindle & Nook ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6

Let’s talk about this! Join the conversation here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Pause to consider some things that have been said to you, in person, through a text message, perhaps in a card or letter. Were any missives so special, you saved them? Tell us about it! How long might it have taken for the sender to craft the message? If a text, a few minutes. A card, maybe five. Five minutes that can mean the world to someone.

When we moved to Louisiana, I had a friend who often sent me unexpected cards. They were simple in content: “I enjoyed spending time with you today.” “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you.” “Hoping you’re having a great week.” And yet, they touched me deeply, because they showed me she’d been thinking of me, and she valued me enough to take the time to send me a note. (A big wave and shout out to my sweet KC friend, Sandy, who’s sent me cards, texts, and emails on numerous occasions as well. 🙂 )

Now consider, how can you be more intentional with your words? Might you send an occasional card to a friend far away or someone enduring difficult circumstances? What about your spouse or your child? Could you slip a note in their lunch or under their pillow letting them know you’re thinking of them and that you love them? Try it.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Love Letters

Taming the Tongue

Resources you might find helpful:

Woman to Woman by Edna Ellison and Tricia Scribner

Rethinking Failure

 

contemplativeThe big F.

When you sense a divine nudge, step out in faith even though your knees are buckling, sweat is cascading down your spine, and your stomach feels as if an army of ants not only took up residence but are engaged in some crazy acrobatics, and nothing, absolutely nothing, goes as planned.

In those moments, we may be tempted to raise our fists at God or hide away in our nice, safe homes, determined never, ever, not in a jabillion years, to do ministry again.

But what if our interpretations are wrong? What if what we perceive as failure is but a stepping stone–and a necessary one at that? The hard thing about faith, about having a finite and often faulty brain, is that we may never fully see the results or reasons behind our actions this side of heaven. I’ve shared before, looking back on my life, I remember countless patient, loving Christians whom I have no doubt were called to reach out to and love on me.

In fact, I remember one family in particular. They lived in Ferndale, and they had a daughter my age. In those days, I was a mess. And I imagine, there were many times I was quite difficult to be around. But this family took me in. Fed me, sheltered me, loved on me.

But despite their love and patience, I continued my downward spiral. I imagine they felt they had failed. Or like maybe they’d heard God wrong. Because if God calls us to do something, we have to succeed, right? We’ve got the power of Creator God behind us!

But what if His version of success is different from ours? What if He sees something we can’t–like the slow but persistent softening or healing of a heart?adultchild A heart that might take decades–maybe even a lifetime–to change? And what if in the process, He was working on our heart as well–molding, guiding, teaching, equipping, transforming us from who we are now to who He created us to be? What if every action, every assumed failure is necessary training toward our future calling?

You see, I believe God is sovereign over our successes and our failures. In fact, I believe each moment, He is watching over us with care and love, keeping an eye not only on our hearts but on our final destination as well.

As a reminder of this, I often consider two Scripture passages. They have become my life verses. I recite them when it feels as if God is raining blessings upon me and when it feels as if He’s deadbolted every door.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16 NLT).

We are God’s masterpiece. Camp out on that for a moment.

These verses have shaped my definition of success. They remind me God has a glorious plan for me, my life, and every person I touch while here on earth. And He’s taken full responsibility to perfect that which concerns me. (Psalm 138:8) My role is simple: To surrender fully and obey without hesitation, seeking to learn and grow from each and every event or encounter.

That’s it. And here’s the beautiful thing: If I do that, I have succeeded, regardless of how things turn out.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How often do you contemplate your assumed failures, looking for the hidden lesson God might be trying to show you through them? Are you basing your success on those things you have no control over, like how many people will come to Christ during your ministry events, how many promotions you receive, or how large your paycheck will grow if you do X and Y? Or are you basing your success on the only thing you can control and that which will bring your Heavenly Father exceeding joy–the extent of your surrendered obedience?

Other blog posts you might enjoy:
Rejoicing in Closed Doors
What’s Your Jericho

Books you might find helpful:
<em>Beyond Me by Kathi Macias
Called and Accountable by Henry and Norman Blackaby

Falling Forward by John C. Maxwell