We’ve all been there–in a place of desperation, crying out to God, only to experience … nothing. No change. No JohnStudy1response, nothing but silence.

That diagnosis remains. We don’t get the job offer we’d hoped for. And that precious child, your child, is still in crisis.

This morning, my sweet friend Chaka Heinze shares what it feels like to fear, night after night, that she might lose her son, a very real possibility with his condition. She’s prayed. Oh, has she prayed, and yet …

And now, her thoughts.

Where’s God by Chaka Heinze

14310587_10211065852831043_6142776882429651081_oA few days ago, our ten-year-old son had surgery to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator and attach some leads to his heart (his fifth device). The night before surgery he was so frightened he threw up his dinner. Throwing up his dinner made it that much harder to give him his precious heart meds. During the night, his cries brought me back to his bed again and again to make certain his heart was still beating correctly. At 2:30am—during his second dose of night meds—I finally brought him to our bed. And there I lay across the foot of my bed, curled up around the feet of my husband and our two youngest children, and I prayed: “Where are you, God? Can’t you see that I need you? Why are you silent?”

Zechariah and Elizabeth lived in a society in which children were not merely desired to complete a family, they were a sign of God’s favor and an “inheritance from the Lord” (Ps 127:3 NIV). “Happy is the man whose quiver is full of them” (ib. verse 5); “your children will be like olive-plants around your table . . . yes this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord” (Ps. 128: 3, 4 NIV).

A family without sons would be without children to care for them as they aged, and would have to endure the skepticism of the pious: What sin did Zechariah and Elizabeth commit that caused the Lord to withhold his blessing?

A status symbol, financial security, and the tangible representation of the Lord’s approval.

How easy it would be for Elizabeth to feel like she had failed at her most sacred duty. Indeed, God had been silent for so long that when he finally spoke in Luke 1:18, Zechariah had a difficult time believing what he had to say: “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

In those long decades of childlessness as they yearned for God to take away their misfortune and bless them with children, there must have been moments where their hearts cried out: “Where are you, God? Why are you silent?”

And in the midst of your unemployment…

woman-1006102_1920Or after the tragedy of losing a child…

Or when your marriage is falling apart…

Or when the cancer comes back…

Or when your child raised in the church turns to drugs…

Or when you’re abused and mistreated…

Or when you’re in the grip of depression or anxiety…

Or when you’re lonely…

Or when you feel you’ve done everything God has asked of you…

And you cry out to the God who promises to never leave you or forsake you and are met with silence.

How do we weather the “dark night of the soul?” How do we persevere through those inevitable periods in life where our anguish is met with God’s silence? How do we maintain the same faith as Elizabeth when God chooses not to answer our desperate pleas for days? Months? Years? Decades?

1) Lament to the Lord. In 1 Peter 5:7, Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” It is not only “okay” to lament to God, it is the Lord’s desire that you give voice to the pain, the disappointment, the hurt. No tear is wasted when offered to our God. (Psalm 56:8)

2) Trust that God is good and God is with you. His silence does not mean that he has deserted you. God may be using the silence to deepen your faith, or perhaps the time simply isn’t right for God to reveal himself. A few things are certain—even in the silent times—God is good and he is using his goodness to work on your behalf! “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

3) Wait on him patiently. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire” (Psalm 40:1-2 NIV). After offering your lamentations and determining to trust—hold on. Persevere in your faith. Our God will not always answer when we want him to, but his answers will always be right on time to accomplish his perfect will in your life.

As I write my closing, my son cries out in his sleep and my heart leaps into my throat. Lament, trust, wait. I will wait on you, O Lord.

13433264_494764977387535_5596239249582488184_oChaka Heinze lives in Nebraska with her husband, four children, and two havanese pups. She has always admired C.S. Lewis and desires to emulate his ability to glorify God without slapping people in the face with religion. Her debut novel, Under A Withering Sun, is in the process of being re-released (stay tuned for more details). Chaka also enjoys speaking to groups of women about the faithfulness of God through difficult times. She is a member of ACFW and NWG.

 

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. What resonated most in Chaka’s story? What about her suggestions on dealing with unanswered prayers or divine silence? Have you experienced something similar? How did you handle it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on Facebook at Living by Grace, and join the ongoing discussion in our For the Love Bible Study page–because life is hard; we need encouragement and support from one another, amen?

For those just joining us, you can read past posts in this study by clicking the links below.

Week one, we explained what we’re doing, why, and what I pray this study will accomplish for each of us. You can read about that HERE.

We opened talking about Zechariah and Elizabeth’s character and lifestyle–their obedience in the mundane, and how we can demonstrate this kind of integrity as well. Read more HERE.

This week we’ve been talking about prayer–making it a priority and making it meaningful. You can read more HERE and HERE.

Before you leave, listen to this song. It’s become one of my favorites. As I’ve faced difficulties and disappointments, it’s a reminder–He is God, and I am not. He does hear us. He is good, regardless of what our circumstances lead us to believe. He is always-always-always working on our behalf.

Come back Monday when Maria Morgan, author of the Outrageously Fruitful Bible study will encourage us to choose faith over doubt, because we are in control of our thoughts.

Then on the 22nd, my sweet friend Susan Aken will share an uplifting and God-infused post on what happens when the waiting ends.

On the 29th, we’ll transition to thoughts on parenting and how we, like Zechariah and Elizabeth (and perhaps the Essenes), can raise children who live to bring Christ glory with my guest Candee Fick.

This launches us into October–oh my!

On the 3rd, we’ll take a look at the way God instructed Zechariah and Elizabeth to raise John, what that looked like, and how we can be diligent to stay focused on God’s will, even when our actions are unpopular and deemed strange.

On the 6th my sweet friend Mikal Hermanns will take a break from her wedding dress obsession ( 😉 ) to talk about loving the weird in our kids. Because honestly, John was strange. Locust dinners and camel hair clothing–hello! But he was weird on purpose–God’s purpose.

1,324 blog post words later, I leave you with this:

Pause to connect with Christ today; to carve out some time to simply spend in His presence. To draw from His strength and comfort. And take comfort in this, whether you feel Him or not, whether you hear a word He utters, He is with you. James 4:8 promises us the moment we take one step toward Christ, He is already drawing near to us.

And bury God’s Word deep in your heart. This week’s memory verse:

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Some decisions will affect the rest of our lives. What happens when, years later, you worry you chose incorrectly? My guest today, Christine Lindsay, shares a vulnerable story of how one of the most emotional, most important moments of her life went all wrong … and what God showed her through that experience.

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He Takes Away and He Gives Back
by Christine Lindsay

Do you ever wonder if God is cruel? At certain times I’ve curled my fist tight and shook it wedge-1471409_640under the very nose of my creator, blaming Him for my heartache.

In 1979 I was an unmarried mother and when my baby girl was 3 days old I relinquished Sarah to adoption. Twenty long years of prayer later, I searched for and was reunited with my adult birth-daughter. Though I was happily married by then to a wonderful man and we had 3 children of our own, I yearned to see my firstborn. But the reunion I prayed for all those years was not the reunion I received.

I was so sure that because the adoption was done through a Christian organization, and the adopting parents were also Christians (like myself) that our reunion would be easy, filled with laughter at finally meeting each other. But people are made up of such different emotional stuff.

Here is an excerpt from Finding Sarah Finding Me:

The kids hear me sobbing, the three of them stay in the living room out of the maelstrom of my unleashed emotions. David pulls me into the kitchen and holds me close. I’ve kept a woman-1006102_640lock on my disappointment all day, having hoped for so much more closeness than Sarah has been able to offer. Now it unleashes, a wounded tiger uncaged.

“I’ve prayed for twenty years,” I yell at David as I pull away, “prayed for twenty years that God would prepare their hearts so that no one would feel hurt. And this is the best he could do! This… this is the biggest disappointment of my life!” I cry out, “and God knows I’ve had enough of them.”

David takes hold of me again. I resist, but he holds tight while my mind fights to sift through the avalanche of my emotions. I want to get to know my beautiful birth daughter, but my dream lies at my feet like shattered glass. She is my daughter, but not my daughter. I’m not a part of her family, nor have Sarah or her parents ever considered such a thing. Her mom and dad don’t even want to meet me.

One of the greatest lies the enemy wants the followers of Christ to believe is that God is The Clan 2014out to steal our joy. That God is out to torment us and make our lives miserable. Remember that our enemy is a deceiver, a liar. I discovered this a number of years later, when the Lord resurrected my old dream to have a special relationship with my birth-daughter Sarah. Instead of impatiently shaking my fist in His face, I should have waited in peace for the new beginning that He would devise in His timing. My life is a walking testimony to the resurrection of old dreams.

The next time you are tempted to believe that God is cruel, remember that He is the God of resurrections and new beginnings. Joel 2:25 (NIV) “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you.

***

Small size Finding Sarah Finding Me girl (1)Sometimes it is only through giving up our hearts that we learn to trust the Lord.

Adoption. It’s something that touches one in three people today, a word that will conjure different emotions in those people touched by it. A word that might represent the greatest hope…the greatest question…the greatest sacrifice. But most of all, it’s a word that represents God’s immense love for his people.

Join birth mother Christine Lindsay as she shares the heartaches, hopes, and epiphanies of her journey to reunion with the daughter she gave up…and to understanding her true identity in Christ along the way.

Through her story and glimpses into the lives of other families in the adoption triad, readers will see the beauty of our broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams when we entrust them to our loving God.

FREE Chapter One of Finding Sarah Finding Me by clicking HERE

PURCHASE FINDING SARAH FINDING ME on Amazon (paperback and ebook) and Barnes and Noble (coming soon).

***

ChristineLindsayChristine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and the explosive finale Veiled at Midnight.

Christine’s Irish wit and her use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary romance Londonderry Dreaming. Her newest release Sofi’s Bridge also features a dashing Irish hero.

Aside from being a busy writer and speaker, Christine and her husband live on the west coast of Canada. Coming August 2016 is the release of Christine’s non-fiction book Finding Sarah—Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story.

Please drop by Christine’s website www.ChristineLindsay.org or follow her on Amazon and Twitter. Subscribe to her quarterly newsletter, and be her friend on Pinterest , Facebook, and  Goodreads.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Christine opened up to us about part of her journey as a birth-mother, and how the reunion wasn’t what she’d hoped or prayed for. What in life have you come up to, hoping and praying for one result, but receiving something different…something hard? Did you believe, at the time, that God was cruel? Were you able to overcome that belief? If you have any Scripture you’d like to share with us, please share in the comments below or over at Living by Grace. And know that I’m praying for each of you.

 

 

breakingfree_n1664109Before you go! My newest release, Breaking Free, is now on sale! Visit Amazon to buy the paperback for only $3.58 or the Kindle version for only $2.99!

blonde-1031534_1920It really stinks when we blow it. It stinks even more when we blow it repeatedly, and yet, if you’re like me, you keep fighting the same battles again and again. But Scripture says we’re made new (2 Cor. 5:17) and that we have everything we need, in Christ, to live godly, Spirit-led lives (2 Peter 1:3).

So where’s the disconnect? Why do I still lose patience? Say things I wish I hadn’t? Fight for my way and allow my fears, worries, concerns, and selfish ambitions to lead me rather than the will of Christ? 

When our daughter was ten, after five years of educating her at home, we felt led to enroll her in school. We knew it’d be a bit of a transition for her, but we had no idea just how difficult that transition would be. First, I hadn’t emphasized cursive (I focused more on keyboarding and computer skills), and at her new school, cursive was required for everything, from spelling words and in class assignments to homework. Then there was the whole matter of homework period, getting up and out the door in the morning, adapting to teachers other than Mom, she was young for her grade …

Suffice it to say, there were times when her little brain felt ready to explode.

And like she’d always feel behind, ill-equipped, and unable to master her new role.

One night, as I was tucking her in, tears streamed her face, and she shared her fears with me. “I’m trying, but it seems like I’ll never get better.”

Have you ever felt like that? When you look at certain behaviors, maybe how you react while in rush hour ache-19005_1920traffic, or when your child throws a fit while you’re rushing out the door, and you think, “Man! Am I doing this again? I should be past this, much more spiritual mature, by now!”

My response to you is the same as it was to my daughter, eight years ago. “You’ll get this. I promise. Just keep stepping, and give it time.”

And develop an action plan, because as the cliché goes, wanting doesn’t make it so.

The first step in anything is prayer, asking for God’s help, wisdom, perseverance, and grace. And this isn’t just a one time, “Lord, help me out here,” but rather, a practice of remaining in communication with Christ throughout the day (1 Thes. 5:17)–in an attitude of surrender. (Because what good is it to know God’s will if we don’t live it out?)

The next step is, through prayer and self-evaluation, to get at the root cause of your behavior. If you’re reacting with impatience, ask God to show you why. What are you afraid of? That you’ll be late for work and then lose your job? That your child will be late for school and fall behind? That others will be disappointed in you?

Whenever we react negatively, if we dig deep enough, we’ll find there’s a reason, and unless we address that reason, we’ll remain stuck in managing symptoms (reactions) without ever truly moving forward.

Once you’ve uncovered the reason for your reaction, replace whatever that is with truth. For example, right now I’m feeling squeezed. It’s an incredibly busy season where I feel I have more to manage than I have time or energy to do so. My fear is that I’m going to drop the ball, but more than that, as my time grows shorter, those things on my to-do list that are selfishly motivated become more apparent.

The solution, then, is surrender. To help with this, I’m focusing on (reading, meditating on, praying over, and memorizing) key passages of Scripture that are helping me to zero in on God’s will and leading in this crazy time.

My verses are 1 John 2:15-16, Galatians 5:1, 16-24. I’m camped out here, reading the same Scriptures LivebytheSpiritpassagedaily, because I know God’s Word will change my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, but this won’t happen overnight.

At this point, I must ask, do you memorize Scripture? If not, I strongly encourage you to start. It is incredibly powerful to be able to pause in the middle of a tense or difficult situation to pray God’s Word. The peace that follows is amazing.

Next, I’m practicing doing better. Notice I didn’t say “trying.” I suppose I could, but practice reminds me that I’m retraining myself, and the more I behave and react in line with Christ’s will, the more it becomes a habit to do so.

Finally, I’m persevering. I’ve mentioned this a few times in this post, but behavioral change, whether it’s changing the way one eats or learning how to handle conflict in a biblical manner, takes time. Often, progress comes slowly, but with God’s grace and power at work within us, it does come, until one day we’ve mastered that thing.

Then God reveals another area within us in need of growth. Ah, Christian maturity. Isn’t it fun? 😉

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. Is there one area in your life, one challenge, temptation or character weakness/flaw you believe God may want to change? What are some ways you intentionally grow? Why do you think it might be beneficial to focus on one behavior or attitude and correlating verse for an extended period of time rather than trying to change numerous areas of weakness at once? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other.

And join me on Christians Read on June 20th to read about a slice in a very busy day when God granted me incredible peace and clarity amidst the rushed chaos.

Early in our marriage, it seemed Steve and I spent more time fighting than talking, and with every ID-100160817argument, our hearts grew a little harder and the distance between us widened. More than that, we developed a pattern of behavior and a completely skewed perception of one another.

It’s amazing how quickly negative behavior patterns can take hold, and how quickly those patterns can affect our thoughts. The two are always interconnected. The more we fight with our spouse, the greater the tendency we have to see them as our enemy, and the more they become our enemy, the more negatively we view them. 

The latter is the kicker, and it creates a quickly spiraling hotbed of negative thinking.

20160602_101945Years ago, when Steve and I were just beginning to follow God’s way of loving one another, we went to a marriage retreat. While there, one of the speakers provided a visual that’s stuck with me. He held a quarter out at arm’s length, then talked about how he barely noticed the quarter. It was but a blip in his vision. But then he began to bring the quarter closer and closer to one eye. As he did, the quarter grew bigger, more dominant in his view, and everything in his peripheral blurred.

Now, imagine that quarter is one of your spouse’s behaviors. First of all, I’m not talking about abusive or destructive behaviors like addiction. I’m talking about stuff like leaving dirty laundry on the floor, the garage door open, or perhaps even saying something callus on occasion–it happens, folks. None of us are Jesus.

Back to the quarter/behavior. The more we focus on it, thinking about it, nagging our spouse about it, the bigger that thing becomes until it dominates our view. But if we pull back and consider that behavior as but one of many other quite positive behaviors, that thing shrinks … and our tenderness grows. 

This is a powerful conflict defuser, at least for the one practicing it, and when one participant in the conflict softens, the other has a much greater likelihood of doing the same.

So, step one is consciously, deliberately think of your spouse’s good. 

Here’s how it plays out in my home. Conflict often arises when both of us are tired or aren’t feeling well, because, well, honestly, that’s when we begin to self-preserve, but that’s a topic for another post. Looking around at all the things left undone that I have no energy to do, I can easily get irritated at my husband for “not helping.” (Largely because I’m quick to focus on how I’m feeling but slow to recognize when he’s feeling the same.)

BUT when I pause to remember all the times he’s gone grocery shopping for me, washed our cars, mowed the lawn, washed dirty dishes … you get the idea, I’m reminded he’s really a good guy at heart. And he truly does love me. He’s just having an off day. (We all have those, right?)

Step two: walk away. 

This can be crazy hard because our pride will convince us we need the last word, or will make us view the argument as competition or a challenge, as if winning the fight has any positive value at all. (Most often, to the contrary. We can win the fight and lose our marriage. It happens all the time. Almost happened to Steve and I.)

But don’t just walk away; walk away to pray–for your marriage and that God would align contemplation-176883_1920your heart with His. Because chances are, without God’s help, all we’ll do is stew. And become more angry, more hurt, and more committed to digging in our heels in this fight against our spouse, and we’ve already established how helpful that is. (Read sarcasm into that last phrase.) Granted, praying in the middle of a conflict is incredibly hard, but it’s also incredibly powerful. Marriage transforming powerful.

Step three: Return calm, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and with one goal in mind–unity. 

If your goal is anything else, return to step one.

Obviously, following these steps won’t resolve every issue you and your spouse will face, but man will it put you on the best footing for that to occur.

And if you try all those steps (really try, and recognize you might need to cycle through them more than once, especially when dealing with more difficult issues) and you and your spouse are still at opposing ends, get help. Seek out a Christ-centered, wise,  unbiased individual who can walk beside you. Because the marriage God intended is within your grasp, and it’s beautiful. Beautiful enough to work for. 

LoveThrivesVerseJpgEven if it means setting that ugly, prideful, selfish, wounded self aside. (Speaking to myself here, because when I get to the heart of things, it’s usually my self-centeredness that’s causing a chunk of our issues.)

Let’s talk about this! What are some things you’ve found livingbygracepic-jpto be helpful in defusing a conflict? Have you tried any of the steps listed above, and if so, what were the results? Share your thoughts and experiences with us, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Oh, and before you go, I invite you to join my alter ego, Jen Pheobus, at her new blog! You can do so HERE. You can also read Jen’s first post on Christian Reads, a piece on the importance of guarding our words when life squeezes us, HERE. And make sure to like her Facebook page HERE to stay up to date on her writing journey. 🙂

Seeing our children make decisions that can bring about pain is hard for any parent. But remembering those sweet moments of motherhood can help ease that pain.

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Painful Parenting
by Gail Kittleson

The biblical Elizabeth, Zachariah’s wife, reminds us how precious a child is. Having waited decades to bear a child, Elizabeth had no choice but to give up.pregnant-422982_640

She did her best to keep honoring God. But then, the miracle—Gabriel appeared to Zachariah, who failed to believe and lost his voice until the birth.

But not Elizabeth. She went off and spent five months “relishing her pregnancy.” Her overflowing praise song encouraged Mary, Jesus’ mother, in her early pregnancy.

We can only imagine Elizabeth’s overwhelming joy at birthing a baby boy. Long past the age of mothering, she cherished every moment.

I wonder if her joints ached, and if she cried tears of relief when little Johnny finally went to sleep at night? And yet, even then that original joy laced her exhaustion.

But John’s headstrong nature led him down uncommon paths—some would say bizarre. When he butted heads with the Pharisees, did Elizabeth reflect on those early, malleable days of her good little boy?

Parenting can become a pain, yet the potential of growing right along with our offspring beckons us. Growing often hurts, but as we allow our children to walk—even if they foot-509723_640stumble—life’s up and down road, we’re guided back to our own road. Still plenty of challenges waiting for us . . . always room to grow in character.

Like every mother, Elizabeth wanted the best for her son, but did she live to observe him become John the Baptist, the Messiah’s forerunner? If so, she suffered great pain, for his was no easy road. His ignominious death would break any mother’s heart.

Sometimes, focusing on our memories of that first unique moment of motherhood is the best we can do.

***

Pearl Harbor attacked! The United States is at war.

51W0Exm3+CL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_But Addie fights her own battles on the Iowa home front. Her controlling husband Harold vents his rage on her when his father’s stoke prevents him from joining the military. He degrades Addie, ridicules her productive victory garden, and even labels her childlessness as God’s punishment.

When he manipulates his way into a military unit bound for Normandy, Addie learns that her best friend Kate’s pilot husband has died on a mission, leaving her stranded in London in desperate straits.

Will Addie be able to help Kate, and find courage to trust God with her future?

Find In Times Like These on Amazon.

***

Gail KittlesonGail lives in northern Iowa with her husband of thirty-eight years. They enjoy family and the Arizona Ponderosa pine forest in winter. Gail’s all about words—she loves to read, write, edit for other authors, and facilitate writing workshops.

In her latest release, In Times Like These, a young World War II farm wife longs to become a parent, but her husband blames her for their childlessness. Readers resonate to Addie’s home front made-do attitude and cheer her on to find her voice while the war ignites battles all over the world.

Find Gail on her web site, Facebook, and Amazon.

Let’s talk about this. When our children our young, our primary aim is to raise them to be fully devoted Christ followers, or at least, it should be. But what happens when those children who were raised to seek after Christ and His will begin to put feet to their faith? How would you respond if your child said they wanted to serve Christ in the Middle East? Or Northern Korea? Or in another dangerous and difficult way? Our daughter has shared some potential God-nudges with us, and as I listened, there were times the Mama Bear in me rose up, and I longed to redirect her. To protect her–from all the unknowns she might face. But I realized doing so would encourage her to live a partial faith and would send the message: “I want you to obey God fully–when it’s easy, safe, and convenient.” And I couldn’t do that. I hope my resolve to continually point her to surrender lasts when it comes time for her to step out in whatever direction God leads, even if He leads her in a way I find unsettling. Because I know, deep in my protective Mama’s heart, true joy and fulfillment come from full surrender.

When has God nudged your children in a direction that felt uncomfortable for you, and how did you respond? Did God use anything–a verse, song, maybe note from a friend, to encourage you during that time? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other.

Before I go, to those who prayed for my trip to Des Moines, thank you! God showed up in such a mighty way. I should maybe write a blog post about it, so you can celebrate His awesome mercy with me. Stay tuned! 🙂

Being a parent can teach us so much. Not just about parenting, but about our relationship with God and how He forgives us. As parents, this is a crucial quality to develop. Our kids will never feel secure in our love if we hold on to anger, bitterness, and grudges. So what does God do with a woman who struggles with forgiveness, for others and herself? Read on to find out.

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Learning to Live in Grace
by Joi Copeland

From there…                                         …to here.

Life is full of changes, isn’t it? As the saying goes, “The only two things we expect will never change are taxes and change itself.” Of course, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So perhaps there are three things that will never change!

Over the last eleven years (my youngest is eleven), as a mom of three boys, I’ve heard many phrases. Phrases like, “Oh bless your heart! You have your hands full!”

“Are you trying for a girl?”

“How do you get anything done?”

But in all actuality, I’ve prayed to be a mom of boys. I love being a “boy’s mom!” I grew up smack dab in the middle of four sisters. I know girls. I know the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Don’t get me wrong. Raising boys isn’t easy. There have been days when I’ve wanted to pick up a glass of wine, and I don’t even drink! Then there are days when I am so brothers-835141_640thankful I have my boys.

Yes, they fight. And it drives me batty. What they taught me, however, is they forgive and move on fairly quickly. I don’t know about you, but as a woman, it’s tough to let go of my anger and move on. I hold on to grudges, I bring up the past. Even if I say I forgive someone, it takes me a bit of time to get back to normal.

Not so with the men in my life! They fight and argue (we don’t tolerate punching fights…never ok to solve a problem using your fists). Yet, I find that more often than not, within ten minutes, they are fine and all is forgiven. Seriously, ALL is FORGIVEN.

Over the last fourteen years of raising my oldest, I’ve learned to let things go. We’ve had hard days, no doubt. Yet, when apologies are spoken, it is up to me to move on. Holding their sin against them isn’t healthy. Bringing up the past isn’t healthy.

And it’s not how God treats me, either. My sins are as far as the east is from the west. God doesn’t tell me what I do wrong over and over again. I come, apologize, and He forgives. Seriously, ALL is FORGIVEN. Why do I insist on holding on to my guilt? When I yell at my kids, (I know. It’s shocking that I do, but it happens). When I snap at my boys person-1352040_640because I’ve had a tough day. When I gripe at my husband when he doesn’t deserve it, or when I gripe at him period.

My boys have taught me a lot about letting go. I encourage you, as well–let it go. The bad that happened today, let it go. The guilt we feel as moms when we don’t do something correctly, let it go. Being a mom has taken me from there (the place of holding grudges and sins against others) to here (the place of letting go). It’s a wild ride, isn’t it? But life is an adventure, and I love the adventure I’m on with my husband and three boys!

***

COPELAND-HopeForTheJourney_cover.inddHope for the Journey:

Kayla Musso has been married to her husband, Brad, for several years. Having just had a baby, Kayla feels her life couldn’t be more perfect. Then one day, Brad drops a bomb shell on her that threatens to destroy everything they have worked so hard for in their marriage. Suddenly she is faced with a choice to forgive or let go of the life she loves so much.

Emily Sorenson had always been the picture of health, but when a trip to the doctor becomes the shock of her life, she is faced with a decision, like Kayla, to either fight the battle before her or give up the life she loves. In addition, her husband Jake has to come to grips with the struggle before them as well. As he does, he begins to question God. How could He let Emily go through such pain? As he wrestles with his questions, he faces his own dilemma. Would he be willing to seek God in his time of despair or will he walk away from everything so dear to him?

***

CopelandphotoJoi Copeland is married to a wonderful man, Chris, and has three amazing boys, Garrison, Gage, and Gavin. She lives in Denver, Colorado, but within the year, hopes to be living in Galway, Ireland. Joi’s love of writing began at a young age. She wrote short stories for several years, and in 2009, she began writing her first novel, Hope for Tomorrow.

Joi’s books include: Hope for Tomorrow, book 1Hope for the Journey, book 2Hope from the Past, book 3Letters of LoveChristmas Rayne, a novellaand Sheriff Bride Rob’s Story, a novella.

Find Joi on Facebook, Amazon, and her web site.

Let’s talk about this: Forgiving can be hard, but letting go and never bringing up the past during an argument can be even harder. Has someone ever brought up your past sins to you? How did that make you feel? How have you learned to let go? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We can all learn from one another!

 

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Photo by Geralt taken from pixabay.com

“I’m quitting my job.”

It was the last thing I expected to hear from my ultra dependable, hard-working husband. And yet, looking back, I should’ve seen this coming. He’d been beaten down and overworked for far too long. I should’ve responded to his statement by wrapping him up in a giant hug.

Instead I hit freak-out mode. He was our sole bread winner. We were living in an expensive suburb of California. I stayed home with our daughter, homeschooled her in fact. And had zero desire to change our education plans.

Fast forward a few months, and my husband handed our house keys to our realtor, in essence declaring to her, our neighbors, our friends and one another that we didn’t plan on returning.

He’d turned his work keys in the night before.

My husband still hadn’t found a job, though we were hopeful. And I was panicked, like ready to vomit panicked, though I largely kept my emotions in check–to Steve and my daughter. My prayers, however, were another matter entirely:

Help us, Lord! Fix this! Give me just a hint that all this will work out. 

Then, we packed our van, and headed for the Grand Canyon. For a family vacation.

Photo by Unsplash taken from Pixabay.com
Photo by Unsplash taken from Pixabay.com

Because everyone goes on vacation when unemployed right? Made perfect sense to me.

Not.

Long story short, God came through. My husband received a job offer that very day. Our house sold for full asking price. That very day. We went on our vacation and the Slattery family lived happily ever after.

Not. So not. Because life is full of upheavals, uncertainty, set-backs and gut-churning panic moments. But over the years, having made it through numerous free falls and winding hikes, I’ve learned how to find peace in times of uncertainty. All I needed to do was follow–cling to, believe in, and live out–God’s Word. Because His promises will never, ever fail. 

The next time you’re facing a panicked moment, follow the steps laid out in Psalm 37:

TrustVersepic3 Trust in the Lord and do good.
    Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand. (NLT)

Trust. Not in our circumstances, our spouse, our savings account or that job, but trust in the Lord. Remember His character. He is always and only faithful, loving and true. Remember His promises and how He has proved them true for you in the past. Center your mind on truth–what you know from God’s Word, and refuse to engage negative, fretful thinking.

Do good. God has a good, eternal work for us to do each day. Some days that ministering to a neighbor or serving the needy. Other times it’s building up our family and pointing them to Christ. Consider that God may have put you in the position you’re in, as uncomfortable or frightening as it may be, to touch a heart or reveal His grace through you. So do good. Serve Him in the hard and the easy. And take joy in knowing your purpose extends beyond you and your circumstances. 

Delight in Christ. Draw near to Him through prayer, music, and Bible reading. Soak up His presence; let His Holy Spirit fill you completely, knowing He will be strong on your behalf. Don’t let the uncertainty of the moment rob you of the sweet treasure of resting in His presence.

Commit everything to Christ. I could likely write an entire book unpacking this one but I’ll sum it up with one word: surrender. Surrender the moment, the situation, yourself, your heart and plans, to God. Leave it all in His hands, knowing He’s working at this moment on your behalf.

Be still and wait patiently. He will fight for you. He is working out a plan for your life, for your family, for your marriage–for whatever you’re facing. You won’t move things along any faster by fretting, but you may when you take the time to be still in His presence, soaking up His strength and listening for His direction. At least, when you do that, there’s a much better chance you won’t do anything to make matters worse through a panicked reaction.

Follow. If you belong to Christ, your spiritual ears have been quickened so that you can recognize His voice (John 10:16). Scripture promises God will and does speak to us (Isaiah 30:21). Psalm 16:7 says, “Even at night my heart instructs me.” So listen. Then obey.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! What are some ways you grab hold of peace when life feels crazy and uncertain? Do you have any go-to verses you like to pray or meditate on? Any songs you find especially helpful?

I’ve been listening to the song below again and again. And again. It’s so beautiful, and a great reminder that no matter what we face, it is well. Because God will never leave us nor forsake us and all of His promises prove true.

For those in the Des Moines area, you can join me for the following:

May 13th: The Power of Grace

Time: 6:30pm

Location: Radiant Church located at 1300 Metro East Drive

Des Moines, IA

May 14th: Book signing, Barnes and Noble, Des Moines, IA. BooksigningposterforDesMoinesB&N-page-001

1pm-4pm

Where: 4550 University Avenue, West Des Moines, IA 50266

(Is it me or does the signing jpg to the right appear blurry? Hm … might need to fix that!)

I also invite you to join me in prayer. On Thursday the 12th, after an interview with “I’ve Been There Ministries,” I’ll be speaking to the men at Bethel House shelter. Please pray that they will sense God’s deep love for them and they’ll draw near to Him in saving faith.

The next night, I’m speaking at Radiant Church, also in Des Moines. We’re hoping women served by Jericho Ministries, a ministry that reaches out to women working in the adult entertainment industry in the Des Moines  Metro, will attend my talk on Friday. Please pray that they will be moved to come and that through my talk they’ll sense God’s deep love for them and will be driven to grab hold of the freedom available through Christ.

It’s the phrase that makes nearly every mom cringe, and with summer approaching, it’s one most of us will hear a lot of soon:

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Photo by Stoonn taken from freedigitalphotos.net

“I’m bored.”

In our fast-paced, action-packed, activity-centered world where kids as young as seven are given cell phones and spend hours a day watching television, we can easily keep our children entertained from the moment they wake to when they go to bed.

But is that healthy? Could all this entertainment cause their stress levels to rise, their creativity to wane, and their self-confidence to falter? 

Could boredom, in fact, benefit our children, and if so, why do we, the parents, often feel the need to become our children’s entertainer?

I think maybe we’ve been conditioned to believe we, and therefore our children, must always be doing something, achieving something, progressing toward something. Sometimes it seems as if boredom has become synonymous with torture.

But what if this mindset is actually hurting our children? That’s not to say we shouldn’t encourage hard work, goal setting, and social involvement, within reason.

Because sometimes, the best thing we can do for our children is to slow things down to allow them time to experience boredom.

Boredom allows our children to decompress.

child-1146743_1920A few weeks ago, an article circulated Facebook about how even a few minutes of silence benefits our brains and helps to reduce stress. More than that, studies have found constant noise actually harms our children and delays their development (2011, Novotney). Is it any wonder, then, that today’s children show  such increased levels of anxiety (2000, Dr. Twenge)?

I find this interesting, especially considering many of us use the television to help “calm” our children  when they appear rambunctious or agitated when, according to research, our efforts could in fact be exacerbating the issue.

Boredom encourages creativity. 

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photo by igrown taken from pixabay.com

When our daughter was young, I intentionally limited television and electronics to not more than a few hours a week. I’d read a study that showed how a child’s brain is more active staring at a blank wall than watching television and I decided I wanted more for her. So, I turned the tv off, sat her in a room with access to toys, books, and art supplies and watched her creative side blossom. The result? She created elaborate, three-dimensional, multi-story structures using nothing but paper, scissors, and tape.

I find it interesting that she is now pursuing an engineering degree.

Not only did her boredom spark her creativity, it allowed her time to develop her problem solving skills, skills she leaned on heavily to get through tough classes in high school and now in college.

The thing is, if given the opportunity, children will entertain themselves, and in the process, will learn how to care for themselves.

Boredom increases self-confidence.

Everything we do sends a message to our children. When we’re quick to rescue them when things get difficult rather than encouraging them to persevere toward a solution, we’re in essence saying, “I don’t think you can manage this one.” When we rush to entertain them upon first sign of boredom, we risk conveying the message, “Your incomplete on your own. You can’t entertain yourself, and solitude is bad.”

Fast forward ten years, how do you think such a child will handle sitting by themselves in the lunch room, or walking away from a group of friends venturing into trouble?

Boredom encourages self-discovery.

Our children are vastly different than us, and they’ve been created to embrace and fulfill a unique kingdom role. Childhood is meant to be the time when they begin to discover who they are, what they enjoy, and what they’re passionate about. And they will, if we allow them to do so. But when pack their day with activities and distractions, we hinder their ability to get to know themselves. Boredom gives our children time to think, which in turn allows them to be introspective.

Let’s talk about this! Did any of these points resonate with you? What are some ways you help encourage your children to entertain themselves? How have you incorporated times of silence into your children’s day, and how do you believe that helps them emotionally and cognitively? Can you see evidence of increased stress when your children become busier, and if so, how have you handled this?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other!

Novotney, Amy. “Silence Please.” American Psychological Association, 2011, Vol 42, No 7

Dr. Twenge, Jean M. “Studies Show Normal Children Today Report More Anxiety Than Child Psychiatric Patients in the 1950s.” American Psychological Association, December 14, 2000.

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Photo by stock images taken from freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by stock images taken from freedigitalphotos.net

We’ve all done it–lashed out at those we love most. When we’re overtired, stressed, pressed for time, or simply having a pull-your-hair-out kind of day, it can be incredibly hard to maintain self-control. That’s why we need to be alert to our emotions when we first sense them rising. 

How is it our children can be playing quietly by themselves, completely oblivious to the world around them one moment, then in dire need of us when we slip off to make a phone call?

Why is that one shirt of five hundred favorites suddenly the only one our child will wear when we’re running late for the most important appointment all month?

And how, oh how, can we maintain self-control when little ones are wailing and clinging to our legs while we attempt to mop grape juice from the carpet?

There are some days our kids need a time out, and there are other days when we do. 

Doesn’t that sound lovely? A time when, regardless of what you have going on, of where you absolutely woman-71735_1280need to be, you simply press pause? You’ll be amazed what five minutes–just five!–locked in your bedroom with your Savior can do. 

“But I don’t have time!” you say. “It’s Monday, the kids have to be at school, and I need to get to work.”

To which I’d say, when it comes to our kids, we absolutely have to make the time, not just for their activities and one-on-ones, but to do what we need to do to build them up rather than tearing them down. That doesn’t mean we’ll ever reach the perfect parenting stage, but by learning to pull away when we feel our temperatures rising, we’ll greatly reduce our hurtful mess ups.

Because let’s be honest–anger, frustration, snappy comments, and eye rolls hurt. Our children see it all. They’re amazingly adept at reading body language but incredibly inept at understanding the why. When we’re stressed and running around frazzled and irritated, they don’t human-753172_1920think, “Wow, Mommy must be having a bad day.” Nope. Their world is centered around one thing–themselves. (Developmentally, that’s just where they are.) Which means, they believe they’re the cause for every sigh, huff, and scowl.

And with every scowl or smile, they’re forming their view of the world and their perception of self. They’re determining whether they’re cherished or a nuisance, a blessing or a trouble-maker. A source of joy or frustration. 

When I remember that, suddenly arriving at my appointment five minutes late doesn’t feel like the most important part of my day. And besides, if I’m running late and caught up in a mess of vomit (or traffic), getting upset won’t get me there any faster. To the contrary–it’ll probably delay me further as I’m much less efficient when I allow my emotions to take control.

I also like to think of worst case scenarios. For example, when our daughter was young, school mornings were crazy stressful, and there were many mornings the stressful turned to arguing. I hated sending my daughter off to school after a mother-daughter fight. So I began to ask myself, “What happens if she’s late?” 

She’d get written up, maybe. But if her behavior was causing our delay, then it seemed that’d be a good thing, a natural consequence for her actions. Certainly better than allowing frustration to build to arguments that created constant tension between us.

Our relationship was more important, I felt, than her avoiding a tardy slip.

But let’s pull it back a little. What if, knowing I get stressed, flustered and overwhelmed when time is short day-planner-828611_1920and pressure is high, what if I started creating margins in my day? What if I planned for the unexpected milk spill and temper tantrum? 

What if I simply slowed down so I could take a time out, pulling away to listen to praise music or to pray, when things grew stressful? 

And what if I began to pay more attention to my emotions and became aware when that first spark of frustration arose? Rather than waiting until it grew to overwhelming proportions?

And what if I learned how to speak to myself in the middle of the chaos, reminding myself that God’s still in control, even in traffic jams. What if I chose to use that moment, every moment, as frustrating or hectic as it may be, as training and an opportunity to learn–to grow in character, in perseverance, and surrender?

What might I be able to model for my kids? (Because self-control is caught as much as it’s taught.)

What if, stuck at a red light, with kids bickering in the backseat, rather than allowing my thoughts to run amuck as I thought of how late I’m going to be and how little patience I have for sibling fighting, I began to pray. And surrendered that moment and all that lay ahead to Christ.

Knowing He’s working out His plan, for me, for my kids, and for my family, even in the muck, the mundane, the manic, and the mess.

Let’s talk about this! Have you ever given yourself a time out, and if so, what were the results? How does our self talk in the middle of the gunk and frantic affect our patience level and hence our words and actions? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other.