A Mountain of Hope

Only God can turn a marriage that is rapidly imploding into a clear example of God’s power and grace. For all those who are struggling in their marriage, or really any relationship, this Christmas season, maybe Kelly’s story give you hope.

 

A Mountain of Hope
by Kelly Klepfer

Though my upcoming co-written novel, Out of the Frying Pan, is full of humor and quirky characters, and I’m someone who loves to laugh and find joy in the moment, I’ve had my share of sorrow and seasons steeped in darkness.

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Billy Graham

I was “saved” as a young child. Billy Graham scared me straight at age six. I didn’t want to go to hell so I said a prayer. Years later, I was still saying those prayers. Often. Throughout high school I managed to juggle being a good Baptist with hating myself for my inability to be a good Baptist.

My high school sweetheart and I married when we were just 19 and 20. He’d dabbled with pot and we’d both spent far too much time drinking. All grown up we continued to drink, had a child, and he began drinking other places. When I was pregnant with our second child, seven years into our marriage, he began to drink heavily and with a group of friends I didn’t know. A month before I gave birth he finally admitted he didn’t love me anymore.

Devastated, I asked him to leave and began building a life without him while he moved into a home with a barely functioning alcoholic. He insisted on being with me when our baby was born but when my water broke a month early I couldn’t reach him. His roommate said he wasn’t there.

My father took over trying to find him once they had taken me to the hospital. I was prepped for the C-section when he finally arrived. I’ll never forget the loneliness in the following few minutes. The anesthesiologist placed a mask over my face. I was strapped down and unable to communicate. The spinal aid-1807541_640anesthesia numbed a vertebra higher than my previous C-Section so I couldn’t feel my lungs moving.

I began to panic that I wasn’t breathing. So I tried to communicate with my half-drunk stranger of a husband with my eyes. The anesthesiologist had buried himself in a Stephen King novel. My husband finally said something. The doctor leaned over. “She’s hyperventilating.” My world had grown gritty gray and white by this point, and finally he placed a breather mask over my face, and I was able to resurface.

A few months later, on Christmas Eve, my husband had a nostalgic come to Jesus moment. He did love me after all, and wanted back into our home. My heart had hardened, grown bitter. I looked at the options I had and decided if he was willing and would treat me better I’d be open to it. As long as the good outweighed the bad I’d let him stay. We both sought “Christian” counseling. My counselor tried out things like primal screaming. His told my husband he didn’t really have problems with addiction. There was nothing Biblical in our counseling sessions that I recall. (Bonus takeaway: Be warned: Find Biblical counselors not “Christian.”)

alkolismus-64162_1920My husband began to slowly increase in drinking again though he kept it at home. I continued to grow in bitterness and my mantra that as long as the good outweighed the bad he could remain.

Five years later he got scared and cold turkey stopped drinking. Within months there was something weird going on with him. He admitted to me that he felt restless and that he wanted to do dangerous, risky things. I asked him to talk to different males and to please let me know should he really find himself wanting to cave in.

A couple months later, on our anniversary, while I was getting ready to go out on a date with him, the phone rang. My aunt had just arrived to pick up the kids for an overnight and I gave them quick hugs and kisses and sent them out the door before saying hello. That hello changed my life in so many ways. It was the other woman who revealed not only the affair she’d been having with my husband but also that she was pregnant.

Dark, dark, dark days followed. We entered counseling again. He voluntarily went through the alcohol addiction program that is court ordered for those receiving DUIs. We began to attend church again for the first time in years. Somehow, in spite of very close friends and relatives telling me to leave, accusing me of having battered wife syndrome, being foolish, I stood firm. My reason–I wasn’t going to give up if he was done being an addict just to see someone else benefit from my pain. I wanted to see it through to the end just in case he might actually be able to beat this thing.

Our lives were changed in so many icky ways. The betrayal and the hardness of my heart toward him was just ugly. But I trudged through. Early after finding out about the affair I was out of town with unbelievers who loved a good party. They decided that I needed to get all dressed up and get drunk and find myself a little payback.

God delivered me.

I went to the hotel bar by myself to get drinks for the three of us while my friends were doing their hair and makeup. While there my eyes connected to those of a man at the bar. Looking into his eyes was like looking into his soul. I saw such emptiness there, such hurt, such loneliness that it called to me on a very primitive level. I wanted to connect with that. Scared, I hurried back to the hotel room with my drinks and told my friends about the guy. They insisted I go back, but I was afraid. On our way out to go bar hopping we stopped there to see if he was there. He was gone.

At the bars I drank more than I ever had before. Drink after drink after drink. Nothing touched me or loosed my inhibitions. All I could think about was how miserable I was and how much I just wanted to go back to the hotel room and cry myself to sleep. God kept me sober, I’m convinced, because payback would’ve ripped my soul to shreds. And been the nail in the coffin of my marriage. I threw up all night long. But was saved from a very ugly thing.

Five years after the affair we we’re finally able to see his daughter. They lived four hours away. We’d travel at least once a month. It was a very hard time, and I kept a very long list of what my husband was doing and not doing to make up to me for putting me and my kids through the torture.

We’d fight all the way home while I’d critique him and his performance. One night it was so bad. I’m so grateful none of the kids were with us, I remember him screaming. “I hear your words but I don’t understand what you want. It’s like you are speaking Chinese.”

It broke me. I sobbed the final hour of the silent trip. How could he not understand? How could I live with this one second longer? I was tired emotion-556794_1920of paying for his sins. His working extra three weekends a month so he could take one weekend off. That night I screamed out to God that He needed to change my husband. I couldn’t do this anymore. And I was so, so angry that my marriage was going to end over this when it had survived alcohol, a husband who didn’t love me and an affair. So angry. When I was through screaming, God asked me a simple question, right into my heart. “Why do you think you are right?”

I couldn’t answer that question. Exhausted and silenced. I gave up, and I told Him I couldn’t but that I was going to find out what my role and responsibility were in marriage and obey Him. It just so happened that an intense marriage inductive Bible study was starting the next week at my church. I signed up to go solo. And my life began changing immediately. As I learned I changed and let go and healed and grew. I began studying other aspects and absorbing and consuming God’s word. I didn’t care as much about my marriage as I did about my right relationship with Jesus.

The trials didn’t end. But I chose to die to myself. Slowly, my husband became jealous over my relationship with Jesus. He wanted that, and he wanted to share it with me. Through this whole period of time we were involved in a church, leaders to some extent, and there was so much death in us. We began to be resurrected in Christ and we truly died.

At age nine, our youngest daughter, his from another mother, moved in permanently. While we navigated life with God at the steering wheel we were able to overcome even more obstacles. And the strangest thing happened. Our older two kids began to see faith really walked out, not just talked about in church, but the parents they saw in church were the parents they went home with.

Our youngest struggled with obvious challenges.  At age 17 she told us where to put our rules, and she stepped out to live a life of her own choosing. More dark days followed. But God’s faithful answers to prayers uttered with groans and tears and His grace and mercy kept doors cracked open. Today our, MY, youngest daughter is married with a baby of her own and her own stepson. She speaks to us daily and seeks out our earned-the-hard-way wisdom. A restored relationship with her is a gift beyond words.

What about our other two children? The ones who lived through the drama and the affair’s aftermath, my bitterness and self-righteousness, the alcoholism, how are they? Did they survive the ugly childhood we provided?

They are a delight and a joy. Both living fully for the Lord and His plans for them. Our middle daughter chose to follow Christ into opening her life to foster care. She took in four little siblings and has now adopted three and prays and longs for the baby who is currently with the biological mom. As a single mom of three she is a shining light for Jesus and is making a profound difference in the lives of these amazing children. Our son teaches at a local high school. He and his wife have opened their hearts and home to so many people I can’t even keep track of those they have blessed. Generosity is who they are. And they breathe Christ in and out in their interactions.

God has been consistently for me. Allowing me to come to the end of myself, allowing me to fail miserably so that I ran to Him.

***

When the chef of Sunset Paradise Retirement Village ends up unnamed-1dead, life for sisters Fern and Zula Hopkins is whipped into a froth. Their zany attempts to track down the killer land them in hot water with Detective Jared Flynn. Should he be concerned about their safety or the criminal’s?

But there are deadly ingredients none of them expect. Drugs. Extortion. International cartels. And worst of all…broken hearts–especially when the Hopkins sisters’ niece KC arrives on the scene.

Before the snooping pair gain any headway with the case, it becomes crystal clear that the sisters share a mysterious secret that takes life from the frying pan and into the line of fire.

Buy Out of the Frying Pan on Amazon.

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unnamedKelly Klepfer had ambitions to graduate from the school of life quite a while ago, but alas…she still attends and is tested regularly. Her co-authored cozy/quirky mystery, Out of the Frying Pan, is the culmination of several of the failed/passed tests. Kelly, though she lives with her husband, two Beagles, and two hedgehogs in Iowa, can be found at Novel Rocket, Novel Reviews, Scrambled Dregs, Modern Day Mishaps, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter, with flashes of brilliance (usually quotes), randomocities, and learned life-lessons. Zula and Fern Hopkins and their shenanigans can be found at Zu-fer, where you always get more than you bargained for.

 

Loving the Weird in Our Kids

JohnStudy1I must have mortified my parents on numerous occasions. I was the kid who walked into walls, got lost in elaborate daydreams I spoke about as if they were true, and chose to wear a big old clunky feather in my girl-1538809_1280combed-frizzy hair for school picture days. Seriously, folks, I was strange.

But on a more serious note, we’ve become the comparison culture. The insecure culture. We see other people’s highlights, compare them to our lowlights, and think, “I’m not doing this parenting thing right.”

But here’s the deal. When we focus on what everyone else’s doing, what their children are doing, we lose sight of all the beautiful things God is doing in our own kids. And trust me, He’s doing amazing, glorious, life-equipping things–at this very moment. Molding our children to be, not who we think they should be, or society says they should be, but who He knows them to be. (Eph. 2:10, Ps. 139)

 

Loving the Weird in Our Kids
by Mikal Dawn

Do you sometimes look at your kids and wonder what planet they came from? When et-1435634_640they’re running in circles with underwear on their heads, or telling you stories of their friends who just moved here from another galaxy (and insist they’re telling you the truth), or want to take up the sport of Chess Boxing (yes, it’s a real thing…there’s even a World Chess Boxing Organization).

Please don’t ask me how I came up with the ideas above. Just … don’t.

We all have dreams of having the child who will be easy, normal, never be made fun of, who will fit in with everyone, whom everyone will love. But what do you do when you know your child isn’t like everyone else? We turn to the example of Zechariah and Elizabeth.

John the Baptist’s life started out differently, even before he was conceived (Luke 1:5-25). His ministry was prophesied by Isaiah in the Old Testament (Isaiah 40:3-5). His parents were already old, having never been able to have children until the Lord decided it was time. When the angel Gabriel announced John’s impending conception, Zechariah didn’t believe him. Because of that, he was silenced until the day of John’s birth (Luke 1:19-20). When Mary, Jesus’ mother, visited her cousin, Elizabeth, John—now in the womb—was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15) and knew his Saviour was near. “When Elizabeth birth-466140_640heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41, MEV).

When the baby was born, Elizabeth insisted his name be John. Those around her argued because John was not a family name; however, when Zechariah stepped in and named his son John, he was finally able to speak … and those around him wondered just what kind of child John would be (Luke 1:60-66).

I think it’s safe to say that most of us will never have children who are quite as different as John the Baptist was. Our kids likely won’t live in the wilderness, wearing camel hair clothing and living off honey and locusts, until the day God calls them to enter the Jordan area and begin preaching.

It’s obvious, however, that Zechariah and Elizabeth loved John. How is it obvious? Zechariah then prophesied over John, declaring his son’s purpose in Luke 1:76-80 (MEV):

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
     to give knowledge of salvation to His people
by the remission of their sins,
     through the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise from on high has visited us;
     to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

This prophesy gave Zechariah and Elizabeth the guidance in how to raise John. While they may not have known how John would be martyred, I’m sure they knew how difficult his life would possibly be because of the circumstances of his birth and the Lord’s obvious fashion-1524525_640hand in it. They raised John under Zechariah’s teachings, ensuring he knew the Scriptures. In other words, “the child grew and became strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80a, MEV).

So how does that translate to us and loving our kids? It’s a matter of cultivating what we see in them. That kid running around with underwear on his head? Maybe he’s a track and field athlete who will one day get a scholarship to a university because of his accomplishments. Take him out to the park or track and race him. Not only will you each get exercise, but he’ll remember those sweet moments you spent with him as he grows, and you’ll deepen a relationship that will sustain you both throughout life.

That child who told you stories of their friends from another galaxy? Maybe that child is an author in the making. Buy a father-1633655_640bunch of pencils, pens, crayons, and paper, and ask her to write her story in a book. Even send it to a printer to have it bound. Find some classes around town that can teach her how to grow in her talent. By doing so, you’ll give her confidence in her ability, and what child doesn’t need a dose of confidence? Especially from her parents.

And that child who wants desperately to get into Chess Boxing? Well…just love on them because I’ve got nothin’.

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dsc_2718-edit-1Mikal Dawn is an aspiring inspirational romance author, wedding enthusiast and proud military wife. In addition to being part of the new Wholly Loved women’s ministry team, she blogs for a local ministry, works as an administrative assistant for an international ministry organization, is a virtual social media assistant, volunteers as a Key Spouse for her husband’s squadron, and drinks a lot of coffee. When she isn’t writing about faith, fun, and forever, she is obsessively scouring Pinterest (with coffee in hand, of course!) for wedding ideas for her characters.

Mikal lives in Nebraska with her husband, Mark, and their three children and one ferocious feline. Find Mikal on mikaldawn.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! If you’re a parent or grandparent, how hard is it for you to resist the comparison game? Is this made more difficulty by social media? How might viewing your child through the lens of grace and God’s sovereignty help? In what ways might God be cultivating the “weird” in your child for His divine purposes? Share your thoughts here in the comments below, on Facebook at Living by Grace, or join our interactive For the Love Bible study, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

But before you go! Two fun announcements. My sweet friend and ministry team partner, Mikal, already shared one, but I’ll expand. I’ve recently launched a parachurch women’s ministry called to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. To this end, we facilitate events locally and nationally that encourage authentic community, emotional healing, and spiritual growth. We’re focusing on two main events:

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Scheduled dates and locations to be announced soon! We’re still booking (though our availability is limited), so contact us if you’d like us to come to your church or women’s group!

If today’s post encouraged you, you might also enjoy my piece on Christians Read titled “Unpopular Parenting.” 

When it Feels as if God Isn’t Listening

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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All Things Renewed

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.

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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).

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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!

Taking Steps Toward Change

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.

Defusing Conflict in Your Marriage

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. 🙂

When God Calls Your Child to the Hard

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! 🙂