Balance and Our Sure Route to Peace — Guest Blog

sunset on a lake with text on surrendering our schedules to God

We weren’t meant to live stressed out, depleted lives. We all must manage difficult and demanding responsibilities on occasion, but our seasons of busyness should be precisely that–seasons. If we’re constantly rushing about, always checking and rearranging our to-do lists to squeeze one more task or one more minute in our days, and especially if this has become a lifestyle, we’ve likely taken on assignments God never intended. Not only will this hinder us from pursuing what He has, but, as my guest today reminds us, it’ll also rob us of peace and joy.

And make sure to read to the end, because she’s doing a crazy fun giveaway to celebrate her debut release!

The Elusiveness of Balance

By Jennifer Hallmark

Tired again. I trudged through the house with another load of laundry on one hip and a grand-young ‘un on the other. I didn’t feel as if I could make the effort to finish my day, take a shower, and fall in the bed. But I had to. A deadline approached and I had much to do the next morning.

How did I fall back into this trap of twirling a hundred plates? Again?

I needed balance, something I’ve pursued in the past. I’ve sought it in my relationships, schedule, and work. Without it, I burn out over and over. Yet somehow I found myself there again.

My last year has been unbelievably stressful but things are working out. My mental and emotional stability isn’t perfect but it’s beyond what I believed it could or should have been.

Through it all, I’m learning what balance is and isn’t.

It’s not:

  1. Me figuring out how to organize my work, play, and duty so I have time for it all.
  2. Meals, bedtime, and worktime at planned intervals every day.
  3. Everything going smoothly and without crisis.

I sought those things for years. Order. My introverted, melancholy, perfectionist world to run as I desired. Then I’d experience joy, happiness, and rest.

But I’ve experienced joy in difficult and stressful situations and have felt depressed when I should’ve been happy. Order is nice but provides no long-term, life-changing effects. I find satisfaction checking things off my to-do list satisfies but not to the degree I need.

True balance can only come from God—as we align our lives with Him and His will.

He is…

  1. Omnipotent: all powerful.
  2. Omnipresent: always present.
  3. Omniscient: all knowing.

These facets of God enable me to find true balance. Schedules, lists, and order are helpful but can be, in themselves, unsteady. I’ve studied the Bible, prayed, and gone to Surrender is acknowledging God is God and we are not--imagechurch. This helps gain wisdom but since I’m not any of the “omnis” above, my interpretation and control is limited.

The solution: I hand my plans to God. I draw closer to Him and remain in relationship with Him. I talk, listen, then talk and listen some more. Then I take a step, listen, and take another step. I stop merely “going through the motions” and surrender my control, which I have very little of anyway.

When I feel anxious, instead of attempting to solve whatever I’m facing in my wisdom and strength, Scripture encourages me to turn to God. Philippians 4:6-7 says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV).

In other words, when life feels stressful and demanding, we draw close to the Father, tell Him about our day, good and bad, love Him, and present our requests. We praise Him for all He’s done and provided. Then we sit and await His reply. When we sense His guidance, we move forward in faith. We believe He’ll give us enough light to follow.

Living this way leads to emotional and mental steadiness. God knows my energy level and the time I have. He’ll help me spend each wisely. He’ll help me manage all I must get done, whether that’s finishing the laundry or typing another article. Me taking time to breathe, pray, and listen, not checking off lists, makes all the difference.

Balance—and peace—rests in our relationship with God, one where we daily seek out our Father’s voice. Surrender can feel scary but it leads to deeper intimacy with God—and the peace and stability we all long for.

The old expression rings true.

Let go and let God.

He longs to take our hand and lead the way.

Will we let Him?

***

Let’s talk about this! What area is most difficult for you to surrender? How might remembering all God’s “omni” qualities help you to relinquish that area to your Savior? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

I also invite you to join me, in person or virtually, at Christ Community Church this evening to learn how to shift from orphan mentality (“Life, or this area, is all up to me; I must retain control”) to living deeply and wholly loved (“God’s got this and me; because He is fully trustworthy, I have no reason to fear and every reason to surrender”). Those who are local can register HERE. The rest of you can pop into Wholly Loved’s Facebook group to watch a live video then engage in discussion after. You can do that HERE. Please note, you’ll need to join our closed FB group first.)

Get to know Jennifer Hallmark!

Jennifer Hallmark's author headshotJennifer Hallmark writes Southern fiction and has published 200+ internet articles and interviews, short stories in several magazines, and has co-authored three book compilations. Her debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, released on June 17th, 2019.

When she isn’t babysitting or gardening, you can find her at her desk writing fiction or working on her two blogs. She also loves reading detective fiction from the Golden Age and viewing movies like LOTR or Star Wars. Sometimes you can even catch her watching American Ninja Warrior.

Visit her online at:

www.jenniferhallmark.com

www.inspiredprompt.com 

Jennifer Hallmark, Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Instagram

Check out her debut novel, Jessie’s Hope!

Cover image for Jessie's HopeYears ago, an accident robbed Jessie Smith’s mobility. It also stole her mom and alienated her from her father. When Jessie’s high school sweetheart Matt Jansen proposes, her parents’ absence intensifies her worry that she cannot hold on to those she loves.

With a wedding fast approaching, Jessie’s grandfather Homer Smith, has a goal to find the perfect dress for “his Jessie,” one that would allow her to forget, even if for a moment, the boundaries of her wheelchair. But financial setbacks and unexpected sabotage hinder his plans.

Determined to heal from her past, Jessie initiates a search for her father. Can a sliver of hope lead to everlasting love when additional obstacles–including a spurned woman and unpredictable weather–highjack Jessie’s dream wedding?

Buy it on:

Make sure to get in on her fun giveaways!

June Blog Tour Giveaway Extravaganza

June 10th-June 30th

Prizes include:

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • $10 Starbucks Gift Card
  • Print copy of Jessie’s Hope
  • 2 Kindle copies of Jessie’s Hope

Giveaway details: Go to her Rafflecopter Page (HERE) to enter the drawings for five prizes to be drawn by Rafflecopter from all the entries. Winners will be revealed on the author’s blog on July 1st.

Link to Rafflecopter found by visiting my June blog tour from June 10th until June 30th. Blog tour includes:

June 13thJennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud/Jennifer Slattery

June 14thFavorite Friday Fiction/Me

June 15thInspired Prompt/Betty Thomason Owens

June 17thAuthor Trish Perry/Trish Perry

June 17thSouthern Writers Magazine

June 18thAuthor Liz Tolsma/Liz Tolsma

June 19thInspired Prompt/Betty Thomason Owens

June 21stSnark & Sensibility/Linda Rondeau

June 24thFear Warrior/Jerusha Agen

June 24thJune Foster/June Foster

June 25thTrumpet Tuesdays/Julie Arduini

June 26thSeriously Write/Sandra Ardoin

June 28thHeartfelt, Homespun fiction/Cynthia Herron

June 29thThe Write Conversation/Edie Melson

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Growing in Grace

Woman praising and paraphrase of 1 Cor. 3:18

Imagine the peace and growth we’d experience if we truly learned to live in grace. If, instead of wallowing in self-condemnation, we moved forward in the hopeful anticipation birthed in intentional growth. Imagine if we viewed every failure, setback, and step forward through God’s eyes.

Growing in grace

By Matthew Romano

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Co 3:18, ESV).

“Beware of looking back at what you once were, when God wants you to become someone you’ve never been” – Oswald Chambers.

Before a sculptor begins shaping his masterpiece, he has a vision of what he wants to create. He begins with raw materials, such as a block of stone or marble. He starts chiseling the substance to mirror what he sees in his mind. As he crafts his vision, he’s not frustrated because it’s not yet completed. He takes joy in the work of his hands as art begins to take form and reflect the image he envisioned.

It is the same process for God.

God has a vision for us to become like Christ. In Him, He sees us as perfect, without spot or blemish in Christ. He is gradually molding and chiseling us to reflect His Son. He works on our hearts with joy and He’s not angry or upset throughout the process of our spiritual formation. Rather, He takes delight in doing the work that He knows will eventually be completed.

Unfortunately, we often fail to see ourselves as a work in progress. We tend to focus on our sins and imperfections. We cannot press forward we’re continually contemplating our present shortcomings, or reflecting on the pain of our past.

Perhaps we have listened to careless words spoken over us – and unknowingly embraced them. I remember one of my high school teachers yelling at me in front of the classroom, “You’re never going to amount to anything!” At the time, these words didn’t seem to bother me and I just laughed at him. But looking back in retrospect, a few months later I made the decision to drop out of school. If we take these words to heart they will begin to shape our self-image.

Words can create worlds for us. Every word we’ve digested internally has greatly impacted who we are today. That’s woman holding heart shaped snow and text pulled from postwhy it’s imperative to meditate on what the Lord says about us. When we welcome Jesus into our lives as Lord and Savior, He grants us not only forgiveness, but also the gift of a new identity. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Co 5:17, ESV).

As I focus on the goodness of the Lord and the words He’s spoken to me within the Bible, He transforms me to become what He created me to be. I may not be all God intends yet, but I know Him who creates beauty from what was once nothing. God is the potter and we are the clay (Jer 18:6). If we allow His hand to shape our lives, we’ll be led into a glorious destiny of purpose.

What must you put behind to become what you’ve never been?

Check out his book, The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation:

The atmosphere within the United States and most of the world is ripe for another great spiritual awakening. The current state of affairs is one of profound division, even within the church. The saints themselves have a difficult time distinguishing what is right and what is wrong because we have abandoned our first love and have embraced the love of the world.

In this season, the Lord exhorts His people to prepare themselves like a bride adorned for her husband and beckons the church to answer “The Call” toward revival that will spread like a holy fire in the hearts of many. Who will answer “The Call” to battle this present darkness with weapons of righteousness? Only when God’s own people are revived can we expect to see transformation in America and throughout the world.

The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation takes the reader on a journey of spiritual awakening alongside the author. Each chapter inspires the reader to answer “The Call” of God toward freedom, holiness, and purpose. This book will mentor people to hear the voice of God, think with the mind of Christ, be alert to the tactics of Satan, engage in spiritual warfare, learn to pray and meditate on the promises of God, and much more.

Buy it HERE.

Grab the study guide HERE.

Watch the trailer HERE.

Get to know Matthew!

Matthew J. Romano is an ordained deacon of Christ Church New Jersey. He has been walking with the Lord for over 25 years. His passion is sharing Christ with the lost and teaching believers to walk passionately with the Lord. He currently serves the body of Christ as a deacon, altar ministry to pray for the needs of God’s people, life group leader, guest teacher and speaker of the Word of God, and as a certified teacher in the School of Prayer. He is the author of The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation and The Call: A Study Guide to Revival and Transformation.

Find him online HERE.

Connect with him on Facebook HERE. 

Before you go, for those who are local and want to participate in the live teaching of Becoming His Princess Bible study, hosted this winter by Wildewood Christian Church (Papillion), registration is now open! To sign up, go HERE.

Grab your free e-copy HERE.

Grab your print copy HERE.

About the study:

Do you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? Does your confidence level vary based on who you’re around and how their bank account or how accomplishment list compares to yours? If so, this study, based on the life of Sarah from the Old Testament Scriptures, is for you.

For seven weeks, we’ll follow her uncertain and at times terrifying journey from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur to the land promised to her husband, and ultimately, the place of rest God beckons each of us toward. He met her in the middle of her pain, her shame, and all her striving, and rewrote her story—through grace. A grace bigger than her greatest failures and that proved sufficient for all her insufficiencies.Step by step, God taught this once-scorned woman to live as His beloved, His princess.

As we follow her journey recorded in the pages of Scripture, He’ll help us do the same. We’ll learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His power and presence in our most challenging circumstances, find rest from our striving, and live daily in His grace.

When God Says Give Up

Women with head down

Image by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

I’ve tried running my life, and it landed me in a mess. The more I fight for control, the more that which I’m fighting for begins to control me. But surrender …

My guest today, novelist and pastor Nathan D. Maki, shares how God called him to give up something he held dear, and what resulted from that. Read his thoughts then share yours in the comments below.

***

Have you ever felt like giving up? Sure you have. Exhausted by the race, flattened by the burden, devastated by the loss…we all hit the wall at some point. If I can be perfectly candid, I’ve been teetering on the edge of giving up writing. Between pastoring a small church, managing a business to pay the bills, and being husband and father to my wife and son the thought of releasing one thing – my writing – is seductive.

“It’s more of a hobby anyway,” I told myself. “It’s not really taking off or paying off for the amount of work and time involved. Maybe you’re a hack anyway.”

Yes, that kind of uplifting, positive self-talk.

But then God told me to give up.

God told me to give up my selfish struggle for success. To relinquish the dream of quitting my day job and just writing and pastoring till He comes or my days end. To give up this book, The Keeper’s Crown. As a symbol of that surrender, he told me not to put a penny of its profits in my pocket.

I’ll be honest, that wasn’t easy. This book is my baby that I’ve worked on for three years hoping it would be my break-out novel. A year ago, when I was still querying agents and dreaming of a deal with a major publisher it probably would have been unthinkable. But God had brought me to a place of surrender. Of giving up. And instead, I gave it to Him.

And you know what? As soon as I agreed to give up peace settled over me. It’s like my whole perspective changed in that moment, and I suddenly realized that I’d Man sitting in nature, contemplativebecome jaded because I was measuring success all wrong. I was measuring in copies sold and dollars and cents, in fame and recognition, in book deals and all the rest. But that’s not how God measures success. In fact, that’s what The Keeper’s Crown is all about, how to measure Godly success – which the Apostle Paul would say is simply obeying what God tells you to do, regardless of the results. I guess I’d kind of forgotten that until God smacked me upside the head at that altar on a Sunday morning not too long ago.

So half the proceeds of this book are going to Hope for Orphans, an orphanage my parents started in a little village in Congo. Half to our church’s breakfast fund, where my wife and our ladies have been serving disadvantaged kids a hot breakfast every Sunday for the past 8 years. That’s what God asked. Jesus sure does love the little children.

The Keeper’s Crown and my writing career are God’s hands now, and looking back through the Scriptures, that’s an exciting thought.

quote imageGod asked a man named Abraham to give up his son Isaac, and he not only received his son back alive but became the Father of the Faithful. (Genesis 22:2)

God asked a nervous wreck named Gideon to give up the safety of his winepress, then turned him into a warrior who brought safety to his entire country by driving out the invaders. (Judges 6 and 7)

God asked three young Hebrew captives in Babylon to give up their lives to the furnace and then brought them out unscathed to make a believer out of King Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 3)

God asked a handful of fishermen to give up their ships and nets, and they founded the Church. (Mark 1:16-20)

God asked Paul to give up his freedom, and he preached to the Emperor of Rome and converted even those of Nero’s household and his Praetorian Guard. Paul gave up his life, but attained a victor’s laurel and immortality. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

What will God do with what I’ve given up? Only time will tell, but I’m crazy excited to find out!

What is God asking you to give up? And how will you answer?

***

cover image for the Keeper's CrownCheck out Nathan’s novel, The Keeper’s Crown!

Quintus

As a boy, he dared to fight Nero. Worse, he won.

Stripped of his family, the love of his life, and his self-respect, he sets out on a quest to win a victor’s crown, rescue his parents, and restore his family’s honor. But his path to glory in the restless province of Judaea is threatened by the corrupt governor Felix, the murderous priest Melechi, and most of all by the rabble-rousing Paul of Tarsus.

When Quintus finds himself in Rome chained to Paul all hope of a crown seems lost, but Paul’s example makes him question the true meaning of success. And why does Jael, the mysterious young Jewess who once saved his life, now respond with barely restrained flashes of hate?

Jael

The Romans took her father and her brother from her.

Now Jael vows to fight for her father’s faith, fulfill her brother’s oath, and avenge their deaths. But the further she travels with Paul and Quintus the more she feels torn. Can she follow her heart and still keep her vow?

Paul

He turned the world upside down.

Paul never expected to end his ministry in chains, but even still, he is determined to carry the gospel to Rome and the Emperor Nero himself. But what if those who need the gospel most are those closest to him?

As the Great Fire strikes Rome, fanning Nero’s persecution of the Christians to a white-hot fury, murderous secrets, impossible choices, and steadfast faith will lead to tragedy and triumph.

Grab a copy HERE.

Join Nathan on Monday, April 2 from 11-3 for a fun, Facebook launch party. There will be Q & A with yours truly, trivia and games, a virtual tour of Rome via pictures he took on his trip, hourly e-book giveaways, and two grand prizes of signed proof copy paperbacks (of only 5 proofs ever printed.) Plus, you’ll get to connect with other book lovers!

Get to know the author!

author headshiot--Nathan MakiA life-long love for historical fiction and a passion to create high-intensity, realistic novels from a Christian world view has propelled Nathan Maki into his writing career. He is the author of the War Within series of novels set in Ancient Rome, and most recently The Keeper’s Crown, a novel of the Apostle Paul.

A recent trip to Rome to walk the ancient streets, explore the Catacombs, and stand in the Coliseum plunged Nathan even deeper into the ancient world he brings to life for his readers. Nathan’s novels combine the faith and romance of Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion trilogy with the action and adventure of Bernard Cornwell or Conn Iggulden. Nathan lives in Ontario, Canada, with his wife, son, and three very spoiled dogs. He pastors a church and manages his own business in addition to his writing. Sometimes he even sleeps.

Connect with Nathan online:

Facebook

on his website

Follow him on Twitter: @NathanDMaki

Email him at: NathanDMaki(at)hotmail(dot)com

What God Does in Our Waiting

Image of a contemplative woman sitting outside

Waiting on God–for an answer, guidance, or perhaps fulfillment of a dream or promise–can be frustrating and unsettling. It can test our faith and our perseverance. But as my guest today shares, it’s often in the waiting that God does some of His most beautiful, necessary, and delicate work.

What God Does in Our Waiting by Amanda Wen

Waiting—for anything—has never been my strong suit.

Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up in the microwave generation. Or maybe it’s my natural temperament; I come from a long line of not-so-patient people. Doubtless it’s partly sin nature. But as believers, we serve a God who not only rescues us, but also seeks to transform us and make us more like Jesus. Part of how He does that is by growing us in patience.

I’d heard several times that if you pray for patience, God will give you kids. In my case, that’s exactly what He did. Three kids in just under four years, to be precise. Naïve new mama that I was, I assumed that, because God blessed me with children, He would similarly bless me with patience. I assumed I would magically morph into the smiling, sunshiny mom I always expected to be, bursting with ideas for fun activities and craft projects, healthy meals and educational outings. The kind of mom who would never lose her cool or snap at her kids, and who would definitely—definitely—not turn into a screeching lunatic after her two-year-old scribbled a Sharpie mural all over the basement wall.

Unfortunately—and perhaps unsurprisingly—I’m not that mother. I don’t do crafts, our meals consist of mac and cheese more than I’d like, and I still snap more than I smile (though I’m really working on that last one). But motherhood has brought about a different kind of patience, one that God has quietly grown in me without my knowledge.

See, babies take time to grow. To develop. Nothing you do makes that happen faster. Each time I found out I was pregnant, the weeks and months ahead felt like an eternity. I had few couple health scares during pregnancy, scares that could only be resolved by “just wait and see.” God spent a total of twenty-seven months knitting my kids together in my womb.

Could He have done it faster? Absolutely. But He chose not to. He knew my husband and I needed time to prepare for parenthood. My babies needed time to grow. And one of the fruits of the waiting was a new willingness to be still and be patient with the Lord and watch Him work.

All that waiting was so very worth it.

When I began to pursue writing as a career, I learned quickly that if the publishing industry and a glacier were in a race, the publishing industry would win, but only by a nose. You send out queries…and you wait. You enter contests…and you wait. You submit to editors…and you wait. For weeks. Sometimes months, or even years. And nothing on your part speeds up this process. It just takes time.

To my surprise, this waiting hasn’t driven me insane like I thought it would. I’ve learned that, like babies, a career takes time to develop. Time towoman sitting on dock and words to Isaiah 40 verse 31 prepare me as a writer. Time to prepare the people who might read my work. Time to bring all the parts and pieces together into a beautiful masterpiece that only God can create.

Can He do it instantly? Of course He can. But it is for our best and his ultimate glory that he does not.

And so we wait.

God promises strength to those who wait. He promises his presence and assures us of his love. And He will use our wait—like He uses all things—to make us more like Jesus.

***

Let’s talk about this! Are you in a season of waiting? What might God be doing in you during this time? Perhaps you’ve come out of a prolonged time of waiting. Looking back, can you see God’s hand in your waiting? If so, share that experience with us. Do you have a favorite Bible character that reveals God’s loving hand during a time of waiting? Share your thoughts, examples, and questions with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage each other!

Before you leave, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter.

Subscribers receive image of cover for study based on 1 Timothygreat, free content sent directly to their inbox along with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook form) based on truths presented in 1 Timothy (sent separately). (If you signed up and haven’t yet received your free study, please contact me through this website so I can get that to you!) You can sign up HERE.

Get to know Amanda! 

 Amanda Wen is an award-winning writer of contemporary inspirational romance. Her contest wins include first Amanda Wen Author Photoplace in the 2016 ACFW First Impressions Contest, the 2017 Great Expectations Contest, and the 2017 Phoenix Rattler Contest. In addition to her writing, Amanda maintains an active and rewarding career as a freelance cellist. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and their three adorable Wenlets. Amanda is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. 
Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and visit her online at her website, AmandaWen.com

God Opens Doors

God Opens Doors by Sarah Foust

God opens doors. Sometimes I don’t feel like walking through them, but He makes them available. A few years ago, my husband and I felt called to become foster parents. It was a tough process. Scary. More like terrifying. But, God presented us with an opportunity and we chose to follow. I’m so glad we did. It led to personal growth, parental growth, and to adopting our fourth daughter and first son. What a blessing they’ve been in our lives.

If we’d chosen to ignore God’s prompting, we wouldn’t have these two beautiful children. And, I wouldn’t be writing yet. It was through the process of becoming foster parents to our son that I realized I could no longer work full-time. When my job as a medical transcriptionist disappeared the week he arrived in our home, I knew it was time to pursue my dream career.

Through this, we stepped through another door, and I chose to write. I love writing. I’ve dreamed of it since I was in second grade. I remember sitting in the desk, zoning out while the teacher talked as I pictured crafting a real, long, tons-of-words novel.

I put that dream off for a long time because I feared I would fail. What if I pursued this career and fell on my face? What then? My dream would be dead and I’d have nothing to hope for my future career. But God gently nudged me forward, and I am so glad He did.

On November 4th, my first real, long, tons-of-words novel comes out. It’s an idea that originally popped into my head in high school (a few years ago). But with prayer for direction, it has become so much more than that initial spark. I poured my heart and soul into my book baby and it is about to arrive! I cannot wait to hold it in my hands and read my name—my name!—on the cover. I’ll probably cry. No joke.

I don’t know what the next door God will present me with will be, but I plan to step through it. I know that He only wants good for me and that He has a plan. If I’m to do my part, I need to be obedient, brave, and trusting. Who better to place blind trust in than God? If I were to encourage you to do any one thing, it would be to step through the door God has placed before you. He won’t let you fall, or if He does, He will pick you up. He’s waiting on the other side. Waiting to take you where you’re supposed to go. Waiting to lead you to who you are supposed to be.

Let’s talk about this! Do you have a dream career you’ve never pursued because of fear? Is God presenting you with a door of opportunity? Do you plan to walk through it?

***

Speaking of living your dreams, or living out your identity in Christ and who He created you to be, as I like to put it, if you’re in the Omaha Metro area, I encourage you to come to Wholly Loved’s Bold and Brave conference. Our first one will be held at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Papillion, NE on February 11th; our second one will be held at Good Shepherd Presbyterian in Lincoln, NE on June 24th. Mark your calendars, and follow us on Facebook for more information. And if you’re a writer living in the Seattle, WA area, I invite you to join me in October at the NCWA monthly meeting where I’ll be talking about overcoming the fear that hinders us from fully living out our calling and the freedom, creativity, and power that comes from surrender. And on the 28th, again for those in the Omaha area, I’ll be speaking at the local Wordsowers meeting on developing a mind of success. Find out more HERE. Because successful people think differently than unsuccessful people do, and science is discovering more and more, our success (in pursuit of our dreams) is much more dependent on our grit than our talent.

You might also enjoy:

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Courage and Calling by Gordon T. Smith

***

Sara Foust writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense from a mini-farm in East Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their five homeschooled children. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Tennessee and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Tennessee Mountain Writers. Her debut novel Callum’s Compass won second place in Deep River Books’ 2017 Writer’s Contest. Sara finds inspiration in her faith, her family, and the beauty of nature. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, camping, and spending time outdoors with her family. To learn more about her and her work or to become a part of her email friend’s group, please visit www.saralfoust.com. And make sure to connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Collum’s Compass:

Kat Williams’s brother died in a gruesome accident in the mountains of East Tennessee. She blames herself.

Ryan Jenkins’s fiancée was murdered. He couldn’t protect her.

With the death of her brother, Kat believes she is unworthy of love from anyone—even God. When a good friend elicits a promise that she will stop living in the past and then leaves her clues to a real-life treasure hunt, Kat embarks on an adventure chock-full of danger. To find the treasure, Kat will have to survive wild animals—and even wilder men. Can she rely on Ryan, the handsome wildlife officer assigned to protect her . . . without falling in love?

Ryan swore off love when his fiancée was murdered, but feelings long-buried rise to the surface around Kat. He volunteers to help with her treasure hunt, vowing to keep her safe. Together they venture deep into caves and tunnels . . . and even deeper into the depths of their unplumbed hearts.

Available soon! Find information at www.saralfoust.com under the books tab

***

Want more great content, sent straight to your inbox? Then make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter. With each edition, you’ll receive a fun short story, devotion, recipe, and more! You can sign up HERE!

When We Say No–Missing Out

It’s weighed heavy on my mind and heart for over fifteen years now–the day I said no. I was working out, minding my own business, in a crowded (and slightly smelly) Southern California gym. I went often, most every afternoon, as did a middle aged, disabled gentlemen. I don’t know his story, I didn’t even know his name, but I knew this–he was incredibly unhappy. He was always frowning, as if sending clear, “Do not approach,” signals. But one day, I felt a strong desire to pray for him. The more I thought about this, prayed for an out, the stronger the desire became.

I ignored God’s prompting that day, and I’ve regretted it ever since. I thought about that moment as I read Jana Kelley, author of Door to Freedom’s post below.

MISSING OUT

by Jana Kelley

Barbed-wire fences loomed on either side of me as I inched my car through the gates. I stopped at the guardhouse to show my volunteer badge and parked in the visitor section before making my way to one of several cottages. Nerves kept me alert as I crossed the lawn and entered the lobby. I was directed to a side room.

The juvenile detention center always made me nervous. My comfort zone waited for me somewhere far outside the confines

of this facility that housed troubled teens.

Every week, I joined two other ladies who also volunteered. One was the Bible study leader and the other lady, Kathy*, and I assisted her. Six to eight girls attended every week. We met as a group for the lesson and then divided for small group discussion and other planned activities.

As I waited for the girls to enter, I glanced at the white board on the wall. It hadn’t been erased from some previous group therapy session. Red and black marker spelled out the formative years of one of the participants: gender confusion, divorce, jail, victimization. All of this scrawled on the board for anyone’s perusal. I looked into the glazed eyes of the girls who entered the room. Medication kept most of them in a fog. I smiled at them, not expecting any smiles in return.

After the lesson, our leader called me and Kathy over.

“These two young women would like to pray to receive Jesus.” She gestured toward two of the girls then looked toward Kathy. “Can you help them do that?”

This made sense, of course, as the other volunteer had more experience than me. But she looked shocked.

“No,” she said. “I can’t do that.” She looked at me with frantic eyes. “Can you do it instead of me?”

I moved to where the two girls sat and, in simple words, explained how Jesus had taken the punishment we deserved and how He would forgive our sins if we believed in Him. That night those two girls prayed, asked Jesus to save them, and became my new sisters in Christ.

As I drove past the barbed fences and back to my comfort zone, I couldn’t help but wonder: “What happened back there?”

A Bible study volunteer was afraid to pray with others asking for salvation? Wasn’t that the “golden moment” for any believer? I felt blessed by the opportunity to guide two girls into the Kingdom. But I think that blessing was meant for the other lady. Her fear immobilized her at a most crucial time.

I learned a couple of things that night:

  • First, no amount of training enables us to do the Lord’s work if we don’t also obey the Spirit when it comes time to act.
  • Second, if I don’t step up when it’s my turn, the Lord may choose to give the blessing to someone else.

That night, I received the blessing of watching two girls receive salvation. But lest I become prideful, that night is also a reminder to me. I often give in to fear … that I’ll be laughed at, that I will be rejected, that I’m not good enough to do what the Lord asks. When I focus on fear and then refuse to listen and obey, I miss out on the blessing God has for me.

***

Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. Jana is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a blogger, a contributor to Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore (Books 1 &2) and has written a trilogy set in Northern Sudan. The third book will release in September. Jana loves to connect with her readers. You can learn more about her at janakelley.com.

 

Door to Freedom:

“It’s rough and it’s smooth. It’s dark and it’s light. It’s a masterpiece. It’s us. Here in Sudan. We are scared of it and drawn to it. There is an open door, and there is much opposition.”

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister’s sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom—the freedom that only comes when you trust God’s sovereignty more than man-made security.

Part of New Hope® Publishers’ line of contemporary missional fiction, Door to Freedom, the sequel to Side by Side, opens the reader’s eyes to modern-day persecution and the life of Muslims in Sudan. Based on real-life events, Door to Freedom also reveals some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as for the salvation of the persecutors.

***

Let’s talk about this! When have you allowed fears or insecurities to hinder your obedience and what did you learn from this experience. OR, when have you chosen, despite your fear, to do something you felt God calling you to, and what was the result? In the example I shared at the beginning of this post, numerous fears kept me from obeying. It seemed strange to walk up to a stranger in a crowded gym and offer to pray. I worried I’d look like an idiot or that I’d offend him. But I’ve often wondered, what if the man was going through a tough time right at that moment, asking God if He cared or if He was there, and God wanted to answer those questions through me, or love that man through me?

I failed to obey. Because of my pride. Man, pride is such an ugly thing, isn’t it?

Your turn! Share your stories, examples, or perhaps words of encouragement with us in the comments below.

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

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We were created to live victorious, abundant, impactful lives, but so often, we allow fear to hold us back and hinder us from creating the ambassadors God designed us to be. And yet, we can live bold and brave. We can leave an eternal, life-changing mark on our world, and Wholly Loved wants to help you learn to do just that.

That’s why we’re launching the Bold and Brave conference. Stay tuned for more info, and “like” and “follow” our Facebook Page to stay on top of all our events.

When–and How–God Guides

It’s a question that dominates the thoughts of believers worldwide: How can we know if this thing, this opportunity, this action or whatever, is God’s will? How can we discern His voice among all the other “voices” bombarding us each day? I believe learning to discern God’s voice is a process that comes from drawing close to Him, saturating our minds with Scripture, and following with surrendered obedience. I believe the more we respond obediently to God’s voice, the more we’ll be able to hear Him in the future, and the more we disobey or disregard His leading, the more dull our hearing becomes.

But He does speak to us and guide us, because as my guest, Mary Bowen reminds us, “God wants to lead us even more than we want to be led.”

A Door Wide Open

By Mary Bowen

“He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all his own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow him because they know His voice” (John 10:3-4 NIV).

Our Florida rental had been trashed! In shock I clutched the phone tighter as my stomach turned. The realtor’s words hit me hard; something precious had been desecrated. Our classy little ranch with the screen porch and landscaped yard. . . for eighteen months our cozy nest during my pregnancy, then home for our beloved baby daughter. After moving back to Atlanta, we had rented it out for two years.

Before I could fully process what all this meant, the realtor who told us this devastating news gave us hope. She said she was looking for a “fixer-upper.” I caught my breath. We had just finished praying together on the sofa for a buyer! After accepting her offer in a happy daze, my husband and little daughter joined me in another prayer. “Oh, God, thank you, thank You!” We were free now to consider a job opportunity in Virginia.

It was part of His go-ahead.

Soon after that, God floored us with another confirmation. A young man taking a course in Atlanta the next week “happened” to visit our Sunday school class. He’d come from Abingdon, the very location we were considering! Over lunch he told us all about this charming historic community and the church he loved so much. It was as if God had sent him to confirm again where He wanted us.

A third reassurance was our leading in house-hunting. Though we had several weeks in which to look, I felt an urgency to go one particular weekend. We found out why when the realtor told us that desirable rentals were disappearing fast. She showed us a house that fit us perfectly.

Our prayers for guidance were answered with multiple confirmations. There was no doubt where we should move. We fell in love with Abingdon’s friendly, relaxed culture, absence of traffic, and especially Abingdon Bible Church. Our four years in Abingdon, Virginia were among the happiest of our lives.

Looking back now, I can see why God worked so dramatically. I liked being back in Atlanta after all the challenges in Florida two years before. Another out-of-state move seemed as much fun as climbing a mountain barefoot. Because He is gracious and kind, God wanted to reassure me with all those signs pointing the way.

We may not always get so many clues about the next step. Nevertheless, God wants to lead us even more than we want to be led. (Prov. 3:5-6).

When facing a decision or attempting to discern God’s will, four indicators can help us discern what to do:

The Bible

Advice from other Christians

Circumstances

and the Holy Spirit.

The psalmist compared Scripture to a lamp that illumines our path (Ps. 119:105). He declared, “You guide me with Your counsel” (Ps. 73:24 NIV).

Other people’s godly counsel also guides us. “Wisdom is found in those who take advice” (Prov. 13:10 NIV). “Plans fail for lack of counsel” (Prov. 15:22 NIV).

God used providential circumstances to guide my family to move, along with promptings from the Holy Spirit. Called “the Counselor,” He guides us into all truth (Jn. 16:13).

We’re most receptive to God’s guidance when we’ve surrendered our will to His. We can trust God to lead us step by step.

***

Mary Bowen writes and edits for Grace Ministries International in Marietta, Georgia. For many years her articles and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She has worked as a reporter and freelancer, and served as an editor with the North American Mission Board.

Let’s talk about this! What steps do you take when trying to discern God’s will? First, can I ask–are you taking time to listen? For me, this is often the biggest issue. It’s hard to hear God’s voice when my mind is racing from one thing to the next, when I’m wrapped up in my to-do list. Intimacy with Christ takes time, time of listening, of quieting myself in His presence. This is one of my favorite verses, and may God help me to live it out:

“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming.’ (Psalm 27:8 NLT).