The Beauty of Hard Thanksgivings

radiating Christ's love with image of lighthouse in the night

For some of you, Thanksgiving will be hard. Painful. Maybe chaotic and surrounded by dysfunction. But God can bring such eternal beauty in the midst of your most challenging moments. In fact, the beauty can come precisely because of your hardship.

One fall when we lived in Southern California, I wanted to teach our daughter about the constellations. This proved challenging as the town we lived in remained perpetually lit, allowing us to see only the brightest stars. One evening, my husband and I decided to take a family drive to the desert–we lived on the edge of the Mojave. Once we arrived and looked above, we were awed by the beauty. The night sky glimmered with countless stars, their radiance clear and striking in the black sky.

This is how God shines in us. If we belong to Jesus, Scripture says we are the light of the world. This means we display the radiance and hope and life of Christ, whether or not we speak a word. He remains in us, illuminating our surroundings and relationships with light.

But though He is always shining, sometimes His light shines brighter than others. When we display a supernatural love in text pulled from post on yellow backgroundthe face of hatred, and health and grace amidst dysfunction, our reliance on Him and His power displayed through us magnifies our radiance.

The other day, I spoke to a sweet friend who has experienced more hardship than any other person I know. It seems as if life is hitting her hard, relentlessly, from every angle: health, relational, financial … It will likely be very hard for her to remain thankful this Thanksgiving. With tears in her eyes, she said to me, “It’s hard to see God in all this.” Her voice cracked. “What did I do?”

My reply: “You did nothing wrong.”

To the contrary. Though I know she’s not perfect, she consistently reveals Christ, not only in her words and actions but perhaps most importantly, in her steady reliance on Him. Simply by walking with Him and leaning on Him through her pain, she reveals a God who holds tight, who remains and never lets go. She demonstrates the reality of the gospel.

Just over 2,000 years ago, an ancient church planter named Paul wrote to a group of new believers who had miraculously been rescued from darkness. They lived in Thessalonica, a wealthy Greek and pagan city filled with idolatry. Scripture makes it clear, they also experienced persecution, but despite that, they received the gospel with joy and thus became an example to all.

Paul wrote:

6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the Word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thes. 1:6-10, ESV).

The Thessalonicans were living examples of the power and reality of the gospel. Their lives proclaimed their faith, and others noticed.

As evangelist John Paul Warren states, “Your life is a witness to the world of a loving Savior and His redemptive plan for man.”

Sometimes, oftentimes, that witness shines brightest in the darkest circumstances, so if this Thanksgiving is hard, remember, you did nothing wrong. You may in fact be doing everything right. God may be using you at this moment to create something eternally beautiful: changed lives. So hold tight, draw near to Him, stay embraced in His love and grace, and trust Him to shine brightly and beautifully through you.

You may also enjoy:

My Near Death Experience and Other Things I’m Thankful for by Unshakable Hope

When Thanksgiving Hurts by Jessica Brodie

Gratitude Changes Everything by Sharon Jaynes

When it’s Hard to be Grateful on Thanksgiving by Kristin, Day Spring Devotionals

Getting Through Thanksgiving Weekend by Andrea Chatelain

Finding Lost Thankfulness by Andrea Chatelain

Make sure to check out Jennifer Slattery’s latest newsletter edition! It contains a cut excerpt from my next release, an inspirational message, recipe, and book review. You can find that HERE, and contact her HERE to book her to speak at your next women’s event. (She also speaks to book clubs and MOPS groups via live video.)

Bible reading plan imageYou may also enjoy Jennifer’s Bible reading plan, Cultivating a Thankful Heart, available on the YouVersion Bible app. You can find it HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram and follow her on Twitter. You can also find her on Crosswalk.

Grace for Our Imperfect Thanksgivings — Guest Post

Christmas image with a quote on choosing the precious over the perfect.

We’ve all probably allowed ourselves to get so caught up in the event of a thing that we’ve lost sight of that thing all together. I have. When I do, my stress climbs and my attitude tanks. But then God gently helps me shift my priorities back where they should be. Amazingly, when I do, my attitude and inner tranquility follow. I’ve learned, no matter how hard I try, my Thanksgiving and Christmas will inevitably be imperfect. But I’m also learning, it’s often the imperfections that make those unscripted moments so beautiful.

If you’re beginning to feel the stress of the holidays, or preemptively want to avoid this, I think you’ll find my guest Andrea Chatelain’s post encouraging, and you’ll want to grab a copy of the devotional she contributed to, mentioned at the end.

Grace for the Holidays

by Andrea Chatelain

The turkey was frozen. My mother and I flopped it in the sink and ran warm water over the cold, hard, unappetizing bird. This was the second year in a row this fiasco had happened. All we wanted was the thanksgiving meal magazines touted. Twice baked mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, green beans and bacon with caramelized onion and a golden brown cooked turkey. So maybe our expectations were a little high. But they pointed to an even bigger problem.

Our anxiety was just as high as our expectations.

It’s not bad to want to serve our families well, but when we make perfection our goal we rarely do so with happy hearts. My mom and I grew stressed, there seemed insufficient time or oven space to get everything done in my little galley kitchen. Meanwhile I have no memory of what my kids were doing while I was busy worrying about a thawing turkey.

So I hold tight to Psalm 17:1 ESV during the holidays which reminds us, “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house Thanksgiving place setting with text of psalm 17:1full of feasting with strife.”

There are so many instances this is true, but especially when we prepare for big gatherings. I’ve learned it’s better to have store bought stuffing than batches of Pinterest worthy meals if it means I have more time, joy, and peace with the people I love.

But it’s hard to give up the idyllic version of Thanksgiving we have in our minds. How do we stop competing with the invisible and improbable version of our perfect holiday and accept the reality of our time and emotional constraints?

For me, it means squashing my pride and remembering the grace I have in Jesus. He doesn’t expect us to serve perfectly. He never called us to nail the most golden pie crust or win an award for cleanest house. He commands us to love others well with the strength He provides.

When we serve others, we are “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:10-12, ESV).

Boy do I want to be filled with His glorious might, endurance, patience, and joy this season! I’m not sure if that is what this passage teaches and I don’t have time right now to really dig in to check. Sorry! Can we just cut that part out and use this: When we focus on Jesus, He changes our stressed out minds to servant hearts. We serve and love better when we lean on and are energized by Him.

This reminds me to focus on pleasing Jesus because He will lead me to peace, not anxiety.

The stress and emotions of the holidays are real, but we don’t have to be overwhelmed by meals and chaos. We can choose instead to be overwhelmed by the provision and grace of Christ. Focus your heart on Him this season and let go of the idea of perfection, you will experience His peace and joy no matter your circumstances, even if you turkey is frozen.

Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to prioritize precious moments over expectations for perfection? When you sense yourself prioritizing details over people, what helps you to regain a proper perspective? Share your thoughts, tips, and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Get to know Andrea!

Andrea's author photoAndrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer at Glory Be, writer/speaker for WhollyLoved Ministries, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She loves connecting with women to remind them they can find everything they need in Jesus. Visit her on her blog and follow her on Facebook.

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Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace:

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalhis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.

Grab your copy HERE.

How Miss Perfect Stole Christmas

There’s only one way to introduce today’s guest and her post … Y’all, meet my sweet, hilarious, much-too-talented friend Tara Johnson:

And now, read her (real life) tale of how Miss Perfect Stole Christmas.

by Tara Johnson

I’m a beautiful mess this time of year. And I’ve learned that’s okay.

For years I lost precious sleep, valuable hair, and added circles under my eyes to achieve the perfect Christmas. For my kids. For my husband. For my church. For my own ridiculous ideals. Christmas is the mother ship for us perfectionist types. Correction, recovering perfectionists, because that’s what I am.

I wanted to give my family the Norman Rockwell paintings of Christmas memories. You know, something they could look back on and say, “Ah, those were the good old days.” I nearly made myself crazy in the process.

Ironically, the best memories our little family made have been from the things that went horrible wrong … the goof-ups, silly disasters, and laugh-out-loud mistakes. Those are the things my kids will remember. Perfection had no part of ornaments on rough wood backgroundthose special moments.

Living without grace can and will kill you. It’s a miserably hopeless existence. Not much joy. No freedom. It’s impossible to pull off anyway. Forget about the perfectly decorated tree, the swept floors, the homemade everything, the house that smells like cinnamon or the brightly wrapped packages that look like they were designed by Martha Stewart. During the past few years, I’ve slowly learned to the let that extra ‘stuff’ go. You know what I’ve discovered? Christmas is a much more joyful time of year for the loss of it.

God has birthed the simply joy and beauty anew in my heart. And He reminded me once again why He sent His Son.

I didn’t need a friend. I didn’t need a Being to impress with how well I’ve got it together. No, I needed a Savior. I’m a broken mess in need of the beautiful Hope only He can give.

I’m tired of bulldozing through Christmas like a Type A beast. All it ever did was make me a Grinch. It’s time to let go of the perfectionism. I want to remember the beauty that made the King of the universe lay down His crown to come to a broken world of desperate people. No greater act of love has ever been given.

How Miss Perfection Stole Christmas

woman dressed as Mrs. Clause decorating the treeEvery kid down in Coolville liked Christmas a lot, But Miss Perfection, who lived south of Coolville did NOT! 

Christmas drove her crazy. The whole Christmas season. Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. 

It could be because she wanted everything to go just right. It could be, perhaps, because she was overworked and uptight. But I think the most likely reason of all, was if she messed up, she’d feel unloved by one and all.

She’d fight the crowds with a sour, grinchy frown, and zoom in her minivan all over town. Shopping and baking and parties and planning, wrapping and photos while dreaming of tanning. 

The mess! The stress! Made her long to punch an elf in the midst of his chest! 

“If I could just disappear. But Christmas is coming. It’s practically here!” 

The children were fighting in their sleep-deprived state. She wasn’t faring much better staying up nights so late. “It’s part of the season,” she told herself time and again. But His still, small Voice began to whisper within.  

As the whirlwind of tinsel and glitter increased, her joy faded away. How could this be? 

“I remembered the ribbons. I remembered the tags. I remembered the packages, boxes and bags.” 

She puzzled for hours, till her puzzler was sore and continued to think as she entered the church doors. As the pastor read from Luke chapter two, she remembered how God came down as a Babe…and she knew. 

“I’m not perfect, I’ll never be. That’s why God sent a Savior for me. Jesus died to give me freedom from this kind of living. Instead of “perfection”, I need to be giving!” 

And what happened then? Well, in Coolville they say, Miss Perfection’s joy grew three sizes that day! She put down her ‘to-do’ list and played with her kids, laughed, made memories and closed her weary eyelids. 

The last thing she did that made her heart dance with light? Miss Perfection threw out her copy of Christmas Done Right.

My heartfelt thanks to Dr. Seuss for the inspiration.

***

Author Tara Johnson's headshotTara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR. A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.

Her first nonfiction book Hollow Victory: How to Identify and Disarm 5 Landmines that Make Victorious Christian Living Feel Like a Lie was released in 2014. Her first historical romance with Tyndale House Publishers will be released in the summer of 2018, and is the first of three stories set during the Civil War. She has won the Bronze Medal in the Frazier awards hosted by My Book Therapy and has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio and Enduring Word radio. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She and her husband Todd have been married for nineteen years and the Lord has blessed them with five children: Bethany, Callie, Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane who are with Jesus.

Visit Tara online at her Website, follow her on Twitter, connect with her on Facebook, listen to her sing on Reverbnation, and follow her on Instagram.

Make sure to check out her debut novel, Engraved on the Heart, coming soon from Tyndale House Publishers!

cover image for Engraved on the HeartReluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines―until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.

Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

Let’s talk about this! Did Tara’s post give you a chuckle? What about a heart prick? Do your most cherished memories resemble hers–the goof-ups and laugh-out-loud oopses? Share some of your favorites in the comments below!

On a more serious note, I invite you to pop over to my blog on Crosswalk to read about how God used a modern day crisis and mother’s heartache to deepen my understanding of His love and what Christmas cost Him. You can do that HERE!
And if you haven’t done so, sign up for my free, quarterly mailing to receive great content (short stories, devotions, image of cover for study based on 1 Timothyrecipes and more) sent directly to your inbox. Plus, as a thank you, I’ll send you (separately) a free, 36-lesson study based truths pulled from 1 Timothy (ebook). You can sign up HERE.

A Nostalgic Christmas

Photo by VinnyCiro taken from Pixabay.com

Photo by VinnyCiro taken from Pixabay.com

First, to all my lovely and faithful readers: Merry Christmas! Some of you have been with me since way back in 2009, long before I signed my first book contract. Thanks for standing beside and behind me! I’m soaking up every drop of your support. 🙂 And I’m so very thankful for you!

I hope you will be spending time with people you care about, and I hope you’ll have lots of lazy, coffee-saturated mornings. I plan to!

Last week, I talked about the hard that, for many, can come with Christmas. Today I want to talk about the nostalgic. About the beautiful and heartwarming. I love snow. I love carols. I love the smells and sounds of Christmas, and the chance to celebrate what God did for us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Today’s guest, a sweet woman who diligently serves Christ from within her nursing home bedroom, manages to capture the wonderful and nostalgic of this holy time in every one of her Christmas novellas.

A Nostalgic Christmas by Darlene Franklin

When I wrote my first Christmas novella in 2008, I wondered how people could come up with new ideas for the hundreds that flood the stores. That story, Dressed in Scarlet from the collection Snowbound Colorado Christmas, took place during the worst-ever blizzard in Denver’s history, and I used a verse from the Bible that included snow: “She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed in scarlet.” I had a vision of a lady making hats and mittens from red long johns, and the story was born. I couldn’t imagine another snow story.

Seven Christmas novellas later, I can’t wait to write another one. I already know the theme for my 2016 entry and I even have a crazy idea to write a Christian fantasy where Santa Claus is real. Not sure how I’d make it work.

Multiply that excitement by the hundreds of other books and movies, and we get a sense of the season inspires us.

The Bible says God has created everything I can see or imagine.

ID-100376502

Photo by Prawny taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Even here at the nursing home, Christmas comes calling. A group of carolers stood outside our room, singing in four-part harmony. Christmas greens cover the nursing home. Lights twinkle up and down the halls. Christmas cards sit on my desk, and I’m reading a novella collection with eight Christmas stories. My son has already given me my first gift. My granddaughter showed off her lovely colored picture of Santa’s face, which was chosen as prettiest in the class.

Even my on-going study of Isaiah shouts of Christmas, with his many references to the coming Savior.

What do I feel? Love, joy, peace—even hope, my middle name.

Those are some of the things I can hear, see, touch, smell, and taste.

But God is also the creator of what I can imagine—a rich heiress and a poor Italian mechanic; a single mom and a vet; a retired Marine and a post office employee; a preacher’s daughter and a miner’s store owner; an apple orchard farmer and a scientist. The stories I write are also God’s creation—stemming from the imagination He gave me. I pray that people who read my stories also discover love, joy, peace, and hope.

Even our gift-giving, our imagination of what our loved ones want, comes from God—who of course gave us the greatest gift of all.

Thank God for all you can see and imagine at this Christmas season

***

Let’s talk about this! What are some of your favorite Christmasy things or events? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below and get entered into the drawing to win a free book! Darlene is doing a giveaway of Christmas Mail Order Brides, which includes her novella Jacob’s Christmas Dream. *Give-away open to those in the continental US and is contingent upon a minimum of five comments left on today’s post. 

FINAL MOA vol 1Christmas Mail Order Brides: A dying town populated by miners eager to settle down. . .but not a single marriageable woman lives in Angel Vale, Wyoming. The women of Merville, Maine, have lost too many men to the Civil War and to the sea. When the Ladies Aid Society receives the request for mail order brides, eleven matches are made. Enjoy the first six novellas in the collection by Darlene Franklin, Susan Page Davis, Cynthia Hickey, Brandi Boddie, Jennifer AlLee, and Teresa Ives Lilly.

Best-selling author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to jan 21 15fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. She lives in Oklahoma, near her son and his family, and continues her interests in playing the piano and singing, books, good fellowship, and reality TV in addition to writing. She is an active member of Oklahoma City Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Christian Authors Network. She has written over fifty books and more than 250 devotionals. Her historical fiction ranges from the Revolutionary War to World War II, from Texas to Vermont.

Website and blog

Facebook

Amazon author page

A Thankful Heart

turkey-532962_640Sometimes gratitude pours from us, unbidden. Other times it’s an act of will; a determination to praise God in the hard and sad. Either way, God is worthy of our praise and worship. And regardless of what we’re going through, I believe cultivating a grateful heart makes life sweeter.

November is the month of giving thanks, but in today’s guest blog post Jodie Wolfe explains that thankfulness should be a part of our everyday lives. As you are reading don’t forget all the reasons you have to be thankful, this month and everyday.

A Thankful Heart by Jodie Wolfe

Can you believe it’s only a week until Thanksgiving? I don’t know about you, but this year has been flying by for me. Seeing Thanksgiving photos make me in the mood for a succulent feast. Of course I’ll be the one cooking it.

Thankfulness seems to go hand-in-hand with this month. As my boys were growing up we had a family tradition each Thanksgiving where we listed our praises from the following year. We kept a journal and recorded our appreciation so we could re-read it.

Being thankful doesn’t have to be limited to a certain holiday or time of year. In fact, according to this Bible verse, fall-591800_640anytime is a good time to be thankful. I’ve found the more I choose to be thankful, the more I’m aware of God’s many blessings He pours out each day.

Along with choosing to be thankful, don’t be surprised if you get thrown into situations which challenge your resolve. Keep firm in your decision. Don’t be swayed or falter.

Giving thanks each day is something you won’t regret. The more you do it the easier it is. Now is a good time to start having a thankful heart.

Jodie 2015Jodie Wolfe was bit by the writing bug as a young girl after reading and watching Little House on the Prairie. She loves writing stories about feisty heroines and strong, godly heroes. The power of story to influence lives and change hearts is what motivates her to weave tales that tell of the Savior’s faithfulness and forgiveness. Jodie is a columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine and had a devotion featured on Christian Devotions. She achieved semi-finalist status in the 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest and 3rd place in the 2015 Novel Beginnings at St. David’s Christian Writer’s Conference. She is represented by Linda S. Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency.

Jodie’s Website

Facebook Page

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! A couple years, after reading a verse I couldn’t for the life of me find this morning, I started something similar to what Jodie in our home. The verse talked about how God was revealed in all He’s done, and this really struck me–the idea that we could come to know God better, His heart, character, and love, by staying alert to His hand each day. So, at dinner, our family talked about something God had done that day and also something He’d done in our past, discussing what that event or God-moment revealed about Him. It was such a sweet time of really reflecting on the goodness of Christ and of bonding as a family.

Perhaps start a similar tradition in your home this Thanksgiving, one that, like Jodie suggested, extends beyond the holiday season.

Have you paused to count your blessings, and if so, what were the results? What are some ways you can create an atmosphere of praise and gratitude in your home this holiday season? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. Because we can all learn from each other!

Looking Beyond Ourselves

How deep, how far reaching, is your hope? Before you give the appropriate Christian answer, pause and evaluate your life. Your words. Those thoughts that whisper to you throughout the day and keep you awake at night.ID-100249429

Surrender. Releasing our life to a bigger plan, whether we can see the details or not. Looking past our momentary frustrations, pain and struggles to see God’s eternal plan.

Because, “if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NLT).

If this is all there is, God help us!

To pose the question asked by my pastor, Lance Burch from Reality Church, last Sunday: “What if our lives are bigger than we know?”

This was certainly the case for both Ruth and Boaz. When I read their story, being the romantic that I am, I zero in on their unfolding love. Boaz is Ruth’s provider and Ruth the sweet, loyal, nurturing wife and mother. *sigh* Such a tender example of true and holy love.

And yet, there’s an even bigger story unfolding in the pages of Ruth, a greater romance that calls out to all mankind, for Jesus is our Boaz, our kinsman redeemer, our deepest and truest love.

Pause to read Ruth 4:13-22 and Matthew 1:6-16.

The real story hidden within this beautiful romance is the wooing of Creator God as He laid the groundwork for His redemptive plan, which ultimately led to the greatest sacrifice mankind has ever known.

Ruth’s life was bigger than she realized; bigger, I believe, than she could have imagined.

As is ours. But I think, often we get so caught up in the I of our story, we lose sight of the Author. It’s His story, and we are but supporting roles. Directed by Him, for His glory, to point others not to ourselves but rather, to Him.

It’s funny, this following of God’s plan. When I first began to write full time, I became obsessed with “the dream”. My prayers were dominated by self-centeredness. Lord, help me get published. Grant me new opportunities. Grant me favor with the contest judges reading my work.

Kinda ugly. In fact, not long into it, God made it clear, my writing had become my idol, and God wanted me to let it go. To lay everything, my whole self, on the alter, and thus, my prayers changed as I began to recite the words of Romans 12:1-2, which I personalized as follows:

“Lord, in view of all You’ve done, in view of Your mercy and grace and the death You endured on the cross, for me, I offer my whole body to You as a living sacrifice. May this be my act of worship. Help me not to conform to the ways of this word but instead, transform me by renewing my mind. Help me to know and live Your good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

That is a prayer God has consistently honored.

As I uttered those words, sometimes multiple times throughout the day, asking God to give me the desire and strength to live them, a funny thing happened. Doors of opportunity began to open and publishers began to ask to see my work.

How exciting, right? What I prayed for years ago was finally beginning to happen! You’d think this would be cause for celebration, that I’d be ready to barge forward unhindered.

That wasn’t what happened. I’m not sure if I can explain the heaviness of what followed and the deep urgings that filled my heart, urgings I believe were birthed by Christ. As I turned yet again to God in prayer, I sensed so strongly and clearly that God was going to use me, and suddenly my inadequacies came into focus.

ID-10075996I knew I wasn’t ready. More than that, I knew I had a long way to go before I would be ready.

So once again my prayers changed. I began praying that God would humble me, remove my selfishness, grant me increased self-control, fill my mind and heart with His truth until everything else was pushed aside.

And once again, He honored that prayer… in a much different way than I’d ever anticipated.

I asked for humility. God gave me two humbling (and at times, very humiliating) chronic illnesses. I asked God to teach me truth. He granted me trial after trial that brought me to my knees in deep, sobbing prayers. I asked Him to remove my selfishness and He showed me, through the faithfulness of a terminally ill friend, what it meant to live for Christ.

In the course of three years, everything changed.

I changed.

My struggles centered my heart in Christ and His eternal plan, and it’s my pain and loss that have allowed me to love others in a deeper way than I ever could have, had I not first been broken.

“What if our lives are part of something bigger than we know” ~ Lance Burch, Reality Church

Don’t be the center of your story. Surrender everything to be part of something immensely, miraculously, mercifully eternal.

Let’s talk about this. I know today’s post is insanely long, but today’s lesson is the most important, I believe. We started this study talking about surrender, and that is how we’ll end it.

If we could but catch a glimpse of eternity, how our lives would change! Everything looks different in light of the cross.

Pause to prayerfully listen to this song.

Are You Repellant or Attractive

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

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

melodylodgekoct132_editedThe Attractive Light by Julie Arduini

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Entrusted FRONT Cover_editedEntrusted:

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

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

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

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

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

Buy it here.

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

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

Other posts you might enjoy:

Shining in the Dark

Are You Cancerous or Contagious