Photo by Stuart Miles taken from freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by Stuart Miles taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Sometimes I approach Thanksgiving with a bit of a hum-bug spirit, thinking of all the to-dos and obligations. Other times, like this year, I toss those to-dos and self-imposed expectations aside to simply be. To enjoy time with family, the colors of fall, the smell of roasting turkey.

This year feels especially significant as it’s our daughter’s first Thanksgiving home, post college. Oh, how we’ve missed her, which might seem strange, considering she’s only 45 minutes away, and comes home quite often. But if you’re a parent, you understand. Our hearts hold tight to those precious gifts God once placed firmly in our hands. Today my sweet friend and fellow ACFW writer Ginger Solomon tells us about a special Thanksgiving blessing she received one year. As you read her post, think of your family and the love that holds it together. Or, if family is tough, think of the close relationships God has developed in your life. And hold tight to them. Invest in them. And thank God for them

A Special Thanksgiving Blessing by Ginger Solomon 

On this day twenty-two years ago–well, technically yesterday, but it was Thanksgiving Day that year—I delivered a turkey of my own at 2:19 in the morning. My turkey weighed 9 lbs and measured twenty-two

Photo by kangshutters taken from freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by kangshutters taken from freedigitalphotos.net

inches long. He’s a big boy now, or rather a man, growing to a pretty tall 6’5”.

Every year, I give thanks for that child and the six others God has blessed me with.

Psalm 127:4-5 says, “Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” (NLT) Well, I’m not a young man, but I still feel blessed.

Many people thought I was crazy after I announced pregnancies four through seven. I mean really, didn’t I know what caused that? Yes, people did have the audacity to ask those types questions. Most times I just smiled and ignored them.

Sometimes when I took them all to the store with me, which I did have to do for a while—my oldest was thirteen when the baby was born—I’d get odd looks, or a my-you-have-your-hands-full.

But even though I had some tough days—as most moms do—I wouldn’t trade any one of them for the world. They are unique individuals and will bless society with their gifts and abilities.

IMG_0496My first child (24) will graduate from nursing school with an RN next month. Child two (22)—mentioned above—graduates in May with a BS in Engineering(Computer). Child number three (18) just started college, aiming for a BS in Engineering(Mechanical). Child number four (girl #1; 17) will graduate high school in May. She wants to be a children’s pastor. Children five through seven (15, 13, & 11) don’t quite know what they want to do yet, but whatever it is, I’m ready to be amazed by God.

So this Thanksgiving as you wipe dirty hands and faces, worry about spilled something, struggle with getting a child to bed because he or she ate too much dessert, be thankful. That child will grow up and teach you much about trusting God.

And if you don’t have a child of your own, or yours are grown, help a mom out when she looks a little frazzled. Carry her groceries. Wipe a face. Hold a hand. Clean up a spill. If you’re a stranger, offer to push her cart while she carries the baby or consoles the toddler. Pay for her groceries, her lunch, or just a can of soda.

Even if all you can offer is a smile, she will be grateful that you’re not frowning at her because her child is having a bad day.

I pray blessings on your family from our family. Happy Thanksgiving.

Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer — in that order (mostly). When Solomon author imagenot homeschooling her youngest four, doing laundry or fixing dinner, she writes or reads romance of any genre, some sci-fi/fantasy, and some suspense. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, president of her local writing group, and writes regularly for two blogs. In addition to all that, she loves animals, likes to do needlework (knitting, crocheting, and sometimes cross-stitch), and is a fan of Once Upon a Time and Dr. Who.

Visit her online at her Website, her group blog Inspy Romance, her Facebook Author Page, on Twitter @GingerS219 and Pinterest

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. What’s your Thanksgiving and Christmas look like? Will you have family close? For those who have strained family relationships or are mourning the loss of loved ones, I’m sorry. That’s tough. I hope you have a strong support group around you to help you enjoy this time. I hope you’ll find a way to make Thanksgiving special, however that looks for you. For those who will get to spend time with their loves ones, don’t let the to-dos take away from the must-dos of showing love, spending time, sharing laughter… eating massive quantities of pumpkin pie. With a decaf, almond milk latte, of course!

 

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. 🙂 This summer our daughter volunteered at a children’s center in downtown Omaha where she taught kiddos to art. For one of the projects she had them design a comic book, and here’s the example she created.

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comicbookpageone

 

comicbookpage2

comicbookending

 

Gonna miss this girl. She leaves for college in about two weeks. Reading my numerous, empty-nesting Facebook posts, a friend from church posted this video and tagged my husband and I. I’m sure you can envision the amount of tears it initiated!


Motherhood, the greatest blessing God has ever granted. Letting go is proving much harder than I’d imagined, and yet, I’m blessed beyond measure to know our daughter is walking with her Savior. Her life has been clear evidence of that.

Love you, girl!

Oh, and before you go, to my Papio/Omaha Metro friends, you’re coming to the Streets Got Talent tomorrow, right? Because it’s going to be awesome, and it’s going to help us at Takin’ it to the Streets feed a lot of hungry people! Find out more HERE!

Photo by jesadaphorn taken from freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by jesadaphorn taken from freedigitalphotos.net

There’s nothing more frustrating than looking back on a busy, tiring day and realizing you’ve accomplished nothing. Or at least, nothing of value. Or to embark on a task, perhaps seven or eight times in a day, only to be distracted, seven or eight times.

We all have those days, right? Times when our lack of focus, lack of prioritizing, eats up our productivity. But we mustn’t let those times of distraction and futility, of wasted effort, become a norm.

We all have countless opportunities set before us each day, sometimes even great opportunities, eternally impacting opportunities, but that doesn’t mean each one is for us. God has carved out a unique path for each one of us. He’s created us, gifted us, molded and equipped us, to fill a very specific role.

I love how Ephesians 2:10 puts it: “For you are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned for us long ago” (NLT).

We are God’s masterpiece! That word grabs me every time. As does the ending of the verse, “He planned for us long ago.”

It reminds me that God has a plan, a very good and very specific plan, for my life. My role is to discover that plan and follow it ps37v23to24jpgwith everything within me, resisting the constant pull to be everything to everyone. Rather, I am to give everything–my time, energy, thoughts, and actions–to the Son.

Proverbs 4:25-27 says “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on that safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil” (NLT).

This verse speaks of determined focus, of perseverance, of intentionality. Of zeroing in on whatever it is Christ is calling me to do each day. Which implies taking the time to discover what He’s calling me to do. Which in turn implies taking the time to prayerfully read His Word each morning.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What about you? What is God calling you to do today? Raise your children or grandchildren to love and honor Christ? Reveal Christ’s love and grace in your work place? Serve in a church ministry with excellence? Are you doing that with focus, perseverance, and intentionality? Are you giving your whole self to that task, or have you allowed nonessentials to leave you divided? What time-sappers have you allowed in your day that hinder your effectiveness? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

We can’t do it all. Each day, we’re going to have to let something go. Let’s let those things go intentionally so that we can “fix our eyes on what lies before us.”

For all the mommas of little ones out there, my friend (and the marketing manager of New Hope Publishers) has a series I know you’ll find encouraging and inspiring. You can read about that here.

You might also be interested in:

Are the Little Things Really Little? 

In the Little Things

Called and Accountable by Henry T. Blackaby and Norman C. Blackaby

Before I go, I wanted to announce the winners of last week’s give away! Maryann, congrats! You won a copy of the Shepherd’s Song! I’ll be contacting you shortly to chat about the best way to get that novel to you. And, there’s still time to enter the drawing to receive a copy of Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s book Praying Upside Down. You can do so here.

Before I go, I wanted to invite you listen to a radio interview I did Tuesday. You can do so here:

I also encourage you to sign up for my (really, our, as I and the Faith, Friends, and Chocolate gals put it out together) free quarterly newsletter, which is packed with great stuff–a serial story, short stories, recipes, devotions, and more!


Receive our fiction, recipes, and updates each quarter by email

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“If that was God’s miracle, I want nothing to do with you, God.”A Call to Praise icon 2

God doesn’t always show up as we expect, nor does always play out as we desire. But does that mean He isn’t good? Does the chaos of our world in any way diminish or contradict His sovereignty?

I almost find it funny, one of my greatest fears has always been that of myself or my loved ones experiencing physical pain. When my husband donated a kidney, and I watched him struggle through those first few nights of recovery in intense pain, I thought I was going to come undone. When my daughter got shingles and cried out to both me and God, my heart literally shred. And for myself, I spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to avoid physical pain.

So what’d God do? He allowed me to develop a condition characterized by unrelenting pain. Sense of humor? Cruelty? Or grace characterized by incomprehensible mercy and grace? I’ve come to realize it’s the latter, and though I don’t have the time or space here to expand, one of the greatest gifts I’ve received from suffering are explained in Carol’s beautiful post below.

But first, I wanted to announce the winner of last week’s give away! Jennifer Hallmark, congrats! You won a copy of Jan Pierce’s book, Home Grown Readers! I’ll shoot you an email soon to chat about the best way to get that to you.

The Beauty of His Sovereignty by Carol McClain

“As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes…The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.” Ps. 103: 15 -19

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Photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Life in my twenties had been hard, and as things spiraled out of control, a Christian family, with children nearer to my age than I was to the parents, befriended me.

At that time, my daughter was three. She was bright and beautiful and pleasant. Never would she be a Mother Teresa changing the lives of the less fortunate, or an Angelina Jolie, gorgeous and altruistic. She may never be extraordinary to the world, but she is my reason for living.

When life got too difficult, I would strap Sarah into her bike seat and peddle a mile down the road to my neighbors. Once inside their home, the presence of Christ would descend. Sarah would hurry to their TV and watch Mr. Rogers. I would bask in the faith of Marge and Al. This was the only place I allowed myself to feel God.

One day, dear friends of theirs visited. With them was their grandson. He was my daughter’s age but had severe cerebral palsy. Still in a high chair, Alex couldn’t feed himself, control his arms, or any other part of his body for that matter. On this particular day, while my perfect, little girl sat mesmerized at the TV, Alex stuck out his tongue.

“That is a miracle of God,” Al said. “Alex demonstrates God’s infinite love.”

Everyone agreed.

I, on the other hand, sat in shocked silence. If that was God’s miracle, I want nothing to do with you, God.

The usual warmth of their home vanished as I bristled at what I deemed to be God’s unfairness.

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Photo by Samuiblue taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Yet, the comment of God’s miracle clung to me like thistle seeds. I rode home, fixed dinner for my family, prepared Sarah for bed. That night, I lay alone in my bed and brooded about Alex. From a young age, I understood the immensity of eternity. This life is a blink of the eye compared to forever. Alex suffered for a heartbeat. In heaven, he’d have perfect limbs, a fine mind and a crown of jewels greater than I could imagine.

And my daughter? Today her life excels more than mine. She’s more philanthropic than I’ve ever been. A better mother. Has a marriage that works beautifully. She’s attractive. Smart. Never will she win a Nobel Prize. But because of Alex, of those like him who suffer through his days that are like grass, a flower in the field, I’ve always relished her perfection—the sunlight-gold of her hair, the slant of her eyebrows, her good grades, her hand-holding, sitting on my lap (even today). Every little thing about her delights me.

The hard things of life show us how blessed we are. They demonstrate the miracle of God. We are His creation. Belonging to Him, He has free reign. If we suffer—it’s but for a moment, but it brings with it exceeding great joy.

Alex is a key to my salvation. And his life, like ours, reaches out across our suffering and shows the beauty of God’s sovereignty.

***

Carol McClain is an erstwhile English teacher, a bassoonist and a stained-glass artist with an eclectic array of other interests. She lives in the frozen reaches of northern NY and will, this summer, trade her Yankee ways for Tennessee.

UnknownHer debut novel is DWF: Divorced White Female. In this humorous women’s fiction, sassy and unsaved Cheryl Chandler knows only one thing will save her from her husband’s desertion: a man—any man so long as he’s hot. Somehow she has to find him. Eventually, he has to meet her kids. The first problem is solved by her children who sign her up on an online dating site. The second problem? She’s stuck.

DWF is available wherever ebooks are sold. The print copy can be found on Amazon.

Let’s talk about this. What events or situations have brought the livingbygracepic.jptruth of eternity and God’s sovereignty home for you? Have you ever struggled with this, and if so, why? How has God helped you in your struggle? What do you find most difficult to accept regarding this truth? What do you find most comforting? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. 

For those of you following our Call to Praise Blog Hop, make sure to join me Saturday on Ginger Solomon’s as I wrap this series up.

For my writer friends who periodically struggle with fear, join me on the Write Conversation as I talk about Finding Freedom From Fear.

For my local friends, make sure to mark your calendars for two Pamperingupcoming events:

Saturday morning, April 18th from 10-11:30, join me at Reality Church in LaVista for some intense pampering, including free mani-pecs and (also free!) childcare! Sign up here!

Afterward, join me at Barnes and Noble from 2-5ish pm where I’ll be talking about my latest release and signing copies. Find more information here, and use the “invite a friend” link to invite your friends. Let me know if you plan on coming, and maybe we can chat over coffee after.

Oh, I almost forgot! I can now officially share the cover of my next book, releasing in winter of 2016! I’m really excited about this one, because there’s an amazing miracle-God’s-sovereign story that follows. I can’t wait to share.

Intertwined_N154121Intertwined:

Abandoned by her husband, an organ procurement coordinator fighting to keep her job and her sanity encounters an old flame facing an unthinkable tragedy.

For Tammy Kuhn, being an organ procurement coordinator is more than a job. It’s a ministry. But when her husband of sixteen years leaves her for another woman, struggles with childcare, her absentee ex-husband, and an altercation with a doctor threaten her job. Embittered and overwhelmed, she fights to maintain her sanity when a late night encounter with an old flame stirs emotions long since buried but the ICU is no place for romance.

You can pre-order it here, or, shop locally and help our bookstores survive and thrive and order the book through Divine Truth Christian Bookstore, and tell them you want it signed. I’d be more than happy to pop in and oblige!

I’m fairly certain motherhood is synonymous with worry. Few things have tested and grown my faith like parenting, and with our daughter less than a year from college, my prayers are growing more frequent and fervent! Perhaps you can relate.

Stephanie Landsem-106Today biblical fiction author Stephanie Landsem expands on a well-known but ever-needed verse. As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of her novel to one reader from the continental US, randomly selected from the comments left on today’s post.

But first, for those of you who are following our Call to Praise blog hop, I encourage you to join me on Carol Mclain’s as I chat about the appetite of vengeance. To follow the remaining stops on our blog hop, go here.

Victory over Worry by Stephanie Landsem

Martha let out a held breath. Judas had voiced her own thoughts. If she didn’t worry about what to eat, who would? The grain didn’t appear in the jar each morning. The bread didn’t bake itself . . . Martha stalked from the room to get the meat. It was easy for him to say to stop worrying. If he knew all she had to worry about, perhaps he would understand. (excerpt from The Tomb, A Novel of Martha)

Like Martha, many of us women—wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters—are ‘anxious and worried about many things’, and with good reasons. Our lives are complicated, our world filled with dangers, both physical and spiritual. And yet Jesus tells us to stop worrying, to choose the ‘better part’. But, as Martha asks in The Tomb, how are we supposed to stop worrying?

The dictionary defines worry as this: to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts. And that is certainly what we do, isn’t it?

We start with what we know. For example, a child isn’t home yet from visiting friends and so we start with the ‘what ifs’. What if he got in an accident? What if he’s in the hospital?

Or perhaps we’ve got a health concern. Our minds go immediately to the worst: What if it’s cancer? How will I manage? What about my family, my job, my insurance coverage?

As worriers we let our minds go into all those dark places, turning them over, considering the horrors, and

Photo by Stuart Miles taken from freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by Stuart Miles taken from freedigitalphotos.net

soon we’re literally sick with worry.

But Jesus says in Luke chapter 12: Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? 26 If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 

Jesus is asking us to stop tormenting ourselves. Yes, we may have worries. About our children, our jobs, ourselves. But we can’t allow our thoughts to dwell on all the bad things that may or may not happen. When we are tempted—and it is a temptation because Satan wants us to worry—we must make a conscious decision to turn our thoughts away from the darkness and toward the light.

One way is to turn to prayer. Some of the most beautiful prayers of the Psalms are about trust and can calm our minds and soothe our fears, while keeping us from heading down that tempting dark tunnel:

Hear, O Lord, have mercy on me; Lord be my helper. Psalm 30:11

You are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead and guide me. Psalm 31:4

Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14

Or, we can repeat the most simple prayer of all: Jesus, I trust in you.

It’s not easy to stop ourselves from worrying. Sometimes we’ll fail. Sometimes we’ll give in and head down that dark tunnel. Yet, even then, Jesus will be waiting for us to come back into the light, just as he waited for Martha on the road outside Bethany, to come to him, to put her trust in him even as her brother lay dead in his tomb, and say:

“Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

Tomb blog tour buttonThe Tomb:

In this captivating retelling of a classic biblical story, Jesus shocks the town of Bethany with Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead, leading Martha—a seemingly perfect woman trapped by the secrets of her past—to hope and a new life.

Everyone in Bethany admires Martha—the perfect Jewish woman. She feeds and clothes her loved ones, looks after the family farm, and meticulously follows every precept of the Pharisees’ strict laws. But Martha is hiding a secret. At her sister’s marriage feast, she gave her heart and her innocence to a young musician who promised to return and marry her, but instead betrayed her love and abandoned her.

Seven years later, only two people in Bethany know of Martha’s secret sin: her brother, Lazarus, and Simon, the righteous Pharisee to whom Martha is betrothed. When Lazarus falls ill, Martha is faced with a choice: send for Jesus to save her dying brother—risking the wrath of Simon who threatens to betray her—or deny Jesus’ healing power and remain trapped in her tomb of secrecy and lies.

Meanwhile, on the shores of Galilee, Isa roams the wilderness, tortured by demons and knowing only that someone is waiting for him. When he is healed by Jesus, he finds that seven years have passed since his descent into madness. Isa journeys home to Bethany only to find he is too late to win back Martha’s love.

When Martha risks all to heal Lazarus, will Jesus arrive in time, or will he—like Isa—come too late?

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! I’m a big believer in memorizing Scripture and think doing so is one of the best ways we can counter negative thinking and center our mind and hearts in truth. Prayer is another power source given to us by Christ, and when we combine  prayer with Scripture, which is praying the very Words of Christ, we’ve positioned ourselves for victory! Have you prayed Scripture before? At the end of her post, Stephanie shared some wonderful prayers from the Psalms. What are some verses you like to pray? If you haven’t prayed Scripture, why not start? It truly is a beautiful, peace-inducing way to pray! Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. 

I also encourage you to sign up for my free, quarterly newsletter, which I and 7 other Christian authors put out. In it, you’ll receive scenes from a serial story available only through the newsletter, devotions, short stories of mixed genres, recipes, and more!

You might also like:

Praying the Scriptures for Your Children

Prayer Fatigue by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

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Shannon and I at the ACFW conference in 2009. Or 2010. I can never remember!

Moms, do you ever feel like the gimmees have infiltrated your home? Like your child’s main focus is himself? Since our ancestor Adam first bit of the forbidden fruit, mankind has been dominated by selfishness. Yet, according to many, this generation is the worst. I’m not sure if that’s true or if technology simply makes our character flaws more evident, but regardless of where we measure up compared to those who lived before us, it’s no secret, we’ve got a bad case of the MEs! Our children included. So how do we counter this constant pull toward selfishness? Today multi-published author Shannon Taylor Vannattor shares her thoughts with us.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of her romance novel, Rodeo Family, to a reader randomly selected in the comments left on today’s post.

But first, I want to announce last week’s winner. Pat Dyer, congrats! You won an e-copy of Stephanie Prichard’s novel, Stranded. I’ll email you shortly to discuss the best way for her to get that to you.

(Shannon, we need a new picture! Let’s plan to go to a conference together soon!)

Children Learn by Example by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

From the time my son’s motor skills were firing, whenever we went shopping before Christmas, I’ve given him money to put in the Salvation Army buckets. Anything from one to five dollars. I’ve always explained that the money is to buy Christmas gifts for kid’s whose parents don’t have any money. By the end of the season, we probably contribute $200.00.

Over the years, he’s kept me accountable. If I don’t have any cash, he gives me the I-can’t-believe-we-just-snubbed-the-bellringer look. When we check out, I add cash back to my total, so we can put money in on the way out. We also take coats my son has outgrown to the bellringers.

At thirteen, he tries to get me to put the money in these days, but I still make him do it. Hopefully, someday far in the future, he’ll teach his child to put money in the bucket.

For the last several years, our church has donated shoeboxes to the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child ministry. After all the money and items are donated, my son and I volunteer to shop for items with the donated funds. Before our shoebox packing party, he goes with me to the church and helps me sort all the items and set up tables by age and gender. At the packing party, my son packs shoeboxes for a boy his age.

The other night, we were watching Survivorman, one of his favorite shows. The host goes to remote areas and gives tips on how to survive if you get lost. Survivorman was in Papua New Guinea. He got sick and the villagers offered him shelter. They lived in huts with slatted walls you could see daylight through.

I took the opportunity to explain to my son that the kids who get our shoeboxes live in houses like that.

His eyes saucered. “Really?”

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Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

This past year, as the packing party neared, I had a horrible virus and was afraid he’d been exposed. We didn’t get to do the shopping or help pack boxes. I missed it and wondered if he did. I hope seeing those children living in such poverty made him anxious to pack shoeboxes next year.

For local ministry, we have a battered women’s shelter in our area. Over the years, we’ve donated furniture, clothes, and toys. Our church takes any leftover meals from funerals to the shelter and our members have bought Christmas gifts for the kids. We have to call and let them know we’re coming, especially if there are men helping with deliveries. My son has been there on several occasions.

Our association of twenty-three churches recently bought a food services van. Once it’s finished, the van will go anywhere in Arkansas where a natural disaster has occurred, serve food, and witness to survivors. Arkansas is in the middle of tornado valley. I’m hoping this summer, we can take a training course as a family and be available for this ministry when tragedy strikes.

By including my son in helping others, I hope all of the small gestures we make stick with him. That he’ll always remember there are those less fortunate than us and that he’ll always be willing to help.

Rodeo Family coverRodeo Family:

TORI EATON IS READY TO START OVER 

She’s beginning a new chapter in Aubrey, Texas, away from her abusive ex-boyfriend. As she picks up the pieces of her broken life, Tori’s surprised at the helping hand the church’s new song director, Brant McConnell, offers her, and at the warm emotions he inspires.

Brant is drawn to Tori. And as their friendship grows, so do his feelings for her. But Tori is still hounded by her past, and the walls she’s built around her heart are high. Can he convince the wounded beauty that he’s exactly the kind of man she needs—and deserves?

Buy it on Christian Book Distributors here!

Get it from Amazon here!

Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.

She has ten published titles and is contracted for five more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Visit her website here to learn more about Shannon and her books and check out her real life romance blog here to read true stories from other writers. 

Connect with her on FacebookGoodreadsPinterest, and Twitter by searching: @stvauthor.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this!Raising godly children is such a tremendous responsibility and such an incredible honor. What a blessing to think God has entrusted us with these most precious gifts. May everything we do honor that great calling we have received. What are some family habits or events that have produced positive behaviors in your children? What are some things you are doing now to grow certain character traits in your children? What are some behaviors you’d like to counter, and what are some ways you can do that? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before you go, I have some fun news! My debut novel, Beyond I Do is on sale at a limited time for $3.34 in print and kindle form! If you haven’t read it yet but have been wanting to, now’s a great time! You also might want to stock up on Mother’s Day gifts, birthday gifts, and next year’s Christmas gifts! 🙂 Because the book presents a clear gospel message, some readers have been buying numerous copies to give to nonbelieving friends as evangelism tools.

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

Yesterday on Takin’ it to the Streets’ blog, I reminded readers to rest in God’s strength. You can read more here.

I also visited A Word of Encouragement to discuss the question: Is venting biblical. You can read more about that here.

Tuesday I visited fellow Living by Grace hostess, Maria Morgan’s blog to share how God used one woman’s surrender to bless many during Reality Church’s first ever Women’s Connection Event. You can read about that here.

On Monday I stopped by Novel Rocket to discuss ways for writers to keep their heads in storyworld when life tries to pull them from it. You can read more about that here. 

I also stopped by Karen Beery’s blog to discuss Christian fiction and how imperfect characters reveal God’s grace. You can read that here. 

I also visited Writing Prompts to  chat with my sweet friend, Jennifer Hallmark, contributor to A Dozen Apologies and Sweet Freedom. You can join the conversation here.

On InspyRomance.com, I shared some ways you can revive a dead marriage (or make a strong marriage stronger). You can read my suggestions here. 

Finally, on Friday I visited with Lena Nelson Dooley, where I shared a bit about my novel and an excerpt. You can join that conversation here.  One of the characters in When Dawn Breaks stopped by Infinite Characters to talk about widowhood and true love. You can read that here. 

OLATHE_Slattery signing_JAN15-FBAnd before I go, for those of you in driving distance to Olathe, KS, I hope you’ll join me next Saturday (Jan. 31st) at Lifeway Christian Book store where I’ll be signing copies of both my books, then afterwards, whoever wants to is invited to join me and some other authors at Homer’s Coffeehouse in Overland Park to chat about books and other pure randomness while we gorge ourselves on heavily-flavored coffee! Holly Michael, author of Crooked Lines will be there. Yay!

Throw back Thursday--I took this picture of our princess on a special family day. Memories matter, and time passes quickly. Make it count.
Throw back Thursday–I took this picture of our princess on a special family day. Memories matter, and time passes quickly. Make it count.

Oh, my, does today’s post hit me smack in my momma-heart. With our princess so near launch age, everything in our home has become more… intentional. Because we know our time is short, and we want every moment to count. It’s like we’re trying to cram all these memories into her already exploding brain. I’m not sure if these memories are for her or us. 😉 I suspect both.

I often say, parenting is the hardest, most important, most rewarding, heart-wrenching and heart-lifting job a person can have. And there aren’t any do-overs.

Okay, so that thought sent a jolt of adrenaline shooting through my gut. Let’s just say, there are numerous moments I’d like to do-over. But praise God He’s in the restoring, healing, transforming business and can turn my biggest parenting mistake into something beautiful. (If anything, I’ve helped our daughter see plenty of things she doesn’t want to do when she becomes a parent. ha!)

Maria headshot LLBDToday my sweet friend and fellow Living by Grace hostess, Maria Morgan, shares her thoughts on influential parenting. If you haven’t read her book to your kiddos yes, you absolutely must. I’ve heard it’s becoming many children’s favorite.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy (I believe e-version) of her children’s book, Louie’s Big Day! The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments left on today’s post. 

Making Your Influence Count

By

Maria I. Morgan

What kind of influence are you having on your kids? Our only child will be getting married in less than a month, and over the course of her engagement I’ve had ample time to reflect on that very question.

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. It comes with both wonderful experiences and some difficult challenges. In spite of all of our parenting blunders, I’m confident the Lord will continue to work in our daughter’s life. God’s Word is reassuring:

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

No guarantees

To the best of our ability we’ve pointed our girl to the Savior and tried to live out what God’s Word teaches. I’m so thankful for His grace where we’ve fallen short.

As parents, we have a big responsibility to teach and counsel our kids based on the truths of the Bible. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for families that began with a godly heritage to walk away from the Lord a generation or two later.

A sad commentary

Remember Ahaziah? His grandfather was Jehoshaphat. God’s Word describes Jehoshaphat as a man who,

“…sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.” 2 Chronicles 17:4

But Ahaziah’s father, Jehoram, decided to follow a different path. He married Athaliah, a woman who worshipped idols, and he chose to follow in the footsteps of the previous kings of Israel. In the space of one generation, the true God had been denied.

The advice of a mother

By the time Ahaziah began ruling Israel after his father died, he was already entrenched in evil practices. His mother had left a lasting impression on him:

“…for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly. Wherefore he did evil in the sight of the Lord like the house of Ahab: for they were his counselors after the death of his father to his destruction.” 2 Chronicles 22:3b-4

I’m thankful for the examples of others who chose to follow God in spite of parents who were unbelievers. Godly parenting doesn’t guarantee godly children. Each person must decide who to follow: God or Satan.

This doesn’t negate our parental responsibility to teach our children the truth of God’s Word. Each day as we submit to the Lord and clothe ourselves with His armor, He will equip us with the ability to do so.

Your turn

Are you leaning on the Lord as you parent your children? What step will you take today to teach your kids God’s truth?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for working in my life and the lives of my kids even when I fail. I know I’m not 100% responsible for how my children turn out, because each of them was created with a free will. But I also know I am responsible for teaching them Ad for December issue Book Fun Magazine-page-001Your truth. Help me to do so today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*It’s so important to teach our kids godly truths. And just in time for Christmas, I’ve released a children’s book that can serve as a tool to help accomplish that goal. Louie’s BIG day! features timeless characters who learn about purpose and friendship. The book concludes with questions to stimulate conversation and help re-emphasize biblical concepts. It’s fun for the whole family! Available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon.

Maria Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker who has a passion for sharing God’s love and truth with others. Visit her online at MariaMorgan.com

***

Let’s talk about this! Life can get so busy, and there are so many issues we as parents or grandparents must deal with *now*. And yet, I’ve found I can get so busy chasing fires, it’s easy to lose sight of my longterm plan. How am I preparing our princess for adulthood? Am I pointing her to Scripture? In our discussions, am I speaking love, grace, and truth?

livingbygracepic.jpI encourage you to ask yourself those same questions. Are you parenting with intentionality? What can you do, starting today, to build spiritual truths into your children? Make a realistic and attainable plan, then start today. I encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas with us. Then we can all learn from one another. What makes intentional parenting challenging for you? What have you found to work? How do you free up time in your crazy-busy week to train up your children and build lasting and meaningful memories? Share your thoughts here or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

 

I’ve often said parenting is the most excruciatingly rewarding job I’ll ever possess. Last night we had parent teacher conferences and learned of some things that made my mamma-bear rise up. I’ve been in prayer over this situation since, and though my husband and I feel the need to address the issue, we also realize God is using the incident to grow and strengthen our daughter. Nothing can level a parent like seeing their children struggle. Today fellow ACFW writer Karen Jurgens shares a similar situation and what she learned from it.

 

But first, I want to congratulate the winner of last week’s book drawing. Lourdes Montes, congrats! You won a copy of Smokey Mountain Investigation by Annslee Urban! I’ll be contacting you shortly. 🙂 

The Heat of Trials by Karen Jurgens

IMG_1360Years ago, I had lunch with my six-year-old daughter who was enrolled in a day camp during her father’s summer custody. She sat at a long, metal table dominoed on each side with children wilted from the noon heat. Brightening as I approached, she smiled at me with eyes that longed for freedom. The heat index that Texas afternoon was 108 degrees.

“Mommy.” Her enormous blue eyes sparkled with tears. “I wish I could go with you right now and get out of this heat. I’m sooo hot.

I smoothed the damp hair back from her face and examined the freckles on her sun-scorched nose. Longing to grab up my baby and head for the air-conditioning, I was forced instead to forget my agony for her by offering up words of comfort, along with a drink of ice water I had brought along.

“Honey, it’s almost over. You get to come home in a few days. Just wait a little while longer.”

I continued to tell her about all the wonderful, cool things we would do together. She seriously digested my words along with her Lunchable. When it was time to head back to the playground, she hugged me as hard as she could and took a final, cold drink. I watched her trudge off, still hot and sticky from the heat, but filled with hope that this uncomfortable time would come to an end.

As I drove away, now with tears in my eyes, I thought of Jesus who sees us through our trials in much the same way. As we cry out to Him to rescue us from the fierce heat of trials and persecution, He comes to us with His reassuring presence, bringing us living waters to revive our parched spirits. He often chooses not to take us out of the trial, but rather to carry us through the heat.

Remember the Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who walked through the fiery flames with the Lord by their side? The ID-100188329king had sentenced them to death for refusing to fall down and worship him, thus casting them into a furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. The king’s wide-eyed incredulity witnessed four men walking around in the midst of the fire. When he called to the three Hebrew boys to come out, he was amazed that not only were they not burned, but there was not even the smell of smoke upon them.

When our spirits are hot and weary from the fiery flames of life, Jesus is waiting to bring comfort. Drink deeply of the icy, cool water of His Word. Allow the Comforter to whisper encouragement to your spirit to be patient a little while longer.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing;” (1 Peter 4:12-13a NASB).

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1Peter 5:10).

“And let the one who is thirsty, come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Revelation 22:17b NASB).

Take heart, beloved, the end is in sight.

***

Karen Jurgens has been a high school English and French teacher all her life. She has recently retired and is beginning a ministry to encourage others going through life’s trials. Her current WIP is about her own powerful testimony. She speaks to Christian groups and blogs at KarenJurgens.com.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this! Are you in a trial right now? How might knowing God sees you and is walking beside you–even carrying you–help? As a parent, do you struggle with seeing your children go through trials? How might remembering God loves and is with them help? During a difficult time, for you our your children, how might focusing on God’s character give you peace and strength? Share some of God’s character traits you find most encouraging. You can share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace. 

For those of you who have been following my blog tour, here’s where I’ve been this week:

On Friday I visited Everyone’s Story to talk about one word that makes all the difference, regardless what task or endeavor we undertake. You can read my piece here.

On Inspy Romance I finally finished my serial story. You can read the ending here, and if you haven’t been following, you can follow the links on the page to read the other portions of the story.

I’ve been on Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s blog three times this week, sharing a real life romance story, doing a character interview, and on Friday, she’ll post an excerpt. You can read my real life romance here. You can get to know Ainsley, the heroine in Beyond I Do, here.

I also visited Christine Lindsay’s blog to talk about… heart rot. You can read that post here.

Yesterday I received a pleasant surprise when a friend alerted me to a post Shannon Vannatter wrote, in which she mentioned a fun memory, my second novel, and why she purchased a copy of Beyond I Do. You can read that here.

Today I’m on Zoe McCarthy’s sharing my thoughts on something that will probably get me in trouble. 😉 You can read that post here.

Have a blessed fall day. 🙂

 

Two brothers, one blessing, and a mother who effectively turns one against the other. Family dysfunction forever recorded in the pages of Scripture.
How would you like to leave that as your legacy?
cookdishwashing001Legacy.
Does that word make you cringe? If you’re a parent, I’m pretty sure you’ve struggled

with guilt, fear, and feelings of defeat on more than one occasion. Maybe daily! As I was listening to my Pandora this morning, lyrics I heard really encouraged me. Of course, now I can’t recall them, but in essence, the singer said each day he’d give all he had, and that would be his legacy.
Pause to consider that for a moment. When everything goes crazy and it’s all you can do to keep those nasty thoughts from flying off your tongue, give your all.
When your kids are sick, or crabby, the air conditioner breaks, and your bank account dwindles, and you haven’t got a dime to spare. When it’s all you can do to share a smile and maybe a cup of tea with a lonely neighbor, give your all.
When you want to serve in a half a dozen places but time, young children underfoot, or a failing body holds you back, and it’s all you can do to send out emails or phone calls or encouraging texts, give your all.
That will be your legacy, and that is enough. Because worship and surrender is a heart issue.
Today my sweet friend talks about giving God our all when our self rises up, demanding our full attention. As you read her thoughts on perhaps the most famous feuding brothers in all history, consider her question: How do we–how do you–know when we’re seeking God’s best?
beth picSeeking His Best by Beth Farely
There is such deception that takes place between Jacob and Esau. The brothers both wanted their father’s blessing, but Jacob eventually stole Esau’s blessing. They were seeking their own selfish best, not God’s. Genesis 25:29-34
How do we know if we are seeking God’s best for our lives and not seeking self-gratification? I admit there have been times in my life where I get into a mood and feel that I can do whatever I want and convince myself it will work for me. That is not an example of seeking God’s best for my life.
Stay Focused
When I am focused on something I’ve desired, it always has a way of showing up. A huge piece of cake, an over-spending shopping trip; a white lie…yup, there they are right there in front of me.  Are they God’s best? Absolutely not!
Stay in the Word
What does it mean to seek God’s best? It means seeking His will by being in His Word–reading the Bible daily. It really means giving up of self and adding more of Him in your life. Like Esau and Jacob, we can become jealous of others and allow that jealousy to rob us of God’s best for our lives. Unbelievers may see this as God being the dictator of our lives because He calls the shots. But He is not a dictator; He gave us the free will to choose. Jacob and Esau didn’t have to be so jealous and evil toward each other; God did not choose that for them.
Stay in His Will
God holds the key to an abundant, joy-filled life. His way is really the best way. The world tells us to make our own path, to do it “my way.” But the Bible teaches that true freedom comes from living under the loving care of our heavenly Father. Understanding how God’s sovereignty impacts our lives helps us enjoy a life of greater meaning and purpose; His perfect purpose.
Beth Ann Farley lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband and six grown children and 13 grandchildren. She wrote for www.bookfun.org., Toot n’ Town magazine. She has recently been published with Landline magazine, Teachers in Focus, Horse & Rider, Mature Years, Indian Life and Wesleyan Publishing.  Her poetry has been featured in Sweet Freedom written by Jennifer Slattery. She’s guest blogged on thewriteconversation@blogspot.com by Edie Melson and Poppy Smith’s Inspiring Women to Thrive blog. Beth is a co-host on Living by Grace, a faith-based Facebook community. She often writes for the Senior Smart Network; a network devoted to senior citizens. Visit her online at FirstHalfDay.
LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Do you ever wish you could do more for God? What are you doing with what He’s giving you today? Are you seeking His best in every moment, in the gunk and the joys? Because he who is faithful in the little things will also be faithful with the big. 😉
As a fun aside, I recently learned my novel is now available for purchase in ebook form and at a discount–under $8 in fact! You can get your copy from CBD here.
Other news and updates–seems I’ve been all across the web this week. Join me on fellow LbG hostess Maria Morgan’s blog as I talk about my novel and what God’s been showing me about faithfulness. You can read that here.
On Internet Cafe’ Devotions I talked about our need to cultivate listening ears. You can read this here.
With school starting and all the chaos that brings, I wrote an article for Crosswalk on how we can live by the Spirit when life gets crazy. You can read that here.
Last Friday I chatted with another LbG hostess, Jessica R. Patch about my writing and my debut. You can read that interview here.
On Saturday I visited with Crystal Barnes from Stitches in Time. Join us here.
Monday I chatted with fellow ACFW author Casey Herringshaw. Join us here.
And finally, yesterday I camped out over at Takin’ it to the Streets where I talked about slipping and falling, and responding to others who do the same. You can read this devotion here. (And don’t forget to mark your calendar for our first annual Hope for the Homeless event, coming next month!)
That’s all that’s new with me. 🙂 Now it’s your turn! Share your thoughts, your news, your celebrations with us over at Living by Grace on FB or in the comments below.