Reaching Out to the Broken

We’ve all had times when the world seems to be pressing down on us. When we receive tragic news and are in desperate need of comfort. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (NLT).

God sees every tear we cry and, amidst our pain, reaches down to comfort us–most often through His children.  Today author Sandra Robbins shares a touching and courageous story of how God used her to bring comfort to a precious woman facing the unimaginable.

Reaching Out on an Airport Shuttle by Sandra Robbins

People who know me find it hard to believe that I am really a rather reserved person. I have never had trouble standing before an audience to speak or to sing. In college I received a degree in music with the piano as my major instrument, and I have never feared playing in front of large groups. The problem for me has always been the one-on-one experience when I must put myself out there to another person. I am very private and don’t share my thoughts easily even though I encourage others to do that with me.

So when it comes to reaching out to another individual I find myself out of my comfort zone. A few years ago, though, I had an experience where God urged me to respond to someone I didn’t even know but who was evidently suffering.

I was excited that day as I arrived at the airport to fly to Texas for a visit with my daughter’s family. But I wasn’t as excited as were the men on the packed shuttle bus that picked me up in parking lot. Since this was during March Madness, I knew right away from their clothing and their boisterous voices that they were on their way to a basketball game. I squeezed past the ones standing in the aisle and reached a bench that ran along the side of the bus. I sat down, my knees almost touching a woman sitting on the bench facing me.

A man sat beside her, his arm around her shoulder, and she shook with sobs as she stared at a picture in her hand. I was stunned to find someone in so much agony sitting in the midst of so much merriment. Although I tried to look away, something made me reach out and touch her knee. When she looked up, I said, “Is there something I can pray for you about?”

Fresh tears streamed down her face. “Yes, please,” she said. “My sixteen-year-old daughter was in a wreck on her way to school this morning when the car her boyfriend was driving skidded on some ice and hit a tree. She’s not expected to live, and I’m trying to get to her.” She held out her hand. “This is her picture.”

I stared down at the face of a beautiful young girl in a cheerleader uniform, and my heart broke for this mother. As I began to offer up my prayer for this young girl, we arrived at the terminal, and the mother was off the bus almost before it stopped. I caught a glimpse out the window of her running toward the terminal door.

I don’t know who she was, where she lived, or if her daughter did indeed die. The only thing I do know is that God nudged me to reach out to a stranger who needed comfort, and I obeyed. It was enough that she went with the knowledge that a stranger prayed for her in her time of need. I still think of her often and pray she has peace in her life.

My Book

            I’m really excited about my new historical romance Angel of the Cove, the first book in the Smoky Mountains Dreams Series, that released August 1. It’s 1894, and new opportunities are available for young women who want to become nurses. Anna Prentiss’s dream of becoming a student at Bellevue Hospital in New York and working in their maternity ward after graduation depends on the report concerning her abilities that her family gets from a legendary mountain midwife in the Smoky Mountains.

Anna is determined to prove herself as she travels to Cades Cove, Tennessee, a remote valley in the mountains, to assist a midwife who practices under primitive conditions, but she hasn’t counted on meeting Simon Martin, a mountain preacher who grieves his own lost dreams. She has withstood her family’s objections to going to New York, but she never expected her heart would also become her adversary.

As attraction between the two grows, Anna is determined nothing will keep her from her goal, and Simon fears he is losing his new dream of having Anna stay in the Cove with him. Will they continue to dwell on their personal desires, or can they surrender their futures to God and allow Him to make them one heart that is responsive to His will?

But it here!

Sandra Robbins and her husband live in the small college town where she grew up. Until a few years ago she was working as an elementary school principal, but God opened the door for her to become a full-time writer.  Her books have been finalists in the Daphne du Maurier Contest for excellence in mystery writing, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the Holt Medallion, and the ACFW Carol Award. Since Sandra is a Southerner by birth, she enjoys setting her historical romance and romantic suspense books in both the past and present-day South. To find out more about Sandra and her books go to http://sandrarobbins.net or send her an email at sandra@sandrarobbins.net

Thanks to August’s Reach Out Donors!

Eddie Snipes with I Called Him Dancera novel quite fitting for this campaignJoAnn Durgin with Second Time AroundEileen Rife with Second Chanceanother novel with an outreach focus; Sandra Robbins with Fatal Disclosure, and Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity.
Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. Authors, agents, and publishers, if you have a book you’d like to donate to my Reach Out Campaign, shoot me an email at the same address.

Author Shout-out

One of these days I should post a list of my favorite books. There’s been plenty. Today I want to give a shout out to Sandra Robbins, highlighting one of her fabulous novels, Fatal Disclosure. Sandra has graciously donated to three of my Reach Out gift baskets, and due to my rather spacey spaciness (eloquent wording, I know), I failed to get her latest donation on my August donor’s page. When I became aware of this, I shot her an apology email, and of course, being the amazingly gracious woman she is, she wasn’t upset in the least. Which is why I felt compelled to highlight her novel here.

I hope you will join me in honoring this beautiful woman of Christ, not only for her continual generosity and grace, but also for her commitment to write Christ’s message, woven throughout her stories. You can do this by sharing a link to this page on FB or twitter, by popping by her blog and becoming a subscriber, or by buying her book. (Make sure to check out her other novels. You can find them listed on her website.)

 

 

 

Fatal Disclosure:

When a gunshot victim dies in front of Betsy Michaels, his last words make her a killer’s next target. The undercover agent investigating the murder is none other than Mark Webber, the man who’d broken her heart. Now she has to trust him with her life.

Mark feels duty bound to protect Betsy from the drug smugglers responsible for his partner’s death. Yet every time he looks at her, he’s reminded of the choices he made that hurt Betsy to the core. And despite their rekindled attraction, this time the danger isn’t just to their hearts.

 

 

 

 

Make sure to come back Monday to read about how God is using her to reach out to others.

Sandra Robbins and her husband live in the small college town where she grew up. Until a few years ago she was working as an elementary school principal, but God opened the door for her to become a full-time writer.  Her books have been finalists in the Daphne du Maurier Contest for excellence in mystery writing, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the Holt Medallion, and the ACFW Carol Award. Since Sandra is a Southerner by birth, she enjoys setting her historical romance and romantic suspense books in both the past and present-day South. To find out more about Sandra and her books go to http://sandrarobbins.net or send her an email at sandra@sandrarobbins.net

Lives Intertwined

                    I’ve shared in previous posts how difficult our move to Nebraska has been for all of us. It has been less than two months now, but a blip, and yet, already we feel at home. Why? Because God placed us in a community of believers that opened wide their arms and have accepted us as family. The other night, reflecting on all God has done through the grace-filled men and women at our church, my husband and I discussed how difficult life must be for those who don’t have such a community.

Today’s post comes from a fellow Christ to the World writer. Vona Elkins Bankston’s dramas are broadcasted, via radio-waves, across the globe, sharing the saving message of Jesus Christ with millions, many in areas hostile to the gospel. Today she talks about leaving a faith-driven legacy. Her story reminds me, our church body is more than a gathering of people–it is an interconnected body, a family, divinely designed to provide love, community, and support.

A  Legacy of “Living out loud”  by Vona Elkins Bankston   

Psalms 145: One generation will commend your works to another, they will tell of your mighty acts.       

Nestled at the bottom of Bankhead Forest in Northwest Alabama, lies a little community called Wren. As you look to your left going south, you see a stately church with a steeple rising toward the heavens as a monument to the grace and love of a faithful God.

Since 1847-1848when the first Pleasant Grove Baptist Church was established… to the present time, the church has embraced the mandate given by Jesus Christ in Acts 1:8:  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  This community of believers, (now in the third building) has been living out loud through evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry and worship.

Recently the Young Adult men’s Sunday school class led by Rodger Nix, heard of a young couple with many needs who had moved into the community. The father was battling cancer; the mother was working alongside him in a tree grinding business trying to eke out a living for them and their four year old daughter.

The little church they attended helped as much as possible but were unable to provide that which the family needed most– better housing.

 Knowing his time on earth was drawing to a close, the desire of the father’s heart was to see his wife Deborah, and daughter Shirley Mae, settled into a warm, comfortable home before he passed from this life.

By talking among themselves and spreading the word around, others in the church and community joined in with the Young Adult Men’s class and started remodeling a house about five miles from the couple’s mobile home.  Materials were donated, monetary gifts were received and skilled laborers donated time and talent. The women joined the effort by providing household goods and furnishings.

A few weeks before his death, Gregg asked if he could come in person to express his gratitude to the church and the volunteers for being the hands and feet of Jesus to him and his family. There were few dry eyes in the church that morning as the little family stood before the congregation.

Not many weeks after that Gregg went to be with the Lord. The house was not quite ready for Deborah and Shirley Mae to move into, but Gregg died, knowing a comfortable earthly home would soon be ready for his little family to move in to.

 11 Corinthians, 5:1 says:   For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Gregg died at peace,  knowing he could look forward to living  in a house not made by human hands but by the hand of his loving Heavenly Father.

By “Living Out-Loud”  the Young Adult Sunday School Class left a legacy that will reach into future generations and witness to the mighty acts of God.

Vona Elkins Bankston has 3 married children,7 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.

She writes Biblical monologues, skits for my church,and dramas and HEAR THE WORD Bible studies for Christ to the World Ministries. She belongs to a writer’s group called “STEPPING STONES” OF NORTH ALABAMA. Currently, they are writing short devotionals for a local newspaper. She has a heart for missions and believes the methods for reaching people can change, but the message must remain the same.
***
 
Life is tough. Tragedy and difficulties are bound to come. When they do, will you have a close family of believers to lean on? If not, how you can begin to develop those vital relationships *today*? No church body will be perfect. Humans are going to mess up. They’ll let us down, say and do things they regret. As will we. Finding community isn’t about finding perfection but instead, relationships. Don’t let unrealistic expectations or past hurts keep you from experiencing one of God’s greatest gifts–Christ-centered relationships.
 
 
I want to give a shout-out thank you to all the August’s Reach Out Donors:
 
Eddie Snipes with I Called Him Dancer, a novel quite fitting for this campaignJoAnn Durgin with Second Time AroundEileen Rife with Second Chance, another novel with an outreach focus; and Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity.
 
Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. Authors, agents, and publishers, if you have a book you’d like to donate to my Reach Out Campaign, shoot me an email at the same address.
 
Have a great, interdependent week in Christ!

Perseverance

This month flew by and our summer right along with it. 🙂

Last month, God taught me to walk with an eyes-wide-open approach, ever-alert to the open doors He provided. This month He’s been teaching me perseverance. I’m a doer by nature, and I like to see results, but walking by faith means obeying even if we never see the why or what. It means giving, expecting nothing in return, loving even when our love is spurned, and committing to a life of prayer even if it feels our prayers amount to naught.

It means clinging tight to God’s promise that tells us our work in the Lord will be rewarded. The ultimate reward, I believe, will be seeing men and women gathered at the throne of God, having crossed over from spiritual death to life. But as we continue to share God’s love with others, we need to remember, each person reaches that bridge at a different bend. Only God knows when. All we can do is obey with full, faith-filled, love-saturated surrender, leaving the rest to Him.

Virginia Hamlin’s story, Transformed by Love, touched me deeply. Watching the same homeless men and women come in and out of Taking it to Streets every Wednesday and Friday, I can easily become discouraged. (You may remember the post I wrote about this very thing the previous Saturday. You can read it here.) But Virginia reminded me to keep moving forward, to keep loving, to keep serving, because we never know when our Melodie will arrive.

“My husband and I were involved in our church’s compassion ministry for over five years from 2002-2007.

We helped prepare 100 meals each Sunday to feed the homeless in a local park. (We enlisted the help of other s to serve and sometimes play worship.) My husband would give a message and then we would break bread with the homeless. Yes, we would sit down at the picnic tables and get to know people. It was during one of those times that I was inexplicably drawn to a woman, Melodie, who was seated alone. We only talked briefly, but I knew God had ordained the meeting. I invited her to our home Bible study and ….” (Read the rest here.)

In Are You in Over Your Head, Katie Ganshert’s post reminded me it isn’t about me–my abilities, talents, or resources. Instead, it’s about the awesome, all-powerful God standing behind me. Watch her vlog here.

Tanya Eavenson reminded me to love without an agenda–unconditionally, with no strings attached. This is a hard one. We all want to receive this kind of love from others, but oh, it’s so hard to give out! Unconditional love–the kind God shows us–says, “I love you even if you never love me in return.” It’s a love exemplified in Christ who, while we were yet sinners, while we spurned Him, rebelled against Him, turned our back to Him, He died for us.

“The Bible clearly states in James, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them,  ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” But what happens when the poor aren’t responsive to your help?

I’ve recently been faced with situations like this. How do you share the love of Christ with a man who’d rather live in the woods and give his every last cent to his addiction? Or the woman who would rather sell herself to prostitution instead of receiving help to start over?

Do I give up?” (Read the rest here.)

I’d love to hear from you. What reach out story impacted you most and why? What lessons has God been showing you this month? Is there a loved one you’ve been praying for, reaching out to, for decades? In what ways has God encouraged you to keep pressing on? Tell us about it!

I also want to give a final shout out to my July Reach Out donors:

Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Runand the Promise of Deer RunSandra Robbins with Shattered IdentityKatie Ganshert with Wildflowers From WinterJoAnn Durgin with Awakeningand Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity

Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.

Authors, agents, and publishers, if you or one of your authors/clients would like to donate a book to one of the Reach Out gift baskets, shoot me an email at the above address.

Transformed by Love

After my post on Saturday, I find Virginia Hamlin’s Reach Out story very encouraging. Notice, she and her husband served for five years. Many of the men and women they served likely stayed on the streets. But one woman grasped onto the hope of Christ and found radical transformation. As you read Virginia’s story, stop to consider Jesus’ parable of the 99 sheep. It’s easy to get so focused on the 99, we lose sight of the one. But not God. Each one of us are incredibly important to Him–dearly loved.

One Woman’s Transformation by Virginia Hamlin

My husband and I were involved in our church’s compassion ministry for over five years from 2002-2007.

We helped prepare 100 meals each Sunday to feed the homeless in a local park. (We enlisted the help of other s to serve and sometimes play worship.) My husband would give a message and then we would break bread with the homeless. Yes, we would sit down at the picnic tables and get to know people. It was during one of those times that I was inexplicably drawn to a woman, Melodie, who was seated alone. We only talked briefly, but I knew God had ordained the meeting. I invited her to our home Bible study and to my joy she accepted!

I came to learn that Melodie was living in her pickup truck with a camper shell that had a hole in the roof and leaked when it rained. One particular night during our Bible study it began to rain as if the world was ending and knowing what I knew there was no way she was going to spend the night in her truck. To make a long story short, my husband and I took Melodie in based on my sharing with my husband that I believed God wanted her to live with us for a bit.

Melodie ended up living with us for over nine-months. During that period, God blessed her with a job, and my husband helped her learn how to budget. She saved her money and during those several months with us, she got medical insurance and dental work done. God also restored a strained relationship with her family on the East Coast. The most wonderful part of all of this is that she came back into relationship with her heavenly Father.

Melodie currently resides on the East Coast. She is no longer homeless. She has a place of her own. She is working full-time and was quickly promoted to a supervisory role. She is attending a local church and sees her family, nieces, and nephews on a regular basis.

I’ve included a copy of a letter she wrote to me (she told me long ago to share it whenever I was led).

Melodie’s letter

Dear Ginny,

“How do I thank thee, let me count the ways…?”

(Just a little paraphrasing of a very famous line.)

I started this letter this way because I couldn’t decide which “Thank You” to write first. Most people would start with the most important “thank You”, but to me they are all equally important enough to be first written or #1 at the top of the list. Even after writing this statement, I don’t know where to start.

So I will begin with telling you that I “thank God” for making me think I had hit “rock bottom” when I was so hungry that I had to swallow my pride and go to the “City Park” where I hear food was made available to the “homeless”.

That day was the day I met you and Ed for the first time. So I thank God for showing me why He let me wallow in self pity and made me swallow my pride and go to the park that day. I know now, he had been trying for months to get me there: because there was someone there he want me to meet.

You!

After I complemented Ed on his beef Stroganoff that day, you finished serving everyone , then came over to talk to me. It was a brief conversation, more of an introduction really, so I know I didn’t reveal my situation. Yet when I left the park, I knew, that you knew what I was going through emotionally, just to be there (among the homeless).

You see, I knew about the outreach program for months, but would go because of pride. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was at this desolate place in my life. I put on this “facade” of “No Worries”, so I wouldn’t be asked questions that would make me reveal my fears or emotions.

All my life I have been a “Giver” without expectations, except for one: I expected others to know or see through the facade when I was in need and offer assistance to me. For me, to have to ask , is such and emotional turmoil of feeling like a failure that it literally makes me ill. For days, I  will continually cry while awake. Exhausted from crying I will go to sleep, without eating, thus from not eating I will get sick. By the time I regain my strength, I forget what I am wallowing in self pity for  and start looking for answers to my “ dilemmas” in the same old way, until I get frustrated again, I start the self pity cycle all over. Since 1975, I have been repeating this pattern over and over. (But that is another story at another time.)

Do you know what they call people who repeatedly do the same thing over and over , not changing the way they do it but expect a different outcome? “Insane!!!”  I was very close to that state of mind.

Then I met you! From the first time I spoke with you I knew what an intuitive person you were. But now after only a few other conversations we’ve had, I know God has brought this lost, stubborn lamb back into His fold and has appointed You as my shepherd.

Don’t look shocked! (and close your mouth, I know it fell open when you read this last paragraph.) Don’t you see? Because of what you have been through, your trials, your struggles, your disappointments, your pride, your turning your back on God at a point in your life when you were saying, “If there is a God, why…?” All this and more I don’t know about, you have overcome through the guidance of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I don’t know if you got to the point of “giving up hope”, but that is where I was until the day I met you. God knew it! He knew I had given up hope. I ignored His pleas in the past and I believe in my heart, that He became desperate for a solution to bring me back and found hunger to be the answer. He showed me, through your own testimony, that you have been where I am now! God wants me to come to you for the guidance and knowledge I need, because He has already given you the answers. We were destined to meet. You said it yourself. “For some reasons I feel very drawn toward you”. The more I talk to you the more I am encouraged and uplifted. He wants me to have patience and to not give up hope. You may not know you are saying these things, but this is what I am hearing from Him in what you do say.

After church services tonight, I came home and went through all of the clothes you gave me. It was like Christmas! I tried everything on and everything fit. (Except the bathrobe and the two nightshirts.) In fact they fit me better than the clothes I’ve been wearing for the last four years.  So I started this letter to “Thank You”(and your mother) for all the beautiful clothes you gave me. This was around 10 p.m. It is now 4 a.m. and I still haven’t thanked you.

So, “Thank You” so much for the clothes. I feel like a new person when I put them on. Please thank your mother for me and tell her I’ll send her pictures, through you , of me in her clothes.

And “Thank You” for thinking of me. “Thank you for watching out for me, “Thank You for keeping me in your prayers and “Thank you for your words of encouragement. “Thanks you for sharing your life with me. “Thank you for being a good listener, friend and confidant. And “Thank You” for keeping your promises and strengthening my trust.

God Bless you for being you, for God Blessed me when you came into my life and rescued me for His sake.

Always in Friendship, with Love in Christ,

Melodie Lynn

Virginia Johnson-Hamlin is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers association and participates in two critique groups, which she also facilitates. She is an active member of her church and is involved in the church’s marriage ministry. Virginia also meets with women from the church in small groups, as well as one-on-one, to discuss women’s issues and the challenges of marriage and family life.

As an author, Virginia writes stories in hopes encouraging readers to live an abundant life, bringing honor to God, by inspiring them to pursue a Christ led lifestyle. Her novels reveal the natural consequences of the characters addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, and pornography, which will lead them to face reality. Many will relate to the struggles portrayed by the characters in her novels and it is her hope the characters will create a bridge for discussion in real life

Virginia left her position as a public relations manager for a large southern California ambulance company to care for her mother, who was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer in 2007.

Virginia (Ginny) Johnson-Hamlin writing as G.E. Hamlin

Ginny Hamlin

For Better Or For Worse

Once again, I want to give a shout out to all my July Reach Out Donors:

Thanks to July’s Reach Out Donors: Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Runand the Promise of Deer RunSandra Robbins with Shattered IdentityKatie Ganshert with Wildflowers From WinterJoAnn Durgin with Awakeningand Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity

Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.

Are You in Over Your Head?

Are you in over your head? If not, why not? Maybe it’s time to tread into deeper waters.

**Katie is giving away a copy of her debut novel, Wildflowers From Winter, to one randomly selected reader who leaves a comment.**

Today, I’m honored to have debut author and Clash of the Titles‘ May Release winner, Katie Ganshert here to share how God has nudged her and her husband to tread into deep waters, trusting Him to keep them afloat. As you listen to her story, consider what God might be saying to you. Is there an area in your life that keeps you clinging to the seashore, dipping your toes in faith, afraid to take the plunge?

Katie Ganshert was born and raised in the Midwest, where she writes stories about finding faith and falling in love. When she’s not busy plotting her next novel, she enjoys watching movies with her husband, playing make-believe with her wild-child of a son, and chatting with her girlfriends over bagels. She and her husband are in the process of adopting from the Congo. You can find her online at her blog and on Facebook.

Wildflowers from Winter:

A young architect at a prestigious Chicago firm, Bethany Quinn has built a life far removed from her trailer park teen years. Until an interruption from her estranged mother reveals that tragedy has struck in her hometown and a reluctant Bethany is called back to rural Iowa. Determined to pay her respects while avoiding any emotional entanglements, she vows not to stay long. But the unexpected inheritance of farmland and a startling turn of events in Chicago forces Bethany to come up with a new plan.

Handsome farmhand Evan Price has taken care of the Quinn farm for years. So when Bethany is left the land, he must fight her decisions to realize his dreams. But even as he disagrees with Bethany’s vision, Evan feels drawn to her and the pain she keeps so carefully locked away.

For Bethany, making peace with her past and the God of her childhood doesn’t seem like the path to freedom. Is letting go the only way to new life, love and a peace she’s not even sure exists?

 What’s God asking you to do? What does He want you to trust Him with? Remember, when Peter stepped out of the boat, he stayed afloat as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. God wants us to do the same.
The next time you’re anxious, follow the guidelines presented in Ephesians 4:6-7
 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Camp out on that phrase, “with thanksgiving.” When we pause to remember all God has done–all the times He came through–it reminds us of His infinite power and grace. In light of that, our problems are placed in proper perspective–centered in God’s loving hand.
We’d love to hear from you. When has God nudged you to step out in faith and what was the result?
I want to give a shout out to all our generous Reach out donors:

Thanks to July’s Reach Out Donors: Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Runand the Promise of Deer RunSandra Robbins with Shattered IdentityKatie Ganshert with Wildflowers From WinterJoAnn Durgin with Awakeningand Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity

Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.

Releasing Our Kids to Find Their Calling

As a mom, I love to imagine what God might have planned for our daughter. I know He’s got a plan–an eternally valuable role–uniquely crafted for her. A crucial role in God’s kingdom.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I’ve learned, more often than not God’s plans are so utterly different than anything I could fathom. And yet, when His plan begins to unfold, it all makes sense. We can look back and see the people and events God placed in an individual’s life taking them one step further.

As parents, the best thing we can do, in my opinion, is to embrace and encourage every dream our children have, teaching them to move forward with an eyes-wide-open expectancy. Because we never know which flight of fancy will lead to their divine-calling.

Today’s post is from my daughter. Ashley has always been creative. As a child, she’d craft elaborate two-story houses from paper. I’ve always been impressed with her ability to look at an intricate weaving or piece of jewelry, figure out how it’s made, and replicate it. But although this impressed me, I never gave it much thought … until we visited El Salvador last summer.

While we waited for crusades to start, she studied a wide-banded, beaded bracelets she’d purchased from the locals. Within ten minutes, she’d figured out how it was made and how to replicate it. Our church was teaching orphans how to make jewelry, and she wondered if perhaps she could help with the instruction, teaching them to make the bracelet she’d just deciphered. Although she never got this opportunity (yet. Grin), she didn’t give up beading nor her desire to use her love of beads to bring joy and hope to others.

Today she shares her story, or should I say, the beginning of her story. 😉

Bracelets for the Beautiful by Ashley Slattery

About a year ago my church helped serve a meal at a homeless shelter, and while I was there these two little girls were fascinated with the bracelets I was wearing. I ended up giving the bangles to them and they were excited. It made me think, if it made those feel beautiful would it make others? so I decided to use my beading skills to make bracelets for homeless ladies, make them feel loved and beautiful like those little girls did that way. Last month I had an opportunity to do so. My family when to a homeless ministry called Taking it to the Streets in Omaha, and I brought 20 some bracelets with me and gave them to the ladies there. I loved seeing that my hobby could bless them. It truly amazed me that a simple craft  put a smile on their faces. It showed me that God truly does have a use in mind for every aspect of you.

***

God willing, Ashley hopes to teach the ladies down at Taking it to the Streets how to make jewelry. She hopes this will not only give them a marketable skill, but something they can feel good about–a hope-infusing sense of accomplishment. It’s hard for someone who’s been beaten down to strive for better. (Read When Helping Hurts, a phenomenal book about the psychological struggles inherent with poverty.) But often, success is contagious–motivating.

Thanks to July’s Reach Out Donors: Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Runand the Promise of Deer RunSandra Robbins with Shattered IdentityKatie Ganshert with Wildflowers From WinterJoAnn Durgin with Awakeningand Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity

Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.

Authors, agents, and publishers, if you or one of your authors/clients would like to donate a book to one of the Reach Out gift baskets, shoot me an email at the above address.