Learning–the Hard Way–to Be a Blessing

grace quote with flowers in the backgroundI don’t like failing–at anything. But I especially hate when my failure hurts someone else. Unfortunately, there’ve been numerous times when I’ve sensed God asking me to do something–to say something or reach out to someone–but didn’t. There have been even more times when I’ve felt a prick in my heart cautioning me not to act, but my pride propelled me forward anyway.

Praise God for His grace that can turn every failure into a growth opportunity and ultimately, a win. Today my guest, Kass Fogle, shares a time when she found this to be true and what God taught her through that situation.

Learning–the Hard Way–How to Love Others Well

By Kass Fogle

The most self-absorbed person I know is writing this blog. Though I pray against my selfishness regularly, most of my plans revolve around me.

And every day, God’s love and mercy convicts me and reminds me to follow the example of Jesus. Christ surrendered His place with God and, fully obedient, he humbled himself to put the needs of others first.

Though I’ve learned to stop and pay attention to this lesson, it wasn’t always this way.

I missed a friendship opportunity with a friend from high school who was hurting deeply. She lost two daughters in a tragic car accident and reached out to me via social media. While we communicated back and forth a few times, we never connected in person. Though she was only three hours away, I didn’t get an address so I could visit. I didn’t grab a phone number for a quick call of encouragement.

Instead, I listened to the lies filling my head: “You can’t explain this. You can’t help. She has other friends who live closer.”

And I also heard another other voice whisper, “You don’t have to explain. You have to love. She needs you.”

If my heart ached in disappointment for listening to the louder voice, it shattered over my disobedience to God.

Because I’m accountable for which voice I listen to and believe. And instead of swimming in the vortex of shame, I’m choosing to obey my Father.quote pulled from post with image of two friends together

Though I take responsibility for my failures, I believe God will use them for the glory of His kingdom. With the example above, He chose to use my poor decisions as a friend to teach me how to better care for others. And not just in a ‘coffeehouse-pay-it-forward” way, but in a Holy Spirit inspired “I can’t wait to share it” way.

Through this, I learned how to better care for others:

  1. Loyalty First – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17, ESV). I have a group of unquestionably faithful girlfriends. But sometimes we’re called to show loyalty to those outside our “inner circle”. We can show the same type of care to those we’re closest to and those we aren’t. In those situations, it’s all about obedience.

Not good with words? Come bearing gifts – a coffee cup, a pretty pen, a bracelet, or a snuggly pillow – anything you think will bring comfort.

Not good with words in times of suffering? Try: “You matter.” “Would you like for me to pray with you now or in private at home?” “I’d like to come over and sit with you for a while.”

  1. Transform Your Mind – Sometimes we don’t help others because we think their values, traditions, or social networks are too different from ours. But I suggest we pay close attention to people who pop into our lives repeatedly. Most likely, they’re there for a reason. We can call them by name and ask God how he wants us to engage with them. Who knows? Maybe they’re there to bless or grow us.

While we need to recognize if someone is not meant to be in our life, we can also pray that God removes our judgmental tendencies so we can become open to the gift of friendship God has in store for us.

Remember friends, we don’t bless others so we’ll be blessed, we bless because He first loved us.

We’ve been saved by the power of the holy spirit, through the blood of the Son, and the grace and mercy of our Father, so our hearts are prepared to best share the blessing with others.

Just for reading today, you can get a free journal page by clicking on Friendship With a Purpose –While you’re there, check out the other freebies!

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Let’s talk about this! When has a past failure taught you how to better show grace? Do you have anything else you’d add to how we can love our friends well? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Get to know Kass!

 

Kass Fogle's author photoKass Fogle is a Contemporary Christian Author, Speaker and Blogger who lives with her husband and two children in South-Central Illinois. Her first novel, Ruth’s Garden placed third for Contemporary Christian Fiction at the Write to Publish Conference in 2018.

Her new website, THE INTROVERTED BELIEVER will launch in late 2018 and will focus on encouraging fellow introverts in their work, marriage and friendships. Be sure and subscribe to her website kassfogle.com to stay up to date on the launch progress.

When she is not working the day job you can find her at the local coffee house writing, at home baking, hanging out with family or causing trouble with her tight-knit group of girlfriends. Kass is also a raging Football Mom.

Follow her on Twitter @kassfogle, find her on Pinterest, and connect with her on Facebook .

She invites you to email her a prayer or other request at kassfogle(at)gmail(dot)com.

Before you go! I encourage you to read my thoughts on finding the courage to obey when others deem our actions foolish. You can read that HERE. And mommas of little ones, you may find my post on MOPS International encouraging. You can read that HERE.

 

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Our Need For a “Tribe”

Woman sitting by herself in an empty churchIf you read my recent article on Crosswalk, you know almost half of Americans struggle with deep loneliness. We long for connection. We were created to live interdependently. But in our busy, selfie-taking, and increasingly disconnected culture, it can be crazy-hard to find and cultivate healthy, thriving relationships. My guest today discusses this universal need, challenges to it, and how Jesus and the church were designed to fill that need. As you read Jason Joyner’s thoughts, prayerfully consider your friendships. Have you found your “tribe”? Your inner circle–those people who know your ugly and love you anyway? If not, ask Jesus to show you why and how you can move from isolation to deep connection.

Do You Have a Tribe?

by Jason Joyner

In a world that’s supposed to be growing closer, are you feeling isolated?

Today we’re more connected than ever. We always carry our phone with us. Why wait for a letter or card in the mail when you can text someone? People can travel to the other side of the world within twenty-four hours. We have the power of the internet to associate with each other.

Still, it seems people are increasingly lonely. Despite the way Facebook and other social media pretends to bring us together, they may actually isolate us, if not used properly. We post our happy side of life and see the same from others. Then when we run into them and ask how they’re doing, if they mention something seen online, we can glibly say, “Oh, I saw that,” and shut down the conversation.

If we’re too spread out with “friends” online it can keep us from getting into depth of relationship with a smaller group.

However, if we’re aware of this tendency, we can fight it. We can even use social media, our smart phones, and technologies that can push us apart to bring us together.

There’s a concept going around called “having a tribe.” The term was popularized by author Seth Godin, but it draws from a deeper well. Basically, a group of friends with text pulled from posttribe was a community. People within it knew their role and had assurance that others had their back. Being in such a tight-knit group is a deep source of identity. In our fragmented world, being in a tribe can bring life.

As Christians, we’re called to do life with one another all the time, not just gather for an hour or two on Sundays. Did you know that there are 59 mentions of “one another” in the New Testament? We’re supposed to love one another, be at peace with one another, encourage one another. This is the Christian version of Seth Godin’s concept.

I’ve seen this in my life through a group called Realm Makers. I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer and a Christian. I live in a region where there aren’t many Christians like me, and there aren’t a lot of people who enjoy these fantastical stories. It’s rare to find someone who shares my faith and a love for these genres.

I found Realm Makers, a conference for Christians who write sci-fi/fantasy a few years ago, and I’ve made some deep friendships within this group. We get together once a year in the conference, but stay connected through social media, video apps, and email. We encourage, pray, rejoice, and mourn with each other.

Having a group of friends that know me and are so supportive, has made such a difference. I don’t feel as isolated. I can enjoy my local church body more, because I don’t have expectations of others fitting that niche in my life. My Realm Makers friends meet that connection, so I can enjoy others where they are.

Two friends with quote from postsEven Christians, a family of faith designed by God to live in close community with one another, can get isolated in this modern world. But we have a built-in tribe through our shared faith in Jesus. Don’t let the busyness of the world or the shallowness of social media rob you of that connection. Reach out to others. Be that “one another” someone needs, so they can feel that sense of belonging. You can use the tools of our time to build deeper relationships.

If you do that, you’ll find your tribe, and you’ll be blessed for it.

Let’s talk about this! Do you feel like you have a tribe? What steps can you do to find such a community?

***

Jen here. Before you go, make sure to sign up for Jennifer’s free quarterly e-mailing. Subscribers receive great content–a short story, inspirational message, recipe and more–sent directly to their inbox, and a free, 36-lesson Bible study. Sign up HERE. (If you sign up for my newsletter but don’t receive the link to the downloadable study in your welcome email, please contact me.)

Get to know Jason:

Jason Joyner's author photoJason C. Joyner is a physician assistant, a writer, a Jesus-lover, and a Star Wars geek. He’s traveled from the jungles of Thailand to the cities of Australia and the Bavarian Alps of Germany. He lives in Idaho with his lovely wife, three boys, and daughter managing the chaos of sports and superheroes in his own home. Launch, a YA superhero story, is his first published novel.

Connect with him online by joining his Facebook group, The Heroes’ Hangout and follow him on Twitter and Instagram

Check out Jason’s novel, Launch:

Sixteen-year-olds Demarcus Bartlett and Lily Beausoliel are among a select group of youth invited to an exclusive, Cover image for Launch by Jason Joynerall-expenses-paid conference at social media giant Alturas’ California headquarters. Led by charismatic founder Simon Mazor, the world’s youngest billionaire, this isn’t the typical honors society. It seems that everyone here has some secret, untapped potential, some power that may not be entirely of this world. An ancient prophecy suggests that if these teens combine their abilities, they could change the course of history. The only question is: Will it be for better or for worse? Grab your copy HERE or on Barnes and Noble

 

 

 

Being a Friend Who Stays

Two friends laughing together

Relationships are hard, messy, and at times, utterly frustrating. But they are also necessary. But as my guest, Nike Chillemi shares, we all need friends who will stay. Our friends that need that from us.

Being a Friend Who Stays by Nike Chillemi

To live of life filled with happiness, women must find and keep true women friends. You know what kind of friend that is. A bestie could be your biological sister, a cousin you grew up with, a college roommate, or someone you met later in life, perhaps on the job. She can and does keep a confidence. She’ll tell you if that “hot little red dress” isn’t the way to go, even if you envisioned it making your husband go crazy for you.

It’s even better if you have a small posse of true women friends in the faith. You need to have friendships with women that lift you up and encourage you to go higher in your relationship with the Lord. Do you have friends like this? Are you this kind of friend? It goes both ways.

“A friend loves at all times; And a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17, WEB).

However, what happens when a friend momentarily gets “stuck on stupid” or you do? You said something that triggered them or vice-versa? Many times, this is because one of you is having a bad day and the angst isn’t even about the friendship. It might be safer to become passive-aggressive, catty, or competitive with a friend than with the co-worker who just got the coveted promotion. If the bad mood blows over and one of you or both apologizes…nothing to worry about.

I used to be a first-class murmurer, a whiner and complainer. Believe me it became tiresome to my friends. The Lord has helped me grow in this area, but if something triggers me, I’ll start whining again. However, now that passes much more quickly, and I’m sure my friends are grateful.

What if your friend has become insensitive? If you recently lost your husband and a single friend says, “It’s going to be okay,” this is may feel as if she’s thrown a bucket of cold water on you. In that moment, the best thing to do is take a deep breath and say a quick prayer. She didn’t mean to hurt. If she repeatedly “encourages” inappropriately, give yourself some time to heal and talk to her about it later.

What happens when a friend becomes brusque and non-empathetic regarding something? It could be that she’s “Been there, done that, and has the tee shirt.” She’s “conquered” that thing, is beyond it, and she thinks you should toughen up. This could be because she doesn’t want to revisit the pain of those vulnerable feelings. While you are raw and feeling exposed may not be the best time to confront her. Find another shoulder to lean on. Then come back later to work things out with your friend.

You have to know when to address things and when to let them go, and which friendships to invest in and what ones God is calling you to end. Prayer can help determine that. But you don’t want to give up on a meaningful friendship. By the same token it’s not wise to stay in one, for old times sake, that has become toxic.

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Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you’ve intentionally held tight to your friendships? In what ways have your friends held tight to you? What’s one action step you can take from today’s post? Share your thoughts, stories, and examples in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

You may also enjoy:

When Others Reject Us

How to Maintain (Imperfect) Friendships

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

 

Get to Know Nike!

Like so many writers, Nike N. Chillemi started at a very young age. Her first major work was a Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned as a little girl (colored might be more accurate) about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista with a humorous side. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes Author photo for Nike Chillemiher bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better.

Nike is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and its Chair, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She has been a judge in the 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories; and an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category. Her four novel Sanctuary Point series (out of print), set in the mid-1940s has finaled, won an award, and garnered critical acclaim. The first novel in the Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes series HARMRUL INTENT won in the Grace Awards 2014 Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller/Historical Suspense category. She has written book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and John 3:16 Marketing Network. Find her online at her blog, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on @NikeNChillemi.

Cover image for Blood Speaks by Nike ChillemiCheck out her latest release, Blood Speaks:

Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels, Brooklyn gal PI, waited a long time for the solitaire on her finger. When her sometimes boss, a shadowy figure and director of a secret government organization, offers a one-week bridal shopping vacay in Maryland she jumps at it.

Joined by bridesmaids, Sandra Daube and Bertha Dagney, Ronnie sets off for the village of Heritage Cove on Arrowhead Lake, Maryland. Their joyous stay at the rustic yet luxury Heritage Cove Inn is shattered by a murder with tendrils and a clandestine motive stretching back to the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It doesn’t take long for Ronnie and her gal-pals to become targets of the killer. It goes without saying, Taylor County Deputy Sheriff, Lieutenant Dawson Hughes leaves Texas to protect his bride-to-be. He’s joined by Sandra’s employer, conservative political activist Ben Cohen. No obstacle can keep Gabby Hayes look-alike Hoot Dagney from the side of Bertha, his new bride.

 

 

The Danger of Words

It’s interesting how vehemently the Christian community come against some sins while others are tolerated. Almost expected. Entertained even.

When we lived in Southern California, our church went through an ugly split. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew people were hurt. I could hear it in our pastor’s voice, when he spoke to the congregation. I could see it on his wife’s face, when her tears flowed during worship.

Though I was ignorant to the issue, I could feel the toxic tension every Sunday.

I wonder if this was what Timothy felt whenever he stepped up to speak. Did he sense the tension that arose from the false teachers who, though small in number, had such influence over the congregation? And what was going on with the women who appeared to be jockeying for position and fighting for prestige. (1 Tim. 2:9-10)

What did their conversations look like?

You’ve probably encountered women like them—ladies who are so consumed with pride, in impressing others and gaining power, they don’t care who they hurt. Under the guise of venting, they gossip and slander, creating an infectious mess that hinders the work of Christ.

When you read 1 Timothy 3, you may notice, verse 11 is directed specifically to women. Why do you think that is?

Perhaps because we tend to sin with our tongues?

Paul tells Timothy the women “must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do” (NLT).

The Greek word translated as slander (or slanderer) here means an accuser or one who makes charges that bring others down.

John MacArthur says, “It’s a title frequently given to Satan.” (Matt. 4:5, 8, 11, 13:39; Luke 4:3, 5, 6, 13; 8:12 …)

That doesn’t surprise me. Satan is a destroyer bent on thwarting God’s plans, causing confusion and disunity, and shattering the most sacred of all relationships.

In Southern California I had a friend with a child my daughter’s age. We’d meet on occasion, at the park, her house, or mine. Most of the time, our conversations remained surface level, until one day she started to “vent.”

She’d gotten herself swept up with whatever was going on in the church and “verbally processed” her feelings and conclusions to me., much of which involved not facts but her opinion of our pastor.

I left confused and concerned. I still didn’t know the full situation—only this one woman’s perceptions. And even though I didn’t want to be involved, even though I had no business being involved, I began to question.

Was our pastor really like she said? As I was driving home processing all this, a thought emerged: This is how Satan works. This is how he destroys churches and relationships.

That ended my “musings” immediately.

Granted, there are things we should investigate and get concerned about. We must protect truth. We should lovingly confront sin. But not through “venting,” or gossip or trying to pull everyone else into the mess. Jesus laid out clear instructions for how we should handle conflict in Matthew 18:15-19, and if you’ll read them, you’ll notice, never once does He tell us to stir the pot or spew our feelings to whoever will listen or even to our besties. We’re to go directly to the individual.

Our tongues can speak life or death, can foster unity or disunity, can create healing and reconciliation or hurt and destruction. If we want to verbally process, may we go to God. He’s the only One who knows the full situation—and solution—anyway. And in everything we do say, may we follow Paul’s commands in Ephesians 4:29:

“No foul (unwholesome, useless, rotten, or of poor quality) words come from [our mouths], but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”

Can you sense God’s call to love in that verse? Not self-love that focuses on our feelings, the offense done to us, or our need to verbally unload, but rather what is good for the body of Christ and God’s kingdom. Rooted in a love that is other’s focused—a love that comes from “a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

What are some things can you do when your in a conversation where a person or the group begins to gossip or slanderous things?

Trusting God With Our Children Part II

When did our children’s behavior become an extension of ourselves? Or am I the only one who seems to have a difficult time recognizing that my child is autonomous, able to make her own decisions and mistakes? When I speak to parents, especially those raising prodigals, I encourage them to analyze the parable Jesus told of the man with the wayward son. Once we recognize who the father represents in the story, I believe we’ll begin to cut ourselves some slack. Because honestly, parenting is crazy-tough, and we all could use a fair amount of grace in this area.

headshotToday, Robin Patchen visits us again to share part two of her encouraging and insightful piece on what it looks like to entrust our children to Christ.

Trusting God With Our Children Part 2 by Robin Patchen

When my oldest chose drugs over our family, my husband and I let him walk away. But we didn’t forget him—not for a moment. No, we prayed and begged God to bring him home. At one point when I was praying, I felt the Lord’s words in my ears. “Do you trust me with your son?”

Did I trust him? Too many young people, many children of godly parents, get lost to drugs and alcohol—or simply lost to their own foolish choices. Some kids end up in prison, others end up homeless. Some run away and aren’t heard from for years. And some end up in the grave. There are no guarantees for any of us. Trusting God meant facing that my son could be lost to us for a time, or for good. But I knew I couldn’t fix it, and I believed God could. I was out of options.

I decided at that moment that I did trust Him with all my children. It was either trust Him or go mad with grief and fear.

My first-born’s story has been a testimony to God’s provision. He brought my son home. He went to rehab, he got clean, and now he’s studying to be a missionary with Youth with a Mission.

God’s plan for my son was not my plan for him. He rejected us and rejected God, but God never rejected him. God wooed him back, pulled him through, and turned him into this amazing, Spirit-filled young man with a burning passion for Christ. None of that would have happened apart from the rebellion that started it all.

So are we failures as parents, because our son landed in rehab? Or, are we good parents, because now he’s walking with God? Or, are we merely imperfect parents, doing our best—all anyone can be asked to do? God knows our faults and shortcomings, and He blessed us with these young people anyway. How they turn out is ultimately in His hands. No matter what happens, I will continue to trust Him with my children.

***

Robin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can’t pursue her other dream.

If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world–twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don’t want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Find out more at Robin’s website, and connect with her on Facebook.

robin_twistedliesTwisted Lies: Hidden Truth Series Book #2

She thought they’d never find her.  And then her daughter vanished.

Marisa Vega’s life as an adoptive mom in a tiny Mexican village isn’t what she’d dreamed while growing up in New York, but as the target of a man who’s convinced she stole millions of dollars from his financial firm, Marisa believes hiding is her only way to stay alive. When her daughter is snatched and held for ransom, Marisa must discover who really stole the money in order to rescue her.

Months after being kidnapped, tortured, and left with PTSD, Nate Boyle is ready to live a quiet life in rural New Hampshire. When the source of his breakout newspaper article—and the woman who haunts his dreams—begs for help, he gets pulled into a riddle that’s proved unsolvable for nearly a decade.

Can Nate and Marisa unravel the years-old mystery and bring her daughter home?

Buy it on Amazon, KoboiBooks, B&N, and find it on Goodreads.

Trusting God With Our children ~ Guest Post by Robin Patchen

boy-926103_1920My mentor always says parenting will test and grow our faith like little else can. Each year, as my daughter gets older, and the stakes inherently rise, I agree more and more. I, like today’s guest Robin Patchen, once thought if parents did A and B, C and D would necessarily occur. But then I began to encounter parents who’d done everything they knew to do, who lived incredibly godly lives, to have their children rebel against nearly everything they’d taught them. And suddenly, my black and white world was marbleized with all sorts of ugly grays.

Trusting God with My Children by guest blogger Robin Patchen

I have a confession to make: I have three teenagers, and all of them have rebelled to one degree or another. In fact, one rebelled so thoroughly, he spent what should have been his senior year of high school in rehab. I promise you, when he was a little baby, all smiles and giggles, I never imagined that. When I was reading Goodnight Moon to that boy for the thousandth time, you couldn’t have convinced me he’d ever struggle with addiction. When I homeschooled him, taught him to read, took him to church, rehab never entered my mind.

So what went wrong?

When my kids were preschoolers, my husband and I attended a parenting conference. A man I respected greatly taught one of the classes. He made a lot of points in that class, but one stuck with me.

He suggested that some of the “great” men in the Bible weren’t all that great as fathers. He mentioned Eli, whose sons were called “scoundrels” (1 Samuel 2:12). He talked about David. One of his sons, Amnon, raped his own sister (2 Samuel 13). Another of his sons, Absolom, started a revolution (2 Samuel 15). This Bible teacher’s point was clear: If your children misbehave, then you must be a bad parent.

Some evidence for that idea can be found in the Bible. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (NKJV).

Way back when I had preschool children, I savored that idea like I would the best Swiss chocolate. I believed I had that much power, that if I just did my job right, my children would obey me, walk with God, and be blessed. I was convinced that if I could just be good enough, then my kids could skip that pesky rebellious stage and slide effortlessly into adulthood.

What a nice thought, that great parenting plus solid Bible teaching equals perfect kids.

A decade later, I can testify to one thing—that’s a total crock.

Don’t get me wrong, friends. It’s essential that we parents do our very best. We must discipline our children consistently. We must teach them the Bible. We must expose them to truth and encourage them to do right. It’s essential that we love and spend time with them and guard their influences. There’s all that stuff, and there’s mountains more we need to do to ensure our children have the best chance in life.

But do our efforts guarantee results? If we do all of that, will we then have godly, obedient children?

Maybe. Maybe not.

If you read Proverbs 22:6 closely, you’ll see it doesn’t promise that your children will never depart from the way you taught them to go. It says that “when he is old, he will not depart.”

What about the time between today and “when he is old”? Will he not depart from the correct way at all, ever? How does thatyoung-1683363_1920 fit in with the idea that “all have sinned and fall short…?” (Romans 3:23) Other Scriptures warn us that children do rebel against their parents, even perfect parents.

“Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth!
This is what the Lord says:
‘The children I raised and cared for
have rebelled against me.’” Isaiah 2:1

If our perfect God doesn’t have perfect children, how can we, as imperfect as we are? And do we truly believe that our children are simply blank slates, or are they, like us, born with a sin nature? Why do we believe we can outsmart sin with rules and guidelines?

It’s a lovely idea. Or perhaps, it’s an insidiously evil idea. Because if I believe I can control my children’s futures with perfect parenting, where does God fit in? If I believe that Bible teaching and Scripture memorization will make my kids into perfect little Christian soldiers, what room have I left for grace? And when my children fail to be perfect—which they are guaranteed to do—who do I blame? Myself, for all the times I failed? God, whom I was trying so hard to obey? Or my children for not living up to my expectations?

I thank God that over the years of parenting, He taught me that, ultimately, I have very little control over their choices. The older they get, the less control I have and the more freedom they have to make good choices or to mess up their lives.

(Join us next Thursday for part 2 of this post where Robin will talk about trusting God with our kids.)

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! For those of you with rebellious children, can I say, I’m sorry. That’s hard. I suspect there are times when you’re consumed with guilt, analyzing ever word you spoke or lesson you did or didn’t teach. I suspect there are times when you feel judged by the Christian community, because many of us tend to think in black and white, forgetting that life is incredibly complicated. And third, I suspect your heart is breaking as you watch your child, the one you love so intensely it hurts, self-destruct.

Again, I’m sorry. May we pray for you?

Some of you, who are or have parented prodigals, might have words of wisdom or encouragement to share. I encourage you to do so in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

You may also find the following helpful:

A Mother’s Heart Praying for Her Prodigal Son

Parenting Prodigals

Prodigals and Those Who Love Them: Words of Encouragement for Those Who Wait by Ruth Bell Graham

***

headshotRobin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can’t pursue her other dream.

If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world–twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don’t want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Find out more at Robin’s website, and connect with her on Facebook.

 

 

robin_twistedliesTwisted Lies: Hidden Truth Series Book #2

She thought they’d never find her.  And then her daughter vanished.

Marisa Vega’s life as an adoptive mom in a tiny Mexican village isn’t what she’d dreamed while growing up in New York, but as the target of a man who’s convinced she stole millions of dollars from his financial firm, Marisa believes hiding is her only way to stay alive. When her daughter is snatched and held for ransom, Marisa must discover who really stole the money in order to rescue her.

Months after being kidnapped, tortured, and left with PTSD, Nate Boyle is ready to live a quiet life in rural New Hampshire. When the source of his breakout newspaper article—and the woman who haunts his dreams—begs for help, he gets pulled into a riddle that’s proved unsolvable for nearly a decade.

Can Nate and Marisa unravel the years-old mystery and bring her daughter home?

Buy it on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, B&N.com, and find it on Goodreads.

 

A Mountain of Hope

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

 

A Mountain of Hope
by Kelly Klepfer

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

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Billy Graham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God delivered me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Buy Out of the Frying Pan on Amazon.

***

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