Help Me Celebrate Release Day!


We really should throw a party with lots of chocolate and coffee, of course. And maybe some goofy social media pictures. How about we all meet in our Walmart aisle for some impromptu story fun?

I know, you live too far away for that. But I’d love to see your fun Hometown Healing sightings anyway! Catch a glimpse of my next release on a store shelf, take a photo of it, and send the pic my way. That would totally make my day! In the meantime, here’s more about the story:

She’s home again, but not for long…Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart

Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

You can grab a copy HERE.

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When Set Backs Hit

text from post with flower and field background

For some, dreams come easy. Most of us want to feel significant, to know we’re called to something miraculous and eternal.

But others have long since lost that childlike expectancy and have traded thoughts of what could be to settle for what is. Maybe an opportunity came that felt so right, so us, our hearts leapt with joy. And we immediately began envisioning where God might take us and that thing. But then opposition hit, and though we persevered for a while, eventually our passion and strength waned until both felt nonexistent.

So we quit.

We stopped trying. Stopped hoping, stopped longing for more or better.

Maybe after years of rejections and setbacks, we came to believe God could never use that gift in that way. Or maybe not at all. Perhaps after years of marital silence and what felt like unanswered prayers, we relinquished our hopes of happily ever after and slowly, quietly, our hearts hardened. We ceased praying for that family member, quit believing that wayward child would return. Quit trusting God would one day give us victory over that sin.

And so, over time, we joined the disillusioned and discouraged, convinced Christ’s promise of abundant life was nothing more than hyperbole.

But at each moment, God gives us a precious gift: the chance to begin again. To send one more letter, offer one more prayer, make one more phone call, or type one more line. Because He’s fully engaged in our journeys, not just our beginnings and ends. As the saying goes, the God who calls us to it, whatever it may be, is the same God who will bring us through it.

All He asks is that we lean on Him and keep stepping. We tend to see difficulties as text pulled from post with background image of mountains and a valley between them.dead ends and detours, but in Scripture, again and again, we see those things that appear to be obstacles are simply opportunities for God’s power and grace to shine.

Imagine being part of the rebuilding crew King Cyrus sent back to Jerusalem. If you’ve been following this blog series, you’ll remember, after a long period of captivity, God stirred the hearts of His people’s captors to send them home—with abundance. He was calling them to rebuild their Temple, the place where He said He’d dwell. I imagine, in this, they would also be rebuilding their faith after having spent decades in a foreign, pagan land where all their desperate pleas for aid appeared to go unanswered for so long.

But then, just when all seemed hopeless, God came through and sent them off with absolutely everything they’d need to fulfill the task He’d assigned. Can you imagine the celebration they felt, upon leaving Babylon? The images and memories that filled their heads as they traveled closer and closer to their homeland?

You can sense their excitement in Psalm 126, written to celebrate their return:

“When the Lord brought back His exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’ Yes, the Lords has done amazing things for us! What joy!” (vs. 1-2, NLT).

Scripture tells us the people joined together “with a unified purpose” (Ez. 3:1) and, though frightened of the locals, began building with courage (Ez. 3:3, NLT). Everyone, including the priests and Levites, who’d returned from exile, worked together. Then, once they laid the foundation, they praised God with trumpets, cymbals, and songs of thanks.

Oh, what a glorious beginning! What joy to be called and commissioned by the King. But then came the opposition. The locals first tried to deceive them, then frightened and discouraged them until, eventually, the building stopped.

They shifted their focus off of the things of God and onto themselves, off of the glorious and miraculous and onto the mundane. They settled for “what was”—a life of ordinary houses occupied by ordinary lives—instead of what could be.

At least for a time—until God once again revived their hearts. Just as He does with us, when we begin to feel tired and discouraged. If that’s where you’re at now, hear this truth: God’s with you. He has a plan for you, and He is, at this moment, walking beside you. He will turn every struggle and setback you encounter to good. Trust Him in this, lean on Him, and keep stepping.

Let’s talk about this! Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below, and join Wholly Loved’s discussion in our Facebook group!

Our online community is a safe place where women can share their struggles, insights, and celebrations. This is a “closed” group where only members can see posts shared and where confidentiality is practiced. We share prayer requests, hurts and insecurities, and ways God is meeting us in our struggles each day. And you’re invited to heal and grow and learn with us!

And make sure to check out our daily devotions on Crosswalk. You can find them HERE.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Love For Those Who Don’t Understand It

 

Sad woman sitting on the groundHow do you explain God’s love to someone with no concept of it? Someone who’s only known manipulation, conditional and temporary relationships, or partial acceptance coated with the threat of rejection?

I asked that question to a church friend maybe ten years back, and she quickly responded, “You tell them about the cross.”

And I thought, ‘She doesn’t get it.’

She didn’t understand what it felt like to be betrayed and abandoned by the ones who were supposed to protect you and hold you close. She didn’t know the sting of trusting someone, believing they truly loved you, or at least hoping they did, only to have them leave or discard you, without a backwards glance. Or worse.

Our world is filled with those who’ve experienced deep hurts by those who were supposed to love them most, and they carry the scars and distrust, which often presents as anger and skepticism, today.

It’s filled with men and women going through life with deep wounds only Christ can heal and aching holes only He can fill but who, because of past hurts and scars, can’t see Him.

Though He reaches out day after day in a thousand different ways, their hurt-tainted perceptions distort His hand. We keep proclaiming Jesus, but our words seem to have little effect, and we wonder why.

So again I ask, how do you explain the cross to someone who has no concept of true, sacrificial love? How do you help them understand that Christ died not for a cause or movement or to make a statement but for them, so that they could live?

The longer we’ve been followers of Christ, the more removed we can become from this question. We can begin to take His death and resurrection for granted, and in our familiarity with the Good Friday story, we can forget it’s depth. Though I suspect we’ve all wrestled with its implications, at least, if we truly grasped what Christ did and have owned His radical deed for ourselves.

Did you see the Passion movie? I did, and walking in, I felt certain I understood Christ’s sacrifice, what it cost, and the gift I received through it. I knew I was a cherished, redeemed, child of God destined for heaven. But I hadn’t a clue just how loved–unfathomably, deeply and radically–I was.

Then I saw His flesh tear as the metal tipped whip scourged his back. I saw the agony on His face as His executioners hammered nails into His hands and feet. And I saw Him hang, exposed, abandoned and rejected, until, with a final word, “It is finished,” He relinquished His life.

For me.

That was all I could think, as I sat in that dark, quiet yet crowded theater. He did that for me.

Jesus died so that I might live.

Me. Sinful, selfish, and prideful Jennifer Slattery.

Suddenly, what I knew to be true became all the more real. And my only response was, “I’m sorry. Forgive me, Lord, I’m so sorry.”

There was nothing else to say. No promises or declarations or pious acts could compensate for what He’d done.

Jesus showed me, through that film, what true love looks like. A love that gives of oneself completely, until one has nothing left. A love that chooses to die so that others, like me and you, might live.

So again I ask, how do we explain the cross to someone with no concept of love? Someone who’s only known the manipulative, conditional, temporary love often displayed in our culture?

Sure, we could take them to the movie, and we could tell them how Jesus died for them. We could even flesh the story out, doing our best to make it vivid and real.

But first, we must do as our Savior did for us.

We need to show them. We need to demonstrate a love that reaches, perseveres, endures, and sacrifices. A love that remains even when mocked, rejected, and pushed away.

That’s the kind of love our world needs to see. A kind of love that, quite likely, may not make any sense to those receiving it. It may confuse long before it illuminates. But with every kind word and gentle smile, it helps pave the way for a love even more radical and unfathomable than any we can display.

This isn’t the quick, easy answer my friend gave. Nor is it easy to display, but it’s more effective than any gospel tract.

Let’s talk about this. What are some ways you are actively demonstrating the love of Christ? What can you do this lenten season to be God’s ambassador and image bearer–someone who reveals who God is at His core and His heart for mankind? Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage and challenge one another!

Courageous Impact

Joshua 1:9 with rainy background

Throughout Scripture, and often before miraculous events, God issued the command: Do not be afraid. Each day, He calls us to live on mission and empowers us to do so, but we tend to be a fearful bunch, and sometimes we can feel as if we’re caught in the middle of a tumultuous river with little more than a canoe and some paddles.

If that’s how you tend to feel, when called to step out in faith, I hope Leeann Betts’s post brings you encouragement today!

Small Boats and Big Waves

By Leeann Betts

Small boats—and the thought of drowning, terrify me. This fear paralyzed me and caused me to miss out on numerous things—until God helped me see the bigger picture.

As a result, I don’t do small boats.

I don’t do small boats.

I won’t enter anything smaller than a cruise ship.

And this from a girl who grew up on an island in the Atlantic.

When I was a kid, my grandfather built a small, flat-bottomed boat. No motors for him—oars only. He’d kit us out in our life vests and fishing poles and take us on a small lake near his summer cottage. I’d sit in the middle seat, and my white knuckles on the edge of the boat could have lighted our way home in the dark.

A couple of times he pried my fingers loose to hand me my fishing pole, but my fear paralyzed me to do anything but hold it. All I could see was the dark water mere inches away. All I could think about was that the water was over my head, that the lilies and weeds would probably entangle me, and who knew what was in the water? All sorts of monsters dwelt there.

Fast forward about fifty years, and I’m heading to Peru on a mission trip with my church. In fact, I’m going to the jungle. I already know I’d have to take a boat from the port to the camp, but that’s okay. I focused on “port” and “camp”, not “boat”.

We arrive at a collection of tiny structures in the middle of nowhere, providing food and supplies for weary travelers. We slip, slide, and scramble down a muddy bank to the water’s edge where our sailing craft awaits. I look upstream. Nothing but a couple of canoes. I look downstream. A metal boat about ten feet long, its canvas covering long rotted—a tiny outboard putt-putting to life under the tentative ministrations of a teenage boy.

My hubby helps me clamber in, and I sit in the middle of the middle seat, clinging to the edges of the warped board. The rest of the team is chatting, laughing, leaning against the side, ignoring me, for which I’m thankful. I think, “Okay, God, I can do this. I just have to do this one more time, on Sunday, when we leave.”

I ask about crocodiles, and they laugh and say there aren’t any. Phew! “But keep your hands out of the water,” somebody says. “There are piranha.”

Oh, nice.

When we reach the camp, everyone decides to go to the zoo the next day (another round trip in the boat), and to church on Sunday (another round trip) before we leave (the only trip I made a deal with God about).

Seriously?

But the Lord showed me the riverbanks, which in some places looked like sculpted sand. He reminded me that the river didn’t carve these banks, because although we’re at the headwaters of the Amazon, the water is slow-moving.

God pointed out the wake of the boat nudging up against the riverbank, and told me that the hundreds of boats that ply these waters daily made the contours in the riverbank.

“You are like the waves,” He said. “A little touch here. A nudge there. Your presence changes the waves with quote pulled from the postlives of people, just like the wake changes the shoreline.”

Suddenly, the reason for the trip became clear. It wasn’t about what I did—like painting walls, or teaching English, or cooking—it was about being there. Touching the lives of the children. Of the people who were so appreciative that strangers from the US would come to their country because we love them.

My fear of small boats and deep water didn’t vanish, but at least now I had a reason to tell them to stay quiet. I made those extra trips gladly, knowing that it wasn’t about the trip but about the time I spent with the boys. Nice tie in.

And I discovered in the process that I left my heart in that jungle, at the camp alongside the river, where the only way to get there is in a small boat. I’m looking forward to going back—hopefully soon.

I may sail in a small boat, and there may be big waves, but the good news is I serve a huge God Who can overcome this island girl’s fears and help her see the bigger picture.

***

Let’s talk about this! How does that imagery Leeann presented–the analogy of our influence being like the waves that gently tug at and transform a seashore? How might viewing our lives that way give us the courage and inspiration to step out and reach out?

It doesn’t take much to make a lasting, life-changing impact. Sometimes the best thing we can do is leave our air conditioned home, cross the street, and engage with a neighbor. Yesterday, an article I wrote for Crosswalk on loneliness went live, and the response blew my mind, telling me this is something many women struggle with. You can read the article HERE.

So many of us are living disconnected, but this is NOT God’s desire for us. He wants us to engage! If you’re one of the many who’ve allowed fear of rejection hold you back and hinder your relationships, I encourage you to come to one of our Bold and Brave conferences–we have one in Lincoln on July 21st, another one in Lincoln on Aug. 25th, and another one in Elkhorne on October 6th. Find out more HERE and connect with us on Facebook HERE.

Want us to come to your next women’s event? Contact me HERE.

And before you go, make sure you sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive great, inspirational, and entertaining content sent directly to your inbox. The next edition releases at the end of this month. You can subscribe HERE.

Get to know Leeann Betts!

Leeann Betts' author photoLeeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. She has released seven titles in her cozy mystery series, By the Numbers, with number 8, A Deadly Dissolution, releasing in June. In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published two books on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold and More Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft. She publishes a free quarterly newsletter that includes a book review and articles on writing and books of interest to readers and writers. You can subscribe at LeeannBetts.com or follow Leeann at AllBettsAreOff. All books are available on Amazon.com in digital and print, and at Smashwords.com in digital format.

Visit her website and receive a free ebook just for signing up for our quarterly newsletter. Read her writing on her blog, connect with her on Facebook or Twitter, and check out her books on Amazon.

cover image for a Deadly DissolutionCheck out her book, A Deadly Dissolution:

The total lunar eclipse of October 2004 leaves more than Bear Cove, Maine, in the dark. The town’s newly-elected mayor, Walter Akerman, hires Carly to audit the town’s books but is then caught in a compromising situation with his secretary Evie Mack. A journalist in town to cover the eclipse turns up dead. Tom and Sarah’s adopted son Bradley comes to stay overnight to see the eclipse, then goes missing on a walk in town. When Mike’s car is in a serious wreck which the police say is an accident, Carly thinks somebody is trying to send her a message to stay away. How can she solve all these mysteries while not completely wearing herself to a frazzle?

 

Please note–Correction

This is for my lovely blog subscribers who receive posts directly in their inbox. Please note, I made some corrections to the previous post to eliminate some potential theological concerns. Feel free to email me (jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com if you have concerns or questions, or simply reread the post as it is now. You can do so HERE.

Change Is In the Air

I’ve never liked change, and man, can I understand Rachel’s feelings regarding moving–I hate it. Which is interesting, considering how many times God has moved our family. And yet, when everything else tilts to a nauseating angle, God remains stable. Rock solid. I believe you’ll find my guest Rachel’s reminder of this to be a blessing this Christmas.

Changing Seasons
by Rachel Dodson

Over the last year or so the word change has been a big part of my life. As parents we are always dealing with change.  Our kids grow and change everyday. I know if you have a teen or pre-teen like I do they sometimes become completely different people or maybe even child-559378_640something that isn’t human (haha!). Change comes to us in different ways depending on our stage in life. My changes this past year dealt with a lot of things including moving to a different state.

Moving to a new state is not usually something I would say I get excited about. I had always been afraid of moving away from my family and friends but I started praying about this move when my husband first told me about the possibility of the new job. The Lord gave me a great peace about all of it and I knew that this was the right thing for us. Since moving He has continually opened the door for us. I am very thankful for the move we made.

I know that a lot of people are going through changes that are a lot harder than moving to a new place. Death is hard. Sickness is hard. This time of year makes those things even harder. But I have to remind myself that Jesus is always there.

Within the last few weeks my heart has been so heavy with all of the things going on in my life and in the world. As we work through each change/struggle we might be going through, keep this verse in mind, “For I know the plans I have for you”– this is the Lord’s declaration– “plans for your welfare, not your disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 HCSB).

God was there first. He knows your needs. He understands your frustration and pain. God has not and won’t ever leave you alone to deal with the changes or circumstances that you are going through. Count your blessings daily and know that God is texture-1893386_640right their with you to bring you through it. I know that each one of us has a whole list of things we can be thankful for and cherish this Christmas season.

As we all continue through our crazy lives this Christmas, let’s remember to take a break and count our blessings and embrace the changes the Lord places in our path. Trust in Him and turn over our cares and concerns to Him. He gives the peace and comfort we all need especially if you are going through a tough time this year.  Be the example your kids need to see. Show them what trusting Jesus looks like. 

Change is always there, the world keeps turning.  We as Christians have the thing the world is looking for. Let’s show the world what the peace of Jesus looks like.  Merry Christmas!  May the Lord richly bless you and yours this Christmas season.

***

img_20160924_105607Rachel Dodson is a stay at home mom of two. She loves to read, crochet and cross stitch. She was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee called Pikeville. This year she moved to Mississippi with her family. She is active in her church and loves helping in her community. You can follow her blog for book reviews and stories about life.

***

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Change isn’t something most people love. And when that change is heartbreaking, we might wonder what God is up to–and why.

Fully Known, Deeply Loved

writing-1055085_1920They say never treat your blog like a journal, well, unless it is in fact your journal. If that’s the case, chances are, it’s password protected so that your deepest thoughts don’t spill out into cyberspace. They also say be consistent. Meaning, if your readers have come to expect posts to hit their inbox on Thursdays (eh, hem) don’t suddenly throw one their way come Friday. Especially not directly after publishing a previous post.

And when I say they, I sort of mean me as I’ve taught on blogging enough to know the rules.

But then … enters Jesus, and grace slices through every rule and expectation.

I’m writing this post from a beautiful, busy, loud yet quiet hotel in the heart of Nashville where I’ve been surrounded by brilliance, creativity, anxiety, energy, friends, strangers … and Jesus.

Amidst it all, He’s beckoned to me, “Come. Sit. Rest.”

To be fully, deeply known and even more deeply loved. To feel that love reaching to your very depths–this is why I write. This is the feeling I wish to convey in every novel and blogpeace-of-mind-349815_1920 (1) post I send out, and yet, how can I express a love so deep, so true and pure, it arrests every fear, every hurt? A love so deep, when enveloped in it, it’s as if the world disappears. Or comes into sharper focus as it wells within, drawing one deeper into that love but also outward to whoever is standing near?

This is why I write–to somehow describe the indescribable, to give others the glimpse of this love and joy that is beyond comprehension. To somehow reveal the God who pursues this broken world with a passion and intensity that captivates, with a gentleness that embalms.

And yet, though I’m a writer, words fail me.