Red Lights, Detours, and Closed Roads

Ispontaneous I’m not. To put it mildly. I love lists and ten-to-twenty year plans with each step of the journey mapped out. Funny how life has a way of turning my game plan upside down. Or should I say, it’s glorious how God has a way of turning my best-laid plans upside down, because from red light to detour, He’s continually reminding me, it’s not up to me. Praise God for that!

JenHToday my very dear friend, Jennifer Hallmark, shares her thoughts on closed roads and detours, reminding us to keep our eyes above the smog.

Red Lights, Detours, and Closed Roads by Jennifer Hallmark


Have you ever been late for an appointment? Me too. At times, I haven’t given myself time to drive the distance, but this wasn’t my fault. I ran into red lights, detours, and closed roads.

My daughter had a follow-up doctor appointment after an ER visit. We left in time to arrive at the specialist, an hour and ten minute trip.

We drove through Decatur, getting stopped at every red light. Then came road construction and we were detoured into one lane. Twenty minutes to drive two miles. My daughter called the doctor to mention we’d be late. The receptionist told her if we were more than fifteen minutes late, we’d have to reschedule. I hurried when I could, and made up for lost time on the interstate. We were at exit seven when I saw the sign. Exit closed. Mandy called her husband and he said take exit nine. We could still make it.

After we took exit nine, we had no idea how to get to the doctor’s office. As I drove the main strip, nothing appeared familiar. Three calls to the receptionist later, we found the office, twenty minutes late. They let us keep our appointment. Whew!

As we sat in the waiting room, I penned this article. My daughter rolled her eyes, but hey, why waste a stressful moment when you can write about it?

How many times have we been headed in the right direction, but ran into red lights, detours, and closed roads? Red road-closed-sign-2-1003255-mlights are times when we try to push through, only to stop. Go. Stop. Go.

You sign up to volunteer in the nursery on Sunday. The first day, you and the children are blessed. The next day you’re on the schedule, you wake up with the stomach virus, stay home and battle guilt. The next time your own child has the stomach virus. You ponder. Am I supposed to volunteer? The doubts begin. This is a red light, not a closed road. Go ahead and pray, but stay committed. Don’t quit the nursery because it’s too hard.

Detours happen. A lane is closed. You are pointed to an unfamiliar road around the construction. I don’t like unfamiliar roads, so my reaction can be fear. Should I turn around and go home?

The co-worker you carpool with changes jobs, so you need a new rider. She mentions another lady, but you don’t know her. A detour. Don’t let fear keep you from making a new friend and the possibility of sharing your faith.

A closed road can cause you to re-evaluate your destination. Can I still get there? We can’t imagine another way, so we quit and head home. Stop. The new way could lead to something better. Remember exit nine? On traveling this way, I noticed the place we hold our writer’s meetings and a new avenue to arrive there. The closed exit became an unexpected blessing.

I wrote a story for a Christian magazine, then it shut down. I held onto the story until a new door opened through a compilation of short stories. The projected magazine story would become part of a book.

The next time you encounter a red light, detour, or closed road, don’t despair. It might be God’s way of leading you to His purpose and plan for you.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8-9, NKJV).


Mara Adkins, a promising fashion designer, has fallen off the ladder of success, and she can’t seem to get up.

In college, Mara and her sorority sisters played an ugly game, and Mara was usually the winner. She’d date men she considered geeks, win their confidence, and then she’d dump them publicly. When Mara begins work for a prestigious clothing designer in New York, she gets her comeuppance. Her boyfriend steals her designs and wins a coveted position. He fires her, and she returns in shame to her home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where life for others has changed for the better.

Mara’s parents, always seemingly one step from a divorce, have rediscovered their love for each other, but more importantly they have placed Christ in the center of that love. The changes Mara sees in their lives cause her to seek Christ. Mara’s heart is pierced by her actions toward the twelve men she’d wronged in college, and she sets out to apologize to each of them. A girl with that many amends to make, though, needs money for travel, and Mara finds more ways to lose a job than she ever thought possible.

Mara stumbles, bumbles, and humbles her way toward employment and toward possible reconciliation with the twelve men she humiliated to find that God truly does look upon the heart, and that He has chosen the heart of one of the men for her to have and to hold.

The twelve authors contributing to this project are: Elizabeth Noyes, Fay Lamb, Marji Laine, Jerusha Agen, Theresa Anderson, Patricia M. Dyer, Jennifer Hallmark, Paulette Harris, Betty Owens, Phee Paradise, Debbie Roome, Debra Ullrick.

A Dozen Apologies also includes fun bonus materials that give readers an inside glimpse of the heroes, Mara, and the process of writing a collaborative novel.

Jennifer Hallmark is a writer by nature, artist at heart, and daughter of God by His grace. She loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with her two precious granddaughters. At times, she writes.

Her website is Alabama-Inspired Fiction and she shares a writer’s reference blog, Writing Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas…Oh My! with friends, Christina, John, Ginger, Tammy, Don and Betty. She and Christina Rich share an encouraging blog for readers called The Most Important Thing.

Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! When has a detour or road block turned into a blessing? How might remembering that moment help you during times of struggle or stress? Perhaps your locked in unmoving, bumper to bumper traffic now. If so, what might God be trying to tell you? How might your “stagnation” be a blessing? How might remembering His nature–His love, grace, wisdom, and power–give you peace during chaotic or discouraging times?

Join the conversation here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Don’t Be Discouraged!

Strength in the Struggle

Endurance Training



In Honor of An Amazing Woman

dianaThere are some people in life that you wish you knew. That you know, had you had the time to connect with them over coffee, or to simply overhear their daily conversations, you’d be better. Stronger. More impactful. Because impactful people inspire others to be impactful.

I regret to say, I didn’t know Diann Hunt, other than what I read on her blog or what I saw on Facebook. And quite honestly, I didn’t really start to pay attention until I learned the devastating news… She had ovarian cancer. Having a grandmother who died from that silent killer, I worried how this author’s fight might end.

But more than that, I marveled at the way she fought. Not so much how she fought the disease itself, but how she fought all those other things that can accompany terminal illness, those things like:




Withdrawal and isolation

She might have “lost” her valiant fight against cancer, but she went home victorious, for even when the claws of death sank deep into her frail frame, she prevailed, and showed the world what it means to have a peace that surpasses understanding, a love that extends far beyond ones self, and a joy based on something much more eternal, much more real, than anything we can grab hold of in this sin ravished world.

She showed the world what Christianity is all about. It’s one thing to say you have faithdelight yourself3 when the blessings abound. It’s another thing entirely to not only cling to that faith but radiate it from your very core when your world falls apart. She lived that which she wrote about.

That was the type of faith Diann had, and her impact will not soon be forgotten.

Today, the ACFW community honors this precious woman of the faith.

To read more about Diann Hunt, her life, her writing, and the impact she made on so many, visit the following blogs:

Trish Perry:
Julie Arduini:

Rethinking Failure


contemplativeThe big F.

When you sense a divine nudge, step out in faith even though your knees are buckling, sweat is cascading down your spine, and your stomach feels as if an army of ants not only took up residence but are engaged in some crazy acrobatics, and nothing, absolutely nothing, goes as planned.

In those moments, we may be tempted to raise our fists at God or hide away in our nice, safe homes, determined never, ever, not in a jabillion years, to do ministry again.

But what if our interpretations are wrong? What if what we perceive as failure is but a stepping stone–and a necessary one at that? The hard thing about faith, about having a finite and often faulty brain, is that we may never fully see the results or reasons behind our actions this side of heaven. I’ve shared before, looking back on my life, I remember countless patient, loving Christians whom I have no doubt were called to reach out to and love on me.

In fact, I remember one family in particular. They lived in Ferndale, and they had a daughter my age. In those days, I was a mess. And I imagine, there were many times I was quite difficult to be around. But this family took me in. Fed me, sheltered me, loved on me.

But despite their love and patience, I continued my downward spiral. I imagine they felt they had failed. Or like maybe they’d heard God wrong. Because if God calls us to do something, we have to succeed, right? We’ve got the power of Creator God behind us!

But what if His version of success is different from ours? What if He sees something we can’t–like the slow but persistent softening or healing of a heart?adultchild A heart that might take decades–maybe even a lifetime–to change? And what if in the process, He was working on our heart as well–molding, guiding, teaching, equipping, transforming us from who we are now to who He created us to be? What if every action, every assumed failure is necessary training toward our future calling?

You see, I believe God is sovereign over our successes and our failures. In fact, I believe each moment, He is watching over us with care and love, keeping an eye not only on our hearts but on our final destination as well.

As a reminder of this, I often consider two Scripture passages. They have become my life verses. I recite them when it feels as if God is raining blessings upon me and when it feels as if He’s deadbolted every door.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16 NLT).

We are God’s masterpiece. Camp out on that for a moment.

These verses have shaped my definition of success. They remind me God has a glorious plan for me, my life, and every person I touch while here on earth. And He’s taken full responsibility to perfect that which concerns me. (Psalm 138:8) My role is simple: To surrender fully and obey without hesitation, seeking to learn and grow from each and every event or encounter.

That’s it. And here’s the beautiful thing: If I do that, I have succeeded, regardless of how things turn out.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How often do you contemplate your assumed failures, looking for the hidden lesson God might be trying to show you through them? Are you basing your success on those things you have no control over, like how many people will come to Christ during your ministry events, how many promotions you receive, or how large your paycheck will grow if you do X and Y? Or are you basing your success on the only thing you can control and that which will bring your Heavenly Father exceeding joy–the extent of your surrendered obedience?

Other blog posts you might enjoy:
Rejoicing in Closed Doors
What’s Your Jericho

Books you might find helpful:
<em>Beyond Me by Kathi Macias
Called and Accountable by Henry and Norman Blackaby

Falling Forward by John C. Maxwell

Daily Act of Kindness Challenge

DailyActofKindness If you’re one of my lovely Facebook friends, you’ve probably already learned about this challenge. It’s similar to the Reach Out to Live Out we did some time back. Which was totally awesome! I loved reading about the many diverse ways God’s children reached out to others and experienced God’s love pouring through them. In my opinion, there’s nothing like it. Christian, the abundant life comes when we surrender fully to God in every area of our lives, including our to-do lists and schedules.  (For an excellent devotion about this very thing, click here.) Because this Christianity thing is more than a Sunday gathering. 🙂

I’ll share one, an act that seemed small, maybe even insignificant, but meant the world to the recipient. Donna* has a chronic illness that most often is quite manageable. But Saturday night, for whatever reason, it flared, and she felt as if her entire body was in revolt. Pain intensified and refused to be abated. It kept her up past ten, past eleven, past twelve… and Sunday was scheduled to the hilt. She had much too much to do to forego sleep.

She prayed God would take the pain away. Prayed He would maybe knock her out so she could get a few hours of sleep, enough to allow her to press through her commitments the next day.

But as the clock ticked by, she began to realize, she might need to ask for help. So she did, sending out a text message to some sweet friends asking them to perhaps cover some of her commitments. It was humbling, a moment of admitted weakness. To her, it felt like failure.

At 3 am and after a sufficient amount of Tylenol and Ibuprofen, she finally crashed.

The next morning, she woke up feeling a fair amount better. Not 100%, but enough to press through her commitments. So, she sent out another text, alerting everyone that she could indeed honor her commitments.

jacketShe went to church loaded up with her medicines and still feeling a bit shaky–not to mention exhausted. Apparently shivering, for a dear sister in Christ approached her, and offered her a leather jacket.

What a small gesture, right? But to Donna, this felt like a giant hug. In fact, the rest of the day, when she looked at this jacket and thought of the small act of kindness, her heart swelled. She can’t quite explain why that simple act meant so much, except maybe that it was offered at a time when she felt defeated. But that’s the way it is with simple acts of kindness, isn’t it? They don’t have to be grand or complicated to touch someone deeply. Really, it’s largely in the act, in the, “I get it, and I care.”

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

livingbygracepic.jpDo you have an act of kindness story to share? Send it my way at

So what about you? What’s one thing you can do today to show kindness to someone else? I’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace. 

Hope Lives Here: Lost and Found

Janet w leather scarf 1Today I am thrilled to have Janet Bly, widow to the legendary Stephen Bly who passed away in 2011, as my guest. I was honored to read and review her husband’s last novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot, and I loved it! But what I loved even more than the Stephen’s literary genius was the fact that Janet and her sons finished the novel after Stephen’s passing. What a way to honor a husband and father! Today, Janet speaks on hope–something I believe is crucial to mankind’s survival. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, mankind can endure heartache and trials unimaginable, if they have hope. But if hope is gone … Today Janet shares the story of one woman who was in the depths of despair and found hope through the love and words of a faithful friend.

But before we go any further, I wanted to announce the winner of Arkansas Weddings by Shannon Taylor Vannatter!

SusanMSJ, congrats! You won a copy of Shannon’s novel. I’ll shoot you an email soon to find out how best to get this novel to you.  And for the rest of you that didn’t win this go round, no worries! Another give-away starts today! Winner will be selected randomly from the comments below and will when one of Janet Bly’s books!

Teri finally got her life together. She had endured years of a long series of deadends, painful losses, and tragedy. But that was the past. Now she had a loving husband, three wonderful children, and no major crises.

Then her husband plotted a surprise. He had found a way to find her two other children she had lost contact with long ago.

“I was 21,” Teri explains, “an orphaned divorcee with only a basic education. My first husband had an intact extended family, education, and financial resources. He got custody of our kids.” Eventually, due to circumstances beyond her control, she no longer knew where they were.

Her husband’s news delighted her. She would be complete now. “I had in my hands a computer printout that told me all about my firstborn son. He was 5’10” tall, weighed 160 pounds, had hazel eyes, dark brown hair. He started driving on his 16th birthday, the year before. I also had a contact phone number.” Then Teri noticed a word that chilled her: “Deceased!”

Why was that on the page? Deceased? That couldn’t be true. How could my son be dead?

A police report was included: suicide. Teri’s mind and emotions shut down in shock.

“My heart turned dark. I felt God was out to get me, punish me for my many wrong choices. It was like a cruel joke. My poor husband tried to do what he could, but I felt I no longer existed. What he meant for joy turned into trauma. He took care of the family because I checked out. My firstborn was dead and later my firstborn daughter refused to meet with me. And who could blame her? I was sure I was the cause of her brother’s death.”

Teri had struggled with depression before and learned how to pull herself out. But not this time. All she felt was hopelessness.

In time, Teri’s hope revived again. But it didn’t just happen. Time by itself healed nothing for her. She needed time plus gutsy love. Teri’s load was lightened when a certain someone sat beside her and listened while she poured out her soul. When someone had the right words and actions at a critical juncture. God worked through her family and also a special friend to soften and redirect her exploding anger, gripping regrets, and gaping wounds of sorrow.

God uses people to kindle hope. Human relationships are among His finest gifts. We need at least one capable, willing confidante. Someone who has been trained in the fires of experience and the furnace of faith. Someone who will come alongside, go through the stuff of life with us. Or you can be that person for another.


BlyBook HopeLivesHere1AFind out more about how Teri survived in Hope Lives Here.

Today, shut out the world for a few minutes and treat yourself to one of these 31 short meditations. A month-long devotional guide with true stories, enriched with relevant Scripture passages, and prayers to encourage your heart.
Life offers enough troubles to keep things interesting. You may become impatient for relief under the load of heartbreaking problems. But God’s delays achieve fulfillment of His highest aims. He carefully prepares you for what lies ahead. Hope Lives Here weaves stories of humor and pathos with the display of God’s wisdom and goodness. God brings to each life the people and events designed to reveal the ultimate hope in Christ and keep attention on the future eternal glory of heaven.

Janet Chester Bly is a speaker on women’s issues, relationship challenges, and devotional themes. She authored 11 books, including Words To Live By For Women, Hope Lives Here, God Is Good All The Time, Awakening Your Sense of Wonder, and The Heart of a Runaway. She co-authored with her late husband Stephen Bly 19 other nonfiction and fiction books, including The Power of a Godly Grandparent, The Carson City Chronicles, and The Hidden West Series.

Janet and her 3 sons finished Stephen’s last western novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot. Read about the family project at the Bly Books blog:


Check out Hope Lives Here:

Let’s talk about this. Share a time when you were struggling and someone gave you hope. What did they do or say? How did that help you? Or perhaps you’re on the giving end. Do you have a loved one facing tough circumstances? How can you give them hope without sounding cliche’ or minimizing their feelings? I rarely know the right words to say, so often, I’ll just listen, or maybe send my loved ones a verse or a link to a song. I hope it is enough for them to know I care.

Ultimately, our hope lies in God and God alone and His promise of heaven, but while we are here on His earth, He has given His followers the task of sharing His love, peace, mercy, grace, and hope with others.

LivingbyGracepicI’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook atLiving by Grace. 

Now Free on Kindle!


All Affra wanted was to find love–real love, but her desperation led her into the arms of an angry, lust-filled man, a man who, like all the others she’d known, used her for his pleasure than tossed her aside. But one afternoon, she met another man–one unlike any she’d known before. Could this man love her, truly love her? And would she let him, or would her past wounds keep her heart barricaded?

He grew up in a God-fearing, loving home. So how did he end up on the streets of California addicted to heroine, not caring if he lived or died?

Not long after learning of her pregnancy, Kelly Liberto’s doctor delivered terrifying news. She had cancer. While pregnant. How could cancer turn into a blessing? When it leads to a deeper unveiling and an even deeper healing–healing of wounds she wasn’t even aware she had!

A night in the hospital plunged Jodie Bailey, author of Freefall, into deep emotional bondage, a bondage that not only trapped her heart, but kept her physically trapped in the four walls of her home. Friends couldn’t help. Psychiatrists were at a loss. What would it take to help her break free of “these” four walls?

Marriage. True love … tainted by an ugly addiction–one that threatened to destroy Joanne Joy Underwood and her precious sons. What would it take for her to break free of her husband’s toxic addiction?

Gail Pallotta, author of Stopped Cold shares a beautiful fictional story of a grandmother who appears to have lost all hope, all drive for living. How can simple slivers of fabric reignite the flame within?

Melissa Finnegan tells a beautiful story of one woman, abandoned by her husband, who needs to learn to love again. But can she release her pain and unveil her shrouded heart in order to do so? (Currently on her blog, Melissa talks about how God led her to write her story, Burned. You can read about that here.)

Tanya Eavanson, author of Unconditional, talks about the freedom found in surrendering our wounds to Christ and trusting in Him and Him alone for our healing. (Tanya will be on television Monday. I imagine you can find out more by visiting her blog and leaving her a comment asking about it.)

Beth Farley’s beautiful poems stir our hearts afresh with love for our gentle, gracious, all-powerful Savior.

Elizabeth Veldboom had every right to be angry, but would feeding her anger and bitterness lead to emotional bondage?

I know many of you have already received the free PDF version of Sweet Freedom. You should be able to read this on your ereader, however, if you’d prefer to download the Kindle version, you can now do so for free! (Through July 7th.) Feel free to share the below link with anyone you believe might be blessed by this compilation. Our desire is that each story will stir your hearts afresh with a deep thirst for Jesus Christ and His freeing Spirit. He died to set you free. That’s how much He loves you and longs for you to walk in His freedom.

What Does God Expect of Us?

Most of you know, our family moved from one state to another last summer. Moving is always hard, but for teens, I believe, even more so. Our daughter really struggled … but God met her, met all of us, through a loving church. Truly, the youth group helped carry our daughter through that time. Today Robin Gilbert  Luftig reminds us to be the church God desires–one that’s saturated by love and grace.

What Is Expected of Us?

loveyourneighborA young girl sits alone on the pew, hoping—yet dreading—someone will ask to sit with her. Her clothes are nondescript and she wears little makeup. Her hair is neat yet combed just right to conceal her face. She knows how to blend into a crowd. She’s had years of practice learning how not to be seen. She doesn’t seem to want to be seen … but does she?

Please, see me. Look at me. Talk to me. Let me know I matter. I have a secret I want to share, but I’m afraid to risk it with you.

An elderly man slowly walks into the church and sits down in your favorite spot. It appears he’s missed several 967875_41580221bathing opportunities and hasn’t shaved in days. His clothes are worn and his shoes flop when he shuffles. The only glint from him comes from the worn wedding ring he wears on his gnarled finger. He looks a bit sad; a bit lost.

Please, see me. My wife just passed away and I’m so lonely. I want to talk to you, but I’m afraid to show you my pain.

These or people like these sit in pews across the country every Sunday. Sadly, many of them go home just as they came in: alone and in pain, still searching for relief yet afraid to risk reaching out.

What do we do?

Jesus’ words are very clear. Get to know and involve yourself in the lives of those around you. Matthew 31:36-40, shares a conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We don’t need to offer an intense theological dissertation on a point of doctrine. We may just need to smile … say “hello, my name is ______, what’s your name?” When we see and acknowledge others, they may give us the opportunity to really see them. We may even be able to show them the love Jesus talked about.

Think about that the next time you have a visitor at church. Maybe their needs are so great words won’t be spoken, until they know you care.



Robin Gilbert Luftig has worked for many years to help broken people understand that God loves them. In 2009, she founded Renew Ministries, with the purpose of sharing with spiritually- and emotionally-broken men and women that God has a plan for their healing. She’s written From Pain to Peace: The Journey of Forgiveness After Divorce, available at She is currently writing a book on accepting God’s restoration

Robin lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, Lew, and counts serving broken-hearted people as one of her greatest privileges.

You can follow Robin’s blog at and on Facebook at Renew Ministries with Robin Gilbert Luftig


Books about failed marriages abound on bookstore shelves. Readers in search of resources to re-energize themselves in the wake of a divorce can find vast and varied literature on inward and outward healing. So why another book on divorce? From Pain to Peace offers a unique perspective on post-marriage relationships. The premise of this work is that everyone benefits from establishing healthy relationships after divorce-primarily ex-spouses, but also the children and other family members and friends. This book promotes the act of forgiveness that lies at the heart of the healing process. Written in a lively and engaging style and using frequent support from Scripture, this book offers a Christian view on the subject. Also included are personal experiences as well as testimonials from others to support this premise. Stories are included from people in variety of roles-for example, ex-spouses, ex-in-laws, children, and stepchildren-who share their feelings and experiences and who recount stories of their own divorce process.

Buy it here!


LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Perhaps you are going through a difficult time right now. It might be tempting to isolate. In fact, it might seem to take too much work or energy to get involved with church activities, but what if that is precisely how God wants to reach out to you–through the love of others? Or perhaps you know of individuals entering your church sanctuary who appear withdrawn, sullen … hurting. Maybe even angry (which most often is the result of pain). How might God want to use you to reach out to them? What are some easy, non-threatening ways we can do that?

Finally, has God used church members to minister to you during a particularly painful time? Share your experience here and let us celebrate God’s love together. 🙂

Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by   Grace.