Because Everyone Loves to Win!

Happy Monday! If that phrase grates on your sleepy, Monday morning ears, let me see if I can make your day a tad brighter. Or at least, maybe I can add some fun to your day.

Do you like contests? Not stand on your head, jump up and down, and see who can yell the loudest type contests. (Can you tell I was in the preschool classroom at church yesterday?) For this contest, all you have to do is click, and follow.

The prize? One of four copies of my debut novel, Beyond I Do. Already read it? Enter anyway, and tuck it away in your gift-giving closet. (Just please don’t use it as a white elephant gift. On second thought, go ahead.)

To find out more and to enter the contest, go HERE!

To learn more about the novel…

f3292-jennifer2bbeyond2bi2bdoWill seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them further apart?

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignites a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Read the first 36 pages for free HERE.

Aaaaannnnd… as long as we’re talking about romance, make sure to pop by FaithFriendsandChocolate tomorrow to read my post on Cultivating Romance.

Reaching the Fork in the Road

So much struggle. So much uncertainty. So much pain. And in one moment, one simple, ID-10016416rational choice, she could leave it all behind. Start over. Follow the easy path.

Or so it seemed….

As I read Ruth 1:1-8, I wondered how Ruth’s life would have changed if she chose to leave Naomi and return to the land of her people. Where she could stay with her relatives, find a new husband, have children, and live a life of ease.

At least, standing at the fork of indecision, that must have been how it seemed.

Read verses 8-10 again here.

To paraphrase, after Ruth’s husband died, her widowed mother-in-law’s urgings presented Ruth with a choice: She could focus on her grief, on her problems and self-preservation or she could die to herself and her needs and love her mother-in-law more than herself.

Let’s not lose sight of the significance of this. Here were two widowed women living during a time when husbands were largely a woman’s only hope of survival. This was before welfare and life insurance policies. In this agrarian society, to live without a husband meant one would be forced to depend on the generosity of others. (You can read more about widowhood in Bible times here.)

So in essence, choosing to stay with Naomi rather than return to her homeland, Ruth would be choosing a life that, could quite possibly, result in homelessness and hunger.

Can you imagine the fear? The inner turmoil this must have created?

I suspect some of you know the rest of her story, but let’s pause here, at this moment of intense pain and uncertainty. At this place of incredible tragedy, where, having lost her husband, Ruth had to decide: hold on to her life–focus on self, or surrender her life to God, not knowing what lay ahead.

In chapter one of Beyond I Do, Ainsley was given that same choice. Go back home and let someone else deliver that package to Deborah’s sick friend, or die to self, pushing past her fear, and obey.

Each day, we’re given that same choice as well, and how we decide directly affects our trajectory. With each choice, we either step closer to God’s call for us or we venture one step further away.

WeekOneVerseBIDStudy

If we try to hold on to our life, our dreams, our goals; if we focus on self-preservation, we lose. But if we surrender EVERYTHING, we win. Every time.

Oh, if only we could see the road ahead! Then our choices would be easier, wouldn’t they? But God is asking us to trust.

If you haven’t had a chance to read today’s Bible passage, or if you’re just joining us, you can read Ruth 1:1-8 here. If you haven’t purchased Beyond I Do, the novel our study springboards from, you can get an ecopy for under a buck or print copy for under ten here.

Let’s talk about this.

I encourage you to write Matthew 16:25 on an index card and keep it where you’ll regularly see it. The abundant life Christ offers begins and is sustained by surrender. But to surrender, we must learn to die to ourselves.

I’ve been told the questions I posed Thursday were a bit… abundant so I’m going to post a shortened list today. 🙂 Even so, please don’t feel as if you have to answer them all. Rather, choose a few to think and talk about and journal on.

I encourage you to join the discussion here, through our email loop (let me know if you’d like to join. 🙂 ) or on our study’s FB page.

Our Bible reading: Ruth 1:1-8
Focus: evaluating our past and present hurts in light of God’s sovereignty and grace.
What thoughts arose as you read Ruth 1:1-8?
We read about Naomi’s heartache but not much about Ruth’s. Why do you think that is?
What are some difficulties Ruth faced as a widow?
Why do you think Ruth chose not, at least from what we see, to voice her pain to Naomi?
In what ways can we see Ruth’s love for her mother-in-law?
In what ways did Ruth exhibit self-sacrifice?
When has God asked you to focus on others and not on your pain or trial, and what was the result?
ACTION PLAN: What might God be asking you to do this week?
Make sure to stop by Beth’s blog on Friday to discuss Ruth 1:8-22

Some questions to consider and pray about in preparation for Friday’s discussion:
What is it that keeps me from my calling?
What stops you from moving forward with God, or, if you are following God, what makes this difficult?
What does self-preservation mean to you and has it affected your walk with the Lord?
What are some ways you can know what God is calling you to?

 

 

Beyond I Do Bible Study Group!

BiblestudyinviteGood morning and happy Monday! I continually hear from readers how my debut novel has stretched their thinking in some area or challenged them to embrace a deeper level of surrender in order to grab hold of the abundant life Christ offers. I cannot express how encouraging it is to know my writing is being used by Christ to grow and strengthen His children! But perhaps the most encouraging comment I’ve received came from a fellow Living by Grace host and a dear friend, Beth Farley.

Last week she responded to a link I’d posted on Facebook, saying she’d tacked a key verse from my novel on her bathroom mirror to review it daily.

This touched me deeply and excited me to think of the divine adventure that awaits this precious sister in Christ. As I rejoiced on God’s mercy and grace, I wondered, what if we all spurred one another toward a deeper level of surrender?

With this in mind, I decided to form an online Bible study group that uses Beyond I Do as our springboard. As we follow Ainsley Meadows, my heroine, in her journey toward full surrender, we will dig deep into the biblical truths that will encourage us to do the same.

This study will be hosted on Facebook on Tuesdays and Fridays (those participants can interact daily, if they choose). Discussion questions and conversations will also be hosted here (on Tuesdays) and on Beth’s blog FirstHalfDay (on Fridays). I will also be creating a yahoo email group for those who prefer to interact that way. (Let me know if you’d like me to send you an invite to the email group.)

ID-10083723Join us as we surrender our dreams, plans, fears, and insecurities to our Savior, the One who promises to lead us toward the abundant life He promised.

When: Nov. 10th-Dec. 10th

Where: Cyberspace! Here, Facebook, and Beth’s blog

How: Interact through the comments here, on Beth’s blog, on Facebook, or simply sit back and soak it all in.

Please note: You do not have to have read the book to participate.

If you haven’t purchased the book but would like to, it is available for $2.39 on CBD! Get it here.

Week in Review

So much is happening lately, I’ve decided to use Saturdays for a “Week in Review”.

Book highlights:

ACFW Professional Relations Liason, Cynthia Ruchti, is a double finalist in Christian Retailing’s Best Awards–When the Morning Glory Blooms in General Fiction, and Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices in Nonfiction:Women. Read more here: Christian Retailing’s Best 

BeyondIDocoverMy debut novel, Beyond I Do, is now available for pre-order! At a discounted price, even!

Many said they wanted to learn more about this book, so here goes:

Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadow’s encounter with a woman, her child, and their abuser sparks a passion that threatens her engagement. Will seeing beyond the present unite her and her fiance or tear them apart?

Raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignites a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Another highlight–I’m becoming more tech savvy by the day! I learned how to put the cover image in the sidebar of this site. (See right) I also started an author page on Amazon, and with help, I learned how to feed my blog into it. Hooray! (Check it out here.)

Libby Final front coverFay Lamb, a friend I lovingly call the Loop-lady, just saw the release of her latest novel, Libby:

Libby Overstreet can’t see herself as anything but shy and socially awkward. She’s nearing thirty, and she’s never even been on a date. Then she meets the man of her dreams, but Libby knows he would never be interested in a wallflower like her. All she wants to do is to buy that garden nursery on the outskirts of town and settle down with the life she has always dreamed about.

Evan Carter has been watching the sweet woman in the coffee shop for weeks when his friend tells him that the object of his affection plans to buy a garden nursery and needs Evan’s expertise as an architect/contractor. When they meet, Libby is more enamored of Evan and even more convinced that he would never look at her as anything but a friend. However, that’s far from the truth. Evan would love to get to know the innocent beauty God has placed in this path. Trouble is, he fears that a lovely flower like Libby will wilt under the sins of his past, and he’ll do everything in his power to keep that from happening.

Updated Wit & Wisdom cover 2014My sweet friend, Eileen Rife’s, kid quip book, Wit & Wisdom from the Wee Ones, releases in May:

Kids can take us right to the heart of God, one way or another. When they provoke frustration, we breathe a silent prayer for grace. When they incite giggles, we hear God’s laughter as well. When they stimulate an endearing moment, we sense God’s touch. When they utter a profound statement, we step back in wonder. What is this phenomenon a little one evokes? Bubbly ripples of laughter that transport us to another realm. Unabashed honesty that cuts to the chase. Joy splashing around our ankles, light spilling into shadow, awakening us to a childlike appreciation for the world around us.

If we take the time, if we listen, if we stoop to their level, we can go where kids go—straight to the heart of God. Wit & Wisdom from the Wee Ones is a collection of cute quips and quotes inspired by Eileen’s grandchildren. Along with other contributors, Eileen cracks the door to the whimsical, yet often wise world of the child. Lean in close . . . you may just hear God’s heartbeat.

On the web:

In the Christian living world, I’ve had two articles go live, one on Divine Silence and the other where I share one of my least glamorous yet most memorable moments in an article titled The Dangers of Negativity.

My sweet friend, Jennifer Hallmark, visited Seriously Write to discuss the pros and cons of joining a compilation project. Having compiled Sweet Freedom, and working on another compilation with my church, I found this post interesting. 🙂 You can read about this here.

Reality Church News:

The Art of Neighboring!

Following an excellent series on the “E” word, hubby and I are going to a seminar titled “The Art of Neighboring.” We’re hugely excited about this, because this is an area we really need to grow in! Plus, I’ll be sharing a neighboring story that really touched (touches) my heart.

mini big live logoThe Mini Big Live!

You may remember our massive tri-city serving event titled the Big Live. Well, we’re at it again, but on a slightly smaller scale. May 2-4, RC members will partner with 10 Omaha Metro ministries to bring God’s love and truth to a hurting world. We’ll serve the homeless, clean a park, organize and facilitate a fun run to benefit the local foodbank, will plant flowers at the Hope Center and will make beds for children who have none… among other things!

The highlight: My railroader hubby is leading a flashmob dance of Papillion Manor residents and RCers. To say this shoved him out of his comfort zone would be an understatement. ha! But I know he’ll rock it! Figuratively and literally. (We hope to have Youtube footage of the event. Of course I’ll share it with y’all!)

Saving Grace booklet!

I’m helping our Groups Pastor, Roger Graber, compile a booklet on Saving Grace. This will be used for discussion groups and will be distributed to everyone who attends our Easter service. It’ll also be available in PDF form, which means I’ll be able to share it with you!