Now Free on Kindle!

SweetFreedomCover

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.

Courageous, Initiating, Life-changing

God’s used each Reach Out post this month to stir my thinking, and there seems to be a common thread. In fact, this thread has woven it’s way into articles I’ve written (in quotes provided by other authors), other posts I’ve read, experiences God’s brought my way. The thread is always be alert and obedient to divine appointments. The foundation for this thread is love. People need love, and God longs to love them through us.

As I recap this month’s posts, I’ll share what God taught me through them. I invite you to do the same.

I loved Thrust in the Spotlight by Sherry Castelluccio because it reminded me to look past the surface to the human heart beneath whatever dirt, frowns, or outward behaviors we see. Until we see people as God sees them–dearly loved children of God.

“I was not exactly excited when we started God’s Helping Hands ministry at our church. The prospect of giving large quantities of food and clothing to low-income families made me uncomfortable. Most of these people were drug addicts or alcoholics or both. Perhaps it was the fear of the unknown or even a sad case of snobbery that caused my trepidation.” (Read more here.)

(Those of you who are writers, I also encourage you to visit her blog to find out about a Hunger-Games dissection she’ll be launching soon. We’re going to analyze these best-selling novels, looking at chapter hooks, subplots, characterizations, plot twists, etc, to see what makes them so successful among such a wide demographic. It’ll be a fun, relaxed time of chatting and idea-swapping. Join us on her blog and FB!)

I loved Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s story, It’s Not About Us because it reminded me of one of my favorite phrases: “When God guides, God provides.” God is in the stretching business. Quite often, He’ll put us in a position where our resources, talents, abilities fall short–on purpose. Because He wants to remind us it’s not about us. It’s about Him–the Creator of the universe–working in and through us.

“In 2010, our ladies prayer group at church set a goal of thirty shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Some of us had struggled financially that year. Some could only afford to fill one box, some no boxes, and some several boxes. We decided we would all buy however little or much we could, then bring our gifts to the church and fill the boxes together.” (Read the rest here.)

I loved Elizabeth Veldbloom’s story for many reasons. She had a real fear–one triggered by wise words spoken by her parents, the same words I often speak to my daughter–stay away from strangers. But instead of focusing on her fear, she sought out her Savior in prayer. Don’t miss this: Instead of reacting–positively or negatively–she first sought guidance from God. This is so important! By doing this, she allowed God to speak to her heart and prepare her for this man. (So often I do the opposite–react first and pray later.) You may remember, Elizabeth felt like her words were insufficient, but remember what Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 10:19?

“…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say.” And as we saw from reading the man’s reaction, the words God gave Elizabeth were perfect.

“One day when I was working as a receptionist I went outside to enjoy my lunch. As I rounded the corner to my favorite spot, I stifled a groan. A man I didn’t know was sitting at my table. Normally, I liked having lunch alone. It gave me a chance to think and re-energize for the rest of the day.

I decided to sit at the other table across from him, smiling and nodding. Maybe he’ll leave soon, I hoped.” (Read the rest here.)

Your turn. What account impacted you most this month and why? Most importantly, how did it change the way you went about your day?

I believe God will place someone in each of our paths *today.* Someone in need of a kind word, a prayer, a hug, a helping hand. Don’t walk away and miss the amazing opportunity to be part of God’s outpouring of love.

Once again, I’d like to thank all our June Reach Out donors!

Sandra Robbins with Dangerous Reunion, Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Run and the Promise of Deer Run, Sherri Johnson with ebook To Dance Once More, Jerri Ledford with ebook Biloxi Sunrise, and Shannon Taylor Vannatter with Rodeo Hero.

Do you have a reach out story to share? Or something you’d like to donate to a future gift basket? Send me an email at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.

Jelly Beans, Candied Almonds, and Hearts … sigh

How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways ….

My husband is quite the romantic. He rarely buys me glitzy jewelry or takes me to five-star restaurants. He doesn’t read me poetry or take me dancing (perhaps you remember why. If not, you can read the reason here.), but he does buy me candied almonds when he’s at the outdoorsman store. He buys me jelly beans and packs of gum … just because. He sends me one sentence—uh … one word—emails, and calls me with absolutely nothing to say. 🙂 It’s like a trail of love, small actions sprinkled throughout our sixteen years together, easily overlooked if I’m not paying attention, and yet able to penetrate deep into my heart if I am.

If you belong to Christ, you have a husband even more tender, more thoughtful, more attentive than mine. Daily, Christ showers us with love, for no other reason than because we are His beloved. His treasure.

Today my sweet friend  Elizabeth Veldboom shares how God sprinkled tokens of love before her, like hidden rose petals waiting to be discovered and cherished.

***

As I held the small angel ornaments in my hands, ready to purchase them, tears came to my eyes even as a smile touched my lips. I fingered the pretty white lace, and breathed in the words the angels held in their embrace: love, and joy. Yes, I had love. And I had joy, for I was loved.

But let me rewind a little bit. One morning last December in my prayer time I felt as if God were asking me to focus on “love” and “joy.” Love and joy? I thought, crinkling my brow. Could you be more specific, God? That’s kind of general.

If only I knew then how specific He could get.

A few days after that, I came across a blog post about the widespread phenomenon of the “one word for 2012” campaign. Basically, instead of concentrating on a huge resolutions list for the new year, participants were asked to consider focusing on just one word for 2012. They could do this through prayer, journaling, and just by asking God how He would have them apply that word throughout daily life.

The idea intrigued me, and I decided I, too, would focus on one word for 2012. As I mulled on it, my conversation with God a few days earlier came back to me. Focus on love and joy. Could those be the words God wanted me to concentrate on for 2012? I hoped not. They were two very broad terms. Besides, they were just that:two. I needed one word.

A week later found my mom and I at a craft fair. In the first room we entered, a woman selling lace angel ornaments caught our eye. As we ventured nearer, I felt a gentle tugging in my spirit to pay attention. Curious, I tried to listen closely to what God was trying to tell me. But instead of my ears, it was my eyes God used.

Looking up, one angel stood out from among the many. Love, I read. That would have been enough to make me wonder, but then I felt another gentle urging to keep looking. I swept my gaze to the side, and immediately recognized what I was supposed to see: joy, said another angel. I couldn’t believe it.

That was at least two months ago, but the words “love” and “joy” have kept resurfacing everywhere I go. And I’m not a bit surprised.

You see, I serve a God who takes joy out of the little things. Who never overlooks the smallest detail or tiniest trouble. Who orders and plans and organizes our steps. He is a God of greatness, yes-but He is also a God of the still, the small, the silent.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT.)

Every detail? Yes. Even the smallest: a single tear wetting the pillow; a snowflake drifting from the skies of heaven; the lace in an angel’s skirt.

No one is ever too insignificant for Him to notice. No problem too small for Him to care. Knowing He delights in and takes care of every little detail in our lives, we can rest easy and without fear.

I love that God delights in the details and in the small things. But even more-I love that God finds delight in the details of my small life.

I Hear Ya: In what small ways has God shown that He delights in the details of your life recently or in the past? What one word would you choose for 2012?

Elizabeth Veldboom is devoted to God, a small town girl, and a freelance writer.  She has previously been published in places like Guidepost’s Angels on Earth Magazine and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters. Visit her blog anytime at www.thefearlist.wordpress.com– the place that is for the faint of heart. **And visit her blog today to get in on a fun give-away! She’s giving away a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

And come back here Saturday as we talk about our spiritual vision. God’s always working, loving, speaking, guiding. If you can’t see His hand, perhaps you need to get your vision checked. 🙂