Grace For When Our Speech is Less Than Gracious

nature image with grace quote

I’ve said things I’ve quickly regretted many times. The less time I spend in God’s presence, resting in His grace, the higher the likelihood ungracious words will come out of my mouth. But living daily, deeply, in God’s grace, as my guest today reveals, changes everything.

Grace For When Our Speech is Less Than Gracious by Darlene Franklin

I have a serious problem with my tongue, and this frequently run into challenges at the nursing home where I live. Apart from God’s presence with me,  I would give up the battle.

Only a few hours have passed since I tore into my aides for not getting me dressed until lunch time. With all the time prior, why wait until I might miss lunch? They replied that it had all worked out. I was out of the shower exactly when they passed trays so I was making a fuss about nothing. I just kept complaining, because I felt like no one was listening. I shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. According to my care plan, I’m to be showered and dressed by seven in the morning.

I understand the principles of speaking with kindness and compassion,  that is, speech that is directed by God’s Spirit living within me so that I know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:6). But sometimes my words sting and offer minimal honey (Proverbs 16:24).

Some days I do really well, Other times, like today. I falter.

Thank God for His grace. As I child I learned a simplistic definition:

G od’s

R edemption

A t

C hrist’s

E xpense

That redemption freed me from the bondage to and penalty of sin. The power of Christ’s sacrifice became mine the moment I admitted my sin and received His gift of salvation.

But “redemption” has present and future implications as well. One day, in God’s eternal kingdom, wrong doing won’t tarnish my life or my world.

In the here-and-now, God empowers me to live as He desires—and picks me up and helps me start again when I fail. He is Darlene's quote with a sunrise background imagealways ready to forgive me when I come to Him, after I made a mess yet again.

God doesn’t hold what I said yesterday against me, nor expect it to dictate what I say today. Instead, He gives me discernment, guidance, love, and forgiveness when I need it.

Experiencing God’s grace on a deep level allows me to move past my feelings of condemnation when I’ve spoken harshly and helps me speak and behave graciously in the future. If I’m healed of past hurts, caused by my sins or someone else’s, I’m less likely to lash out against someone else.

Whatever I encounter, God’s grace helps me to consider, is this problem important to complain about? And if I do, is this the person who can help? The standard is God’s grace and how He views the person who has hurt me or I’m in conflict with.

Living in grace means I accept what Christ has freely given me and and then pass it on to others.

Sometimes my soft answers turns aside another’s anger and conflict is avoided. But not always. Regardless, returning anger for anger doesn’t benefit anyone, and it’s certainly not how Christ treated His enemies.

The more I live in the grace Christ extends to me, the more likely I am to speak in grace.

***

Let’s talk about this! When do you most struggle showing others grace, whether with your words or your behavior? How does taking time to rest in Jesus and remind yourself of His grace help you in those moments? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another. And before you go, make sure to sign up for me free quarterly newsletter, releasing at the end of this month. You can do so HERE.

Get to know Darlene!

Darlene Franklin's author photoBest-selling Amazon and ECPA author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she continues to write from a nursing home. She keeps going because God keeps giving her more assignments. She’s written more than fifty-five fiction and nonfiction books, including Pray Through the Bible in a Year and Of Cash and Cats in Love Comes on Kitten Paws   

Keep up with her online HERE and visit her author page on Amazon HERE.

Check out her latest release, Cinderella’s Boot:

Two romantic novellas where fairy tales do come true.

Cynthia Ellen Cooper—known affectionately as “Cinderella”—left her wedding boot in the dust when she ran away from her wedding to work on a sheep station in Australia.

Four years later, she’s back home—and so is her ex-fiancé, now a DVM from Oklahoma State University. They reach a truce and work side by side in his father’s animal clinic.

Cyn soon discovers she wants more—but she has to battle bad history and a demanding pet owner for Keith’s attention.

How can Cinderella find a second chance at love? 

HILLBILLY CINDERELLA

When Cindy Lou Hopkins turns twenty-five life will get better. She knows it. She’ll no longer be under the thumb of her stepmother Geneva or tormented by her stepsisters. She just has to stay alive that long.

The only kink in her plan for independence is the handsome, Lance Moore, she jokingly calls the town prince. A man who wants to get to know her better. A man Cindy isn’t worthy to be in the same room as.

When Lance throws a barn dance, Cindy is determined to have one night with him that will carry her through the rest of her life. Can she set aside prejudices from a bygone time and embrace her happily ever after?

Advertisements

Choosing to Focus on Our True Beauty

Woman holding her face in her hands

Social awkwardness finds me. In fact, the more I try to avoid it, the more inevitable it is to come. I’m the girl who packs my daughter’s shoes instead of mine to a weekend writer’s conference, only to discover they’re about half a size too big—enough to cause them to slip, very unglamorously, with every step.

I’m the girl who discovers, after a speaking engagement, that my lipstick turned my teeth bright pink.

And I’m the woman who once attended the Cattle Baron’s Ball in North Platte Nebraska wearing glittery pumps and a full-on gown.

I wanted to look beautiful. To stand out.

I did, but so not in the way I’d hoped.

So, there I was, a grown woman looking like a prom queen wanna-be, surrounded by a bunch of cowboys. Standing in the middle of that hay-covered barn, the aroma of horse manure mingling with grilled hotdogs, I was mortified, and wanted to go home immediately. I told my husband that very thing, Again and again, stomping my sparkling, mud-covered shoe for emphasis. Maybe I hoped if I tapped them hard enough, they’d work like Dorothy’s ruby slippers and the Great Wizard would whisk me home.

All I could think of was what an idiot I must’ve looked like. And all my husband could think about was how much he loved Image of woman standing in dirt and straw in a gownme. He grabbed my hand and pulled me close, his arm forming a protective barrier around me, and whispered in my ear, “You’re here with me. You’re mine. Who cares what anyone else thinks.”

Ladies, I think God’s saying the same thing to us.

So often, we can feel like we donned our best dress shoes only to step ankle deep in a pile of manure. The poo smells, sure. We’re bummed about the shoes and nylons, but what cuts deepest are the inadequacies those experiences expose.

When did we allow our identity to get tied into our looks and fashion choices? When did we trade the depth of beauty, true beauty, for such a shallow lie? There’s nothing wrong with dressing nice or getting one’s hair done, but in doing so, may we never forget where our true beauty lies.

We know this intellectually, but it’s easy to forget this in our self-obsessed, photo-shopped culture. To remain centered in Christ takes work, determination, and practice. We have the power to control our thought life and protect our hearts. But we must, daily, make the choice to do so. When we walk into a room full of other women, we can either feed all our self-defeating thoughts that tell us we’re not good enough or pretty enough or smart enough, or we can remember God’s presence and power within us, what He says about us, and we can determine to live in that.

Truly, we can.

We can soak in God’s truth and rest in His grace. We can give Him the final say.

We can filter absolutely everything—every thought and interaction—through the lens of His love and grace.

We can live victoriously, like the beautiful, radiant masterpieces God created us to be. Wholly Loved wants to help us do just that. This week, we’ve been talking about focusing on our inner beauty and taking steps to develop that. Join us on Facebook, engage in the conversation, and be encouraged in your walk with Jesus! For those of you wondering what it’s like to attend one of our conferences, check out this video!

Before you go, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter, releasing at the end of this month. Subscribers image of cover for study based on 1 Timothyreceive great content, like a short story, devotion, recipe, and more, sent directly to their inbox along with a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (ebook, sent separately). You can sign up HERE.

If you have signed up for my newsletter and haven’t received the ebook, please let me know. You can contact me HERE.

How Living in Grace Helps Us Guard Our Words

Man holding hand over his mouthMy words have gotten me into a heap of trouble. I’ve initiated and meddled in arguments I shouldn’t have, fought to be right rather than understand, and wreaked destruction in the name of self-defense.

Considering the consequences wrought from my careless, and often damaging, statements, one would think I’d have learned to guard my words. But though I’ve memorized, prayed, and recited verses addressing this issue numerous times, I continue to stumble.

Here’s why: I’ve been fighting the symptom instead of the cause.

Whenever my mouth (or keyboard) runs a muck, my pride’s at fault. The solution, then, is surrender—making Jesus, obedience to Him, and the intimacy that follows (rather than man’s opinion) my treasure.

Let me explain using Proverbs 18:2 as an example: “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.”

Because we believe we know best, need to defend ourselves, or prove our point.

Often, this is triggered by fear (which, 90% of the time is rooted in pride)—fear of losing face or not getting something we want or hope for. But in our desire to elevate or defend ourselves, we can miss crucial unspoken “heart talk.”

Let me give an example. A while back, I engaged in a somewhat heated discussion with someone, one that revealed considerable miscommunication—things that were heard that were never said, statements taken out of context, and others extrapolated in confusing ways. Focused on the miscommunication, I attempted to unpack each one.

Remaining oblivious to the insecurities and wounds underlying it all and therefore only exacerbated the problem. Had I focused on the person’s heart more than their words, I could’ve responded with more wisdom and grace.

Reading through Proverbs 18, I thought of this interchange, and as I often do, of my propensity to talk myself into trouble. Only this time, I went deeper, to my heart. How, I wondered, could I respond differently the next time when, so often, my words tumble out before my brain catches up?

Evaluating the whys behind my behaviors, I came up with a list:

  1. Recognize I don’t need to defend myself. When someone criticizes me, if their complaints are valid, acknowledge this and prayerfully consider two women friendsways I might change. Because living in grace means I’m in need of it. I’m broken and prone to sin and nowhere near who God would have me to be, and yet I’m accepted and deeply loved. This disarms my pride with humility as I recognize my need for Christ, and this in turn gives me the courage to grow.
  2. Recognize God’s opinion and my obedience to Him is more important than man’s perception of me. When I base my identity in Christ and treasure intimacy with Him more than “saving face,” I don’t need to defend myself or prove a point.
  3. When I begin to feel defensive, uncover the fear beneath, and then remind myself of who I am in Christ. He’s my defender, protector, perfect guide, and the One who holds my future in His hands.
  4. Don’t own whatever’s not true. Simply disregard it, reminding myself of action steps one through three.
  5. Finally, listen for the fears and insecurities behind my “opponent’s” words and address those before attempting to resolve anything external.

Relational conflicts can be messy, confusing, and cloaked in emotion and false perceptions. To resolve them grace-fully, putting a guard rail on my tongue in the process, I need to take time to go deep—to my and my opponent’s heart, surrendering my pride and resultant emotions to Jesus so that He can love that other person through me.

Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to guard your tongue? When considering times your words have gotten you into trouble, can you see similar “root causes” as I mentioned in my list? In the above, I suggested pride is often the root of our fears and fear is often the root of much conflict. Do you agree or disagree, and why so? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you leave, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter.

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.

The Fruit of an Obedient Heart–How God Makes Much of Our Little

Nail polish bottles of different colorsI felt ill-equipped and insufficient. Actually, I wasn’t supposed to be there at all. I planned to pop in, make sure all the volunteers had arrived and were good to go, then head off to another project I’d set up for the weekend.

But God had other plans, and it started—and perhaps ended—with my lack.

It was “Big Live” weekend, a time where the church I attended mobilized hundreds of people throughout the Metro to serve. As part of the leadership team organizing the event, I’d arranged numerous projects, one that included facilitating a “spa” night for women at a local shelter while other volunteers watched their children.

The idea seemed like a good one in the beginning, back in the planning stages when I envisioned a sizable group from my church, sitting around a table, giving mani-peds to these poor, broken women who were fighting addiction, healing, and learning how to parent.

But as the scheduled night approached, I began to worry. We were short on help. In fact, in the most crucial area, the actual spa portion, we didn’t have anyone.

Zero manicurists. Zero women who even felt comfortable pretending to be manicurists.

Simply myself—who routinely makes a mess of my nails whenever I attempt to paint them. And three others who’d come to watch children.

In other words, who also felt completely ill-equipped to paint other people’s fingernails. But as the women from the shelter began to arrive, one of the volunteers stepped up and said, “I’ll stay” (in the spa room). “I’m not very good at it, but I’ll stay.”

I could’ve hugged her. I may have squealed. But then, watching yet more women trickle in, and eyeing my very meager supplies, my moment of joy was replaced by sadness. I’d so wanted to spoil these women, to make them feel special. To give them an evening of pampering that would make them feel, but for a moment, as if they were truly at a spa. Or at the very least, beautiful.

And all I could think of was my lack. I didn’t have those smelly scrubs one rubs on women’s hands after they’ve soaked in rose-scented water. I didn’t even have the rose-scented water. I had dish soap. (And soon even that ran out.) I didn’t have nice-smelling lotion, emery boards or pumice to sooth their cracked and tired feet.

These ladies had been looking forward to a luxurious spa night, and I soaked their feet in plastic bowls filled with generic dish soap then dried them with whatever hand towels and dishrags the staff had managed to scrounge up.

I couldn’t paint beautiful designs. I could do base coats—though I messed that up. I could do simple flowers using toothpicks, but yep, I messed that up as well.

I was failing. And as I sat across from one of the ladies barely four months out of prison, having just rubbed her feet with an old tattered rag, I was ready to apologize. For the night, my blunders, the disappointment I know I must have caused her.

But before I could, she looked me in the eye with a grin so large it was contagious and said, “I feel like I’m at one of those fancy spas.”

Tears filled my eyes as I realized how little it took to make these women happy. To make them feel special. I’m sure they would’ve enjoyed the fancy lotions and hand massages. The pumice stones would’ve been nice. They would’ve oohed and ahhhed, had I known how to make fancy nail polish decorations.two women standing together

But none of those things trumped what they needed most—love. Someone to look them in the eye and say, “I see you. You have value. God loves you.”

That is how God makes much of our little.

Let’s talk about this! When have you stepped out to serve or help someone and felt insufficient and ill-equipped? How did you handle that? What was the end result? When has God shown you, perhaps through your insufficiency, that your role was simply to love? Share your thoughts and examples in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Visit John 6:1-14 to read another “When God Makes Much of Our Little” stories–this one told in Scripture.

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.

How Miss Perfect Stole Christmas

There’s only one way to introduce today’s guest and her post … Y’all, meet my sweet, hilarious, much-too-talented friend Tara Johnson:

And now, read her (real life) tale of how Miss Perfect Stole Christmas.

by Tara Johnson

I’m a beautiful mess this time of year. And I’ve learned that’s okay.

For years I lost precious sleep, valuable hair, and added circles under my eyes to achieve the perfect Christmas. For my kids. For my husband. For my church. For my own ridiculous ideals. Christmas is the mother ship for us perfectionist types. Correction, recovering perfectionists, because that’s what I am.

I wanted to give my family the Norman Rockwell paintings of Christmas memories. You know, something they could look back on and say, “Ah, those were the good old days.” I nearly made myself crazy in the process.

Ironically, the best memories our little family made have been from the things that went horrible wrong … the goof-ups, silly disasters, and laugh-out-loud mistakes. Those are the things my kids will remember. Perfection had no part of ornaments on rough wood backgroundthose special moments.

Living without grace can and will kill you. It’s a miserably hopeless existence. Not much joy. No freedom. It’s impossible to pull off anyway. Forget about the perfectly decorated tree, the swept floors, the homemade everything, the house that smells like cinnamon or the brightly wrapped packages that look like they were designed by Martha Stewart. During the past few years, I’ve slowly learned to the let that extra ‘stuff’ go. You know what I’ve discovered? Christmas is a much more joyful time of year for the loss of it.

God has birthed the simply joy and beauty anew in my heart. And He reminded me once again why He sent His Son.

I didn’t need a friend. I didn’t need a Being to impress with how well I’ve got it together. No, I needed a Savior. I’m a broken mess in need of the beautiful Hope only He can give.

I’m tired of bulldozing through Christmas like a Type A beast. All it ever did was make me a Grinch. It’s time to let go of the perfectionism. I want to remember the beauty that made the King of the universe lay down His crown to come to a broken world of desperate people. No greater act of love has ever been given.

How Miss Perfection Stole Christmas

woman dressed as Mrs. Clause decorating the treeEvery kid down in Coolville liked Christmas a lot, But Miss Perfection, who lived south of Coolville did NOT! 

Christmas drove her crazy. The whole Christmas season. Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. 

It could be because she wanted everything to go just right. It could be, perhaps, because she was overworked and uptight. But I think the most likely reason of all, was if she messed up, she’d feel unloved by one and all.

She’d fight the crowds with a sour, grinchy frown, and zoom in her minivan all over town. Shopping and baking and parties and planning, wrapping and photos while dreaming of tanning. 

The mess! The stress! Made her long to punch an elf in the midst of his chest! 

“If I could just disappear. But Christmas is coming. It’s practically here!” 

The children were fighting in their sleep-deprived state. She wasn’t faring much better staying up nights so late. “It’s part of the season,” she told herself time and again. But His still, small Voice began to whisper within.  

As the whirlwind of tinsel and glitter increased, her joy faded away. How could this be? 

“I remembered the ribbons. I remembered the tags. I remembered the packages, boxes and bags.” 

She puzzled for hours, till her puzzler was sore and continued to think as she entered the church doors. As the pastor read from Luke chapter two, she remembered how God came down as a Babe…and she knew. 

“I’m not perfect, I’ll never be. That’s why God sent a Savior for me. Jesus died to give me freedom from this kind of living. Instead of “perfection”, I need to be giving!” 

And what happened then? Well, in Coolville they say, Miss Perfection’s joy grew three sizes that day! She put down her ‘to-do’ list and played with her kids, laughed, made memories and closed her weary eyelids. 

The last thing she did that made her heart dance with light? Miss Perfection threw out her copy of Christmas Done Right.

My heartfelt thanks to Dr. Seuss for the inspiration.

***

Author Tara Johnson's headshotTara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR. A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.

Her first nonfiction book Hollow Victory: How to Identify and Disarm 5 Landmines that Make Victorious Christian Living Feel Like a Lie was released in 2014. Her first historical romance with Tyndale House Publishers will be released in the summer of 2018, and is the first of three stories set during the Civil War. She has won the Bronze Medal in the Frazier awards hosted by My Book Therapy and has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio and Enduring Word radio. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She and her husband Todd have been married for nineteen years and the Lord has blessed them with five children: Bethany, Callie, Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane who are with Jesus.

Visit Tara online at her Website, follow her on Twitter, connect with her on Facebook, listen to her sing on Reverbnation, and follow her on Instagram.

Make sure to check out her debut novel, Engraved on the Heart, coming soon from Tyndale House Publishers!

cover image for Engraved on the HeartReluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines―until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.

Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

Let’s talk about this! Did Tara’s post give you a chuckle? What about a heart prick? Do your most cherished memories resemble hers–the goof-ups and laugh-out-loud oopses? Share some of your favorites in the comments below!

On a more serious note, I invite you to pop over to my blog on Crosswalk to read about how God used a modern day crisis and mother’s heartache to deepen my understanding of His love and what Christmas cost Him. You can do that HERE!
And if you haven’t done so, sign up for my free, quarterly mailing to receive great content (short stories, devotions, image of cover for study based on 1 Timothyrecipes and more) sent directly to your inbox. Plus, as a thank you, I’ll send you (separately) a free, 36-lesson study based truths pulled from 1 Timothy (ebook). You can sign up HERE.

God’s Grace Revealed in Us

My hands were shaky, my stomach queasy. I’d been to the bathroom five times in maybe twice as many minutes as my jumble of nerves worked against my courage to obey. Having given my word, committed to this thing, I knew I couldn’t back out.

Though the thought had crossed my mind over a dozen times.

The strength to obey. For the apostle Paul that meant facing incredible persecution—beatings, floggings, imprisonment … the continual threat of death. I may never endure such hardship for Christ, but that morning, I felt like I was facing a kind of death—death to my reputation.

And yet, like Paul, I knew I’d been entrusted with the gospel, and my story, as ugly as parts of it were, revealed the power of the gospel within me.

I knew. As much as I hated it, as much as my pride fought against it, I knew, God wanted to use my testimony to bring hope and healing to other women. To do this I’d need strength—the strength to die to myself. And only He could give me the power to do that.

Determined to surrender to God’s leading, trusting Him to show Himself strong on my behalf, on the morning in May of 2012, I took several deep breaths, checked my appearance in the mirror one last time, and left the safety of the bathroom to unveil all to women I considered friends.

Certain they’d hear, clearly, the message of God’s unyielding love and grace. Equally certain that, by the time I finished, I would lose any ounce of respect or admiration they’d held for me.

It’s easy to share our triumphs, and perhaps even our struggles. But to reveal our ugly, the deep secret shame that hinders our freedom until Christ intervenes?

That’s hard. That takes courage, a decision to “die to one’s self,” and leaning hard on Christ.

Sharing my story, as a high school drop out and former homeless girl, was rough. But not nearly as rough as Paul’s must have been. He was part of the ISIS or NAZI soldier of his day, deemed powerful by some and evil by others. A man who witnessed incredible brutality and “agreed completely with the killing” (Acts 8:1) The kind of man mothers warn their children about and whose very name must’ve caused countless Christians to freeze in fear.

The very group of people he now spent most of his time with.

What must it have been like to carry a past like that around? What kind of shame would such a history cause?

To what lengths would a tyrannical murderer go to, to keep that past hidden?

What kind of love—for God and mankind—would it take for such a man to open up and share all?

What kind of love would it take for us to do the same?

We all have stories, testimonies of God’s grace and faithfulness—of the power of the gospel revealed in us. That is why our testimonies have such power, so that, as we share, “others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16).

As I close, I can anticipate some of you thinking, ‘But what about me? I don’t have a dramatic God story. I was never homeless, on drugs, or murderous. I grew up in a strong Christian home, was connected in church all my life. Does my story still have power?”

Absolutely. My story, and Paul’s story, give a glimpse of the darkness that comes from living out of step or apart from Christ. For me, though I belonged to Christ when I went through my rough years, I certainly wasn’t living as He desired, and my life was characterized by darkness. For Paul, he didn’t have the light of Christ at all.

Your story is probably different than mine and Paul’s, but it can still show the beauty and love and freedom that God intends, when we turn to Him, He works in us and our circumstances, and when we live with Him. Our world needs to see both, and our Savior speaks through both. And besides, our stories aren’t truly about us anyway but rather, they’re about Christ in us. When we remember that, and shift our focus off ourselves and onto Him, He overpowers our fears and insecurities with His strength.

The strength to make Him known.

Take a moment to write out your testimony, either of when you first came to Christ or perhaps when He did something significant in your life that revealed His love, grace, and mercy. Who might God be calling you to share your story with?

Before you read today’s suggested Bible passages, I wanted to provide some background information. Stephen, the man mentioned in Acts 7, was the first Christian martyr, and prior to our passage, he publicly shared the gospel and how the Old Testament pointed to Jesus.

For those participating in our 1 Timothy study, here’s today’s suggested Bible reading: Acts 7:54-60, Acts 8:1-3, and Acts 9:1-22. Pop over to our FB group to join the discussion! Our memory verse for this week is Psalm 105:1

“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done” (Psalm 105:1, NLT).

And … before you go, I’ve got fun news! Today is Healing Love’s release day! You can check it out HERE! (I’m not sure when the print copy will go live, but it should be within a day or two.)

Finding Joy in the Chaos

  • Does failing at something you’ve been assigned or entrusted with cause your stomach to knot? When you miss a deadline, does your thought life run amuck? The bigger question is, are you living in grace? That’s not to say we shouldn’t hold ourselves accountable and honestly assess our shortcomings and errors, but when we do, may we do so with an eye on grace.

As my guest today explains, that’s when we find peace and joy, even in the chaos.

Joy in the Chaos by Ralene Burke

As a writer and editor, there’s nothing like missing a deadline to take the wind out of my sails. That feeling of failure that wraps around my heart, squeezes, and then pops any modicum of self-esteem. Darkness falls over my day, and joy leaks away with each deprecating thought.

It didn’t start out that way, though. I was excited to receive the opportunity. I wrote it on my calendar, even setting the deadline a little earlier than the one that had been given to me. But as with many best laid plans, chaos intervened.

My husband and I got locked into a home improvement job that took more time and money than we had originally intended. Two of my social media clients had some “urgent” stuff that had to go up on social media or in newsletters right away. My allergies went into overdrive and had me laid out for a week.

My self-imposed deadline came and went. So did the one I’d been officially given.

It’s funny how the enemy knows those exact moments when we feel like a failure. When we could choose to accept the mistake and learn, joy and peace follows, but instead he presses those thoughts of what a mess we are, how there is no hope for us. He tells us God is so disappointed, along with everyone else.

Deep breath.

Ultimately, life isn’t about the missed deadlines. It isn’t about the crazy schedules or long to-do lists. Life is about opportunities. The opportunity to follow God, to be obedient, and to be His light in this world. We already know we were not made for this world, but for eternity.

We are responsible to one person: God. We are His children. And He loves us so much. He delights in us. But He’s known us from the beginning of time, long before we were born, long before time itself. He knew the lives we would have. He gave us a reason for being, passions, goals, and more. And He gave us purpose despite the mistakes we would make. Our lives are a constant learning curve.

When we put our focus on God and how He sees us, we should also find joy ourselves. Joy in the opportunity. Joy in the moment. Joy in the fact that He loves us no matter what.

God knew I would have health issues, and they would force me to find ways to work around the normal 9-5 job. He knew being a homeschool mom would keep me hopping, making it feel like I had 2 full-time jobs. Struggling to find my place in the world would give me the grace to work with others struggling to find theirs.

Failure is something I’m quite familiar with—and not just when it comes to deadlines. With each mistake, I’ve learned that it’s an opportunity to trust God and step deeper into grace. I know God is with me at each turn. And even when things don’t go as planned (and how often does that happen?), He still loves me. He still delights in me. And my joy is found in Him.

How has God been revealing His joy to you?

About the Author:

Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a freelance editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone SHINE BEYOND! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and as an editor for several freelance clients. Her first novel, Bellanok, is available on Amazon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.

Let’s talk about this! I never would’ve thought I have a fear of failure. I’ve often said, which I believe, that there’s really no failure when we walk with God. It’s all learning, growing in Him and His will for us, and allowing Him to transform our thinking and will. 

But yesterday, something hit my insecurities (and revealed my people pleasing tendencies!), oddly enough, in the form of praise. A reviewer tagged me in a comment on Facebook that, in essence, let me know about THIS. It was a bit surreal to see my name listed among such great authors. That should’ve been cause for celebration, right?

Instead, I felt a tweak in my gut as I thought about the story I’m working on, one I’ve revised at least half a dozen times that I plan to release … in a few short months. (gulp.) And all I could think about was how terrible the story was, how inadequate I felt as a writer, and how I would let this reviewer and all my other readers down.

And then I had to laugh as I realized how easily I fell into the fear of rejection trap–whenever I turn my eyes off Christ and His will for me.

That, my friends, is the answer. But isn’t it always? For as Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (NLT). 

Hm … Maybe I should make that my memory verse this week. 😉