Are We Proclaiming a False Hope

Quote on hope with sunset background

Our world aches for a soul-reaching peace that transcends all that’s frightening and hard, for unshakable hope, and the promise that life won’t always feel so painful. That good awaits. People long for—need—everything we have in Christ, but I wonder if we convey these truths accurately, fully, and often enough. Or do our words, to ourselves and others, unknowingly, point to a hope rooted in today—the end of a virus, a better economy, or a transformed political system?

A few years ago, our daughter spent eight months in North Carolina, during which she became painfully lonely. Soon, deep depression took hold. Needing to know how best to help her, I sought guidance from a counselor. Through this, I was reminded of the power and importance of hope.

To persevere, our daughter needed to cultivate anticipation for what lay ahead. As a result, my husband and my conversations with her shifted significantly. While we talked about coping tools, we focused predominantly on counting down the days until she returned home. We also discussed, in detail, how we’d celebrate once she did—all she had to look forward to. Her hope for home increased her grit to endure.

This is true for our faith journeys as well. Our hope doesn’t lie in a better life today. Scripture tells us, numerous times, to expect the opposite. Many of us know this, but do our words reflect this truth?

Consider Paul’s letters to ancient believers living in dark and painful times, much worse than anything most of us will experience. He routinely reminded them to remain focused on heaven, where their true citizenship lay. His heart was firmly set on the joy that awaited him and all God’s children. And his anticipation became contagious.Hebrews 10:23 with a sunset background

This is clear from his praise of the Thessalonian believers: “We give thanks to God always for all of you … remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 1:2-3, ESV, emphasis mine).

Here’s what I find significant regarding this passage. These believers came to faith amidst great persecution. After preaching in their city for a mere three weeks, Paul was driven out by a riotous mob. I imagine he felt as if he’d abandoned the new believers in their fledgling faith. Considering all they could, and likely would, suffer, they probably dominated his thoughts. His greatest fear? That the gospel message hadn’t truly stuck. But then he received news, these baby believers were thriving! “The word of the Lord sounded forth” (1 Thes. 1:8, ESV) from them, like a glorious, life-giving trumpet.

Why? What enabled these persecuted new Christians to flourish during such a dark and horrific time?

Their knowledge that their pain wouldn’t last forever. They maintained an undeniable, unshakable, and indistinguishable hope in heaven.

We have the hope our world needs. May we proclaim it clearly, loudly, and often, because “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19, ESV).

That’s not to say we shouldn’t ask God to intervene, that we shouldn’t long for reprieve, today. But may our proclamations regarding all we know, with certainty, is yet to come, ring louder, because that’s where our true hope lies, and that hope will always preach.

Let’s talk about this. How easy is it for you to anchor your heart in the hope of heaven?

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

Join Wholly Loved‘s private online Facebook community, a safe and encouraging place to share your struggles, fears, celebrations, and prayer requests. Find us HERE.

Listen to Jennifer’s latest Thriving With Chronic Illness Podcast titled Irrevocably Called HERE.

Read Jennifer’s article on how the craziness in our world can actually be good for the church HERE.

For When We Feel too Busy to Rest

Image of woman on bench with quote pulled from post

When our daughter was young and I spent hours each week in school pickup lines, I often felt I had plenty of time to rest. To pray and seek Jesus. But then she grew older, I grew busier, and year by year, it felt increasingly harder to slow down and prioritize my relationship with Jesus.

I’ve since discovered, however, when my schedule overwhelms me and I don’t have a moment to spare, that’s when I most need to hit pause.

That’s when I most need to regularly connect with Jesus. In the midst of a particularly busy period, my guest’s post today really resonated.

For When We Think We’re Too Busy to Rest

By Dr. Michelle Bengston

Life was getting busy—too busy. Maybe you’ve been there: when you were always looking forward to the next event, no longer content in the moment.

No sooner had I sent my next book manuscript to the publisher, when I began to ponder my next project. Everyone else seemed to ask me that as well, “What will you work on next?”

I habitually pushed forward, without taking enough time to relish and celebrate the victories along the way.

During a women’s retreat the following weekend, no less than a dozen women confirmed the direction I sensed God was leading me: into a season of rest.

REST? Why would I want to do that ? I had things to write and talks to give. God knows my personality: I’d rather have three urgent projects going with barn-burning deadlines than be told to rest.

But God always knows best.

In the month after that retreat when I felt like He was leading me into a season of rest, I fulfilled my speaking commitments and visited my college son. Upon returning home, my doctor called to tell me what no one likes nor wants to hear: “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have cancer.”

Surgery was scheduled and treatment began. The physical toll was great, but God had prepared me for this time by clearing my calendar.

We become so consumed with accomplishing tasks, that we forget God can do more during times of rest than in our most “productive times.”

I used to think rest was a luxury. Now I realize it is crucial for warfare.

Rest has its benefits:

1. In rest, God provides safety.

“But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster” (1 Kings 5:4 ESV).

2. Rest allows our bodies to heal. God desires healing for us.

3. Rest allows God the opportunity to teach us His ways, and as He teaches us, we learn to rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).

4. We were created in God’s image, and when we rest, we align ourselves with the very nature of God.

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV).

5. Rest is a gift from God. We can rest in His presence.

“And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14 ESV).

Taking time to rest requires trust in the One who commanded us to do so.

Jesus never hurried, and he modeled for us a lifestyle that included rest. If it was good enough for Jesus, shouldn’t it be so for us also?

Let’s talk about this!

What makes rest a challenge for you? What benefits have you seen from following God’s command to rest? Share your thoughts, insights, and stories with us in the questions below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Get to know Michelle!

Author headshot: Michelle BengtsonDr. Michelle Bengtson (Ph.D., Nova Southeastern University) is an international speaker, and the author of the bestselling, award winning “Hope Prevails: Insights From A Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the newly released companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.” She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years, and is now in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. This doctor knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address her patients’ issues, both for those who suffer and the ones who care for them.

Using sound practical tools, she affirms worth and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of thirty years have two teenage sons and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her  site: DrMichelleBengtson.com

For more hope, stay connected with her at:

Website, her Blog, and on Facebook

Hope Prevails:

Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression

As a board-certified neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson believed she was prescribing the most effective treatments for her clients who struggled with depression. But when she experienced debilitating depression herself, she found that the treatments she had recommended weren’t helping her the way she expected. She was determined to find out what was missing.

With the deep compassion of someone who has been there, Dr. Bengtson blends her training and that vital missing piece she discovered to offer you a hope grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps you understand what depression is, how it affects you spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, depression cannot do. The result is an approach that offers not just the management of symptoms but the hope of true release.

Order Hope Prevails HERE.

Before you go, I have more fun news! For those of you working through the Becoming His Princess study, you can now watch the video segment for week one HERE. We should have week two’s video segment available by the 23rd.

If you didn’t grab your free copy yet, you can do so HERE or purchase a print copy for $5 HERE.

6 Ways to Change the World

Sometimes it feels as if darkness has overpowered light, sorrow dominates joy, and confusion and fear infiltrate peace. Watching the news play out before me, or perhaps even sitting with a hurting friend, can make me feel powerless. Ineffectual.

But Scripture tells me this is a lie. In Christ, I–we–have the power to transform our world. Each day, with every word and action Image of a flower with words pulled from the text. we choose, every smile we offer, we can speak hope into despair, love into loneliness, and healing into the most broken and beaten down hearts.

We have the power of the risen, victorious, life-and-light bringing Savior residing within.

Here are six ways we can unleash that power:

Engage.

In our hyper-interactive culture, tweets, posts, and likes often replace face-to-face encounters. The result: Many feel unseen. Insignificant. Unvalued. Simply taking the time to engage others in conversation, even if but for a moment, can encourage a deflated heart. Because remember, we’re representatives and reflectors of El Roi, the God who sees. May we reflect Him well.
Two women sitting together with text pulled from post

Choose grace.

I mess up a hundred times each day. I respond with frustration instead of kindness. I behave selfishly instead of releasing my Father’s love. And many, many times I let my mouth (or keyboard) run when I should simply walk away. But though each unChristlike reaction breaks my heart and, often, lead me to confession, I’m also very quick to offer myself grace. I was tired, stressed, overwhelmed … perhaps caught off guard. Yet do I offer the same grace to others? Do I make allowances for their faults or “make much” of every blunder? Whenever I choose the former, I reveal a bit of Jesus and point others to Him.

Stand up.

I don’t want to get political here, and yet … even as I type, I have to ask myself: When did standing up for the oppressed, beaten down, discarded, and marginalized become a political act? Or at least, deemed as such? It’s not. Rather, it’s honoring the commands of the One who left heaven to rescue the oppressed–those burdened and enslaved by sin–who tells us to speak out for those who don’t have a voice.

Bring light into someone else’s darkness.

Did you ever make flashlight shadows when you were a kid? Did you ever try to do this in a well-lit room? Didn’t work, right? So what’d you do? Most likely you closed yourself in a darkened bathroom where the beams from your flashlight radiated strong and bright. Whenever we seek out, reach out, and intentionally walk beside those shrouded in darkness, we flood their world with light.

Show kindness.

Offer a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, and open door. Never underestimate the power of a simple yet intentional kind act done for another. It can soothe anger, counter distrust, and open hearts to the love of Christ. In everything we do and every word we speak, may we remember it’s God’s kindness that leads people to repentance.

Pray.

May we see every act of darkness, ugly display of hate, and destructive outburst of anger as a reminder to turn to our unchanging, unconquerable power source—Jesus Christ. Those moments spent on our knees may feel … anticlimactic. We image of woman praying with text pulled from postmay be tempted to think our time doing—serving in ministry, feeding the hungry, typing out oodles and oodles of words for books and blog posts—holds more value. But Scripture promises this is far from true. Prayer isn’t meant to be something we do in random still moments before our real work begins. Prayer is our first and most important work, regardless the task, because ultimately, only Jesus can truly change a heart and a world. When we prioritize prayer, we’re acknowledging we believe this to be true.

Imagine if we each chose to do one of the above each day. Imagine how our families, relationships, neighborhoods—our world—might change.

What is one way you plan to be a world-changer today? Share your “I’m gonna!” thoughts along with anything else you’d add to my list in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another! And in Christ, we can change the world!

 

When the Wait Is Over

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The pain of infertility runs deep and cannot fully be understood unless one has experienced it. I suppose that’s true of anything we face, be it tragedy, joblessness, illness … Last week in For the Love Bible study, we talked about how to stay strong when it feels as if our prayers fall on deaf ears, and Chaka Heinze shared an incredibly powerful testimony revealing how this plays out in her life. You can read that HERE. Then, Monday, Maria Morgan talked about choosing faith over doubt. You can read that HERE. Today those two messages come together in a celebratory post by my sweet friend Susan Aken.

When the waiting ends
by Susan Aken

“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” Luke 1:7

“LORD, Please hear my prayer! You know my heart and how I long for a child. I want to shy-863056_640hold my own baby and know the joy of motherhood. I desire this with all my soul. Will You give me a child? If not, help me bear this pain and find contentment with empty arms. If it is Your will, please show me what to do. Help me to trust You.”

The cry of a childless woman runs deep. This longing is confronted at every turn with a woman who is a mother. The new babe who smells so sweet. The woman lovingly caressing her swollen abdomen. The toddler who runs around on chubby legs. On and on.

Living in a culture where being childless was a sign of God’s displeasure added to Elizabeth’s pain. Maybe she asked herself, “What did I do wrong?” Sympathetic and condescending smiles mocked her.

“Look at poor Elizabeth! I’m glad it isn’t me.”

Elizabeth’s one recorded quote after becoming pregnant is telling,

“’The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.’” Luke 1:25 (NIV)

Why can’t I have a child Lord? Why do other women get this blessing and not me?

I felt that pain. I always wanted a husband, children and the American dream. But things didn’t happen the way I hoped. I found myself single at the age of twenty-nine. Not the way I’d have written my story. Then I met my wonderful husband, got married and prepared my heart for children. I soon discovered he wasn’t ready (he was younger than I) so I waited.

Years went by. He decided he didn’t want children. I won’t share the whole girl-926225_640story here but I found myself at the age of thirty-eight hoping to get pregnant by means of insemination. Month after month nothing happened. After a year of special treatments, I faced the truth I might not ever be a mom and my prayers were similar to the one I began with. Similar to what Elizabeth may have prayed.

Then came a phone call about a baby boy who needed a mom and dad. Twenty-two hours later I was holding our son! Like Elizabeth my miracle came. The wait was over.

Euphoria! Grace in the form of a newborn baby. A love letter from God. Grace in every cry and squeak. Grace in arms filled with a sweet baby boy. I knew that I didn’t deserve the miracle God

Week 3 memory verse

Week 3 memory verse

gave. We made several decisions along the way that should’ve taken us off the miracle list. I hadn’t even been seeking God with my whole heart.

child-337540_640Did Elizabeth feel that euphoria? I’m certain she did! Did she see grace in the face of that newborn boy? I believe so.

She went from shame to rejoicing.

I wouldn’t change one thing about how our son came to us. I imagine Elizabeth would say the same. God’s timing is always perfect.

In that moment, when the waiting ends, God’s grace is painted in living color and all we can do is bow and give thanks.

“For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him.” 1 Samuel 1:27 (ESV)

***

Amazing Hope:

This is a 40-day devotional book on the topic of hope. Each day’s amazingdevotion includes verses from the Bible, inspirational thoughts by the author, reflection questions and a prayer. The topics include many of the struggles common to us all such as parenting, death, fear, sin, and the futility of daily life. There are also devotions on the character of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the power of God’s word and other topics. These writings express the hope that gets me through each day and I pray they will also help you.

***

susanakenSusan is a homemaker, substitute teacher and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband and son (she is now an empty-nester). Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends and writing. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church!

Connect with Susan on her web site and Lulu.com.

Let’s talk about this! When our prayers aren’t answered on our timetable, when our waiting takes years, even decades, we may assume God isn’t listening or that He doesn’t plan to answer our prayers at all. But Scripture tells us God is always working on our behalf. That doesn’t mean He’ll grant every one of our desires, but it does mean He will always and only do what is for our best.

This brings me to this week’s memory verse: “From ancient times no one has heard or perceived, no eye has seen any livingbygracepic-jpGod besides You, who intervenes for those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4 NET).

Can you share a time when it felt as if God wasn’t listening only to find out later He’d been working behind the scenes, setting things into motion, on your behalf? How might focusing on His promise to work things out for our good (Romans 8:28) help you maintain hope and spiritual strength during a time of waiting?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace or For the Love Bible study, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

All Things Renewed

Some decisions will affect the rest of our lives. What happens when, years later, you worry you chose incorrectly? My guest today, Christine Lindsay, shares a vulnerable story of how one of the most emotional, most important moments of her life went all wrong … and what God showed her through that experience.

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He Takes Away and He Gives Back
by Christine Lindsay

Do you ever wonder if God is cruel? At certain times I’ve curled my fist tight and shook it wedge-1471409_640under the very nose of my creator, blaming Him for my heartache.

In 1979 I was an unmarried mother and when my baby girl was 3 days old I relinquished Sarah to adoption. Twenty long years of prayer later, I searched for and was reunited with my adult birth-daughter. Though I was happily married by then to a wonderful man and we had 3 children of our own, I yearned to see my firstborn. But the reunion I prayed for all those years was not the reunion I received.

I was so sure that because the adoption was done through a Christian organization, and the adopting parents were also Christians (like myself) that our reunion would be easy, filled with laughter at finally meeting each other. But people are made up of such different emotional stuff.

Here is an excerpt from Finding Sarah Finding Me:

The kids hear me sobbing, the three of them stay in the living room out of the maelstrom of my unleashed emotions. David pulls me into the kitchen and holds me close. I’ve kept a woman-1006102_640lock on my disappointment all day, having hoped for so much more closeness than Sarah has been able to offer. Now it unleashes, a wounded tiger uncaged.

“I’ve prayed for twenty years,” I yell at David as I pull away, “prayed for twenty years that God would prepare their hearts so that no one would feel hurt. And this is the best he could do! This… this is the biggest disappointment of my life!” I cry out, “and God knows I’ve had enough of them.”

David takes hold of me again. I resist, but he holds tight while my mind fights to sift through the avalanche of my emotions. I want to get to know my beautiful birth daughter, but my dream lies at my feet like shattered glass. She is my daughter, but not my daughter. I’m not a part of her family, nor have Sarah or her parents ever considered such a thing. Her mom and dad don’t even want to meet me.

One of the greatest lies the enemy wants the followers of Christ to believe is that God is The Clan 2014out to steal our joy. That God is out to torment us and make our lives miserable. Remember that our enemy is a deceiver, a liar. I discovered this a number of years later, when the Lord resurrected my old dream to have a special relationship with my birth-daughter Sarah. Instead of impatiently shaking my fist in His face, I should have waited in peace for the new beginning that He would devise in His timing. My life is a walking testimony to the resurrection of old dreams.

The next time you are tempted to believe that God is cruel, remember that He is the God of resurrections and new beginnings. Joel 2:25 (NIV) “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you.

***

Small size Finding Sarah Finding Me girl (1)Sometimes it is only through giving up our hearts that we learn to trust the Lord.

Adoption. It’s something that touches one in three people today, a word that will conjure different emotions in those people touched by it. A word that might represent the greatest hope…the greatest question…the greatest sacrifice. But most of all, it’s a word that represents God’s immense love for his people.

Join birth mother Christine Lindsay as she shares the heartaches, hopes, and epiphanies of her journey to reunion with the daughter she gave up…and to understanding her true identity in Christ along the way.

Through her story and glimpses into the lives of other families in the adoption triad, readers will see the beauty of our broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams when we entrust them to our loving God.

FREE Chapter One of Finding Sarah Finding Me by clicking HERE

PURCHASE FINDING SARAH FINDING ME on Amazon (paperback and ebook) and Barnes and Noble (coming soon).

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ChristineLindsayChristine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and the explosive finale Veiled at Midnight.

Christine’s Irish wit and her use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary romance Londonderry Dreaming. Her newest release Sofi’s Bridge also features a dashing Irish hero.

Aside from being a busy writer and speaker, Christine and her husband live on the west coast of Canada. Coming August 2016 is the release of Christine’s non-fiction book Finding Sarah—Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story.

Please drop by Christine’s website www.ChristineLindsay.org or follow her on Amazon and Twitter. Subscribe to her quarterly newsletter, and be her friend on Pinterest , Facebook, and  Goodreads.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Christine opened up to us about part of her journey as a birth-mother, and how the reunion wasn’t what she’d hoped or prayed for. What in life have you come up to, hoping and praying for one result, but receiving something different…something hard? Did you believe, at the time, that God was cruel? Were you able to overcome that belief? If you have any Scripture you’d like to share with us, please share in the comments below or over at Living by Grace. And know that I’m praying for each of you.

 

 

breakingfree_n1664109Before you go! My newest release, Breaking Free, is now on sale! Visit Amazon to buy the paperback for only $3.58 or the Kindle version for only $2.99!

Peace In the Storms of Life

hand-792920_1920Rescue doesn’t always come, and we don’t always get those things that we desperately ask for. Why would God withhold something from us, when it’d be such an easy thing for Him to grant? If He’s all powerful, why does He leave us in our crisis? Does He not care? Can’t He hear us?

We all have them: “storms” in the midst of our lives. Whether those storms are relationships, jobs (or lack thereof), health, or any number of other trials, we all hope and pray for rescue. But maybe there’s something more than rescue that we need.

Peace

Can We Expect God to Rescue Us?
by Tamera Lynn Kraft

There’s a Bible story in Mark 34 is one that resonates to us all. Jesus told His disciples to
get on the boat with Him and go to the other side. Jesus went to sleep on the voyage. Meanwhile, a great wind suddenly appeared and tossed the boat to the point where the disciples were in a panic. At this point, one of them noticed Jesus asleep. They woke Him and said. “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

photo-1443376133869-19bce1f036e1There are times when we all are in that situation. The wind is blowing, the waves are overwhelming us, and Jesus seems to be asleep at the wheel. It’s times like these we are tempted to wonder if God really cares. Can we really expect God to rescue us from this mess we’re in? The truth is there are times God doesn’t rescue His children. Peter was delivered from prison and certain death when an angel was sent to rescue him, but a few years later, he was martyred by hanging on a cross upside down. God doesn’t always rescue us, but sometimes He does.

Even when God doesn’t come to the rescue or send the cavalry, He still is there for us. The galile_cstory of the disciples in the storm ends in Mark 4:39. “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”

In this case, Jesus rescued the disciples by speaking to the storm and rebuking the wind. He said, “Peace, be still.” Sometimes Jesus will rescue us by speaking to the storm, but sometimes Jesus will speak peace into our hearts in the midst of the storm.

In my new novella, Resurrection of Hope, Vivian has gone through lots of storms. Her fiancé died in the Great War. Her entire family died of the influenza pandemic. If that wasn’t bad enough, she was evicted from her home because of her father’s gambling debts. She lost hope that God would ever rescue her. At the point when she was at her lowest, God sent Henry in her life to save her, but she still needed the hope and peace only God gives. She needed God to speak peace to her spirit.

Sometimes God will calm the storms; sometimes He won’t, but we can always count on God to speak peace to our spirits.

***

 

ResurrectionOfHopeCoverArt72dpi (1)Resurrection of Hope:

She thought he was her knight in shining armor, but will a marriage of convenience prove her wrong?

After Vivian’s fiancé dies in the Great War, she thinks her life is over. But Henry, her fiancé’s best friend, comes to the rescue offering a marriage of convenience. He claims he promised his friend he would take care of her. She grows to love him, but she knows it will never work because he never shows any love for her.

Henry adores Vivian and has pledged to take care of her, but he won’t risk their friendship by letting her know. She’s still in love with the man who died in the Great War. He won’t risk heartache by revealing his true emotions.

Resurrection of Hope is available at Desert Breeze Publishing, Amazon (eBook), Amazon (paperback), Barnes & Noble, and All Romance eBooks.

***

Web1Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures. She loves to write historical fiction set in the United States because there are so many stories in American history. There are strong elements of faith, romance, suspense and adventure in her stories. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest and has other novellas in print. She’s been married for 37 years to the love of her life, Rick, and has two married adult children and two grandchildren.

You can contact Tamera on her website at http://tameralynnkraft.net, Word Sharpeners, Facebook, and Twitter.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Peace in the midst of the storms of our life is impossible to attain on our own. Thankfully, Jesus has promised us His peace. What are some ways the Lord has given you peace when you’ve most needed it? Are there any Bible verses you’d like to share with us that give you comfort? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace. We can all use some peace and comfort!

Other articles, books, and blog posts you might helpful:

What Happens When God is Late?

Why Would an All-knowing God Test Us???

Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong

God Meant it for Good

 

Learning Through a Child

Photo by David Castillo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by David Castillo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

I admit it, I’m a needy Christian. I crave need and crave constant attention from my heavenly Father, especially when He’s nudging me into a new area. I want to be reminded of things He’s told me a thousand times, and more than anything, I need to know He’s always there, to feel His presence walking beside me.

Yes, I’m a needy child, but I don’t think God minds.  Today my guest  Teresa Tysinger, shares what she recently learned through her daughter about fear, insecurity, and divine reassurance. Read on and be encouraged.

“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.20

What My Daughter Taught Me about Being a Child of God
by Teresa Tysinger

Labor with my daughter, Emma, took over thirty-two hours. She began walking at only nine months old, learned to cook herself scrambled eggs at four years, and was only five when she took the dog out for her morning walk down the street while my husband and I were still sleeping. Now half way to eight years old, she reminds us that soon she’ll be mailbox-959299_640driving. She’s independent, determined, helpful, and maybe a just tad stubborn. It’s easy to forget she’s still a young child.

We recently moved into a new home. As night descended for our first night sleeping in the new place, Emma whined about bedtime as I tucked her in. The following conversation tugged at my heart in unexpected ways.

“Mama, can I sleep with you and daddy, just for tonight?” Her big brown eyes pleaded with me.

“Aren’t you excited about sleeping in your new room?”

“No. What if I wake up in the middle of the night and forget where you are?” Her little hand reached out and held mine tightly, as if afraid I’d be lost if she let go.

“We’ll leave a light on so you can find your way to our room if you wake up, okay?”

“But…Mama…” she whined.

“Emma…” Prickles of frustration marched up my arm. Boxes waited to be unpacked. You aremySunshineLaundry needed to put away. So much to do. It would be a big help if this bedtime process sped up.

“Will you at least sing me a lullaby so I can hear your voice in my head while I sleep? That’ll remind me where I am.”

Her eyes closed, waiting for me to sing. I swallowed past the lump formed in my throat and crooned out You Are My Sunshine. As the last word hung in the air, her breathing was calm and rhythmic, face relaxed. Bless her.

When I made my way back to the living room full of boxes and bubble wrap, it dawned on me how similar we must seem to God as his weary children. We need constant reassurance that he’s there. We need to be reminded of his promises. And we need just to go to his Word to let his promises ring true in our hearts so we remember where (and whose) we are.

“And behold, I am with you always,
until the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.20

Parenting is so hard. The demands are constant, challenges plenty, and rewards child-praying-hands-1510773_640sometimes seem too subtle to recognize. I struggle with patience and selflessness. While Emma needed a simple reminder of her security in our new home—a reminder of her parents’ presence—she taught me about being a child of God through her ability and gumption to ask for what she needed.

Don’t miss these lessons parenting provides. I’m so thankful for my fiercely independent, yet still young and vulnerable, seven year old.

***

teresatysinger_bioTeresa Tysinger is a wife and mother transplanted from North Carolina to North Texas. When not working as the Director of Communications for a large downtown church, she writes charming southern romances, inspired by grace. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Religious Communicators’ Council, and the Association for Women in Communications, Teresa has spent over a decade committed to telling stories of faith through written word. She loves coffee, caramel, and stories with happy endings.

Connect with Teresa at:
Facebook – Teresa Tysinger, Author
Twitter – @TMTysinger
Website & Blog – http://teresatysinger.com

***

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about it: Emma asked Teresa to sing her a lullaby so she’ll hear her mama’s voice while she’s sleeping and remember where she is. Have you ever experienced that deep need, whether with another person or with the Lord? How did you fill that need? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

 Before you go, some fun book news! Two of my novels are currently available from Amazon at significant discounts!

Intertwined is on sale (paperback version!) for $6.78! That’s 58% off the e0d5a-intertwined_n154121regular price! Get it HERE and read the first 2 chapters for free HERE. Aaaaannnnnd, my latest release, Breaking Free, is on sale (paperback version) for $4.21! Get it HERE!

Taking Comfort in God

Job loss, hurting children, struggling marriages, feelings of helplessness. These issues are real and painful, and often leave us feeling lonely. But how timely is our Lord? Last week, I talked about having confidence in God during uncertain times. Read on as Lisa talks about taking comfort in God.

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Cup of Comfort
by Lisa Flickinger

The garage door squawked at ten in the morning. Was that my husband? I padded across the hardwood and rounded the corner to the entry way.

“What are you doing home?” I asked.

brown-shoes-1150071_640His shoulders slumped as he replied, “They let me go.”

“No!”

Thirty-three years of dedicated service to the same company – all gone in one bleak moment.  The bosses could spin it any way they wanted to, and they did. The dismissal came down to one of the superiors wanting my husband’s job for his own friend. Was the decision influenced by my husband’s refusal to “get loaded” on company time? Probably. Was he an easy mark because he was known for saying grace at the company Christmas party instead of telling dirty jokes? Maybe.

Regardless of the reason, the feeling of betrayal from the outside world pushed its way through to the inside world and affected our marriage. We shouldn’t have played the blame game or the what-if game. We should have supported one another, cared for one another, and prayed for one another. Easy to say.

Jesus understood what we were going through. Isaiah 53:3 says “He was despised and cross-918459_640rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (ESV). Jesus was betrayed unto death by one of his closest friends. How crushing the blow must have felt coming from someone he loved, yet he still laid down his life for the betrayer and for us.

He also promised comfort, comfort as big as our trial. “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:5). Walking in the comfort of our Lord was a choice, a choice we needed to renew every day. And as we experienced the comfort of our Lord, by spending time in His presence, we were able to share His comfort with one another.

How good to know we serve an understanding and generous Lord.

***

All That Glitters CoverThe world has gone plum crazy over gold. Men and women alike would do almost anything to make their fortune. Leaving behind her family and a dying father, Ginny Connor follows the cunning Logan Harris up North to strike it rich. Twenty-year old Vivian Connor embarks on a cross-country chase to rescue her sister Ginny and they are both led into the chaos of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Meanwhile, Ben McCormack leaves his farm to retrieve his intended bride from a rowdy, tent town on the Alaskan coastline. Ben’s path inadvertently entwines with Vivian’s and he finds his heart tugging him in a different direction.

Danger and disappointment plague all their journeys to the far North. Will Vivian find her sister in time to return home to see their father? Can Ginny forgive herself for the decisions she’s made? Will Ben find the lifelong love he searches for? When the world listens only to the call of gold, redemption and love become scarce treasures.

***

Author PicLisa Flickinger lives in the shadow of the Rockies with her husband Matthew and their dog Zeke. When not writing or reading, you will find her combing antique shops, walking in the woods, or sipping a latte with friends. All That Glitters fulfills the lifelong dream of sharing the characters in her head with you, dear reader. Enjoy!

Find Lisa on her web siteFacebook, and Amazon.

 

***

Let’s talk about this! When facing uncertainty, how does knowing that Jesus understands what you’re going through give you comfort? Do you have any verses to share with us that give you peace in the midst of uncertainty? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over at Living by Grace on Facebook.

 

Christ, the Church, and Marriage

We often go into marriage expecting it to be easier than it truly is. Did you enter your marriage thinking that being a Christian would insulate you from struggles, only to stumble–or witness your spouse stumble–and have to walk a path littered with pain? If you have–or currently are–there is hope!

-Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.-Hebrews 10-23, E

Marriage: a Representation of Christ and the Church
by Toni Shiloh

A lot of us enter marriage with a heart full of love and expectations of happy ever after. When struggles appear we either fold under the pressure or keep trucking on. Then the portrait-119851_640struggles get harder. The tally sheet longer. Until you find yourself at the crossroads of stay married or divorce.

What I’ve learned in my ten plus years of marriage is that easy isn’t a path in marriage. I thought that being a representation of Christ and the Church guaranteed easy. It seemed it should be a representation of purity and righteousness.

Then I stumbled. Stumbled so far I fell into the pit, dragging my husband right along with me. Funny how rock bottom shows you your choices don’t just affect you alone.

Then God happened.

He made me see how sinful I was. Made me realize my need of a Savior and His grace.

Then my husband forgave me. He chose to let love cover a multitude of my sins. Watching his behavior, reading my Bible, talking to God, all of it made me realize the truth of Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

Our marriage was a true representation of Christ and the Church.

My husband died to his self and gave his life and dreams, hopes, expectations up all to sunshine-923890_640forgive me. He showed me unconditional love.

I was the church. The bride in need of forgiveness and salvation. My husband acted as Christ, forgiving me. We became one in our union and showed our friends and family what Christ’s actions truly meant.

I implore you, if you’re struggling in your marriage, remember Christ’s sacrifice. Cling to His hope and pick the road to resurrect your marriage. Seek His wisdom and guidance and He will be faithful to give it.

***

A Life to LiveMia is headed to the famed Nottingham for a month long vacation. She never imagined she’d run into her high-school sweetheart thousands of miles away from her home town. Why would God throw them back together?

Caleb always regretted the way things ended with his high-school girlfriend, Mia. After a chance encounter in the streets of Nottingham, Caleb feels God is giving him a second chance to right the wrongs he committed. Unbeknownst to him, Mia has secrets that may require his forgiveness. Will her past overshadow his wrongs?

As Mia and Caleb work through old hurts and broken hearts will they let the blessing of forgiveness redeem their relationship?

Find A Life to Live on Amazon and Nook.

***

Toni ShilohToni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an Air Force veteran, and a member of the body of Christ.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She likes to volunteer at her children’s school. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. An avid reader of Christian fiction, she writes reviews on her blog and enjoys helping other authors find readers.

She self-published a Christian contemporary romance novella, A Life to Live, and is at work writing her next novel.

Find Toni on her website, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and the group blog, Putting On the New.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Toni shared from experience how she stumbled in her marriage only to have her husband extend the love and grace of Christ. Have you experienced grace and forgiveness in your marriage? Or have you been the one to extend such love as Christ has for the Church? What Scripture helped you through such difficult times? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

As a fun aside, Toni is highlighting my debut novel, Beyond I Do, on her blog today. Pop over to have a peak-see! I’m also on Jo Huddleston’s blog, talking about how we find our inner strength. Join me HERE.

Then come back Monday, because I’ve got some fun news to share, and some questions I want to ask you. 🙂

 

 

Trusting in the God of Hope

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Photo by ClkerFreeVectorImages taken from pixabay.com

Life is full of uncertainties, and though I’m pretty sure, while waiting for something important, we wish God would come through right now! But it’s in the waiting, the following along God’s detours and reroutes, that our faith grows strongest and we are most alert to God’s hand.

Today prolific and hugely talented author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter, shares her signingexperience with waiting, rerouting, followed by more waiting.

And as an added bonus, she’s doing a special, multi-blog give-away to commemorate the Heartsong Presents line since it’s ending this month! How fun is that?

Baseball Memory Board

Comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Rodeo Reunion. Ten copies will be split among names drawn during the blog tour from June 1st – July 1st. One winner will receive a baseball themed memory board personally crafted by the author. Winners will be revealed on Shannon’s blog on July 22nd.

Trusting in the God of Hope by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Any time I’ve been down about my writing career, God gives me hope. Back before I was published and began to wonder if I ever would be, He’d give me encouragement by allowing me to place in a writing contest or an editor taking the time to write a positive note on a rejection letter. Those little fuzzy moments kept me going. He still does that.

Back in November, I learned the line I write for Heartsong Presents is ending. I was contracted for one more rodeo book and a new series of three books. With the end of Heartsong Presents, those four books were destined to never see the light of day. But I’d been through this before.

After my fourth book was published when Barbour owned the line, they decided to end Heartsong Presents. Even though I had two more books contracted. I cried and railed and mourned my books and my career. But a few months later, I attended the ACFW conference and my new editor told me to go ahead and write the next book in my series because another publisher was buying the line.

Six months later, I learned Harlequin had purchased Heartsong Presents. My final two books in my contract saw the light of day and I soon had another contract for six books. Fast forward four years and Harlequin made the same decision regarding the line. This time, I knew no one would buy it because there aren’t any other publishers who distribute category length romance.

But I didn’t rail and I didn’t cry. By this time, I knew God’s got this. A few weeks later, my agent called with a possible publisherkeyboard-690066_1280 to take on my four remaining books. All I had to do was add word count and tweak the books to fit their line. We went back and forth for several months trying to make my submission perfect.

A month later, the editor contacted my agent. What I’d done still didn’t fit the imprint, but she gave very specific instructions to make my books fit. And even went as far as calling me on the phone. That doesn’t happen often. Hope bloomed.

I tweaked the proposal again and sent it off. We’re going on seven weeks now. The editor apologized when my agent checked with her, saying she’s behind on everything and hasn’t even had the time to read my proposal. I was hoping to have a positive answer by the time my blog tour for my final Heartsong came around. Which is now. But I still don’t know what will become of my four books.

In the meantime, I wrote a long book I’ve wanted to write for a long time. It’s polished and almost ready to send to my agent so she can try to find a home for it. But the market is rough in publishing in general. As time drags, I’m getting discouraged.

Last weekend, I went to an annual writers’ retreat with ten women from my local group. We had a great time, visited, ate, ate some more, learned, and got some writing time in.

I’m the only traditionally published one in the group simply because my journey fell into place before theirs. I’m their encouragement—proof that getting published can happen. But my career is at a standstill. It kind of got to me.

Double RainbowOn the way home, I was praying and whining a little. I rounded a curve and the trees revealed an expanse of open sky. I saw a cloud with a silver lining. Then another. Pretty much a sky full of clouds with silver linings. Bordering all those clouds was a double rainbow. I take that as God saying He’s got this. I quit whining.

For the rest of my trip home, I enjoyed the canvas God painted just for me. And I know He’ll follow through on all those silver linings.

Award winning, central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows, and she once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots.

She has eleven published titles and is contracted for four more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Learn more about Shannon and her books at ShannonVannatter.com and check out her Real Life Romance blog.

Connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/stvannatter/, and Twitter: @stvauthor.

About her novel, Rodeo Reunion:

RAQUEL MARRIS NEEDS A MAN WHO’LL STAY PUT

And Slade Walker’s not a likely candidate. Even if the former major league pitcher just agreed to coach her son’s little league team. The single mom can’t risk everything on a bronc-riding chaplain who’s only passing through Raquel’s small Texas town.

Slade is taking a hiatus from the rodeo circuit to meet the sister he never knew he had. But the pretty widowed nurse next door is making him think twice about hitting the road again. He can’t turn his back on the cowboys who need him, but Raquel and her boy need him, too. Can Slade fulfill his calling and finally find a place to hang his hat?

Buy it:

At Christian Book Distributers or on Amazon

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Are you in a waiting period? What might God be showing or teaching you? Have you ever felt as if you’d slammed into a closed door only to find God had something else amazing waiting? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.