When Life Hits Hard–Where Joy is Found

sunrise, flowers, and clouds with quote regarding joy

Some of my darkest periods have occurred when I’ve appeared to have every reason for joy. And I’ve experienced deep joy during difficult and painful situations.

About ten years ago, after a series of moves and job shifts, our family landed in a small town northeast of Kansas City, MO. I homeschooled at the time, we weren’t wealthy by any means, but our finances were solid and our bills paid, our marriage strong, and our home-life largely tension free.

But I was miserable. Defeated and confused. In pursuing what I thought would bring me joy, I was robbing myself of it.

At the time, I was working toward a teaching degree, or perhaps geology or chemistry, I can’t remember which. (I changed my mind regarding potential career plans each semester, it seemed—because I wasn’t called to any of them.) I knew with the deep yet quiet certainty that can only come from the Holy Spirit within that God wanted me to write, something I had no problem doing—as a hobby and according to my terms.

Terms that involved ample self-protection, also known as no transparency, and guaranteed financial payoffs.

But God was calling me to surrender. Everything. My plans, desires, wisdom, and all those prospects certain to include a secure 401K and steady paycheck. For surely, aren’t those things, and all the material benefits included in them, what bring joy?

If that were true, I would’ve had it in abundance. Instead, my heart felt dulled and dark, a darkness that increased as, through disobedience, I continued to distance myself from God and His love.

Light—and joy—flooded in the moment I surrendered.

I experienced the converse of this about four years later when a mysterious illness began stealing my energy and dignity. Though I later discovered the cause of my rapid weight loss and related symptoms, for almost a year I sat in the tension of not knowing. Of fretting and imagining and striving to control what felt like a revolting body. But in the middle of all my uncertainty and pain, I experienced peace.

And joy. A joy much greater and stronger and more abiding than my circumstances—a joy Image of mountains, lake, and a sunset with a quote pulled from the postfound in abundance as I sat, each day, in God’s presence. Because, as Psalm 16:11 states, joy comes not in the absence of difficulties but instead in God’s presence. As we hit pause on our busyness and each day’s stressors, as we allow His gentle whisper to drown out our worries and fears, He births joy within us.

His joy, not ours, given to us as a gift, if we’ll receive it. A gift that doesn’t necessarily abate our sorrow. In fact, joy and sorrow, even intense sorrow, can quite naturally co-exist. It did for Jesus, as He wept in the Garden on the night before His death. I imagine it did for God the Father as well, when He sent His precious Son into our sin-tainted world.

Joy isn’t an emotion. Those come and go based on countless external circumstances. Rather, joy is a deep awareness and appreciation for God’s love and grace, which is always at work, even in our darkest moments.

Let’s talk about this! What resonated with you most in today’s post? Is there anything you disagree with or maybe would add? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

cover for Bible studySpeaking of finding joy during hard or painful periods, for those following along with our Becoming His Princess Bible study, last week we talked about ways to remain faithful during periods of disillusionment. You can watch that session HERE. You can grab a free copy (ebook) of the study HERE.

If one of your friends or loved ones is hurting but you don’t quite no what to say, how to respond, or how to help, you may find encouragement from my post on my Crosswalk blog on helping our hurting friends. You can read that HERE.

 

 

 

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Discovering Who God Created Us to Be

Woman in hat smiling

Our purpose, infused into our hearts before we took our first breath, is universal and will never change–to know God and make Him known. How we express that purpose, however, is unique to all of us. We’ll never truly feel fulfilled until we discover and live out who Christ created us to be. My guest today, author and blogger Robin E. Mason, shares how this has proven true in her life.

What’s in Your Heart

By Robin E. Mason

“What’s wrong with me?”

I asked God that question more than twenty years ago. I had no sense of purpose or identity.

“Sit down.” I could imagine Him answering me. “This is going to take a while.”

And it did. An emotionally excruciating and physically exhausting three years of counseling. I “happened” to choose that spring to work in the yard. And as I dug up rocks to make way for daisies, I felt like the same thing was happening in my soul; God was digging and uprooting years and layers of lies that had burrowed deep in my heart.

Years, a lifetime really, of hearing “You could have done better,” had translated into nothing I did was good enough. The most staggering statement was, “You’re nothing but a failure.” Even though I knew better intellectually, it didn’t even faze me; it was the summation of what I had accepted all my life.

I grew up believing the Bible was absolute Truth. The Bible says I’m to have an “abundant” life. But mine didn’t fit that at all. I suffered depression, worked at jobs that didn’t satisfy me. Believing lies will do that. And no matter how hard I fought to be “better,” I never was.

I was a single mom and I worked to provide for my children. I did what I had to do. The problem was fighting to measure up to someone else’s standard for me, and not Father God’s design.

In a particular counseling session, my pastor held his hands out, cupped as though he held a grapefruit in each. One hand, he said, was Bible Truth. In the other were the lies I had believed. He put one hand on top of the other; the lies say this. Then he switched hands. But the Bible says. He repeated this a few times, and it registered in my broken mind. That was twenty-three years ago.

Long before I asked that fateful question, Father God had been laying groundwork to bring me to that point of recognizing the disparity between my life and His plan. And I’ve watched in the years since then as He unfolds one mercy after another—so that I like myself now, and I can say without vanity that I’m a pretty cool gal! And fun to be around!

Which brings me to my writing. Stories have always been in my head. But I was pushed in other directions, pressure to be something I’m not—someone else’s ideal of success. The stories were there; I just didn’t know I was meant to write them. But as I was struggling through the anguish of counseling I began writing—almost as a Divine form of therapy.

And for all I’ve put my hands to over the years—the temp assignments, jobs that were just awful, so many I’ve lost count—nothing has “fit” like my writing. Once I got swept up in that first storyline, I knew. This was, and is, and has always been, that desire of my heart. The words. They speak to me. They reach into me. Whether fiction or His Word.

What’s in my heart? Stories that speak to the sense of identity. Stories that help others know who they are, and to embrace and live in that knowledge. Stories that reach into the heart of others, who, like me, don’t know and aren’t living the life God intended.

Take a look inside your heart. What secret dreams are hidden in your there? How can you begin the journey to live in the fullness of Father God’s plan and purpose for you?

Get to Know Robin!

Robin's author photoMs. Mason writes stories of identity conflict. Her characters encounter situations that force the question, “Who am I really?” For all who have ever wondered who you are or why you’re here, her stories will touch you in a very real—maybe too real—and a very deep way. “I know, I write from experience.”

Ms. Mason has seven novels, Tessa, Clara Bess, and Cissy, in the unsavory heritage series, and The Long Shadows of Summer, The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, The Silent Song of Winter, and The Whispering Winds of Spring in her Seasons series. All of Ms. Mason’s books are available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. She also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She is working on a on One for the Price of Two, the first story in her new series, FourSquare, to release next year.

Visit her online HERE.

Check out her new cover of her debut novel, Tessa:

When you pretend to be something you’re not, it always finds you out.

One mother. Two daughters. One favorite. One not.

When Cassie Barclay is presented with an opportunity – or is it a curse – she jumpsCover image for Tessa at the chance. She takes on a new life, her sister’s life, and although at first, it holds appeal and promise, she soon realizes sometimes the fairy tale is tainted.

For the Joy That’s Coming

Image by Cory Bouthillette on Unsplash

I’m not a fan of long car rides filled with squished and soggy sandwiches that fell to the bottom of our cooler. I never enjoyed listening to our daughter ask, a thousand times: “Are we there yet?” And I don’t like traffic or long stretches of highway with no rest areas in sight.

And yet, our family has intentionally engaged in numerous road trips. The most memorable, and miserable, was when our daughter was twelve. The day before we left, I took her to the orthodontist to receive braces and a contraption called a mara designed to help her lower jaw, which wasn’t growing, catch up with her upper jaw.

The orthodontist warned us she’d be uncomfortable for a day or two, but nothing she couldn’t handle with a steady dose of Motrin. And perhaps that would’ve been true, had she not made a face-plant into the asphalt during recess that very afternoon.

I cleaned her up, gave her some Motrin and a smoothie, and sent her to bed.

The next morning, hours before the sun rose, I loaded our van with snacks, drinks, suitcases, and water toys—everything we’d need for a wonderful Florida vacation. Then, ready to embark on a long-anticipated trip, I dashed inside and upstairs to wake our daughter. (My husband was meeting us there by plane.)

Leaning over her bed, I gentle nudged her. “Sweetie, it’s time,” I said in that sing-songy voice every parent gets when waking their child for their first ever Disney World vacation.

She moaned and rolled over.

And I blinked and stepped back.

Her face! It was swollen, her lips, also swollen, were horribly scabbed, and I hated to think what the inside of her cheeks might look like.

It was obvious she was in pain, and we had a 1,237-mile drive ahead of us—with nothing to distract her from her throbbing face. Stuck in a vehicle for twenty-four hours, not including stops, would be difficult for any fifth grader. But one with a swollen, sore, and bloodied mouth?

And yet, neither of us considered, for an instant, not going.

Why? Because we knew the fun that awaited her would make all her discomfort worth it. Would perhaps even make her forget her pain entirely.

I believe this was the same understanding Paul, the author of Philippians, had, as he sat in a prison cell, waiting to learn, post-trial, whether he’d be allowed to live or die. He knew the glorious future that lay ahead, not just for himself, but for all who believed in Christ. This is why he could say, without hypocrisy, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 3:1, ESV).

A young girl’s trip to Disneyland, sore mouth or not, might seem an insufficient comparison to the persecution Paul suffered and his hope of heaven. And yet, to a child, Disneyland is about as big as it gets, and the pain our daughter endured was significant enough.

But not so significant that it hindered her joy and anticipation of what was to come.

Life is full of frustrations, disappointments, and difficulties. Sometimes our pain is transient, like my daughter’s was. But for others, like those dealing with chronic illness or depression, it can feel like the darkness will never end.

And yet, Disneyland is coming. That is where our hope lies, when we stand before our Savior, enveloped in His love—in heaven, when He’s made all things right and all pain nonexistent.

On our darkest nights, when the road ahead feels steep and long, may we intentionally turn our eyes off of the struggle and instead onto what we know lies ahead.

Before you go, if you haven’t signed up for my quarterly newsletter, I encourage you to do so.

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.

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I also encourage you to sign up for Wholly Loved’s free quarterly newsletter, releasing at the end of this month.You can do that HERE 

For the Joy That’s Coming

car stuck in trafficI’m not a fan of long car rides filled with squished and soggy sandwiches that fell to the bottom of our cooler. I never enjoyed listening to our daughter ask, a thousand times: “Are we there yet?” And I don’t like traffic or long stretches of highway with no rest areas in sight.

And yet, our family has intentionally engaged in numerous road trips. The most memorable, and miserable, was when our daughter was twelve. The day before we left, I took her to the orthodontist to receive braces and a contraption called a mara designed to help her lower jaw, which wasn’t growing, catch up with her upper jaw.

The orthodontist warned us she’d be uncomfortable for a day or two, but nothing she couldn’t handle with a steady dose of Motrin. And perhaps that would’ve been true, had she not made a face-plant into the asphalt during recess that very afternoon.

I cleaned her up, gave her some Motrin and a smoothie, and sent her to bed.

The next morning, hours before the sun rose, I loaded our van with snacks, drinks, suitcases, and water toys—everything we’d need for a wonderful Florida vacation. Then, ready to embark on a long-anticipated trip, I dashed inside and upstairs to wake our daughter. (My husband was meeting us there by plane.)

Leaning over her bed, I gentle nudged her. “Sweetie, it’s time,” I said in that sing-songy voice every parent gets when waking their child for their first ever Disney World vacation.

She moaned and rolled over.

And I blinked and stepped back.

Her face! It was swollen, her lips, also swollen, were horribly scabbed, and I hated to think what the inside of her cheeks might look like.

It was obvious she was in pain, and we had a 1,237-mile drive ahead of us—with nothing to distract her from her throbbing face. Stuck in a vehicle for twenty-four hours, not including stops, would be difficult for any fifth grader. But one with a swollen, sore, and bloodied mouth?

And yet, neither of us considered, for an instant, not going.

Why? Because we knew the fun that awaited her would make all her discomfort worth it. Would perhaps even make her forget her pain entirely.

I believe this was the same understanding Paul, the author of Philippians, had, as he sat in a prison cell, waiting to learn, post-trial, whether he’d be allowed to live or die. He knew the glorious future that lay ahead, not just for himself, but for all who believed in Christ. This is why he could say, without hypocrisy, “Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 3:1, NLT).

A young girl’s trip to Disneyland, sore mouth or not, might seem an insufficient comparison to the persecution Paul suffered and his hope of heaven. And yet, to a child, Disneyland is about as big as it gets, and the pain our daughter endured was significant enough.

But not so significant that it hindered her joy and anticipation of what was to come.

Life is full of frustrations, disappointments, and difficulties. Sometimes our pain is transient, like my daughter’s was. But for others, like those dealing with chronic illness or depression, it can feel like the darkness will never end.

And yet, Disneyland is coming. That is where our hope lies, when we stand before our Savior, enveloped in His love—in heaven, when He’s made all things right and all pain nonexistent.

On our darkest nights, when the road ahead feels steep and long, may we intentionally turn our eyes off of the struggle and instead onto what we know lies ahead.

Let’s talk about this! What are you struggling with right now? How might focusing on the hope that awaits us in Christ help you grab hold of joy in the journey? What are some things you do to center your mind and heart in the joy of Christ? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

image of cover for study based on 1 TimothyAnd if you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter! You’ll receive great, inspirational content sent directly to your inbox, and as an added bonus, subscribers also receive a free 36-lesson study (ebook, sent separately). You can sign up HERE!

Has the Hustle Stolen Your Joy This Christmas?

This is the notoriously most stressful, and for many, most depressing season of the year. The pressure to buy that best gift, to create that perfect evening or morning for our loved ones, the urge to spend, to do, to plan … Then there’s’ the sting of unmet expectations or painful memories. In all that mess and stress, is it possible to experience the joy of Christmas? According to my guest, Carole Brown, yes, but it might take some paring down and refocusing.

Where’s the Joy? by Carole Brown

Word image with quote

My calendar—specifically December—said it was full and groaning under the weight of too many things to do and not enough time.

Shopping, Christmas programs, dinners, and decorating. I couldn’t fit anything else in. When had Christmas become so busy?

I had always loved Christmas and all that went with it but my emotions were stretched with stress and worry. I was being drained of all the joy of the season. The real meaning of Christmas.

Saint Luke tells us: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great JOY, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10, KJV).verse image with red star

Here’s how the verse spoke to me:

  • Fear not. Don’t be afraid to celebrate Christ’s birth the way God desires you.
  • Good tidings. What better news in all the world than when God sent his beloved son to earth for us? Indeed, The news is great tidings.
  • Great Joy. Christmas isn’t about how much we spend, or if every cookie variety gets into your jars, or even how many fun and well meaning programs you attend. It’s about Jesus and the real joy His coming brought.
  • All people. This celebration is for everyone. It’s a period to remember, share, love and celebrate the most wonderful gift in the world—Jesus.

In all the busyness of the season, in all my striving to cram everything that seemed important into our lives, in all my misguided notions that we’d “miss” something, I’d forgotten the most valuable item. Through my own good intentions, I’d robbed myself of the joy of the season.

Until one Christmas when I realized it all was too much and reevaluated what the season was about—that year opened my eyes to what really mattered.

Today, I pick and choose. The rest? Evaluation is easy when using the real reason for the season as the measuring stick.

  • I budget gifts on what I want to spend each year.
  • I plan my holiday meals ahead of time.
  • I do my favorite Christmas decorations and leave it at that.
  • I keep track of what events we’d like to attend and/or participate in and keep a tight rein on it.

However you celebrate the season, remember: it’s not about the busyness. It’s about Jesus. Only when we surrender ourselves to Christ, will the Spirit’s gifts be available. What are some of these gifts to a heart surrendered to God?

  • Peace that passes understanding. Trials, misunderstandings, disappointment and death does not affect the peace dwelling in a Christian’s heart.
  • Love that forgives, that never fails, that is kind and humble and never gives up—priceless and available to God’s children. (I Corinthians 13)
  • Joy that goes deeper than happiness, and only comes because of faith in the Redeemer. (Galatians 5:22)

Remember, works can not produce the fruits of the Spirit. Surrender, trust in our Savior, studying His Word, and talking with Him brings peace, love and joy. With those, we have the assurance that God is with us and working out His divine plan in our lives, and that knowledge makes it easier to focus on what truly matters and purge the rest.

Enjoy the season. Spend time with family and friends, but most of all, celebrate His birth. We have a reason to do so. God’s angel declared it to all mankind: JOY to the world!

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Let’s talk about this! What resonated most with you as you read Carole’s post? Do you plan to imitate anything she’s done in her effortsimage of cover for study based on 1 Timothy to simplify her Christmas? What are some things you’ve done to reduce your stress and focus on Christ? Share your thoughts here or in the comments below.

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive free, inspirational content (and recipes and craft how-tos) sent directly to your inbox. Subscribers also receive a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (sent separately). You can sign up HERE. And, for added fun, you can snatch Breaking Free and When Dawn Breaks for half off–with free shipping! Grab a copy for yourself or the book lovers on your list!

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An author of ten books, Carole loves to weave suspense, romance and whimsy into her books. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. They enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with her:

On her personal blog

Facebook

On her Amazon Author Page

And follow her on Twitter

Make sure to check out her latest book, A Flute in the Willows:

Both rebels in their own way, Josie and Jerry Patterson must figure out how to keep the other’s love…and keep the German enemy at bay.

She has two loves—her skating and Jerry, her husband. But when he returns home looking like a skeleton trying to return to life, she’s scared. What happened in Germany to change a man so much? Has another woman captured his heart?

Jerry has vowed to let Josie live her own glamorous life…especially after what happened in Germany. But when his wife’s life is threatened, Jerry realizes he can’t stand by and do nothing. Jerry has to risk all for the very soul and life of himself—Josie.

These two damaged, rebellious people learn the hard way that leaning on God instead of their own selves and abilities is the only true way to love and happiness.

 Description of protagonists:

Josephine Rayner Patterson, the second sister, is quite different from her older sister. She’s athletic and training for the Olympics once it’s resumed after the war, plays the flute, a little uncaring about her looks and is quite rebellious.

Jerry Patterson, dark, sardonic, sensitive and smart, he despises his overbearing, condescending and wealthy father and joins the service. Because of his sharp senses, he’s trained in subversion for the military and ends overseas in Germany but will the mistakes he makes while there cripple his and Josie’s lives forever?

Trading Expectations For Joy

As a frizzy haired, awkward elementary student, I entered the beauty shop with such hopeful anticipation. A few snips and some deep conditioning, and my aunt would tame my unruly tresses, causing heads to turn the moment I entered my fifth grade classroom.

Oh, heads turned all right, but not in the way I’d expected.

Then there was the time, with a quivering heart and stomach, I stepped out in faith, fully expecting God to bring fruit from my obedience, only to hit a major setback that left me confused and broken.

And last Friday, I wrestled with our bike rack, heaved and grunted and fought to secure my husband’s bike in it, then headed out to visit him while he was away on business. All the while thinking about the wonderful, romantic time we’d have come Saturday afternoon. The weather was supposed to be perfect. My husband would be off by three, and we’d spend the afternoon enjoying one another and one of our favorite, shaded paths.

We’ve had a relationship of bike rides—of me lacing up my shoes and heading for a run while my sweet man pedals beside me. Those are some of my most cherished memories, some of our sweetest moments. Those were times I was greatly looking forward to repeating!

Things didn’t turn out as I’d expected. First, the straps on the rack came loose mid-drive, leaving his bike dangling by its brake wires, which had somehow become twisted around the handlebars. Then, once I’d managed to untangle the bike, I was left trying to  get the incredibly heavy contraption in the back of my already packed car.

I almost gave up, leaving my poor husband’s bike deposited along I-29, but I’m cheap and stubborn, and after a great deal of effort, managed to squish the thing in the back, front wheel cockeyed, and continue on.

Convinced, with some minor adjustments and tweaking, we could follow through with our plans.

I went running by myself that Saturday, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.

Life is full of disappointments. When things don’t go as anticipated. When friends or loved ones let us down. When our best efforts are thwarted or lead to naught.

Some of our deepest hurts come from unmet expectations. Sometimes those expectations have felt so certain, we never fathomed things could turn out differently, only to find ourselves sideswiped by life or rejection or betrayal.

Did Paul experience this? I know those he trusted abandoned him. I know God abruptly shifted his plans on more than one occasion. I know he spent times alone, cold, hungry, and beaten down–literally (1 Corinthians 11:16-28). But I also know he lived with unconquerable peace and joy—during incredibly dark circumstances, like imprisonment (Philippians 1).

How was that possible? I believe the answer is found in how he refered to himself in Philippians 1—a slave for Christ. This was Paul’s mentality.

Slaves have zero rights and zero expectation except to serve. They live to honor another more than themselves. Their every focus is on their master, alert to the slightest command. Ready to do his bidding.

That is what it means to live for Christ.

People and life will let us down. If we expect otherwise, we will be disappointed. The only expectations we can count on are those rooted in Jesus Christ. It’s when we live surrendered to that truth that we find lasting peace and joy.

Let’s talk about this! Do you agree? When have expectations left you hurt or disappointed? What are some ways we can replace our worldly expectations with those grounded in Christ? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the discussion on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

If this post blessed you and you’d like to receive more great content, including short stories, recipes, and craft how-tos, directly in your inbox, sign up for my quarterly newsletter. (You can do so HERE.) I’m working on it now and plan to release it at the end of this month, along with info regarding a fun give-away contest for subscribers.

You may also enjoy:

Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong by John C. Hutchison

Count it All Joy

Finding Joy in the Chaos 

Joy in the What?

The Faithfulness of God in the Middle of Our Uncertainty

 

The Blessings That Come With Obedience

Sometimes obedience comes easily, other times it can take every ounce of strength and courage to push forward and step out. But when we surrender to Christ and allow Him to love others through us … Today my guest Clarice James, author of Party of One and Double Header, shares how God used her obedience to turn the sorrow of widowhood into joy.

The Blessings That Come With Obedience

by Clarice James

Selfies here, selfies there. Selfies, selfies everywhere. It’s hard to see others if you’re focused on self.

I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of 32 and returned to church. Being spiritually single for the next ten years was a lonely time. I waited (not so patiently) for my husband to join me. Once he did, we were blessed to worship together for eight years before he lost his battle with cancer.

You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy”  (John 16:20, NIV).

With my children grown and gone, for the first time in my life I had no one to consider daily but myself. I was grieving and bored, which made it easy to fall into a self-centered, poor-me mentality.

One Sunday, back in the pew my husband and I had called ours, I noticed a woman sitting by herself … then another and another . . . as if the Lord was shining a spotlight on them. I was amazed at the number of single adults in attendance and ashamed I had never taken the time to get to know them.

But here we were, all alone, together.

This sparked a passion for those who’d fallen between the cracks of families and couples. I suddenly saw single people everywhere: in church, at the grocery store, in study groups, at the nail salon, in my writers’ groups, and at restaurants. I began to reach out to them.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27, NIV).

Once a week for a few years, I hosted a dozen plus young adults for Tuesday night supper. Two of the attendees got to know each other well around my table and later married. A couple who rented my apartment asked to join the group and was introduced to Jesus. Seeing these two couples now, raising children themselves, reassures me that my efforts were fruitful.

At one time or another, four different women shared my home: a young Canadian woman, trying to make ends meet on a teacher’s salary from a small Christian school; a middle-aged woman, taking over as principal of that same school; a Brazilian woman, working two jobs so she could send money back home to her family; and a nanny for eight children, spending her days off with me “to keep her sanity.”

My empty nest soon became the go-to spot for women’s Bible studies and get-togethers. I even toyed with the idea of starting a singles supper club at a local restaurant.

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:1-2, NIV).

Each time I blessed someone, God blessed me back. Not with money or material things, but with joy and fulfillment. Parents of the young adults thanked me for providing a safe place for their children to socialize. Many of my tenants and house guests became friends. The cross-section of people who have shown up at my author signings is confirmation that God was and is in the middle of it all.

God’s ultimate blessing came eight years after I was widowed when He gave me a new husband in Ralph David James. About five years into our marriage, I finally got around to starting that singles supper club. (It takes a special man to let his wife start a singles club!) I named it Party of One: A Fellowship for Those Tired of Dining Alone.

Put self on the shelf and focus on God. He is faithful to show you ways to bless others.

 

Let’s talk about this! When have you stepped out in obedience to bless someone and found you were the one who received the blessing? This past weekend, my church facilitated our annual Big Live celebration–where we mobilize our church family out in the community to love on the broken, feed the hungry, clean up messes, unite our community, and more. Mid-day Saturday, incredibly tired but immeasurably full, I thought, “If I could only do this full time.” Of course, I can’t, but to feel God’s love reaching through you as you step out into someone else’s darkness; that has to be part of the abundant life Jesus promised.

For when we lose our life for the sake of Christ, that’s when we find it.

We will never be fulfilled, never truly find peace and joy, until we begin to live as we were created–viewing ourselves through God’s eyes and living out the mission He’s assigned. This is Wholly Loved’s message in a nutshell. This is why we exist–to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are (or are meant to be) in Christ. Because life’s not meant to be endured; it’s meant to be lived. We’ve got a conference coming up this Saturday! I’d love to see you! Find out more HERE.

And before I go, have you signed up for my quarterly newsletter! In the next edition, which releases at the end of next month, I’ll be sharing some fun info on a contest (give-away, actually), available only to subscribers. You can sign up HERE! (You can check out my last edition HERE.)

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Clarice G. James writes smart, fun, relatable contemporary women’s fiction. Her first two novels are Party of One and Double Header. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, encouraging fellow writers, or involved in a home decorating project. She and her husband, David, live in New Hampshire. Together, they have five married children and ten grandchildren. Visit her online HERE. 

Party of One:

One Woman, A Great Idea—Party of One Inspires and Delights. When widow Annie McGee breaks through grief, she falls flat on her face into loneliness. In a bold move, she founds Party of One, a communal table for single diners. Outside of these weekly gatherings at a local restaurant, she has no intention of getting involved in the diverse lives of the people who join her. Set in her ways and critical, Annie believes she has all the answers she needs for her life and some left over for others. When confusion and curiosity chip away at her pride, she asks God for a sign, then gets way more than she hopes for. Her self-assurance continues to falter when she realizes the only thing weirder than the quirks of her eclectic tablemates is her fear of losing their company.

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