Walking In the Wilderness

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I hate being stretched, prodded, and poked. At least, emotionally. But I’m learning to view my struggles and frustrations differently—through the lens of grace. I’ve shared before, but our family has been called to a challenge, one that, at times, takes every ounce of our energy and endurance. One that often leaves us feeling uncertain and one that also brings every selfish and un-surrendered thought to the surface.

This morning, after a particularly trying day the day before, I opened my Bible to James 1:1-3. And was challenged. Inspired. And invited to participate with God in the growth He is initiating in me. 

Then I open my computer and begin reviewing today’s post, and received yet an extra dose of encouragement to stay all in. And to lean hard on Christ. My struggles are nothing like Julie went through, but maybe that’s what makes her post so encouraging–to see faith and strength in the extreme.

 

Don’t Despise the Wildnerness
by Julie Arduini

It was 2003. I lived in Upstate NY and the financial consequences from 9/11 hit our small city hard. The main corporation in town, Corning Inc., let go 20% of their workforce. At the time, their stock was worth less than a slice of pizza at the local shop. Most businesses in town were somehow connected to Corning, including my husband’s employer. His work dried up to the point that the employer left the business and told his employees to keep it baby-1178539_640running—without salary or benefits.

Our baby came into our lives that August and I thought for sure my new role as a full-time mom would be the needed turn. Not long after her birth my husband realized he had to get another job. Our health insurance alone was a huge amount per month plus a 20% co-pay. On paper, we never had the amount. In reality, God provided. Yet, something had to give.

Once my husband started working as a temp to help make ends meet, we received news that our daughter’s newborn tests were abnormal. After hearing all was fine, we later learned the office made a mistake and our daughter was not fine. They sat me down and told me that because she lost 8 weeks of needed medicine, we were to prepare our child for mental retardation.

The hits became relentless. Our daughter got sick before Thanksgiving. Although we were changing doctors, we still hadn’t found one, so we went back. He prescribed a medicine with codeine, something I questioned for a three-month baby. He assured me he’d prescribed this for years.

Our daughter nearly died on Thanksgiving Eve.medic-563425_640

As she recovered, we learned my dad had lung cancer. I refused to believe it. He looked so good. They didn’t want anyone to know for fear he’d be treated differently. As Hannah battled RSV and pneumonia and my husband learned his second job was ending and that a company five hours away wanted to hire him—my dad wasn’t getting better. Three weeks after my husband moved to his new job knowing no one in an apartment the company found for him, my dad passed away.

I was grieving while taking care of two small ones, including a chronically sick baby. My mom was beside herself losing her husband and her daughter’s family. Once I sold the house and reunited with my husband, I remember sitting in Ohio, shell-shocked.

I felt completely abandoned by God.

It was in Ohio I found mentors and Bible studies that helped me. One day I was reading Beth Moore and she mentioned Hosea 2:14: therefore-i-am-now-going-to-allure-her-i-will-lead-her-into-the-wilderness-and-speak-tenderly-to-her-hosea-2-14-niv

That verse made this season almost feel like a gift.

A blessing.

As the grief subsided, I realized there were lessons I learned in the wilderness I never could have grasped in the clearing. I was introduced to opportunities that I never imagined I could have been prepared for. Those excruciating times were when God drew me close and taught me things. Showed me secrets and strategies. Most of all, loved me in an intimate way I’d never known.

The wilderness is scary and no one would voluntarily sign up for it. However, I don’t resist it anymore. I know a lot of fruit comes out of the wilderness. I wouldn’t be writing without those times. I hope my story encourages you. Don’t be afraid of your Hosea 2:14 wilderness.

***

“You need to leave me alone. It’s the least you can do.”

entangled2_editedCarla Rowling has been given her dream of attending cosmetology school. The gift is so generous she feels unworthy because of choices she made as a teen. The pressure mounts as Carla juggles school, is a single mom, helps her best friend Jenna plan her wedding, spends time with boyfriend Will Marshall, and deals with the fact that her son’s father is back in their lives.

Will Marshall is the one Speculator Falls resident everyone can count on. His truck deliveries are reliable. He’s the first to help friends like Ben Regan with boat work or be a card partner with Bart Davis. Will’s ready to settle down with Carla, loving her is natural. He’s bonded with her son, Noah. But when Carla starts cosmetology school, she puts emotional distance between her and Will.

Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?

Buy Entangled on Amazon.

***

profileJulie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the  re-release, ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at JULIE ARDUINI: SURRENDER ISSUES AND CHOCOLATE and the weekly e mail. SUNDAY’S SURRENDER AND CHOCOLATE.

Connect with Julie on her websiteFacebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

 

 

Staying True to Your Purpose

johnstudy1

Do you ever feel like God is calling you to do things that guarantee you to a life of obscurity? Financial struggle? Does it feel like His call–to die to yourself, to do what’s right whenever everyone else is conniving to get ahead–places you at a disadvantage?

Many of us know intellectually that God’s way is best and that serving Him in whatever capacity truly will be the most fulfilling thing we could ever do, so what keeps us from resting in that?

profileTempted: When the World Fights Against Your Purpose

Julie Arduini

I’m so thankful to be part of Jennifer Slattery’s study on John the Baptist. He’s an inspiring person to me because he had a pioneer spirit, something I can relate to. When I’ve been mentored, the Biblical example given to me was John the Baptist. The hard part? He was beheaded.

His death wasn’t fair. Not the manner in which it was executed, not the frivolous way it was ordered. But his life exemplified what the royal court couldn’t comprehend—he stood strong against temptation and stayed obedient to the call on his life.

That encourages me. As an author and speaker passionate about encouraging others to find freedom through surrender in Christ, the world’s chaos sometimes overwhelms me . Most of my work is through writing, and I create contemporary romances so readers can find hope and encouragement in their reading. I enjoy putting flawed characters together and, through surrender and faith in Christ, transform them.

This year I took an even bigger step of faith and created my own imprint. I re-published my first contemporary romance, ENTRUSTED, and published the sequel, ENTANGLED. I poured 16 hour days into formatting, creating book covers, and watching videos to learn everything. I made myself sick from not drinking enough nor sleeping well. When the books released, I had such a sense of accomplishment.

Then the temptation kicked in.

After the books were active on Amazon, I needed to continue to promote them. As I did, I noticed that other romances, the kind that mirrored Fifty Shades of Grey that would turn me 100 shades of red, got a lot of attention.

traffic-sign-416439_1920And sales.

I can’t even look at the covers but I’d see the hundreds of stars next to reviews or the bestseller status. Me? I’m trying to get readers to know my work exists, let alone have anyone buy enough to make any splash in the world as an author.

Slowly, the sneaky thoughts dropped in.

All the attention is on ero*-ick!-a.

Who cares about clean romances with a message of hope?

Do you know how piddly your royalties are compared to the others?

You could write under a false name and no one will know.

I’d love to tell you that I immediately cast those thoughts away in the name of my Best Friend, but no, I entertained them. I thought about money I’m not making against time I’ve spent. It didn’t seem fair when the “other” writers were doing so well.

That’s when it hit me.

John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, physically and spiritually. He didn’t cater to anyone. He let Herod know his marriage to Herodias was wrong because she was basically his sister-in-law. Telling the truth, doing the right thing, was his death sentence.

And his legacy.

I resolved to do the same. The moment I confessed my tempting thoughts to Jesus and focused on staying true to God’s call, I had peace. Did everything change? Not quickly. My royalties are still small, especially against time spent. But I’m starting to see favor. People are starting to find me that aren’t related or friends. They are leaving reviews, strong ones that speak louder than any promoting I could do.

John the Baptist was a strange man by the world’s standards, but he was obedient to the end. This pioneer is encouraged by his testimony. I hope you are, too.

***

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the re-release, ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at JULIE ARDUINI: SURRENDER ISSUES AND CHOCOLATE and the weekly e mail. SUNDAY’S SURRENDER AND CHOCOLATE. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, and follow her on Amazon.

entangled2_editedEntangledSurrendering the Past

Book #2, Surrendering Time Series

“You need to leave me alone. It’s the least you can do.”

Carla Rowling has been given her dream of attending cosmetology school. The gift is so generous she feels unworthy because of choices she made as a teen. The pressure mounts as Carla juggles school, is a single mom, helps her best friend Jenna plan her wedding, spends time with boyfriend Will Marshall, and deals with the fact that her son’s father is back in their lives.

Will Marshall is the one Speculator Falls resident everyone can count on. His truck deliveries are reliable. He’s the first to help friends like Ben Regan with boat work or be a card partner with Bart Davis. Will’s ready to settle down with Carla, loving her is natural. He’s bonded with her son, Noah. But when Carla starts cosmetology school, she puts emotional distance between her and Will.

Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?

Buy it HERE. Buy book one HERE

 

 

Let’s talk about this. We all have a purpose, a role God has assigned specifically for us–one we are uniquely able to fulfill. From the time we are born until the time He takes us home, He is lovingly and patiently molding and equipping us to fulfill that role. But in our comparison-based and social-media saturated culture, it’s easy to allow the noise all around us obscure or even devalue our purpose. When that happens, we can begin to feel defeated and insignificant.

It’s really a matter of focus. When defining ourselves, evaluating our to-do lists and accomplishments, and prioritizing our time, who will we listen to, our rapidly imploding culture or that gentle yet steady voice of our Savior that guides us toward His very best.

The choice is ours.

At Wholly Loved Ministries, we want to help you zero in on God’s voice and learn to clearly discern His will, because we know none of us will find fulfillment until we are doing that which we were created to do. Join us for one of our upcoming conferences.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! I think we all face struggles similar to what Julie expressed. I have to believe John did for sure. He was an amazing man of God, but he was also human. What do you think helped him to remain so steadfast to his calling? Have you felt God call you to something difficult, and if so, how did you respond? What do you think we can do, in the day-to-day, to tune out all the cultural noise and stifle our tendency to compare ourselves and our lives with one another so we can focus fully on God’s will for us?Share your thoughts in the comments below, at Living by Grace on Facebook, or in our online For the Love Bible study, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

 

Are You Repellant or Attractive

Are you repellant or attractive? Pause to think of that for a moment. Consider your interactions with others. Are people drawn to you or do they try to avoid you? How do they feel after having spent time with you? This is an area I feel God has been challenging me in lately. Daily, He’s challenging me to take my eyes off myself, off my agenda and challenges, and look around. Because it’s hard to love others when I’m consumed with me.

Today my sweet friend Julie Arduini, author of Entrusted, shares her thoughts on lighting up our world.

melodylodgekoct132_editedThe Attractive Light by Julie Arduini

We moved into what we’re believing is our “forever home” a couple months ago. It’s a place where we can have ministry events, entertain, encourage, and I even have an office to write. What’s also new for us is it’s in a development. Even after daily errands we’re still like tourists gawking at the homes and finding new things to enjoy each day.

Earlier this week I noticed something. One home has a gorgeous light in their foyer that when turned on is something you can see as you drive by. The home was designed to showcase that light and it’s attractive. I’m drawn to it every time I drive by. When turned off, it looks like every other house. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was “that house” until I looked closer and realized the fixture was there.

Isn’t that the same for us as believers in Christ? For the most part, we’re an easy group to find. You can see the joy in faces. Kind eyes. Smiles that allow others to put down their guard and share. Trust. And hopefully accept the invitation to a relationship with the One who invites through His love.

The world? It’s a place that isn’t eternally attractive. There isn’t much warm and inviting about it, and people are driven to fill a gap with superficial things that will be as productive as a hamster wheel. When I’m at events that aren’t ministry related or church-affiliated, it feels dark. Honestly, I wish a lot of the times I could pass by and avoid it all.

But we’re called to be like Him. To be that light. And as I drove by the house later that day the light was back on. For me it was a reminder. This has been a stressful year and I’ve been tempted more than once to check out. Ignore the need I saw. Keep a grudge when I was ID-100179171wronged. But that’s a mentality much like the beautiful house with the light turned off.

It’s a dark world filled with people craving light. Let’s re affirm our commitment to be the vessels He will use to bring light.

***

Julie Arduini is an author with a passion to encourage readers to find freedom through surrender. Her first Adirondack contemporary romance, Entrusted, gives readers hope to surrender fear. A Walk Through the Valley will soon be available as an infertility devotional with 5 other authors. She blogs every other Wednesday at Christians Read and is a frequent contributor to Jasmine’s Place. To learn more about her writing and love of chocolate, visit http://juliearduini.com. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.

Entrusted FRONT Cover_editedEntrusted:

Jenna Anderson, sassy city-girl, plows—literally—into Speculator Falls with a busted GPS, arriving in town as the new senior center director. She has only one goal—that of belonging no matter how out of place she appears and how angry she makes town councilman and grocer Ben Regan.

Her new life is so rural there are no traffic lights, and when she learns her car isn’t equipped to handle the mountain terrain, Ben’s grandmother offers her late husband’s vehicle, further alienating the local businessman.

As she endears herself to the seniors at the center and creates a vision full of ideas, programs, and equipment, she ruffles Ben’s plans to keep Speculator Falls void of change, including the store his grandfather built.

The two work through community events and shared heartbreak only to face off in a town council meeting where Ben publically rejects her proposal for the senior center, causing Jenna to react out of her fears about belonging.

She returns to Ohio where she realizes she needs to surrender her plans for the center and fears about belonging and trust her Heavenly Father when facing fear, change, loss, and love.

Buy it here.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Pause to think of people you know. Do any of them draw you to them? Make you feel special? Valued? Loved? Why is that?m Now pause to ask yourself this question: How do people feel around me? Am I acting like a light? What can I do to shine more brightly? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before I go, I wanted to invite my Omaha Metro friends to my next book sighing, which will be held this Saturday. Come, bring a friend, and your sweet tooth because there will be chocolate! (And candy corn flavored taffy, my new favorite candy! 🙂 )Jennifer Slattery Poster_Community (1)-page-001 And be sure to pop by Beth’s blog tomorrow for our next Beyond I Do Bible study lesson. 🙂

Other posts you might enjoy:

Shining in the Dark

Are You Cancerous or Contagious

 

 

 

 

Moving Past the Comfortable to the Extraordinary

Is your love for the convenient and comfortable keeping you from the extraordinary?

melodylodgekoct132_editedToday a sweet friend and talented author of Entrusted, Julie Arduini, challenges us to evaluate our life, opening ourselves up to God’s nudging, even if that nudging terrifies us or leads us well out of our comfort zones.

Moving Beyond the Comfortable by Julie Arduini

As Ruth worked the fields under the harsh sun and I suspect the wandering eyes of the fellow laborers, she wasn’t comfortable. The hours were long. It was dry and hot. Had I been out in those fields I confess it would take all of five minutes before the muttering would start. I would have imagined my life had I gone back home. Surely it would have been more…comfortable. I’d be angry thinking how Naomi would be home, not as hot and dirty, and although grieving, she’d still be what I was not.

Comfortable.

Ruth in the fields symbolized her faith walk. It was outside the comfort zone. She could have returned home. She stayed with Naomi. She could have refused to work the fields, but she didn’t. She could have kept the fruits of her labors for herself but she went home and gave the grain to Naomi.

I’ve never had to work a field but I have been challenged to step outside the comfort zone. With writing I remember the day God whispered it was time to say goodbye to writing the newsletter for the local Mothers of Preschoolers group. There wasn’t a bad thing in what I was doing, but God was calling me to do more. I had no idea what that more looked like, and walking in obedience was definitely a leaving the comfort zone experience.

I’ve left the comforts of a life I thought I would spend the rest of my days. We were an Upstate NY family, it was all I knew. When the financial fallout of 9/11 hit our area my husband’s job changed. An opportunity came in the exact time frame his job was ending but it was nearly 300 miles away. It meant leaving everything and everyone in a season where our baby was very ill and my dad passed away. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

BeyondIDocoverIn Beyond I Do, Ainsley’s life is a fairly predictable package. Things are planned out. Her life, her future is…comfortable. How tempting it is to ignore His call and bulldoze forward on our own strength and hopes. Ainsley’s choice is what Ruth had to face. What I had to surrender was the comfort zone.

It isn’t easy but Ruth’s story offers a great look at God’s heart. When Ruth obeys and surrenders the comfort zone she has a protector and provider named Boaz. He makes sure she receives food, drink, the most fruitful land, and stalks that had already been pulled out for her.

The very first day we moved to Ohio our daughter, severely delayed at the time because of her sickness, pulled herself to stand. Our son blossomed in his new school. My husband thrived and had dreams fulfilled at church.

Ainsley received a happy ending.

Leaving the comfort zone isn’t easy. It’s a choice nearly every minute to fight resentment and grumbling. But eternal rewards are there and as Ruth 2:1-17 show, favor is abundant.

That’s the zone I want. How about you?

Could you relate to Ruth and her obedience to leave a comfort zone by working the fields?

Do you tend to resent people who don’t seem called to leave the comfort zone?

Have you ever been in Ainsley’s position with a future mapped out but God was calling you in a different direction?

Describe a time when you felt God’s favor and protection.

What do you sense God is asking you to do with what you’re reading in Ruth 2?

***

Julie Arduini is an author with a passion to encourage readers to find freedom through surrender. Her first Adirondack contemporary romance, Entrusted, gives readers hope to surrender fear. A Walk Through the Valley will soon be available as an infertility devotional with 5 other authors. She blogs every other Wednesday at Christians Read and is a frequent contributor to Jasmine’s Place. To learn more about her writing and love of chocolate, visit http://juliearduini.com. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.

Entrusted FRONT Cover_editedEntrusted:

Jenna Anderson, sassy city-girl, plows–literally–into Adirondack village, Speculator Falls with a busted GPS. She gets a warning from the sheriff but has ideas for the senior center to prove she belongs in town as their director. Town councilman Ben Regan is as broken as the flower box Jenna demolished. He’s grieving and wants to shut down the center before there’s too much change and heartbreak. They work on community projects and build a slow relationship, but the council needs to vote on the senior center’s future. Can Jenna show Ben both her and the center are worth trusting?

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. I often tell our daughter, I’d much rather receive God’s blessings than consequences. What I mean is, I’d rather be walking in His will then venturing away from it. There’ve been many times when following God’s will has been difficult, uncomfortable, and frightening. Moving to Papillion was one! (You can read about that here.) But in every trial and triumph I’ve learned God is good, loving, and faithful. He truly does have our best in mind.

Share your thoughts in response to Julie’s questions here, via our study email, or at our Beyond I Do Bible Study Facebook group. If you’re not a part of our email loop or Facebook group and would like to be, simply shoot me an email and I’ll get you added. 🙂

WhenDawnBreakspreliminaryBefore I go, I wanted to share some exciting events in my world. I recently learned my novel, When Dawn Breaks, is available for pre-order at 25% off! You can get it here.

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution forces her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. Dealing with his own issues, Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

Read a free, 23 page excerpt here.

Stretched to Overflowing

Once again, as I post today’s Reach Out story, tears sting my eyes. Oh, the beauty of love and grace poured out through God’s children to those in need. Obedience isn’t always easy or comfortable, but I have a feeling Julie Arduini would tell you, it is always, always so worth it.

But before you run to grab your tissue, I wanted to announce last month’s winners. Diana Brandmeyer won September’s Reach Out gift basket with her touching story, Silver Streets. And Judy Burgi won a copy of Tapestry of Trust by Mary Annslee Urban. (Ladies, I’ll be contacting you shortly to get your gift/s to you.)

Stretched to Overflowing by Julie Arduini

You’ve heard the saying, “Be careful what you ask for, because you’re going to get it?”

Well, it took God less than 48 hours after I asked Him to grow me for Him to act on it. A mentor challenged me to step out of my comfort zone where I pray and encourage people I already know. She asked me to pray and believe God would orchestrate opportunities for me to serve Him to a stranger.

As soon as I heard the woman behind me in the grocery line, I knew it was time to step up.

“I’m sorry, kids. I only have $40, and that’s for these groceries and the medicine we have to get. There isn’t money for extras.” The mom counted her single bills and glanced every few seconds at her items.

“Not even for this?” A girl who looked to be about my daughter’s age at the time, about six, waved a chocolate bar.

Lord, do you want me to buy the child a candy bar? I can do that.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. We can’t get anything more, not even that.” The mom kept sizing up her items as they moved forward on the conveyor belt.

The child didn’t even pout. She put the candy back and stayed at her mom’s side.

No, my child. I want you to pay for all her groceries.

I scanned the entire conveyor belt. How much would my things plus hers cost? This was a little trip for things we didn’t find during our weekly trip. We were near the budget, and my husband kept a good handle on finances. I didn’t want to disrespect him.

But I knew by ignoring God’s offer to grow me through paying for her groceries would disrespect my Heavenly Father.

The mom thought aloud as the cashier started ringing up my order. “I know last time we got that prescription it was $15. I think with these things plus tax, I’m spending $24…”

I pivoted enough to see her items. There was nothing frivolous. She had grocery staples, the basics to keep a family fed.

“That’s $16.35.” The cashier smiled.

I slid my check card out of my wallet and started the electronic transaction. As I waited on financial approval, I closed my eyes and prayed for strength. I could speak in front of a thousand without fear. Yet trying to find the courage to pay for someone’s groceries was inciting sweat throughout my body in the dead of winter.

“Thank you. Have a great day.” The cashier handed me my slip, but I stood still.

“Wait.” I turned toward the woman next to me.  “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I’d like to pay for your groceries.”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, no. You don’t have to. I have enough.”

“I know you do. I don’t have to, I want to. Really.”

Tears spilled over and fell on the belt. “Thank you. This is such a surprise. A gift. Bless you.”

I looked at the little girl. “If it is okay with your mom, you can get the candy bar, too.”

The mom nodded.

The cashier started ringing her out. “I’ve never seen anyone do that before.”

I smiled. “I’ve never done it before, either. It feels good. Really good.”

My fear returned on the drive home, fearful that I went over the weekly grocery budget. I confessed what happened to my husband, who broke into a grin.

“Honey, I know spontaneous things are not natural for you, and that you fear spending money. You’ve never been reckless; I probably put too much pressure on you when you shop. Of all the wonderful things you’ve done to encourage others, this is my favorite one of all.”

Julie Aduini is a writer and speaker. Her passion is to encourage audiences to find freedom through surrender. Whether you read her blog on the front page of her website, check out her writingspeakingbookshelvesinterests, or the free gifts she has for you, you will find a surrender theme. One of my surrender stories is M&M’s for breakfast so you know I also have a love for chocolate.

Visit her online. She invites you to grab a piece of chocolate, sit down with a mocha, and stay as long as you like.

And before you go, I leave you with a verse and a thought. It’s often said you can never out-give God. Our family has found this true again and again. When we give–whether of our plenty or our few, God takes care of our needs. This doesn’t mean He’ll gift us a mansion on a hill, but it does mean He’ll provide for us. This enables us to serve and obey God fully, without fear.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38 NLT

I’d love to hear from you. Has God ever asked you to give to someone when your own finances were tight? What happened? Or maybe you are the one in need. Can you share a time when God used someone else to provide for you financially? I think the giving is easier than the receiving, but receiving God’s gifts and provisions come easier when we remember they are just that–gifts and provisions from God. He owns everything, and He can distribute His abundance as He wills. If you ever find yourself on the receiving end, before your spurn your gift consider how receiving it could bless the giver by allowing them to experience God working and loving through them.

And the next time you see someone in need, don’t let your pocket book overshadow your view of God’s power and blessings.

Your Top 3 Blog Posts For 2011

It’s almost a new year, and I hope you are one step closer to Christ, one suitcase lighter, with one less wound and one more giggle. Ultimately, I hope after reading my favorite blog posts for 2011, you walked away not merely entertained, but changed. Because honestly, if these posts only “tickle your ears” I’m wasting my time. For myself, I pray each time I write, I write first and foremost to myself, impressing the lessons God is showing me deep into my heart. Because if I am not growing, I am dying.

This has been a year of contrasts for me. I have seen some radical transformation in lives following whole-heartedly after Christ. I have seen extreme comfort brought to those in sorrow. But I have also seen hearts harden, relationships crumble, and darkness enshroud those who have wandered from Christ one slow step at a time. As I close out 2011, I am reminded of Casting Crowns’ song, “It’s a Slow Fade.” How we forget that! In 2012, may we all boast the opposite–not a slow fade into marital or family destruction, sin, or selfishness, but instead, a steady transformation to marital and spiritual intimacy and growth. Each day we have a choice, to draw near to God or drift from Him. There is no middle ground.

I want to thank all the authors who allowed me to repost their grace-filled words. Each one impacted me on a heart and spiritual level. I enjoyed seeing your favorites. (Please note, I did not count comments made by myself or the post’s author.)

And your favorites were:

#3, with 3 tweets, 5 FB shares, and 2 “likes”…. Julie Arduini with How Would You Handle it?

Here’s a snippet of her post: Our daughter is in general good health now but as a baby had chronic multiple issues. Since she’s been 3 months old, weight is one of them. We’ve been to a dietician and work with an endocronologist. We have seven plus years of files, appointments, therapies and oh yes…the comments. (Read the rest here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2, with 1 tweet, 14 FB shares, and 1 “like”Eileen Rife with Heart Murmurs.

I remember hearing the words, “heart murmur,” from our daughter’s pediatrician when she was a young child. An immediate alarm sounded in my head, quickly followed by the doctor’s reassurance. “These types of murmurs are typically benign and something the child grows out of. We’ll keep a watch on it.”

True to his words, my daughter did grow out of it. The physical heart murmur, that is. But there was another type of heart murmur birthed in her by God that continues to grow to this day. (Read more here.)

 

 

And your FAVORITE post for 2011…

 

 

 

#1, with 8 tweets, 15 FB shares, and 2 “likes”Jimmy Davis with Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

Yep, here I am again. In one of those “rock and hard place” seasons, wondering how to be refreshed in the desert. And then I was reminded today that God and I have had this discussion before. So here it is, from my old blog over three years ago. Reading this encouraged me to keep my eyes on Jesus, even and especially when I’m feeling “stuck.” A good reminder during Holy Week. (Read the rest here.)

Congrats to all of our top three bloggers! And to my readers, thank you so much for your participation. I know all participating bloggers were encouraged.

Starting in January, I’m going to look at intentional living—in our homes, our marriages, at our work place, in our walk with Christ. Although I’m not really one to make New Years’ Resolutions, I do like the reminder to start again. As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve come to realize whenever I quit growing, I start dying. But to grow, I need to live intentionally. With determined focus, forgetting what is behind—my failings and shortcomings, goals I set but never reached—pressing toward what lies ahead. I hope you’ll join me!

And to all my blogging friends, if you’d like to help spur us on with some insight you believe God’s given you, check out my “Join Me” page for themes and details.

And to all, as you surf the web in 2012, if you find a post you think we’d love, shoot me an email. It might end up in my top 20 of 2012. 🙂

Happy Thursday, all, and may your day be saturated by grace and spurred by love.

Thankful For Rejection

As a freelance writer, I love helping new writers and as a result, I spend a fair amount of time doing critiques. The other day I had to send a less than glowing critique to someone I care about. It was hard. Selfishly, I wanted to cushion my words, but I knew doing so would only hurt my friend. And so, praying our relationship withstood my honest feedback, I sent the email. Why? Because one thing I learned early on–if I want to grow, in life or in my career, I need to learn to accept, and grow from, rejection. In fact, as Julie Arduini points out in the following article, quite often, rejection can be a great opportunity for improvement, even promotion…if handled well.

Thankful For Rejection by Julie Arduini

I thought I’d share today why I’m thankful for rejection.

You read it right, I’m thankful when I experience rejection.

That doesn’t mean I enjoy it or look forward to it, but I’ve finally reached the place that I understand it isn’t just part of life, it’s necessary and an opportunity for me to grow. A few years ago I read Becoming Lovers: From Disciple of Christ to the Bride of Christ and I believe it was in those pages Joy Chickonoski talked about rejection meaning promotion.

Yep, you read that right, too. Rejection means promotion.

That took me a long time to understand. Not so long ago I went through a season of personal rejection that if it were possible, could have turned me inside out because it felt so brutal. It was consistent and one of the most painful times of my life. But when it started I clung to the Lord and asked for His help. I relied on His strength and became a true picture of the person being carried in the “Footprints in the Sand” poem. The more I surrendered my hurt and fears, the stronger I became. I received step-by-step direction on how to lovingly respond that I believe was Holy Spirit led. When that season reached the apex I was able to deliver truth with a peace that absolutely passed any definition man could have. I knew whatever happened next, it would be okay.

Fast forward and everyone involved in that season is better for that rejection. It was a valley experience that refined me. Since then I’ve faced writing rejection and things of that nature that I feared for decades. After thriving past that true rejection, the other kinds didn’t seem that daunting anymore. If anything, I licked my wounds, laughed, and moved on.

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I read a lot and I interact with a lot of people in different circles. As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach I’m observing so many people battling rejection. Perhaps it is marriage related and custody or perhaps in-law issues. Family wounds with parents or siblings. The unemployment rate is a big factor this year to families across the country and although most of the time a layoff or job loss isn’t personal, it sure feels that way. Friendships or relationships that are barely hanging on or ended. Rejection is the understudy in a play praying the lead gets sick so they can take over.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. When I write things I’ve either recently come through it or am going through it right now. If you can relate to rejection, are you able to embrace it? Can you be thankful for it?

(BTW, Jeannie Campbell has a great post about a fundraiser for author Sandi Rog that includes prizes. Sandi is going through her own valley experience and your help would be a blessing. Thanks!)

Julie Arduini is a writer and speaker residing in NE Ohio with her husband and two children. Her work is included in such works as the Peculiar People Project’s Delivered and Guideposts Incredible Answers to Prayer series. She’s editing her contemporary romance, Spectacular Falls. She’s a webinar presenter through Christian Women Affiliate and is a team blogger with Christians Read. Her passion is to encourage audiences to find freedom through surrender, but knows it has to start with her. She’s surrendering the good, the bad, and—maybe one day—the chocolate. You can contact her through her website.

**Remember, if you loved today’s post and want to see it in my top three of 2011, FB share it, tweet it, “like” it, or leave a comment.