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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is how God makes much of our little.

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

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

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free, quarterly e-mailing! Subscribers receive image of cover for study based on 1 Timothygreat, free content sent directly to their inbox along with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook form) based on truths presented in 1 Timothy (sent separately). (If you signed up and haven’t yet received your free study, please contact me through this website so I can get that to you!) You can sign up HERE.

The Danger of Words

It’s interesting how vehemently the Christian community come against some sins while others are tolerated. Almost expected. Entertained even.

When we lived in Southern California, our church went through an ugly split. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew people were hurt. I could hear it in our pastor’s voice, when he spoke to the congregation. I could see it on his wife’s face, when her tears flowed during worship.

Though I was ignorant to the issue, I could feel the toxic tension every Sunday.

I wonder if this was what Timothy felt whenever he stepped up to speak. Did he sense the tension that arose from the false teachers who, though small in number, had such influence over the congregation? And what was going on with the women who appeared to be jockeying for position and fighting for prestige. (1 Tim. 2:9-10)

What did their conversations look like?

You’ve probably encountered women like them—ladies who are so consumed with pride, in impressing others and gaining power, they don’t care who they hurt. Under the guise of venting, they gossip and slander, creating an infectious mess that hinders the work of Christ.

When you read 1 Timothy 3, you may notice, verse 11 is directed specifically to women. Why do you think that is?

Perhaps because we tend to sin with our tongues?

Paul tells Timothy the women “must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do” (NLT).

The Greek word translated as slander (or slanderer) here means an accuser or one who makes charges that bring others down.

John MacArthur says, “It’s a title frequently given to Satan.” (Matt. 4:5, 8, 11, 13:39; Luke 4:3, 5, 6, 13; 8:12 …)

That doesn’t surprise me. Satan is a destroyer bent on thwarting God’s plans, causing confusion and disunity, and shattering the most sacred of all relationships.

In Southern California I had a friend with a child my daughter’s age. We’d meet on occasion, at the park, her house, or mine. Most of the time, our conversations remained surface level, until one day she started to “vent.”

She’d gotten herself swept up with whatever was going on in the church and “verbally processed” her feelings and conclusions to me., much of which involved not facts but her opinion of our pastor.

I left confused and concerned. I still didn’t know the full situation—only this one woman’s perceptions. And even though I didn’t want to be involved, even though I had no business being involved, I began to question.

Was our pastor really like she said? As I was driving home processing all this, a thought emerged: This is how Satan works. This is how he destroys churches and relationships.

That ended my “musings” immediately.

Granted, there are things we should investigate and get concerned about. We must protect truth. We should lovingly confront sin. But not through “venting,” or gossip or trying to pull everyone else into the mess. Jesus laid out clear instructions for how we should handle conflict in Matthew 18:15-19, and if you’ll read them, you’ll notice, never once does He tell us to stir the pot or spew our feelings to whoever will listen or even to our besties. We’re to go directly to the individual.

Our tongues can speak life or death, can foster unity or disunity, can create healing and reconciliation or hurt and destruction. If we want to verbally process, may we go to God. He’s the only One who knows the full situation—and solution—anyway. And in everything we do say, may we follow Paul’s commands in Ephesians 4:29:

“No foul (unwholesome, useless, rotten, or of poor quality) words come from [our mouths], but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”

Can you sense God’s call to love in that verse? Not self-love that focuses on our feelings, the offense done to us, or our need to verbally unload, but rather what is good for the body of Christ and God’s kingdom. Rooted in a love that is other’s focused—a love that comes from “a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

What are some things can you do when your in a conversation where a person or the group begins to gossip or slanderous things?

The Love That Destroys — a 1 Timothy Study

It brings out the ugly in me. It makes me fight to be right, to elevate myself, and seek temporary fillers like accolades and admiration that feed my pride but fail to feed my soul. This thing lurking within my heart causes me to avoid difficult conversations and engage in those I shouldn’t.

But worst of all, it distorts Christ in me.

Love is the root of this nasty, unity-destroying behavior. Self-love.

I’ve lived the truth of 1 Corinthians 8:1: “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (NIV).

Puffs up, like an inflated balloon or a puffer fish with its cheeks swelled and spikes protruding—seeking to elevate myself at the expense of others. But love, pure love, agape love, the kind that flows from God, doesn’t focus on self at all.

About ten years ago, I began to ask some hard questions regarding my faith and the credibility of the Bible. I wanted to know—was Jonah really swallowed by a big fish? Was there really a worldwide flood? Did Lot’s wife really turn into a pillar of salt?

Those questions led to an in-depth study I soon wanted to share with others. My motives were pure and stemmed from my love for God and His Word. The results were beautiful. Each week, I’d meet with a group of women while volunteers taught our little ones arts and crafts.

Until Sue* arrived and quickly turned argumentative. I took her challenge as an invitation and, puffed up with “knowledge”, accepted. Like the elders who were creating such division in Ephesus, I stopped focusing on making God known and instead focused on making myself look good and smart. Before long, the pleasant, Christ-centered discussion among a handful of moms turned into a tense battle over words.

No longer was I focused on God, others, and the truth. Instead, I wanted to win the argument. My self-love, my pride, pulled me in when I should’ve walked away, and I allowed the woman to dominate and divert the focus of the conversation.

Though I wasn’t blasphemous like the elders Paul spoke about in 1 Timothy 1:3-6, I became like them when I veered from the love that comes from Christ.

I’ve erred in the other direction also, when, remaining silent, I watched a young lady become enslaved in legalism and drift further and further from Christ.

She’s since abandoned the faith entirely.

I had numerous opportunities to speak, as Paul urged Timothy to do, but I chose to walk away. Out of fear that the woman would become angry and our relationship would crumble. In other words, out of self-protection. Self-love.

Truth and love, real love, are intertwined. Scripture tells us God has entrusted us with the gospel. This saving truth has the power to set man free—from sin, self-destruction, emptiness, death. With each word, we’re either pointing others to our Savior and an eternity with Him, or we’re getting in the way.

And how do we know which is which? We do a heart check and ask God to cleanse us from everything within not motivated by the love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith (1 Tim. 1:5 NLT).

May we, regularly, pray David’s words in Psalm 19:12-14:

“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer” (NLT).

Let’s talk about this! Can you relate to either of my stories? When has fear (self-love) caused you to walk away from a conversation you knew God was calling you to engage in? Can you relate to the converse? When has your pride motivated you to elevate yourself and fight to be right? What are some ways we can guard against this?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below then visit our Facebook discussion page for suggested reading, further discussion, and daily devotional questions.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Counting Down to Our Study

So soon to launch day!

July 11th! 

I’m excited! I learn so much dialoguing with other women! Not to mention, I cherish the relationships I develop when I “sit” (online or in person) and study God’s Word, the Bible. There’s something unifying, something incredibly nourishing and fulfilling, some peace-ensuing, about soaking in God’s timeless truths.

I hope you’ll join us!

We’ve created our Facebook page and working hard, studying, praying, in preparation. We can’t wait to take this journey with you as we journey together with Christ, learning how to live lives of love.

I have a tendency to make things entirely too complicated. To get myself fixated on, to worry about, and obsess over things that simply don’t matter. If I’m not careful, I can be swayed by other people’s opinions, sucked into mindless chatter, enthralled by sensationalized news broadcasts.

Unless I intentionally fight against this, my life can be characterized by whatever is going on around me rather than what God is trying to do in and through me. I can easily allow all the gunk to rob me of my focus, my passion … and my purpose.

Life without purpose is empty, and that is not the kind of life God has called us to! God has called us to a live lives of impact characterized by a deep love for Him and His children. Regardless of what is going on around us. And I believe He’s given us the tools to live that out in a letter written by a man to his young, insecure mentee some 2,000 years ago.

Over the next ten weeks, join Maria Morgan and I as we dig deep into this ancient yet incredibly relevant book to learn how we can live filled with the love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith.

Here’s what to expect:

Tuesday –
*an in depth look at the week’s verse/passage (on Maria’s site)
*suggested Bible reading & discussion questions (on Maria’s site)
*discuss what God has shown you (right here on Facebook)

Wednesday –
*relevant Bible reading & additional questions for you to consider (right here on Facebook)

Thursday –
*a short testimonial with personal application and a brief discussion (on Jennifer’s site)

Friday –
*final Bible reading with discussion questions to wrap up the week (right here on Facebook)

 

God’s Never Changing, Unfailing Love

Change can be uncomfortable; uncertainty, even more so. If we’re not careful, we can allow the uncertainties of change to paralyze us and keep us from experiencing the abundant life God promised. But no matter how often our circumstances shift, no matter what hurdles or roundabouts life throws our way, we can rest assured and move forward with confidence, because that which is most important, that which holds us most securely, will never change.   

Today as you read Mary Bowen’s devotion on the depth, truth, and permanence of God’s love, ask Him to help you rest in that–in who He is and who you are in Him. Because as we like to say at Wholly Loved Ministries, when we live wholly loved, everything changes.

God’s Never Changing, Unfailing Love

by Mary Bowen

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken. . .” (Isa. 54:10 NIV).

She giggles. “Mommy, the flowers keep changing!” Her smile grows as she rotates the kaleidoscope. With each turn of the tube, another captivating image melts away into a different one altogether.

Life is like a kaleidoscope, always changing. Here in Atlanta shoppers grumbled when long-established stores such as Rich’s, Blockbuster and Borders closed their doors, “gone with the wind.” Spring, summer, fall, winter – we like the variety of the seasons, but often chafe at the changes they bring. Just when we’re basking in balmy breezes, a cold wind freezes our picnic plans. And how do you dress when a chilly 50 degrees rises to 75 the next day?

As the weather fluctuates, so do our relationships. A shift here, a misunderstanding there, and the distance widens. Like the glass bits in a kaleidoscope, sometimes friendships change color; a rich, bright red slowly darkens to brown, while a dull grey connection can suddenly flash with shining silver. Changing circumstances affect us as well. If someone we love moves away, we feel a sense of loss. The ultimate separation, death, leaves us feeling empty and alone.

Can we keep our equilibrium on life’s emotional roller coaster? Is there anyone we can depend on not to let us down? What a relief to know that God’s love for us doesn’t change, because He Himself is immutable, or unchangeable. “I the Lord do not change,” God declares in Malachi 3:6.

Nothing reveals character like self-sacrifice. When God gave us His Son, He proved His love for us (Jn. 3:16). Jesus died in our place, paying the penalty we owed for our sin. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (Rom. 5:5, BSB). Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:39). These truths anchor our souls in life’s sea of change.

One of my favorite hymns describes God’s unfailing love: “Loved with everlasting love/Led by grace that love to know. . . /In a love which cannot cease, I am His and He is mine.” (words by George Robinson). As we seek to know God better, He progressively reveals His personal love. In John chapter 15, Jesus declares His friendship. He is with us all the time, unlike any other relationship. Jesus’ name is Immanuel, or “God with us.” The Holy Spirit living within the believer keeps God near.

God knows and understands us better than any earthly friend. Psalm 139 describes in detail this intimate knowledge. God’s unfailing, personal love is our security. Though the kaleidoscope of life keeps turning, we can rest securely.

Let’s talk about this! When I was a young adult, I was perhaps the most insecure woman in all of Southern California (where we lived). I constantly worried what others thought of me, if I was doing enough or too much, if I was doing the right things or wrong. When things changed or an uncertainty hit, I fell into a panic! But the closer I grew to Christ and the more I learned to rest in His deep love, the more my confidence–in Him!– began to replace my insecurities.

When we recognize how deeply loved we are, as I said before, everything changes. I know now if I face a rough patch, God has allowed it to mold and grow me, and I can rejoice in that. If God challenges me to a difficult role or endeavor, I know He’ll go with me, equipping and empowering me. If I “fail” in some task, whatever it is, I know in reality I’ve done anything but as I have only Him to please, and He calls me beloved and adored. If others reject me, I know He never will. When I sin, rather than wallowing in guilt and regret, I know I can turn to Him and allow Him to work within me, making me more like the radiant bride He already sees me to be.

The challenge for each of us is to learn to live more deeply and consistently in God’s never-changing love, because that is where freedom is found. Join the conversation here, in the comments below, or on Living by Grace on Facebook.

***

Mary Bowen writes and edits for Grace Ministries International in Marietta, Georgia. For many years her articles and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She has worked as a reporter and freelancer, and served as an editor with the North American Mission Board.

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ

JohnStudy1

 

I had a very difficult pregnancy, one characterized by the constant fear that I would lose the precious child I’d prayed for, that I’d grown to love so deeply, from the moment I knew she existed. One night in particular, everyone–myself, my husband, our doctor–was certain I had. I was awakened in the middle of the night by a strong, rapid, and continual trembling and rolling in my abdomen followed by significant bleeding, and my husband rushed me to the hospital. As I lay on that cold, hard table, all I could  pray was, “No. Please Lord, no.”

I went home that night with my sweet Ashley, still very much alive, but my prayers took on a desperation after that. A bit of bargaining*. “Lord, if you’ll just help me keep this baby to term, I’ll give her back to you.”

I remembered that promise often in the days and years ahead: When I was tired and table-rock-943215_1920-1tempted to forgo our nightly Bible reading. When I was frustrated and tempted to take the easy road, parenting wise. When my heart was breaking over something she’d endured and I was tempted to focus on fixing the situation rather than helping her grow in Christ.

All I can say is, 19 years later, as I see the young woman God’s molded our girl into, I’m oh-so-grateful for that promise and how God used it to help me raise a child who does her best to reveal Christ.

This is our focus this week in our For the Love Bible study, and my special guest author Candee Fick talks about what this looked like for John the Baptist’s parents and how we can follow their example.

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ
by Candee Fick

It’s not everyone who gets a supernatural birth announcement or a miraculous baby after years of infertility. Personally, I think Zechariah and Elizabeth might have needed the baby-179378_640overly-dramatic beginning to give them the stamina and dedication to prepare their child for his destiny—to prepare the way for the Messiah. Every day they saw John’s face they had to remember that God was intimately involved in their lives, and then remember that John was born to tell others about the coming Christ.

Can you imagine the stories shared around the fire? John must have grown up surrounded by village tales of a heavenly voice in the Temple and a temporarily-speechless father not to mention an entire hill country wondering what he would grow up to become.

John’s life was the stuff of legends and the angel even said he would be great. Being told he would be filled with the Holy Spirit and go before the Lord in the power of Elijah could have led him to believe that he was something special.

And he was.

Except he wasn’t the greatest. Somewhere along the way, his parents not only raised John with the skills he would need to fulfill his personal mission of bringing the people of Israel desert-1197972_640back to God, they had to teach him to deflect the attention toward God. Huge crowds gathered to listen to John’s message of repentance, then one day John looked up from baptizing folks on the banks of the Jordan River and knew the time had come for his audience to follow Someone else instead. Between the Holy Spirit and the training he received from his parents, John obviously recognized the pivotal moment for what it was and transferred the crowd’s fickle attention with his announcement for them to “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

How did John’s parents raise a child who pointed others to Christ?

  • First, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived a personal example of faith. Between their priestly lineage and the gift of prophecy at critical moments, John couldn’t help but be raised with a solid foundation of truth and the knowledge of God’s power through history.
  • Second, they obviously also set up some behavioral boundaries to keep him on the right path and not derail his future. The angel told them to keep him away from the wine and fermented drinks (a cultural sign that he was set apart for God’s work) while later in the first chapter of Luke it states that John lived in the wilderness before he began his public life.
  • Third, I have to believe that every time John did something great or had some amazing insight thanks to the Holy Spirit in his life, his parents pointed out how that was an example of God working in and through him. Always pointing John back to person-371015_640God so that he could in turn point others to God.

I’ve got a son who is gifted with some serious athletic talent. In fact, he lettered in four sports his senior year of high school and is now in college with a basketball scholarship. All that to say, it would have been very easy for him to get a big head and strut his stuff down the hallways.

While this isn’t on the scale of a John the Baptist, as a mother I have tried to constantly remind my son of the Gift-Giver and his responsibility to use those gifts in a way that points people back to God. I strive to keep the presence of God in the middle of our family through prayer, devotions, and natural testimonies of what God is doing in my own life. To identify examples of God’s hand at work in the lives of others. Ultimately, my hope is that my oldest son will use his platform as an athlete to be the right kind of example for younger boys to model as he deflects attention heavenward.

Consistently pointing back to Christ is a difficult lesson to learn and even harder to live. Yet aren’t we all called to do the same, to use our gifts for God’s glory and then become less so that God’s message can become more? Thanks to the influence of his parents, John learned to to do just that.

***

danceoverme-500x750-1Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage, but a jealous cast member and numerous fruitless leads threaten to drop the curtain on her dreams and shine a spotlight on her longing for a place to belong. Meanwhile, Alex Sheridan is living his dream except for someone to share it with. When Dani dances into his life, he hopes he’s found the missing piece to his heart but fears the bright lights of a bigger stage could steal her away.

Will the rhythm of dancing feet usher in their deepest desires or leave them stranded in the wings?

Find Dance Over Me on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

And for a funny, more lighthearted post by Candee, visit my alter ego’s blog to read how she lives in continual weather-confusion. (You can read that HERE.)

***

candee-fick_headshotCandee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Connect with Candee on her web site, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Google+.

Let’s talk about this! If you’re parenting now, what are some ways you try to raise your children to point to and reveal Christ? What makes this hard? If your children are grown, what were some ways you did this while they were growing up? Can you see the results of your efforts now that they’re adults? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments below on Facebook at Living by Grace, or join our Facebook Bible study group For the Love to discuss this further. Because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

john12-24versejpgAnd for those following our Bible study, here’s this week’s memory verse, one God intends for each of us to live out, daily, and to teach our children to do the same.

*Note: God’s will cannot be “bargained” nor does this post intend to support that or encourage one to even try. Rather, it shares a moment of heartache and terror and my human response, and how God later used that, because He truly can use it all–our successes and failures, our steps of obedience and our regrets and weaknesses.

When the Wait Is Over

JohnStudy1

 

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.