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.

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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.)

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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.

Have you ever felt invisible? Wondered if anyone would notice, should you stop doing whatever it is you’re doing, day JohnStudy1in and day out?

When our daughter was younger, I often wondered what would happen if I didn’t make the bed–after all, it’d only get messed up again. Or what if I left the laundry and dishes untouched.

There were times, many, when the tedium of the day wore me down and left me feeling … insignificant.

They say integrity is doing what you know is right when no one is watching.

Except, Someone is always watching, right? Psalm 139 tells us God is attentive to our every move. He knows every detail of our lives and every thought that flits through our brain. More than that, He takes great delight in us.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord upholds them by the hand” (NLT, emphasis mine).

Pause to consider that verse for a moment. The Lord delights in every detail of our lives–when we’re doing something grand and exciting and when we’re folding towels for the umpteenth time. Perhaps because He knows our character, that part of us He’s continually molding, is grown in the big and the small.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a woman of integrity.

I want to be known for my character and obedience. I want God to look down on me, when I’m elbow deep in dishwater, and smile, and I want to do it all–everything–for Him and His glory.

For obedience sake.

These emotions and thoughts were triggered as I read Luke 1:5-7. Elizabeth and Zechariah, an old and childless couple, were known for being righteous and carefully obeying God’s commands and regulations. When we read this passage, it’s easy to skip over that, probably because we know the end of the story. They were faithful, and God rewarded them with something they’d deeply longed for–a child. Not just a child, but the one birthed to proclaim the coming of Christ.

Wow. Pretty awesome, right?

But let’s step back. Back to when, still childless and likely unnoticed, John’s parents lived obediently. Scripture tells us Zechariah was a Jewish priest, and as such, his responsibilities were to maintain the workings in the temple, instruct the people, and on occasion, if the lot cast landed on him, to enter the Holy Place of the Tabernacle to burn incense on the altar of incense.

I’m not a statistician, but it seems likely he could go his entire life and never, not once, receive this honor. He was one of 20,000 priests! Though Scripture doesn’t tell us, I think it’s safe to assume there were times he felt unseen and wondered if what he did mattered. After all, should he simply cease performing his duties, there were 19,999 other men ready and able to take his place, many of which likely had children.twins-1628843_1920

Let me explain the significance of that for a moment. In Bible times, children were seen as a blessing from God; barrenness was seen as a curse. Meaning, Elizabeth and Zechariah were likely judged for their infertility. The common assumption of their day–They’d likely done something wrong or had displeased God in some way, and that was the reason they were barren.

In other words, Elizabeth and Zechariah served God faithfully in the midst of their sorrow. Despite the fact that He hadn’t granted them the one thing they likely longed for above all else.

That’s integrity.

They obeyed in the mundane, in the hard and painful, simply because it was the right thing to do.

They obeyed because they knew God is worthy, amen? colossians-verse

This leads me to this week’s memory verse: “Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col. 3:17 NLT).

romans12-1-verseThere’s a verse I love, and one I pray often: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him” (Romans 12:1 NLT).

In view of all God has done for us, in view of Christ’s sacrificial death so we might live, may we offer our whole bodies–all we are. Our time, our gifts, our words, our thoughts–to Christ, as a living sacrifice.

Sometimes life is a sacrifice, right? Obedience isn’t always easy or glamorous. But that is “truly the way to worship [God].” Or to put it another way, every time we scrub toilets, mop floors, wipe snotty noses, or answer phones, if we’re doing it in obedience to Christ, we’re worshiping Him.

Isn’t that cool?

For further discussion, I invite you to join Cynthia Simmons and I for a video discussion on today’s passage.


livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this!

What were your thoughts as you read today’s focal passage? Is there an area in your life or something you do that feels insignificant? How does it feel knowing God is watching you every time you engage in that activity? How does it feel knowing that thing, whatever it is, can be an act of worship?

Did you have any other insights to share?

For those wanting to learn how to dig deeper into Scripture, join me in our Facebook group where we’ll be talking about reading biblical passages in light of their historical context. We’ll also touch a little on what I encouraged you to do last week–jot down observations and any questions you might have.

Before I go, I wanted to share information on a complimentary study that was recently launched by a dear friend:

How do we win the battle against selfishness? Outrageously Fruitful is an 11-week online Bible study that explores the characteristics the Spirit longs to develop within us. Traits like: love, joy, peace, and goodness. Let go and let God make your life outrageously fruitful! For more information and to register: http://www.mariaimorgan.com/its-time-bible-study

Other articles and videos you might find helpful:

Meaning in the Mundane

In Absence of Integrity

The Invisible Woman

Have you ever heard it said that a woman should be a help meet (or helpmate) to her husband? How did that make you feel? Today, my guest Elle E. Kay shares her perspective on what, exactly, being your spouse’s help meet actually means. But first, a caveat–Elle is not saying a wife must be a doormat, or that she should completely lose who God uniquely created her to be. Instead, she is expressing how she adapts her behaviors so that they have the greatest impact in conveying love and support. Hopefully, her husband is doing the same, but she has no control over that. All she can do is love her husband and love him well.

-Do all things without murmurings or disputings.-Philippians 2-14, KJV

Being His Help Meet
by Elle E. Kay

Some may think that there is something degrading about being a man’s help meet. If you explore it from a biblical perspective, you realize that it is an honor. God made man. He then set out to get man a help meet (Gen 2:18-20). In the process of choosing a help meet, Adam was shown that there were no creatures suitable for his needs. God made Eve from Adam’s own rib bone (Gen 2:21). She was a precious gift. A woman who was “meet” (suitable, proper, fitting) to satisfy his needs.

wedding-559422_1920 PIXABAYWhen I think about it, I realize that in agreeing to wed my spouse, I agreed to be the woman who would meet his needs. To be a suitable mate in every way. If I set out to do that in our daily lives, we are both happy.

Every man is different and has different needs. My husband is a strong independent male. He wouldn’t be happy with me fussing over him all the time. There are some men who want just that and there are some women who are happy to provide that. My husband wants a partner who will handle the things he doesn’t like to do and who will depend on him to do “manly” things. He’s a carpenter. He likes to build things. It made him happy to make me a pool shed, a barn, and a chicken coop. He’s also a gentleman and enjoys opening doors for me. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t need or want my help. He does. He may never vocalize his needs, but if I pay attention, I’ll know them. He doesn’t like to put away laundry. I do that. He enjoys a good meal, I enjoy cooking for him.

The point is, I fill in where he needs me. I don’t try to fit some ideal of a perfect wife. I simply do what makes him happy. My house is rarely perfectly clean and dust free, but the things that need to be done are done. The things that drive him crazy like a sink full of dirty dishes are avoided (most of the time). In turn, I get the satisfied feeling of knowing I’ve met his needs. We’ve all heard the expression “happy wife, happy life.” It works just as well in reverse. If we spouses rise up to the challenge and do the hands-1022212_640things that make our husband’s lives easier, they will be happier. If they are happy, we are happy.

I didn’t say anything about a proper help meet staying home cooking and cleaning. A proper help meet can only be defined by the needs of her spouse. Barring that I would look to Proverbs 31. A Proverbs 31 woman does a lot more than dust and vacuum her home.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other small thing. The things I do for my spouse, I must do without complaint. It wouldn’t make anyone happy if I walked around the house mumbling and grumbling as I went about my business.

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14, KJV).

We are designed to help our husbands, but that doesn’t mean we must agree on every matter. How much help would we be if we simply nod our ascent as our husbands drive our families off the edge of a cliff? Sometimes we need to speak up. Help comes in many forms and may not always be easy. God designed us to be up for the challenge.

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Abandoned by her dearest friend, Stella is running-scared. Life and rsz_stella3death decisions force her to re-examine her faith, as well as her priorities. The handsome, Jason, only exacerbates her anxiety. Should she trust him? Something is amiss in the quiet town of Edinsville. How will Stella fare as her world gets turned upside down?

 

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ElleEKayElle E. Kay lives on a farmette in the Back Mountain region of Pennsylvania. An introvert, she surrounds herself with farm animals rather than people most of the time. But once you break down her initial walls, she can be quite talkative.

Connect with Elle on Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and her website.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: So often, society puts a negative connotation on something God creates to be beautiful. Have you experienced this? How do you strive to be a help meet to your spouse? How has that blessed you and your marriage? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace. I’d love to hear them!

Have you ever walked into a brick wall when you’re trying to get healthy? And then tried to scale that brick wall to get over it? If you have, you know just how hard it is, whether you’re trying to get healthy physically, mentally, or spiritually. Today, my guest and dear friend, Stacey Muff, has some great encouragement for you. Read on.

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“Healthy” Takes Work
by Stacey Muff

feet-965688_640I’m on a quest to be healthy!  Healthy spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Why am I on this quest?  Because as I grow in my pursuit of God, I realize He is all about healthy. His amazing Word, the Bible, “renews” our minds, or in other words produces true and healthy thinking. This new way of thinking can bring health to our relationships and in the end, enable us to pursue our individual purpose God has laid out for us without those heavy chains of unhealthy thinking and beliefs weighing us down.

My quest started with a declaration from a gifted medical professional that told me, “You are a train-wreck, girlfriend. I’m pretty sure you have fibromyalgia. But if you are willing to do the work … I can help you.”  Fast forward a year and I am fibro-free, not in constant pain, and I am not a train wreck!  (I have occasional derailments, but no all out wrecks!)  I feel better than I have in years!

The journey this last year was not easy.  It took work, time, commitment, and healthy thinking.  But through it all God has shown me that “healthy” takes work and time, but it is worth every minute!!

2013calendarpg1This reminds me of my marriage. My Hubby and I have been married 21 years. We’ve had ups and downs, good times and bad. We’ve worked really hard and invested a lot of time in our relationship in order to make it healthy. I can honestly say that I love that man more today than I ever have. Through pursuing God, praying for our intimacy, and for our own spiritual growth, we have resolved and are in the process of resolving many issues.

It would have been a lot easier to just to live our busy lives day in and day out and not focus on growing our relationships with God. It would’ve been easier to not plan to go to a marriage conference every few years. We had plenty of reasons not to. Money was tight, babysitters were hard to find and expensive.  And further more–is it really okay to leave the kids for two days? What about dealing with hard topics?  That certainly isn’t fun! We frankly still struggle with that one. But it seems whenever we start to really grow weary of doing the work, when we start to wonder, “Is this really worth it?” and “Are we really doing okay?” God reminds us of how blessed we are. We enjoy a laugh together, a victory together, an intimate connection.

I imagine I’ll never reach the ultimate, complete “healthy” in any area of my runner-888016_640life here on earth. But God says to persevere, don’t give up, run like you are to win the prize, and don’t grow weary! Jesus came to give us life … an abundant life!

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10, NLT).

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NLT).

God is perfect, holy, healthy, true, and I could go on and on. We, on the other hand, are broken. He is our Father and wants to help us with all of our needs. He loves us and wants to be as close to us as possible.  That is why He sent Jesus to save us from our brokenness. When we first trust in Him, God sends the Holy Spirit to counsel, comfort, and guide us every day of our lives. What an incredible gift! And that, my friends, is the secret to pursuing a healthy marriage and a healthy life!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8, NIV).

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Family PictureStacey Muff is the wife of 21 years to her High School sweetheart, Will.  She is also a Mother to two fun-loving teenage boys.  Stacey loves to spend time with her family, cook nourishing foods, talk about God’s Word with her friends at Bible Study and take walks in the sunshine!

Stacey and Will help lead Re/engage Marriage Ministry at Reality Church in Papillion, Nebraska.  If you are interested in working hard for a healthy marriage go to www.marriagehelp.org to find a Re/engage Ministry near you.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Boy, do I ever know the struggle of becoming healthy in body, mind, and soul. How has God been faithful in helping you past your brick walls? What actions, books, or Bible verses helped you work through getting healthy? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. We all need one another!

HopeversejpgYou may have heard the expression, you can’t move forward when you remain fixated on the past. When our thoughts are consumed with old hurts or successes we’ve experienced. We may even begin to wonder if God is through with us, but friend, Christian’s don’t have shelf lives. If you’re breathing, God has a plan for you. A glorious, hope-filled plan.

Today, Michael Ehret shares how clinging to the past can hurt us, and shows us through his experience how we can move forward and see what God is doing in us now.

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Where are you reveling?
by Michael Ehret

In high school, I won a couple awards for various things now long forgotten and unimportant. One award, however, stood out for me because I worked so hard to get it and, award-833992_640I must admit, I felt I deserved it.

Each year the drama department of our high school would hold an awards ceremony—our own little Oscar night in Elkhart, Indiana. My tribe then was the drama and choir folks. As far as we were concerned, these awards were it—the be all and end all of the year.

In my senior year, I almost didn’t attend the banquet because tradition held that the “Best Actor” award went to the male lead in the fall musical. I did not get that role (Georg Von Trapp in The Sound of Music) after tryouts and was still sore about it because I really wanted that “Best Actor” trophy—and now I wouldn’t get it and would have to pretend to congratulate the guy who would get it. Talk about a “Best Actor”-worthy performance!

But I went. When my name was called as the winner of that coveted trophy, it was a true shock. But it shouldn’t have been. Because I had done considerable work on the stage in other productions that year (and, truth be told, I was a senior—there are benefits).

I thought of that moment in my life when I came across this passage of Scripture the other day:

Eternal One: Don’t revel only in the past, or spend all your time recounting the victories of days gone by. Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as i speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none” (Isaiah 43:18-19, The Voice).

 

When I think about winning that trophy now, and I do frequently, it’s not an altogether happy memory. Looking back, I can see how my anger at not getting that one role (that ended up not mattering) colored my whole year. And I see a selfish young man that God has had to do considerable work with.

I’m grateful for that soul work, but there remains much to do in my life because Isaiah’s admonition to the Israelites—and to me—is still instructive.

I’ve forgiven the young me for his selfishness in the past, but until recently I was still living (reveling) in the past in other aspects of my life, namely my writing. I’ve dealt with this in other places recently (Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE), so I won’t go over that again today.

Today let’s look forward. Today let’s look at Verse 19: “Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am woman-591576_640preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.”

When Isaiah cautions against reveling in the past he does so not because looking back and learning from the past is bad, but because excessive looking back can keep you from looking forward—can keep you from seeing what God is doing (or wants to do) now in your life.

This is exactly what I did when I allowed a bad editor appointment to derail my writing for years. I gave up on many opportunities that God might have set in front of me because I was glued, pie-eyed, to the video in my brain of that editor telling me my writing wasn’t ready (it wasn’t). I looked back because I was afraid to look forward.

Don’t let that happen to you, whether you’re a writer or not. Look back at the past to learn from it—to gain motivation to look forward. But don’t look back so much that you end up living there. There’s no real life in the past.

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a418a046dd1af61c5a01697fccf6257fMichael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star.

 

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about it: Today, Michael shared his experiences with reveling in his past and how he moved on. Are you struggling with letting go of something now? Have you had something from the past you used to hang on to? How did you move beyond it? Share your thoughts on Facebook at Living by Grace or in the comments below. We can all use some encouragement and help!

If you follow me online, here’s where I’ve been this week:

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of visiting with Mary Vee where I spoke about how God can use deep pain and sorrow to bring about eternal gain. Read it HERE. I also had the privilege of being interviewed on Lena Nelson Dooley’s blog. You can read it HERE–and there’s a giveaway of my latest release, Breaking FreeFinally (Friday was a busy day!), I spent some time with Robin Lee Hatcher in an interview. Join in the conversation HERE, and don’t forget to subscribe to her newsletter for another chance to win a copy of Breaking Free.

On Monday, Robin E. Mason highlighted me on her “New Week, New Face” feature where I wrote about the personality of a writer–I’m truly normal…or as normal as one can get. Come talk with us HERE.

Tuesday saw me over at The Singing Librarian for an interview you can read HERE. She also reviewed Breaking Free, which you can read HERE.

If you’re local, I’ll be at Divine Truth Christian Bookstore in La Vista, NE this Saturday for a book signing. I would love to see you there!

Divine Truth April 23

And if you’re within driving distance of Omaha, I do hope you’ll join me at the Wordsowers Conference where I’ll be teaching how one can craft characters that grab hold of readers on a deeply emotional level.

One last thing. In August, I’ll be in Nashville for the first Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat. Head HERE to read about who will be there and to register. I would love to see you there!

Other resources you may enjoy:

Releasing the Past to Live in the Now 

A Woman With a Past, a God With a Future by Elsa Kok

There are times when our desire to help must be restrained, because sometimes in the helping we do more harm than good. As difficult as it may be, sometimes the best thing we can do is step back and get out of God’s way. Today my guest, Christine Lindsey, tells us about one of those times.

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When the Ones You Love are Suffering
by Christine Lindsay

As a mom and now a grandmother, one of the hardest things for me is to stop stepping in each time one of my loved ones suffer.

hands-216981_640I come from a long line of “savior” type personalities. People with this particular personality trait often choose careers in caregiving, such as doctors and nurses. Even as an administrative assistant, one of my strongest bents was to help others, solve problems, fix situations.

How can one be faulted for helping others? What’s wrong with bringing comfort? As Christians that’s what God urges us to do…right?

Unless your help is hindering God from what He is doing in that person’s life.

As a mom I have been right in the middle of helping my kids and thought, am I a stumbling block to my children gaining the wisdom they need?

All good parents will use appropriate discipline to teach their children the lessons of life when they’re little. As we mature in our Christian faith, we come to accept God’s discipline in our own lives, so why do we step in so often to “fix” the situations in our adult kids’ lives, and thereby stop them from learning what we have learned?

This particular truth inspired my latest historical romance Sofi’s Bridge. In Sofi’s Bridge, the hero and the heroine both had to learn the same lesson that I had to learn in my life—that we cannot save our loved ones. Only Christ can do that.fashion-1283944_640

This often means letting our loved one go through a time of suffering, one of the hardest acts of love on the part of a parent or grandparent. Step back and let God work.

Here is a brief excerpt from Sofi’s Bridge where Dr. Neil Galloway recognizes this important spiritual lesson:

Back when Neil and Jimmy were only lads, the two of them hanging on to their father’s hand as they walked to church on a Sunday morn. Bells chimed all over Belfast. Inside the gray stone building, Neil had listened to the minister preach of what Christ had done on the cross for all mankind, taking the punishment that people like him deserved.

Now in this jail cell, Neil sat up and leaned his elbows on his knees. His hands dangled between them like heavy weights. As a boy he’d believed in what Jesus had done. But as an adult he’d demeaned that sacrifice. Instead, he’d tried to be Jimmy’s savior. But how could he save anyone, him a fallible human being?

Lord, I’ve been a fool. He dropped his face into his hands.  

Remember, the next time you are tempted to step in a fix something in the life of someone you love, 1 Peter 4:19 (NASB): Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”

***

SofisBridge_w11814_750Seattle Debutant Sofi Andersson will do everything in her power to protect her sister who is suffering from shock over their father’s death. Charles, the family busy-body, threatens to lock Trina in a sanatorium—a whitewashed term for an insane asylum—so Sofi will rescue her little sister, even if it means running away to the Cascade Mountains with only the new gardener Neil Macpherson to protect them. But in a cabin high in the Cascades, Sofi begins to recognize that the handsome immigrant from Ireland harbors secrets of his own. Can she trust this man whose gentle manner brings such peace to her traumatized sister and such tumult to her own emotions? And can Neil, the gardener continue to hide from Sofi that he is really Dr. Neil Galloway, a man wanted for murder by the British police? Only an act of faith and love will bridge the distance that separates lies from truth and safety.

Read the first chapter of Sofi’s Bridge HERE

PURCHASE LINKS FOR SOFI’S BRIDGE:
Amazon.com Sofi’s Bridge (Paper & Ebook)
Pelican Book Group (Paper & Ebook)

***

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

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

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

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

***

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Nothing wrenches my heart like watching my daughter struggle. I long to shelter from every pain, but if I did, she’d grow up stunted and ill-equipped to handle life and those assignments God has planned for her. There’ve been numerous times when, I’ve watched her go through a difficult period, a whisper to my heart let me know God was in it. That was hard to hear, but also reassuring, because I know He is good, loving, and sovereign. I know He has a hope-filled plan for her and is, at this moment, working out that plan. And sometimes the best thing I can do it get out of His way.

And pray. I can always pray.

Can you share any stories of watching your children struggle but seeing God bring good from it? What was the hardest part for you as a parent? When have you had to step back and “let go and let God?” Share your thoughts, experiences, and advice with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace, because we can all learn from each other!

If you follow me on social media, here’s where I’ve been this week!

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of being a guest on Janet Sketchley’s blog, talking about the spiritual side of writing my latest book, Breaking Free. Join in the conversation HERE.

Tuesday saw me visiting with Gail Pallotta as I talked about being present in the present. Come visit HERE.

And yesterday, I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Carrie Schmidt on Reading is My Superpower. Join the fun HERE. (Don’t miss the giveaway of Breaking Free in the post, too!) Carrie also posted a very humbling review of Breaking Free. Read her thoughts HERE.

Before you go, if you’re in or close to Lincoln, Nebraska, I’d love to see you at Barnes & Noble this Saturday from 2-3pm!

Barnes and Noble April 16

And if you’re within driving distance of Omaha, I do hope you’ll join me at the Wordsowers Conference where I’ll be teaching how one can craft characters that grab hold of readers on a deeply emotional level.

One last thing. In August, I’ll be in Nashville for the first Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat. Head HERE to read about who will be there and to register. I would love to see you there!

Other resources you may enjoy or find helpful:

But is That Love

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Divine Prayers For Despairing Parents by Susanne Sheppmann

As I mentioned yesterday, relationships are hard. Tanya wrote about two relationships God wanted us to cultivate–our relationship with Him, and our relationship with our spouse–and how we can do that. But there are two more relationships we must nurture: our relationship with…well, read on to see what Tanya says.

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4 Relationships God Wants Us to Cultivate: Part Two 
By Tanya Eavenson

Yesterday, I wrote about cultivating our relationships with God and with our spouses here. Today, there are two more relationships God calls us to cultivate.

3) Cultivate your relationships within the church.

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One way you can cultivate relationships within the church is through regular attendance and getting plugged in.

  • There are many areas in your church that need helpers, like teaching a Sunday school class, helping out in the nursery, designing a church website, answering phones, or even being a part of the clean-up crew after events. You’ll never know the needs a church has until you ask.
  • Be active. Have you ever considered joining a women’s ministry? Do you participate in a Bible study? Attend conferences that encourage and refresh your soul? As Hebrews 10:24-25 says above, we gather together to encourage one another. So be active.
  • Pray for the staff and ministries. One of the most crucial and most powerful acts of love a church can offer is prayer for their church staff, ministries within the church, and those who serve in those ministries.
  • Reach out to others. Whether it’s a card, text, or phone call, reach out to others for their birthday, bereavement, thinking of you, or any occasion. It means a lot to know someone cares and is lifting you up in prayer.

4) Cultivate your relationships with those who don’t know Jesus Christ.

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Did you know that if you claim to be a Christian, you’re a testimony of God? It may or may not surprise you, but people are observing us. How we handle heartaches and difficulties, the way we love our spouses, how we talk, how we treat others, and even our joys, accomplishments, and blessings represent who God is. Not that we must worry about being perfect. We all make mistakes. The Lord knows we aren’t perfect, but while we strive to follow Him in this imperfect world, there are several things we can do to reach the lost.

  • Pray for God to give you opportunities to share the Gospel with someone as you go along your day. Ask Him to give you boldness to proclaim the joy of God’s word.
  • Give forgiveness. Forgiveness is what sets Christianity apart from other faiths. If someone has offended you, treat them kindly, with love, regardless of how they’ve mistreated you. We truly don’t know what others are going through. Perhaps what they need to hear is they aren’t alone and there is One who will be with them through it all.
  • Share your testimony of what God has done in your life. It doesn’t have to sound professional: just honest. Sometimes our testimonies can bless others and be an encouragement to those who now walk where we’ve walked.
  • Show love to the lost. The Bible also clearly states in James 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”

The Lord has called us to share who He is with the world, and this often requires tangible actions. He calls us to go and love others by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for widows and orphans, visiting those who are sick and those in prison. Find a need within your community, your neighborhood or in another country and fill that need. How? It’s up to you. Contact your local church to see what ministries they offer, but most importantly, tell people about Jesus. It could be something as simple as passing out a Bible to a co-worker or to a stranger at the mall that leads people to Jesus and eternal life.

I’ve listed several practical ways to grow your relationships with the Lord, your spouse, your church, and with the lost, but it takes action. Cultivating anything takes time, energy, and a desire for something to grow, including our relationships. So why not start today?

***

Restored_1400x2100 (1)Dr. Steven Moore is known nationally for saving lives. If only he could save his own. Unable to deal with his cancer prognosis, he retreats to a happier time in his past—to the woman who once stole his heart.

Four years after the death of her beloved husband, bookstore owner Elizabeth Roberts still struggles to sustain her faith and joy in the Lord as she raises her two sons. She strives to find a way through her family’s grief, never suspecting a man from her past might offer hope for her future.

But how can there be a future when he’s only come to kiss her and says good-bye?

Buy Links:
Amazon
iTunes
Barnes & Noble

***

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Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. You can find her at her website http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/ on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google, or on Amazon.

***

Where I’ve been: Please join me over on Stitches Thru Time with Crystal L. Barnes today!

***

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Let’s talk about this:
 Over the past two days, Tanya has shared  four relationships God wants us to cultivate. Yesterday’s were God and our spouses, and today’s were the church and those who don’t know Christ. How do you cultivate your relationship with the church? What about those in your community? What keeps you from tending these relationships? What motivates you to seek these relationships out? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

Relationships are hard work. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I get so tired, all I want to do is squirrel away by myself and ignore what should be done. However, relationships can’t be ignored or neglected. And shouldn’t be. Today–and tomorrow, a treat!–Tanya Eavenson talks about the four relationships we must invest in. And don’t forget to come back next week when I’ll share the rest of my thoughts on the S word and what biblical submission looks like in a modern day marriage.

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4 Relationships God Wants Us to Cultivate: Part One
By Tanya Eavenson

With spring fast approaching, many people are preparing for warmer days. Spring break. A quick getaway. Perhaps you’ve starting thinking about what your family will wear on Easter morning. Maybe your thoughts have turned to gardening: the type of plants to purchase, the items needed to start the project, or the weekends to complete the task. In these instances, how much time do you think it will take to cultivate a plan, prepare to execute it, and then get it done? Days? Weeks?

In the same way, how much time do we spend planning, preparing and cultivating our relationships? Here are four relationships I believe God desires us to grow, care for, and nurture for our benefit and His glory.

1) Cultivate your relationship with Him.

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The first and most important relationship you have in this life is your relationship with Christ. But cultivating a relationship with the Lord in our own strength is impossible. How many times have we forgotten to read scripture or pray? If you’re anything like me, it’s tough raising children, being a helpmate, working outside of the home, etc. These aren’t negative things; on the contrary, family and children are a blessing from the Lord. However, we can’t use people or things around us as an excuse. We have to make time for the Lord.

You might be saying, “Yes, I want to have a deeper relationship with the Lord, or I used to have that closeness being in His word, but how can I get that back?” Here are several practical ways to cultivate your relationship with the Lord.

  • Prayer is one of the most important aspects of a Christian’s life, affecting his or her relationship with the Lord. Scripture says that even Jesus withdrew to quiet places, alone, and prayed. So if Jesus needed to spend time talking with His Father, how much more do we need to be before Him ourselves?
  • Remove idols from your life. There’s a misconception of what the word ‘idol’ means. Years ago, an idol was a wooden, metal, or gold statue built in the image of a god. People worshiped this idol. Today this meaning still remains, but it also includes anything that takes priority over the Lord’s place in your heart and life. Is there anything in your life that you’ve put before God?
  • Read the Bible. Designate a time during the day to set aside to read God’s love letter to you. Whether it’s morning, afternoon, or evening, find a time that works best with your schedule.
  • Memorize Scripture. The Bible says the word of God is a lamp that lights your path, showing you direction when you’re lost or uncertain. It’s also called a sword: a weapon for protection against the enemy. Memorizing scripture is exactly that: protection for your mind and strength to carry on in a world that tries to rob, conquer, and destroy our joy.

2) Cultivate your relationship with your spouse.

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Have you ever considered that marriage was created by God, not only for the sake of two people coming together as Adam and Eve had done, but to bring glory to Himself? We are to show our spouse the same sacrificial love that Christ showed for us, not only giving up ourselves for another, but being an example for others so when they see us, they too will be witnesses of God’s love. Here are a few practical ways to strengthen or to begin re-cultivating your relationship with your spouse, and in the process bring glory to God.

  • Pray: for your spouse. For your marriage. For the Lord to protect your marriage.
  • Be intentional. Did you know the word “love” is a verb: an action word? Put your love into action. Spend quality time together. Go on a date. Go for a drive. Just go—do something together.
  • Offer forgiveness. Ephesians 1:7 says, “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” We have forgiveness through Christ for the countless things we’ve done, so how can we not extend that same forgiveness to our spouses? When we offer our forgiveness, we are glorifying God in our actions, honoring God and our marriage, and possibly being a witness to others around us.

Please join me back here tomorrow as I write about the other two relationships God wants us to cultivate.

***

Restored_1400x2100 (1)Dr. Steven Moore is known nationally for saving lives. If only he could save his own. Unable to deal with his cancer prognosis, he retreats to a happier time in his past—to the woman who once stole his heart.

Four years after the death of her beloved husband, bookstore owner Elizabeth Roberts still struggles to sustain her faith and joy in the Lord as she raises her two sons. She strives to find a way through her family’s grief, never suspecting a man from her past might offer hope for her future.

But how can there be a future when he’s only come to kiss her and says good-bye?

Purchase here:
Amazon
iTunes
Barnes & Noble

***

DSC_0729bTanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. You can find her at her website http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/ on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google, or on Amazon.

***

For those who enjoy following me all over cyberspace… Here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Tuesday, my article on training our children to stand strong against spiritual warfare went live on Crosswalk.com. You can read that HERE.

Read about my heart behind my latest review on my publisher’s website HERE.

Tuesday I shared a fun book-lovers romance story on Faith, Friends, and Chocolate. Read that HERE.

Wednesday I shared one of my favorite culinary inventions on Country at Heart. Read that HERE.

Join me on Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s Inkslinger blog as I share how my wedding absolutely didn’t go as planned. I’m back on her blog today to share an excerpt from Breaking Free. Visit me HERE.

I stopped by Trisha Perry’s blog to chat about my novel, my favorite city, and a novel I read and loved and think you will to. Read more HERE.

***

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Let’s talk about this:
When you think about your relationship with God, how do you work on strengthening and growing it? How do you work on your relationship with your spouse (if you’re married)  or other significant people in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

Photo by Stuart Miles found on freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by Stuart Miles found on freedigitalphotos.net

How often do we take God’s delay as “no”, or perhaps even lack of care. As if, because we can’t hear Him, He’s suddenly not listening? Waiting, on anything, is incredibly hard for me, and I think, if I were to get to the root of it, I’d find, my impatience stems from a lack of surrender. If you’re following our Fear of the Lord/Resting in Christ study, you may remember our discussion on half-hearted trust.

Oh to surrender our whole hearts, our whole selves, to Christ, even in, especially in, times of waiting–what peace and joy we’d have! These were the thoughts running through my brain as I read Kimberly Rose Johnson’s devotion. As you IMG_4314-2 Publicityread her devotion, think of whatever it is  you’re waiting on and how you can trust God with your whole heart, as Proverbs 3:5 urges, while you wait.

Not my Way but God’s

By Kimberly Rose Johnson

I have a bad habit of running ahead of the Lord. By nature I’m an impatient person who wants things done yesterday, but God does not work that way. I must work hard to hold back and allow the Lord to lead me, but my goodness it is a challenge at times.  🙂

In 1 Samuel 13:8-15 Saul had the same problem. He was impatient for Samuel to arrive and offer a burnt offering to God. He finally lost his patience and offered the sacrifice himself. Big mistake. Verse 13 tells us that God would have established Saul’s kingdom over Israel for all time if had he waited in obedience, but that wasn’t going to happen since he didn’t wait.

Prov3v5picI remember several times I ran ahead of the Lord without giving a thought to His plan and guess what? I ended up doing more harm than good. If I had sought His will and timing I could have saved myself a lot of grief.

It’s not always easy to wait on Him or do the things He asks of us, but when all is said and done His ways are better.

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Kimberly Rose Johnson, soon to be empty-nester, lives in Pacific Northwest with her husband and their yellow lab. Island Refuge is her sixth book and the first in a series of three. Kimberly enjoys long walks, chocolate, and mochas, not necessarily in that order.

Island Refuge cover 25080381She’s the author of Island Refuge:

Five-Star-Chef Zoe Griffin walked away from her dream job. Did she make a mistake?

Her engagement off, Zoe Griffin retreats to tiny Wildflower Island in the Puget Sound. Hiding out as a cook and maid at a shabby bed-and-breakfast seems crazy for a chef who’s used to running her own five-star kitchen. And just as she starts to feel at home, her klutzy mishaps make Zoe fear her handsome new boss will fire her.

Dr. Nick Jackson is done with medicine, and owning a B&B is as far from doctoring as he can get. He needs help, but his only employee’s mistakes give him doubts. As Zoe lets her defenses down, Nick begins to see a competent and caring woman. One whose wounds are as deep as his own. But as they fall for each other, Nick and Zoe must learn the hardest lesson of all—to forgive. Only then can they heal the past and embrace the future . . . together.

Buy it on Amazon HERE.

You might also like:

When God Says Wait

And for those following the Resting in Christ study and who prefer watching videos in 5-7 min chunks, here’s part 2 of my talk.

Shoot me a message or leave a comment on this post if you’d like me to send you a copy of the 7-day study that goes with my presentation. You can also join our Facebook study group. You can do so HERE. I’ve learned so much from the other group members! It’s always awesome to talk about Scripture with other believers.

You might also enjoy this song, which talks about serving Christ while we wait.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to wait on Christ? What are some things you do while you wait? What are some ways, in your opinion, we can “Trust in the LORD with all [our] heart; do not depend on [our] own understanding” (Prov. 3:5)? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.