When We Questions God’s Leading

When life becomes hard, the road ahead uncertain or steep, it’s tempting to pull back and begin searching for an easy, perhaps “guaranteed” route. But no matter where our steps lead, our heart will be most fulfilled when they are aligned with those of our Savior. He truly does have our best in mind, always, and no matter what we face today, we can trust that God’s plans are best.

When We Question God’s Leading in Our Lives
By Jarm Del Boccio

Have you ever followed a course of action you thought God had approved, only to experience opposition? Did you question His voice? As an author, my desire is to bring God glory, yet I have questioned many closed doors along the way. But with God’s guidance, I’ve persevered.

An Old Testament account, written centuries ago, became a source of inspiration for me. Nehemiah, the Persian king’s trusted servant was on a mission from God: to leave the king’s faithful service and rebuild the broken-down walls of Jerusalem to protect the Jewish inhabitants.

What did he do first? He prayed for guidance.

“Let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, to hear the prayer of Your servant that I now pray before You day and night for the people of Israel your servants . . .” (Nehemiah 1:6a, ESV).

Miraculously the king gave Nehemiah permission to go and build, granting him safe passage and a supply of timber for the task ahead.

Did everything go smoothly? No. He faced enemies along the way. Immediately, foreign rulers gave resistance to the plan. But Nehemiah had his priorities straight. He prayed again and carried on, even with opposition. In the end, Nehemiah accomplished his task.

So, what does this have to do with a lowly debut author?

I was convinced the Lord was leading me into the secular publishing market where I had made many wonderful friends and connections. But after submitting my middle-grade historical novel to agents and editors, there was silence. The publishing world is changing, and what I had to offer wasn’t on their wishlist. My desire was a godly one—to be a Christian influence in the mainstream market. So why wasn’t God listening to my prayers?

Nonetheless, I persevered. And the answer came.

Last spring, through a #FaithPitch event, a MG Biblical fiction I hadn’t considered for submission was requested by Ambassador International. To make a circuitous journey short, I signed a contract for The Heart Changer, which debuts April 26th. As I made connections with my book’s soulmates and their adults—home educators, Christian grandparents, teachers and librarians–I realized there was a great need to bring back traditional stories from a biblical world view. My debut novel was filling that need.

My confusion and disappointment disappeared as I saw the purpose of God’s re-direction. The Heart Changer, based on an Old Testament account, would encourage my young readers to persevere under trial — the times when God’s ear seemed shut to their prayers. 
Maybe in the future, the Lord will re-direct me to secular publishing. I’m waiting with open hands and heart. I’ve grown to love all my kid-lit friends there. But for now, I will rest in God’s present plan for me.

What is God calling you to do? Do you feel opposition? Do you question His leading? Be a Nehemiah. Pray first. Listen to God’s voice, and trust Him for direction, even though there are no open doors at the moment. If all seems clear, and you’ve received wise spiritual counsel, move ahead. Pick up your tools and continue on in His great work, but most importantly remember, regardless of the outcome, so long as you’re obedient to Him, you can count your efforts successful.

Let’s talk about this! What is one thing you can do today to focus on God and His will with diligence and perseverance?

Get to know Jarm!

Jarm's author photoJarm (‘J’ pronounced as a ‘Y’) Del Boccio finds her inspiration in everyday life, but in particular, when she travels the globe, observing the quirky things that happen along the way. Focusing on lives of characters from the past, Jarm is devoted to breathing new life into the pages of history.

Jarm taught elementary and high school students, and served seven years as school librarian. Grateful for the opportunity, she was a missionary teacher in an isolated area of Papua New Guinea. She is part of SCBWI and American Christian Fiction Writers, and has published articles in “The Old Schoolhouse” magazine.

Jarm is content with the journey God has placed her on, and lives with her husband, adult daughter and son (when he lands at home) in a tree-lined suburb of Chicago.

“Making History Come Alive: Illuminating the Past. Making Sense of the Present. Offering Hope for the Future.”

Visit her online at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Instagram.

Check out her debut novel, The Heart Changer:

Can an Israelite captive, wrenched from all she loves, serve the very man who destroyed her village?Cover image for The Heart Changer

Miriam is asked to do the impossible: serve the wife of Naaman, commander of the Syrian army. Clinging to treasured memories of home and faith, Miriam faces captivity with bitterness.  Little does she know the Heart Changer is preparing her for a greater mission — far beyond what she could imagine.

Buy it HERE.

 

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When Ministries Die

woman sitting outside

Imagine forsaking your way of life to answer a call, pouring your life into following God, however He leads, only to learn, at the end of a long, difficult journey, your efforts will eventually come to naught. Those people you prayed for will turn away from God. Those relationships you fought for will fall apart anyway. That ministry you built and nurtured and grew from nothing but a vague idea will die completely.

Some 3,500 years ago*, God called a meek shepherd to leave his way of life in Midian to accept a monumental task—to free God’s people from centuries of oppression. After some hesitation, this man, named Moses, agreed, successfully liberated the Israelites, and led them to the land God promised them.

But this wasn’t just a rescue mission. Through Moses, God was changing worldviews and revealing His heart and will to the world.

Moses’ life is an example of surrendered obedience. Though he never entered the land God had promised, when his time on earth concluded, he could look back over all the lives he’d touched and imagine, with confidence, the legacy he’d leave.

Except that wasn’t exactly what happened. Though he did leave a legacy, I suspect it wasn’t what Moses had hoped for. As he was about to die, God said, in essence, “Everything you’ve worked for, everything I’ve called you to, will fail. The people I loved, provided for, and protected are going to rebel against Me.” (Deut. 32)

They would enter the Promised land as God had promised, and in response, the people would reject their Creator. God knew this, before He led them out of Egypt and drew them near.

Because God’s faithfulness is never dependent on our actions.quote from post.

Nor is our ministry dependent on results. That said, regardless of how things end, during our lifetime, or even for generations to come, God’s will prevails. We saw this, quite clearly, through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and we’ll see it again when He returns to earth to reign for forever more.

As we wait, we’re called to be faithful. To focus on Him and His will done in and through us. That is and always will be enough.

More than enough.

Though it had to sting, to hear his life’s work would soon deteriorate, Moses could die in peace, because he’d done as God had commanded.

When we do the same, and daily step out in faith and surrendered obedience, we can call it a win, regardless of the results of our efforts. And despite what may feel like a huge loss today, we can celebrate knowing in the end, Christ triumphs.

Let’s talk about this! Are you tired? Has something you’ve worked for turned out different than you expected? How might focusing on the faithfulness of God instead of the often faithlessness of others help you stay focused and encouraged? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

For those who live local, join me for two great events! Live teaching of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study (Register HERE), and one of our Fully Alive Conferences. You can find out more and click through links to register HERE.

You can snag your free copy (ebook) of the study HERE.

When the Wait Is Over

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

When the waiting ends
by Susan Aken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 3 memory verse

Week 3 memory verse

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

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

She went from shame to rejoicing.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

Keeping It God-Centered

Merging two people with different personalities, ideas, thoughts … and sins … can make marriage hard. Today, my guest, Karen Pashley, shares with us the hope and foundation we have in God to make our marriages not just work, but thrive.

We love because He first loved us.

The Trials and Triumphs of a God-Centered Marriage
by Karen Pashley

Let’s face it, being married is not easy.

Pair up two individuals with different personalities, energy levels and tastes, ask them to pair-707506_640manage a household, children, social  commitments, and their careers on a daily basis and you have a recipe for friction.

Throw in the fact that we are sinners—and at times our sin will hurt, disappoint and anger our spouses.

Small irritations, like hogging the remote or continually leaving wet towels on the bed are not so hard to overcome.

But what about the biggies? What if your spouse has an affair? Struggles with an addiction? Or develops a nasty temper? That’s when the vows you declared on your wedding day actually become your reality.

To love, honor, and cherish. Through good times and bad, For richer or poorer, in sickness and health.

Without the grace and mercy of Christ, marriage doesn’t seem like a logical idea at all, does it?

Falling in love is the easy part. Loving our spouses for a lifetime takes commitment, determination, and disciplining our minds to trust in God.love-699480_640

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”

Conjuring up love when our souls are weary, or stressed, or hurting is virtually impossible without the love of Christ flowing through us.

God designed man and woman to be uniquely and wonderfully different, yet He planned for us to come together and become partners in marriage. He knew this would not be an easy task for us—His first couple blew it big time, yielding to the sin that so easily ensnares.

We’ve been blowing it ever since.

But, the Lord is good, and kind and merciful. He did not haphazardly concoct this scheme called marriage and then leave us to our own feeble means to make it work.

Jesus gave us the gift of His Holy Spirit so that we could experience His perfect love for us (1 John 4:13). And when we embrace that unfathomable Love—despite our frailties, shortcomings, and sins—we can love our spouses, in spite of their frailties, shortcomings, and sins.

What a wonderful, thoughtful God he is! He has equipped us to receive and give love to one another through His own Spirit!

christ-776786_640We can love our spouses in and through anything, if we embrace the love our Father has for us.

I like the way the Bible spells it out for us in 1 John 4:10-12:

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

My new novel explores how a Christian family deals with the consequences of the husband’s infidelity. Each character wrestles with their own flaws while searching for the answers to their pain. Only when they yield to the love God has for them can they begin the journey towards forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

Readers and reviewers often contact me to share how this story profoundly affected them and their approach towards situations needing healing and forgiveness in their own lives. I hope you’ll consider reading—may your soul be refreshed with the living water of Jesus’ love.

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Precious in His Sight:

The story of one determined wife, her guilt-ridden husband, and the other woman, whose struggle may set them all free . . .

PreciousinHisSight_CVR2What if your husband was cheating? What would you do?

Feisty, tenacious, and adorably flawed, Sugar Brennan is fiercely committed to her family, her traditional Christian values, and her spotless reputation in her affluent Southern community. When she discovers her husband Clay has been unfaithful, Sugar is determined to right the wrongs in her life.

Then Clay’s former mistress returns to Westfield with devastating news, posing a heart-wrenching dilemma that challenges Sugar to rethink all she’s believed about faith, family, and the healing power of forgiveness.

She’s been raised in a preacher’s home, taught to love her enemies.

She’s got the fish sticker on her car and a collection of good works under her belt.

But . . . reach out to the woman who nearly destroyed her marriage? Surely God wouldn’t ask her to go that far.

“This book will stir your emotions, warm your heart, and ignite a longing in your spirit to know the One who loves us unconditionally . . . no matter who we are or what we’ve done.”   —Denise Jackson, NYT bestselling author and wife of country music superstar Alan Jackson

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IMG_8533-Karen Pashley writes and speaks with wit and candor about relevant, often gut-wrenching topics that resonate with women of all ages. Her Amazon best selling novel Precious in His Sight is hailed as “a story of betrayal, heartbreak, and reconciliation with unrelenting themes of grace, forgiveness, and Christian duty” by Publishers Weekly. Karen lives with her husband and youngest daughter in Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy the rich culture, glorious landscapes, and the occasional celebrity sighting. Read more at  http://www.karenpashley.com

Order Karen’s inspiring novel at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Walmart.com.

Connect with Karen on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Loving our spouse is an ongoing, deliberate choice we make, but it’s only possible because of 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.” How do you show and act out your love for others? How have others shown you love? Share your thoughts, ideas, and encouragement in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

Respite for the Caregiver

Chronic illness, disease, and long-term injuries are an incredible burden for the one experiencing them. Sometimes, so much so that we forget to care for our caregiver. Today, my guest, Kelly Irvin, shares her perspective on what caring for her own caregiver–her spouse–looks like and why it’s important.

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The Gift of Respite
by Kelly Irvin

My husband recently bought a 2016 Charger with a Hemi. You’re thinking, “What does this have to do with anything other than debt management or the lack thereof?” It has to do with the fact that he has learned in the last year that his wife has a chronic degenerative surgeon-1049534_640disease and a life-threatening disease. He’s been suckered by a one-two punch and he’s reeling. Yet, he’s still standing.

In October 2014 I had spinal fusion surgery to correct severe scoliosis. In November 2015 I received the diagnosis of primary lateral sclerosis. In January 2016 an oncologist informed me—us—I have Stage 4 ovarian cancer.

Through it all, my husband has rolled with the punches, at times serving more as a caregiver than a husband. When I thanked him, he said this was where the “in sickness and in health” vow came in. When I found out about the PLS—which eventually results in use of a wheelchair and sometimes the inability to use arms and to talk—he said, “If I have to carry you, I will.”

He has sat by my side waiting for biopsies and scans to be done and again when the results were shared. Work from home became work from the hospital during the early rounds of chemotherapy.

supermarket-732279_640He does the laundry, the grocery shopping, takes out the trash, changes the litter box and cooks. In addition to all the chores he did before. He takes care of the finances and deals with insurance. And he works full time.

For twenty-eight years, I did most of those chores, worked full-time, and took the lion’s share of child-raising duties. The weight has shifted and it has changed our relationship. It can’t not change it. Our love has changed in this new season in our lives and our marriage.

When he called me to say he was picking up our son to go car shopping, I said okay. Did I auto-1291491_640think it was a great idea, given my retirement and my uncertain future? I didn’t. But I also know my husband. He did his research and made financially sound decisions.  He drives an hour to work each way so that I don’t have to move away from my church family. Driving in a car that feels good under him relieves some of the stress of dealing with massively congested traffic five days a week. For a minute he’s not thinking about chemo and hair loss and CT scans and what a murky future will bring.

So when he asks if I mind if he goes out with his friends on Saturday night to shoot pool, I don’t hesitate. Go, enjoy, be silly, tell jokes, rib each other, live in the moment. I know he’ll come home to me.

Caregivers need respite. Give your spouse that gift. Sometimes that respite comes in the form of a trip to the outlet malls or a paint night or scrapbooking event. Sometimes it’s a hunting or fishing trip or a basketball game. Sometimes it comes in a night of racking billiards-548359_640them up and sinking the eight ball. Sometimes it’s blowing smoke about being able to do zero to fifty in sixty seconds (something I’ve specifically forbade him to do!). Whatever it is, if you’re a caregiver, find it. Turn tomorrow over to a gracious, caring God. These light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. Health challenges change our relationships with our spouses—making them deeper and stronger. I find joy in that. I hope you do too.

***

Saddle Maker FinalRebekah Lantz feels betrayed and abandoned. Tobias Byler is bound by regret. Can two young runaways from a world away teach them the healing power of a true family?

Rebekah isn’t like her sister Leila, but no one seems to believe that. Ever since Leila made a decision that has haunted her family and their small Amish community, Rebekah has been held to a higher standard under her mother’s watchful eye. Boys avoid her. She simply longs for the chance to be a wife and mother like the other girls.

Tobias Byler only wants to escape feelings for a woman he knows he should never have allowed to get close to him. Moving with his family to isolated Bee County, Texas, seemed the best way to leave his mistakes behind. But even a move across the country can’t stop the past from accompanying his every thought.

A surprise encounter with two half-starved runaway children forces both Rebekah and Tobias to turn their focus on others far more desperate.

In doing so, they discover the key to forgetting the past may open the door to the love and the future they both seek.

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ChemoDoCroppedKelly Irvin is the author of The Saddle Maker’s Son, the third novel in the Amish of Bee County series from Zondervan/HarperCollins. It follows The Beekeeper’s Son, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it “a delicately woven masterpiece.” She is also the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest Housing. She has also penned two romantic suspense novels, A Deadly Wilderness and No Child of Mine.

A former newspaper reporter and public relations professional, Kelly is married to photographer Tim Irvin. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to read books by her favorite authors.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: We heard from Kelly about how difficult it is for the spouse of a chronically ill person, and how that spouse needs to be supported. Do you have a caregiver for yourself? If so, how do you support that person? If you don’t have a caregiver, do you know one you might be able to support by offering some respite? What are some ways you find respite in God? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below or over at Living by Grace. We can all learn from one another!

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breakingfree_n1664109Book news! My latest release, Breaking Free, is on sale (paperback version) for $4.60! Get it HERE! Aaaaannnnnd, Intertwined is on sale (paperback version!) for $6.68! That’s 58% off the regular price! Get it HERE and read the first 2 chapters for free HERE.

 

Trusting the Author

If you’re reading this, it is likely because you love stories. Whether you’re a reader, a writer, or love a good movie or TV show, we all relate to story. However, sometimes that story takes an unexpected turn. When it does, do we stop reading or watching? Or do we trust the author? Today, my sweet friend, Carrie, joins me to talk about the middle of the story.

Revelation 21

In the Middle of the Story
by Carrie Schmidt

Since I was very little, my life has been all about story. I drank it in wherever I could, however I could, in whatever form it came.  Especially books. Always books.

And one of my very favorite things about “story” is how every story at its root is ultimately a reflection of THE Story. God’s Story of redemption.  The Truest of true stories. The one bible-1031288_640that starts with “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) as its “once upon a time” and ends with the happiest “happily ever after” of them all (Revelation 21:3-4).

But that’s another blog post for another time.

Sort-of.

Because right now I’m in the middle of my own story.

Life is not at all going the way I had planned. Especially not the way I had dreamed. And trusting God in the middle of this not-going-according-to-plan story He’s writing for me? Well, to say it’s not always easy would be one of my greatest understatements ever.

And yet… I do this on a much smaller level every time I read a new novel or watch a new movie. You do, too.

If we had stopped reading Pride and Prejudice in the middle of the story, Mr. Darcy would never have become one of the greatest heartthrobs in romance. Instead, he would be forever memorialized in our minds as arrogant and aloof and a relationship-wrecker. And Colin Firth would have not been nearly as famous… but perhaps he would have been drier.

books-1141910_640If we had stopped reading Little Women in the middle, we may not have grieved quite so much … or gotten quite so irritated … but we also certainly would not have rejoiced as much either. We wouldn’t have seen independence and triumph and unexpected selfless love.

What about the movie Sleepless in Seattle? If we had turned it off halfway through, we might think that Tom Hanks (spoiler alert – although, really, if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s your own fault, haha!) ended up with that annoying woman and Meg Ryan went back home from her stalking research trip and settled for the adorable but boring Bill Pullman who didn’t understand her.

But we keep reading. And we keep watching.

Why? Because we trust the author, the screenwriter, the director. We trust them to give us the happily ever after, the need for which – incidentally – is imbedded in our hearts and called “eternity” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We trust them even though we don’t know them.

In God’s Story, our own personal happily ever afters may not look like we envisioned. But that’s because our individual separate stories aren’t individual or separate. They are subplots in THE Story, all threads of grace and redemption that tie together in one ultimate Narrative called Jesus. We can trust Him because we know Him.

When the middle of your story looks a bit chaotic, a little murky or a lot hopeless, trust the horse-58374_640Author and Finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). Trust Him to complete the story He’s started writing in you (Philippians 1:6), the one He’s promised to keep writing even after everyone else thinks the story is over.

Because the truth is – it’s not over until our Prince Charming comes riding in on His white horse to sweep His bride off her feet and conquer the enemy with a single word (Revelation 19).

And that’s my favorite story of them all.

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img_4522Carrie Schmidt (aka MeezCarrie) is an avid reader, a book reviewer, a story addict, a KissingBooks fan and a book boyfriend collector. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Her passion in blogging/reviewing is to connect readers with a new favorite author or book, especially in the Christian fiction genre. Carrie lives in central Kentucky with her hubby Eric and their quirky dog Zuzu and is the long distance cool aunt to nine nieces and nephews. When she’s not reading or reviewing or “cool-aunting”, Carrie teaches English as a Second/Other Language to international adults. Learn more about Carrie at http://readingismysuperpower.org.

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livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this: Carrie opened up about how her life, in the middle of her story, isn’t going according to how she planned. I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel that way. However, she also talked about not giving up in the middle of our story and trusting the Author. Have you ever felt like giving up in the middle of your own story? How did the Lord bring you through that chapter? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below (or over at Living by Grace) so we can encourage and pray for one another.

Taking Steps Toward Change

blonde-1031534_1920It really stinks when we blow it. It stinks even more when we blow it repeatedly, and yet, if you’re like me, you keep fighting the same battles again and again. But Scripture says we’re made new (2 Cor. 5:17) and that we have everything we need, in Christ, to live godly, Spirit-led lives (2 Peter 1:3).

So where’s the disconnect? Why do I still lose patience? Say things I wish I hadn’t? Fight for my way and allow my fears, worries, concerns, and selfish ambitions to lead me rather than the will of Christ? 

When our daughter was ten, after five years of educating her at home, we felt led to enroll her in school. We knew it’d be a bit of a transition for her, but we had no idea just how difficult that transition would be. First, I hadn’t emphasized cursive (I focused more on keyboarding and computer skills), and at her new school, cursive was required for everything, from spelling words and in class assignments to homework. Then there was the whole matter of homework period, getting up and out the door in the morning, adapting to teachers other than Mom, she was young for her grade …

Suffice it to say, there were times when her little brain felt ready to explode.

And like she’d always feel behind, ill-equipped, and unable to master her new role.

One night, as I was tucking her in, tears streamed her face, and she shared her fears with me. “I’m trying, but it seems like I’ll never get better.”

Have you ever felt like that? When you look at certain behaviors, maybe how you react while in rush hour ache-19005_1920traffic, or when your child throws a fit while you’re rushing out the door, and you think, “Man! Am I doing this again? I should be past this, much more spiritual mature, by now!”

My response to you is the same as it was to my daughter, eight years ago. “You’ll get this. I promise. Just keep stepping, and give it time.”

And develop an action plan, because as the cliché goes, wanting doesn’t make it so.

The first step in anything is prayer, asking for God’s help, wisdom, perseverance, and grace. And this isn’t just a one time, “Lord, help me out here,” but rather, a practice of remaining in communication with Christ throughout the day (1 Thes. 5:17)–in an attitude of surrender. (Because what good is it to know God’s will if we don’t live it out?)

The next step is, through prayer and self-evaluation, to get at the root cause of your behavior. If you’re reacting with impatience, ask God to show you why. What are you afraid of? That you’ll be late for work and then lose your job? That your child will be late for school and fall behind? That others will be disappointed in you?

Whenever we react negatively, if we dig deep enough, we’ll find there’s a reason, and unless we address that reason, we’ll remain stuck in managing symptoms (reactions) without ever truly moving forward.

Once you’ve uncovered the reason for your reaction, replace whatever that is with truth. For example, right now I’m feeling squeezed. It’s an incredibly busy season where I feel I have more to manage than I have time or energy to do so. My fear is that I’m going to drop the ball, but more than that, as my time grows shorter, those things on my to-do list that are selfishly motivated become more apparent.

The solution, then, is surrender. To help with this, I’m focusing on (reading, meditating on, praying over, and memorizing) key passages of Scripture that are helping me to zero in on God’s will and leading in this crazy time.

My verses are 1 John 2:15-16, Galatians 5:1, 16-24. I’m camped out here, reading the same Scriptures LivebytheSpiritpassagedaily, because I know God’s Word will change my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, but this won’t happen overnight.

At this point, I must ask, do you memorize Scripture? If not, I strongly encourage you to start. It is incredibly powerful to be able to pause in the middle of a tense or difficult situation to pray God’s Word. The peace that follows is amazing.

Next, I’m practicing doing better. Notice I didn’t say “trying.” I suppose I could, but practice reminds me that I’m retraining myself, and the more I behave and react in line with Christ’s will, the more it becomes a habit to do so.

Finally, I’m persevering. I’ve mentioned this a few times in this post, but behavioral change, whether it’s changing the way one eats or learning how to handle conflict in a biblical manner, takes time. Often, progress comes slowly, but with God’s grace and power at work within us, it does come, until one day we’ve mastered that thing.

Then God reveals another area within us in need of growth. Ah, Christian maturity. Isn’t it fun? 😉

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. Is there one area in your life, one challenge, temptation or character weakness/flaw you believe God may want to change? What are some ways you intentionally grow? Why do you think it might be beneficial to focus on one behavior or attitude and correlating verse for an extended period of time rather than trying to change numerous areas of weakness at once? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other.

And join me on Christians Read on June 20th to read about a slice in a very busy day when God granted me incredible peace and clarity amidst the rushed chaos.