When Our Mess Reveals Our Blessings

Messy RemodelChaos and confusion make me nervous. I like Well-orchestrated plans, and when those plans actually happen. When things appear to come unraveled, I go running for my to-do list, anxious to manage the mess. Unfortunately, life is not always that easily contained or cleaned up. But as my sweet friend Shannon Taylor Vannatter shares, sometimes God allows the mess … and for a beautiful reason.

When Our Messes Reveal Our Blessings
by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Sometimes it takes a mess to experience gratitude.

I’ve talked online lately about our major remodel. We’re swapping three rooms around including the kitchen. We also got a new roof and heat pump, plus a room addition – a closet and my office. Yay!!!! We’re doing most of the remodeling ourselves along with finishing out the closet and office.

Since the work never seems to stop, my husband and I are exhausted. And our many jobs have multiplied. The electrician had to cut into our drywall in the new kitchen to add wiring for appliances. Therefore, I had to replaster one entire wall.

For a while two rooms of furniture were smashed into one with a narrow walking trail around it. This makes it almost impossible to put pine planking on our vaulted ceiling. As I write this, most of our kitchen is completed but the plumbing isn’t hooked up yet. That’s tomorrow’s project.

And the list goes on.

The carpenter had to knock out our rock foundation to connect our addition. Completing my office isn’t even on the agenda while we focus on keeping our pipes from freezing and getting our main living area in functional condition.

Suffice it to say, our house is a mess. But in the midst of our disorder, four things put everything into perspective:

Odd sized windows to replace old, breezy ones and my kitchen sink had to be ordered. We waited and waited for the arrival date, but neither showed. We joked about our items coming on a slow boat from China. Lowe’s apologized and said all the hurricane victims were getting precedence on shipments of building supplies.

My house may be a mess. But I have a house.

One of our church members was diagnosed with cancer. Too late for treatment. Days ago, my husband visited her in the hospital. She was unresponsive with her grieving spouse holding her hand. We realized that poor man’s house was in a mess as the woman God gave him was shantiesslowly and painfully ripped from this life.

Our bedroom end of the house was cold for a few days until the heat and air people added vents to the addition.

People in third world countries don’t have a heat and air guy.

My kitchen sink still isn’t hooked up. It’s amazing how crippling not having water to cook and clean with is.
Sixty percent of the population don’t have indoor plumbing.

So as we dig out from under our rubble, I’ll try not to complain or feel overwhelmed. Instead, I’ll count my blessings along the way.

***

Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does.

She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.

Connect with her: Shannon’s Facebook, Shannon’s Goodreads, Shannon’s Pinterest, Shannon’s Twitter, and Shannon’s Amazon Author Page.

More about her latest release, A Texas Holiday Reunion:

His Christmas Homecoming 

With her foreman out of commission, Resa McCall needs horse trainer Colson Kincaid to run her family ranch through the holidays. But having the handsome single dad back in Bandera, Texas, is unsettling. Colson broke Resa’s heart years ago, and she can’t risk getting close again. Still, working with him and bonding with his sweet little girl is making the ranch feel merry and bright. Being at Resa’s side stirs up emotions Colson thought were long gone. But he has a powerful secret that could keep them apart forever. Can Colson give Resa the one Christmas present that might finally bring them back together—the truth?

Get your copy now:

 A Texas Holiday Reunion on Christianbook                 A Texas Holiday Reunion on Amazon

Let’s talk about this! Are you a neat and tidy type of person or do you thrive on change? I’m neither, but I’m also not a huge fan of mess or chaos. When my house feels chaotic, so do I. When life feels chaotic, I tend to clean and organize. And, unfortunately, get hung up on a lot of minor details, potentially losing sight of all the blessings God’s provided. What about you? What resonated most as you read Shannon’s post? When has God used a messy and chaotic environment to point you to a deeper truth? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Before you go, I invite you to join me at Crosswalk where I shared ways we can find strength in Christ. You can read that HERE.

Monday, I stopped in at Wholly Loved to share my thoughts on God’s favor and what that looks like when life gets hard. You can read that HERE.

If you’ve enjoyed today’s post and want to receive more great content sent free, directly to your inbox, then sign up for my quarterly newsletter. You can do so HERE. (Subscribers will receive a free, 36-lesson Bible study based on 1 Timothy titled Developing a Life of Love and Faith. I’ll be sending that out soon!)

Viewing Others Through God’s Eyes

west-826947_1280

Photo by Marcisim taken from Pixabay.com

Seeing others, really seeing them, doesn’t come naturally. I think that’s because most of us, me included, have a strong self-obsession. Meaning, our thoughts most often are centered on we, ourselves, and us. This is an area God is really working on in me lately. I so want to be a blessing. To be the type of woman who brings out the best in others, points them toward Jesus, and helps them discover and grow in their calling.

It’s time I get more intentional in my efforts. It’s time I practice regularly dying to myself so that Christ might always, at every moment, live through me.

Today’s post by women’s fiction writer Brenda Anderson encouraged me this morning. I hope it does you as well.

BUT first, fun news. When Dawn Breaks is on sale for under $4! You can get your copy HERE. You can read the first three chapters for free HERE.

A Gem of a Gift by Brenda AndersonHead Shot (466 x 600)

I’m blessed to have been given the gift of writing fiction. Think about it. I get to create people, cities, or even whole new worlds. How fun is that? Even more exciting is that I get to share this gift with others, hopefully spreading the gospel in a unique way, just as Jesus did with the parables. What an awesome privilege.

God’s gifts are like precious gems: they’re multi-faceted. Until recently, I focused on spreading the gospel as the purpose for this gift of writing, but God has shown me an equally precious facet: learning to see others through His eyes, with His heart.

My stories tend to center around people who’ve experienced the darker side of life, many by their own choices. My hero in my Coming Home series killed a teen in an inattentive-driving accident. My heroine chose to abort not just one, but two children, and was a pro-choice advocate. In my current release, Hungry for Home, the focus is on a homeless teen who mugs a woman.

Honestly, my first reaction when I hear of someone who fits the above description is disgust. What was he thinking to be driving while texting? How selfish, uncaring are you to be pro-abortion? That teen needs to go to jail! How dare he mug that woman?

On the surface, they’re people I don’t really like. But God does. He not only likes them, He loves them, and through their stories He’s shown me the heart He sees.

life-863037_1280

Photo by Foundry taken from Pixabay.com

He’s helped me realize I’m no different from them. He’s shown me why they behaved as they did, not excusing the behavior, but knowing the why helps me meet them where they’re at and love them there. God has said to me, “This is my child, and I love them. Help others love them too.” I saw them as broken and needing a savior.

Just like me.

So now when I’m watching the news or reading the newspaper that spotlights bad or horrible behavior, rather than judge, I tell myself that God loves them too, and I ask “What’s their story?” and pray to see the heart that God sees.

What an immense privilege it is to see God’s children in this new light, like the sun shining through a crystal prism!

I can’t wait to see what else God has planned through this gift!

Hungry for Home front cover (373 x 600)About Hungry for Home:

After a troubling encounter with a pregnant teen, Sheila Peterson-Brooks hurries from the crisis pregnancy center into the frigid Minnesota winter where she is mugged and left for dead. After a frantic search, Richard, her husband, finds her, and the police quickly nab the mugger …

A hungry, homeless teen.
The brother of the pregnant girl Sheila had just counseled.

The girl pleads for her brother, and Sheila and Richard choose not to press charges. Instead, they open their home to the boy, a move that could cost them their possessions, and their hearts.

And, in the process, teach them the true meaning of home.

Pre-Order Hungry for Home for Kindle: http://amzn.to/1VtIb8h

Brenda S. Anderson writes gritty and authentic, life-affirming fiction. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and is currently President of the ACFW Minnesota chapter, MN-NICE. When not reading or writing, she enjoys music, theater, roller coasters, and baseball, and she loves watching movies with her family. She lives in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area with her husband of 28 years, their three children, and one sassy cat.

Readers can learn more about Brenda S. Anderson at www.brendaandersonbooks.com. You can visit her personal blog and the group blog InkspirationalMessages she participates in, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. In what ways do you try to view others through God’s eyes? Is that easy or difficult for you, and why? What has helped in that regard? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Normally during book launch time I share links of all the places I’ve been, online, in the past week, but today… I’m getting ready to head to Lincoln to spend time with my daughter. Yay!

I hope you’re day is as happy as mine. 🙂

Making Plans Lightly

Wednesday night, after sharing my prayer requests with my small group at church, one of the ladies giggled and said, “Ah, so you’re giving God your agenda.” I had to laugh because this article about making plans lightly in order to be more pliable to God’s leading was already in the rough draft stage. I laughed even harder the entire drive home as I thought of countless other times I’ve done the same thing.

I like to give God a to-do list. And sometimes (okay, so most times) I’ll even tell Him how I think things should be done, so focused on my ant-sized view I forget that God’s perspective is galaxies beyond mine. And yet, when I look back over my life–the six moves my husband and I have made in our fifteen years together, my daughter’s journey from homeschool to Christian school and soon to be public school, the various churches we’ve been a part of and experiences we’ve had along the way–I realize that none of it has gone according to plan. My plan, anyway. And yet, in hindsight, I wouldn’t change a moment. Even the times when things appeared so bleak I thought my heart would break.

Okay, so maybe I would change part of it. Not the circumstances, but my reactions. And my long-term agenda, because every time I allowed myself to get caught up in plans of where I’m going, I lost sight of God. And in those brief moments when my false expectations and human ambitions crowded out His voice, the emptiness and restlessness that ensued was worse than any trial I have faced. And yet, conversely, when I allow myself to rest in God’s hand, the peace has been amazing. Enough to keep me turning my eyes upward regardless of what is before me.

The Bible says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” And all I have to say is THANK YOU, GOD! I think I would be amazed if I were to catch a glimmer of all the sand traps God has directed me away from! Although I suppose we have the choice whether or not to follow. We could go our own way, could we not? Shove our fists in the air, shake our heads, laughing to ourselves at how foolish God must be to think that job, that move, that ministry, is worthy of our time. He’s just the Creator of the universe, after all. Surely we, His human creations, know far better how to manage our own lives!

The other day as I was finalizing an interview of gospel singer Lynda Randle, something she said impacted me. (Don’t worry, you can read it on Monday. I’m putting it up on Reflections.) She talked about how she “fell” into singing. There wasn’t an earth shattering voice pouring down from heaven saying, “Lynda Randle, thou shalt sing.” True, God had tugged on her heart, drawing her closer to Him, and she responded to that call–the call to total surrender, willingly. But she had no idea singing would be part of it. She stepped out, in faith, willing to follow God wherever He directed, before she caught sight of the road.

Lynda’s obedience has led to great success. Pop on over to her website and take a quick glance at her upcoming tour schedule to see for yourself. But that doesn’t mean obedience will always lead to success. And least, not success as the world would coin it.  We may never have that five hundred thousand dollar house, or New York Times Best Seller, and if we filter our views through the eyes of the world, we may be fooled into thinking we have failed. But if we are firmly planted on the path God has designed for us, without venturing to the right or the left, we will experience success. And there is joy in that. When our eyes are on our Leader and not all the off-roads trying to distract us along the way.

One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

My understanding, my plans, even my desires, are tainted and distorted. How can I possibly expect to see clearly? But if I trust in God, and allow Him to guide me, and at times, when the road gets extra rough, to carry me, He will never let me fall. He will fulfill the plans He has for me.

So what do I do when earthly expectations cloud my vision and allow dissatisfaction or disappointment to seep into my heart? I draw closer to God and let His Spirit fill me until it has pushed all else aside. As you probably know by now, music is a huge part of my prayer life. As I wrote this, two songs came on that really spoke to me. I’m going to add a link to them here, along with another one I find especially fitting…

Give It All Away

My Savior, My God (I’m not skilled to understand)

You Never Let Go