Because He Reigns

“If that was God’s miracle, I want nothing to do with you, God.”A Call to Praise icon 2

God doesn’t always show up as we expect, nor does always play out as we desire. But does that mean He isn’t good? Does the chaos of our world in any way diminish or contradict His sovereignty?

I almost find it funny, one of my greatest fears has always been that of myself or my loved ones experiencing physical pain. When my husband donated a kidney, and I watched him struggle through those first few nights of recovery in intense pain, I thought I was going to come undone. When my daughter got shingles and cried out to both me and God, my heart literally shred. And for myself, I spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to avoid physical pain.

So what’d God do? He allowed me to develop a condition characterized by unrelenting pain. Sense of humor? Cruelty? Or grace characterized by incomprehensible mercy and grace? I’ve come to realize it’s the latter, and though I don’t have the time or space here to expand, one of the greatest gifts I’ve received from suffering are explained in Carol’s beautiful post below.

But first, I wanted to announce the winner of last week’s give away! Jennifer Hallmark, congrats! You won a copy of Jan Pierce’s book, Home Grown Readers! I’ll shoot you an email soon to chat about the best way to get that to you.

The Beauty of His Sovereignty by Carol McClain

“As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes…The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.” Ps. 103: 15 -19

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Photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Life in my twenties had been hard, and as things spiraled out of control, a Christian family, with children nearer to my age than I was to the parents, befriended me.

At that time, my daughter was three. She was bright and beautiful and pleasant. Never would she be a Mother Teresa changing the lives of the less fortunate, or an Angelina Jolie, gorgeous and altruistic. She may never be extraordinary to the world, but she is my reason for living.

When life got too difficult, I would strap Sarah into her bike seat and peddle a mile down the road to my neighbors. Once inside their home, the presence of Christ would descend. Sarah would hurry to their TV and watch Mr. Rogers. I would bask in the faith of Marge and Al. This was the only place I allowed myself to feel God.

One day, dear friends of theirs visited. With them was their grandson. He was my daughter’s age but had severe cerebral palsy. Still in a high chair, Alex couldn’t feed himself, control his arms, or any other part of his body for that matter. On this particular day, while my perfect, little girl sat mesmerized at the TV, Alex stuck out his tongue.

“That is a miracle of God,” Al said. “Alex demonstrates God’s infinite love.”

Everyone agreed.

I, on the other hand, sat in shocked silence. If that was God’s miracle, I want nothing to do with you, God.

The usual warmth of their home vanished as I bristled at what I deemed to be God’s unfairness.

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Photo by Samuiblue taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Yet, the comment of God’s miracle clung to me like thistle seeds. I rode home, fixed dinner for my family, prepared Sarah for bed. That night, I lay alone in my bed and brooded about Alex. From a young age, I understood the immensity of eternity. This life is a blink of the eye compared to forever. Alex suffered for a heartbeat. In heaven, he’d have perfect limbs, a fine mind and a crown of jewels greater than I could imagine.

And my daughter? Today her life excels more than mine. She’s more philanthropic than I’ve ever been. A better mother. Has a marriage that works beautifully. She’s attractive. Smart. Never will she win a Nobel Prize. But because of Alex, of those like him who suffer through his days that are like grass, a flower in the field, I’ve always relished her perfection—the sunlight-gold of her hair, the slant of her eyebrows, her good grades, her hand-holding, sitting on my lap (even today). Every little thing about her delights me.

The hard things of life show us how blessed we are. They demonstrate the miracle of God. We are His creation. Belonging to Him, He has free reign. If we suffer—it’s but for a moment, but it brings with it exceeding great joy.

Alex is a key to my salvation. And his life, like ours, reaches out across our suffering and shows the beauty of God’s sovereignty.

***

Carol McClain is an erstwhile English teacher, a bassoonist and a stained-glass artist with an eclectic array of other interests. She lives in the frozen reaches of northern NY and will, this summer, trade her Yankee ways for Tennessee.

UnknownHer debut novel is DWF: Divorced White Female. In this humorous women’s fiction, sassy and unsaved Cheryl Chandler knows only one thing will save her from her husband’s desertion: a man—any man so long as he’s hot. Somehow she has to find him. Eventually, he has to meet her kids. The first problem is solved by her children who sign her up on an online dating site. The second problem? She’s stuck.

DWF is available wherever ebooks are sold. The print copy can be found on Amazon.

Let’s talk about this. What events or situations have brought the livingbygracepic.jptruth of eternity and God’s sovereignty home for you? Have you ever struggled with this, and if so, why? How has God helped you in your struggle? What do you find most difficult to accept regarding this truth? What do you find most comforting? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. 

For those of you following our Call to Praise Blog Hop, make sure to join me Saturday on Ginger Solomon’s as I wrap this series up.

For my writer friends who periodically struggle with fear, join me on the Write Conversation as I talk about Finding Freedom From Fear.

For my local friends, make sure to mark your calendars for two Pamperingupcoming events:

Saturday morning, April 18th from 10-11:30, join me at Reality Church in LaVista for some intense pampering, including free mani-pecs and (also free!) childcare! Sign up here!

Afterward, join me at Barnes and Noble from 2-5ish pm where I’ll be talking about my latest release and signing copies. Find more information here, and use the “invite a friend” link to invite your friends. Let me know if you plan on coming, and maybe we can chat over coffee after.

Oh, I almost forgot! I can now officially share the cover of my next book, releasing in winter of 2016! I’m really excited about this one, because there’s an amazing miracle-God’s-sovereign story that follows. I can’t wait to share.

Intertwined_N154121Intertwined:

Abandoned by her husband, an organ procurement coordinator fighting to keep her job and her sanity encounters an old flame facing an unthinkable tragedy.

For Tammy Kuhn, being an organ procurement coordinator is more than a job. It’s a ministry. But when her husband of sixteen years leaves her for another woman, struggles with childcare, her absentee ex-husband, and an altercation with a doctor threaten her job. Embittered and overwhelmed, she fights to maintain her sanity when a late night encounter with an old flame stirs emotions long since buried but the ICU is no place for romance.

You can pre-order it here, or, shop locally and help our bookstores survive and thrive and order the book through Divine Truth Christian Bookstore, and tell them you want it signed. I’d be more than happy to pop in and oblige!

The Blessings of Trials

I’m formatting this post through tear-blurred vision, amazed once again by God’s mercy and grace. Those who know me personally know I’m not the most advanced-thinking, detail-oriented writer on the web. Lately, with book edits and launch responsibilities, this has proved more true ID-100160717than ever. The result–I don’t often read the guest posts authors send me until the last minute. (Which can result in scrambling if I find what my guest has written isn’t a good fit. You’d think I’d learn.)

Similarly, with the gunk I’ve faced these past two years, you’d think I’d learn … to choose to praise when I want to isolate. To persevere when I’d rather stay in bed. To lean on Christ, who’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, when I feel defeated.

I’m learning. Slowly, and at times with gritted teeth.

Profile Pic mainLong intro to say, today is one of those days, and just when I was beginning to slip into poor-me mode, I read Misty Beller’s post on trials and reminded myself once again, God is in the gunk and the glorious, and He can and does use every tear, trial, and triumph for eternal good.

The Blessings of Trials by Misty Beller

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

I’m not sure who came up with this nifty saying, but for so many years it’s been my life’s motto.

The fact is, trials happen. Life is hard. But through the pain, God has taught me two vital truths.

  1. Sometimes you just have to buckle down and get through it.

Over the last year, my family’s gone through a lot of hard “stuff”, from a miscarriage, to an accident where my husband broke multiple bones in his face and neck. Since then he’s had six surgeries, each rendering him mostly an invalid for about four weeks, and me the sole breadwinner and caregiver for our girls, age seven and three. There were so many times that I could only take one day—one hour—at a time. There was no room to worry about the future, I could only buckle down and focus on what had to be done in the next hour.

But that was a hard lesson for this former control-freak to learn. It took God stripping away layers of my perceived ability to control. I couldn’t know which doctor appointment would bring to light more broken bones, requiring immediate surgery. I couldn’t know when the call would come from the babysitter that one of the girls had thrown up five times in the last hour. God was the only one who could see ahead, and I had to trust that He would bring us through it. There was no other option for me.

  1. The blessings can’t come without the trials.

This concept didn’t become crystal clear for me until recently. It’s not just that God will bless us through the hard times, with patience and strength, and maybe a few token bright spots. But it’s not possible to receive the best He has in store for us, unless we go through the hard times. Kind of like looking at a river on a map. You can’t reach the ocean until you’ve followed the path of the river.

My writing journey is a great example of this. There were so many times I thought I’d found the perfect avenue for my book. An agent or editor would send an optimistic response to my initial query, and they would ask for the full manuscript. But God gently shut each of the wrong doors, opening little windows of light in the direction He had planned. At the end of the day, I’m so thankful for the “No” answers I received, because they brought me to the point where I could see Him pointing toward the right door. And now, my debut novel The Lady and the Mountain Man released in September, and I have no doubt I’m exactly where God has planned for me in my writing journey. But I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for the awful times of rejection and uncertainty and frustration.

These two truths aren’t new, and may seem fairly obvious. But when you’re in the darkest times, wondering if you’ll even make it to morning, knowing these two facts—along with the absolute truth of God’s love for you, His child—may be just what you need to see the light. I know that’s been the case for me.

I’ll be praying God blesses you with perseverance and the fullness of His plan for your life, even through the hard times.

Blessings,

Misty

***

Misty Beller was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and two daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

Writing is a dream come true for Misty. Her family—both immediate and extended—is the foundation that holds her secure in that dream.

You can find Misty on her website, blog, Goodreads, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Mountain Man coverThe Lady and the Mountain Man back cover blurb:

Leah Townsend, a recently orphaned heiress, flees Richmond after discovering her fiancé’s plot to kill her after their wedding. She needs a safe place to hide, and finds herself accepting a newspaper marriage proposal from a God-fearing young rancher in the Montana Territory. But when Leah arrives at the mountain ranch, she learns her intended husband was killed by a grizzly, leaving behind a bitter older brother and a spunky younger sister.

When Gideon Bryant finds a city girl standing in his log cabin, his first thought is to send her back where she came from. He’s lost too many people to the wild elements of these mountains––his parents, his wife, and now his brother. His love for this untamed land lives on, but he’s determined not to open his heart to another person.

But when an accident forces Leah to stay at the ranch for seven more months, can Gideon protect his heart from a love he doesn’t want? Has Leah really escaped the men who seek her life?

Buy it here:

On Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. When I’m going through a tough time, physically or emotionally, it’s easy to focus on the here and now and forget the eternal. But God is ever faithful to remind me of His sovereignty and love, a love that is bigger than anything this sin-cursed world can throw our way. And He sees. He knows. He cares, and He is always working to mold and equip us and to fulfill His eternal plan.

Eternal. I often lose sight of that, but in truth, trials are a tangible reminder that this world is not our home. (Praise God for that!)

What about you? When have you received blessings from your trials? How has a trial (grief, sickness, material struggles, etc.) encouraged you to remember and focus on the eternal?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And now, for those of you who aren’t on FB, here’s where I’ve been this week.

Yesterday I shared an article on Rest Ministries that fits quite well with today’s theme. In it I share how God has used my chronic illnesses to bless and grow my family. You can read this piece here.

Yesterday I also learned my debut novel had been nominated for the fiction category of the ECPA awards. Yay!

Today I’m on Deborah Piccurelli’s chatting about my novel, where the inspiration for the story came from, and how I hope the story will impact my readers. You can read the interview here.

Deborah also read and reviewed my novel. I enjoyed reading her perspective of the story. You can read her review here.

I also did a book give-away on fellow author Sara Ellen’s blog, one which she has extended. So, if you haven’t read my novel yet and would like a chance to win it, or if you’d like to win it as a gift for a friend, you can enter the drawing here.

Author Catherine Castle invited me to visit with her readers on her blog. You can join our chat here.

On Monday I stopped by Jessica Everingham’s to talk about living a life without regret. You can read this post here.

That’s my week. (Most of it, anyway.) What about you? What have you been up to? What has God been showing you?

On Monday I talked about the life-transformaing power of grace on Wordsmith Woman. You can read that post here.