The other night, my husband and I were talking about the state of our marriage, and we’ve noticed a surprising trend. SteveandIWhen times get tough, we grow closer. Now, I know, according to the oft spoken clichés, that’s the way it’s supposed to happen, right? But I suspect it doesn’t always. During times of trial, families either grow closer or farther apart. In my opinion, the deciding factor is whether or not they have God’s holy, wise guidance and ever-present hand. Well, that and whether we honestly give Him an obedient ear. Because God is about unity. Peace. Love. Intimacy. And when you have God-given intimacy with those around you, an amazing thing happens. Though you fall, though you trip seven or seventy-seven times, you will get up again. Though it feels as if the world is spinning ruthlessly around you, you can and do endure.

I’ve shared, and will share again, this has been a rough year for our family, perhaps the most difficult we’ve faced instorm some time. For a while, it felt like the storm clouds pressing around us would never lift. But they did, and we’ve stepped out of our storm shelter stronger, closer to one another and to God, wiser, with one more wound healed and one more emotional layer peeled back.

The other day, as I was walking through our neighborhood, the sun bathing my face in warmth, the temperatures a pleasant fifty degrees despite the fact that we are in the middle of winter, I realized I was joyful. At peace. It’d been a while since I’d truly felt joy. And in that moment, I realized my storm had lifted, and reminded myself that storms don’t last forever. While we’re in them, they feel as if they will never let up, or as if they will tear us to shreds. But they won’t, because God won’t let them. And one day, they will lift and we will again feel the soothing warmth of the sun on our face.

Because though we trip, though we stumble, though we slide backward, we will get up again.

This morning I was reading in Psalm 18 and was reminded afresh of my heavenly Father’s ever-guiding, training hand.

Psalm 18:32-36

praiseGod arms me with strength, and He makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; He strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. You (God) have given me Your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; Your help has made me great. You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping (NLT).

Scholars believe King David may have written this psalm toward the end of his life, during a time of peace. If you are familiar with David’s life, you will remember, much of it was anything but peaceful. In fact, he spent a fair amount of time in caves, hiding from King Saul who tried to kill him. And during his times of hiding, David cried out to God in despair. I imagine it felt as if his storm cloud would never lift.

But it did, and upon looking back, David was able to see God’s hand in every hurdle, storm cloud, and heartache.

If you are standing on the mountain top, rejoicing in God’s faithfulness, pause to remember some of the more difficult times in your life. How did you feel during those times? Did it seem like your struggle and pain would never end? But it did, right? Because God brought you through. Look at that/those experience/s through a God-lens. What did He show you about yourself? About Himself? Who did He bring alongside you during that tough time?

If you are still sheltering a storm, look up and look around. God is hovering over you, watching you, loving you. He friendswill bring you through. And, I would almost guarantee, He’s brought you someone to come along beside you. Are you accepting their aid and support, or are you building barriers around your heart, barriers that may seem protective–safe–but in essence, are blocking the very love and care you long for?

When my daughter was young, she loved to play in the rain. She loved splashing in muddle puddles and catching raindrops on her tongue. Together, we’d don our rain gear–bright yellow from head to toe–and our umbrella for an afternoon of puddle-jumping. The umbrella, however, did either of us little good because no matter how hard I tried to cover the both of us, her bouncing, lunging, lurching always left one of us exposed. To receive my full protection, she needed to remain at my side, matching my step.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2 NIV).

These verses provide us a beautiful promise … if we’d but remain in the shelter, the shadow, of the Most High. When we’re caught in a storm, our first tendency is to sprint ahead in search of the exit. Or perhaps we’ll lunge right, hoping for a detour. Maybe we’ll lag behind, digging in our heels as we bemoan how unfair this storm we’re in is. But this verse appears to indicate to receive God’s rest, we must remain in his shadow. This means surrendering to whatever comes our way, trusting God to keep His umbrella raised over us until the storm passes.

Remain. Abide. Trust.

Join me at Living by Grace today as we talk about finding shelter during the storm.

Join us at Living by Grace as we take about grabbing hold of and living in the peace Christ has already provided.

And make sure to come back to Living By Grace Friday and Saturday for our in-depth look at the book of James.

I’ve enjoyed reading the various “Reach Out” stories posted this month, and each one inspired or challenged me for different reasons.

Here’s what I learned:

Mary Ellis reminded me to focus on the human element–to be careful not to allow the task to overshadow the person I’m doing the task for. This is true in all areas of life, isn’t it? So often, we can begin a project as an act of love only to become consumed by the project itself. But what people need most is time–human connection.

Here’s a snippet of her story: “But most of all, we prayed with them, listened to them, and demonstrated lessons taught by the Savior. Several of them joined our church afterwards. What did I gain from the experience? There, but for the grace of God go I. These people were no different from you or me. Loss of employment or a serious illness could place any of us into dire straits. I get down on my knees each night and ….” (Read the rest here)

Mary hinted at numerous truths in her story. I’d be curious to know what you gleaned from it.

In Love For a Felon by Kenneth W. Bangs, I was reminded of the importance of maintaining an authentic welcome mat, and of staying alert for divine appointments. God’s timing is always perfect, and He never wastes a moment. May we, as His children, never close a door He’s opened nor walk away from a wounded soul.

Here’s a blip of Kenneth’s story: “He nodded and started talking…told me his whole life story. I’d heard it so many times before…so hard, so violent. I prayed with him and told him to enjoy the fishing. He brought his grandson by several times and then stopped. I got a call from a local pastor. He told me Herschel had cancer, no insurance and asked if we could help. …” (You can read the rest here.)

I’d love to hear how Kenneth’s story impacted you.

Cara Putman’s Reach Out story reminded me that God is ALWAYS there, especially during the storms in life. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Jesus with skin on.” God’s love is never-ending, always flowing, but often, it comes to us through others. May we, as God’s children, daily be conduits of God’s love as we reach out to the hurting.

Here’s a snippet of her story: “After the tornadoes that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, last year, I’ve been burdened by their horrific paths of destruction. I first asked God what I could do when I saw the horrific images of Alabama. Then the weekend storms hit Joplin. A third of the town…gone.

It’s almost too much to fathom.

But the burden wouldn’t leave.” (Read the rest here.)

What impacted you most in Cara’s story?

Our final story this month comes from Ada Brownell. This one was very dear to my heart as I’m passionate about reaching out to the next generation. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s often said this current generation is the “unloved generation.” Our youth are craving adult interaction, acceptance, role models, unconditional love. It’s easy to point fingers and complain about “how things are,” but love goes a bit deeper and focuses on how things could be. Love looks past the behavior to the hurting heart beneath.

Here’s part of Ada’s story: “According to the last statistics I gathered, five million elementary-age U.S. children grow up with no supervision after school. Twenty-two million adolescents are unsupervised between 3 and 6 p.m. on a typical day, according to the U.S. Department of Health’s Child Care Bureau.” (Read the rest here.)

What impacted you most about Ada’s story?

More importantly, how have these stories motivated you to reach out this month? What have you done to actively share the love of Christ? Share it here so we can be motivated to do the same and so we can rejoice at the giver of love, Jesus Christ, who stirs us to act according to His will.

Once again, I want to give a loud shout-out to April’s reach out donors!

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book, and submit your “Reach Out” story for a chance to win a gift basket.

April’s donors include Mary Ellis with An Amish Family Reunion, Deborah Raney with Almost Forever, Cara Putman with A  Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, Vannetta Chapman with Falling to Pieces, Rebecca Lyles with Winds of Wyoming, and Gina Holmes with Dry as Rain. (Read more about all these great books here, and show your appreciating by clicking on their names to visit their websites.)

Come back Thursday to see who won the gift basket and give-away.

(If you have a reach out story to share, send it to jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.)

A few days ago I shared a post entitled, “Keep Rowing,” based on a novel I was reading at the time. In the story, Eddie Snipes, the author, paraphrased the biblical account of when the apostles found themselves stuck in a boat rowing against a violent storm. The jest of Edie’s message was, God knew that storm was coming, yet He had His disciples row against it anyway. Oh, how we’d like to avoid all the storms in life, but through out Scripture, God promises the storms will come. Our first inclination might be to run for cover, which we should do–but not under a rock. Instead, we must plant ourselves on The Rock–the Creator and our Redeemer. When we do, His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

I love today’s devo by Patty Wysong because it reminds me that God’s power and care is not dependent on me–my strength and size. Like the tiny hummingbird flittering through the storm, I too can strand strong because my Savior lives inside me.

Be Like a Hummer by Patty Wysong

I love hummingbirds. They constantly astound me. Awhile ago, during a pretty intense storm we stood at the windows and watched the trees whipping and branches falling. And the hummers. Those little birds didn’t let the high winds and sheets of rain deter them—they zipped back and forth between the feeders and the trees, barely fazed by the storm. 

At one point there were two hummers at a feeder and when the wind suddenly gusted, they both faced into the wind and kept flying. As I watched, I saw one drop closer to the ground and manage to slowly fly forward, but the other was pushed backward and into the trees that line the creek.

Both hummers kept flying until they were able to latch onto something. Then they were back to the feeders for another snack. Their persistence in the face of the storm wowed me. And shamed me. How many times do I get a little wind in my face and decide it’s time for me to hunker down? And that’s not even storm winds. In the storms of life I tend to head for my rock—the one I like to hide under. But that’s not the rock we’re supposed to run to.

When the storms of life come, we’re to keep flying and get to our Rock. Yanno, our ROCK: Jesus.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;

my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

~Psalm 18:2 NAS

When we run to that Rock,  we can take refuge—hide—there with Him. That’s very good news to me because I’m a hider.

He will cover you with His pinions,

and under His wings you may seek refuge;

His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

~Psalm 91:4 NAS

Knowing that I can run to my Rock and crawl under is so very comforting to me! When life’s storms start howling, I can face into the wind and keep flying, just like those little hummers did, and fly back to my Heavenly Father. There, with the God of all comfort 2 Corinthians 1:3 I’m safe and secure under His wing. 

So when the storm starts howling around you and the wind has life whipped into a frenzy, be like a hummer and just keep flying. Fly straight to Jesus, our ROCK and redeemer. He will tuck you close under His wing and shelter you from the storm. And like a hummer we can dart back and forth, safely, knowing that His eye is on us, ever watchful. Our rock, our fortress, our deliverer. What more could we ask for?

Patty Wysong, a home executive with over 20 years of experience, homeschools three of her five children, but don’t let that fool you. She spends much of her time working on what God has placed in her hand: her keyboard. From the corner of her living room she writes inspirational fiction, devotionals, blog posts, and teaches online blogging workshops. You’ll also find her drinking kool aid from her china cup, preparing for the ladies Bible study she leads, and helping at their church.

Patty learned about blogs and blogging the hard way and now delights in teaching and helping others, sparing them that frustration so they can focus on what God has called them to do. Through her writing, Patty has found the extraordinary God in her ordinary life.

Find out more about Patty and her writing by visiting:
her blog: Ordinary Lives
Jewels of Encouragement –
The Barn Door – 

Do you ever feel like you’re climbing an uphill battle? Like you slip back with every step you take forward? Sometimes, when we find ourselves fighting against the wind, we begin to question God. Surely if He was in it, everything would go well. We’d see instant results. Doors would fly open.

Perhaps…but what if the doors are opening in areas where you don’t see it? What if God’s doing a work you’ll never know about? Or perhaps one that you won’t hear about for years, maybe even decades.

We’ll never know, and in our limited vision, there’s much we’ll never see. Many saving-faith commitments we’ll never hear. That’s where trust, surrender, and obedience comes in. Conditional surrender says, “I’ll follow You as long as I see results.” Unconditional, total surrender–the kind God uses–says, “I’ll follow You no matter what. I’ll trust You no matter what. I’ll serve you, laying my life down moment-by-moment, even if it feels like I’m grasping at the wind because I know You are sovereign and loving and true.”

Loved this quote from Eddie Snipes, I Called Him Dancer, (another novel that demonstrates what it means to live out the gospel message). “Don’t ask the Lord to bless your plans. Seek Him alone, and walk in the works He established for you to walk in. He may ask you to row against the wind, but that’s okay. Row with faithfulness and obedience.”

Psalm 32:8-11 (NIV)

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
   I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
   which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
   or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
   but the LORD’s unfailing love
   surrounds the one who trusts in him.

 11 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
   sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Verse one is God’s promise to us. He will guide us, in love. He says His eye is on you. Stop and think about that for a moment–God’s watching you right now. Not to condemn or annihilate you or catch you in some sin. He’s watching you with the love of a Father. The Creator of the universe is thinking of you, right at this very moment.

And He only wants what’s best for you. He longs to guide you in what’s best for you, and He wants you to follow. Don’t resist His lead. Follow whole-heartedly, knowing He guides you in love. In fact, His love surrounds you, like a snuggly blanket when you are sad and lonely, like an impenetrable barrier when forces of evil come against you, and like a tender hand that carries you when you are weak.

I don’t get much sleep in the spring. As a relative newbie to the midwest, when those thunderstorm warnings come, my mind jumps to tornadoes and I spend the night scanning weather sites. My husband, on the other hand, could sleep through anything. Most times, there’s no problem with this, but one spring when a rather tumultuous storm hit, there he lay, in bed, unmoving.

Me? I freaked, and nagged and prodded and pulled. Eventually I got my family down to the basement where we spent the rest of the night. Although on my husband’s end, I think he wanted to seek shelter from me more than the storm. He probably figured, this woman’s not going to leave me alone so if I want to sleep…

Imagine his surprise the next morning as we drove our daughter to school to see roofs torn off and windows shattered. Turns out, the tornado swept through an area ten miles from our home. “See!” I said, making sure my husband saw every bit of devastation. “That could have been us. Next time when the news says to seek shelter, will you please listen?”

He assured me he would…but then midnight, or one am or two am rolls around and he’s tucked in his comfortable bed. Clinging to dream-land, it’s easier to dismiss the warnings.

As Christians, we have this same tendency. It’s easy to stay in our cozy little areas of comfort, with the blankets tucked up under our chin. We know Jesus is returning, we know life is short, storms will come, wars will rage. Cognitively, we know many will pass into eternity today. We know they will go one of two places. We know the reality of eternity without Christ, yet still we lie in bed, believing the lie that we have all the time in the world.

A couple of weeks ago, funnel clouds swept through our area and the tornado sirens went off. I was in the basement exercising and listening to Pandora, pretty much clueless, until I received a text message from our daughter. “I’m in the locker room but I’m okay.” My heart raced and my stomach lurched. I ran upstairs and stood, in a darkened kitchen. If you’ve been in a storm, you know what I mean. It’s almost eerie how well thick clouds can block out the sun. After grabbing our two dogs and a container of water, I dashed back to the basement to pray. There’s nothing worse than being separated from your child during a potentially dangerous situation.

But as I prayed, for her and my husband’s protection, deep peace washed over me. If something were to happen, I knew where they’d go. Obviously, I prayed they’d stay on earth for as long as possible, but I received great comfort in knowing–not speculating, but knowing–their eternal destiny.

This was a very tangible reminder to me of the importance of sharing the gospel message–of living the gospel message–at every moment.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (NIV)

The Bible tells us today is the day of salvation. We are told to be awake and sober, ready to make the most of every opportunity for the days are evil. Live life in engaged mode. I have no idea when “the end” will come. Every generation since the time of Christ believed they were it, and yet here we are. But I do know the end will come for someone. I also know I have been given the message of reconciliation.

So what am I going to do today that will have an eternal impact? How can I be the hands and feet of Jesus today? 

The Bible tells us that God is sovereign. He chooses the time and place for each of us to live. There’s a reason you’re where you are right now, in this decade, in that neighborhood, working that job, participating in that club. Before you settle for the mundane, spend some time in God’s presence and ask Him what He’d like you to do in your sphere.

Then commit to obey. I can tell you, your life will be anything but boring. And if you really want to feel God’s love pulsating through you, then do His work.