Quote from Anonymous regarding strength.

What do you do when you feel bombarded on every side? How do you stand when it feels as if life has kicked you in the gut and you find it hard to breathe? My guest today, a woman I adore and greatly admire who serves with me on the Faith Over Fear podcast has been there and shares some insights on how we can remain standing when hardship threatens to knock us flat.

Overcome or Overwhelmed by Ava Pennington

It had not been an easy week. An anniversary of loss I’d rather not remember, yet it’s impossible to forget. A reminder of my husband’s greatest season of victory in the face of what the world would call a season of deepest defeat.

After receiving a terminal prognosis five years ago, Russ determined to use his final months to remind Christians to look up in the midst of their difficulties. That’s easier said than done. Yet, for the final months of his life, Russ shared his testimony about a different kind of healing. He encouraged believers to look beyond their trials and suffering.

How do we do that? How do we find the strength to see beyond our circumstances? To not be defeated by a diagnosis or beaten by a broken relationship? How do we become conquerors instead of one conquered? To be an overcomer instead of overwhelmed? Victorious instead of vanquished?

The answer is found in how Russ lived out these four principles in the face of death: 

Remember who we belong to:

The early church in Ephesus needed to be reminded of who they belonged to. So the apostle Paul wrote:

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14 ESV).

Living in a sin-sick world can make it easy to forget who we belong to. Our situation may cause us to think God has forgotten us or doesn’t care, leading us to lose faith. We can let our circumstances define our relationship with God or we can let our relationship with God define how we view our circumstances.

Quote from post on light blue graphic.

Maintain an eternal focus:

Difficult circumstances have a way of capturing our focus to the exclusion of all else. But the Bible reminds us that our circumstances are temporary:

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV).

We’re often consumed with making this life easier. More comfortable. While those goals are not bad in themselves, they often become obstacles to what God is accomplishing in and through us. We become focused on making this life our best life, rather than remembering the best is yet to come.

2 Cor. 4:17 on teal graphic

Stop trying so hard:

The world has convinced us that with just a little more effort, we can fix anything that’s broken and bring it to a state of wholeness. But the apostle Paul reminds us the work of completion is not in our control:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

Living a victorious Christian life is not about willpower. It’s not about trying harder, working smarter, and doing better. It’s about drawing on the strength of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Our job is to surrender to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who will bring the results. 

Do the next right thing:

Ongoing crises and turmoil can wear us down. That’s when we need this reminder:

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 (ESV).

Painful circumstances often cause us to feel overwhelmed. Russ battled a sense of his own body betraying him as the cancer grew. And even as I watched helplessly, I also wondered what his prognosis meant for my own future. What would life look like without my spouse?

But the Lord promised to care for His children’s needs. Our job is not to worry about the future, but to obey, one day at a time. And when that seems too difficult, then one hour or even the next five minutes at a time. Don’t ask what will happen a year from now. Rather, ask what has the Lord placed in front of me today? Then do the next right thing.

Fast forward to today . . . the anniversary week of remembering also brought reminders that God is still providing. Within a few days, several people came into my life to bless me by meeting new needs I didn’t have a clue about how to handle.

We can allow this broken world to overwhelm us or we can be overcomers. The answer is not found in our circumstances, it’s found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. We’re victorious when we remember our situations are temporary, but our life in Christ is eternal.

As you face your difficulties, how can you maintain an eternal focus? What is the next right thing your heavenly Father has placed in front of you to do?

*  *  *

Ava Pennington is an author and speaker. She’s also a freelance editor and certified coach for writers, a Wholly Loved Ministries podcaster, and a Word Weavers Intl. mentor. She teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship class, is trained as a Precepts Ministries instructor, and received an Adult Bible Studies certificate from Moody Bible Institute. 

Ava Pennington's author photo.

Ava is the author of Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully (Revell Books), co-author of 2 picture books and has contributed to numerous magazines and 35 anthologies including 28 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Find her at www.AvaPennington.com.

Check out her book, Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully:

Every name God calls Himself and every name His people have called Him holds clues to who He is, how He relates to His children, and the promises He has made – and kept.

Cover image for Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully by Ava Pennington

This devotional offers you a wonderful opportunity to spend time each day getting to know God more intimately by exploring His names and attributes. Perfect for both new Christians and longtime believers, these life-changing devotions will help you discover something new about who God is, who you are, and how you relate to others.

Quote on showing Christ's love with Christmas background

(This post first published on December 5, 2019)

Unfortunately, when I most need Christ’s strength is often when I’m least apt to seek it. When I most feel rushed and overwhelmed, somehow I deceive myself into thinking I can handle the situation and my responses. And perhaps, for a while I can, but the more I rely on myself, the weaker and less loving and grace-filled I become.

As the bustle of Christmas approaches, along with the obligations and gatherings frequently attached to it, I’m reminding myself of this long-verified truth: I am hopeless and helpless without my Savior. Whenever I forget this and allow busyness to steal those precious, soul-fortifying moments I know I need, I reveal though I claim He’s the source of everything good and right within me, somewhere deep within I’ve believed a potentially destructive lie: That I’ve got this, whatever this may be. The longer I operate in that falsehood, the weaker I become and the closer I edge toward hurt and regret.

About five years ago, our family learned a local youth would soon be out of a home, so, though our schedules were full, we took this child in. Though we anticipated challenges, the arrangement proved exponentially more difficult than we could’ve imaged. The teen was hostile, rebellious, and prone to angry outbursts. Our once peaceful home soon morphed into one frequently filled with yelling and slamming doors.

I knew every destructive behavior this teen displayed came from a place of deep pain. I knew Jesus was the only One able to heal this child, and I so longed to continually point to the life-transforming power of Christ. I longed to reveal that power within me, through my words and actions. The problem was, I routinely felt overwhelmed, chasing one responsibility from the next, I had little time for anything other than what I call “shout out” prayers—those frantic requests tossed heavenward as one runs from problem or obligation to the next.

Whenever I put off my time with Christ, I quickly regretted this. I’d respond in frustration rather than grace, reflecting back what I’d received from the child rather than the love of my Savior. Yet each time I pulled away to rest in God’s presence, whether for a moment or ten, His peace washed over me, strengthening and refreshing me as He spoke tenderly to my soul. And almost always, He cleared my vision, giving me a depth of understanding, and with this, compassion, I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Jesus put this it this way: “Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me” (John 15:4, NIV).

Christ’s words make me think of Galatians 5:22-23, which says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (NIV).

Notice, the writer didn’t say, “Now the Spirit helps Jennifer produce love and joy and self-control.” No, text pulled from post with an image of woman standingit says the Holy Spirit produces these traits within me. As I yield to Him, His power expands within me, giving me strength in place of weakness, patience in place of frustration, and self-control where tempers once flared.

Christmas will be busy. I’ve long since succumbed to this truth, and likely events, recipes, and relational interactions won’t quite go as I’d hoped. I can’t prevent the oven from breaking, my neighbor from fuming, or great-aunt Janice from throwing a fit when traditions aren’t followed as she desires. But I can always draw near to my Savior and yield to His love and grace, flowing first within and then without, me. I’ll likely regret numerous things this holiday season, but I know with certainty I’ll never regret that.

Let’s talk about this. How do you stay connected to Christ during busy and stressful seasons? What are some ways you plan to prioritize your time with Him this Christmas.

You might find Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace helpful:

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalThis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.

Grab your copy HERE.

Additional resources:

Preparing Our Hearts For Christmas, Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan on YouVersion:

This holiday season, take some time to slow down and reflect on God’s goodness and the precious gift of Christ with us.

Find it HERE.

Marji LaineOh, how I wish heaven would come to earth now. To live without brokenness, sadness, or sickness, without hatred or evil. And yet, what would my life, my faith, look like today if I’d never experienced the struggles in my past? It’s an interesting question to ponder. Today a sweet friend of mine, Marji Laine talks about the beauty of our brokenness and what one can gain from it.

Brokenness by Marji Lane

I confess; I’m a crier. I often gauge how much I enjoy a book by how deeply it touches me. And nothing affects me more than the black moment of a character. The point in which the hero has lost everything that matters to him. With nothing of value left, he surrenders.

It’s the turning point of a book, the time when the hero empties himself and changes the course of his life. But just as literature is a reflection of life, so is the hero’s arch a reflection of the believer’s walk with Christ.

Reba Hoffman, from My Book Therapy, mentioned in a chat the other night how we don’t get as close to the Lord drop-1113685-mduring the good times as we do during the rough patches. It’s in the pit that we find our strength in the Lord. And scripture bears that out.

Ps. 34:18 “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

At the times when we are at our lowest, the Lord comes close. His strength is made perfect at our weakest moments, so that even in the worst trials of our lives, we can have assurance of comfort. Of peace.

While walking one afternoon, an icy storm hit. Frustrated, I bemoaned my timing, until I turned around and saw the rainbow God provided. It was a vivid reminder of His grace, piercing through every storm.
Photo by JS: While walking, an icy storm hit. Frustrated, I bemoaned my timing, until I turned around and saw the rainbow God provided. It was a vivid reminder of His grace, piercing through every storm.

We rejoice with ease when the sun shines and the details fall into place. Joy comes through as well, with the knowledge that the God who gives peace is carrying us along. The verses and promises tend to sound trite in the midst of the storm, but looking back on some of our lowest times, the Lord reveals His tenderness.

John 14:18 “I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you yet again.”

Your Turn: How has the Lord strengthened you through your brokenness?

This theme of Brokenness is reflected in the character of a new collaboration novella, A Dozen Apologies. When the main character, Mara, fell from her pedestal, she fell hard. With nothing left, she looked to the Lord and found a faith she never knew existed. But with that faith came a conviction to right all of the MANY wrongs she’d done to people. To read her story, find the posts on Write Integrity Press, and watch for the notice of the free e-book. (WriteIntegrity.com)


Marji is a homeschooling mom of 4 with the oldest working in the mission field in Africa. She spends her days transporting to and from volleyball, teaching writing classes at a local coop, and directing the children’s music program at her church.

With decades of leading worship, directing and performing in theatre productions, and script-writing, Marji took the A Dozen Apologies Coverplunge to creating scintillating Christian romance and romantic suspense novels with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all. Visit her online at  MarjiLaine.com, on Facebook , PinterestTwitter , and Goodreads

Read A Dozen Apologies, chapter by chapter, here. 

Let’s talk about this. Pause to remember some of the more painful moments in your life. Were you a Christian? How did God show Himself real to you? How did He use that event to strengthen you? I’ve shared numerous, but one experience was so incredible, the memory of it remains with me often. It was prior to my diagnosis. I was so very ill, and yet, not knowing why, irrational fears abounded. I didn’t know if things would improve, if my health would deteriorate further. But each morning as I opened my Bible, I sensed God’s presence so strongly. Through the pages of Scripture, He told me again and again, “I’m here. I’ll watch over you and care for you. I love you.”

The Creator of the universe met with me. Daily. Made Himself known to me, intimately.

I experienced God in a way I never had before. It was so rich and deep, I can’t even describe it.

Those were such intimate moments, I grew to anticipate them, and there were times all I wanted to do was sit on my couch with my Bible. And there were times when that was all I did.

livingbygracepic.jpWhat about you? Do you have any moments you can look back and say, “Then! That was when God showed up.”? Maybe you’re going through something right now. Pause to consider Marji’s verse. Grab hold of it, friend. That’s God’s promise to you. He is close to the broken hearted, whether you feel Him or not. And the moment we take one step toward Him, He draws near to us. (James 4:8) That is an “if-then” statement you can bank on.

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

Additional posts and resources you might find helpful:

Strength in the Struggle

Learning to Walk Again

Stronger Still by Edna Ellison



Proverbs 24:10 “If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.”

When I read this verse a few days ago, it hit me in my gut. Lately, I’ve felt anything but strong. In fact, if I could find an impenetrable shelter to hide in, I would.

And so I should. Because it is then that I remember my strength doesn’t come from me. In fact, God’s strength is made perfect when I am at my weakest.

Rejoicing in the never-ending, never-wavering, ever-reaching power of grace this Thursday morning–so grateful that it’s not up to me.

Join us at Living by Gracetoday as we talk about finding strength not in ourselves but in the unchanging, all-powerful nature of Christ who dwells within us.

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

Two weeks ago, my dear friend Fay Lamb, author of Because of Me,  sent me a beautiful email. I had ask her for advice on a few issues, and like the precious child of God she is, she didn’t give me any. She gave me more. She sent me an email filled with Scripture, pointing me to my Savior, the only One who truly had the answers.

She began her email with Matthew 7:11 which tells us, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father, which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him.”

She then pointed me to Isaiah 55, which told me of God’s love, His incomprehensible wisdom, and His provisions for His children.

Verse by verse, she reminded me of God’s goodness, centering me in His Father’s heart. I wrote down the verses, prayed over them, meditated on them, but I sensed God wasn’t through. He’d started the conversation, laid the foundation, but there was more He wanted me to know. In fact, the real lesson hadn’t even begun. But before He started His refining, He surrounded me in His love.

The next morning, as I continued to pray over Fay’s verses, God led me to Isaiah 43 and Isaiah 31. I’ll highlight the portions that spoke to me, although I encourage you to read both passages.

1 But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,

18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

This passage warned me a time of struggle was coming, but not to fear, for God would walk me through it.

The next passage God led me to showed me how. Through the words of Isaiah 31, God reminded me it’s not about my strength, wisdom, or ability, but instead, about His. I can be victorious over anything that comes my way … if I keep my eyes on Him and stay centered in His will:

1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the LORD.

The following day, God brought the lesson home by allowing a series of struggles to come my way. This happens every year as the CWG conference approaches, and I’ve come to realize Satan doesn’t want me to go. Satan would rather I stay home in isolation, because that is where I’m at my weakest. He certainly doesn’t want me to surround myself with passionate followers of Christ following the same call.

But let’s not forget, nothing can touch me without first passing through the hands of God, and God only allows those things which are for my good.

Saturday, my van broke down, and I learned I cannot trust in vehicles.

When we got the bill, I realized how fleeting money can be. Nope, can’t trust in that either.

The following day I got sick and God showed me I cannot trust in my health or strength.

My computer started acting haywire and I lost a document. Nope, can’t trust in technology.

Event after event, frustration after frustration, God reminded me how futile everything apart from Him is. Life is unpredictable and unemployment, stock market crashes, computer failures, sickness, can happen in a blink. But God is faithful and lo, though we walk through the valley of darkness, we need not fear for God is with us.

In reality, all of my problems were minor, mere frustrations at best, but what made them beautiful is that God created an object lesson, tailored to me. He began by using a dear friend to speak truth into my life and concluded by drawing me to my knees in worship. Through it all He showed me His love is pure and strong and true.

When you’re going through a tough time, cling to these truths:

1) God loves you and longs to shower you with blessings and gifts.

2) He will never leave you.

3) God is still in control, even when your world seems crazy, and He’ll only allow those things that are for your good.

4) Rely on God and God alone for strength for He truly is the only One who can carry you through.

If you’re climbing over a few boulders, you may find these posts helpful as well:

Let’s talk about this!

Join me at Living by Grace as we talk about drawing near and staying close to God during times of difficulty.

What about you? Are you going through a difficult or frustrating time? If so, why might God be allowing those difficulties? What might He be trying to teach you? Ask Him, draw near to Him, trust in His goodness and love.

I love today’s post by fellow Living By Grace hostess Joanne Sher because she does ALOT!  She maintains a personal blog at An Open Book, blogs daily at FaithWriters’ Blog, posts monthly at Jewels of Encouragement,  the Midwestern group blog The Barn Door, and Internet Cafe’ Devotions  and contributes to the Faithwriters’ Writing Challenge. She also does a great deal of editing and collaborates with me on a tween devotional project, and writes Christian fiction and non-fiction. Reading about her plethora of projects, one would think she’s a super-writer, capable of penning manuscripts in her sleep. So, when she talks about what she can’t do, I listen!

What I Can’t Do

By Joanne Sher

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV

Christ is the one who strengthens me for my tasks. It is His power that allows me to accomplish great things for Him. Without Him, I can do nothing.

Then why can’t I, for instance, fly? Heal my husband physically? Travel at warp speed? Find gas for less than $2 a gallon? Write an exceptional, bestselling book in 24 hours? (Or even one month?)

Because God has not strengthened me for those particular tasks.

If I go out on my own and decide what I will accomplish this year – or this month, or this day – I may or may not succeed. Because God does not strengthen me for what I want. He strengthens me for what He wants.

You see, “all things” can be a bit misleading. It is only through Christ that I will be empowered – and He will not strengthen me for any old task. It is only those things that are in His will where He will work in my life this way.

So, perhaps, if you are not achieving “all things,” it is because He has not strengthened you for the task.

And if He has not strengthened you, you probably need to re-examine your goals, and your direction. Perhaps you are reaching for the wrong things. Maybe you can’t do it (whatever “it” may be) because you aren’t supposed to; because Christ wants to put His strength in you for another, more God-honoring task.

And who wants to work without His strength?

Joanne Sher was raised in Southern California but now lives in West Michigan with her wonderful husband Marc, and their two kids – Andrew is 10 and Annika is 7. She was raised in the Jewish faith, but has since become a follower of Christ.

She’s had assorted stories published in a handful of magazines and a few Christian writing anthologies. She’s currently working on a non-fiction book about God’s workings through her husband’s health issues. Tentatively titled Ailing Body, Nourished Soul, the first chapter received honorable mention in Fathwriters.com’s Page Turner First Chapter contest. At the moment, it is being considered by a literary agent.Her other work in progress is Handmaiden To A Princess, a Biblical fiction book set during the time of King Saul and centered around twins, one Princess Michal’s handmaiden and the other a servant to Prince Jonathan. It’s still in the writing stage.
Visit her website to find out more about her and her writing.

Before you read this story, one that brings me tears even now, stop by Under the Cover of Prayer to read about another time when God showed me His tremendous love for His children. There is nothing He won’t do to show His love and to draw His children to Him.

The following is based on a true story, shared with me by a dear friend fighting brain cancer. (The actual account is provided at the end of the story, but I wanted to put it in story form so you could perhaps understand what a beautiful experience this was for her.)

Although I pray for miraculous healing, my greatest prayer is that this radiant daughter of Christ would know, moment-by-moment, God’s incomprehensible love for her. When she told me how God is demonstrating His love to her night after night, I was reminded of God’s tender mercies. There’s a song I love, it says, “With the strength of no other, and the heart of a Father.” Think about that phrase for a moment–God is all-powerful. He created every star in the heavens and each star blazes with an enourmous amount of energy. The source of all things is always greater than that which it created. But behind that power, or more accurately, coupled with it, is a heart that bleeds for His creation. That sees us when we are at our weakest moments and goes to the ends of the earth to show us we are not alone. He Himself has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

When God Lights Up the Sky

Terry pushed up from the dinner table, staggering as the plates blurred before her. She gripped the back of her chair until the dizziness subsided.

“Momma, are you okay?” Tiffany, her oldest, froze, tears brimming in her eyes.

Swallowing down a wave of nasuea that threatened to expel her recently eaten dinner, Terry forced a smile and pulled her daughter close. “I’m great, sweetie. Now, where’s that picture you wanted to show me? The one you drew in art class?”

Tiffany studied her mother for a moment longer before turning on her heels and dashing up the stairs. Terry glanced at the clock on the far wall.  7:15. She kneaded her temples as if doing so would fight off the fatigue. One more hour to connect with her children, to instill memories, to show them the depths of her love. Then she could collapse for eight hours, maybe nine, before doing it all again.

Lord, give me energy to be here for my kids–really here. Clear the fussiness in my head. Please. And give me one more day.

“Zzzzrrrrrreeeea!” Her youngest child, Dennis, a chubby-faced boy with sky blue eyes and dimples on both cheeks, swirled an airplane in the sky. “Wanna pway with me, Momma?” He held a Match Box car in his other hand. “You can be the cops and I’ll be the cimimals.”

Terry glanced into the living room where Legos scattered the floor and a handful of other vehicles lined the couch. Maybe sitting would ease her nausea and clear her head. The least she could do was give him ten minutes.

Less than a year ago she would’ve whisked her son in the air like an airplane, filling the house with his high-pitched giggles. Now it took all her energy to make it through the day. And yet, no matter how difficult, each day was precious. Priceless. Cherished.

She turned back to her son. “I’d love to.”

The phone rang. She cringed and her husband bolted to his feet. A moment later, he called out to her. “It’s Linda from church.”

The fifth call in the last hour.

“She wants to know if she can stop by later.”

“Zoooooomzzzzeeeeeerrrrr!” Her son crashed his plane into a wall of Legos. “Momma, you gotta awwest me. I bwoke the waw. I had an akkident.”

“Hold on, sweetie.” She ruffled his hair then called out to her husband. “Can you ask her if I can take a rain check?” Grabbing a police car with chipped paint, she wove it through the “streets” of carpet town, toward her son’s plane.

“Not like that! You need to make the siwen noises.”

A wave of nausea swept over her and she leaned against the couch, double images flashing before her. Her brain pulsated, swollen from radiation-saturation, and for a moment, she feared she’d pass out.

“Honey? Honey? Are you okay?” A hand touched her shoulder and an image of her husband blurred before her.

The room went silent and her son dropped his plane. “Momma no feel well?”

She pinched the bridge of her nose and squeezed her eyes shut. Lord, please give me Your strength made perfect in weakness. For my children and husband’s sake.

“How about I put in a movie?” Her husband poked their son in the ribs until he rolled on the floor with laughter, then he cupped his wife’s chin and lifted her face until their gaze met. “Love you.” He kissed her cheek, then her mouth.


Terry lingered in the door of her children’s bedroom, listening to the steady rhythm of their breathing. If only she could capture this moment. Her husband draped his arm over her shoulder and pulled her close, resting his chin on top of her head.

She closed her eyes and inhaled his citrus cologne, laying her cheek against his chest. The steady pounding of his heart soothed her and for a moment, peace washed over her.

But then the phone rang again. She sighed; her shoulders caving forward. Her husband tensed.

“I’ll get it. You go relax.”

She nodded and shuffled down the stairs, outside, and to the porch swing. A cool breeze swept over her, carrying with it the faint scent of freshly cut grass. A crescent moon blazed in a clear night sky, thousands of stars twinkling all around her. She searched the constellations, naming each one in turn. For years, she’d wanted to see a falling star. As a kid, she’d spent hours searching the night sky. She’s seen many things–air planes glistening in the night, Venus blazing bright. But not once a shooting star. But one day she’d be with the bright and morning star. Even as He stayed with her now.

She leaned her head back and inhaled the cool night air, a deep warmth filling her heart, as she turned to God in prayer.

A flash of light caught her attention and she sat aright. In that moment, her vision cleared and above her, a star fell like a miniature Fourth of July firecracker.

“Oh, Father! Oh, Holy Father.”

Tears flooded her cheeks and laughter bubbled in her chest as another star followed.


About two months ago, my friend started to sit on her back porch talking to God. Something about looking up at the sky, under the stars, brought her peace. One night as she poured out her heart to Him, she saw a shooting star. She was so excited but didn’t connect it to God- not that time. Since that night, she has seen at least 6 – 10 shooting stars, always when she’s talking to Him. Just typing this story to me overwhelmed her with emotion.

Her words: It’s a simple thing, but for me it reminds me of His love and how He delights in showing it- to ME. Just for me. Just because He wants me to know He’s with me and hears me.

When she told me the story, I, too, was overwhelmed with emotion. A song called Light up the Sky by the Afters is one of my favorites. I listen to it often and love the chorus, “Light, light, light up the sky to show me You are with me.” I never understood why I loved that phrase so much until my friend shared her story. I believe God drew me to that song so I would understand what He’d done for my dear friend, because the song rushed to my mind the minute she told me.

With the strength like no other and the heart of a Father, He lights up the sky to show us He is with us.

Pause and listen to this song and rest in the presence of your loving Father. (And to my dear, radiant, beautiful friend–you are dearly loved! And you shine brighter than those stars God uses to show you His love.)

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 www.pattywysong.com
Jewels of Encouragement – www.jewelsofencouragement.com
The Barn Door – www.thebarndoor.net 

So today I made a major blunder–not the first. Actually, not the second or third, either. And I’m sure my editor at Clash of the Titles is about ready to tear her hair out. (Yep, I’ve called her twice this week.) Now part of it’s a Mac problem–not today’s error, but the other errors I’ve made this week.

(My name is Jennifer Slattery and I’m a PC).

Although technology is getting better, there are still many programs and downloads that aren’t Mac compatible. And I’ve got a pc (three Macs, one PC), but somehow it lost my wireless internet key, and the internet guys don’t have it. (Seriously?) So, to use the internet on my Toshiba, I have to manually plug my Toshiba into the modem. Not a big deal, right? Except the modem is in the loft in the entertainment center about four feet off the ground and the cord is maybe four and a half feet, so there’s a bit of juggling involved. (Maybe it would have been better to keep our desktop…)

Enough complaining–you’re wanting to know what I did, right? Wow, tad bit morbid this morning, aren’t we? What’s that saying? Misery likes company? Just kidding.

So this week was my week to host COTT, and we’ve got a definite order of how things are supposed to go. Only I got so caught up in the stories and the comments from our readers, and the neck-and-neck polls (52%-48%. Now that’s close!) that I posted the winners. Not just on our site, but all through out cyberspace. Meaning, I can’t fix it. (Winners aren’t supposed to be announced until Friday. Surprise!)

I had to eat it. Tuck tail, send out emails to both competing authors, copy in my editor, asking for mercy. I offered a consolation prize–an interview on Reflections. But I blew it, and these authors deserved better.

I tend to do stuff like this often. For someone who gnaws things to death (my husband’s words, not mine) I sure live by the seat of my pants a lot. It can get downright discouraging, and rather embarrassing. I’m frequently sucking on my toes. (Open mouth, insert foot.) Which is why I like Peter so much–one of the sons of thunder. My husband says I’m like a bull in a china cabinet.

If he says it with a smile, does that mean it’s a good thing?

I guess that depends on which side of the table you’re on.

I’ve got a friend who can see the good in every situation. I love talking to her.

“You’re a pit-bull.”

“Okay…???” (I’ve got stinky breath? I suck the life right out of you? I need to be chained?)

“In a good way. When…” (And she relates a positive example.)

I lift my chin and square my shoulders. “Yeah, I see where you’re going.” Chest puffed out a bit more. “Right, pit bull. I like that.”

We’ve all got hints of Peter, or Thomas, or Martha’s in us.

Even as I say that, I’m imaging numerous images come to mind. Peter was impetuous, a trait that caused him to eat his words on at least one occasion, but he was also passionate. Impetuous/passionate…See where I’m going?

Martha was like a type A to the extreme. I bet she drove her people-oriented sister, Mary, crazy! And yet, she got things done. She took care of details. She never would have bombed the COTT deal today.

Thomas, doubting Thomas, full of questions. And yet, he got his questions answered, resulting in total, unwavering faith.

Every personality has its strength along with a dose of weakness. And according to my dear friend Katie Johnson, our greatest strength often doubles as our greatest weakness.

Not sure what to do about that. It’s not like I can suddenly decide to change my personality, replacing all those negative qualities with positives, although I console myself with the knowledge that God’s not through with me yet. And although I’m tempted to retreat into a nice, safe, non-impetuous-provoking world of laundry and vacuuming, I’m not going to let my weakness get in the way of obedience. Sure, I’ll have to tuck tail once in awhile, owning up to my mistakes and asking for an extra dose of grace–but I’ve already got all the grace I need in Jesus.

In the meantime, I’ll learn from my mistakes and do the best I can to compensate for them.

What about you? What tends to be your greatest weakness and how might it also be a strength? What steps can you take to overcome your weaknesses?

(And as a side-note. Thanks to Lena, Tiffany, and April, for their immeasurable patience!)