ContemplativeIf only… Oh, the things I could do; the joy I’d have; the love I’d display! We’ve all had those days, times where we look at our hurdles, raise our eyes to heaven, and remind God of how different things could be if only He’d do X or Y.

Like we need–or even have the right–to tell Him anything. True, He could do X and Y and A through Z, but many times, He chooses not to. And we are left with two options: grow bitter or draw closer.

Really, it comes down to surrender.

Just this morning I had such chat with God, then I began working on today’s post. And remembered last week’s. I believe God might be trying to tell me something. Maybe He’s telling you the same thing.

Today Elizabeth Maddrey, author of Hope Deferred, shares a deeply painful longing she prayed God would fulfill, and what she learned–how she grew–from the experience.

ElizabethMaddreyHeadshotFor all those women struggling to conceive, I won’t even pretend to know what you’re feeling. But God knows. He sees every tear, hears every desperate cry. And He cares, intimately and passionately.

When Our Longing’s Remain Unmet by Elizabeth Maddrey

I never expected to struggle with infertility. I don’t think many people do. When my husband and I realized something was wrong, it was a punch in the gut. This wasn’t something I’d planned on. Nor was it anything I thought I could handle. The years that followed were some of the darkest of my life. I questioned everything—from God’s goodness to the purpose for my life. Everything became a struggle.

Gradually, as option after option failed to help us conceive, I felt God’s peace. It wasn’t an instantaneous thing, but a slow, subtle and almost sneaky deliverance from the constant questioning and heartache—even though I still had no answers.

Shortly after this, I began to run into people here and there and they’d mention infertility in one way or another. I’d compassionnever been particularly open about our struggles – my family knew and maybe one close friend. So to have these conversations occur felt random. And yet, as they shared their own struggles and questions, I was able to share with them my experiences from a little further down the path than they were. Though the pain was still raw, it helped me to see God using my experiences to encourage others.

Now, many years later, opportunities to share my journey have once again been cropping up. And I’m finding that I’m able to look back and clearly see God shaping and molding me through these trials. I don’t think we always get to see those results—we just have to trust that they’re there. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to see the results of Him working in me and that He’s seeing fit to use my journey to help others. But I’m also grateful because it’s a reminder that even when we don’t see His hand clearly, He’s still there and He still has a plan to use me if I’ll get out of the way and let Him.

HopeDeferredFrontHope Deferred:

Can pursuit of a blessing become a curse?

June and July and their husbands have spent the last year trying to start a family and now they’re desperate for answers. As one couple works with specialists to see how medicine can help them conceive, the other must fight to save their marriage.

Will their deferred hope leave them heart-sick, or start them on the path to the fulfillment of their dreams?

Buy it here!

Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity. She loves to write about Christians who struggle through their lives, dealing with sin and receiving God’s grace.

Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website or on Facebook: @elizabethmaddre, Pinterest:  and Google Plus

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. We all have times where our prayers appear to go unanswered and our struggles appear to mount. We all, daily, have to choose between self-centeredness (focusing on our trails, struggles, worries, longings, and concerns) and surrender (giving all we are to our Christ to be used by Him for His glory). One leaves us empty, the other brings joy and peace.

What will you choose?

On a lighter note, I have fun news to share. Yesterday I signed my third contract with New Hope Publishers. Here’s the unedited, preliminary back cover blurb:

Intertwined (working title that will likely change):

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.

Much thanks to Ami Carr Koelliker for inspiring me to write this novel and for all the help she offered along the way! You rock, girl!

And as long as I’m naming books, I can’t remember if I mentioned my second book, When Dawn Breaks, which releases in 2015. In case not…

When Dawn Breaks: (I should be able to reveal the cover soon. 🙂 )

Jacqueline wants purpose and restitution, but must she relinquish her chance of love to find it?

A hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate. Looking to begin again—and reconnect with her embittered daughter—Jacqueline heads north. Reconciliation is hard, but she has a handsome new friend to lean on. Most importantly, she knows God is standing beside her.

When her daughter rejects her, three children abandoned by their mother open their hearts. But can God use a woman who dashed the hopes of her own child to bring hope to someone else’s?

Finally, if you haven’t purchased Beyond I Do but want to, now’s the time as the preorder discount (26% off) won’t last too much longer.

Janet w leather scarf 1Today I am thrilled to have Janet Bly, widow to the legendary Stephen Bly who passed away in 2011, as my guest. I was honored to read and review her husband’s last novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot, and I loved it! But what I loved even more than the Stephen’s literary genius was the fact that Janet and her sons finished the novel after Stephen’s passing. What a way to honor a husband and father! Today, Janet speaks on hope–something I believe is crucial to mankind’s survival. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, mankind can endure heartache and trials unimaginable, if they have hope. But if hope is gone … Today Janet shares the story of one woman who was in the depths of despair and found hope through the love and words of a faithful friend.

But before we go any further, I wanted to announce the winner of Arkansas Weddings by Shannon Taylor Vannatter!

SusanMSJ, congrats! You won a copy of Shannon’s novel. I’ll shoot you an email soon to find out how best to get this novel to you.  And for the rest of you that didn’t win this go round, no worries! Another give-away starts today! Winner will be selected randomly from the comments below and will when one of Janet Bly’s books!

Teri finally got her life together. She had endured years of a long series of deadends, painful losses, and tragedy. But that was the past. Now she had a loving husband, three wonderful children, and no major crises.

Then her husband plotted a surprise. He had found a way to find her two other children she had lost contact with long ago.

“I was 21,” Teri explains, “an orphaned divorcee with only a basic education. My first husband had an intact extended family, education, and financial resources. He got custody of our kids.” Eventually, due to circumstances beyond her control, she no longer knew where they were.

Her husband’s news delighted her. She would be complete now. “I had in my hands a computer printout that told me all about my firstborn son. He was 5’10” tall, weighed 160 pounds, had hazel eyes, dark brown hair. He started driving on his 16th birthday, the year before. I also had a contact phone number.” Then Teri noticed a word that chilled her: “Deceased!”

Why was that on the page? Deceased? That couldn’t be true. How could my son be dead?

A police report was included: suicide. Teri’s mind and emotions shut down in shock.

“My heart turned dark. I felt God was out to get me, punish me for my many wrong choices. It was like a cruel joke. My poor husband tried to do what he could, but I felt I no longer existed. What he meant for joy turned into trauma. He took care of the family because I checked out. My firstborn was dead and later my firstborn daughter refused to meet with me. And who could blame her? I was sure I was the cause of her brother’s death.”

Teri had struggled with depression before and learned how to pull herself out. But not this time. All she felt was hopelessness.

In time, Teri’s hope revived again. But it didn’t just happen. Time by itself healed nothing for her. She needed time plus gutsy love. Teri’s load was lightened when a certain someone sat beside her and listened while she poured out her soul. When someone had the right words and actions at a critical juncture. God worked through her family and also a special friend to soften and redirect her exploding anger, gripping regrets, and gaping wounds of sorrow.

God uses people to kindle hope. Human relationships are among His finest gifts. We need at least one capable, willing confidante. Someone who has been trained in the fires of experience and the furnace of faith. Someone who will come alongside, go through the stuff of life with us. Or you can be that person for another.


BlyBook HopeLivesHere1AFind out more about how Teri survived in Hope Lives Here.

Today, shut out the world for a few minutes and treat yourself to one of these 31 short meditations. A month-long devotional guide with true stories, enriched with relevant Scripture passages, and prayers to encourage your heart.
Life offers enough troubles to keep things interesting. You may become impatient for relief under the load of heartbreaking problems. But God’s delays achieve fulfillment of His highest aims. He carefully prepares you for what lies ahead. Hope Lives Here weaves stories of humor and pathos with the display of God’s wisdom and goodness. God brings to each life the people and events designed to reveal the ultimate hope in Christ and keep attention on the future eternal glory of heaven.

Janet Chester Bly is a speaker on women’s issues, relationship challenges, and devotional themes. She authored 11 books, including Words To Live By For Women, Hope Lives Here, God Is Good All The Time, Awakening Your Sense of Wonder, and The Heart of a Runaway. She co-authored with her late husband Stephen Bly 19 other nonfiction and fiction books, including The Power of a Godly Grandparent, The Carson City Chronicles, and The Hidden West Series.

Janet and her 3 sons finished Stephen’s last western novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot. Read about the family project at the Bly Books blog:


Check out Hope Lives Here:

Let’s talk about this. Share a time when you were struggling and someone gave you hope. What did they do or say? How did that help you? Or perhaps you’re on the giving end. Do you have a loved one facing tough circumstances? How can you give them hope without sounding cliche’ or minimizing their feelings? I rarely know the right words to say, so often, I’ll just listen, or maybe send my loved ones a verse or a link to a song. I hope it is enough for them to know I care.

Ultimately, our hope lies in God and God alone and His promise of heaven, but while we are here on His earth, He has given His followers the task of sharing His love, peace, mercy, grace, and hope with others.

LivingbyGracepicI’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook atLiving by Grace. 

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.

The following is a true story, and one I’ll always hold close to my heart because it shows the tender heart of our Heavenly Father. There is so much tragedy in our world, surely God’s got bigger things to worry about then little old us and our day-to-day struggles…But no, no struggle is to small. This is something that will always amaze me. As a mom, it can be easy to view many of my daughters issues as trivial. Luckily God never has this problem. He’s able to see the big and the small, and is intimately involved in it all…because He loves us deeply. The Bible tells us His thoughts toward us are like the grains of sand on the seashore. Meaning, we’re always on His mind.

That’s a sobering, and comforting thought. Right at this moment, the Creator of the universe who set the world in motion, is thinking about you, watching you with love.

           Two years ago, our daughter asked for braces. After years of “bunny-rabbit-teeth” as she liked to call it, she wanted to feel pretty. She wanted her upper and bottom jaw to meet when she closed her mouth, although I’m not sure if she knew how much metal it would take to make that happen.

        After a few consultations, I made an appointment with a local orthodontist, and an hour and half later, we walked out, my daughter’s mouth filled with more metal than a recycling plant. Besides the normal brackets and wires, she had an additional jaw-moving contraption cemented to her teeth. The dentist warned us the pain would be intense as her bottom jaw moved forward.

       The following day, my daughter and I crawled into our van as the first rays of the sun began to poke over the Kansas City horizon.  If all went according to plan, we wouldn’t climb back out until the sun retreated. But what was twelve hundred miles? We were heading to Disneyland for spring break, and my husband was going to meet us there.

        I left prepared, or so I thought, with hot rags wrapped in plastic bags to soothe her tense jaw muscles during the drive and plenty of fortified drinks, yogurt and bananas. After a night of tossing and turning from teeth pain, I hoped my daughter would sleep through most of the drive.

       No such luck.

       “Mom, my teeth hurt,” she said the moment I started the van.

       “I know, honey.” I glanced at the clock on the dash. It’d been four hours since she’d taken Tylenol.

        I offered a quick prayer on her behalf, reached into my purse, fished around for the bottles, and pulled out the Motrin. In two hours, I could give her another dose of Tylenol. Not that I liked the idea of pumping my child full of pain medication, but it was better than the alternative. And the dentist had encouraged it, especially for these first few days after her orthodontist appointment.

      Of course, it didn’t help that she’d taken a face plant in school the previous day, swelling her lips and pressing her newly attached brackets into her cheeks. 

      My daughter closed her eyes as she swallowed the Motrin, her face scrunched in pain, and her head pressed against the seat rest.  In  five long minutes, the medicine would kick in.

     “Do you want me a warm dishrag? I heated them in the microwave before we left.” I reached for the bag of rags wrapped in plastic bags beside me, hoping they were still warm. “Dr. Lester said it’d help soothe your jaw muscles.”

      My daughter nodded without opening her eyes and reached her hand out. She pressed the hot rag to her jaw. I relaxed as I watched the creases of pain lesson on her forehead. A moment later, she curled against the passenger door and fell asleep.

       In two hours, the medicine wore off and she woke up in agony. I quickly reached into my purse and pulled out the second bottle stashed inside and handed her two Tylenol.

       I grabbed the rag wrapped in a plastic bag. It was cold. Rolling down the windows, I cranked the heat and held the rag against the vent while my daughter whimpered beside me.

        It wasn’t hard to imagine what it would be like to have twenty-eight teeth and your entire jaw pulsating.

       Ten minutes later my daughter said, “I’m hungry.”

       I grabbed a container of fortified juice knowing anything else would re-ignite her pain. This quenched her hunger for about thirty-minutes, causing her blood sugar to sky before crashing and burning. By noon, she was famished.

       I glanced at the signs along the freeway. McDonalds, KFC, Wendy’s. The deep-fried, extra crunchy fast food wouldn’t do.

      “Do you want ice-cream?”

            My daughter’s face puckered. Apparently she’d had all the sugar she could stand for one day. “I want soup.”

            I glanced at the freeway signs again. The next exit didn’t look promising. “Honey, I’ll try, but I don’t think we’ll be able to find any.”

            She moaned.

            “Let’s pray.” I grabbed her hand and she closed her eyes. “Dear Father, please bring *** comfort today. Watch over her and hold her tightly in Your arms.”

            Twenty minutes later, after weaving our way through a town with enough fast food restaurants to single-handedly carry the American obesity rate, we pulled into a diner parking lot and scampered out of the van. My daughter practically skipped her way to the front door. I could’ve laughed at her excitement—all for a bowl of soup. Who would have thought?

            I glanced at my watch. With five more hours of driving still to do, I didn’t want to waste any of it sitting in a small town diner. “Let’s see if we can get it to go.”

            My daughter nodded and followed me to the cash register and the twenty-something cashier standing behind it.

            “Can I help you?” The girl flung her jet-black hair over her shoulder and nibbled on a pinky nail.

            “We’d like to make a to-go order.” I grabbed two menus and handed one to my daughter. “What kind of soup do you have?”

            “Jalepeno’ cheddar and Tortilla-Bean.”

            My daughter gave the typical shoulder-slumping, over-dramatic teenage sigh.

            I scoured the menu again. Everything else was either deep-fried or chewy.

            I turned to my daughter. “Can you at least try it?”

            “I guess.” Another exaggerated sigh.

            And so went the rest of our trip. The pain medication helped a little. The heated rags worked intermittently, even if the hot air pouring from the vents burned our eyes and faces and made our skin itch with sweat. And that bowl of soup that we’d scoured the countryside to find? It filled her stomach for a about an hour and a half, leaving her even more hungry than before. But by then we were in no-man’s land, halfway between a tree and an electric pole.

            My daughter pulled her legs to her chest and rested her swollen jaw on her knees. “I know this sounds funny, but I’m craving tomato soup.”

            “Yeah, that does sound funny. You hate tomato soup.”

            My daughter shrugged. “Yeah, but I’m craving it. Maybe my body needs more nutrients or something.”

            “Honey, there’s no way I can find you tomato soup right now.”

           Okay, so you’re probably thinking this is a petty request. Certainly not one worth bothering God for, right? But when it’s your child who’s suffering, every tear shed breaks your heart. So I did the only thing I knew to do. And then I told her to buck up. And for the most part, she did, although a few complaints and requests slipped by every now and then. When hot rags weren’t plastered to her face, anyway.

            That night, exhausted and overtired from our ten-turned-twelve hour drive, we walked up to the hotel counter.

            “Good evening. Can I help you?”

            “We’re here to check in. Do you have any rooms?” My muscles ached as I leaned across the counter. My daughter slumped beside me. From the creases on her forehead, it looked like the Tylenol was beginning to wear off.

            “For how many nights?”

            “One.” We still had another ten hour driving day ahead of us.

            The clerk explained check-out procedures and handed us a map before flashing a smile. “There’s a small amount of tomato soup left in the kitchen if you’d like to have it.”

            My daughter’s eyes went wide and I almost cried. The one thing she’d been craving all day, and here it was waiting for her.           

            Thank You Lord, for Your tender mercies.

 Isaiah 30:18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him.”

* If you’ve got a “Kiss From God” story to share, send me an email at