When God Speaks–Our Role

Listening to God on image of a flower

God is always speaking to His children, always guiding us toward His very best, but sometimes His voice grows faint amid the noise and confusion all around us.

Early in my parenting days, I was probably the most insecure, and often confused, mother around. I felt bombarded by advice, warnings, and contradicting tips from so-called experts. As a result, I routinely felt overwhelmed. Initially, I tried to raise our daughter in my wisdom and strength, largely because I hadn’t learned to discern God’s voice. Therefore, I gave too much weight to the faulty and often shifting “insight” of others and falsely believed I could make sense of it all.

This characterized every area of my life, actually, and in fact, had for some time. But my so-called intellect rarely brought the results I wanted, nor did I experience the peace and confidence I craved.

Granted, I did pray. Oh, how I prayed. Only I wasn’t always alert to God’s answers—in part because I rarely sat still long enough to hear Him. And when I did, though my heart initially pricked with the confidence and assurance that can only come from God, shortly after “common sense” or popular opinion overshadowed His perfect wisdom.

I often resembled a woman caught on an inflatable in the middle of the tumultuous ocean. James, Jesus’s brother, describes this scenario in James 1:5-8, and while he was speaking specifically on how we as believers ought to handle life’s difficulties, the principles he reveals apply to all of life.

James begins by encouraging us to seek God’s guidance, saying, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV)

This brings me such comfort because it tells me, in effect, that God doesn’t expect me to know it all. He doesn’t expect me to have life all figured out, or even to know His will perfectly. Rather, He expects me to seek Him, and when I do, no matter the question, no matter the struggle, He responds with grace.

And yet, responsibility comes with this access and invitation, for he goes on to say in verse 6, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,” hold tight to what God tells you, “because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

When we doubt the very truths God Himself deposits into our souls, our thoughts become divided and disordered and we become unstable, pushed and pulled in whatever direction feels strongest or screams loudest. What an unsettling, if not terrifying, place to be!

Have you ever tried to swim or paddle in choppy water? I have, and it’s exhausting and defeating. For every stroke forward, the waves pull you two strokes back, then shove you to the right, then the left. Without a bright buoy to mark one’s course, it’s easy to get turned around completely and find yourself, hours of intense physical labor later, a long way from where you need to be.

A few years ago, our family vacationed to Hawaii. One afternoon, my daughter and I went paddle boarding in the ocean—over jagged Prayer for a listening ear on pink backgroundbalsamic rock and in waters where sharks truly do lurk. Close to the shore, I felt no danger, and so I relaxed and allowed the current to gently carry me farther out to sea. At some point, I became more alert to my surroundings and realized how far I’d drifted. The people on the beach looked so small and the water surrounding me so vast and deep!

I felt vulnerable, to say the least, and so I began hurriedly paddling back, but no matter how fast and hard I paddled against the waves, I didn’t seem to get anywhere. I only grew more tired, and certainly more frightened.

Praise God, I did indeed make it back, but that experience painted a vivid reminder of what life feels like when we’re not anchored to Christ and His truth. We’re unstable and unsettled, pinged from one philosophy or decision to the next.

Praise God there’s always grace, but life’s hard enough, y’all, without wasting time and energy heading away from our finish line and all the great things God has in store for us. We can trust Him to lead us toward His very best at every moment. But we must trust—trust that He will indeed guide us in His way and His perfect timing. And trust that His ways truly all best.

That’s not to say we’ll never experience doubt, but when we do, may we bring our questions and uncertainties to the One with all the answers. And when He speaks, we must choose to believe what He says, or soon we’ll discover we’re on treading aimlessly against life’s tumultuous waves.

What is God saying to you lately? How can you hold tight to the truths He’s already given you? How can you move forward in faith?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, and connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

Catch my Faith Over Fear podcast HERE.

Snatch my next release, Building a Family, HERE.

And find inspirational messages from my ministry team members HERE.

Additional resources:

The Divine Dance by Jennifer Slattery

Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer

Discerning the Voice of God Bible reading plan by Priscilla Shirer

Also, don’t forget about our online book discussion this evening at 7pm CDT! We’re working through Breaking Free from Fear by MariaBook discussion invite Furlough. Contact me HERE for more information on how you can join us.

I also invite you to join Wholly Loved‘s private online Facebook community, a safe and encouraging place to share your struggles, fears, celebrations, and prayer requests. Find us HERE. And make sure to participate in our #freedomchallenge! All participants are automatically entered into a drawing to win all THIS.

 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Resting in God Our Rock When Our Enemies Attack

quote on staying close to God

In 2006, my husband stepped into an ugly power struggle that nearly cost him his job. In the span of a year, he’d changed employment three times, landing, precariously, at the company he’d started with, but in a different location and with a pay cut and demotion. The organization he initially quit, with zero notice. Therefore, though my husband’s former boss, through God’s grace, invited him back, Steve’s position felt shaky at best. Like he was one mistake away from unemployment.

Adding to this mess of uncertainty was the fact that my husband was coming in both equal and under the current shop director. A man accustomed to little oversight, and whom we soon discovered was behaving unethically in countless ways. He was allowing employees to “steal” time, was misreporting injuries, misusing his company credit card in outlandish and grievous ways, and gave those with influence special privileges. Worse, he pressured my husband to comply with his dishonest tactics.

Though anxious, my husband refused, knowing, however his boss responded, whatever occurred, his allegiance was to Christ and Christ alone. He made the right hard choice. The result: the truth eventually came out, his boss and numerous managers were fired and walked off the property, while my husband was promoted.

We rejoiced at God’s goodness and grace, celebrating the fact that righteousness and justice had prevailed. Soon, however, our praise turned to desperate prayers for God’s intervention and protection as evil, power-hungry men used to getting their way slandered and attacked him.

One man in particular, the union rep, determined to make it his mission to get my husband fired. Every day, he bombarded my husband with accusations and demands in an attempt to wear him down. When this didn’t work, he turned to the Chief Executive Officer telling him how “terrible” my husband was. Once sent, he printed and prominently displayed the letter he wrote, in which he’d twisted everything my husband had or hadn’t done in an effort to make him look bad.

While walking down the hallway one morning, my husband happened to see this letter, tacked on one of the union bulletin boards. He felt attacked and deeply fatigued. Not only had his continual decision to make the right hard choice not produced positive results, but it’d landed him in a mess. One that felt never-ending and in fact appeared to be gaining momentum.

With every interaction, my anxiety climbed. What if this man succeeded and Steve’s company let him go? Where would he work? How would we pay our bills? Our mortgage? What if we lost our home?

Initially, our world felt out of control. Our security only as steady, as sure, as my husband’s next paycheck. But then we remembered our sure foundation, the immovable rock upon which we stood.

Psalm 18:1-2 says, “I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliver.”quote pulled from post

This was written by ancient Israel’s second king, a mighty warrior who’d once defeated a tyrannical giant without displaying a hint of fear. But this warrior found strength not in himself and his military prowess, but instead in His sovereign, all-powerful, ever-present God. He recognized how insufficient, how vulnerable, he was apart from God, but more so, how protected, untouchable, he was when raised upon the crags of God’s love.

Towering rocks or bluffs dotted the landscape of ancient Palestine, providing places of refuge, of protection, for all who scampered upon them. These elevated geological edifices were difficult to reach and offered shelter within their caverns. Therefore, they became places of safety in times of danger.

Fortresses offered similar protection. The people built heavily-fortified cities high upon a cliff, where they could see enemies approach for miles. Then, they erected stone towers at the highest point in the city.

Can you sense the layers of protection revealed in the Psalm 18 passage? In Christ, we stand high upon an immovable rock of power and grace, further hidden within the clefts of His love. His strength is greater than anything or anyone that comes against us. We are triply protected within His steadfast embrace. He is our sure and constant deliverer, the rock beneath our feet, and the fortress surrounding us.

In 2006, as attacks continued to barrage my husband and our family, we hid ourselves deeply in God. When anxiety arose, we reminded ourselves of where our true security lay, and all we knew to be true about God. He was faithful, loving and attentive—unconquerable. He was our ever-present provider, the only One with the power to sustain us.

That year, He proved Himself to be all those things and more. I’m confident He’ll do the same for you. Whatever you’re facing, whatever is coming against you, rest in this: God’s got you. He’s standing beside you, within you, and is camped around you. He is your refuge, your rock, and your strong, fortified tower.

You don’t have to be strong or know all the answers—that secret that will somehow whisk you to safety—because in Christ, you’re already safe.

Let’s talk about this! When has God proven Himself to be your rock and your fortress? How might remembering this time help you when future problems hit?

If you’re facing a difficult, uncertain period, how might it help to shift your thoughts off your ever-changing circumstances and onto your immovable Savior?

If you currently feel under attack, make sure to keep an eye out for my upcoming Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing at the endLogo image for Faith Over Fear of this month by Salem Web Communications, my upcoming Faith Over Fear Bible reading plan, and join the Faith Over Fear challenge launching on social media on February 6th. You can find the Faith Over Fear Facebook group HERE and watch a short clip on unexpected anxiety HERE. Read the passage I reference in the video HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

Other people’s sin, our lives, and God’s Sovereignty

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Where does man’s choice, most specifically, man’s sin, and God’s sovereignty, intersect? I suspect we’ve all wrestled with that question at some point. We understand that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, faithful, and true. We believe the One who formed the stars from nothing and set our world into motion can easily orchestrate the details of our lives.

But what about human choice? What about when our boss makes a foolish decision and the company goes bankrupt, or one person’s sin drastically impacts the life of another? We all watch the news, and if we’re honest, we wonder, Lord, where were You when that parent began abusing that child, or that shooter purchased that gun, or that drunk driver got behind the wheel of his car?

Though admittedly, the answers to such questions are much more complicated than my temporal, short-sighted mind quote pulled from text with sunset backgroundcould ever understand, I’m comforted with this: Today isn’t the end, and one day God will indeed turn all things to good.

Scripture reveals this again and again. Consider Sarai, later called Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Her story is told in Genesis chapters 12-23. God called her and her husband out of a pagan city-state and led them to what scholars refer to as the Promised Land. They followed,  obediently it seemed, until Abraham became scared—twice—and betrayed his wife—twice. She soon found herself in a helpless, terrifying situation.

But God came through. He saw her, He rescued her, and He ultimately penned a beautiful story through her.

Then there was the young Hebrew named Joseph, born three generations later. God called him out from among his brothers for an amazing God-ordained purpose—the saving of many lives. Only shortly after that call, the immature teen bragged about a series of dreams God gave him. His siblings became enraged, beat him, and sold him into slavery. And that wasn’t the worst he experienced. Later, while serving faithfully in a foreign land, his master’s wife hit on him, numerous times. Driven by integrity, he rebuffed her. She became incensed, accused him of assault, and had him thrown into prison.

But again, God came through. Not immediately, not even quickly, but in His perfect timing. At just the right time, actually. He orchestrated Joseph’s release and placed him in a position of leadership, just as Joseph’s dreams had predicted, decade’s prior.

I could go on, and perhaps you could too. Maybe like me, you could even share examples from your life—of times when others attempted to harm you but God ultimately turned the situation to good, like Romans 8:28 promised. That verse states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (NIV)

Notice Scripture didn’t say, “God will only allow that which is good.” Rather, it says, “He will turn to good …”

In other words, yes, God may very well let us experience some of our worst fears. But when we do, we can trust that those terrifying moments won’t last forever and that God will one day use them for good.

Quote pulled from post with sunrise backgroundThat is where our confidence rests—not in the circumstances of today but rather the promises of tomorrow when God will make all things right. This means we can trust, though life might hurt now, heaven is coming, and I believe when we’re standing on the other side of eternity, experiencing life as God intended it, we’ll deem every momentary struggle endured today not only worth it but insignificant in comparison to the paradise God held secure for us.

Let’s talk about this! Where do you place your confidence? Do you trust that God indeed holds your tomorrow? And if so, how does that trust impact your today? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Also, I realized a bit ago, I never gave a “deadline” for the book bundle giveaway! I will close the contest to new entries pictures of bookson Nov. 16th. Y’all can “vote” on your favorite entry between from Nov. 21st through Nov. 30th. I’ll announce the winner the first week of December–that way whomever wins can use the books as Christmas gifts, should they choose.

For more information or to enter, go HERE.

And if you haven’t done so, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instragram. Check out her blog on Crosswalk HERE.

Resting in God’s Sovereignty and Infallible Wisdom

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Irony—heading to a speaking engagement on living centered in Christ and empowered by Him while firmly planted in my wisdom and strength. I know I can do so much more surrendered to God than I’ll ever do on my own, but sometimes I forget. I only see what’s right in front of me, and even that’s often distorted. But God sees all and knows all, including how He wants to use me. My role isn’t too figure everything out but instead to listen and remain pliable to His leading.

The more out of control I feel, the more I’m tempted to fight for it. As my focus narrows, my vision slips off of my Savior, and lands squarely on fallible, short-sided, and often deceived self. I begin to think that I have all the answers or the insight to formulate the best plan.

But then God reminds me, through the chaos, that He retains full control. He saw it all, before a moment unfolded,Psalm 147:5 because He knows all (Ps. 147:5) and works in and through all (Rom. 8:28). He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11, ESV).

As a speaker, I’ve come to expect my fall to turn hectic, that’s when most women’s groups book their annual retreats. Add in some unexpected contracts and schedule shifts, and what felt challenging before pricks all my insecurities. I worry I won’t accomplish all I need to in time or that I won’t complete the tasks well.

These worries pricked recently when a series of unexpected and challenging obligations hit.

Then came Friday, when I learned, due to unavoidable and unforeseen events, I needed to cover a speaking engagement for a friend the following Monday. No big deal, right? Sure, my schedule was tight, but I could make it work. Besides, I already had a talk written on the very subject the group needed. So, though stretched, I confidently replied, “No problem.”

She answered, in essence, “Maybe God has a plan for this.”

Such truth in that statement, for we know that He always has a plan. He’s always working behind the scenes, connecting dots and gently nudging us this way and that, as He perfects His perfect will. Sometimes we’re able to watch His perfect wisdom unfold before us; other times we catch mere glimpses and are asked to trust. To trust that He truly is sovereign and knows the best course of action, and the precise time for execution, for whatever we might face.

When God guides us toward something, He always provides all we need to accomplish whatever He’s assigned.

I know this. I do. But sometimes I get so caught up in whatever is before me, whatever seems to be standing in my way, I forget. And sometimes, in His love and grace, God provides not one but three traffic jams, and some missed turns and dead ends to remind me—He’s always in control, and His ways truly are best.

That’s precisely what happened Monday. The day quickly turned crazy with technological difficulties and numerous unexpected yet urgent responsibilities added to an already full day. As a result, I wasn’t able to rehearse my talk, other than in bits and pieces.

Then came the rush hour traffic I severely underestimated—in part due to an accident on the 680. Honestly, if I laid out my drive, you’d laugh, it became so ridiculously strange. I arrived slightly frazzled and frustrated to discover the group had experienced numerous hiccups and last-minute changes themselves. Relaying this to me, one woman replied, “I’m not surprised. Satan loves to trip us up.”

Though I understand the truth in her statement—Scripture does indeed tell us we have a spiritual enemy determined to trip us up, it also reveals a much stronger, more powerful and constant force Who is always working on our behalf. That became so clear, a short time later, as I stood and spoke grace over the woman gathered that night. Unprepared as I felt, I was forced to rely less on my wisdom and preparations and surrender to God’s leading.

I encouraged them to stop striving to be that perfect mom, to display perfect patience and grace, and to lean into their Savior instead. To let Him prove Himself strong on their behalf. The tears brimming in their eyes and the soft smiles that emerged indicated those truths resonated, I believe, much more deeply then my initial presentation would have.

That night, in my weakened, frazzled state, they got a little less of fallible Jennifer Slattery and a bit more of their ever-wise, ever-present King.

Because God knew. He knew what they needed to hear, and He knew precisely how to get me out of the way so that He could speak those truths through me.

Text from the post with a skyline pictureHis wisdom is perfect and His power unconquerable; knowing that gives me courage to surrender. In fact, I would be foolish not to.

May we all choose to say, daily, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

As we die to ourselves—our wisdom and our will—Christ’s power is unleashed within us.

Let’s talk about this! How often do you contemplate God’s unfathomable wisdom? What does His wisdom mean for your current situation? How does His unchanging nature encourage your surrender?

Share your thoughts and stories or suggestions with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

Before you go, I have fun news. Wholly Loved Ministries has released their next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

Before you go, I invite you to join me on Gail Pallotta’s blog to hear a bit about my first Love Inspired novel, Restoring Her Faith. You can read more HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instragram. Check out her blog on Crosswalk HERE.

When Our Greatest Need Leads to Our Greatest Blessing

quote from post with the backdrop of a blue door framed by ivy.

What if your greatest need, your greatest challenge, strategically leads to your greatest blessing? What if, in your place of struggle, of uncertainty, God is chiseling away all that is shaky and false to lay beneath you a sure and steady foundation? What if, when it feels as if everything around you is shattering, God is actually using those broken pieces to create something eternally beautiful and precious?

My mind likes to shoot straight to fear. When our car breaks down, or our daughter struggles, or maybe someone I love experiences a health challenge, I’m tempted to forget. To forget that God is with me, with us. To forget He’s ever present, certain and true. That His love is big enough to cover every need and hurt. But most of all, I’m tempted to forget that He is in my difficulty, using the situation to reveal hidden lies lurking in my heart. Shining His light on what is diseased in order to bring life and light to what’s gone dead.

For years, I felt food insecure. Even with a full pantry and well-funded savings account, financially, everything felt uncertain. I remembered my time wandering the street of Tacoma, of eating potatoes, and lets be honest, large quantities of malt liquor.

My vision from that time was selective, distorted. I remembered the hard more than God’s hand. And so, I lived in fear. Fear that, at any moment, the life I’d created—that I thought I’d created—would unravel.

In essence, I made much of myself and little of God. I placed my husband’s paycheck, or working car, or our checking account in place of my faithful Provider. Yet, in the deepest recesses of my fearful heart, I intuitively knew that none of those things had the power to carry me. But in focusing on all those lesser, powerless, ever-shifting provisions, I forgot who was and always has been holding me.

My focus on the “bread” hindered my view of the “Baker” and this kept me from resting firmly in His embrace.

This was precisely what happened some two thousand years ago, when Jesus and His disciples encountered a large crowd of hungry people. We likely miss the magnitude of this situation as most of us have never truly been food insecure. When we want something to eat, we run to the store or hit the nearest restaurant. But for ancient man, hunger was a real and pressing concern.

And so, seeing their hunger, Jesus said to Philip, one of His disciples, “You feed them.”

To which Philip replied, in essence, “Um, what?”

“Philip answered Him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’” (John 6:7, NIV). Peter responded much the same, saying “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:8, NIV).

Like I so often do, Philip and Peter allowed their need to blind them from their Provider. In that moment, the need felt huge and their God felt small.

Have you ever been there? I have. And when I land in that place, God doesn’t chastise me or turn away. Instead, He draws me close and says, “What you have is enough, because I, who always am enough, will make it enough.”

That’s precisely how He responded to His disciples. “Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish’” (John 6:10-11, NIV).

Did you catch that? Jesus didn’t just give the people a little. He didn’t feed them enough to hold them over until they could find another meal. He gave them each as much as they wanted. He gave them an abundance, because He is the God of abundance, and He wants us to know that He alone, not our jobs or our paychecks, will meet our needs.

Text pulled from post with a flower background.God calls us to utilize what we have, not obsess over what we lack. When needs arise, it’s easy to become paralyzed by our lack. But even in our lack, we have hope, because we have Christ. And the same God who used a simple lunch of five loaves and two fish can use our meager resources and feeble strength to perfect all that concerns us.

In fact, sometimes, oftentimes, He will allow us to land in situations that feel hopeless so that we can truly and securely grab hold of the only One who is hope. That is a precious blessing that will never fade or disappoint.

What are you facing today? What might God be showing you through it? In the middle of your struggle, what lies are rising to the surface? That God doesn’t care? That He won’t provide for or protect you? That He’s distant or not listening?

What does truth say?

Share your thoughts, stories, and encouragement with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another! And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram!

And for the creatives among us, I’m hosting a fun story lib contest to celebrate my new contract (another release scheduled for June 2020). The winner will receive all of the below books, signed. You can find out more HERE.

pictures of books

For those of you who feel unseen or unvalued, I encourage you to read my post on walking in Hagar’s shoes on Stephanie Landsem’s blog. Find that HERE. And if you’ve never read any of her novels, you totally should. She’s an amazing writer!

Contact me HERE if you’d like me to come speak (or video into) to your Bible study group, book club, or at your next women’s event.

When God’s Yes Seem to Turn Into a No

What happens when you’re certain God’s leading you in a certain direction and you land in a dead end? That question Road closed sign and conesbecomes even more challenging and frustrating when it seems someone intricately involved in your decision pushes back. This was the battle my guest found herself in.

Letting Go When God Says Yes

By Jenny Fulton

The fight began over something that sounded so good.

For the past few years John and I had been talking about attending Camp Logos. We love studying the Bible together and this training would teach us how to better utilize our primary research software. We’d agreed this was something we should do. However, we hadn’t settled on when. Our two daughter’s were young and the only family member close enough to babysit was a younger sister.

We decided to keep our eyes and hearts open for God’s timing and the right opportunity.

In early January of 2018, I found it. There was a 3-day training in April about five hours from my writing partner, Eric. John and I had discussed making the trip from New Mexico to connect with Eric and his wife in North Carolina. This was perfect! We could do both in the same trip!

“Is this it, God?” I asked. “Is this the opportunity we’ve been waiting for?”

I felt an inner assurance that it was. Words flooded my mind. “This will be good for you. You need this.”

That made sense. It had been rough several months. I’d suffered two miscarriages in four months and we’d also dealt with some tough family conflicts. We definitely needed time away. Although our girls were young (4 years and 16 months), I felt confident God would help us find adequate childcare.

I rambled off my findings to John and waited for his equally eager, “Let’s do it!”

It didn’t come.

He was hesitant, but reluctantly agreed to let me buy tickets for the camp.

Though I couldn’t understand his uncertainty, I dropped any further mention of it for the time being. I’d make him come around to the idea later.

At the end of January, I discovered I was pregnant again. Doubt and concern filled my mind. “How is this possible? What happens if I lose this one? Can I handle another death?”

John and I talked. Maybe another miscarriage would indicate it was time to release our dreams for children.

The trip seemed like a better idea than ever, though, on the other hand, would it be wise to be so far from my doctor?

February came and our 17 month old suffered 2nd degree burns on her arm severe enough to land us in the hospital for a couple of days. Besides feeling scared and heart-broken over her state, I also worried about the effects this stress might have on the baby within me.

Camp Logos felt like a definite no-go. How could we leave our little girl during her recovery?

In early march, life was still uncertain. However, my pregnancy and Sophia seemed to be progressing well enough that I again sensed an urge to go on this trip.

I brought it up to John and, although we’d already bought the tickets for the training, he resisted.

Why?

I made some inquiries, found possible babysitters we could maybe patch together to cover the time, and broached the subject again, this time with more fervency.

No change.

Why was he being so stubborn? Why couldn’t he believe this was a trip God told me we needed to take?

John was concerned about childcare.

Why couldn’t he trust I’d find the right people for the job? Why couldn’t he trust God to look out for our girls while we were gone?

In mid-march, it reached a climax. I pushed it enough and he resisted enough that we went to bed without speaking. Neither of us slept very well. We retreated to opposite sides of our king bed and turned our faces to the walls. The tension was as thick as our bulky comforters. Morning came and our cold withdrawal from each other continued.

I certainly wasn’t going to apologize. Why should I? He was the one who wasn’t trusting God.

Wasn’t he?

Something stirred in my heart. One person alone rarely causes conflict.

Maybe I shared the blame, but for what?

All day, I struggled to identify my part, but couldn’t find it.

That afternoon, our pastor came over to talk about the children’s lesson I’d be teaching. Instead, I ended up pouring out the details of the fight. Surely, if anyone could help me see my error, it was him. After all, I’d heard him point out everyone else’s shortcomings in his conversations with them.

But he didn’t help me identify my sin. Instead, he started going off on all of John’s failings, related to the fight or not, and presented confidence in himself as the better alternative.

Alarms went off in my spirit, and I inwardly withdrew.

The next morning, God revealed what I had been seeking.

“If you truly trust this trip is of My doing, then why are you trying so hard to control it?”

There it was; John wasn’t the only one who lacked faith.

“Do you really believe this trip is of Me?” God asked.

“I do.”

“Do you believe it enough to let go?”

This was a tougher question. Did I trust God enough to release my hold? Was I willing to give up on the venture altogether so He could work without my interference?

“I want to, Lord.”

It was a start.

John and I talked again that evening. I set aside my insistence and allowed myself to listen and feel his concerns for our girls. Can’t fault a man for being protective of his children can you?

In turn John heard my heart on the emotional and spiritual need for this vacation.

We came to an agreement. If I could nail down the childcare question, we’d both go. If I couldn’t, then I would go for the full week, and he would join me half-way through.

It wasn’t ideal—definitely not what I felt was best, but it was something. And this time, I knew I could trust God to bring about the best results.

Early that week, I finalized the childcare situation. A few days later, things came to a breaking point with our pastor. After attending one more service, we made the decision to step away from him and his church until we’d had more time to process.

Ultimately, everything came together better than I hoped. We left for the whole week. At Camp Logos, we rekindled our love for God and for studying Scripture together as we sat in a room full of likeminded men and women from all denominations. The second half of the trip was spent in the Appalachian Mountains where we had time to pray and work through the tumultuous events of the past several months.

God knew in January about all the turmoil we’d encounter. He knew about Sophia’s arm, my pregnancy, and the pastor’s behavior. God saw all of this and made a way for us to escape before we knew how much more we’d desperately need rescuing from.

God wanted me to rest in Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your wayswoman walking toward sunset with text from Prov. 3:5-6 acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (ESV).

Though it’s incredibly difficult to let go of our hopes and dreams, we need to believe that if they are truly of God, then He will bring them to fruition in far greater ways than we could imagine or manufacture in our own strength.

He is good.

May we continue to lean on Him and remember His faithfulness as we go through our week.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV).

How has God been there for you in past?

What are your dreams for the future?

Is there something God is asking you to let go of?

Get to know Jenny!

Jenny's author photoJenny Fulton is a writer, educator, and mother with a passion for communicating truth through stories. She works part-time as a free-lance writer and is a collaborative author for the Invisible Battles youth fantasy series. Jenny has three beautiful daughters and writes as much as time and opportunity allow. She loves the creative process and gathers inspiration from her experiences overseas, her years as a teacher, wife, and mother, and through in-depth study of God’s word.

Connect with Jenny on her Website, Facebook, and Instragram.

Before you go, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available on YouVersion.

You can find it HERE. You can grab a copy of Jennifer Slattery’s latest release, Hometown Healing, HERE.

Using Truth to Expel Fear

verse image Isaiah

We can cower to fear or stand firm on God’s truth.

I met today’s guest about a month ago at a writing conference, and we connected relatively quickly. Working on final edits for Dancing in the Rain, a novel with a blind main character attempting to navigate her way to independence (and being a woman, as grown as I am, who’s afraid of the dark, uncertainty, and change), I had recently begun to see my world differently, as the sight-impaired might. And I marveled at the strength one like Loni and Jena Fellers must have to not only survive in this busy, chaotic, rapid-paced world, but thrive and fully live for Jesus, no matter the challenges.

So, I asked Jena, a woman who’s done just that, if she’d share her thoughts on fear. I know you’ll be as encouraged as I was.

But first, I need to share a new law or requirement bloggers have encountered–one I’m still attempting to figure out. I imagine this is to counter spamming and intended to protect all of you. You can read more HERE, but if I understand correctly, I need to send all my subscribers a message re-inviting them to subscribe and letting them know precisely how their information will be used. (In other words, that by subscribing to my blog, you will receive blog posts–and your info will not be used for anything else.) My brain is still trying to process it all, but apparently, I must be in full compliance within 3 days. Prayers appreciated!

Now for today’s inspirational message:

How Truth Expels Fear

by Jena Fellers

“Mommy, there’s a monster in my closet!”

Fear seizes us at a young age. It first invaded mankind in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command  by eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Their eyes were opened to good and, evil. . .raising a new awareness. Afraid of God, they hid. (Genesis 3)

Ever since, the devil has put many fears in man’s mind:

* loneliness and abandonment
* spiders, snakes, and mice
* darkness
* accidents,  and natural disasters
* failure, or success
* death, or losses
* inadequacies

Fears will come, but God gave us a tool to defeat it–His Word. With Scripture, fear can flee as fast as lightening bolts strike.

God’s Word worked for me back in college. I suffered from night blindness and tunnel vision, courtesy of Retinitis Pigmentosa. Knowing His protective power from reading the Bible comforted me. I could stroll alone after night classes without fearing muggers, sexual predators, or stray animals.

The funny thing is, nothing scared me, but it’s close relative, worry, consumed me. I felt anxious about:
* passing tests
* hiring assistants
* money
* accessibility  to courses
* housing

I learned worry is the opposite of faith and didn’t want to disappoint my Heavenly Father by not trusting Him. Proverbs 3 :5 tells us to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding.Image of man reading his Bible

Phil. 4:6 boldly states “Do not be anxious in anything…” In other words, we shouldn’t worry or be afraid. Those emotions steal God’s peace.

Years later, after losing all sight, I put this concept of trusting deeply in God and His Word into practice. On a Sunday evening, a storm blew in from nowhere.

The sunlight peered through our country home  windows as the television announced a severe thunderstorm warning. My pastor husband chose to hold evening services since it should miss us.

Hail soon pounded our van. On the ride (over the phone), I attempted to calm family members who were afraid it was a tornado; not a thunderstorm. I was oblivious a rope-like tornado had started playing chicken with our van.

Realization dawned as Steve whipped in our church parking lot, told our daughter to run inside, grabbed me, and promptly laid me down next to the external wall. We prayed as his body covered mine, and the tornado struck the opposite side, spraying debris all around us.

I was amazed at the overwhelming peace I felt, especially learning the reason we stayed outside was because the wind had hurled a board directly at my head.

When praying, I focused on asking God for help, and peace. I concentrated on placing my complete verse image for 2 Tim 1:7trust in Him, regardless of the outcome. Trust is faith. It also helped knowing fear doesn’t come from God, but from satan. “For God gave us a  spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV).

We don’t have to live enslaved to fearful thinking. According to Romans 12:2, we can renew our mind, and Phil. 4:8 tells us how.

Next time fear’s symptoms arise (nausea, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, sweating, anger, or light-headedness), choose to stand on the truth of God’s Word. If you’re stubborn like me, then ask yourself whose report will you believe? You’re either believing a lie or God’s truth. Will you believe the lie trapped in your mind, or God’s Word?

We have the power to take every fearful thought captive, lock it up, and throw away the key. The choice is ours.

Let’s talk about this! What fears haunt you, and how do you fight it? What other verses are helpful

Get to Know Jena!

Jena Fellers walks by faith; not by sight. . . physically, and spiritually. Three adult children and four Author photo of Jena Fellersgrandchildren fill her with joy. Serving alongside her husband, they have pastored Trinity Worship
Center in Baxter Springs, Kansas for twenty years. Having little to no vision hasn’t stopped her. They founded Word in Action Ministries in 2009. It rebuilds lives through feeding and more.. This year marks their millionth meal served – all without knowing where money, or  help, would come. God truly provides.

Jena plays her flute on the praise and worship team, and teaches Children’s  Church and Sunday school. Thanks to an affordable screen reader, Jena now pursues writing. She loves to  excite, educate, and encourage others to follow Christ a little closer through speaking and blogging. Her first book, “Faith Footprints” is underway.

Visit her website HERE, follow her on Facebook HERE, and check out her ministry (cofounded) HERE.

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For those who are local, make sure to join us for Wholly Loved’s next Bold and Brave Conference on June 23rd in Lincoln, Nebraska. You can find out more and register HERE.

Before you go, if you haven’t signed up for my quarterly newsletter, I encourage you to do so.

Subscribers image of cover for study based on 1 Timothyreceive great content, like a short story, devotion, recipe, and more, sent directly to their inbox, and a thank you gift–a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (ebook, sent separately). You can sign up HERE.

If you have signed up for my newsletter and haven’t received the ebook, please let me know. You can contact me HERE.

I also encourage you to sign up for Wholly Loved’s free quarterly newsletter, releasing at the end of this month.You can do that HERE 

Speaking of freedom, I also invite you to read my latest Crosswalk article on 10 prayers that can help transform your finances. You can read it HERE.

I also invite you to visit Wholly Loved’s website to read about those fears that creep up on us and how we can fight them. You can do that HERE.

Safety Net

safetynetjpgLife is a lesson in trust. In choosing to fix our thoughts on God’s promises or obsess over our fears, concerns, and anxieties. We may feel as if we’re free falling, but as you’ll see when you read my friend, Toni Shiloh’s post, we never are. We’ve got a strong, sure, unmoving safety net. So if God calls you to jump …

Safety Net by contemporary romance author Toni Shiloh

Have you ever stood on the ledge of choice making and wished there was a safety net to catch you? It’s hard to overcome fear at times. We’re shown too many times the consequences when something goes wrong. For those of us who struggle with anxiety, worry, etc, making a decision and taking the steps to bring it into fruition can be particularly troublesome. We wish for a safety net. We want to know with 100% certainty, that God will make our choices a success.

And we’re always told we have to take a leap of faith. That there are no guarantees. It’s not something we want to hear. It’s not something that soothes anxiety. Well, today, I’m here to tell you, there is a safety net. God’s Word has shown us this, but it wasn’t until a recent sermon at church that it finally dawned on me.

trustprov30-5verseProverbs 30:5b, states, “He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” (NKJV).

Y’all, our safety net is trust.

We should not be scared to trust in a God that has proven Himself over and over again. He is a God who makes promises He keeps. Not just any type of promises, but covenants that are unbreakable. Jesus shows us this when He establishes the new covenant.

“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28, KJV).

We can trust God because He is TRUST.

 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6 KJV).

We should trust that no matter what happens, it happens because God has our best interest at heart. Theretonisquote are no failures when we take a leap of faith, although the world may disagree. The world may see a person who lost their job as a failure, but God sees a person who is now free to pursue His pursuits. The world may see a person who is debilitated by chronic illness, but God sees a person who has made Him their strength.

Trusting in God frees us from the constraints that the flesh (and enemy) would put on us. Trusting in God allows our perception to finally match that of reality: God’s way. When fear comes upon us, when anxiety seeks to freeze us, we must:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV).

God has you, so trust Him.

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Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the local Virginia Chapter.

You can find her on her website.

Her latest release, Buying Love, a sweet romance that is receiving great reviews, is the first in her Maple Run series. Reviewers are calling this novel refreshing, engaging, with a much-loved heroine that is equal parts sassy and sweet and a hero MeezCarrie from Reading is My Superpower calls yummy.

 

blBuying Love:

Will money ruin everything?

Nina Warrenton is ready for the next step in her life plan—marriage, but there is one problem. No one has proposed! Taking matters into her hand, she places an ad in the newspaper hoping to entice a willing stranger. But when she begins to fall for the small-town chef, she realizes how much she wants him to love her and not her money. 

Dwight Williams needs fast cash to save the family restaurant. When he sees Nina’s monetary offer for a husband, he goes for it. He’s determined to save the legacy his dad left him, but can he let it go to prove his love for her?

 Can Nina and Dwight find true love, once money has entered the equation?

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. How did Toni’s post speak to you? Is God asking you to step out, or perhaps to be still? Or maybe to view a situation through His eyes, knowing He is always working all things out for your good? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook at Living by Grace or in the comments below, because we can all encourage and learn from each other.

Trusting God With Our Children Part II

When did our children’s behavior become an extension of ourselves? Or am I the only one who seems to have a difficult time recognizing that my child is autonomous, able to make her own decisions and mistakes? When I speak to parents, especially those raising prodigals, I encourage them to analyze the parable Jesus told of the man with the wayward son. Once we recognize who the father represents in the story, I believe we’ll begin to cut ourselves some slack. Because honestly, parenting is crazy-tough, and we all could use a fair amount of grace in this area.

headshotToday, Robin Patchen visits us again to share part two of her encouraging and insightful piece on what it looks like to entrust our children to Christ.

Trusting God With Our Children Part 2 by Robin Patchen

When my oldest chose drugs over our family, my husband and I let him walk away. But we didn’t forget him—not for a moment. No, we prayed and begged God to bring him home. At one point when I was praying, I felt the Lord’s words in my ears. “Do you trust me with your son?”

Did I trust him? Too many young people, many children of godly parents, get lost to drugs and alcohol—or simply lost to their own foolish choices. Some kids end up in prison, others end up homeless. Some run away and aren’t heard from for years. And some end up in the grave. There are no guarantees for any of us. Trusting God meant facing that my son could be lost to us for a time, or for good. But I knew I couldn’t fix it, and I believed God could. I was out of options.

I decided at that moment that I did trust Him with all my children. It was either trust Him or go mad with grief and fear.

My first-born’s story has been a testimony to God’s provision. He brought my son home. He went to rehab, he got clean, and now he’s studying to be a missionary with Youth with a Mission.

God’s plan for my son was not my plan for him. He rejected us and rejected God, but God never rejected him. God wooed him back, pulled him through, and turned him into this amazing, Spirit-filled young man with a burning passion for Christ. None of that would have happened apart from the rebellion that started it all.

So are we failures as parents, because our son landed in rehab? Or, are we good parents, because now he’s walking with God? Or, are we merely imperfect parents, doing our best—all anyone can be asked to do? God knows our faults and shortcomings, and He blessed us with these young people anyway. How they turn out is ultimately in His hands. No matter what happens, I will continue to trust Him with my children.

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Robin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can’t pursue her other dream.

If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world–twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don’t want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Find out more at Robin’s website, and connect with her on Facebook.

robin_twistedliesTwisted Lies: Hidden Truth Series Book #2

She thought they’d never find her.  And then her daughter vanished.

Marisa Vega’s life as an adoptive mom in a tiny Mexican village isn’t what she’d dreamed while growing up in New York, but as the target of a man who’s convinced she stole millions of dollars from his financial firm, Marisa believes hiding is her only way to stay alive. When her daughter is snatched and held for ransom, Marisa must discover who really stole the money in order to rescue her.

Months after being kidnapped, tortured, and left with PTSD, Nate Boyle is ready to live a quiet life in rural New Hampshire. When the source of his breakout newspaper article—and the woman who haunts his dreams—begs for help, he gets pulled into a riddle that’s proved unsolvable for nearly a decade.

Can Nate and Marisa unravel the years-old mystery and bring her daughter home?

Buy it on Amazon, KoboiBooks, B&N, and find it on Goodreads.

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ

JohnStudy1

 

I had a very difficult pregnancy, one characterized by the constant fear that I would lose the precious child I’d prayed for, that I’d grown to love so deeply, from the moment I knew she existed. One night in particular, everyone–myself, my husband, our doctor–was certain I had. I was awakened in the middle of the night by a strong, rapid, and continual trembling and rolling in my abdomen followed by significant bleeding, and my husband rushed me to the hospital. As I lay on that cold, hard table, all I could  pray was, “No. Please Lord, no.”

I went home that night with my sweet Ashley, still very much alive, but my prayers took on a desperation after that. A bit of bargaining*. “Lord, if you’ll just help me keep this baby to term, I’ll give her back to you.”

I remembered that promise often in the days and years ahead: When I was tired and table-rock-943215_1920-1tempted to forgo our nightly Bible reading. When I was frustrated and tempted to take the easy road, parenting wise. When my heart was breaking over something she’d endured and I was tempted to focus on fixing the situation rather than helping her grow in Christ.

All I can say is, 19 years later, as I see the young woman God’s molded our girl into, I’m oh-so-grateful for that promise and how God used it to help me raise a child who does her best to reveal Christ.

This is our focus this week in our For the Love Bible study, and my special guest author Candee Fick talks about what this looked like for John the Baptist’s parents and how we can follow their example.

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ
by Candee Fick

It’s not everyone who gets a supernatural birth announcement or a miraculous baby after years of infertility. Personally, I think Zechariah and Elizabeth might have needed the baby-179378_640overly-dramatic beginning to give them the stamina and dedication to prepare their child for his destiny—to prepare the way for the Messiah. Every day they saw John’s face they had to remember that God was intimately involved in their lives, and then remember that John was born to tell others about the coming Christ.

Can you imagine the stories shared around the fire? John must have grown up surrounded by village tales of a heavenly voice in the Temple and a temporarily-speechless father not to mention an entire hill country wondering what he would grow up to become.

John’s life was the stuff of legends and the angel even said he would be great. Being told he would be filled with the Holy Spirit and go before the Lord in the power of Elijah could have led him to believe that he was something special.

And he was.

Except he wasn’t the greatest. Somewhere along the way, his parents not only raised John with the skills he would need to fulfill his personal mission of bringing the people of Israel desert-1197972_640back to God, they had to teach him to deflect the attention toward God. Huge crowds gathered to listen to John’s message of repentance, then one day John looked up from baptizing folks on the banks of the Jordan River and knew the time had come for his audience to follow Someone else instead. Between the Holy Spirit and the training he received from his parents, John obviously recognized the pivotal moment for what it was and transferred the crowd’s fickle attention with his announcement for them to “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

How did John’s parents raise a child who pointed others to Christ?

  • First, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived a personal example of faith. Between their priestly lineage and the gift of prophecy at critical moments, John couldn’t help but be raised with a solid foundation of truth and the knowledge of God’s power through history.
  • Second, they obviously also set up some behavioral boundaries to keep him on the right path and not derail his future. The angel told them to keep him away from the wine and fermented drinks (a cultural sign that he was set apart for God’s work) while later in the first chapter of Luke it states that John lived in the wilderness before he began his public life.
  • Third, I have to believe that every time John did something great or had some amazing insight thanks to the Holy Spirit in his life, his parents pointed out how that was an example of God working in and through him. Always pointing John back to person-371015_640God so that he could in turn point others to God.

I’ve got a son who is gifted with some serious athletic talent. In fact, he lettered in four sports his senior year of high school and is now in college with a basketball scholarship. All that to say, it would have been very easy for him to get a big head and strut his stuff down the hallways.

While this isn’t on the scale of a John the Baptist, as a mother I have tried to constantly remind my son of the Gift-Giver and his responsibility to use those gifts in a way that points people back to God. I strive to keep the presence of God in the middle of our family through prayer, devotions, and natural testimonies of what God is doing in my own life. To identify examples of God’s hand at work in the lives of others. Ultimately, my hope is that my oldest son will use his platform as an athlete to be the right kind of example for younger boys to model as he deflects attention heavenward.

Consistently pointing back to Christ is a difficult lesson to learn and even harder to live. Yet aren’t we all called to do the same, to use our gifts for God’s glory and then become less so that God’s message can become more? Thanks to the influence of his parents, John learned to to do just that.

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danceoverme-500x750-1Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage, but a jealous cast member and numerous fruitless leads threaten to drop the curtain on her dreams and shine a spotlight on her longing for a place to belong. Meanwhile, Alex Sheridan is living his dream except for someone to share it with. When Dani dances into his life, he hopes he’s found the missing piece to his heart but fears the bright lights of a bigger stage could steal her away.

Will the rhythm of dancing feet usher in their deepest desires or leave them stranded in the wings?

Find Dance Over Me on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

And for a funny, more lighthearted post by Candee, visit my alter ego’s blog to read how she lives in continual weather-confusion. (You can read that HERE.)

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candee-fick_headshotCandee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Connect with Candee on her web site, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Google+.

Let’s talk about this! If you’re parenting now, what are some ways you try to raise your children to point to and reveal Christ? What makes this hard? If your children are grown, what were some ways you did this while they were growing up? Can you see the results of your efforts now that they’re adults? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments below on Facebook at Living by Grace, or join our Facebook Bible study group For the Love to discuss this further. Because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

john12-24versejpgAnd for those following our Bible study, here’s this week’s memory verse, one God intends for each of us to live out, daily, and to teach our children to do the same.

*Note: God’s will cannot be “bargained” nor does this post intend to support that or encourage one to even try. Rather, it shares a moment of heartache and terror and my human response, and how God later used that, because He truly can use it all–our successes and failures, our steps of obedience and our regrets and weaknesses.