Unstuck: Yielding to God’s Personal Growth Plan

What feels most tedious to you? Perhaps repetitious and unnecessary? I may be dating myself here, but whenever I consider God’s training, I’m reminded of the movie the Karate Kid. His coach actively invested in him, not by giving him great feats to overcome but rather training him through monotonous, ordinary tasks—washing and waxing a car. Painting. While we don’t for certain how long this went on, the footage indicates some time. Long enough for Daniel, the one doing all the work, to grow frustrated.

Why? Because he didn’t know his trainer well, and therefore didn’t trust him. In his absence of knowledge, he allowed falsehoods to grow: He determined his coach was not only not kind and caring, but was in fact manipulative. He felt certain the man was using Daniel for his own gain. As a result, Daniel wanted to quit. Had he done so, his story would’ve had a vastly different ending. That epic match where he conquered his enemy for good, in front of a cheering crowd? Never would’ve happened.

Daniel would’ve remained stuck. Stuck in his fear. Stuck in his ongoing pain as he dodged his enemy each day. Stuck in his defeat.

I’ve been tempted to remain stuck.

It took me twenty years, numerous moves, and attending eight different colleges in five different states to earn my degree. With each relocation, I waited to establish residency then pulled out my thick binder of dates and colleges, sent transcript requests to each, figured out what classes did and didn’t transfer. There were times I wondered, “Why bother.” Times when I could entertain lots of reasons, in fact, that I shouldn’t. The classes were expensive. I’d spent over half of my life without a degree and had gotten along just fine. And if I had to take conflict resolution one more time, I was pretty sure I’d scream. (And I may have. The irony was not lost on me.)

I’ve also been tempted to remain stuck in relationships and negative patterns of behavior, because sometimes the journey to change just feels too hard. Too painful, too long, and perhaps even a little too uncertain. Not because the outcome is indeed uncertain. Scripture promises otherwise. We know God will use everything we experience for our good, to mold us into the radiant, life-giving men and women He created us to be.

We know this in our head. But sometimes, trudging forward day after day, especially if it feels we’re getting absolutely nowhere, we can forget. We’re tempted to run ahead of God, or maybe dart right when He’s leading left or left when He’s telling us to turn right. Because in that moment of monotony, our wisdom suddenly seems brilliant, so brilliant, in fact, we feel we don’t need to wait on God.

Oh, how foolish can we be?

Looking back over my life, the early days of my marriage especially, the answer was—pretty foolish. Thankfully, God’s been patient with me, persistently nudging me toward increased health and freedom. Many times, this looked like a lot of apologizing, a lot of marriage classes and more than a few counseling appointments. A lot of difficult conversations where we passed the “talking remote” between us to keep the discussion balanced. This process was hard, many times frustrating. There were months where we not only felt we made zero progress but where we actually seemed to be slipping the other direction.

But because we kept at it, our marriage never become stuck—stuck in the hard, in the dysfunction, in the confusion and false perceptions.

I wonder what God was doing internally, in each of the Israelites’ lives and families, as He led them, day after day, through the desert. What attitudes was God adjusting? What falsehoods regarding His heart and His ways was He systematically correcting? What wounds was He healing through the monotony, the routine, the leading and the following? What relationships was he forging or strengthening?

Quote from blogHot, dry, tiring desert situations have a way of causing all our inner gunk to rise to the surface.

I’m certain this occurred with each of the Israelites, young and old, mature and immature, as they followed the cloud of God’s presence further and further from all they knew. All that was hard and defeating, yes, but familiar and predictable just the same.

Scripture tell us, “On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the covenant law.  Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran” (Numbers 10:11-12).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to camp. I like the fresh air, staring up at the night sky, the scent of burning wood, and the soothing sounds of nature. I do not like all the work involved, however. Packing everything into the car, unpacking it at the campground. Setting up the tent, arranging all your sleeping gear, finding wood, building a fire to cook (or heat) your dinner on. Waiting for cold river water to boil for coffee in the morning. (So painful!)

You might disagree, when considering a night, a weekend, or even a week. But what if you did this day after day after day? Erecting the campground each night, tearing it down each morning. Walking further, only to do it again.

Can you imagine the bickering, the fighting and crying and whining? The cold food the sore feet, the unkind words spoken in the midst of fatigue. Each moment an opportunity for growth, for radical transformation. Yet, when you read the full story, one thing becomes clear: Most of the Israelites remained stuck. Stuck in their disbelief. Stuck in negative patterns of behavior, in sin, in their miserable small-story thinking.

In whatever monotonous deserts we find ourselves in, may we choose to respond differently. May we choose to trust, to lean on Jesus, and to let Him grow us into something beautiful. Because as we yield to Him, that’s precisely what He does.

Let’s Talk about this! What is God teaching you now? What is He trying to grow in you? Most importantly, how are you cooperating with Him in this? Share your thoughts here in the comments below, because we can all encourage and learn from one another.

If you’re struggling with chronic illness and wondering how to grow in God through it, you might find my podcast, logo image for chronic illness podcastThriving With Chronic Illness helpful.  You can find that HERE.

If you’re struggling with anxiety related to C19 or any other difficult, desert-like situation, you might find my Faith Over Fear podcast helpful. You can find that HERE.

I also encourage you to join my private Faith Over Fear Facebook group (HERE) and my ministries private Wholly Loved Ministries group. Both are great places to find encouragement, support, and prayer.

 

Waiting Well

jrlkfafz-4e-elijah-hendersonWe all have struggles. Challenges we must face, uncertainties we must embrace. And sometimes, in the pressing forward and the waiting, it can feel as if God isn’t listening. And in the silence, we may be tempted to think He doesn’t care. But as my guest shares in the following post, He does, and He’s given us marching orders in the middle of the tough. Or should I say, resting orders … 

Waiting Well by Dr. Leslie Parker Umstattd

Over the past two years I have been sick. You wouldn’t know it to look at me on most days. Most days I’m up before my kids, getting lunches fixed, working, and going about my daily life. I may look a little tired but most people don’t notice. If you asked me, I’d say “I’m fine” because to tell you what has transpired over the last two years would be too much for a five-minute conversation.

There are days when I simply wanted to feel better, and in my mind I wasn’t asking for much. I’d cry out to God wondering why in the world this was happening but it felt like He was deaf to my tears, my suffering, and even my anger. I was frustrated at myself for getting sick and God for not taking it away. I read, I prayed, others prayed, and still nothing. Then finally, His answer–Wait!

I didn’t get there overnight and some days I don’t rest here but for today, I can rest well knowing that God is bigger than whatever is wrong with me and whatever my diagnosis turns out to be.

So waiting well sounds good, but how? How do I wait well when I feel lousy and I’m having a bad day? How do I wait well when I become frustrated at insurance and uncaring doctors? How do I wait well when it seems my cries to God for relief from the pain or just an answer seems to go unanswered? How do I wait well when I know that God could heal me if He wanted to but doesn’t?

I don’t claim to have all the answers but I can share five things God has taught me thus far. Waiting well isn’t easy but it is something that God calls us to do, just ask Abraham or Noah, maybe Esther or David, or even Jesus. All of these people had to wait on God’s plan to unfold.

lesliequoteone1) Realize it’s okay to question and get angry—just don’t stay there! Sometimes this is hard because there’s a very real struggle in keeping perspective when you are lonely, exhausted, in pain, or generally depressed. The emotions of the moment take over and judgement is clouded. Remembering the truth of what I know doesn’t negate my feelings but it tempers them long enough for me to gain perspective. The only real truth I know is God’s Word which leads me to number two.

2) Your lifeline as a believer is the Word of God. It is the only true and righteous place to find comfort and peace in times of wondering, wandering, and waiting. Scripture doesn’t always have specifics for every situation but it does have guiding principles for all situations. I know what God’s word says about waiting on Him. This is nourishment for an emaciated soul that doesn’t understand or needs to be quiet in times of chaos or simply needs direction in times of waiting.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As believers we are a community and there are brothers and sisters in Christ who desire to minister to you. Don’t steal that blessing. (P.S. I fail at this often!) There are others who are walking in this life with you and desire to be a part of what is going on in your life. Pick and choose wisely who these people are going to be for you. Believers whom you trust can serve you well in your wait. Whatever we are waiting on, someone has walked this road before and it is easy to forget that in the moment.

4) Keep doing! -don’t allow whatever you’re waiting for to stagnant your ministry or your life. God has created you for lesliesquote2something, allow Him to keep working in your waiting. Whether you are waiting on a diagnosis, a spouse, or a different pay check God is fully aware. Situations don’t determine your usefulness to God. He can use you, just the way you are-just where you are. With that said, a new season or situation brings about opportunity and sometimes in ways you never expected.

The last thing for me is sometimes the hardest, next to asking for help.

5) Keep an eternal perspective. Romans 8:28. “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord.” This is our hope that there is more than just the waiting. God is ALWAYS doing something. Keep in mind it may not be what you expected or even what you wanted but He is doing something in your or in someone else that is watching you.

Be reminded and encouraged He is faithful even in the waiting, allow Him to work and move, and don’t allow what you are waiting on to steal your first love. In your moments of waiting, take heart that God has never left you there.

***

16523735_10154246558168093_1704661183_oDr. Leslie Umstattd was born and raised in Alabama with her high school years being spent in Fairfax, VA. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a business degree. While there, God called her into full time ministry so she moved to Texas to go to seminary after graduation. She graduated from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth with my Masters in Religious Education and Marriage and Family Counseling and also met her husband there. They’ve been married for fifteen years and have two beautiful daughters, Ashtin is 13 and Jordan is 10.

After graduation from seminary, she worked in the public and private school sector as an elementary teacher until she moved to Kansas City. After moving to Kansas City, she completed my DEdMin at Midwestern Seminary. She’s been teaching and doing online development work for Midwestern for several years and serves at her local church on staff as the Children’s Ministry Director and heading up their women’s ministry. A couple of times a month she guest writes for a women’s devotional blog, Gracefully Truthful.

Let’s talk about this! Are you in a time of waiting? If so, which of Leslie’s suggestions resonated with you most? If you’ve livingbygracepic-jpcome through a time of waiting, do you have any advice to share with others who might be in a tough and uncertain season? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all encourage and learn from each other.

While We Wait For Guidance

thinkinglikechristGod always answers us, and often in unexpected ways.

I have found myself, once again, in a position of awaiting divine guidance. I’ve been praying throughout the day, asking God to direct my heart and to turn my will from mine to His. As I sit with my coffee, my Bible, and my journal each morning, I stay alert for God’s guidance.

This morning God assured me He hears me as I read Psalm 16:

“I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me” (Psalm 16:7-8 NLT).Psalm16verse

Not exactly the answer I was hoping for, but a promise none the less. Assurance that as I grow closer to Him, as I spend time with Him and reading His Word, the Bible, He’ll shift my thinking and sway my heart so that I can say, like my Savior did, that I only do what I see the Father doing.”

This is a process, and one that is infinitely more important than any decision I make today. I often have a very short term focus, getting caught up in the here and now. I allow myself to be deceived into thinking this thing, whatever it is, is more urgent, more necessary than the weightier and eternal matters relating to my character and spiritual growth.

This has become a cliche’ but I’ll say it anyway: God is more concerned with our journey than our destination. Yes, He is always working out His plan. Yes, He is always working on our behalf. Yes, He guides us regarding which path to take, what opportunity to accept or decline, and how to handle the difficulties that arise. Like a loving Father, He wants the very best for us.

But what if that best is not so much what happens to us but instead within us? 

Tuesday, as I was reading Psalm 15, I sensed God saying to me, “Why are you asking Me what you should do? You already know. Live out what you know to be right. I’ll show you the rest in time.”

Let me share the passage I read with you, one that has become my memory goal for this week:

psalm15versejpg“Who may worship in Your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter Your presence on Your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts” (Psalm 15:1-4 NLT).

There’s enough instruction packed in that short passage to keep me occupied for weeks. Months. The rest of my life.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. I like to have all the answers. To know what’s ahead and how to get there, and I can get so caught up on the whats and whens that I lose sight of what God is trying to do in and through me in the here and now. Can you relate? When you look back at your moments of uncertainty or indecision, can you see God’s hand working not just in the situation, but in and through you as well? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because we can all learn from one another!

Before I go, I’d love to invite you to visit the Wholly Loved blog where my ministry team and I share stories on how we’re learning to live wholly loved, as God’s image bearers who surrender our whole selves, quirks, faults, and all, to God, so He can mold us and use us for His glory as we learn to lean deeper into Him.

I also invite you to read a few stories behind the story in my newest release.

Read about how my family’s interaction with a poor, single mom in Omaha influenced the missional thread in Restoring Love HERE.

You can read how God used a difficult time to birth my passion for single moms HERE.

And you can read some of the reviews that have been coming in for the story HERE.

And for the discount lovers among us …

ebook-sale-2

Will You Believe the God of the Impossible?

JohnStudy1We know intellectually that nothing is impossible with God, and yet, when trials hit or dreams are sparked, it can be hard to live in that knowledge. Maybe because, though we say it, we don’t really believe it?

Today, continuing with our For the Love study, my sweet friend Maria Morgan shares how, when facing the impossible, we can choose faith over doubt. Because, yeah, it is a choice, and in Christ, we have the power to make it.

The God of the Impossible: Will You Believe?

By

Maria I. Morgan

Painting by Ashley Slattery of AS Art  asartgallery.wordpress.com/

Painting by Ashley Slattery of AS Art
asartgallery.wordpress.com/

Our God is a God of the impossible. The words of His mouth brought the heaven and earth into existence. He made the lame walk, caused the blind to see, and brought the dead to life. This is the God we serve, and yet in our humanity we often choose doubt over faith.

When trials come, our natural default is to worry, instead of rest in the One who knows what is best for us. I’m guilty. I start considering all my options in a feeble attempt to fix things rather than trusting the Lord to use the situation to continue to mold and shape me into His image (Romans 8:29).

Rewind two thousand years to when a couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth lived. The circumstances were much different, but the response was similar. They were “… righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6; KJV).

A problem

But they had a problem – they didn’t have any children. Elizabeth was barren. And they were well beyond child-bearing age. Children were considered a blessing, so Zechariah and Elizabeth’s childless state was viewed as a curse. No doubt the couple had prayed repeatedly for a child. It was a humiliating and impossible situation from a human standpoint – one that only Almighty God could change.

While Zechariah reverently performed his priestly duties, the people prayed outside. Imagine Zechariah’s shock when angod-of-the-impossible angel of the Lord appeared in front of him. The angel spoke, “. . . Fear not, Zacarias*: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth* shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John” (Luke 1:13 KJV).

How amazing! This was a direct answer to what was likely one of their deepest desires. While the people outside the temple were probably praying for the coming of the Messiah, the angel of the Lord was letting Zechariah know that he and Elizabeth would be the parents of John – the forerunner of Christ.

Questions & doubt

Although Zechariah had longed to hear this news, his logical mind couldn’t believe it. Questions plagued him as he responded to the angel with doubt: “. . . Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years” (Luke 1:18 KJV).

Sound familiar? When God’s answers defy human logic, we often choose unbelief over faith in the God of the impossible. Because of his unbelief, Zechariah was unable to speak until the birth of his son, John.

A few months later, the angel Gabriel visited a young Jewish virgin named Mary in Nazareth. She was afraid when the angel appeared to her. The message she heard from the angel was as unbelievable as what Zechariah had received. Mary would conceive and have a baby she was to name, Jesus. She didn’t understand. How could she have a baby when she was a virgin?

The angel’s explanation was unusual: “. . . The Holy Ghost* shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35 KJV).

Questions & belief

Mary had to decide: would she believe God, or doubt His word? Her response is beautiful: “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy Word” (Luke 1:38 KJV).

She believed God and embraced His plan.

You and I are faced with the same decision as Zechariah and Mary – will we trust God or will we doubt Him? Remember the God of the impossible is the same God you serve. Trust Him today!

Let’s talk about this! What difficulty are you facing today? What step will you take to trust God in your situation and obey with a “Yes, Lord” attitude? Join the conversation here or in our For the Love Facebook group, because we can all learn from and encourage one another! Then, make sure to come back Thursday to read an encouraging post from my sweet friend Susan Aken about something amazing God did in her life when her waiting ended.

Maria Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker. She is the award-winning author of Louie’s BIG day! Regardless of the age of her audience, her goal is the same: to share God’s truth and make an eternal difference.

Visit her online at Maria Morgan.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

And check out her latest Bible study, Outrageously Fruitful:

How do we win the battle against selfishness? Outrageously Fruitful is an 11-week online Bible study that explores the characteristics the Spirit longs to develop within us. Traits like: love, joy, peace, and goodness. Let go and let God make your life outrageously fruitful! For more information and to register: www.mariaimorgan.com/its-time-bible-study

*Zacarias is the KJV spelling of Zechariah, Elisabeth is the KJV spelling of Elizabeth, and the Holy Ghost is how the KJV terms the Holy Spirit.

 

When Faith Grows Strongest

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Photo by artemisphoto taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Those who know me well are familiar with my slight obsession with music. If a song touches or tugs on my heart, I’ll listen to it over, and over, and over. It’s interesting, in a round-about way, that through a certain song that’s landed on my replay list and Scripture verses read each morning, God appears to be saying the same thing, and that thing is focus. Surrender. And stay ever close, because life is too short and the stakes are too high to become complacent or self-centered.

The first two lines in this song get me every time, and call me to pray. To surrender. To fight the tendency to become complacent, distracted and lukewarm.

(To my sweet friend SandyT, I wanted to text you this song yesterday but couldn’t do so from my phone.)

I encourage you to prayerfully listen to this song by Cloverton before reading Paula Rose’s post below.

Turning From Lukewarm Faith by Paula Rose

There was a time in my life when I let my faith become lukewarm. It’s not an abstract, intangible place. Looking back, I realize this was my own doing. I hadn’t my circumstances nor my trials to blame. Pressure and pain weren’t the catalyst. My cool down came at a time when I was fine, but I was waiting in the hallway of life feeling like I’d been standing there too long, waiting for a window to open.

How can I even think about how long was too long?

I came to realize through tragedy something I forgot through the plush mountains of good times and inside the periods of “not just yet.”

My timeline isn’t His.

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Photo by anankkml taken from freedigitalphotos.net

We are all aware that tragedy will bring you to your knees like nothing other, but tragedy also brings with it silver linings that make you realize you are not alone. In the midst of pain, we can find who and what has been missing, and this is the greatest present of all.

I wasn’t granted a perfect ending. I was granted the ability to return to His embrace and to realize how off track I’d traveled. Through our life many changes will happen, people will leave, and our role may be increased or decreased on a certain stage. However, even through these emotional roller coaster rides, He is there.

I found in life that we can travel full circle and back again, but we might let go of Him when we’re too comfortable or too hurried. I’ve realized that the truest test of my faith wasn’t the tougher times, but for me, the true test was in the hallway. In the end, I had failed, but I was still welcome. I had failed, but I was still loved. I stayed silent too long, but He waited to hear from me.

This was how I came to be devoted, all over again.

***

Author Paula Rose brings an “average” family into extraordinary situations, brushes with life-size strokes of reality, adding just a touch of humor, and coats with suspense inside Christian fiction. Paula’s research gives readers a panoramic view from law enforcement and lends to character authenticity. She enjoys writing in the romantic suspense, suspense, and mystery genres, but when she’s not writing, Paula Rose is reading or playing amateur photographer. Member of ACFW. 2015 Genesis Contest judge. NetGalley member. 2014 Grace Awards judge.

Visit her online at Books-N-Reviews and on her website.

unnamedHer novel, Revenge:

As a job coach, it’s up to Olivia Foster to ensure her clients work in a safe environment, understand their positions, and serve their employer’s mission. The death of her brother drives her career choice, and she loves her job. It remains her only focus until one of her autistic clients goes missing. Then Olivia’s employer ends her position and adds her to the suspect list, but she makes plans to bring the missing young man home.

Detective Lt. Phillip Landon is deep into second-guessing his career choice, but his well-honed instincts see major flaws inside this missing person’s case. Surprising contacts, mysterious happenings, and threats can turn deadly. Can he keep Olivia safe, protect his heart, remove the job coach from someone’s target list, and adopt a faith he never knew all while adjusting to the new lives of his old family?

Find it online at ACFW Fiction Finder AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks, and discover deleted chapters and more of the story at Kobo!

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! When do you feel closest to God? When do you find your faith to be strongest and most influential? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Last Sunday a double amputee from my church shared his testimony, and in it, one phrase really stood out to me. He said God had trusted him to go through the trial he had.

Wow, is that not powerful? You can see his testimony in its entirety here:

Reality Stories – Dave Newell from Reality Church on Vimeo.

Finally, for those who are local and looking to do some Christmas shopping, stop by Barnes and Noble in Omaha near the Oakview mall on Dec. 13th from 1pm-3pm(ish); I’ll be signing all three of my novels.

Trusting in the God of Hope

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Photo by ClkerFreeVectorImages taken from pixabay.com

Life is full of uncertainties, and though I’m pretty sure, while waiting for something important, we wish God would come through right now! But it’s in the waiting, the following along God’s detours and reroutes, that our faith grows strongest and we are most alert to God’s hand.

Today prolific and hugely talented author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter, shares her signingexperience with waiting, rerouting, followed by more waiting.

And as an added bonus, she’s doing a special, multi-blog give-away to commemorate the Heartsong Presents line since it’s ending this month! How fun is that?

Baseball Memory Board

Comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Rodeo Reunion. Ten copies will be split among names drawn during the blog tour from June 1st – July 1st. One winner will receive a baseball themed memory board personally crafted by the author. Winners will be revealed on Shannon’s blog on July 22nd.

Trusting in the God of Hope by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Any time I’ve been down about my writing career, God gives me hope. Back before I was published and began to wonder if I ever would be, He’d give me encouragement by allowing me to place in a writing contest or an editor taking the time to write a positive note on a rejection letter. Those little fuzzy moments kept me going. He still does that.

Back in November, I learned the line I write for Heartsong Presents is ending. I was contracted for one more rodeo book and a new series of three books. With the end of Heartsong Presents, those four books were destined to never see the light of day. But I’d been through this before.

After my fourth book was published when Barbour owned the line, they decided to end Heartsong Presents. Even though I had two more books contracted. I cried and railed and mourned my books and my career. But a few months later, I attended the ACFW conference and my new editor told me to go ahead and write the next book in my series because another publisher was buying the line.

Six months later, I learned Harlequin had purchased Heartsong Presents. My final two books in my contract saw the light of day and I soon had another contract for six books. Fast forward four years and Harlequin made the same decision regarding the line. This time, I knew no one would buy it because there aren’t any other publishers who distribute category length romance.

But I didn’t rail and I didn’t cry. By this time, I knew God’s got this. A few weeks later, my agent called with a possible publisherkeyboard-690066_1280 to take on my four remaining books. All I had to do was add word count and tweak the books to fit their line. We went back and forth for several months trying to make my submission perfect.

A month later, the editor contacted my agent. What I’d done still didn’t fit the imprint, but she gave very specific instructions to make my books fit. And even went as far as calling me on the phone. That doesn’t happen often. Hope bloomed.

I tweaked the proposal again and sent it off. We’re going on seven weeks now. The editor apologized when my agent checked with her, saying she’s behind on everything and hasn’t even had the time to read my proposal. I was hoping to have a positive answer by the time my blog tour for my final Heartsong came around. Which is now. But I still don’t know what will become of my four books.

In the meantime, I wrote a long book I’ve wanted to write for a long time. It’s polished and almost ready to send to my agent so she can try to find a home for it. But the market is rough in publishing in general. As time drags, I’m getting discouraged.

Last weekend, I went to an annual writers’ retreat with ten women from my local group. We had a great time, visited, ate, ate some more, learned, and got some writing time in.

I’m the only traditionally published one in the group simply because my journey fell into place before theirs. I’m their encouragement—proof that getting published can happen. But my career is at a standstill. It kind of got to me.

Double RainbowOn the way home, I was praying and whining a little. I rounded a curve and the trees revealed an expanse of open sky. I saw a cloud with a silver lining. Then another. Pretty much a sky full of clouds with silver linings. Bordering all those clouds was a double rainbow. I take that as God saying He’s got this. I quit whining.

For the rest of my trip home, I enjoyed the canvas God painted just for me. And I know He’ll follow through on all those silver linings.

Award winning, central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows, and she once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots.

She has eleven published titles and is contracted for four more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Learn more about Shannon and her books at ShannonVannatter.com and check out her Real Life Romance blog.

Connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/stvannatter/, and Twitter: @stvauthor.

About her novel, Rodeo Reunion:

RAQUEL MARRIS NEEDS A MAN WHO’LL STAY PUT

And Slade Walker’s not a likely candidate. Even if the former major league pitcher just agreed to coach her son’s little league team. The single mom can’t risk everything on a bronc-riding chaplain who’s only passing through Raquel’s small Texas town.

Slade is taking a hiatus from the rodeo circuit to meet the sister he never knew he had. But the pretty widowed nurse next door is making him think twice about hitting the road again. He can’t turn his back on the cowboys who need him, but Raquel and her boy need him, too. Can Slade fulfill his calling and finally find a place to hang his hat?

Buy it:

At Christian Book Distributers or on Amazon

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Are you in a waiting period? What might God be showing or teaching you? Have you ever felt as if you’d slammed into a closed door only to find God had something else amazing waiting? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

 

Not My Way But God’s

Photo by Stuart Miles found on freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Stuart Miles found on freedigitalphotos.net

How often do we take God’s delay as “no”, or perhaps even lack of care. As if, because we can’t hear Him, He’s suddenly not listening? Waiting, on anything, is incredibly hard for me, and I think, if I were to get to the root of it, I’d find, my impatience stems from a lack of surrender. If you’re following our Fear of the Lord/Resting in Christ study, you may remember our discussion on half-hearted trust.

Oh to surrender our whole hearts, our whole selves, to Christ, even in, especially in, times of waiting–what peace and joy we’d have! These were the thoughts running through my brain as I read Kimberly Rose Johnson’s devotion. As you IMG_4314-2 Publicityread her devotion, think of whatever it is  you’re waiting on and how you can trust God with your whole heart, as Proverbs 3:5 urges, while you wait.

Not my Way but God’s

By Kimberly Rose Johnson

I have a bad habit of running ahead of the Lord. By nature I’m an impatient person who wants things done yesterday, but God does not work that way. I must work hard to hold back and allow the Lord to lead me, but my goodness it is a challenge at times.  🙂

In 1 Samuel 13:8-15 Saul had the same problem. He was impatient for Samuel to arrive and offer a burnt offering to God. He finally lost his patience and offered the sacrifice himself. Big mistake. Verse 13 tells us that God would have established Saul’s kingdom over Israel for all time if had he waited in obedience, but that wasn’t going to happen since he didn’t wait.

Prov3v5picI remember several times I ran ahead of the Lord without giving a thought to His plan and guess what? I ended up doing more harm than good. If I had sought His will and timing I could have saved myself a lot of grief.

It’s not always easy to wait on Him or do the things He asks of us, but when all is said and done His ways are better.

***

Kimberly Rose Johnson, soon to be empty-nester, lives in Pacific Northwest with her husband and their yellow lab. Island Refuge is her sixth book and the first in a series of three. Kimberly enjoys long walks, chocolate, and mochas, not necessarily in that order.

Island Refuge cover 25080381She’s the author of Island Refuge:

Five-Star-Chef Zoe Griffin walked away from her dream job. Did she make a mistake?

Her engagement off, Zoe Griffin retreats to tiny Wildflower Island in the Puget Sound. Hiding out as a cook and maid at a shabby bed-and-breakfast seems crazy for a chef who’s used to running her own five-star kitchen. And just as she starts to feel at home, her klutzy mishaps make Zoe fear her handsome new boss will fire her.

Dr. Nick Jackson is done with medicine, and owning a B&B is as far from doctoring as he can get. He needs help, but his only employee’s mistakes give him doubts. As Zoe lets her defenses down, Nick begins to see a competent and caring woman. One whose wounds are as deep as his own. But as they fall for each other, Nick and Zoe must learn the hardest lesson of all—to forgive. Only then can they heal the past and embrace the future . . . together.

Buy it on Amazon HERE.

You might also like:

When God Says Wait

And for those following the Resting in Christ study and who prefer watching videos in 5-7 min chunks, here’s part 2 of my talk.

Shoot me a message or leave a comment on this post if you’d like me to send you a copy of the 7-day study that goes with my presentation. You can also join our Facebook study group. You can do so HERE. I’ve learned so much from the other group members! It’s always awesome to talk about Scripture with other believers.

You might also enjoy this song, which talks about serving Christ while we wait.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to wait on Christ? What are some things you do while you wait? What are some ways, in your opinion, we can “Trust in the LORD with all [our] heart; do not depend on [our] own understanding” (Prov. 3:5)? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

When God Says Wait

A while back we talked about times when God says no and trusting in His love even then. This trust rests in our knowledge of His character:

God is good

Good is love

God is faithful, powerful, and sovereign

God is always with us

It’s largely about a change of focus. Will we focus on the closed door or on God and His unchanging nature?

But what about when God says wait? Sometimes I think that is harder than a thousand closed doors! It goes against our “do” nature and pricks at our insecurities. What if we surrender our all, keep walking, and God doesn’t pull through?

Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve wandered into the perpetual waiting room, and it’s easy to assume the not-yets mean no. It’s much harder to keep walking when the road continues to climb, the finish line shrouded from view.

Our faith is tested most, I believe, during times of waiting. The longer the wait, the more faith we’ll need.

For those of you waiting … for a job, an opportunity, a loved one to come to Christ, whatever, stop and meditate on the following passage. Take time to recall the history of each life mentioned and how long they waited.

Psalm 105 (I’ve pulled out the verses that impacted me most, but you can read the entire passage here.):

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts. 
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.

When you can’t see the future, spend time recalling the past. Remember God’s goodness, His faithfulness. Most importantly, draw near, focusing on His strength working in you.

He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.

He remembers his covenant forever,
the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as the portion you will inherit.”

12 When they were but few in number, 
    few indeed, and strangers in it, 

(You can read the full account of each event mentioned by clicking on the following sentences.) God’s promise to Abraham came when he and his wife were old and barren. God’s promise came to Jacob when he was fleeing the wrath of his brother, Esau. Joseph received his divine promise when he was a young man, hated by his brothers. Shortly after he was thrown into a cistern, sold into slavery, and falsely imprisoned. And then there was Moses, a man trained and educated as a prince, later hiding out in Midian ….
13 they wandered from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another.
14 He allowed no one to oppress them;
for their sake he rebuked kings:
15 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.”

16 He called down famine on the land
and destroyed all their supplies of food;
17 and he sent a man before them—
    Joseph, sold as a slave.

To the observer, this would have seen like a step backward. How could these men be chosen people? A great nation? Was this how God treated His own? Why would He allow this famine and Joseph to be sold into slavery? We’re blessed to have the entire account, so we know the answer to all the whys … but Joseph and his father Jacob didn’t. They had to trust and cling tight to what they knew to be true.
18 They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons,
19 till what he foretold came to pass,
till the word of the Lord proved him true.
20 The king sent and released him,
the ruler of peoples set him free.
21 He made him master of his household,
ruler over all he possessed,
23 Then Israel entered Egypt;

Jacob resided as a foreigner in the land of Ham.

While in Egypt, the Israelites were oppressed and enslaved. What happened to God’s promise? I wonder how many gave up hope, how many turned away …. 
26 He sent Moses his servant,
and Aaron, whom he had chosen.

Israel’s redemption didn’t come quickly nor easily. It took centuries for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Centuries of trusting or fretting, surrendering or rebelling, focusing on God and His promises or the obstacles marring their way.
37 He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold,
and from among their tribes no one faltered.

Let’s talk about this!

Are you waiting on God for something? Does it feel like you’ve been waiting for ever? Perhaps so long that you’ve begun to wonder if you’re heading in the wrong direction? Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about perseverance and how we can do that during “the waiting period.”

The Waiting Game by Jeannie Campbell

Writers, this one’s for you. (And to everyone else, don’t check out quite yet. I’m sure you can find a nugget of truth in this post somewhere to carry you through your day.) Today’s devo is similar to Edie’s. It appears patience and faithful obedience is one of the writer’s greatest struggles.

A few months ago, I was presented with two writing opportunities right after all the editor/agent meetings of conference and the resultant manuscript requests. I was placing in contests, waiting to hear back from agents, not knowing what might be expected of me should I sign on, yet I needed to make a decision. I decided on one fairly quickly, and jumped in with both feet. I floundered on the other, living in angst as I sought God’s will. I’d go to church, hear a clear message from the sermon, then get an email that would sway my heart. Indecision made me miserable, and kept me ineffective. I finally decided that “waiting” was a waste of time. I knew God called me to serve, not bide my time for something that might or might not occur. So, I said yes to both opportunities and have not regretted either for a moment. I said yes because I take Ephesians 2:10 and James 4:13-17 very seriously. God’s ways are not my ways and I may not always see the road ahead, but that should never prevent me from stepping forward.

Today’s devo first appeared on the Character Therapist, written by Jeannie Campbell, on November 17th. As you read it, think about the life of Joseph. God gave him a dream in Canaan. I’m certain Joseph never imagined being sold into slavery, transported to Egypt and thrown in a dungeon were part of God’s plan, yet in the end, he said, “God intended it for good, the saving of many lives.” Each leg of the journey was divinely intentional as God molded, guided and equipped Joseph for his future task of reigning over Egypt during a time of famine. As opportunities arise, consider them carefully. True, God has given you a dream and you are to serve Him with faithful obedience, but don’t be so caught up in the dream that you lose sight of the Dream-giver. And always be prepared to take a hard right turn the moment God directs.

*                         *                         *

I’ve seen some great posts about how being unpublished is like being single. My friend and fellow blogger Jessica Nelson of BookingIt did a post here on that very topic, and I recently saw a post from Mundania Press, LLC here about how entering a publishing contract is a lot like entering a marriage.

Since I’ve yet to enter the published category in fiction, I’m somewhat of a spectator on the sidelines of publishing. During this time, it’s easy to lament a lack of publishing credits so much that we fail to see what God is doing during our waiting. It’s during the waiting that God strips us of our silly ideals and notions that we have to write a certain thing or present a certain way in order to reach fulfillment.

If we write only third person, stay away from the “edgier” topics, strictly adhere to the no-more-than-3-POVs rule, attend at least one writer’s conference a year…then surely God will honor our righteousness with a publishing contract or at least the interest of an agent. If only we get rid of -lys, passive voice, and show–not tell–then we will be “good enough” for a second glance.

The problem comes once you’ve done all this. You’ve taken online writing courses. You’ve paid for the extra critiques. You’ve entered contests…and even won. You’ve done everything you were told to do by people who have traveled the path before you. But still no “call,” no contract.

In the dating world, this is the equivalent to dieting, exercising, getting contacts, a makeover, and a new hairdo only to sit by the phone, waiting for a potential date to call. You might be tempted to cry yourself to sleep at night, wondering what is wrong with you.

What we fail to see is that there isn’t anything wrong with you or your writing! God just isn’t done teaching you. He’s going to draw out your waiting period as long as it takes for you to realize that not being published isn’t a “problem” and that God is still in control even while you’re waiting.

We can’t lose focus of why we’re writing. If our ultimate goal is to give glory to God, then that can be accomplished published or not. He’s going to be glorified through our persistence and dedication and desire to achieve excellence for Him. Finding fulfillment, completion, and contentment where you are in the journey is crucial to keeping that fulfillment, completion, and contentment after you’ve been blessed with a contract.

We’re not on the hunt for a book deal. We’re on the mission to worship and serve God while we’re waiting. How can you best do that? Here are a couple suggestions to help encourage you in your journey:

  1. Learn scriptures you can hide in your heart, whether your heart is broken, searching, or weary from the wait. Two of my personal favorites are below.
     

    • Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
    • “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

  2. Have your own personal cheering squad. Writers are like shy adolescents in that we need to hear when we wrote a particularly eloquent phrase or when a metaphor blew someone’s socks off in order to bloom with confidence. We want to know when we made a reader laugh or cry. Your critique group members and close personal friends and relatives hold a large sway over your attitude and motivation as a writer.

I hope that this gives you some ideas of how to maintain a heavenly perspective through the writer’s wait.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
in the light of His glory and grace.
As you listen to the following song, focus on this line: “I will serve You while I’m waiting.” (Although I would perhaps ask, are we ever truly waiting, or are we to live in the now, fully engaged, fully obedient?)
*                             *                                *

Jeannie Campbell is a licensed marriage and family therapist, writer, reader, blogger, wife and mother who plays the piano and loves cats. Visit her blogger profile to find out more about her and visit the the Character Therapist to read more of her writing.

And remember, if you think this post should make it to the top three of 2010, “like” it, fb share it, tweet it or leave a comment, and I’ll tally each tweet, share, like and comment and reveal your top three favs at the end of the month. 🙂 (I might reveal my top three favs, too, which just might be different than yours.)