The Blessings That Come With Obedience

Sometimes obedience comes easily, other times it can take every ounce of strength and courage to push forward and step out. But when we surrender to Christ and allow Him to love others through us … Today my guest Clarice James, author of Party of One and Double Header, shares how God used her obedience to turn the sorrow of widowhood into joy.

The Blessings That Come With Obedience

by Clarice James

Selfies here, selfies there. Selfies, selfies everywhere. It’s hard to see others if you’re focused on self.

I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of 32 and returned to church. Being spiritually single for the next ten years was a lonely time. I waited (not so patiently) for my husband to join me. Once he did, we were blessed to worship together for eight years before he lost his battle with cancer.

You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy”  (John 16:20, NIV).

With my children grown and gone, for the first time in my life I had no one to consider daily but myself. I was grieving and bored, which made it easy to fall into a self-centered, poor-me mentality.

One Sunday, back in the pew my husband and I had called ours, I noticed a woman sitting by herself … then another and another . . . as if the Lord was shining a spotlight on them. I was amazed at the number of single adults in attendance and ashamed I had never taken the time to get to know them.

But here we were, all alone, together.

This sparked a passion for those who’d fallen between the cracks of families and couples. I suddenly saw single people everywhere: in church, at the grocery store, in study groups, at the nail salon, in my writers’ groups, and at restaurants. I began to reach out to them.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27, NIV).

Once a week for a few years, I hosted a dozen plus young adults for Tuesday night supper. Two of the attendees got to know each other well around my table and later married. A couple who rented my apartment asked to join the group and was introduced to Jesus. Seeing these two couples now, raising children themselves, reassures me that my efforts were fruitful.

At one time or another, four different women shared my home: a young Canadian woman, trying to make ends meet on a teacher’s salary from a small Christian school; a middle-aged woman, taking over as principal of that same school; a Brazilian woman, working two jobs so she could send money back home to her family; and a nanny for eight children, spending her days off with me “to keep her sanity.”

My empty nest soon became the go-to spot for women’s Bible studies and get-togethers. I even toyed with the idea of starting a singles supper club at a local restaurant.

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:1-2, NIV).

Each time I blessed someone, God blessed me back. Not with money or material things, but with joy and fulfillment. Parents of the young adults thanked me for providing a safe place for their children to socialize. Many of my tenants and house guests became friends. The cross-section of people who have shown up at my author signings is confirmation that God was and is in the middle of it all.

God’s ultimate blessing came eight years after I was widowed when He gave me a new husband in Ralph David James. About five years into our marriage, I finally got around to starting that singles supper club. (It takes a special man to let his wife start a singles club!) I named it Party of One: A Fellowship for Those Tired of Dining Alone.

Put self on the shelf and focus on God. He is faithful to show you ways to bless others.

 

Let’s talk about this! When have you stepped out in obedience to bless someone and found you were the one who received the blessing? This past weekend, my church facilitated our annual Big Live celebration–where we mobilize our church family out in the community to love on the broken, feed the hungry, clean up messes, unite our community, and more. Mid-day Saturday, incredibly tired but immeasurably full, I thought, “If I could only do this full time.” Of course, I can’t, but to feel God’s love reaching through you as you step out into someone else’s darkness; that has to be part of the abundant life Jesus promised.

For when we lose our life for the sake of Christ, that’s when we find it.

We will never be fulfilled, never truly find peace and joy, until we begin to live as we were created–viewing ourselves through God’s eyes and living out the mission He’s assigned. This is Wholly Loved’s message in a nutshell. This is why we exist–to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are (or are meant to be) in Christ. Because life’s not meant to be endured; it’s meant to be lived. We’ve got a conference coming up this Saturday! I’d love to see you! Find out more HERE.

And before I go, have you signed up for my quarterly newsletter! In the next edition, which releases at the end of next month, I’ll be sharing some fun info on a contest (give-away, actually), available only to subscribers. You can sign up HERE! (You can check out my last edition HERE.)

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Clarice G. James writes smart, fun, relatable contemporary women’s fiction. Her first two novels are Party of One and Double Header. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, encouraging fellow writers, or involved in a home decorating project. She and her husband, David, live in New Hampshire. Together, they have five married children and ten grandchildren. Visit her online HERE. 

Party of One:

One Woman, A Great Idea—Party of One Inspires and Delights. When widow Annie McGee breaks through grief, she falls flat on her face into loneliness. In a bold move, she founds Party of One, a communal table for single diners. Outside of these weekly gatherings at a local restaurant, she has no intention of getting involved in the diverse lives of the people who join her. Set in her ways and critical, Annie believes she has all the answers she needs for her life and some left over for others. When confusion and curiosity chip away at her pride, she asks God for a sign, then gets way more than she hopes for. Her self-assurance continues to falter when she realizes the only thing weirder than the quirks of her eclectic tablemates is her fear of losing their company.

You might also enjoy:

Blessed to be a Blessing

When We Say No

 

 

 

Support Sisters

This morning, I’m honored to share a touching story from my sweet sister, Jennifer Hallmark. Parenting is tough. Parenting alone is even harder. There are so many days when faced with a situation I don’t know how to handle, I wait anxiously for my husband to return home so we can prayerfully determine a solution together. And when our daughter was young, I’d wait for my husband to return home so I could have a moment of respite or someone to communicate–on an adult level–with. As you read Jennifer’s story, pause to consider the men and women you know. Might any of them be lonely? In need of support, an encouraging word, or a moment of pampering?

Support Sisters by Jennifer Hallmark

Christmas presents, plates of hotdogs with all the fixings, and children playing and laughing abounded through the small cul-de-sac of a sub-division. Adults and children alike opened presents, excited at newly found treasure. Our church celebrated Christmas with this lane of two-apartment brick homes, occupied mostly with single mothers and their children, and widows. The ladies and their children found a place in our hearts after the initial visit, so our women’s ministry group brainstormed on ways to further help. How could we connect with these ladies to extend the outreach past New Years and the lifespan of the gifts?

Support Sisters. In the past, our church ladies participated in Secret Sisters, where we would draw each other’s names and secretly send cards and gifts for an extended period of time. Support Sisters was a play on this concept. This time we would reach outside the church walls. Our sisters would be the precious ladies in the sub-division.

Our first step was to garner support from the ladies in the church, then go door-to-door within the cul-de-sac and find who was interested. If a lady showed interest, she filled out an informational sheet so her Support Sister from church could send cards, pay a visit, or phone to see how she was doing. We invited all the Support Sisters to church functions and especially to all women’s events. Ten ladies from the complex signed up and we paired ladies, considering their age and common interests. An initial visit ensued where the new friends took time to meet, which led to visits, calls, and several of these special ladies attending women’s events and even regular church services. We found several women to be Christians who’d lost connection with any church and needed a friend who wouldn’t judge them.

A favorite event that many of our new friends attended was a day spa specifically for single women we offered one Saturday. The women in the women’s ministry provided haircuts, [my daughter and a fellow cosmetologist volunteered their services], manicures, and pedicures. It took the concept of “foot washing” to a new level! We offered snacks and ended the day with makeovers and pictures.

We continued the outreach for a year. Apartments like these have a large turnover as ladies married or were able to move to better housing. Still, lives were affected for the good in the short time, not only for our new friends, but ourselves. We learned to push past our comfort zone and share the love of Christ with others.

Can a year make a difference? Women’s lives were changed by a group of ladies willing to push past the limits of a normal outreach activity…

Jennifer Hallmark is a writer of southern fiction and women’s ministry consultant. She has a website, http://www.jenniferhallmark.com and shares a writer’s reference blog, http://writingpromptsthoughtsideas.blogspot.com. Her first novel in the trilogy, Journey of Grace: A New Beginning is currently searching for a good home. Jennifer resides with husband Danny in Alabama and loves her family, dog Max and coffee shops, in no particular order.

You can read her previous post on revolutionizing our world with the love of Christ here.