Walking In the Wilderness

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I hate being stretched, prodded, and poked. At least, emotionally. But I’m learning to view my struggles and frustrations differently—through the lens of grace. I’ve shared before, but our family has been called to a challenge, one that, at times, takes every ounce of our energy and endurance. One that often leaves us feeling uncertain and one that also brings every selfish and un-surrendered thought to the surface.

This morning, after a particularly trying day the day before, I opened my Bible to James 1:1-3. And was challenged. Inspired. And invited to participate with God in the growth He is initiating in me. 

Then I open my computer and begin reviewing today’s post, and received yet an extra dose of encouragement to stay all in. And to lean hard on Christ. My struggles are nothing like Julie went through, but maybe that’s what makes her post so encouraging–to see faith and strength in the extreme.

 

Don’t Despise the Wildnerness
by Julie Arduini

It was 2003. I lived in Upstate NY and the financial consequences from 9/11 hit our small city hard. The main corporation in town, Corning Inc., let go 20% of their workforce. At the time, their stock was worth less than a slice of pizza at the local shop. Most businesses in town were somehow connected to Corning, including my husband’s employer. His work dried up to the point that the employer left the business and told his employees to keep it baby-1178539_640running—without salary or benefits.

Our baby came into our lives that August and I thought for sure my new role as a full-time mom would be the needed turn. Not long after her birth my husband realized he had to get another job. Our health insurance alone was a huge amount per month plus a 20% co-pay. On paper, we never had the amount. In reality, God provided. Yet, something had to give.

Once my husband started working as a temp to help make ends meet, we received news that our daughter’s newborn tests were abnormal. After hearing all was fine, we later learned the office made a mistake and our daughter was not fine. They sat me down and told me that because she lost 8 weeks of needed medicine, we were to prepare our child for mental retardation.

The hits became relentless. Our daughter got sick before Thanksgiving. Although we were changing doctors, we still hadn’t found one, so we went back. He prescribed a medicine with codeine, something I questioned for a three-month baby. He assured me he’d prescribed this for years.

Our daughter nearly died on Thanksgiving Eve.medic-563425_640

As she recovered, we learned my dad had lung cancer. I refused to believe it. He looked so good. They didn’t want anyone to know for fear he’d be treated differently. As Hannah battled RSV and pneumonia and my husband learned his second job was ending and that a company five hours away wanted to hire him—my dad wasn’t getting better. Three weeks after my husband moved to his new job knowing no one in an apartment the company found for him, my dad passed away.

I was grieving while taking care of two small ones, including a chronically sick baby. My mom was beside herself losing her husband and her daughter’s family. Once I sold the house and reunited with my husband, I remember sitting in Ohio, shell-shocked.

I felt completely abandoned by God.

It was in Ohio I found mentors and Bible studies that helped me. One day I was reading Beth Moore and she mentioned Hosea 2:14: therefore-i-am-now-going-to-allure-her-i-will-lead-her-into-the-wilderness-and-speak-tenderly-to-her-hosea-2-14-niv

That verse made this season almost feel like a gift.

A blessing.

As the grief subsided, I realized there were lessons I learned in the wilderness I never could have grasped in the clearing. I was introduced to opportunities that I never imagined I could have been prepared for. Those excruciating times were when God drew me close and taught me things. Showed me secrets and strategies. Most of all, loved me in an intimate way I’d never known.

The wilderness is scary and no one would voluntarily sign up for it. However, I don’t resist it anymore. I know a lot of fruit comes out of the wilderness. I wouldn’t be writing without those times. I hope my story encourages you. Don’t be afraid of your Hosea 2:14 wilderness.

***

“You need to leave me alone. It’s the least you can do.”

entangled2_editedCarla Rowling has been given her dream of attending cosmetology school. The gift is so generous she feels unworthy because of choices she made as a teen. The pressure mounts as Carla juggles school, is a single mom, helps her best friend Jenna plan her wedding, spends time with boyfriend Will Marshall, and deals with the fact that her son’s father is back in their lives.

Will Marshall is the one Speculator Falls resident everyone can count on. His truck deliveries are reliable. He’s the first to help friends like Ben Regan with boat work or be a card partner with Bart Davis. Will’s ready to settle down with Carla, loving her is natural. He’s bonded with her son, Noah. But when Carla starts cosmetology school, she puts emotional distance between her and Will.

Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?

Buy Entangled on Amazon.

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profileJulie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the  re-release, ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at JULIE ARDUINI: SURRENDER ISSUES AND CHOCOLATE and the weekly e mail. SUNDAY’S SURRENDER AND CHOCOLATE.

Connect with Julie on her websiteFacebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

 

 

Residing Outside the Palace

The past two months have been a bit rough. I think I’ve gone through every emotion imaginable–sometimes within an hour. Oh, how often I longed to be whisked away to a pain and worry free palace! But God knew better. He wanted to take me deeper, to show me His love and tender care in new ways. To center me in those things of eternal value and free me from everything that gets in His way.

I’m so glad God looks beyond my momentary comfort and happiness. Sitting here with my Bible beside me, I’m rejoicing in all the ways God showed up over the past few months, all the words of encouragement He provided through Scripture, through friends, through praise songs. It’s like being nestled on the couch beneath a warm blanket on a stormy day–priceless. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe I’d change one thing–I’d learn to deeply abide during times of sunshine not only times of hail. Today, Laura Hodges Poole reminds us to seek God, draw near to God, surrender to God, whether He places us in a castle or in the center of the Mojave.

Palace Living by Laura Hodges Poole

Remember the old TV show “I Dream of Jeanie?” Suppose you were Larry Hagman’s character, Major Anthony Nelson. You’ve found the magic lamp and the genie has given you three choices of where you can live:
A palace
The desert
The wilderness
Which did you choose?

Don’t get too comfortable. J

Now the genie reveals you must leave your first choice and pick from the other two. This is actually where you’ll live.

Not fair?

“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor…Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian.” Exodus 2:11, 15b.

Moses spent four decades in Pharaoh’s palace, enjoying Egypt’s finest things. He was educated by top scholars, outfitted in royal clothes, and ate delicacies enjoyed by the elite.

What happened to change this?

Between the time Moses stepped out to watch his people and the time he fled, he killed an Egyptian. He alone created a situation in which he had no choice but to flee. However, based on the anger that flared inside of him and prompted the killing, he’d already chosen sides.

Leaving the palace was inevitable.

We don’t know what inspired Moses to step outside the palace and watch the Hebrew slaves work. Perhaps it was something he did routinely. Maybe God had been dealing with Moses’ heart about his destiny. Or he was simply restless. He was forty years old at the time. Whatever Moses’ personal reasons for jeopardizing his elite position, God had prepared him for leadership by allowing him to grow up under Pharaoh.

After forty years in the Midian desert, Moses returned to lead the Israelites out of captivity. God’s perfect will included Moses leading his people from Egypt to the Promised Land. God’s permissive will allowed Moses and everyone else involved to make choices that ultimately led to their demise.

Despite the Israelites’ disobedience, God’s objective was met—and never doubt this will happen—it always happens regardless of our disobedience. But those involved didn’t reap the harvest because they didn’t obey God with their whole heart.

Although Moses was barred from entering the earthly Promised Land, we see in Matthew 17:3, he did indeed make it to the eternal one. While our sin does not always directly connect to our hardships and trials, the original sin in the Garden of Eden does. God is a patient God, not wanting anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, we must tolerate this fallen world until He deems it time to bring believers into the new heaven and new earth.

Most of us have never lived in a palace. But if we were to reflect on our life, especially in this country, we can see the times we resided metaphorically in each of these three places.

Sometimes we’re forced from the palace by life events. God calls some of us to leave our comfort zones to go into the wilderness.

Jesus spent time in the wilderness, most notably after a joyous event—his baptism. John the Baptist made his home in the wilderness.

However we manage to arrive in the desert or wilderness, if we spend our time searching for the path to the earthly palace, we fail to learn the lesson derived from dwelling in the desert or wilderness. Because God’s intention is to grow and strengthen us for His work.

Next week, we’ll talk about how God meets us in the tough places. Meanwhile, never forget—

God dwells with us in all circumstances!

What is your wilderness? If you’d like prayer, please email me or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. Your experience could be an inspiration to others struggling, as well, so please share, if you feel led.

***

Laura Hodges Poole is a freelance writer with three dozen articles, devotions, and short stories in publication. Her articles have appeared in media such as Reach Out Columbia, P31 Woman, WOW-Writing on The Word, Christian Devotions, Evangel, Christian Home and School, Our Town, and Independent Mail. She writes Christian romance novels and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She is a 2012 RWA Emily finalist. Among her non-fiction work is a book she co-wrote, Laurie’s Story: Discovering Joy in Adversity. She is an Associate Editor with Christian Devotions ministry. Laura lives in South Carolina with her husband, and they have two children. Her passion is encouraging others through her blog, “A Word of Encouragement,” at laurahodgespoole.blogspot.com.

Join us at Living by Grace today as we talk about the various places God takes us and how each transplant is an act of love and grace. This morning, as I typed up today’s post, I thought of the words spoken by Job thousands of years ago: “I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes.” In other words, Job’s trials brought him closer to God.

Where are you right now? In the castle gazing out on an abundance of blessings? Pause to draw near to the Giver. Don’t let the good things in life distract you from the most precious gift of all.

Perhaps you are stuck in a wilderness shack looking back  with longing on the green pastures of your past. Let it go, and let God be with you in that shack. You might just find this time to be one of the most beautiful experiences of all–a time where God holds you closer than ever before and reveals yet another layer of His faithful, loving, tender character.

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