Stories of faith, life, and love

Category: hopes and dreams (Page 1 of 2)

What I’m Reading: The Enlightenment of Bees

I’m usually a straight up Christian fiction girl. I’ll throw in an occasional clean read or inspirational read, but I want to choose it for myself. I like to read Christian fiction, because I want to be encouraged in my faith. I want to be challenged to grow closer to God as I read. I want to read about people who, while living very different lives from me, are making choices based on the Biblical worldview I hold.

When I saw The Enlightenment of Bees by Rachel Linden on the shelf at a local used book store, I was instantly drawn to it. The title alone is enough to peak interest. With equally interesting back cover copy and a Christian publisher, I went ahead and added the book to my stack.

I was a little caught off guard by the story being more what I would consider inspirational or clean reading. I expected Mia’s faith to factor into the decisions she made and how she chose which paths to take. I expected her relationship with God to grow through the challenges and triumphs she faced. And while I realize every Christian book doesn’t have to “preach” to you in an open way, I believe to call it a Christian book, the faith element should at least be present in ways the reader can see.

That being said, I did enjoy this book. Rachel Linden tells an interesting story that does challenge the reader. There were several times I found myself taking screenshots of the pages so I could revisit beautiful, thought-provoking quotes. There are lessons in the pages ranging from caution in shaping our lives around childhood perceptions to realizing people are more than what we see on the outside to being open to taking risks.

One of the most prominent and challenging ideas sparked through Mia’s story is presented through a character named Delphine. It blends with the lessons Mia learns from other women on her journey and provides her the final confirmation of the direction she should go. Saying her good-byes to Mia, Delphine says, “Remember, Mia, your place in this world is the space where your greatest passion meets the world’s great pain.”

For Mia, this means accepting that the thing she’s felt is not enough to give to the world is really the best thing she can give to others. She can be herself and make a difference.

For me, the message is a reminder. While faith may not have played a part in Mia’s decisions, it does in mine. Mia’s story reminded me that God wants to use my passions, talents, and personality to reach out to others with His love. Her journey gave me an outlet to examine my own life and see if I’m doing that faithfully. Even her lack of seeking His guidance was a gentle nudge to seek His plan for me as I look for the paths I should take and which ones I should avoid.

The Enlightenment of Bees may not be what I expected, but it was a well-told story that left me encouraged to let God use me to reach others in need.

What I’m Reading: Before I Called You Mine

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost

We understand actions have consequences. We teach young children not to touch the hot stove because they will get burned. We show them how to look both ways before crossing the street. We explain that a failure to do so could get them hit by a car. Every day we have choices to make, and intellectually we understand each of those choices will come with a consequence.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a writer. I also knew I needed to have a “real” job to pay the bills until I became an award-winning, best-selling author in the Christian market earning a salary that would allow me to live comfortably without any other income. I’m still waiting for that to happen!

Honestly, I could probably spend time writing full-time, if not for one choice my husband and I have made. We sent our children to a Christian school for their education. Some years, we paid tuition for four children at a time. Now, we are down to one. He has another year left, and he wants to finish up at the school where he started.

Our choice to give our children this education brought with it the consequence of me having to work until tuition is paid off. It is a choice I would make again, but it doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could have both my child in Christian school and a full-time writing career. I serve a God who can make it happen, but most times He lets us live with the consequences of our choices. Sometimes it’s about giving us the choice of whether or not we will follow what He has put into our hearts to do.

It’s this kind of decision Lauren Bailey faces in Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese. Lauren feels God has called her to adoption. The rules in adopting from China are simple. She can adopt as a single woman, or she can wait until she’s been married for a specific amount of time and adopt as a couple. Since her previous boyfriend ended their relationship, that doesn’t seem like a viable option. She starts the process to adopt as a single woman.

Keeping with her plan to avoid romantic attachment and possible derailing of what she knows God wants her to do is easy, until she meets the sub across the hall. Joshua is everything she ever dreamed of finding in a man, and he’s completely into her. The timing couldn’t be worse.

Lauren is determined to keep on her path to adopt and keep her growing friendship with Joshua. But as they grow closer, she is forced to a hard look at what she’s giving up and what waits for her in return. Being a mother to a child in need has fueled her decisions for so long she’s almost forgotten the time when her heart wanted more. Now that her dream of love has reawakened, Lauren fears whatever decision is made, her heart will break in the process. Only God can make both her dreams come true. But will He? Or will He allow her to live with the consequences of her choice?

Whether you’ve been in Lauren’s shoes or not, you’ll find yourself crying with her in the hard times and hoping with her for God’s best in her life. You’ll cheer her on as she learns some important truths about herself. And you’ll walk away from the story with a greater understanding of the heartaches and joys those who choose adoption face as they become family to those who have none.

What I’m Reading: Spring of Thanksgiving

My family is experiencing first-hand how God works in what our very limited human perceptions label as good and bad events. Dealing with dementia, strokes, and a gradual decline leading to what we hope is soon to be my grandmother’s heavenly homecoming we are swimming in a sea of what feels like bad events. But God has given us so many good gifts during this time.

Through the years of dealing with her dementia, God has grown us and provided for us in ways we never expected. He’s brought beautiful things out of the experience and taken care of details we didn’t know would be necessary. Some of the good has been spiritual in nature, but He’s worked out just as many of our physical needs.

I gave up my job to help my mother care for my grandmother. I didn’t hesitate when she asked for help though I knew my position as a full-time caregiver could end at any time, and I have one large bill that my salary pays for each month. When my grandmother went into the memory care facility, I was left without a job. Within a week, I gained employment at my previous job. It’s very part-time, but it’s enough to pay my bill each month. As an added bonus, the limited hours leave me more room for writing and learning about the business side of writing. God provided when I couldn’t. I had to wait and trust until He did.

Waiting when the answer isn’t readily seen is hard. Ivy Cooke, the main character in Liz Tolsma’s book Spring of Thanksgiving, knows that from experience. Ivy and her father are facing tough times on their Texas ranch. A seemingly endless drought and the need to fence their land to protect their property and others due to the railroad has put them in a hard place. Deeply in debt, Ivy has no idea how they will come up with the money to get caught up on their loan.

Facing the loss of their property to the bank is hard enough, but problems seem to pile on. New neighbors claim the spring necessary for getting Ivy’s ranch through the drought is on their property, and there’s nothing they won’t do to prevent Ivy and her father from using it.

Dell Watson is determined to show his father his worth, and the spring in question is his way to do it. Dell’s plan to secure the rights means he has to entice his beautiful neighbor to marry him. Circumstances change when Dell discovers Ivy is far more to him than a tool to get what his family desires. But his family still needs the spring, and the only way he sees to get it is through Ivy.

Dell and Ivy both face difficult circumstances without easy answers. As with most people, their minds work to find solutions to their problems. With their minds and hearts giving conflicting answers, they have to choose whether or not they can trust God with their problems and wait for His solution.

Dell and Ivy may get what they want, or God could give them something entirely unexpected. No matter what the circumstances, they have the choice to trust God’s goodness no matter what happens. Like us, they can choose to let trust lead to praise for His work in the hard and unexpected situations of life. But you’ll have to read Spring of Thanksgiving to find out if they do and if the path God gives them leads them closer or further apart.

Write Stuff Wednesday: An Interview

2f8c97e9-014e-4796-9373-22b108cebe0eUsually I post a quote on Wednesday, but today I had the opportunity to participate in an interview. This interview had some really great questions, and I thought I would share them with you.

I want to thank Elisabeth Trainor for thinking of me for her 5th grade research project on becoming an author. It was my pleasure to help out. I hope your project is a success!

What are some of the responsibilities you have at your job?

My main responsibility as an author is to write, whether it’s the next book I’m working on or something for my blog. I’m also responsible for promoting my books. This includes doing interviews, being a guest on other blogs, participating in book signings, speaking to groups, and creating images to post on social media that tell others about my books.

Is this the job you went to college for?

I know several writers who went to school to get degrees in English or creative writing. While I’ve taken several courses and attended workshops to help make me a better writer and increase my knowledge about the business aspects of writing, my course of study in college was psychology. But even that aids me as a writer by giving me additional insight into personalities to help me create more realistic characters.

What are some of the best things about your job?

I love creating new people and places for the readers to connect with. I have always loved stories, and now I get to create them for others. As a Christian author, I love that God has given me a way to encourage other believers through something that I am passionate about. Plus, I can work at the time of day that is best for me. And if I want I can do the writing part of my job in comfy clothes!

What are some of the worst things about your job?

I don’t know that there is any part of being an author that I don’t like. There are parts of it that are more difficult for me. I’m not a math person, but working for myself I have to be responsible for the tax information our state requires. That is definitely not fun. To help promote my book, I have to learn new computer programs or apps. I’m not proficient with a lot of these things, and that makes using them frustrating until I get used to them. I also have to talk about myself and my writing. As a fairly introverted person, this is very uncomfortable for me. But I’m getting better at it.

Why did you choose to be an author?

Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies. Each book introduced me to new friends and places I’d never visited. The stories I read would show me new perspectives and ideas I hadn’t thought about before. As I got older and read more faith based fiction, I found a lot of truth in the stories that I read. The people the authors created encouraged me and challenged me to grow as a person and as a Christian. I came away from the best books I read excited and wanting to create that same experience for others.

Where is the most comfortable spot you like to write at?

I have a comfy chair in my office. It faces a large window that looks out over the field behind my house and the woods beyond the field. It’s a very quiet, peaceful scene. When the weather is cool enough, I like to open the window, look out, and write with the fresh air coming into the room.

What inspires you to write?

Overall, I think the reason I wanted to be an author is what inspires me to do it. But there are people and things that continue to keep me focused and encouraged. I believe God gave me this ability and passion, and He inspires me to write in ways that will allow others to know Him more. I still find inspiration when I read a really good book. It leaves me anxious to get back to work on my own stories. When I’m feeling less motivated to write, I have a local writer’s group and friends that encourage me to get back to it. They help me work through what’s holding me back and cheer me on when things are going well.

Do you write non-fiction or fiction?

My books are fiction. They are set in the real town I grew up in, but the people and situations are all from my imagination. My blog posts are non-fiction. They are all about writing, reading, and living a life of faith. One day, I’d like to have devotional books that pair up with each fiction book I write. Those will be non-fiction as well.

Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite non-fiction author is Sheila Walsh. Her books deal with the real issues that come up in living a life of faith, and she handles each one with honesty and openness. It’s nice to know someone isn’t just telling you something from theory but instead from a life that’s lived it out.

My favorite fiction author is Kristen Heitzmann. Her stories draw me in. She’s an amazing story-teller, and I come away feeling like I’ve been visiting with friends. The messages in her stories have helped me with things I’ve gone through in my own life. I got to meet her once, and she is also a very kind and encouraging individual.

How did your book get published?

After I completed the manuscript, I researched publishers and agents. A lot of publishers won’t take new authors without getting the material from an agent. So, I had to approach both. I sent out several query letters explaining the story and why I was qualified to write it. I also had to give them information on my writing training, accomplishments, and how I could help market my books.  I got rejection slips. Most authors do. But I kept sending it out. Authors need to learn how to persevere.

Mantle Rock Publishing accepted the manuscript, and I signed a contract with them. The book had to be sent to them for edits. As I completed them, I sent it back. Their cover designer worked on designing the perfect cover for my book while I was busy editing. Then, with the edits done and the cover design approved, the publisher sent it to the people who would make it into the actual book in time for the release date. I will never forget the first time I held my finished book in my hands. I’m blessed to have this job.

What I'm Reading -Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

macaronsSometimes it’s the name of the author or the back cover copy. This time it was the cover. The title is written in a fun, laid back script. The woman is blurry, but her hands are not. And those hands are holding colorful macarons.
Before Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe, I’d heard of Carla Laureano. You can’t follow authors on social media without hearing about her. The Saturday Night Supper Club was everywhere I looked for a while. Now, this second installment is taking it’s place in all the posts. I’ve still not read the first book. I considered it, but this one was on sale. It made my decision easy. My only concern was whether or not I would be lost reading stories out of order. I didn’t need to worry. I had no trouble keeping up, and I don’t think you would either.
Anyway, back to the colorful macarons. I’ve never had a macaron. In all my amateur baking, I’ve never had occasion to make them. But they definitely caught my attention and convinced me to check out the blurb on back. Finding out the story centered on a baker pushed me over the line from curiosity to “buy this now”. With the button successfully pushed, I began the story.
Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe follows Melody Johansson, a dreamer that feels locked into her life. Her hopes of owning a bakery seem impossible. Her desire for a love life where she’s good enough is an even bigger impossibility. Her track record is awful, and she’s decided she can’t trust her heart to lead her to the guy God has for her.
This is where Justin Keller enters the story. Their attraction is immediate, but he decided long ago that lasting love and the pilot’s life can’t coexist. He won’t go for anything more than a casual date, and he won’t go after any woman who might want more. And Melody definitely projects wanting more.
Circumstances throw them together, and against their better judgment they both seek more time together. As they come to the place of hoping for a future with each other, Melody finds the pieces of her life coming together in unexpected ways. A cutting loss allows her the opportunity to follow her dream and open a bakery with her best friend. Her roots are quickly becoming firmly planted in Colorado.
But Justin’s are taking him to Florida. He’s agreed to go in business with his brother-in-law for the sake of his sister’s health. It’s the roadblock he’s ignored as he and Melody get to know each other. As his plans force him to consider a swift end to their relationship, Justin knows neither heart will escape unscathed.
The bitter and the sweet events of the past have shaped both their lives and outlooks. They’ve also worked together to bring Melody and Justin together, whether for a time or forever.
Isn’t it the same for us? Bitter and sweet mingling together to create the story of lives. And isn’t it encouraging to know the One who is working to create that life knows exactly how much of each is needed to create the most beautiful story possible?

What I’m Reading -Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

macaronsSometimes it’s the name of the author or the back cover copy. This time it was the cover. The title is written in a fun, laid back script. The woman is blurry, but her hands are not. And those hands are holding colorful macarons.

Before Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe, I’d heard of Carla Laureano. You can’t follow authors on social media without hearing about her. The Saturday Night Supper Club was everywhere I looked for a while. Now, this second installment is taking it’s place in all the posts. I’ve still not read the first book. I considered it, but this one was on sale. It made my decision easy. My only concern was whether or not I would be lost reading stories out of order. I didn’t need to worry. I had no trouble keeping up, and I don’t think you would either.

Anyway, back to the colorful macarons. I’ve never had a macaron. In all my amateur baking, I’ve never had occasion to make them. But they definitely caught my attention and convinced me to check out the blurb on back. Finding out the story centered on a baker pushed me over the line from curiosity to “buy this now”. With the button successfully pushed, I began the story.

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe follows Melody Johansson, a dreamer that feels locked into her life. Her hopes of owning a bakery seem impossible. Her desire for a love life where she’s good enough is an even bigger impossibility. Her track record is awful, and she’s decided she can’t trust her heart to lead her to the guy God has for her.

This is where Justin Keller enters the story. Their attraction is immediate, but he decided long ago that lasting love and the pilot’s life can’t coexist. He won’t go for anything more than a casual date, and he won’t go after any woman who might want more. And Melody definitely projects wanting more.

Circumstances throw them together, and against their better judgment they both seek more time together. As they come to the place of hoping for a future with each other, Melody finds the pieces of her life coming together in unexpected ways. A cutting loss allows her the opportunity to follow her dream and open a bakery with her best friend. Her roots are quickly becoming firmly planted in Colorado.

But Justin’s are taking him to Florida. He’s agreed to go in business with his brother-in-law for the sake of his sister’s health. It’s the roadblock he’s ignored as he and Melody get to know each other. As his plans force him to consider a swift end to their relationship, Justin knows neither heart will escape unscathed.

The bitter and the sweet events of the past have shaped both their lives and outlooks. They’ve also worked together to bring Melody and Justin together, whether for a time or forever.

Isn’t it the same for us? Bitter and sweet mingling together to create the story of lives. And isn’t it encouraging to know the One who is working to create that life knows exactly how much of each is needed to create the most beautiful story possible?

Courage to Be

I may have used this quote in the past. If so, I apologize. It seemed fitting for this second day of 2019. It’s something I definitely want to get better at this year. I hope you will too.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  e.e. cummings

For a long time I had trouble accepting the title of author or even writer. Mother was no problem. Wife was easy. I never stumbled over the title of daughter, sister, or even receptionist. Though I have to admit I never really aspired to earn that last one. Life simply took me there. But writer was another story.

Writer was, and still is, the dream. But dreams are full of unknowns. Dreams hold the possibility of failure. What happens if you reach for the dream, accept the title, and then fail? You’ve become associated with the name only to lose it again. For an introvert who doesn’t like attention, especially negative attention, this would be a humiliation hard to live down.

I didn’t run from the action of putting words on paper. Reading and writing have been part of who I am from the beginning. I think it must be in my DNA like my height or my green eyes. I cannot imagine not writing. But the act of writing is very different from accepting the title writer or author.

Like any dream that tries to define us in life, it brings with it the fear of failure. It is this fear that causes us to hem and haw when confronted with the innocent question, “What do you do?” It’s much easier to spout the easy answers, wife, mother, and even receptionist. The first two cannot be denied. The fact that I am married and have given birth means I belong to those clubs. The last one is easy to admit because it’s what I spend most of my time doing and it’s secure. But the thing I want most? That thing that is so deeply a part of me? To try and to fail at that would be like losing part of who I am.

This is why it takes courage to accept the title. This is why it takes courage to answer the questions with, “I am an author.” To live beyond the fear and not only accept that part of myself (accepting is easy) but to make it known to the rest of the world, this is what it means to grow up and be who I am.

You may not be an author. That’s the dream God gave me. That’s the passion He planted inside my heart. It doesn’t matter. What passion did He give you? What do you feel He is calling you to do? What do you feel if you couldn’t do it part of yourself would be missing?

Are you going after it? Are you praying about how and when God would like to use it in your life and the lives of others? I hope you are. But I also hope this coming year you find the courage to live out loud what you know God has called you to. I hope you find freedom from fears that hold you back and find yourself able to answer the question, “What do you do?” with whatever dream  God has blessed you with.

Write Stuff Wednesday: The Blank Page

notebook-1194456__340“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – unknown

There is nothing more daunting to a writer than the blank page. It’s before the story gets its start that the voices of doubt can be heard the loudest. Sure, those voices continue through the first draft, the edits, and even the final copy. I’m not sure they go away even after publication. But in that empty white space that begs to be filled, doubt likes to race in and take up residence.

What if my story isn’t good enough? What if I don’t have enough story to fill all the blank pages? What if I can’t find a publisher? What if I pour my heart and soul into this only to find out I should have stayed a cashier at the grocery store? What if my perfect opening line is a boring cliché? What if I get writer’s block? What if? What if? What if?

There are people with a desire to write and a story to tell that never do. They allow the “what ifs” to drive them from the path they’re on. Giving up before they even have a chance to start, they walk away and the world loses a story that could only be told by them. Even poor writing can be overcome. Classes and workshops can help shape and grow the ability to write. The only thing that can forever keep someone from writing well is if they never pick up the pen to begin the writing journey. To be writers we must face the empty page, take up the pen, and write.

The blank page can attack in other areas as well. In our journey as Christians the blank page is seen when God calls us out to something more, something unknown. Imagine Peter with his fellow disciples in a boat on the stormy sea. This wasn’t a luxury liner that barely feels the waves crashing against it. The disciples weren’t facing minor turbulence that threatened nausea. They were in a storm in a basic, run of the mill boat. Oars and sails were its propellers. It was largely at the mercy of the weather.

Waves threatened. Wind beat against it. The water churned beneath them. Just being in that boat would have been unsettling if not for the fact that most of these men were used to the sea. If you look at other scriptures, even being familiar territory didn’t stop the disciples from worrying when a storm threatened to capsize their boat. I’m not sure this storm would have been any different. Then, in the middle of this storm, Jesus approaches walking on the water. Impulsive Peter asks Jesus to let him meet Him in the waves. Jesus agrees. Peter begins to face his blank page and steps out of the boat. It doesn’t take long for him to realize the waves and wind haven’t stopped in deference to his act of faith. The blank page stares back at him as chaos swirls around him. Peter chooses to put down his pen, leaving the blank page for another time. He looks away from Jesus, and he begins to sink. It is only by the mercy of Jesus that Peter was saved from the sea he was so focused on and distracted by.

We can’t be too hard on Peter. We’ve been there. God’s Spirit whispers in our hearts asking us to do something, go somewhere, or speak to someone. He puts a purpose or ministry in our heart. He leads us to a place where continuing on means facing uncertainty. He asks us to have faith. Like Peter, we face our blank page of faith. The times are sweet when we can say we picked up the pen and faced the fears with obedience to God’s gentle nudging. But how often do we start off thinking of how wonderful following God’s path with be only to let the unknown swirl like chaos around us distracting us from what we know to be true? How often do we take our eyes off Jesus and start to sink until God in His mercy chooses to rescue us despite our lack of faith?

Whether it’s in our writing or our faith, it is time. It’s time to become what we dream of becoming. For the writer this means picking up the pen and putting words on that blank page. For the Christian, it means seeking God’s will and going boldly in the direction He leads even when it’s full of unknowns. It’s time to get past our fear of the blank pages in our lives and choose instead to fill them with the stories only we can tell.notebook-1194456__340

Write Stuff Wednesday 9

hope“A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” Junot Diaz

Some days the words won’t come. It’s not a matter of them being hard to write or not being good enough. There are days I sit at the computer, and I can’t move forward in the scene I’m writing. My brain is too tired. My day has been too long. A whirlpool of thoughts unrelated to my writing spins in my brain until I’m seasick on dry land.

I’ve read that taking a brisk walk can help your brain think in different ways and wake it up a bit. I try that sometimes, if it’s cool enough outside. I’ve tried changing scenery. I usually write in my living room sitting on my couch. But if it’s nice enough, I’ll sit on my back deck with my computer and write. I write to music most of the time. So, I even try switching up the playlist from time to time.

There are occasions when these tricks work well, and I can continue on my merry way. My writing time is salvaged, and I accomplish my goals for the day. Other days, nothing helps. But, and I know this may come as a surprise, being a writer means writing. Each day I fail to pick up my pen or turn on my laptop, I fail to be a writer.

But nothing says I have to write the same thing every day. Nothing says what I write has to be grammatically correct, interesting, or written on my current project. There are days my writing consists of journaling my prayer to God. Some days my writing is a short story or even a paragraph unrelated to anything. These I file away as starting points for future projects. The point is not that I’ve moved forward on my current project, but instead that I have taken the time to write. In doing so, I have kept the discipline that will lead me back to my current project. So, while I may not have hope for that day’s writings, I retain it for tomorrow and the day after that. I have written, and that is what it takes to be a writer.

When I look at my life recently, there have been several “no hope” moments. There are scars from the past that interfere with the present. There are things weighing heavily on my heart that don’t seem to be changing no matter how much I bring them to God. There are frustrations over situations that never seem to change and desires that have gone unrealized yet remain part of the fabric of who I am. These are the things that left uncheck will haunt us, distract us, and discourage us.

Christians are not immune to these feelings. In fact, and this is just my opinion, when these things sink their claws in I think they’re probably more problematic in the life of Christians because we see how things would be working if sin hadn’t messed everything up. It’s the devil’s way of trying to hinder the work of God. If we’re haunted, distracted, and discouraged we won’t have the focus to do what God wants or live the way He wants us to. And that’s on the mild end of things. At their worst, those times tug on a young believer’s roots of faith. Sometimes, it pulls them up completely.

When we let these things sideline us, we are forgetting some important things. The quote above could be re-written for believers.   A Christian is a Christian not because she lives it well or easily, because she has amazing faith, or because everything she does is exactly what God wants her to do. A Christian is a Christian because, even when it feels as if there is no hope, even when prayer, fasting, and scripture reading don’t seem to hold any promise for changing things, you keep following Christ anyway.

We don’t follow Christ because it’s easy, and we don’t follow Him because of what He’s going to do for us. The Bible never promises our lives will be sunshine and puppies. In fact, it says we will face troubles. We will be confronted with situations or ideas that make it easy to doubt. We will face hurts that seem insurmountable. And even though we don’t want to, we will fail in our fight against temptation. But one of the changes in this new quote changes everything for the believer. It’s the part that says “feels there is no hope”.

No matter how dark things get, there is always hope for the believer. Hope is more than a wish. It is braided together with our faith. You can’t have faith without hope because faith is the evidence of things hoped for. You can’t have hope without faith because our hope brings us to faith. Hope is a powerful thing in our lives, and when it takes a beating our spirits do too.

But we have to hope in the right things. We can pray for our circumstances to change, but they may not. Our hope is not in the immediate removal of whatever circumstance has us tied in knots. It’s in the promises of God. He is with us. He loves us with an everlasting love. He forgives our sin, all our sin. We have a future in heaven with Him where everything will run the way it was meant to in the first place. He wants to use the bad stuff in our lives to make us more like Him and to help us minister to others. He offers us comfort and peace. These are just the beginning of the list of promises found in scripture. God and His promises are where we put our hope. And when our hope is in the right things, we have the way to fight the circumstances that threaten our faith. We become Christians who are Christians because no matter what we will keep following Christ.

By the Book: What have you placed your hope in?

Looking for Direction

glassesToday was filled with the stress of making choices. It started with ordering new glasses. Sounds simple enough, but it’s not. Do you know how many choices there are? Metal frames or plastic? Type of lens? Scratch resistance? Anti-glare? Bi-focal or regular? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Those choices are easy, coming down to how much I want to pay. But choosing frames? That’s a different story.

I decided to go bold, at least for me. My frames are thin and non-descript, almost invisible. I wanted a change. So, instead of being in and out in minutes, I stood for over forty minutes in front of the displays taking awkward looking selfies in anything that didn’t make me immediately snarl and pull the frames from my face. Then, I sent the best ones (frames, not selfies, I’m horrible at taking selfies) to six trusted family members and friends for their feedback. Thank goodness they all pretty much agreed, with the exception of my daughter who tried to steer me in the direction of the boldest frame I had tried on. I assured her I wasn’t quite to that stage yet, and I went with the consensus.

I placed my order and went on with my day. Imagine my horror as I stood in the aisle of Wal-Mart looking at dry erase boards, realizing I faced another choice. The board I wanted came with the option of white, black, or wood trim. After another fifteen agonizing minutes, the wood framed one ended up in my cart. Two choices in an hour? I was exhausted.

Choices are hard sometimes. I tend to be laid back about most things, not really caring about what to have for dinner or what my husband and I should do on date night. But choosing the glasses I have to wear for the next several years or the dry erase board that will either bring together everything or look mismatched in the office I’ll set up once my oldest son moves out in five months? That’s a different story. I have to make the right decision or I might regret it. At least in the grand scheme of things the decisions I faced today are minor.  Anne Carty isn’t so lucky in Keeper of Coin by Mary Kay Tuberty.

Anne leaves her family in Ireland at her father’s insistence. As the most frugal daughter, John believes she is the best option for making the trip, finding employment, and sending for the rest of the children. Anne believes her older sister should make the trip first, but she bows to her father’s wishes out of respect for his authority. She arrives in America and makes her way to St. Louis where things don’t go exactly as planned. Her father has hired a man to oversee her funds and help arrange passage to her uncle in Oregon. Anne has reservations about the man’s integrity, but again, she defers to her father’s decision.

When plans go awry, Anne has to choose whether or not to stay in St. Louis or keep trying to reach Oregon. Anne likes her life in St. Louis. She has friends, an adopted family, and a man who is quickly winning her heart. But her loyalty is to the promise she made her father, and she pushes aside her desires to fulfill his wishes.

After her older sister joins her in St. Louis, both girls believe saving for the other children to join them will go quickly, allowing Anne to fulfill her promise and choose the life she desires. It isn’t to be. A thief steals the fare for the next child’s trip. Their uncle in Oregon is surprisingly silent on bringing them from St. Louis. And to top it off, their parents aren’t taking care with the money the girls work so hard to send due to famine conditions in Ireland. Though Anne receives wise advice from many encouraging her to consider that her father cannot know what’s best since he’s not in America and has no idea what life is like for her, she still chooses time and again to honor her pledge. It leaves her and those she loves wondering if she will ever feel free to choose the life and love she desires.

I can understand Anne’s struggle to honor her parents and still make choices that work with her new life. I wouldn’t want to face the same decisions. She could’ve used a neon sign directing her path. I know I’ve wished for one. I desire so much to make right choices, godly choices. Sometimes my paths are clear, but not always. I’m sure we’ve all been there. We wait for God to tell us clearly what to choose, but He doesn’t give us a burning bush or even an audible voice. What are we supposed to do? How are we to decide?

Proverbs 3:5-6 gives us a starting point. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”  Trust. It is  a simple word with huge implications. Trust is when what we believe about God turns into action. Do we believe He has a plan for us? Do we believe He loves us? Do we believe He wants us to live inside His will? Do we believe God is a big enough, powerful enough to let us know if the choice we’re considering is definitely not in His plan for us? If so, then we can proceed. It may be that God’s plan can be accomplished in many ways, and the right thing for us to do may be to simply choose.

But what if it’s not? That’s where the rest of the verses come in. Lean not on your understanding. Don’t trust in yourself, that you know best. Turn to God. Go to Him. Know scripture to gain understanding of what is and isn’t inside God’s will. If your plan includes anything contrary to scripture, it can’t be what God wants. God doesn’t want any of us living in sin.

In all your ways acknowledge Him. Are you praying about your decision? Are you asking for His guidance and wanting in your heart to do things the way God wants them done? Are you remaining open to His leading, even if it is contrary to your desire? Do you end each prayer with the same desire that Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane? Not my will, but Your will be done.

He will direct your paths. It’s right there in the Bible. If you’re going in a way contrary to His plans for you, God will show you. If we do our part to seek His will and His way, He will direct us. It may not be as clearly spoken as the plan Moses received. But we will hear His quiet voice speaking to our spirit if we are going the right way. If we are open to His plans, He will close and open doors for us as we go. He will nudge us away from choices that would be detrimental. And He will work through our choices to accomplish His will when the specifics of those choices are left to us to decide. And if we make a choice God doesn’t want us to make? When I’ve seen my error and sought His forgiveness for going in a direction He told me not to go, my God is big enough to redeem even those choices and put me on the right path once again.

By the Book: If you’ve been struggling to make a choice, have you given it over to God? Do you trust Him? Are you open to seeking His will, His way? If so, listen for that small voice and look for the opened and closed doors.

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