Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: God’s promises

What I’m Reading: Under Moonlit Skies

Sometimes God asks us to do the hard thing. I’ve experienced times when God wanted me to say something to someone I knew they wouldn’t like. Confrontation makes me sick to my stomach. Doing what God put in my heart to do was difficult during those times.

People I love have made poor choices that could have led to permanent, disastrous results. I wanted to help fix things for them, but God led me to give them to Him instead. Taking my hands off the situation and limiting myself to being there to listen and to pray for them was incredibly difficult.

I’ve experienced numerous occasions where God has nudged me from my comfort zone. He’s grown me as a person, a Christian, and a writer during those times. Knowing that’s how He works doesn’t make it any easier to choose to immediately listen to His prodding.

Doing the hard thing is, well, hard. It can lead us into situations where the outcome is not guaranteed. Stepping out in obedience to the nudge of the Holy Spirit has worked that way in my life, and it works that way for Esther Stanton in Under Moonlit Skies by Cynthia Roemer.

Esther grew up on the prairie until her father’s death. Being the younger of two sisters, she follows her mother to Cincinnati, Ohio. Life is good there. Her mother remarries, and though they are not close, Esther’s stepfather provides a good, comfortable life for them. Esther has a life-style that doesn’t exist on the prairie. But in her heart, Esther longs for the kind of life she knew growing up.

The flame of this desire is fanned when Esther returns to her hometown to care for her sister’s family while her sister recovers from giving birth to her second child. Time on the prairie brings back to life a vitality Esther has lost since moving to the city.  And time with Stew, a ranch hand working for her brother-in-law, only makes living on the prairie that much more attractive.

Esther and Stew’s attraction grows to friendship and continues on the path to love as they spend time together each day. What Esther feels for him and the life they could share together makes the prospect of returning to a man she doesn’t love in Cincinnati seem like a prison sentence. She knows a return to the city and the man who can give her everything financially is exactly what her mother expects, but Esther’s heart longs for more.

The nudge of the Holy Spirit for Esther to honor her mother’s wishes creates conflict in her spirit. She goes, leaving her hopes for a life of love on the prairie in limbo. Her return sets her on a path she doesn’t want but feels she must accept. Only time reveals if Esther’s obedience will lead her back to the life she dreams of or if she will be forced to find contentment in the life her mother wants for her.

There are no guarantees in how the circumstances will work out for Esther as she steps out in obedience, and it’s often the same with us. We have a limited view of our circumstances, but God sees how our picture intersects with the pictures of every other person in our lives. We see many possible outcomes, but He can see infinitely more. We think we know what’s best for us, but God knows what’s going to be best for all involved and bring Him the most glory in the end.

No matter what’s going on, no matter the possible outcomes, there are certain scriptural promises we can cling to. Philippians chapter four tells us we can know peace that goes beyond our circumstances. Jeremiah twenty-nine assures us God has plans for our good, and Psalm one hundred thirty-nine tells us God knows all our days before we’re even born. Romans eight promises that no matter what happens, God can bring good things into our lives through it.

It’s easy to throw these promises out without thought. But they aren’t magic words that make our hurts disappear. While they’re simple to say, living them during our hardest moments is never easy. We can’t pick and choose when to live out scripture and which verses we want to claim. The promises come alive in our lives when we live in active relationship with our heavenly Father in both the good times and the bad. If we’re drawing close to Him, He will draw close to us in our hard times. It’s a promise.

It’s a Mystery

It was a winding, narrow gravel road like any other country road. It led to Grandma Stearns’ farm. But there was a single stretch of that road lined with trees on both sides, as deep as you could see. Their limbs reached across the road creating a canopy overhead. This nature made tunnel was dark and cool. Sounds peaceful, right?

It might have been, if it weren’t for my older brothers. They informed me, while I was a young child, this stretch of road was called Sleepy Hollow. Now, I hadn’t read the book, and I didn’t know the story that well. What I did know was that a headless horseman terrorized and killed people in Sleepy Hollow.

Suddenly, that small piece of road became an endless tunnel of certain death. The shade became sinister, and evil lurked in the trees. I hated driving down that road. It made me anxious. Even today, as a logical adult, that old childhood anxiety sometimes tries to creep in. I blame my brothers.

Is it a trend for older brothers to traumatize their younger sisters? I can honestly say this isn’t the only time it happened in my childhood.  And experiences like this one taught me that I don’t like feeling anxious or afraid.

I believe it’s part of the reason I’ve never gravitated to reading mysteries. The unknown, especially when there is a sinister plotline, isn’t fun for me. It keeps me up at night and fuels bad dreams. My two favorite authors have challenged this dislike at times, and because of them, I’m branching out. I’m learning that just because something is a mystery doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.

Linda Fulkerson proved this with her mystery, Dead Broke. I chose it to introduce myself to a new author, but I wasn’t quite sure I would like it. It’s a mystery. A mystery with the word dead in the title. But I tried to keep an open mind, and I’m glad I did. The mystery begins in the very first chapter for Andy Warren, a sports photographer. And as Andy goes back to her hometown, the mystery continues to grow, becoming more complex and dangerous for Andy. It doesn’t help that her hometown is the typical southern small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It gives Andy plenty of suspects and just as many doubts about each one. Every time she thinks she has it all figured out, Andy finds out something new that sends her back to the drawing board.

It’s these twists and turns that keep readers guessing, but they cause a lot of frustration for Andy. It’s a feeling most of us can probably relate to. There are lots of things scripture tells us about life. We know sin separates us from God. We know that God sent His Son to die so we could be forgiven. We know that when we accept God’s forgiveness, we come into relationship with Him and will one day spend eternity in heaven with Him. We know that the battle has already been won, and good wins over evil once and for all.

Knowing these things is great. They bring hope and peace into our lives. It’s the things we don’t know that sometimes cause us frustration. Life is messy. It’s full of twists and turns. We seek to live the way God wants us to live. We want to do His will. We trust that God has plans for us, just as it says in Jeremiah 29. But those plans aren’t usually spelled out for us in black and white. And even when we do know what God wants for us, unexpected situations come up and seem to throw everything out of whack. People hurt us, disaster strikes, jobs are lost, or people get sick.

Whatever the situation, we don’t expect it. We think we have it all figured out, and then something comes along to send us back to the drawing board. Sometimes, we’re still on the right path, but the path looks different than we imagined. Other times, the situations force us into a completely different direction. Whatever the case, the mystery, the not knowing, can cause anxiety, fear, and doubt. The things that cause people to love a good mystery novel don’t feel so fun when they become part of our daily lives. But even in the middle of the chaos and unexpected circumstances, we have something to hold onto that will calm our frayed emotions. We have the promises of God.

Scripture never says bad things won’t happen. The book of Job is a good reminder of that. What it tells us is that no matter how bad the situation is, God will use it to bring something good into our lives when we love Him (Romans 8:28). He also promises us strength when we feel weak. (Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 40:31, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We don’t have to worry about being alone because God promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). And these are just a few promises to help us through the circumstances we don’t understand.

You may think it seems too easy, but there’s nothing easy about it. When you’re going through the most difficult times in your life, easy doesn’t exist. The pain still cuts. But because of God’s promises, you can know peace in the pain and confusion. You can rest in His strength and look forward to what He will accomplish in your life through the circumstances. You can let go of your fear of the unknown, understanding that to God, your circumstances are not a mystery.

By the Book: What mysteries threaten your peace or bring you pain? Look up the verses above and search out other promises of God. Ask God to help you experience these promises in your life. Write them in a notebook or journal to meditate on when the unknown threatens your peace.

It's a Mystery

It was a winding, narrow gravel road like any other country road. It led to Grandma Stearns’ farm. But there was a single stretch of that road lined with trees on both sides, as deep as you could see. Their limbs reached across the road creating a canopy overhead. This nature made tunnel was dark and cool. Sounds peaceful, right?
It might have been, if it weren’t for my older brothers. They informed me, while I was a young child, this stretch of road was called Sleepy Hollow. Now, I hadn’t read the book, and I didn’t know the story that well. What I did know was that a headless horseman terrorized and killed people in Sleepy Hollow.
Suddenly, that small piece of road became an endless tunnel of certain death. The shade became sinister, and evil lurked in the trees. I hated driving down that road. It made me anxious. Even today, as a logical adult, that old childhood anxiety sometimes tries to creep in. I blame my brothers.
Is it a trend for older brothers to traumatize their younger sisters? I can honestly say this isn’t the only time it happened in my childhood.  And experiences like this one taught me that I don’t like feeling anxious or afraid.
I believe it’s part of the reason I’ve never gravitated to reading mysteries. The unknown, especially when there is a sinister plotline, isn’t fun for me. It keeps me up at night and fuels bad dreams. My two favorite authors have challenged this dislike at times, and because of them, I’m branching out. I’m learning that just because something is a mystery doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.
Linda Fulkerson proved this with her mystery, Dead Broke. I chose it to introduce myself to a new author, but I wasn’t quite sure I would like it. It’s a mystery. A mystery with the word dead in the title. But I tried to keep an open mind, and I’m glad I did. The mystery begins in the very first chapter for Andy Warren, a sports photographer. And as Andy goes back to her hometown, the mystery continues to grow, becoming more complex and dangerous for Andy. It doesn’t help that her hometown is the typical southern small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It gives Andy plenty of suspects and just as many doubts about each one. Every time she thinks she has it all figured out, Andy finds out something new that sends her back to the drawing board.
It’s these twists and turns that keep readers guessing, but they cause a lot of frustration for Andy. It’s a feeling most of us can probably relate to. There are lots of things scripture tells us about life. We know sin separates us from God. We know that God sent His Son to die so we could be forgiven. We know that when we accept God’s forgiveness, we come into relationship with Him and will one day spend eternity in heaven with Him. We know that the battle has already been won, and good wins over evil once and for all.
Knowing these things is great. They bring hope and peace into our lives. It’s the things we don’t know that sometimes cause us frustration. Life is messy. It’s full of twists and turns. We seek to live the way God wants us to live. We want to do His will. We trust that God has plans for us, just as it says in Jeremiah 29. But those plans aren’t usually spelled out for us in black and white. And even when we do know what God wants for us, unexpected situations come up and seem to throw everything out of whack. People hurt us, disaster strikes, jobs are lost, or people get sick.
Whatever the situation, we don’t expect it. We think we have it all figured out, and then something comes along to send us back to the drawing board. Sometimes, we’re still on the right path, but the path looks different than we imagined. Other times, the situations force us into a completely different direction. Whatever the case, the mystery, the not knowing, can cause anxiety, fear, and doubt. The things that cause people to love a good mystery novel don’t feel so fun when they become part of our daily lives. But even in the middle of the chaos and unexpected circumstances, we have something to hold onto that will calm our frayed emotions. We have the promises of God.
Scripture never says bad things won’t happen. The book of Job is a good reminder of that. What it tells us is that no matter how bad the situation is, God will use it to bring something good into our lives when we love Him (Romans 8:28). He also promises us strength when we feel weak. (Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 40:31, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We don’t have to worry about being alone because God promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). And these are just a few promises to help us through the circumstances we don’t understand.
You may think it seems too easy, but there’s nothing easy about it. When you’re going through the most difficult times in your life, easy doesn’t exist. The pain still cuts. But because of God’s promises, you can know peace in the pain and confusion. You can rest in His strength and look forward to what He will accomplish in your life through the circumstances. You can let go of your fear of the unknown, understanding that to God, your circumstances are not a mystery.
By the Book: What mysteries threaten your peace or bring you pain? Look up the verses above and search out other promises of God. Ask God to help you experience these promises in your life. Write them in a notebook or journal to meditate on when the unknown threatens your peace.

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