Monday, December 5, 2016

Our Gift

The idea of gifts has been on my mind...wonder why? ;) Last week I wrote a post on a writing blog that was central to this idea, but the idea stuck with me, so I'm continuing here. See, I'd written to my fellow writers about how our writing is a gift we've both been given and it's one we need to share--but we ALL have a gift.

Some of us are still looking for it. We know we were created for a purpose, but we are still in the process of God showing it to us. Don't give up, God created you with a gift and talent that is designed for the exact purpose he had in mind when he called you into being. You have a gift. Let him unfold it in front of you as you seek him.

Some of us have found our gift, but we're in a spot of refining it. God is maturing us. Growth isn't always fun, but it's in the thick of stretching, carving, and shaping our gift that we grow facets of ourselves God will use to reach others. In the Potter's hands we truly become exactly who God created us to be.

Some of us have discovered it but don't want to claim it. It's not the gift we would have chosen or nearly as shiny as the person beside us. Well it's time to stop comparing. Stop longing after something you were never meant to have. And start enjoying the beauty of what God's placed inside of you! Don't throw away the gift God has given because you think it's not good enough. Everything...everything God created has value. Including you.

And some of us are operating smack dab inside the gift God gave us. And when we are finally there. When we've fully unwrapped, put together, appreciated, and put on the amazing gift he placed within us, an amazing thing begins to happen.

The gift he gave us becomes a gift for others.

And all of it points straight back to the ultimate Gift. Jesus Christ himself.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Heard

I love how the Bible gives us glimpses of imperfect lives. I love that we see trials and mess-ups mixed in among people who had some of the most miraculous or victorious moments. No, the Bible doesn't hide the doubters, worriers, and strugglers. Which is good, because their stories are where hope is born.

Recently I opened Luke and jumped into Zechariah and Elizabeth's story. These two don't take up much space in the pages of our Bibles, but they do take up a huge spot in fulfilling the prophecy of Christ's birth. See, it was foretold at the very end of Malachi of one who'd come like Elijah and prepare the way of the Lord. People had been praying for the very arrival of this one for 400 years. 400. And I get bothered when I have to pray a week and don't see movement in an area.

Anyway.

Zechariah and Elizabeth had another prayer in addition, only this was a personal one. They wanted a child. Now it doesn't say how long they'd been praying for a baby, but it does say they were both "well along in years" (Luke 1:7) which is a sweet way of calling them old. Knowing how important children were in the time and culture they lived, you can safely believe they'd repeated this prayer for several years. What I love the most? Even as they continued to pray about something they saw no response to, they remained faithful to God. How do we know? Because right before the passage calls them old, it says something far more important: "both were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and relations blamelessly." (Luke 1:6) They didn't get what they wanted from God, yet they still continued to follow him. Did they struggle? Probably. Have hard days? No doubt. And still they were pillars of faith even in their trial. Wow. I think I want to be like them.

What is even more amazing, however, is that when God finally answers them--and with a literal angel delivering the answer face-to-face--Zechariah questions it. (See. Those not-so-perfect moments remain on the page.) Honestly, I don't think it was because he doubted. I think the reason for his questions were two-fold. First, I think after praying for something for so many years it was hard to reconcile the answer had finally arrived. I think this moment shows how tattered his faith had become. He had the faith to still utter the prayer, but his ability to believe the answer truly would come might have been a bit shredded by time. Sometimes our situations can change so quickly that we need a moment to catch up, and I think that's what happened here with Zechariah.

Second--and this is the part I absolutely love--Zechariah and Elizabeth had been praying for years for two children. One of their very own, and one to usher in the coming of Christ's birth. Never in their wildest dreams did they imagine the two prayers were actually one and the same. So when Gabriel stands before Zechariah and speaks the very words written at the end of Malachi about the child Elizabeth will bear, well, I can see why Zechariah might have been a little stunned.

Oh friends, we pray for so many things near and dear to our hearts, but how often are those desires so much smaller than what Christ wants to actually do through us? Zechariah and Elizabeth's picture of a family was huge to them, but what God wanted to do was infinitely grander. If only we could see what he has in store for us! Don't limit your prayers.

Know--no matter how long you've prayed them--that they've been heard.

And don't be surprised when God delivers the answer--sometimes in a very big way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Sweetest Thing

I have a problem. And this time of year it’s a bear to bare with: My sweet tooth.

Candy Canes.
Those cute little ribbon things.
Peppermint Bark
Chocolate...well, chocolate anything
Frosted Sugar Cookies
Pecan Pie
Gingerbread
Pumpkin Bars
Truffles
Banket
Cinnamon Roasted Almonds...you know how they fill the mall with their smell and tug you toward them?

Everywhere you turn there is something sweet to nibble on. Goodness, they even take things like fruit and cover it with chocolate or caramel or layers of both! And it seems my sweet tooth is never satisfied. The more I taste, the more I want. This is not helpful if I still want to fit in to my clothes come January 1st.


So imagine my glee when I discovered something sweet I can gorge on day and night. Something that will always satisfy and is not harmful at all: the Word of the Lord. “How sweet are your words to my taste…” (Psalm 119:103)


Strange, I know, to say words satisfy. That they are sweet. But spend some time talking with Him. Sit in His presence. Let it flow over you. Wrap you. Embrace you. And then start writing down the words you feel. I bet sweetness is on that list. See, there is a sweetness in the intimacy, in the abandonment of praising Him, in His all-consuming love. Is there really any better way to describe it?

So today, while you’re baking, shopping, running, prepping…stop. Just for a moment. And wait on Him. Lift your hands and begin to praise Him.

He truly is the sweetest thing.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Friday, November 4, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - WINNER!

Here's the winner of last week's Everstone Chronicles giveaway:


Congratulations Dianne! Private message me here or on my Facebook page with your desired mailing address, and we'll get the books out to you.

And thank you everyone who entered! 

Have a great weekend and happy reading, friends:)

Monday, October 31, 2016

1,672,359 Steps (or what feels like it at least)

July marked the 6th birthday for this blog. In that time I've logged nearly 700 posts, been contracted by my amazing agent, had a few small stories published, and been rejected more times than I care to count. I've grown in my faith, arrived at a new understanding of hope, and dug deeper into God's Word.

I wish there was something that told me how many steps I've actually taken and what they all equate to. Something that would prod me when I haven't taken enough and something that applauded me when I've hit my mark. Basically, I wish there was a spiritual Fitbit I could wear. But since there's not, I've been clinging to a verse:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9



Friends, waiting is a hard thing to do. Especially when we feel worn out from all the work we've put in and our harvest still hasn't grown. I think we can--and do--grow weary. I named this blog Steps because I fully intended to constantly be taking steps toward the purpose God created me for. And like the title of today's post, I'm fairly confident I've taken at least 1,672,359 of those steps and have yet to see a harvest from the seeds I've planted. Nope. I'm still planting away in the muck and the mire.

I. am. tired.

Bone weary.

And I think that's okay. I think that going after who God created us to be can wear us out sometimes. The best of workouts leave us winded but stronger. Our muscles ache, but they are growing. Weariness for a moment is okay--as long as it doesn't cause us to give up. And though my weariness almost did just that, I rested, dug into God's Word, and have come back ready to keep moving forward.

Friends, we have to keep planting. Oh, the field may change, our path may twist, our harvest might not look anything like we envisioned, but we cannot give up doing the good God called us to do. Take a break. Sit in his presence. Recharge if you need too, but keep doing. Keep moving. Keep planting.

The harvest will come.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Bookshelf Friday - The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall

Hello friends!

After a short break, Bookshelf Friday is starting back up today with one of my favorite books! The Cautious Maiden by Dawn Crandall. Oh, and a giveaway!! So let's chat about the book and then I'll let you know how you can get it in you hands:)


Violet Hawthorne is beyond mortified when her brother Ezra turns their deceased parents' New England country inn into a brothel to accommodate the nearby lumberjacks, but when Violet's own reputation is compromised, the inn becomes the least of her worries. In an effort to salvage her good name, Violet is forced into an engagement with a taciturn acquaintance: Vance Everstone. As she prepares for a society wedding, Violet learns that her brother had staked her hand in marriage in a heated poker game with the unsavory Rowen Steele, and Ezra had lost. Now Rowen is determined to cash in on his IOU. With danger stalking her and a new fiance who hides both his emotion and his past, Violet must decide who to trust, and who to leave behind.

If you've read any of Crandall's books, you'll know she writes in first person and loves romance--and this fourth book in her series is being touted as her best by those who've read it. I tend to agree. Crandall deftly mixes a slightly suspenseful plot, a reformed hero, and a stronger-than-she-looks heroine with a group of secondary characters who only enrich this cast. She also continues to have strong spiritual and emotional threads while maintaining sigh-worthy romance. And somehow she manages to do it all with a voice that was created to write historical. There's something lyrical and old-fashioned about her writing, and yet it's fresh and new at the same time. Her books are ones I never expected to enjoy (I'm not a first-person fan and I prefer contemporary to historical) and yet have every one of them on my shelf.

And so...I'd love to give you the same chance! I'm not only giving away a copy of The Cautious Maiden, but Dawn Crandall is helping me give away the entire series. OH! And she's signing The Cautious Maiden before sending it out. I'll be running this contest here and on my Facebook page. All you need to do to be entered to win is comment here or there. I'll randomly pick a winner next Thursday night and announce who it is right here next Friday.

But if you cannot wait until then, you can always purchase The Cautious Maiden here.

Happy reading, friends!

Contest Rules:
Must be 18 or older to enter. Contest open to US Residents only. This contest is not sponsored by, affiliated with, or endorsed by Blogger or Facebook. Contest open until 11/3/2016 at 11:59 p.m. Winner will be randomly drawn from all eligible participants.