faith, Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Confronting the Darkness in July: Stand Firm

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

(Psalm 40:1-2, NIV)

“It’s over.” The two words from her husband changed everything for Elizabeth. She tried to save her marriage. She begged her husband to reconsider. She sought advice from older women in her church who were married. She read marriage books by the dozens.

She prayed for her husband, spending hours in her closet. As a child of a broken home, the one thing Elizabeth had never wanted was a divorce.

But despite her prayers and her pleading, the divorce went through. It was finalized just four years after she’d gotten married. Elizabeth felt like a failure. She was heartbroken.

Sometimes, you can do everything right. You can read the right books. Attend the best seminars. Pray for miracles and still watch in agony as a loved one walks away from you.

When you’re grappling with loss, God can lift you out of the mire. It may take time before you feel like you’re back on solid ground. But rest assured that you are held in His perfect embrace, dear one. 

God, help me in the middle of loss to look to You. Pull me out of this darkness and set me back on solid ground. Hold onto me in the moments when I feel like everything’s falling apart. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

faith, Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Forgiveness in June: Secret Forgiveness

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”

(Psalm 103:8, NIV)

Laura’s husband walked out on her to be with another woman. At first, Laura was devastated. She was an orphan and had no family other than her husband. “I felt like she took the one person who meant the whole world to me,” Laura said.

As the years passed, Laura healed from her husband’s betrayal. Eventually, God brought a new man into her life. When he asked her to marry him, she was delighted, and they began to plan for an autumn wedding.

Laura didn’t want to bring baggage from her past into her new marriage, so she reached out to her pastor. “I can truthfully say I’ve forgiven him and her,” she said. “It took a lot of work, but I bear them no malice. My question is, should I share the fact that I’ve forgiven them?”

Laura’s pastor said, “Forgiveness is about your heart, not theirs. If you say you’ve forgiven someone, and they haven’t sought you out, you risk offending the other party and opening yourself up to more emotional wounds. But if someone comes to you, confessing their sin and seeking forgiveness, then offer it freely and wish them the best.”

God, please show me if there’s someone who needs to hear that I forgive them. If they don’t, give me the peace to move on. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, I pray. Amen.

If you liked this story, you might also like the sweet second chance romance novella Believe in Me, by Mishael Austin Witty. Available now on Kindle for only 99 cents!

Family Fun & Fitness

30 Days of Celebrating Mothers: Mother in Search of Identity

Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

Genesis 29:32 (NIV)

Perhaps there’s no story in the whole Bible more poignant than that of Leah … the girl who was used by her father and who was basically unloved by her husband. At least, I’ve always felt that Leah’s story was a sad one.

Leah watched as her sister, Rachel, flirted with Jacob. She watched as they courted. She saw the secret glances they stole at each other when they thought no one else was looking. She watched in admiration (and maybe a little jealousy) the way Jacob worked for seven years just so he could marry Rachel.

Then her father came, just hours before her sister’s wedding. He shoved the bridal clothes at Leah, demanding she slip into them and marry Jacob in her sister’s place.

The next morning, she could hear Jacob shouting at her uncle, demanding to know why he’d been betrayed. Then, seven years later, Jacob finally married Rachel, the sister he truly loved. And Leah had to wonder where that left her.

But God had the answer to all her questions … He always does.

Leah was trapped in a loveless marriage, but God saw her misery. He sent her a son, and she named him Reuben. She was certain that now her husband would love her. In doing so, she made the mistake of placing her sense of worth in her husband and her children, rather than God – the one who had given her both, and even her very life. That’s why she spent years feeling so empty as she chased after Jacob.

But somewhere along the way, Leah accepted her true identity as a favored daughter of God. She understood that God loved her unconditionally, and she let His love fill her with peace and joy.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.

Genesis 29:35 (NIV)

At least, she stopped having children for a while. We know that she had five more children after Judah – four more sons of Jacob, and his daughter Dinah. Leah may have been unloved by her husband, but she was favored by God in motherhood.

Her sister only had two sons. And neither one of those was the ancestor of God’s promised Messiah. Leah’s son Judah was.

God saw Leah’s her pain. He knew all that she had been through. And He used it all for her good (and for the good of the rest of us throughout history too) … and, of course, for His glory.

God, help me to remember my worth does not come from my relationships. Like Leah, let me rest in You, content with the knowledge that I am Your beloved child…and You will work everything that happens in my life out for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d like to invite you to join my free private Facebook group where mothers can connect for support and encouragement in the Lord.

Book Reviews

Sweet Romance Sundays: A Lifelong Love by Gary Thomas (Book Review)

Sweet Romance Sundays (2)

One of the things I like best about sweet romance stories is that they almost always end in marriage. That’s the happily ever after we learned to expect from listening to our parents read us fairy tales as little girls…so that’s what we look for in a lifetime partner, whether or not he happens to be a prince.

But…in sweet romance novels, the story usually ends after the wedding. That’s not the case with real life. After the wedding comes marriage, and the marriage (if it’s going to last for any extended period of time) is not always going to be easy, to put it mildly. This, of course, should be obvious when looking at the current divorce rates in the United States alone, which indicate that almost 1 out of every 2 marriages will end in divorce at some point. It’s even more alarming that the divorce rates among Christians aren’t much better. So what is the root cause of all these divorces, and how can couples divorce-proof their marriages?

These are some questions Thomas addresses in his A LIFELONG LOVE: WHAT IF MARRIAGE IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST STAYING TOGETHER. But he goes even further than that. He says not only can you stay married for life, but you can actually ENJOY being together for your whole lives. Your marriage can thrive and be a blessing to others…but it might take some work and some self-sacrificing.

For those who have read Thomas’s SACRED MARRIAGE (as I have), this idea won’t come as a complete surprise. That’s a fabulous book and well worth a read, and this one is too – for married couples who are happy (as my husband and I have been for 7 years), for married couples who are unhappy but want to regain that happiness, and even for unmarried couples who are looking forward to taking that next major step in their relationship.

There’s plenty of wise counsel and sound advice in this book. I loved every minute I spent reading this book (with my husband), and I highly recommend it! And now you have the chance to win your very own copy of this potentially marriage-saving book right here on this blog. Just leave me a comment before 11:59 PM (EST) on Tuesday, November 11, 2014, and you’ll be entered in the giveaway.

lifelong love cover

About the Book
Hardcover / 316 Pages 
Discover how to live out a sacred marriage. You believe your marriage has eternal purposes. you long for it to reach beyond your home and encourage others. But what does it look like to have a spiritually intentional relationship in the midst of dirty dishes, work deadlines, and car pools? In Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas showed us that God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy. Now, in A Lifelong Love, Thomas gives us the practical tools to craft our marriages into inspiring relationships that breathe spiritual life to others. Whatever season of marriage you are in, A Lifelong Love gives your the practical help you need to infuse your marriage with a spiritual passion that will not only change you but will change the world around you.
About the Author
Gargary thomasy Thomas is writer-in-residence at 2nd Baptist Church in Houston, a frequent guest on Focus on the Family and FamilyLife Today radio, and a popular speaker. His award-winning books, including The Sacred Search, have been translated into over a dozen languages and have sold more than a million copies worldwide. Thomas and his wife have been married 30 years and have 3 children.
Follow Gary on Twitter@garyLthomas

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Book Reviews

The One Thing I Hated About THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING

A couple years ago, I signed up for one of those book-of-the-month club deals. I was trying to complete a “free” offer to get something else, and since I love books so much, I thought this would be the perfect deal for me. Not so…It ended badly, but this isn’t a story about that. This is a review of a book.

One of the books I ordered as part of that deal was James Patterson’s (Was it REALLY written by James Patterson, or was his name just tacked up there to generate sales? I can’t decide.) THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING. The book came in the mail and it sat on the shelf…for  a long time…

Until this past Christmas when I decided that I was going to try to read a book every week of the new year, as one of my resolutions. Since it was the holiday season, I happened to see that book on my shelf and picked it up, thinking it was the perfect read for the time of the year. So … I gave it a chance.

It started well. It was, at the title indicates, a story about a Christmas wedding. I love Christmas stories, and I love wedding stories. Things were going great.

Then I found out that the bride wasn’t telling her children who the groom was going to be. She was keeping it a secret. Well, that seemed a little strange, but I was willing to roll with it.

Further into the story, after we meet Gaby (the bride) and all her kids, we meet the potential grooms…and we discover that, in fact, Gaby has not even told her potential suitors (three men have proposed to her at various times) which one of them she has decided to marry. There is a BIG hint about not-quite-halfway through the book, following all the best screenwriting conventions, but it’s not entirely clear, of course, until the end. And that’s where the book lost me. I mean, I kept reading it because I was invested in the story, but I certainly didn’t like the story anymore, and I really didn’t care for either Gaby or the three suitors who would subject themselves to her game.

All these men were supposed to be Gaby’s friends. She loved them all. Okay, but if she really loved them, and if they were really her friends, wouldn’t she TELL them which of them she was going to marry?

I am blessed to be married to my very best friend in the whole world, and I tell him everything. He trusts me and I trust him because we have VERY OPEN COMMUNICATION. We share things with each other. Actually, we share EVERYTHING with each other. He asked me to marry him, and I told him I would. There was no game to it. Neither one of us buys into any of those romantic games that seem all too common these days, and the cheapening of the relationship that SHOULD lead up to the marriage bond, as is displayed in this book, is EXACTLY (I think) why so many marriages end in divorce these days.

People aren’t honest with each other. People don’t talk to each other. People don’t really know or understand who they’re marrying, so they CAN’T make a decent sort of commitment to another person. I NEVER understood Gaby’s justification of her game. I don’t even know that she DID justify it, and I really didn’t understand why any ONE of those men would be willing to marry her after what she put them through. THAT was the one thing I hated about the book.

Still, it was an interesting story. It kept me engaged (Ha! No pun intended.) till the end. But is it one that I can really recommend with my whole heart? No, definitely not. It was okay, but that’s as good as it gets, in my humble opinion.