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One life here

March 13, 2017

Perhaps it is because I’ve been on and off sick since the end of January, or perhaps it’s because we visited the cemetery the same day we turned in the information to have our taxes done…death and taxes…yeah those two sure things. Or perhaps it is because I was looking for remedies to this virus and ran across a website that told me my resting pulse rate determined how long I would live. But one of these things got me thinking – and that tends to end in a lengthy email or blog post or journal entry. (So please forgive me for the length of this!)

Back to that website and the pulse rate. I was fairly “rested” at that moment, so I took my pulse and by their calculations discovered I might only have three years left to live. Woah!

And hmm…

Since I believe God determines how long I will live, I didn’t give the website too much credence, except that I did check my pulse again a few days later and looked for a more reliable website and discovered I fall right in the normal range. So there’s that.

I also figured it’s not worth worrying over. I couldn’t control the day I was born, nor did I have a say in that event and I certainly won’t have a say in the end of all things. I’ll skip over all of those “what ifs” about suicide or people who take unnecessary risks or other ways we can shorten our life except to say that yes, I think we can shorten God’s time table like Solomon did, when he flat out disobeyed God’s specific warning to him not to worship other gods. (He was about 56 when he died, which was young in comparison to his father.) You would think the wisest man in the world would have listened when God Almighty spoke to him three times! Boy how I would love to hear God’s voice speak directly to me!

But I digress…

That whole three years to live possibility mixed with visiting my in-laws and my dad’s graves this past week reminded me that we really aren’t here for long. Not on this physical earth. My mother-in-law (who I dedicated Redeeming Grace to in part) has been gone 17 years. My father-in-law ten years. My dad five. That doesn’t even count the grandma I grew up knowing the best who met Jesus when I was twenty-one. Yet time still ticks on and we forget the space those people held on the planet. We forget what their voice sounded like after a while. But if we’re coherent enough, we don’t forget their love or their faith or the way they treated us and we treated them.

I might not remember everything my dad and I did together, but I won’t forget that he loved to take the kids and me (Randy was working) to McDonalds for lunch and prayed with me on my birthday each year. He loved my mom for more than 70 years and was married almost as long to her. He loved watching his family, just spending time with them. I have pictures of him holding my kids as babies and getting on the floor and playing with them, or sitting in the chair watching them play. That is a precious memory I won’t easily forget.

And it got me thinking…what would I do differently if I really did know I only had three years left on earth? What if it was three days? Or thirty years? Do you ever wish we knew? I mean sometimes it’s tempting to want to know. We might spend our money differently. We might travel more often. We might not care about the petty things.

But of course, we don’t know and if truth were told, we probably don’t want to know. The mystique of not knowing keeps us getting up each day, looking forward to it with purpose. Yet how would you use the next year, two, three, ten, if you knew that’s all you had left?

I’m not trying to be morbid. It’s more like – what’s important to you? Do you have a bucket list? Do people or things matter most if you were faced with that very real possibility of our mortality? It’s not like the movies where we can get shot and come back to life in the next scene. We aren’t superman or wonder woman.

We will live forever somewhere, but it won’t be this current as-it-is earth. I am assuming if you read enough of my blog posts that you already know that I believe in heaven and hell and truth and life and that there is a way to be transformed and know the One who determines the future. But that’s not what this post is about.

I’m thinking earthly for a moment. And just wondering if you’ve ever thought of your own life in that framework? I lost a baby before he/she was born, had a neighbor boy die on our front lawn when he was twelve, knew two friends in high school who died in their twenties, had a cousin lose a teenage daughter in a car accident, knew a family who lost six members at once to a boating accident and more than one friend become widowed way too young. So I know that death is no respecter of age. Jesus considered it the enemy.

And He came to defeat it, which He did.

But until He completely shuts it down, we still live in a fallen world and while we scramble to find the fountain of youth, do we stop and think about…what if? How long, Lord? What would He have you do with your one life here?

If I really did have three years left on this earth, that would be a pretty freaky thought. The other day when I coughed so hard my chest hurt, I thought about this again. What would I do?

Well…I would probably keep doing what I’m doing, except I’d try to see my family more. I would try to mend any broken fences, if I could. I would travel to some of those bucket-list places. But mostly? I would just want to love and be loved. I would hope that I would share Jesus with everyone I knew – like my dad did. He exuded Jesus even in the nursing home, until he couldn’t speak anymore. I hope I never end up in a nursing home, but I do hope I exude the love of Jesus until that final breath.

How about you? I know I’ve probably made this more spiritual than it started out to be, but by now, my readers know that I tend to end up there because that’s who I am. I guess I wrote this more for me than anyone else – preaching to myself, as it were.

I do hope that perhaps something in this “trying not to be morbid” post causes all of us to think about our lives, how we’re spending them, what we’ll have in the end. Do I really care if I died with a boatload of money? (I don’t have a lot of money, nor a boat, but just sayin’.) We can’t take anything with us except the people we loved to Jesus, and we don’t get to pick when our future ends. We do get to pick how we spend our one life here.

I hope we choose to live it with love, forgiveness, and the grace of God, because that’s how we’ve been treated by Jesus. That’s my bucket list, even if I live to be one hundred.

In the meantime, I wouldn’t mind getting rid of this never-ending virus, and I think cemeteries and taxes should probably not be visited on the same day!

And if you’ve read this far – thank you!

#livegrace

by jill at 12:53 pm in ,

Could you give up everything?

March 6, 2017

Giving up. Have you ever had to give up something to gain something more, something better?

Ruth gave up all she knew in Moab to move with Naomi to Bethlehem, a city she did not know. I wonder, how willing i would be to go where I have never been? To love enough to cling to a God I was only beginning to know.

Ruth is an amazing woman of Scripture. While her story is also Naomi’s story, we see Ruth standing out as someone who risked everything for something she could not see. Did not know – yet.

Life is full of challenges, isn’t it? Every phase of life brings risk and change and the older I get the less I like those changes. But you know what? God is there in the risks. God is in the challenge and in the change. And He is seeking people who will come to Him, want Him, and allow Him to teach them in the middle of the challenge.

I’ll be honest. I’ve faced a lot of challenges these past few years. I’ve been placed in positions I would never have chosen. And sometimes I look heavenward and wonder, “couldn’t we have taken a different path?” If I were doing the choosing, this would look different than it does.

But it doesn’t. And it isn’t. And that’s okay, because God is in the challenge. And as Ruth discovered, He is worth anything we might have to give up.

Anything?

Yeah. Anything. If we put other things above Him – make them more important than Him in our hearts? We will find Him jealously pursuing us, because He wants to be our heart’s greatest desire. And that might mean giving up other things. Other people. Other longings. He wants no other gods to rule our hearts. 

As Christians, we tend to skip over those first two commandments about having other gods or worshiping idols. That was for those times, not ours. But was it? Are we not just as susceptible as the ancients were in putting other things, other goals, other people above our love for God?

When Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself,” He really didn’t leave any wiggle room for us to love someone or something above God His Father. Either He is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all. 

And yeah, that’s been my struggle these past few years. I never thought I could slip someone else or something else into God’s place as most important in my life. But when someone else is causing us to change our behavior or mood by their actions? We’re giving them too much power to control us. And that’s a warning sign – a big red flag that God is no longer our first love.

Giving up things I thought would always be part of my life is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Giving up a life I expected to be mine but isn’t leaves me asking “why”? Perhaps you see my career and think – what is she talking about? But you see, we all have our private side and God is in those private moments – in our homes, with our family, among our friends. It’s there where we face our biggest challenges. Maybe for some it is giving up a longed for career. We all walk a different path.

But God wants the other gods that war for space in our hearts to lose all potential to take His rightful place as the true Lord of our life.

Ruth realized that the gods of Moab were not even remotely comparable to the God of Israel, Naomi’s God. She wanted the God her mother-in-law knew. And she gave up all to have Him.

Are we willing to do the same?

~Selah

#redeeminggrace #livegrace

March 2017 Christian Fiction Releases

March 6, 2017

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:
reunion-at-crane-lake
Reunion at Crane Lake
by Robin Bayne — Colt’s memory is returning after the accident that ended his career. Now he wants to take over his family’s inn, but he’ll have to partner with his former fiancée to be able to afford it. He’ll need forgiveness to make that happen. Tia’s goal is clear: to return the inn to its former grandeur. And she’ll even work with Colt to do so. But like the inn, their relationship needs a lot of work. He broke her heart…can she ever trust him again? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

hope
Hope
by Fay Lamb — She’s a starving artist facing a serious illness; he’s the doctor who’s her only hope of survival. If only she hadn’t caused his sister to die. (Contemporary Romance from Write Integrity Press)

muffins-&-moonbeams
Muffins & Moonbeams
by Elizabeth Maddrey — Malachi Baxter is happy to hide in the background and manage the business-end of the family bakery. He’d much rather live in the online world of computer games where he can explore the galaxy and no one has to know he’s deaf. Ursula Franks designs websites during the day and spends her evenings battling alien races online where relationships are easy and uncomplicated. When she agrees to design a website for the local Community Supported Bakery, she has no idea that Malachi is the real man behind her online persona’s best friend and her own secret crush.As the two work together on the website, they uncover an attraction, but will they be able to put aside past hurt and insecurity to find love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

hope
Then Came You: A Bradford Sisters Novella
by Becky Wade — Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn’t know much about babies. But he’s going to have to learn fast because he’s just become a single father to his newborn daughter. Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can’t seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart…. (Romance Novella, Independently Published)

General:
when-the-bough-breaks
When the Bough Breaks
by Ane Mulligan — Her dream job has a Catch 22—and time’s running outRookie lobbyist Sienna O’Shea is determined to make a name for herself in New York’s capitol city and use that influence to gain easier access to her birth records. For years she’s searched for her birth mother, but when she’s handed her first assignment—to lobby support for the permanent sealing of all adoption records—her worlds collide. Swept up into the intrigue of backroom politics, falling in love was not on Sienna’s agenda, but the candidate for Lt. Governor runs a formidable campaign to make her his first lady. When an investigative reporter discovers foreign money infiltrating political campaigns, the trail leads to Sienna’s inner circle. (General, Independently Published)

the-memory-of-you
The Memory of You
by Catherine West — Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her? (General from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Cozy Mystery:
murder-is-no-accident
Murder Is No Accident
by A. H. Gabhart — When murder comes to call at a stately Victorian house, the town of Hidden Springs looks to Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane to solve the crime before anyone else dies. (Cozy Mystery from Revell [Baker])

Historical Romance:
a-rocky-mountain-romance
A Rocky Mountain Romance
by Misty M. Beller — When Zeche takes shelter from a blizzard in a remote cabin, he doesn’t expect to find a beautiful woman and her father, a disturbed Civil War veteran. Zeche’s instincts tell him Greta is endangered and he should stay and protect her, but his own presence aggravates her father’s condition. With a dangerous snowstorm outside and growing hostilities inside, can he find a way to keep them all safe from harm? Or will it be to the detriment of his heart? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

a-stolen-heart
A Stolen Heart
by Amanda Cabot — From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners–like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancé. But when she discovers he has disappeared–and that he left behind a pregnant wife–Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

carmela's-quandary
My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: Carmela’s Quandary by Susan Page Davis — Experience the Wild West as Carmela seeks freedom of body and soul. Forced for years by her uncle to pose as a survivor of an Indian kidnapping so he can profit on the speaker circuit, she longs to end the lies. On a stagecoach in Arizona Territory, Carmela and her uncle are fellow passengers with a deputy US marshal and his handcuffed prisoner. When the stage is attacked, will Carmela’s wish come true, or will she forever be branded by her past? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

desert-moon-and-honor-bound
Desert Moon & Honor Bound
by Susan Page Davis and Colleen L. Reece — Enjoy an Old West romance adventure from author Susan Page Davis. Julia Newman looked forward to moving home to Arizona, then she got word that her mother has died and Julie’s stagecoach is robbed. If that wasn’t enough, the first person she sees in town is Adam Scott—the man she always loved but could never have—and now he is accusing her brother of criminal activity. Also includes a bonus historical romance, Honor Bound by Colleen L. Reece. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

her-motherhood-wish
Her Motherhood Wish
by Keli Gwyn — En route to the Double T Orphanage to work on its expansion, carpenter Chip Evans and Caroline Hunt discover two orphaned children—and become their caregivers. But Chip’s determined not to let himself get too attached to the children who just lost their widowed father…or to the lovely woman helping him care for them. Especially since Callie and the little ones just don’t fit into his detailed plans for the future. Callie can’t help but fall in love with the orphans, and despite her better judgment, she’s falling for Chip, too. Her dreams of being a wife and mother were not quite like this. But Callie believes a plan bigger than Chip’s brought them all together…and now she just has to help him see it, too. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

the-planter's-daughter
The Planter’s Daughter
by Michelle Shocklee — When her father’s Texas cotton plantation faces bankruptcy, Adella must choose between the man who can her family’s land and the man who can save her! (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

when-tides-turn
When Tides Turn
by Sarah Sundin — When Quintessa Beaumont learns the US Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, eager to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. Lt. Dan Avery employs his skills in antisubmarine warfare to fight U-boats at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, but the last thing he wants to see on his radar is fun-loving Tess. As Dan and Tess work together in Boston, the changes in Tess challenge his notions–and his heart. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

Medical Suspense:
agent-in-training
Doctor’s Dilemma
by Richard L. Mabry M.D. — Young surgeon Tyler Gentry thought the offer to join the Hall Group of surgeons offered the answer to his problems, but things changed when he received a 3 AM phone call that told him such a move would be hazardous to his health. (Medical Suspense, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:
her-baby's-protector
Her Baby’s Protector
by Margaret Daley and Susan SleemanSaved by the Lawman by Margaret Daley: As an unknown assailant attempts to kidnap family-court judge Kate Forster’s infant son, police officer Chase Walker thwarts the attack—and vows to keep the pair safe. But who will protect the ex-marine’s heart when the widowed mother and her little boy make him long for a permanent spot in their family? Saved by the SEAL by Susan Sleeman: The tragedy that killed Bree Hatfield’s best friends–and left her with custody of their young daughter–has been ruled an accident. But Bree knows it was murder. Scared and alone, she turns to her ex-boyfriend, navy SEAL Clint Reed, who’ll risk everything to protect baby Ella and the woman he never stopped loving. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

agent-in-training
Agent-in-Training
by Terri Reed — FBI intern Zara Fielding and her K-9 partner, Radar, stumble across a robbery gone wrong and put themselves in the criminals’ crosshairs. Her childhood friend FBI computer guru Dylan O’Leary works for the secretive FBI unit she longs to join, and he vows not to let anything happen to her. As they work to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, new feelings ignite. When she goes missing, it’s only Dylan–and Radar–who can track her down. Will they arrive in time to save her and the future she and Dylan have started dreaming about? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative Romance/Fantasy:
ingrid's-engagement
Ingrid’s Engagement
by Kristen Reed — When King Viggo marches through the kingdom of Schlagefilde in a relentless quest for retribution against its wicked king, the Count of Anselm attempts to make peace with him. As the two strike a deal that will protect the people of Anselm, the King of Villriket becomes enthralled with a portrait of the Count’s oldest daughter, Ingrid. The vengeful king vows that he will leave Edmund’s county in peace if he will allow him to marry Ingrid. To prevent her father from incurring the sovereign’s wrath, the young lady hastily agrees and enters into an unforeseen engagement with the grim ruler. Ingrid’s Engagement tells the enchanting tale of a beautiful young woman who softens the hardened heart of a beastly king with nothing more than her quiet wisdom and gentle spirit. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)

by jill at 6:00 am in ,

Trust God with Everything?

March 1, 2017

What does it mean to trust God with everything?

I’ve pondered that question often in my life. I think like most of us, I can tend to be impatient, but with that impatience I also inherited a tendency to grow anxious. Truth is, impatience and anxiety are often symptoms of our need to be in control.

Discovering that didn’t actually make me feel better. Can you relate?

Was I a control freak?

If you know me – don’t answer that! 🙂

I will admit though, that I’ve had my moments when I wanted everything to go as I envisioned it should. The way I had worked hard or planned for it to be.

When my kids were small, I planned plenty of birthday parties. Sometimes they were just with family, but now and then we would do a kids/friends party. A houseful of small boys makes for a wild time. If I had thought for a moment that I had control then, all I needed to do was wait a few minutes. Loss of control came quickly to light when we got out a piñata and the kids took turns trying to smack it open. Unfortunately the birthday child accidentally smacked one of his guests, ending the fun and all illusion of controlling this party went out the window.

The thing is, we really don’t have control of anything in life except our own choices and reactions to our circumstances. We cannot make other people do what we want. We cannot create the perfect scenario where all of our dreams come true.

And you know what? We can’t control God with our prayers either. Oh we try, don’t we? (Can you see me with raised hand waving?) Guilty. I’ve even offered Him advice on how to resolve situations I didn’t like. As if He needs my advice…ahem.

But what do we do when life just isn’t what we expected and God doesn’t seem to be listening? If we’re honest, we know that the answer to prayer is often wait. Abraham was told he would be the father of many nations, but it wasn’t until 24 years later that he was told – in one year Sarah will have a son. Ah, so now we have a time table? After waiting all this time?

But God isn’t required to give us time tables. Sometimes there is a long pause between “ask—-and you shall receive”.

That’s where trust comes in, and I’m preaching to myself here more than anyone. Trust, Beloved, because God is there and He is not silent. He’s just working incognito. Sometimes He’s purposely testing our patience, our faith, our willingness to give Him everything. Everything?

Yes. Everything. He won’t have any gods taking His place in our lives, and gods come in many forms. Lack of trusting Him is a signal that maybe I’m not really giving Him that rightful place–my heart–for which He died. For which He longs for me to give to Him without reservation.

If we are His and can trust Him with our eternal destiny, can we not also trust Him with our today? Our tomorrow? Our year? Our very breath?

It’s a daily question and a daily quest.

Choose trust, Beloved. Live grace.

~Selah

#livegrace #redeeminggrace

The Rule of Three

February 18, 2017

In the current social climate we find ourselves living in, do you ever wonder who to trust? I mean, we listen to the news, read articles coming from FaceBook or Twitter or various news sources and hear totally opposite opinions or even differing facts on the same subject. In the polarization of our country, one side slants a story one way and the other side slants it the opposite way. And it seems as though never the two shall meet.

What exactly is the truth then? (I’m not, in this post, talking about spiritual truth.)

I’m talking about political news or product information or what is happening in countries around the world or medical information or even the weather and things dealing with the environment.

For instance, I can google a subject on what might be wrong with my cat, type in the description of his symptoms and find someone saying this is normal and others saying it could be serious. Even reviews have to be read with discretion.

We’ve become a world of information at your fingertips but can you trust the information?

I can’t answer that for all subjects, and that isn’t the scope of this post, but I might have a suggestion to help us in trying to find what’s real and what isn’t. Or at least what comes somewhere close to trustworthy. Let’s call it the Rule of Three.

When I was first learning to write, I attended many writer’s conferences. I will never forget one class I sat in on taught by a multi-published, award-winning, best-selling historical fiction author. I will never forget what she said about researching historical facts, which can also apply to any facts we seek today.

The advice? Check at least three different sources when researching a subject. Make sure those sources are unique to one another. In other words, don’t just go to three websites that are all quoting the same source. If you can find three different sources that agree on the matter, you can assume your fact is probably true.

Of course, in history, nothing is full-proof. We often don’t have eye-witness accounts and can’t time travel to actually see what happened. This is why I write fiction, not text books.

But whether we are talking about writing historical novels or an essay on current day events, we would be wise to research well. That would mean we don’t read an article on a website that states something as a fact (especially if we want to agree with it) and then quickly post it on social media without checking to see – is this a good source? Can I trust this newspaper to be unbiased? Is this fact supported by other sources not linked to the same group or mindset?

If we ever want to come together as a nation that stops pushing news from “our” side, whichever that side may be, let’s at least be sure we understand the subject based on more than one simple reading.

I hope reporters are wise enough to do the same and not just spout their “breaking news” that might not be accurate yet. Sometimes, as in the Rule of Three, it pays to check more than one authority or document, take a step back and breathe for a moment, and ask ourselves – is this true? And is it going to help other people in a positive way to understand the situation from as true a standpoint as possible?

Because if we do not search for the truth, we end up reading and promoting agendas – whether that’s someone trying to sell me a particular miracle working weight loss diet or what is happening in Congress or around the world.

The Rule of Three is good advice – and not just for fiction writers. I pray we will use sound judgment as we seek truth in these trying times.

~Selah

#livegrace

 

by jill at 6:24 pm in ,