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Grand Rapids, Gracie, and Grace

August 8, 2016

Sometimes life just does not go the way we want it to go, does it? I remember in years past having all of these expectations for the future, and honestly, most of them have not come true. In fact, much of the time my hopes have gone the exact opposite of what I’d thought would happen. Let’s face it, we all live with the good and the broken. And this post is about both.

IMG_9614Let me start in the middle with Gracie and work out from there. If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you have seen pictures of this active little female kitten. A month ago, we went to the pet adoptions at a local pet store and met this sweet little girl. What prompted such a thing as to look for another cat? I had this notion that Tiger was lonely–especially when we travel. After all, he had come into our home when we had Shadow and has been without Shadow for three years now. So a new friend seemed like a good idea. And truth be told, the “mom” in me wanted someone to mother again. Tiger isn’t in need of mothering, but a kitten sure is!

IMG_9619So we adopted Gracie. Honestly, at first it seemed like Tiger might be pretty accepting of her. He was curious, for sure, but the more comfortable Gracie became, the more stressed Tiger became. He came down with two respiratory infections and one day when he was running from me, he stopped at our bedroom door and kind of blocked himself into a corner so he could watch for her. I tried to pet him and get him to purr and he just seemed on edge. And then sure enough, Gracie was right there, wanting in on the action. So I picked her up and closed her in a bedroom where she slept at night for the first two weeks that we had her. I walked back to Tiger and heard him let out this huge sigh of relief. And then he slept, and he purred and rolled on his back and acted like the Tiger we’ve known and loved for ten years.

That’s when I knew. The rescue place had told us we could return her if it didn’t work out with Tiger and we honestly wanted to give it enough time because she is the sweetest little girl. But we couldn’t risk Tiger’s health. I realized that when we got Shadow and Tiger was too pesky, Shadow could run to the basement (which had a cat door at the time) and Tiger was too timid to follow. Gracie had no fear. She would race down the stairs the minute the door would open. Poor guy could even use the litter box without her watching him! (She was truly a handful of kitten energy!)

So Wednesday morning, the day we left for Grand Rapids to meet my publisher, we returned her to the rescue to a new foster family until someone else adopts her, which I pray happens soon as she will be a perfect fit for someone without a cat or with another kitten. Just not for an old man who is pretty happy with life living with just his boring parents.

But I felt like a hIMG_4318orrible “mom” for having to make that decision. Sometimes doing the right thing is also the hardest thing. And having to leave Tiger alone for two days immediately afterward was super tough. (Thank you to Robin, my dear friend and fabulous kitty sitter!)

If you pray for animals, please say a prayer for Gracie, that she will find a new home soon, as we offer a prayer of thanks that Tiger is back to normal again.

Grand Rapids was a fun trip. We met the people I work with, had a sit down with the president and vice-president of Baker Publishing Group, and talked about the release of Redeeming Grace, Ruth’s Story, coming out next year on my birthday. Fun present! We had lunch and then Randy and I sought out coffee and ice cream shops and even found the cutest store with organic fair trade chocolate that is pretty amazing. We enjoyed the pool and just relaxed in the room one night. The next day we toured the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and drove to one of the nearby parks to seek the lake.

IMG_9739It was a refreshing break from the daily routine. Which brings me to the “grace” part.

I think sometimes God must have immense patience with me as I can be both a quick and a pretty slow learner. Lately, He is teaching me through the gospel of Matthew that there are times when things are right and times when they are not. Jesus often did the hard thing because it was the right thing. He was following His Father’s example and His Father’s wishes, even though it cost Him more than we could ever endure.

While giving a kitty back when you thought you were adding a family member might not seem right to some, we knew it was right for us. And I will say, God gave us peace and we were in complete agreement on the issue. Randy told me later that he was about to talk to me about giving her back when I brought it up to him. That didn’t mean saying goodbye didn’t bring tears.

But God’s grace truly is sufficient. I may not get to practice being a “mom” anymore or love on our kids or our granddaughter due to distance, but God is gracious even then. He has given us other work to do here. He still has a plan–it’s just not raising a “toddler” kitten right now.

IMG_9750Grand Rapids taught me how good God has been to let me stay with Revell all these years and to give me such an amazing team of people who have my back, who make my work better, who help me get the word out about what I write.

And Gracie taught me how good God is to have allowed us to know her for a short time, and to help us to realize how blessed we are to have what we have here and now. No one knows what the future holds. But I will cling to God’s grace every time because without Him, I have nothing.

Seriously, if I pursued the whole world and lost my soul, what good is that? Grace for today. Grace for always. And on Sunday, God gave us this little gift of a “sundog”, a kind of wispy cloud rainbow without the rain as we were driving home. Beauty even through life’s trials. A little bit of grace.


#liveloveprayhopebelieve #graceissufficient #grandrapidsgraciegrace


by jill at 9:21 pm in

Without faith…

July 20, 2016

I once heard it said that if you don’t take risks, you don’t need faith. There is some truth in that statement. Actually, there is more truth in it than we may realize.

Hebrews 11 ver and picI was also asked once to describe faith, and for me that’s rather hard to do without quoting Scripture. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

When we think of faith though, don’t you sort of think of something airy, ethereal, hard to grasp?

But faith, according to the Bible is substance, tangible, solid, or as some might say, certainty. Being sure of what we hope for.

Faith is also evidence. That sounds scientific by today’s standards. It is assurance. Confidence.

Nothing hard to grasp in those terms. But faith IS hard to grasp if we don’t have it. What happens if you just find it impossible to believe?

Scripture tells us that is it impossible to please God without faith. Not faith in ourselves. Not faith in the world or anything it has to offer. Not faith in money or politics or science or the goodness or kindness of fellow human beings.

While those might be good things, that’s not the faith that is certain, confident, assured, evident, solid, substance, tangible, real.

The kind of faith that pleases God, the only kind of faith that gets His attention, is the kind that says, “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.” (Psalm 27:8)

Faith that the ancients were commended for was faith that believed in a God of the impossible. God who keeps His Word. God who can be trusted.

True faith is coupled with hope and the two together lead us to trust.

Sometimes that trust is hard won. Some friends were recently discussing how Abraham could offer his son Isaac on an altar when everything in God’s character told Abraham this was not normal. God did not condone child sacrifice (though Isaac was more likely a young man by this time). Still, the story is confusing to many.

But after studying this story as I wrote REBEKAH, I think the hard thing was that God was really asking Abraham was to trust Him with the one thing he loved most–his son. Genesis tells us up front that this was a test for Abraham, and maybe it was a test for Isaac too, as both could have run from this heart-wrenching act of obedience.

They didn’t know how the story would end like we do as we read it now. Just as we don’t know how our stories will end, how each day will end. We only have this moment to trust God. When it comes down to it, do we have the faith it takes to do that hardest things and give Him the things, the people we cling to with all of our hearts?

Sometimes our faith is too weak and our answer to this would be no. It’s too hard. Don’t ask it of me, Lord.

But life has a way of shaping us whether we like it or not. It will take its twists and turns and challenge us in ways we might not want to be challenged. I fairly doubt Abraham appreciated or liked this test regarding his beloved son. I would guess that Isaac didn’t like it either.

But both knew God well enough to believe He had their best interests in mind, and that He would provide what they lacked. He would increase their wavering faith and strengthen any weakness they felt. He could be trusted.

They might not have known it then. Maybe that’s where the risk comes in. Are we willing to risk obedience in faith in order to gain a greater trust, to please God, to receive His rich reward, which is far more than we can even fathom in this life?

Side note here: When I say obey, let me clarify that I mean obedience to the known will of God written in His Word. Things like “believe in the One He sent”, and then the rest of the “this is the will of God” verses. I do NOT mean obedience to a human leader or a radical ideology that suggests we harm our fellow man. This test Abraham was given, was for HIM. One time. Never happened again. And it was a picture of what Jesus later did for us. So let us not confuse this with something we should do today. Be very careful when interpreting the lives of people recorded in Scripture. They are give to us for an example, not for us to mimic other than in learning from their faith. Okay, side note ended.

The truth is, and I will admit this myself, we don’t always have the strength to trust God with everything we hold dear, do we? There are days when we only have the most basic of faith to believe He exists and we can seek Him daily, but sometimes the tests or the trials of life make trusting Him in the hard things nearly impossible.

I’m glad God excels at meeting us in those impossible places. Faith begins with Him, after all. So if it seems like we just don’t have it–all we have to do is ask Him for it. He NEVER forsakes those who seek Him.


#liveloveprayhopetrust #faithplushopeequalstrust #godoftheimpossible

by jill at 9:14 pm in

The God Who Cannot Lie

July 18, 2016

You know, I can feel pretty betrayed and frustrated when I’m lied to. Do you know the feeling? Maybe it’s just that I’m a trusting person. I do my best to be honest with others and expect the same in return. But our world doesn’t work that way anymore, does it?

Hebrew 6 verse & picThe worst part is that I don’t always catch the lie until I’m already cheated or wounded. Then I want to smack myself and wonder, why wasn’t I more discerning? Why didn’t I ask that question? So I end up paying for it in some kind of loss – either money or friendship or time or emotion.

Society has slowly taught us – because it wasn’t always this way – that lying is okay. It didn’t used to be. There was a day when a man’s or woman’s word meant something. It was their “bond.” As good as money in the bank.

Now people tend to tell us what we want to hear, and those of us who are trusting, want to believe them. Because really, who wants to be told something and have it fall through? Who wants to find out we’ve been scammed? We end up feeling stupid or maybe we pull in and stop trusting because it hurts too much to let people in.

I think Eve was one of those trusting people. Why on earth would one of God’s creatures NOT tell her the truth? Even though that very creature was questioning what God had told her, she probably still didn’t realize that she was about to be scammed in the worst way ever.

What she didn’t realize, what we don’t often see ourselves is that people WILL lie to us. (Snakes will lie too.)

But God CANNOT lie.

In a word – it is impossible for Him to do so.

I can’t really fathom that. I think of the movie LIAR, LIAR where the kid wishes that his dad wouldn’t be able to lie for an entire day (or week – can’t remember). It made for a funny movie, but from a purely human perspective it kind of gives us a glimpse of what impossible to lie looks like.

If we are truly honest people who want to follow God’s ways, we need to begin by being honest with ourselves and honest with the God who made us.

God, who cannot lie, promised to listen if we called on Him. He’s promised to save those who seek Him, who ask Him to do so.

Count on this, in a world where not much else can be trusted – if God promised it, He will keep His Word. It’s as good as bond – better than any gold in any bank anywhere.

#liveloveprayhopetrust #godwhocannotlielovesyou #godoftheimpossible #trusthim

by jill at 10:12 pm in

A matter of the heart – a prayer

July 15, 2016

Oh Adonai Tzva’ot, Lord of Hosts, our world is hurting tonight. I know you see. You are not unaware of the uprising in Turkey or the anguish in France or the grief in Dallas and so much more.

You know many of us are afraid, Lord. Afraid that terror will strike again. That evil is gaining too much of an upper hand and we, in our humanity, do not have the strength to destroy or stop it.

Matthew 19 ver & picBecause the truth is, evil isn’t just an outer force that can be wiped out by mighty weapons. It is an inner matter of the human heart.

And so tonight, I pray that you might comfort those who love you and reveal your love to those who don’t know you yet. Because we need you, Heavenly Father. We have gone our own way and we desperately need to come running back to you. We need you in every crevice of our society–in all of the places where we have asked you to leave. We need you in the hearts of our leaders and lay people all across this world.

Because if our hearts do not change, our world cannot change.

Sometimes change on any level seems impossible. And pride keeps us from admitting our need of you.

But what is impossible with us, is most definitely possible with you.

Oh, Adonai, we as a people, as the human race, have lost our way. And we can’t find our way out of the pits we’re digging without your help. We need you, Lord. I need you.

I can’t fix Turkey or France or Dallas or Orlando or the dozens, maybe hundreds of other places where evil is reigning or ruining our peace, our hope, our sense of what it means to be human.

I can’t change a single human heart. Not even my own.
But you can.
Because you CAN do the impossible.
We desperately need you to do the impossible now. Not just to free us from evil but to change us from the inside out.

Please give us the desire to invite you back in. Remind us that the human spirit may be strong, but it is only truly good when it is right with you. And only you can do what we cannot.

May every heart across this land, across the world, find its rest in you alone.
#godoftheimpossible #liveloveprayhope #redemptionwins

by jill at 10:52 pm in

God of the impossible

July 11, 2016

This might seem like a strange verse, but my focus is that with God nothing is impossible. Even death could not keep its hold on Him.

Acts 2 ver & PicNow I don’t know about you, but I have never seen someone rise from the grave. I have stood at gravesides and have even watched a loved one take her last breath, but I have never seen life revived from someone who has died. (I’m not looking to get into a near-death or death-to-life experience here. I’m talking about end of life reality.) As Scripture puts it, “It is appointed to men once to die and after that the judgment.”

Judgment is another topic also, which I believe is coming in either reward or wrath, because our Creator does hold the right to judge based on the fact that He created us and He makes the rules. In a sense that can be comforting, can’t it? We know that someday evil will meet its end. But we don’t always like the idea of being judged ourselves.

But the one who conquered death (that’s a pretty big deal) is also the One who does the judging. He didn’t come the first time to judge or condemn but to save. And if we are in Him, meaning if we know Him at a heart level (not just with an “I believe” intellectual level) but where it transforms our hearts, then we do not have to fear judgment or condemnation. He came to free us from that fear and He conquered death to prove He could.

How about you? Do you fear death? Do you fear the One who has the power over death–fear Him in the way that we all should–with deep reverence and awe and humility and a cry for mercy and grace?

Because when it all comes down, it’s not about what we can accomplish in our lives or how much better we can make the world. It’s not about us at all. It’s about the only One who can do the impossible. The one who can save us from death. Not an earthly death as most all of us will face that someday, but an eternal one, which can so easily be avoided by a simple act of childlike faith.

Do we trust Him enough to do the impossible in our lives and set us free from the fear of death and judgment? Because if He could raise Jesus from the dead, or anyone else from the grave, He can do anything.

#liveloveprayhope #withgodallthingsarepossible #mygodcandotheimpossible #trusthisheart

by jill at 9:30 pm in