Whatever Happened to Heart Talk?

Linda at Marjorie Kennan Rawlings typewriter

Dear Reader,

I haven’t forgotten you. I’ve received a few emails asking why it’s been so long since I posted a new blog, and I want you to know you are not forgotten.  In fact, you are on my mind almost every day. I haven’t forgotten the challenges you face, the fears that grip your heart, or the hope you cling to when rays of sunshine break through.

Please forgive me for seeming to have abandoned my weekly conversation with you here on Heart Talk, but it’s not because I’m not thinking of you . . . or have run out of things to say.  In fact, I think of you almost every day and have so much to say I have been writing a new book—a book that will hopefully give many of you the answers you’ve been looking for.

The working title is Fighting For Your Marriage While Separated, A Practical Guide for the Brokenhearted. This new book begins where Broken Heart on Hold left off, continuing to guide you through the labyrinths of separation, this time with practical answers to the many questions you have sent me. Separations are unpredictable with many twists and turns and complicated undertones. Finding the path to reconciliation and healing means stepping outside the box of normalcy to find solutions. Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated will be a guide for the separated person who is standing and fighting for their marriage, often against great odds.

From a professional standpoint, I’ve had a hard time focusing on anything besides this book. But personally I’ve had a few interruptions along the way as well, such as hurricanes, my husband falling and needing surgery and help during recovery, and the death of a loved one. So please stick with me.

I hope to be adding a few new blogs in the next few weeks, even as I continue working on Fighting For Your Marriage While Separated.  Some of these posts may give you a glimpse of what is coming when the book is eventually released by New Growth Press.

In the meantime, know that I am praying for you. Please pray with me that God gives me every word that goes into this book to His glory and your good. My heart’s desire is to provide you with what you need to find healing for yourself and your marriage.

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The Single Dad Detour – Interview with Author Tez Brooks

If you’re a dad in a broken marriage and marital reconciliation looks more and more remote, my interview today with my friend Tez Brooks will be especially meaningful and, perhaps, a life-changer. In his award-winning book, The Single Dad Detour, Tez Brooks provides wise guidance laced with humor to help divorced and separated dads navigate through difficult circumstances in parenting. I’m hoping Tez’s experience and insights will offer answers to many of the questions men commonly ask in their emails to me. A review of the book by author Rick James says, “If I were a single parent on this journey, I’d want Tez’s comforting voice on my GPS. It’s a warm and understanding voice that’s traveled the back roads and knows where it’s going.”

Linda: Tez, tell our readers a little about yourself and your journey.

 Tez: Sure. Well, I made a decision to follow Christ when I was 6, felt a call to ministry at 18 and went to Bible College. I was a 22-year-old youth pastor when I married a girl from my hometown. During our 10-year marriage we had two children who are now adults.

But there were a lot of hidden issues we were dealing with as a couple. I had abuse in my background and was a bit of a control freak. I could be a real jerk sometimes. My wife had undiagnosed bi-polar disorder and some other mental health issues that we didn’t know were affecting our marriage. I thought that’s just what marriage was supposed to be—a roller coaster.

On top of that, she was chronically unfaithful and although I saw evidence of this while we were dating, I figured a wedding ring would solve this. I was young and naïve and didn’t have any older men speaking into my life who might have warned me. I took her back several times but eventually, her unfaithfulness led to a divorce.

That’s not what I wanted for us. I continued to make attempts to salvage our marriage. Counseling, marriage conferences, books, prayer, fasting—everything. Even after the divorce I was open to reconciliation. I believed with the Lord we could work through anything. But at the time, only one of us was walking with God. And honestly, you can’t force someone to love you.

We shared custody of our son and daughter. Sometimes they lived with me, other times they were with my ex. It was a lonely depressing time for me. The kids experienced a lot of loss too. In all, the kids lived with me full-time for about 3 years. As you’ve heard, no one wins. Divorce is a lose/lose situation.

After being divorced 7 years, I met and married my lovely wife Christine and we’ve had 2 more girls. It’s such a joy to raise children with a godly woman who loves me and shares the same values as a parent.

 Linda: Your book, The Single Dad Detour was recently a winner for the 2016 Royal Palm Literary Award. Although your book has a Christian worldview, this was a secular competition. Obviously they saw your book contained some unique insight and encouragement for any audience. How is that?

 Tez: Maybe it’s because I didn’t try to get too deep or theological? I’m not sure. I talk a lot about the importance of having a personal relationship with God in order to effectively parent your child through a broken family situation. But if you know me, I just don’t get in people’s faces as a bible-thumper. Sharing my faith is a more natural, relational thing with me. Perhaps the judges sensed this? I’m just thankful they acknowledged a religious book. I’m chalking it up to God’s grace.

It was certainly an honor to receive such a prestigious award. I’m blown away by how God is using it to minister to single parents around the world. I currently have 2 single dads I’m mentoring solely because they heard about the book and contacted me.

A counselor I know gives copies to parents who are having marriage trouble. In Singapore, Teen Challenge uses it as a resource for single dads coming through their addiction recovery program to help them learn how to be better fathers. But actually more women buy the book than men. Mothers get it for their divorced sons. Women give copies to their boyfriends who have kids. I’m humbled by every story I hear.

 Linda: You’ve said it was difficult to write it because of the memories that surfaced. What led you to write it anyways?

Tez: I really struggled. I’d been re-married several years and had moved so far past that season of darkness. I didn’t want to re-visit some memories.

But the Lord started giving me compassion for single dads and I remembered how there just wasn’t anything out there for me when I was going through it. Especially books with a Christian worldview. What was available was too preachy for me. So I wrote something that would encourage guys with a little humor and offer some practical advice and action points.

 Linda: Many men build their lives on the idea that a wife, kids and a house equals success. When that crumbles down, where can they find their identity?

 Tez: That’s a great question because our identity needs to be grounded in Christ to begin with. If that’s not there when tragedy strikes, we’re in trouble. That’s where I found myself. I was a Christian but I didn’t really understand my identity as a child of God. I thought the American dream was where my self worth was. When that disappeared I was suddenly a man in my 30s with no real value to anyone. At least that’s what I believed.

I embraced the world’s view of who and what I was. In essence I allowed the world to place a price tag on my forehead. Suddenly that tag was marked down 95% and I was thrown in the bargain bin.

It can take a long time for the message of Christ to get from our heads down to our hearts. That’s what needed to happen with me. Thankfully the Holy Spirit began a work to reveal the value God placed on me. It was vital to my healing.

Linda: You’ve been happily married to Christine for 15 years now. But what about the single dad reading your book who is believing for a marital reconciliation? Do you support that?

Tez: Absolutely. God hates divorce and he desires for us to honor and keep those wedding vows of “…till death do us part.” I commend and respect couples like you and Marv who are able to work through some very heart-wrenching issues and preserve a marriage after long periods of painful separation. Some of these couples even re-marry one another…so even a divorce is not necessarily final. That’s what I want readers to hear.

In chapter 3 of The Single Dad Detour I mention the importance of attempting to restore your marriage. Divorce should always be a last resort. But I also know every couple has different situations. Not all marriages are in trouble because of unfaithfulness or desertion. And even for those marriages that are, the spouse who desires a reconciliation might be the very one who sinned but is now repentant.

Whatever the story, some folks don’t get the luxury of having a spouse who agrees that the marriage must be saved. So you may be all alone in hoping for marital restoration. But God is still there. He was for me.

When it became obvious my marriage was irreconcilable, I was swallowed up by an even darker shadow. Because I thought scripture wouldn’t allow me to marry again. I prepared to spend the rest of my life single.

While I was embracing some very cool opportunities to serve the Lord in ways only a single could, I still struggled as a man in my 30s, knowing loneliness and sexual temptation would always be part of my life.

It took a brave pastor to walk me through some scripture passages and show me I was free to remarry. Even after that, I was suspicious and didn’t trust women in general. I watched Christine for a year before I decided to court her.

It was scary for me but I’ve never dreamed marriage could be so fulfilling. Does this make me pro-divorce/remarriage? No. But life is messy. You don’t always get what you expected or planned for. And watching God redeem your life in spite of bad decisions is an amazing thing to experience.

Linda: What is one thing you want men to get from reading The Single Dad Detour?

Tez: I want readers to walk away encouraged to keep going. Whether God restores your marriage or not, he is coming alongside you in that journey. I want to challenge dads to step up to the plate in their parenting, while still trying to save the marriage if they can.

But outcomes are not always under our control. Yet there is hope for an abundant life if the marriage dissolves permanently. If men can celebrate what they’re doing right, while still leaning desperately on the Savior for hope, it will make the road they’re navigating much easier.

Linda: Where can people learn more about you and your book, The Single Dad Detour?

Tez: They can learn more me and The Single Dad Detour at www.everysingledad.com, on Facebook (everysingledad) or Twitter (tezd63).

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Memories of a Christmas Past

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus as our Savior. That, of course, is the most important thing about Christmas.  But Christmas is also a time we want to be with family and perhaps—for just a moment—linger on memories of Christmases past.

Two months ago I lost my brother. During my years as a young girl, he was my hero. When we grew up he was my protector and the one I could depend on when I needed a loving hug.

So today, I’m remembering.

I’m remembering my brother and my favorite Christmas. It’s fitting somehow that he was a major part of it for he was always very generous. And perhaps the first blushes of his gift of generosity began to blossom that year. At any rate, it was on that Christmas I learned how to experience true joy in the midst of all the trappings of the Christmas season.

My Favorite Christmas

Multi-colored lights on the houses in the hills above our house sparkled with a fairy tale promise of things to come. Every day a couple of new presents showed up beneath the tree. The restlessness that stirs within a 12-year-old girl as Christmas day approaches had reached a fever pitch. Tomorrow was Christmas day, and I couldn’t wait for it to come. Neither could my 17-year-old brother.

When we came down to breakfast, the smell of bacon greeted us but no cheery “good morning” from our mother as usual. We saw her speaking quietly on the phone, nodding her head, her eyes shaded with concern. She studied Johnny and me thoughtfully as we pulled our chairs up to the table.

After getting off the phone, she silently walked to the stove, brought a platter of eggs and bacon to the table, and sat down to join us. “I have something for you two to do today,” she began. “There’s a woman in our church with four children who has no money, and they’ll have no Christmas this year.” She paused as her eyes glanced from one of us to the other. “I told the church secretary that we would help out and get them some gifts. I’d like for you two to go downtown today and pick out some presents for the children. They all need pajamas, and you can get each of them a toy.” She reached for the paper she’d set beside her plate. “Here are their names, ages and sizes.”

Johnny and I felt very grown up and important that day as we drove downtown with a sizable amount of cash, shopping from store to store for the only presents these children would get for Christmas. With the sound of Christmas carols in the background, I felt an awesome responsibility as we first picked out pajamas for each child and then headed to the toy store. If this were their only toy, it had to be special, something to really brighten their day.  Johnny chose Lincoln logs for the older boy and a truck for the younger. I sorted through the entire shelf of dolls to pick out ones that would be perfect playmates for each of the girls. Johnny suggested we top it off with a present for the mom. He threw in a little money of his own that he made at the Safeway to make up the difference. Then we headed for home to do the wrapping.

Since I had just emerged from childhood myself, the idea of playing Santa Claus loomed large in my mind. I loved the specialness of Christmas. I loved the surprises and the beautifully wrapped presents. Never before had the happiness of four children depended on me . . . and my brother.

Johnny obviously felt the same burden, and, as my older brother with a host of creative ideas, he, as usual, took the lead in devising the plan for the evening. It unfolded as an event that forever changed my idea of what makes a “happy” Christmas.

After dinner we had our traditional family Christmas Eve service in which we lit candles, read the Christmas story from the Bible, and gathered around the piano to sing Christmas carols. According to our usual practice, Mother tried to hit the right keys on the piano, and we tried to hit the right notes to match, but the occasional discordant sharps and flats added to the merriment. Our family celebration, like our family itself, was imperfect but full of grace.

Afterwards when it was getting late, we bundled the gifts into the Chrysler and drove to the house. Johnny and I sat in the back with the presents on our laps, my parents in the front. When my father got to the address, he pulled stealthily along side the unlit end of the house. Johnny and I gathered up the presents, carried them quietly to the front door and set them on the stoop.

Poised and ready to run back to the car, Johnny rang the doorbell. He and I raced to our waiting getaway vehicle and jumped in. My father took off and we laughed and chatted excitedly about what had transpired.

Remaining anonymous was part of the aura of the adventure. We felt that we had joined in the mystery of Santa Claus. For all these children knew, Santa Claus really did deliver the presents to their door that year. And for all we knew, perhaps that year we really did become Santa Claus. We hadn’t gone down a chimney, and we didn’t arrive on a sleigh, but we had a driver both lively and quick (my father), who took off as soon as the presents were left.  And in our hearts we had the pure delight of making children happy by surprising them with gifts on Christmas morning.

That night as I climbed into bed, visions of sugar plums danced in my head as I imagined that mother going to the door and discovering the presents, the children finding them under the tree in the morning, and the myth of Santa Claus perpetuated for children who might have thought they’d been forgotten if we had not assumed his role.

I’m sure there were many presents for me under the tree at our house the next morning too. And I’m sure it was grand.  But I don’t remember a single one I received. I only remember the dolls, the truck, the Lincoln logs and the pajamas we bought for four children we’d never met. And I remember speeding off into the night, exhilarated by the joy dancing in my heart over delivering these presents to this family the night before Christmas.

It was the year I played Santa Claus with my brother and the year I came to realize it’s really true, that old maxim: It really is better to give than to receive.

 

 

 

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Related by Chance, Family by Choice, Interview with Author Deb DeArmond

related-by-chance-family-by-choiceThe holidays can be challenging for marriages, especially when in-law relationships are involved. A few years ago I met Deb DeArmond at a writers conference and was fascinated with some of the common-sense ideas she shared that helps her maintain good relationships with her daughters-in-law. When she told me about her book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice, a book that focuses on the relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, I knew this would be a great book to share with you here.  Deb regularly speaks and writes on topics related to the family and communication issues, and I’m pleased that she as able to join us here for this interview.

Linda: Related by Chance, Family by Choice focuses on the relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Please tell my readers how you got interested in this topic.

Deb: A woman at a retreat I attended with two of my three daughters-in-law asked me about my relationship with the girls. She had become acquainted with them as they all shared a bunk room. “They don’t like you one bit. They’re crazy about you. I want to know how you did that.”

We sat together after dinner as she told me about the young woman who’d married her son. She had a long list of flaws and failures according to my new friend. She ended the diatribe by saying, “But I’m not telling you anything I haven’t already said to her!” When I suggested she might need to ask forgiveness, first from the Lord and then from her daughter-in-law, she was upset. “But it’s not my fault,” she replied. I smiled and said, “It’s not about finding fault. It’s about finding solutions. God is ready to help make this right if you are.” She ended our conversation at that point.

On the ride home, I discussed it with the girls. They reminded me that over the years, they had been asked, as had I, “How do you all do this in-law thing so well? You’re not just friendly—you’re family.” We began assessing how we have taken four very different sets of experiences and personalities and created terrific relationships. We thought it might help others in what’s often the most beleaguered family relationship.

Linda: Why do you think mothers-in-laws and daughters-in-law struggle? Why can’t these two women get along?

Deb: There is a natural competition between these two women. Each one often wants to be the most important woman in his life. God’s Word is clear: “A man shall leave his mother and father and cleave unto his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” We were given sons to raise, but never to keep. That’s a bitter pill for some Mamas.

But daughters-in-law can be the issue as well. Maybe they’ve seen friends or sisters struggle with their MIL and they are ready for a fight when they marry. The jokes and the movies add fire to keep the fear alive they will have to vie for the man’s attention. So any movement in the brush may be met with a barrelful of buckshot.

Linda: So you’re a mother-in-law – how many daughters-in-law do you have? Tell us a little bit about the girls and your relationship.

Deb: I have three fabulous daughters-in-love: a redhead, a brunette and a blonde. They are as different from one another (and different from me) as their hair color. I’m blessed to say the girls are good friends; and they count me among their friends, too, as I do them. I’m grateful to be their backup mama. I know and love each of their mothers and would never try to replace any of them; it’s not possible, but some MILs have been known to try.

One of the things that we have committed to is good communication. We work out differences before they become problems. It’s not always easy, but it’s always been worth the effort. We have learned over the years to not let things fester. That’s when the enemy tends to make accusations against one deb-dearmondanother and real damage, pain, and hurt are the product.

I’m often asked what my DILs have taught me. The list is too long to cover here, but among the important stuff: my make-up was outdated and my wardrobe was too matronly. I love to bake with Sarah, because I’m not good at it. I share a love for all things books with Penny and we trade ideas together. And Heather and I pursued the same career and connect over concepts there.

Linda: You are also a daughter-in-law. How do YOU get along with your Mother-in-Law?

Deb: My own mother died when I was in my early forties. I think God knew I’d need a backup mama. My MIL, Virginia, is 84 and sharp as a tack. She Facebooks and Instagram’s to stay connected to her kids, her grandkids, and her greatgrans, as she calls them. She is at the center of the family because she chooses to learn and adapt in order to remain relevant. I admire that a great deal. We are very close.

I’ve learned so much from her, but most importantly, her faith always inspires me. Her consistent walk with the Lord never fails. She is the first one in the family we call when we need a prayer warrior on our side.

Linda: Is the book autobiographical? Is it your story?

Deb: There are certainly bits and pieces of our story. But we knew this could not be our experience alone. So before we began to write, we did online surveys, focus groups, and lots of interviews. What we discovered blew us away—and provided clear direction to write the book.

Linda: What facts related to the writing of this book, surprised you? What are the statistics our readers might find interesting?

There’s virtually no difference between the survey results of Christian women and those with no faith affiliation at all. Big surprise.

  • 79% of the women surveyed identified as Christian, and reported their faith was foundational to their lives and guided their daily actions and decisions.
  • 87% were of the same faith as their woman-in-law, but 62% saw themselves as more consistent with integrating their faith into their lives as reflected in behavior.
  • 30% reported the relationship was bad, which they described as difficult, filled with criticism, or they felt off-balance with their woman-in-law.
  • 57% said the difficulties in the relationship were either mostly their fault, or they at least equally shared the responsibility for the failure of the relationship.
  • But there is good news. 70% said they would be willing to make the effort necessary to improve the relationship if they knew how.

Linda: There are a lot of self-help books on family relationships. In what ways is your book distinct from other books on the topic or in the genre?

Deb: Knowing you should do something to improve the situation is a start. But unless you know how to do it, it’s not that helpful.

I’ve spent my career helping adults learn to communicate well, build and preserve relationships, and resolve conflict. Because so many said they’d be willing but didn’t know how to improve things, there was a natural fit. This is not a book of shoulds; but a very practical set of how-to’s. It’s filled with self-assessments, tools, and a plan of action at the end of each chapter. Improvement doesn’t happen till you do something with what you’ve learned.

Linda: The holidays are approaching and they can be especially difficult. What hope and help can you offer to our readers?

Deb:

  • Be flexible. We’ve done Christmas early, and we’ve celebrated after the holiday. We’ve come to the conclusion we enjoy spending the time together when the hoopla and crazy pace of the actual day has passed. Less pressure, more fun. It’s the time together that matters, not the specific day. Thanksgiving can be less formal than your tradition might prefer. Make it work for everyone.
  • Be gracious. What if the kids want to go snorkeling this year in Hawaii instead of attending any family gathering? Drive them to the airport and wish them sweet aloha for their getaway time. Couples – of all ages – need to recharge and holidays provide the chance for time away. Wish them well, offer to keep the kids and feed their dog while they’re gone. Their marriage will benefit from the boost.
  • Be grateful. Many are alone – for every holiday. They have no family. If God has blessed you with children, acknowledge the gift of their presence in your life if not in your home this year. There will be other opportunities.

Linda: So who’s this book written for? Who will find it helpful?

Deb:  Mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law – whether the relationship is bad or not. Many have reported they found ways to make a good relationship even better. The men-in-the middle are sometimes unknowingly part of the problem rather than the solution. They’d benefit as well. And for women about to become a woman-in-law, and for boy mamas regardless of their sons’ age – head heartbreak off before it begins.

Linda: Where can our readers find the book?

Deb: Their favorite Christian bookstore. Also find it online at Christianbooks.com, Lifeway, Mardel, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and Target.

Linda: How can our readers connect with you?

Deb: They can find me online at Deb DeArmond/Family Matters (debdearmond.com) and on Facebook at AuthorDebDeArmond

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HOPE for the LAID OFF – Devotionals, Interview with Author Mary Aucoin Kaarto

hope-for-the-laid-offFinancial problems are one of the most common issues that cause stress in a marriage. But when it’s not only a matter of a stretched budget but losing your job altogether, a marriage can be in real jeopardy.  In these precarious times, losing a job seems to be an all-too-common occurrence.

Because author and speaker Mary Kaarto has survived two separate, two-year layoffs as a single mom many years ago, she is passionate about writing, listening to, speaking to, and encouraging anyone who is laid off. Her first book, HELP for the LAID OFF (2009) was followed in 2015 by HOPE for the LAID OFF – Devotionals.  She is now working on a third book, targeted specifically towards married couples trying to successfully navigate the pressures of a layoff.  I am privileged to interview Mary about her books and ministry.

Linda: Mary, tell us why you write books for the laid off.

I want to help people find freedom, hope, strength and encouragement from the numerous burdens layoffs cast on people, whether they are married or single.

After my first book was published, I met many of my readers who endured divorces, separations, homelessness, families having to move in with other families, and children being separated and farmed out to various family members because the parents could no longer afford even an apartment. I’ve met face to face with grown men who’ve crumbled before me, heartbroken, because their wives don’t understand that they ARE looking for work. Most of these men were professionals, IT managers, HR directors, oil & gas executives, etc.

I’ve met women in their 50s frightened out of their minds. Sadly many of them were estranged from their families for years and, unfortunately, too proud to “call home”.

Having been laid off myself, I know what it feels like to be frightened, hopeless, exhausted on every level and humiliated from having to ask for help over and over again. I know how hard it is, worrying about your children and how this layoff is affecting them.

I know how emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually draining it is to keep smiling and always have the ‘happy tone’ in your voice when answering the phone, and instead of an interview or job offer, it’s someone asking, “Have you had any luck yet?”

I remember what it’s like to have $1.31 in your checking account for weeks at a time after your unemployment benefits have expired. I also know what it feels like to be told, ‘You’re not poor enough to qualify for financial aid’ from a local food pantry when you finally humble yourself to ask for help.  I cried all the way home, wondering how they could say I was – in essence – making too much money when I had $1.31 to my name, had exhausted my 401K, IRA, savings account, unemployment benefits, and had sold many of my belongings. Where did they think I was getting this money – and – where WAS, this money?!

 Linda: Wow! That sounds heartbreaking! Tell me a little about your own time of being laid off. I understand you went through two separate two-year layoffs during a 20-year period when you were a single mom. Please share the circumstances surrounding your first layoff.

Mary: As an administrative assistant in October 1992, my colleagues and I had already seen at least a dozen or so co-workers being laid off. The majority of them were engineers and designers who were laid off once their projects ended and there were no new projects in sight.

My boss explained that my job responsibilities were being added to those of a more senior admin assistant within the department, so my job was being eliminated in order to save the company money.

First Steps When a Layoff Happens

Linda: What were some of the first steps you took soon after?

Mary: The first thing I did when I got home was have a good cry and call my family and friends in order to process the shock and awe of it while my daughter was still at school. It was important to me that I be honest with her on a level she could understand, but maintain a sense of composure and normalcy.

After filing for unemployment benefits, I set up several job searches on Monster.com, the only such search engine I was aware of at the time. I strategically bought two three-ring binders: one for secretarial/administrative assistant positions and the other, for writing/editing/proofreading positions.

Linda: Why two binders?

Mary: I realized this layoff was an opportunity for me to try and fulfill my life-long dream – to travel, write and edit for a living. The problem was, I didn’t have a college degree, any formal training of any type, no mentor or ‘foot in the door’. It was a dream that would not die, and I realized I had nothing to lose by trying to follow it now that I’d lost my job.

Linda: Two years is a long time! Describe some of the challenges you faced in your day-to-day living while trying to find work during that time.

Mary: During my first layoff, cell phones were just coming on the market so I was terrified to leave the apartment, mary-kartoworried that the minute I left, someone would call for an interview. If I weren’t there, I was sure they’d go onto the next candidate. I felt like a prisoner in my own home.

Over time, my family and friends called less often: what could they say that they hadn’t already said 100 times?

The loneliness and depression began playing tricks in my mind. I believed my family and friends were judging and condemning me, assuming I had given up looking for work because no one (especially myself) could understand why it was taking so long to find a job – ANY job.

My doctor recognized I was clinically depressed, cut the cost of my office visits in half and generously gave me regular samples of anti-depressants.

For the first time in many years, my daughter and I began attending church, where I experienced the unconditional love, understanding, compassion and generosity of God through complete strangers. Suddenly we were being provided for through such miraculous ways that I could only exclaim to my daughter in such surprise, “Emilie, LOOK at how God is taking care of us!”

Linda: What finally led you to getting your next job?

Mary: Shortly before I was laid off, I had this radical idea to contact an editor of the Houston Chronicle, introduce myself, pitch a story idea and ask permission to write and send an article to her for her opinion. “If you don’t like it, you are under no obligation to print it, more than anything I just would like someone to tell me if I have any talent whatsoever.” She agreed, and after publishing it, she immediately gave me a second one, and a 10+ year working relationship began.

Although I was pleased to receive one or two assignments every month or two, it still wasn’t enough to live on, but it encouraged me to pursue my writing dream. Eventually, I contacted oil & gas publications, inquiring about freelance writing opportunities. One editor spoke with me at length and asked me to send him a resume and some clips, even though they didn’t use freelancers. One year later a full-time editorial position became open at the company he worked for.  I applied for the job and my dream came true. I knew God was opening doors no one could shut, and I refused to give up on myself or cave into my doubts and fears.

Lessons Learned and Helpful Hints

Linda: How was your second two-year layoff as a single mom, years later, different from the first? What, if anything, did you learn new in terms of getting your needs met? What challenges did you face this time?

Mary: Although completely shocked by the second layoff, my initial response surprised even me: “Oh, it’s OK, it just means God has something better for me to do, I just don’t know what it is yet!”

Three weeks later I had an accident that broke my leg and injured my knee. Upon asking God why He allowed these things to happen, His response was to write a book about trusting Him during a layoff. After several months of doubt and fear, I began and finished writing my first book, HELP for the LAID OFF.

Linda: I assume your book has some helpful hints for those who are laid off.

Mary: Yes, included in this book are ways I saved money and got my needs met, including the following:

  • Bartering for services with my hairdresser, who cut, colored and styled my hair (before job interviews) in exchange for me babysitting her baby;
  • Cancel newspaper, magazine and cable TV/Internet subscriptions and take advantage of libraries, which offer these things for free (except cable TV), in addition to borrowing books and DVDs for entertainment.
  • My daughter and I volunteered as ticket takers for arts & musical festivals and The Alley Theater, in exchange for free admission to the festivals and live theatre productions.
  • I signed an agreement with a reputable debt consolidation company called Abundant Life Christian Credit Counseling Service, which got my interest rates significantly reduced and allowed me to have to pay only one check each month to satisfy my creditors.
  • Volunteering somewhere on a regular basis, attending church each Sunday, exercising and attending a local unemployment ministry support group helped me feel better on every level: emotionally, physically, relationally and spiritually.

Linda: Tell me more about the bartering.

After I had the accident, I negotiated an arrangement with an orthopedic surgeon by writing an article about his practice for a local paper in exchange for him treating my knee with an X-ray and office visit. A different ortho surgeon provided knee surgery and charged $500 and arranged for the hospital to only charge me 1/2-day rate and work out a payment plan with me. I took my friend’s mom to/from doctor and physical therapy appointments in exchange for her paying some of my utilities.

Linda: I’ve heard you say, “A layoff can be one of the best things that ever happens to someone, it all depends upon their response.” What do you mean by that?

Mary: My layoffs taught my daughter and I many lessons that others can learn, the first one being there’s no better time than adversity to begin seeking God and learning how trustworthy He is. WHO BETTER to go to than the One Who created you for a specific purpose, with unique skills and who will lead you to your next job or career change?

We learned the difference between “need” and “want”, the value of a dollar, how to create and stick to a budget, and to stop defining ourselves by where we lived, what we wore, etc. I learned that humility is a gift, there is no shame in asking for and accepting help, and that people are not mind readers. You must ask for what you need, and most people are very happy to help. When I gave my pain to God and asked Him not to waste it, He gave me the ministry I have today: helping the unemployed by giving hope and encouragement.

Linda: What advice do you have for parents who are laid off during the upcoming holidays?

Mary: Based on an extremely painful personal experience one Christmas, I highly recommend they make clear what should be perfectly obvious to their family members and friends, that they (the laid off parent) does not have any extra money to buy their nieces and nephews any gifts “this year”. Ask them to either explain this to their children on a level they can understand, or better yet (if they can afford it), buy their children a small gift “from Aunt Mary”.

For their own children, shopping at Goodwill and garage sales can save money on purchasing gently used items. The best gifts are love and time from their parents.

Linda: I understand you are presently writing another book for the laid off, which would probably be of particular interest to my audience on Heart Talk.

Mary: Yes, LOVE for the LAID OFF – Staying Together is my latest project. The sole purpose of this book is to encourage married couples to draw closer to God and each other during a layoff and allow it to strengthen their marriage rather than allow the weight and pressure of it to lead to divorce.

Linda: Where can readers find out more about your books and ministry?

Mary: I encourage your readers to visit my website at http://MaryKaarto.com.  If they order HOPE for the LAID OFF – Devotionals from my website, I will also send them HELP for the LAID OFF for free. And I’m always available by email if someone wants to contact me at MaryKaarto@MaryKaarto.com

 

 

 

 

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Storms

storm-approaching“Looks like the rains have started.”

My daughter’s text chimed on my cell phone just seconds after I, too, heard the pittypat of the first raindrops on our roof. A shiver of dread spiked in my head. Hurricane Matthew was on its way—a category 4 hurricane packing 140 mile-an-hour winds, plowing up the Atlantic along the coast of Florida.

As newscasters continually reminded us, this was not to be a fast moving hurricane, but one that would hover for hours—all 120 mph winds relentlessly raging against everything in its path.

And we were in its path.

Although we were not directly on the coast, the eye of the storm was expected to make landfall a mere 40 miles away, and Matthew’s hurricane force winds were so immense they would extend inland to sweep over us in Central Florida. What was forecast was far worse than what we’d experienced twelve years earlier when Charley whipped through Florida, ravaging everything in its path. We weren’t strangers to hurricanes and knew the devastation they could bring.

What would our neighborhood look like when it was over? Would our home be in one piece? How about our trees? Our greatest concern was whether a large oak, in falling distance of the house, was healthy enough to withstand sustained 120 mile-an-hour winds. I stood at the window, watching branches begin to sway from side to side as gusts grabbed hold and tossed them about.

After having done everything we could to prepare and with the sky darkening outside, my husband and I hunkered together in our family room, prayed for safety for all of us through the storm, and waited. Matthew was to hit shore about 11 p.m.

Although our frail humanity left us completely vulnerable in the face of the monster storms churning toward us from the south, we knew we were not alone.

The phone calls and texts from family and friends across the country lifted our spirits to remind us of that.

“Praying that you will be out of danger.”

“You’re getting a lot of prayer from this end.”

“We just prayed that angels would surround your house.”

“I hope you are safe. Prayers going up for you.”

A text from my out-of-state daughter, ‘Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty . . . He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God and I trust him. . . Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night. If you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you. . . For he will order his angels to protect you . . . .  Psalms 91:1-16

Both my daughters, one local, one out of state, continued to share texts with us throughout the evening. And the prayers continued.

A little before 11 pm. when the hurricane was expected to strike, a meteorologist on a local station noted that the hurricane was wobbling. “I think it may wobble to the East,” he said, “and because of changes in the eye, it looks like it may be weakening. Matthew may actually remain offshore.”

Sure enough when the official forecast came out, what he said was true. Matthew would not hit land, but stay about 15 miles from the coastline. In addition, it was weakening into a category 3.

Hallelujah! Texts were flying. We were thrilled at the news!

The newscaster at the desk weighed in too as he watched Matthew’s track begin to shift eastward.  “If any of you have been praying that the hurricane would move to the east, your prayers are being answered right now.”

That night the winds blew and the rains came, but no damage occurred.

Some people will just chock off this change in the hurricane’s direction to the fickle nature of hurricanes, but those of us who recognize the powerful God of the universe as our loving Father and the God who hears us when we call out to Him, know this was not a mere chance occurrence. God answers prayer! He does! He really does.

Whatever storms you are encountering at this moment, know that God hears your prayers. The God who created heaven and earth, the One who calms the storm can also direct its course away from YOU. He is our mighty God, and He knows how to protect you from the evil one and from the worst of what this fractured world wants to thrust upon you. When you call upon the name of Jesus, He is by your side.

Although our powerful and loving God may not always answer in the way we want, it is always in a way that will ultimately work for our good and His glory. And He will be there to see you through. God alone is our refuge and strength.

“Behold the Lord’s hand is not too short that it cannot save, nor His ear too dull that it cannot hear.” Isaiah 59:1

Alyse Nicole Merritt

God’s hand protecting Florida by Alyse Nicole Merritt

Thanks to Alyse Nicole Merritt for her beautiful picture and for sharing the above scripture.
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Why Can’t He Be More Like Me? Interview with Author Poppy Smith

HH_WhyCan'tHeBe.indd“Why can’t he be more like me?”

I’m sure many of us women have looked at our husbands at times and struggled with that question. Why does he do the things he does? Why can’t he think and act the way I do? In my interview with Poppy Smith in today’s blog, you will learn her answer to that bewildering question.  It’s clear to me that Poppy feels deeply about marriage and the importance of sharing what she’s learned with women grappling with this issue, for despite a very busy schedule, she graciously worked this interview with me in between edits of her newest book and flights in and out of the country for speaking engagements.

Poppy Smith is British, married to an American, and is an international speaker and multi-published author.  Her delightful sense of humor and honest practicality is evident in some of her book titles: I’m Too Young to Be This Old; and I’m Too Human to Be Like Jesus.  I believe you will be encouraged by the wisdom she has to share with you.  If you would like a FREE copy of the book, leave a comment at the end of the blog interview to enter the drawing.

Linda: Tell us why you wrote this book. Does it come from your personal struggles?

Poppy:  Marriage is difficult for many reasons and our culture’s message is, If you’re unhappy, move on. But God has another message, use your difficulties and differences to grow closer to Him and let Him change you.

I’m from England and met and married my American husband, Jim, when I lived and worked as a secretary in Kenya. Neither of us was in ministry. I was a young, immature Christian and Jim was a doctor with the Peace Corp. Six weeks after our wedding we came to America. I was 22, an immigrant without family or friends. Jim was the only person I knew and he was buried in his studies and work. Desperately lonely, I became very angry, questioning what I had done and where God was. I wanted to run back to Kenya or England, but knew that wasn’t what God wanted.

I was miserable for many years, but bit by bit God helped me. I learned to analyze where our problems were coming from, how to adjust my expectations, and how to accept life with someone who was my total opposite. As a speaker, author, and spiritual life-coach, I’ve found that through my difficult experiences I’m able to identify with and minister to both single and married women. I wrote, Why Can’t He Be More Like Me? to help women who are considering marriage, or baffled and upset by the man they married. It is full of practical tools and quizzes to help singles and couples understand themselves and why their relationship isn’t all they dreamed of and what they can do about it.

Linda: What do you think lies behind difficulties in marriage?

 Poppy:  There are many reasons. We have expectations that we’ve never been aware of, until we find them not being met.  Often we assume we have the same ways of looking at things, same values, same tastes, and same priorities.  We think our way of thinking and doing things is normal and wonder what the matter is with our spouse. My chapter, He’s Not My Clone, deals with many of these reasons.

 Linda: Do you think that a couple’s different upbringings can sometimes contribute to difficulties?poppy-smith

Poppy: Yes, even if you marry the boy next door, you still had different upbringings that can produce conflict. I expected my husband to lock the doors at night because my father did, Jim didn’t think about it because they never locked their home on the farm.  I tackle this common source of many disagreements in We Weren’t Raised in the Same Home. We can have different values, work ethics, ideas on raising children, handling conflict, money, communication and countless other issues because we were raised differently.

Linda: What about their different personalities and ways of processing information and events?

Poppy: Research shows that the brains of men and women are wired differently.  Understanding this fact can reduce a lot of conflict.  Understanding your personality type is also extremely helpful.  You might want to be involved in lots of events, but your spouse might prefer a quieter life. He might have high energy and want to be the life of the party, maybe he is loud or dominant. You might be the opposite, soft-spoken and preferring quiet.  Opposites often attract, but unless both partners learn to accept and respect one another, their differences can often lead to attacks.   There’s no perfect match of personalities that will ensure a happy marriage. In the end, every relationship is determined by how you treat each other. Appreciate your different strengths and focus on them.

Linda: You talk about men and women having some emotional needs in common, but they also have different needs.  Tell us more about that.

Poppy: Studies show that a primary need of women is affection.  For men, it is sexual intimacy.

Most of us feel loved when our husband spontaneously hugs and kisses us.  The majority of men, however, feel loved and accepted when their wife is sensitive to their sexual needs. Both want to feel loved, but it is perceived in different ways.  God made men with a legitimate sexual hunger that we are to respect as part of His design. Other human needs we have in common are attention, admiration, companionship, encouragement and domestic support.

Linda: Learning to communicate so you both hear what the other is saying is a key part of understanding each other.  What have you found most helpful?

Poppy: I took it for granted that my husband would know when I wanted attention and affection. That he’d know the sweet, soothing words I needed when I was upset. When this didn’t happen, I was hurt and wallowed in disappointment and negativity toward him.  I’ve learned that I need to adjust my expectations of him, because he just doesn’t think or respond as I would. He’s not bad, he’s a man. He’s not a woman and he’s not my clone.  I now explain my feelings and needs to him and ask for what I want at that moment. In addition, we’ve both learned to speak up when we feel hurt by the other. This enables us to apologize and grow closer as a couple.  

Linda: How can a couple find healthy ways to deal with conflict.

Poppy: I give many steps to defuse conflict in He Handles Conflict One Way, I Handle It Another. Four simple tips are: Learn to stop and ask yourself: what is this conflict about? Sometimes you’re reacting to different issues and don’t realize it.

Listen to each other’s reasoning and feelings without interrupting.

Decide what’s best for your relationship, not who is right.

Practice taking turns with who gets their preference.

Linda: Where can people find your book, Why Can’t He Be More Like Me?

Poppy:  You can order it anywhere books are sold. I’m delighted to send a signed copy if it’s ordered from my website: www.poppysmith.com  Your readers can find more at my website about my other books and the various topics I speak on—including marriage, domestic violence, the power of our words, and how to thrive no matter what.

 

To enter the drawing for a chance to win a FREE copy of Why Can’t He Be More Like Me?, leave a comment below.

 

 

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Dealing with Loss

2014-thanksgiving-in-north-carolina-057In the wee hours of Tuesday morning I sat beside our much-loved 15 year old Akita as he passed from this life. With grief flooding my heart, I prayed that he was entering into a Heaven where God promises that “the wolf will live with the lamb.” Although scripture doesn’t specifically say it, I interpret that to mean that our beloved pets will be there too.

I know God loves the animals for He even knows when “a sparrow falls.”  And I believe that only love could fashion the great variety of sizes, shapes, colors and mannerisms we see in the animals that inhabit our planet.  Isaiah 11:6-9 goes to great length talking about the animals that live on God’s holy mountain together.

So in my grief, I choose to believe that in God’s mercy our Clyde will have joined our other departed pets in Heaven, and that he is now the whole and healthy, frisky, mischievous dog we loved.  I only hope he and his dog friend Katie, who are now reunited, are not creating chaos in Heaven like they often did here on earth.  But perhaps God merely smiles and laughs at the pandemonium they bring to Heaven as a fleeting part of Heaven’s joyful welcoming party. For I can see them now, Clyde and Katie running all over Heaven together, free to investigate every smell, bark at every sound, chase every squirrel, and swim in every muddy creek. Perhaps, since it’s Heaven, they won’t even get dirty.

In my pain, though, I shuffle about the house still halfway expecting to see the rambunctious friend who followed either me or my husband up and down the staircase and barked at every sound on the street. I long to see the wagging tail when we arrive home or when Clyde padded into the kitchen drawn by the scent of dinner on the stove. I yearn for those big black penetrating eyes that stared into ours with great anticipation whenever certain words like “walk or “go” or “ready” crossed our lips. I miss reaching out my hand to stroke the soft velvet of his ears and even miss the strong tugging of the leash as he pulled me down the street when we took him for a walk. He was the strong, handsome dude who strutted around the block, head and ears erect with thick, luxuriant tail curled over his back.

And I grieve for the loving dog that snuggled between us on the bed, using my leg for his pillow.

I miss him. I miss the joy he brought to our home.

But what brings me back? What helps me cope? What helps me move beyond this difficult moment to the new chapter that lies beyond?

I thank God for the years of joy Clyde brought to our lives. I thank God for being in control, for being a good and faithful God and that all things beautiful come from Him.  I thank God that He has promised that weeping might last for the night but there is joy in the morning.

I thank God for love—for its wonder, mystery, and delight, knowing that God carves love and sorrow deep into our hearts, sometimes intertwined, to make room for a Love that is deeper and richer, a Love that will last forever, and the only Love truly wild and beautiful enough to fill the deep and lonely places in our hearts.

So while I continue to grieve for my handsome, smart and sometimes crazy dog, I thank God for His faithfulness in the past and His promises for the future. This hurting time will pass, and happy times will come again.

“The wolf will live with the lamb. The leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together, and the little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. And they will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the Earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:6-9

  • Matt 10:29
  • James 1:17 and Eccl 3:11
  • Psalm 30:5
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365 Devotions for Hope – Interview with author, Karen Whiting

365Devotions4Hope - Karen WhitingWhen people read my Heart Talk blog, one of the main things I want them to find is hope—even when it’s “in unexpected places.”  As long as we have hope, we can make it through even the toughest situations. Today I’m pleased to interview Karen Whiting about one of her latest books, 365 Devotions for Hope. Karen is an international speaker, former TV host, and the author of twenty-two books. She loves to let creativity splash on the pages she writes as she reaches out through her writing to help nurture wholesome families. If you’d like a FREE copy of Karen’s book, you can make a comment at the end of this interview to enter our drawing. Karen has also offered to give away a copy of another new book, releasing at the end of the year, called Christmas is Coming: Waiting is Hard. So make your comments below.

Linda: Karen, tell us why you believe hope is so important and why you decided to write about it.

Karen: Hope is what pulls us out of the deep trenches of pain. Hope is the anchor that we cling to tightly during storms that crash into our lives.

Linda: What are some of the topics and themes in your book, 365 Devotions for Hope?

Karen: The hope of the future, love, expectations, seeds of hope, CPR for hopeless times, hope when facing the unexpected, hope for the hurting, hope through renewed thinking, letting go of gloomy thoughts, and laughter.

Linda: Why is it sometimes so difficult to find hope even when we believe in God’s love and sovereignty?

Karen: We are human and our emotions are real. When we hurt, we don’t want platitudes. We want to fill the loneliness, sorrow, and other emotions we feel. In an instant gratification world, it’s hard to slowly go through the process and stages of grief. Time is still a great healer. We do need to allow ourselves to cry and take time for the healing.

Linda: Hope is what keeps us going in particularly hard times, but there are some situations where hope seems so remote. What are some thoughts for those facing struggles like divorce, marital separation, or death of a loved one?

Karen: A home that once filled with laughter and love is broken and shattered by divorce or loss. That’s a time to forgive and let God’s love fill the empty spots. It’s a time to renew friendships and invite friends in. It’s also a time to look outward, go to a place where you can see the horizon and know that God can see beyond the devastation you see now. He knows what blessings are coming. Cling to the hope of that future. Choose to hope.

Linda: What are a few times in your own life when you found hope when you needed it?

Karen: I need hope every day, but a few big struggles included the devastation of Hurricane Andrew to our home and the loss of my parents and then my husband.

Linda: What helped with the hurricane?Karen Whiting

Karen: A lot of it is in our attitude. My family likes to laugh. Before I even left the closet, I laughed. I had read scriptures all night to the children (hubby was away on military orders) and just read about Jesus calming the storm . We prayed and everything stilled. Silence reigned until my oldest son piped up, “Mom. You should have read that one first.”

When we realized the hurricane had totaled two bedrooms, the kitchen and lots of other things—altogether totaling $99,000—we added thanks and felt grateful for what remained.

Linda: What helped as you faced the loss of your mom, your dad, and your husband?

Karen: Remembering and sharing happy times in the past and laughing together even as my mom and later husband faced terminal cancer. Our family remained close and shared stories as we also shared our sorrow. We made care packages for my mom, and my younger daughter recorded songs for my husband. All those helped us focus on the love we shared and the eternal hope of God.

Laughter helps us smile and face hardships easier. When Jim had chemo, he’d say, “Ah, just as I got my superman strength back, they hit me with kryptonite again” and other little jokes.

We shared stories of fun times from the past. We always laughed when we recalled how our 2.5 year old son had not talked except a few words until he fell off a sled Jim was pulling through the snow. Micahe stood up and yelled, “Hey, Dad, what’s the big idea?”

With Dad, we had him retell times he snitched watermelons or other antics as a child. One of the last days my dad was able to talk, his little sister came to the hospital and he ended up telling her for the first time everything that happened the day of her birth (he was 16). She shared some of her favorite memories with him. Sharing stories and laughter are some of the best ways to say goodbye.

Linda: I’m intrigued by your care package idea. I know you didn’t live close to your parents at the time. What little treasures did you include?

Karen: Photos and taped messages, dry shampoo, favorite snacks, tiny stuffed animals, and gifts the children made. It provided something positive for my parents to talk about each day. Some days Mom opened several as we promised to send new packages as needed.

Linda: What do you say to a woman who’s lost her husband to give her hope?

Karen: Sometimes it is better not to speak, but to simply hug the person and sit with her. Listen to her as she talks of her loss. Then hug her again.

Linda: There are lots of books on hope, but I know your book is a devotional book. How is reading a devotional book on hope different from reading a regular book on hope?

Karen: A devotional gives people small bites every day. Often, when someone is depressed or needing hope it is harder to focus for a long time so a little bit is easier. Also, for those struggling over a long period, having something positive each day gives them a continual lift about the problems.

Linda: I noticed you have an anchor on the cover of your book? Is there any significance to that? What are a few of the illustrations you use in the book?

Karen: As a Coast Guard wife, I use quite a few nautical illustrations with different types of anchors, tides, and moorings. I also use the newness of flowers, a child’s laugh, and quotes plus anecdotes from people who overcame great odds.

Linda: Where can people find your book, 365 Devotions for Hope?

Karen: Anywhere books are sold. I suggest they support their local bookstores as they are beacons of light in a dark world and disappearing too fast. You can find more about my other books at (www.karenwhiting.com)

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A Bigger Plan for Paul

arched doorwayWhen Paul, the apostle, was imprisoned in Rome I can imagine the disappointment and confusion he must have felt. Why would God let him languish in prison when the world needed to hear the good news about Jesus?

Paul’s desire was to travel around the known world, evangelizing everyone within the sound of his voice, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.  But instead, he was sent to prison, where very few were within the sound of his voice, and all he could do was . . .

. . . write letters!

His ambition, his dream, his goal, and I’m sure his prayer was to travel to different cities in the known world so He could bring people to Christ. These were good goals. They were meant to honor and glorify God. And yet God prevented him from doing so.

Why was this?

Because God had an even bigger plan for Paul.  God wanted him to write letters to the churches, whose influence and power would extend far beyond the times in which he lived. The epistles he wrote would become the foundation for the scripture of the New Testament so later generations would reap the benefit of his wisdom and anointing.  If Paul had had his way, only one generation would have benefited from his insights and revelations. His words would have been short-lived, only reaching the ears of whomever he encountered physically.

Instead, God had a bigger plan for you and me to hear his words, so they could produce eternal, lasting fruit for centuries to come.  When God denied Paul the answer to his prayer, God was thinking of us—you and me. Although Paul would never have been able to comprehend it, God’s plan was way larger than Paul’s. His plan was perfect.

God knew what He was doing. He did then, and He does now. He always does.

We nod our heads today and look back to see this clearly in the life of Paul, but can we see it in our own lives as well?  When things don’t go the way we’d like, when our prayers aren’t answered in the way that seems logical for us, how do we react?  Do we still see God at work in our lives? Do we still acknowledge that God is a big God with plans that are above our own? Or do we fuss and complain that our prayers have gone unanswered?

I have to confess that I am writing this for myself. I am most guilty of second-guessing God.  When I write something that glorifies God, but it doesn’t get published, I ask, “Why God?”  But I fail to realize that the God I want to glorify is a God beyond my limited understanding. His ways are higher than mine. His purposes are beyond anything I can presently comprehend.

And so I need to surrender.  I need to be still and let God be God. I need to rest in His arms a little longer and let Him guide me onto the perfect path where my desires are subservient to His glory. Where His love and grace stir my heart and fuel my passion into walking wherever He leads. Maybe down known paths, maybe unknown, but perfect because they lead to His throne and His glory to fulfill His purpose.

Perhaps you, like me, need to surrender your desires, your ambitions, and your dreams to God so He can fulfill the bigger plans He has for your life, plans which are far beyond our own imaginations, plans that bring blessing to us and others in ways that only a creative God can bring about, plans that have glorious and eternal results for His glory and His kingdom.

If you want to see His bigger plans unfold in your life, please pray with me as I lift these things to God:

Everything I have is yours, God. You know how my small offerings can fit into your bigger plan, and I give them to you. Let my prayers become a sweet smelling aroma to you as you transform my desires into manna for your perfect purposes and your everlasting glory. Amen.

 

“I know the plans I have for you . . .plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord “As the heavens are higher than the earth,     so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55: 8-9

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