Main Character Monday #4

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Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

 

Today’s Guest is Rachel Miller from Don’t Ask Me to Leave by Micki Clark. Thank you for joining me Rachel.

Could you please share with us your favorite Bible verse?

Well, naturally, I love the book of Ruth, but especially Ruth 1:16: “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

Is there a person from the Bible that you most relate to?

Oh, man. Definitely Job, there for awhile. I mean, I know he had it worse than me. He did. But you know, it felt like my whole life was just one big cycle of death and destruction. I lost my parents, I lost my husband. Really, I lost my way. What embarrasses me a little is that unlike Job, I kind of lost my faith too. Thank goodness for Nadine, who pulled me back in. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Is there one of these characteristics you find easier to show than the others? Hmm. Well, I guess gentleness describes me the most, but I do try to be kind to others. You just never know when someone else needs that. I know I certainly did.

Which one is the most challenging for you?

Patience. Ha! No, seriously. Patience for sure. I guess I’ll always struggle with that one. I mean, I’m patient for some things, like waiting on pizza to come out of the oven. But I tend to be impatient with people when they aren’t like me. I wasn’t patient with my sister-in-law Olivia. I’m still trying to make up for that.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

You never know how much time you’ll have with anyone. Anyone. Cherish every moment. Dance in the rain. Eat the extra slice of pizza. Laugh like no one hears you braying like a mule.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Oh, dark, definitely. It’s so decadent.

Beach or Mountains? Never been to the beach. But, I totally love hiking the mountains. One of these days I’d like to give the Appalachian Trail a run for its money.

Sweet Tea or Lemonade? Oh, gag. What is this nation’s obsession with sweet tea? Uh-uh. Nope. Can’t take it. Lemonade, although if it could be strawberry lemonade, with chunks of strawberries stirred in. . .

If you could describe Micki Clark in three words, what would those words be?

Hardworking, loyal, and determined. She gives 110% to everything. She really needs to learn to back off of some stuff, because she has a big tendency to overextend herself.

Thank you, Rachel Miller for allowing me to interview you and to Micki Clark for sharing Rachel with us.

Don’t Ask Me to Leave is available in e-book and paperback from Amazon. And don’t forget, book reviews are a great way to help your favorite authors get the word out about their books. After you’ve checked out the Main Character Monday books, don’t forget to leave your Amazon review!

 

 

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Unrefined Grace Club

My friend, Ramona and I are the President and CEO of the Unrefined Grace Club. It’s not that we are not graceful people. We have grace. It’s just in its most raw and unrefined state. My unrefined grace often asserts itself as a lack of balance. I could trip over air. Come to think of it, I probably have at one point or another. Don’t believe me? Let me illustrate.

Do you remember Pogo Balls? These demon toys came straight from the pit and, thankfully, have returned there since the 80s. Imagine two sturdy playground balls joined together at the top making a strange rubber eight. Around the center of this monstrosity is a plastic platform, not unlike the rings of Saturn. The whole idea was that you stood on the platform and bounced up and down. It was a portable trampoline of death and destruction, and my cousin had one.

Enamored with the “it” toy of the time, I jumped at the chance to try it out. (See what I did there?) So, on my grandma’s front porch, I climbed on and started jumping. Here’s a hint for the day you run across one of these toys in a vintage toy shop. They are not meant to be used with bare feet. Just as I was getting the hang of it, my foot slipped, and I couldn’t regain my balance. I fell straight into the storm door. My bent right arm went through the glass, elbow first. From his place at Grandma’s table, my brother thought it looked like a scene from an action movie. My cousin’s eyes were wide as she pointed to my upper arm. I saw blood flowing, and I freaked out. An emergency room trip and several stitches later, I determined I wouldn’t be using the Pogo Ball again. I did not have the necessary sense of balance.

I’ve been learning a lot about balance since I embarked on this writing adventure. I’ve experienced what I once only had head knowledge of: writing is about more than just writing.  There is editing on the book I’ve written to get it ready for publication. But I also need to write on my next book. I need to keep reading for my blog and also to grow as a writer. Time has to be set aside for social media from Facebook to Twitter. Learning to market my book requires time as well. Not to mention, each of these tasks has sub-tasks attached to it. Add to that my full-time job as a receptionist, my family that needs to eat, and my work with local ministries, and I have more demands on my time than I have actual time. It is easy to become overwhelmed in the face of this lengthy to-do list. To accomplish it in the best way possible, I need one thing, balance. If I fail to exercise balance in my writing life, I’ll spend too much time on one part without giving the other areas the attention they deserve. I can write the best novel out there, but if I never do anything to market it, no one will ever read it. I can read a hundred books, but if I don’t use what I read, I’ll have nothing to blog and I won’t grow as a writer. It’s all about balance.

There is something to be said for balance in our spiritual lives as well. Becoming a Christian starts with faith. It takes believing that Jesus is God made man, sent to earth to die in our place for our sins. God’s forgiveness and salvation is a gift we cannot earn through anything we do (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9). Scripture is clear that our adoption into God’s family is all about Him and not us. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for works. If our faith is true, it changes us. Real faith will produce action.

Think about it. I can study electricity and know how it works. I can have it installed in my home. I can make sure my light fixture has the perfect bulb with the perfect wattage. I can say I believe in the science behind electricity, but if I don’t flip the switch, I will remain in the dark. If I wanted to be in the light, and I had real faith that electricity was the answer, I would turn on the light. Real faith in something, true belief, brings action.

That is the balance we need in our spiritual lives. We understand that salvation comes through faith. But we also understand that true faith will produce change in our lives (James 2:14-26). That’s not to say we’ll be perfect. We’ll fail time and again and have to fall back on the grace that brings forgiveness. But if we believe God is who He says He is and He has done all He has said He would do, it won’t leave us unchanged. Our faith will lead us into living our lives according to what we believe. Faith and action work in harmony with each other, providing perfect balance in our spiritual lives.

By the Book: Is there balance in the activities of your life? How about your spiritual life? When you look at the scales, are faith and action balanced? If not, consider why. Is the works side of your scale too heavy as you try to earn your salvation through your own efforts? Or is the belief side heavy with head knowledge of God and His gift without really accepting it for yourself and letting it change who you are? What is needed to restore balance in areas that are lacking?

We Are Family

I have more families than I can count. I have a literal family. I’ve had a few church families throughout the years. When my children were toddlers, I had a mothers’ group family. One especially close to my heart is my SICC camp family. The faces in that one have changed through the years, but all of them are still family.

Looking back, I see the importance of each family group in specific times in my life. My literal family has helped shape who I am from the beginning.  My moms’ group family helped me navigate the tough toddler years. Though each church family has impacted my life, my Scottsboro church family was there when I needed a little more spiritual encouragement and love. I owe them greatly for helping me find joy in serving. My camp family, well, I can’t even begin to tell you what it means to me. I can’t imagine my life without each member. They’ve been there since I was six months old, and they play a part in many of my best memories and most of my spiritual development.

Recently, God has added to my family list. In this new writing adventure, He has gifted me with two amazing groups. One is a local Christian Writers’ group. God has used this group to motivate, challenge, and encourage me. We have fun, but we also prioritize growth in our writing. They helped me review and prepare Faith’s Journey to be sent to publishers. They were the first people to know about and celebrate with me when I got the contract for publication.

My other new writing family is made up of the Mantle Rock Publishing authors. I’ve never actually met any of the people in this family. We talk only through social media. But this amazing group has taken me in as one of their own. They’ve answered questions and given tips on everything from using social media to running a book launch party. We cheer each other on and learn from each other. Some have been in the family a long time, but others are relative new comers like me. It doesn’t matter. We all have something to add to the family.

That’s the great thing about chosen families. They each have a special place and fill a special purpose in my life. Each member adds their own unique twist to the family unit. They contribute something special that no one else could give in quite the same way. And, hopefully, I bring something of worth to each of them too. We make each other better, stronger. That’s what family is supposed to do.

That’s also what the church is supposed to do. God didn’t create us to work independently of each other. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 are two of several scriptures that compare believers to a body. Each body part is unique in what it does and how it does it. Each body part is necessary to the health of the body. It’s why we are encouraged not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). We were made to teach and encourage each other. We are meant to rejoice and cry with each other. When we show love to each other the way God intended, the world sees it and amazing things can happen. The first chapter of Acts details many times that God worked through His people and the result was an increase in believers. What starts off each of those miraculous times of ministry? Unity. The church was unified as one family of believers.

So what keeps us from working that way now? Why do so many believers choose to strike out on their own rather than being part of a body? It’s because our church families are like our literal families. If you have siblings, you know what I’m talking about. It’s hard to live without conflict in close quarters with people who are vastly different in personality and likes and dislikes. Sometimes, jealousy creates sibling rivalry. How can we admit our sibling’s idea is a good one? Won’t that mean our own idea wasn’t a good one? Why does that family member always seem to do the one thing they know bothers us worse than anything else?  Rather than holding tight to the things that unite our family, we let the differences deplete our patience, tearing us apart.

The things that creep into our literal families also threaten our chosen families, even spiritual families. What God designed to be one healthy body working in love and showing the world a different way to live, becomes a body riddled with the disease of sin. The family God gives us for our good becomes so dysfunctional that family members become estranged. As members strike out on their own, there are two losses. The person that leaves loses opportunity for the support and encouragement God meant for them to have. The ones that stay lose a little more of their ability to impact the world for God as the world judges them to be no different than everyone else. And who wants to be part of a dysfunctional family?

By the Book: Do you have a church family? If not, what keeps you from it? Ask God how to heal the hurts and find the family He has for you. If you do have a church family, is it working together as one the way God intended? Are you doing your part to help it function in love? Ask God to show you how to be the spiritual family member He designed you to be.

Main Character Monday #3

Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

 

Today’s Guest is Dinah Devereaux from A Most Precious Gift by Jacqueline F. Wheelock. Thank you for joining me.

A life verse is a scripture that has spoken to you deeply, impacted the way you live your life, or become like a theme verse for your life. What would you say is your life verse?

The verse that shores up my confidence in who I am is taken from Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” When life’s circumstances try to reduce me to feeling “less than,” this verse reminds me of the heart of God for all his children, and that includes me.

What person from scripture do you most relate to?

I definitely connect to Esther who had her own reservations about meeting a crucial life challenge, but ultimately she pressed forward with what she knew was the right thing to do. It must have been beyond frightening for the young Jewish queen, on behalf of her people, to confront the king uninvited. To me, her philosophy of “If I perish, I perish,” is one of the great quotations of the Old Testament. Like the Hebrew boys who were thrown into the furnace, Esther’s trust in God to do what was best was mightily rewarded.

The New Testament says that all the law and prophets can be summed up in two commands: love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Which of these two commands do you feel you have the most trouble following?

Loving my “neighbor” has not always been easy for me, but I believe this command demonstrates loving God with “all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”

Solomon asked God for wisdom. If God gave you the same opportunity, what would you ask Him for?

I believe fear is one of Satan’s strongest and most effective weapons against believers, so I would ask for total trust which I feel results in total peace.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Nothing in life comes close to the importance of a well-maintained relationship with God—not even marrying the hero in a romance novel and living “happily ever after.”

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Definitely milk chocolate.

Autumn or Spring? Autumn is my first choice. That burst of cool days and warm colors is always exhilarating.

Coffee or Hot Cocoa? Coffee wins.

If you could describe Jacqueline F. Wheelock in three words, what would those words be? Idealistic, self-effacing, determined

I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Main Character Monday.  A Most Precious Gift is available as an e-book or paperback on Amazon. It’s sequel, In Pursuit of an Emerald, is also available on Amazon.

Out of the Ordinary

Have you ever watched God work out the impossible in your life? I’m not talking about death defying miracles, though those count. I’m talking everyday situations God moves in to leave His mark on the events.

Recently, someone stole my checking account information. It’s horrible to realize someone stole your private information. It’s worse when they overdraw your account leaving returned check fees to pile up. But it’s awesome to know, God intervened.

It was the day after a holiday at work. Because I wasn’t feeling well and we weren’t busy, I was allowed to leave at noon.  On my way home, I stopped for orange juice to get some extra vitamin C. My debit card was declined. Confused, I checked my account. It was overdrawn, and returned checks were just waiting for two o’clock to earn hefty overdraft fees. I called my mom to see if I could borrow enough from her to cover the checks. I raced to her house, raced back to the bank, and deposited the money just in time. While I waited for the deposit slip, I checked my account details. Scrolling through charges, I saw a company my family has never used. I pulled to the front of the bank and went inside to speak with someone about the fraudulent charge. I spent the next several hours on the phone with half a dozen different people reporting the fraud and getting our accounts straightened out.

The reason I share this is because God intervened. When someone needed sent home, I didn’t have to be chosen. But I was. If I hadn’t had respiratory issues, I wouldn’t have stopped for juice. If my card hadn’t been declined, I wouldn’t have known about the overdrafts. Without my mom loaning me the money, I wouldn’t have been able to avoid extra charges. Without time as I waited for the deposit, I wouldn’t have immediately found the fraud and been able to go sinto the bank to fix it. And all of this happened at just the right time to allow me to fix it without missing work or having to put it off longer leaving my account vulnerable to further theft.

God worked every detail out in the best possible way. I’m thankful for that, and I give Him the credit for it.

In terms of the bigger picture, that is one of the small things He has done. There have been so many others in my life from smaller daily occurrences to more drastic life-changing times.

Sometimes, it’s all God. Other times it is God working through His people, but it’s still God. However, we shrug it off, attributing it to luck or karma. God intervenes, and then, life goes on like nothing has happened. Why?

Becky Hollister experiences something like this in Under This Same Sky by Cynthia Roemer, though her realization comes after devastation that threatens to keep her from seeing God’s intervention. After losing her family, Becky’s world is changed. Her carefree life on the prairie is interrupted with uncertainty and fear. At one point, she approaches the town, and her feelings are summed up beautifully. “At last, Miller Creek appeared in the distance, serene and peaceful, as though nothing out of the ordinary had taken place.”

Becky’s experience left her changed. It left her life changed. Yet, everything around her went on as usual. The discrepancy was difficult to process, as it should be in those situations. She faced something horrible, and her faith in God was tested.

Should things like that go unnoticed? Whether it’s devastation like she faced or seeing God at work like I did, shouldn’t it make a difference in the world around us?

Too often, we’re guilty of being the town. We experience God moving in our lives working things out, but we go on living  “as though nothing out of the ordinary” has happened. Throughout scripture God’s people celebrated and remembered God’s hand at work in their lives. They set up twelve stones after crossing the river as a testimony to what God had done. They celebrated the Passover each year to remember their deliverance. David wrote Psalms of praise honoring God for His interventions. Time and again, the people remembered and celebrated God’s work in their lives.

What happened when they failed to remember? Abraham and Jacob took matters into their own hands and wreaked havoc in their families. The ones God delivered from Egypt lost their chance to enter the Promised Land. The nation of Israel was taken captive by other nations again and again.  They forgot the God they were supposed to be serving.

It happens to us too. When God touches our lives and we don’t take the time to praise or remember, we begin to forget Him. We begin to think we accomplish it all on our own. We don’t think we need Him as much, and our witness suffers. In Matthew, Jesus says to let our light shine so others see our good works and glorify God. In John, every time the people saw a sign, it says they believed because of it. All throughout the New Testament, we are called to glorify and praise God because of what He has done and is doing in us. The reason is two-fold.

Remembering strengthens our faith. It helps us see Him when the devastating things happen. It also shows God to those around us. It’s time we start letting others know when “out of the ordinary” things, when God things happen in our lives.

By the Book: Consider all God has done for you, even in the messes. Praise Him and share that praise below in the comments. What He has done for you may be an encouragement for someone else today.

Main Character Monday #2

Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

Today’s Guest is Mary Wade Kimball from Rescued Hearts by Hope Toler Dougherty. Thank you for joining me.

A life verse is a scripture that has spoken to you deeply, impacted the way you live your life, or become like a theme verse for your life. What would you say is your life verse?

Jeremiah 29:11 “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Unfortunately, I had to learn this verse the hard way. I was always a people pleaser, especially my parents. They’re wonderful people, believers, too, but they had a different plan for me than God did. I felt a lot of guilt striking out on a plan different from theirs after college, but Brett and his grandmother helped me see more clearly.

What person from scripture do you most relate to?

Lydia from Acts 14 is one of those minor characters who can teach big lessons. She’s a business woman, “a dealer in purple cloth,” who worships God, who listens, believes, and responds. After she and her household were baptized, she invited Paul to stay in her home. She’s a business woman who loves the Lord and offers hospitality to His workers. I love her!

The New Testament says that all the law and prophets can be summed up in two commands: love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Which of these two commands do you feel you have the most trouble following?

Wow. That’s a hard question.  I think it’s loving Him with all my mind. I always have a full plate with trying to keep my business afloat, keeping my customers happy, coming up with new designs, doing my volunteer work. I hate saying, “no,” to people who ask for help. Sometimes my focus is on fifty other things instead of Him. Some days are a struggle to begin with Him instead of jumping onto my to-do list.

Solomon asked God for wisdom. If God gave you the same opportunity, what would you ask Him for?

I’m always praying for wisdom and discernment, discernment to distinguish His voice from my desires and attitudes.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Besides reading about me in Rescued Hearts, you mean? Sorry. Seriously, God’s plans are the best. His will is the best place to be—even if being there feels really hard. Pray for discernment for His will and then for courage to live it out.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Dark, dark, dark!

Autumn or Spring?  Autumn so that I can snuggle up by the fire!

Coffee or Hot Cocoa? Strong, sweet coffee!

If you could describe Hope Toler Dougherty in three words, what would those words be?

Family-oriented, Calm, Non-housekeeper

Get to know Mary Wade even better. Read Rescued Hearts, available on Amazon.  

Wait Just a Minute

Hold on a minute. Let me check my email. I’m expecting a few, and they may need my immediate attention. Okay, I’m back. But the cat is whining by the back door. I really should go let it out. Back again. You know I haven’t checked my posts on Twitter and Facebook in a couple hours. I really should do that. It’ll only take a minute, and once I’ve done it I won’t have to think about it anymore. Hello, again. I really hate it when my documents folder gets congested with a lot of different documents. I should take some time to get them organized into sub-folders. That’s better. Now, I can concentrate on what I really need to do. But my husband just got my grilled ham and cheese done. I should eat it while it’s hot. Hey, he even added some chips and French onion dip. Score! I’ll be back just as soon as I’m done eating.

Believe it or not, this is exactly how the last hour has gone at my house. Well, I guess you’d have to add in a couple deep sighs with my head thrown back on the couch in frustration and an episode of New Girl. Oh, and chocolate.

I had every intention of sitting down, getting right to work, and having my post written and up in no time at all, leaving the rest of my evening to work on my novel’s sequel. But once I turned on my computer, my plans changed. I still wanted to write the blog, but I was met with a blank page. Some days there is nothing as difficult as facing a blank page.

What do you do when that happens? I don’t know about you, but I procrastinate. It’s not that I don’t intend to do whatever I started out to do. I will. I know I will. Just not right now. Maybe if I wait, I’ll come back and the page will magically be filled with words. How sweet would that be? Maybe if I spend just a little more time doing other things, things that don’t take a lot of thought, I’ll come back to that blank page and the words will start flowing freely from my fingers. Probably not.

The things I’m filling my time with aren’t bad. Eating is necessary for life. Chocolate is too. My documents folder really did need some organization to make it more user friendly. And I’m waiting on emails from a few authors answering Main Character Monday interviews and one from the person making a book trailer for the release of Faith’s Journey. Those aren’t unimportant. Plus, if they have questions, I do need to answer them promptly. Besides, the documents folder and emails are all part of this business of writing. They do need attention. Just maybe not right this minute.

That’s the problem with procrastination. It’s easy to get sidetracked by doing good, helpful things and convince yourself that it simply has to be done. But just because they’re good things to do, doesn’t mean they are the right things to do at this time.

The procrastinators of the world understand that this doesn’t just apply to writing or work or unpleasant things. It can carry over into our spiritual lives, and we have to be careful not to let it overtake us there. Sometimes God asks us to do something unpleasant. Maybe we are supposed to witness to a perfect stranger. (I know, that’s not unpleasant for some of you. For others, like me, it’s a level of unpleasantness that ranks right up there with a root canal.) Maybe God’s asking you to forgive someone that hurt you or forgive yourself for sins He’s long since forgotten. Perhaps what God is asking isn’t unpleasant, but it’s new for you and that makes it uncomfortable to begin. The unknown can be a scary, and begs for us to avoid it through procrastination.  Maybe He wants you to start using the gifts and talents He has given you to minister to others.  Maybe you’re supposed to start a new ministry or set aside a specific daily time to spend in prayer or God’s word.

Whatever God is asking of you, it’s easy to let ourselves get sidetracked by other good things. It goes something like this, “God, I know you want me to spend one Saturday a month feeding people at the shelter, but I don’t know anyone out there. Besides, that’s when the choir practices, and I was thinking of joining them.” Singing in the choir isn’t bad. It’s a good thing. But if it isn’t what God is telling you to do then it isn’t a God thing. In fact, when we know God is telling us to do something, and we keep coming up with excuses why we can’t right now, it’s worse than just not being a God thing. It’s actually a sin. James 4:17 tell us, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

We like to make the excuse that we aren’t not doing it, we just aren’t doing it right now. According to James, that doesn’t cut it. We can come up with a million and one reasons why we shouldn’t, but if God is telling us to do something none of those things matter. We can replace what God wants with a hundred other good, spiritual things, but if they are not what God is asking us to do, we are sinning. Turns out, there is no time for procrastinating in the kingdom of God.

By the Book: Spend some time searching your heart to see if there are things God has asked you to do that you’ve been putting off. If so, ask Him to forgive your unwillingness to do it and help strengthen you to follow through with what He wants.

It’s a Mystery

It was a winding, narrow gravel road like any other country road. It led to Grandma Stearns’ farm. But there was a single stretch of that road lined with trees on both sides, as deep as you could see. Their limbs reached across the road creating a canopy overhead. This nature made tunnel was dark and cool. Sounds peaceful, right?

It might have been, if it weren’t for my older brothers. They informed me, while I was a young child, this stretch of road was called Sleepy Hollow. Now, I hadn’t read the book, and I didn’t know the story that well. What I did know was that a headless horseman terrorized and killed people in Sleepy Hollow.

Suddenly, that small piece of road became an endless tunnel of certain death. The shade became sinister, and evil lurked in the trees. I hated driving down that road. It made me anxious. Even today, as a logical adult, that old childhood anxiety sometimes tries to creep in. I blame my brothers.

Is it a trend for older brothers to traumatize their younger sisters? I can honestly say this isn’t the only time it happened in my childhood.  And experiences like this one taught me that I don’t like feeling anxious or afraid.

I believe it’s part of the reason I’ve never gravitated to reading mysteries. The unknown, especially when there is a sinister plotline, isn’t fun for me. It keeps me up at night and fuels bad dreams. My two favorite authors have challenged this dislike at times, and because of them, I’m branching out. I’m learning that just because something is a mystery doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.

Linda Fulkerson proved this with her mystery, Dead Broke. I chose it to introduce myself to a new author, but I wasn’t quite sure I would like it. It’s a mystery. A mystery with the word dead in the title. But I tried to keep an open mind, and I’m glad I did. The mystery begins in the very first chapter for Andy Warren, a sports photographer. And as Andy goes back to her hometown, the mystery continues to grow, becoming more complex and dangerous for Andy. It doesn’t help that her hometown is the typical southern small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It gives Andy plenty of suspects and just as many doubts about each one. Every time she thinks she has it all figured out, Andy finds out something new that sends her back to the drawing board.

It’s these twists and turns that keep readers guessing, but they cause a lot of frustration for Andy. It’s a feeling most of us can probably relate to. There are lots of things scripture tells us about life. We know sin separates us from God. We know that God sent His Son to die so we could be forgiven. We know that when we accept God’s forgiveness, we come into relationship with Him and will one day spend eternity in heaven with Him. We know that the battle has already been won, and good wins over evil once and for all.

Knowing these things is great. They bring hope and peace into our lives. It’s the things we don’t know that sometimes cause us frustration. Life is messy. It’s full of twists and turns. We seek to live the way God wants us to live. We want to do His will. We trust that God has plans for us, just as it says in Jeremiah 29. But those plans aren’t usually spelled out for us in black and white. And even when we do know what God wants for us, unexpected situations come up and seem to throw everything out of whack. People hurt us, disaster strikes, jobs are lost, or people get sick.

Whatever the situation, we don’t expect it. We think we have it all figured out, and then something comes along to send us back to the drawing board. Sometimes, we’re still on the right path, but the path looks different than we imagined. Other times, the situations force us into a completely different direction. Whatever the case, the mystery, the not knowing, can cause anxiety, fear, and doubt. The things that cause people to love a good mystery novel don’t feel so fun when they become part of our daily lives. But even in the middle of the chaos and unexpected circumstances, we have something to hold onto that will calm our frayed emotions. We have the promises of God.

Scripture never says bad things won’t happen. The book of Job is a good reminder of that. What it tells us is that no matter how bad the situation is, God will use it to bring something good into our lives when we love Him (Romans 8:28). He also promises us strength when we feel weak. (Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 40:31, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We don’t have to worry about being alone because God promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). And these are just a few promises to help us through the circumstances we don’t understand.

You may think it seems too easy, but there’s nothing easy about it. When you’re going through the most difficult times in your life, easy doesn’t exist. The pain still cuts. But because of God’s promises, you can know peace in the pain and confusion. You can rest in His strength and look forward to what He will accomplish in your life through the circumstances. You can let go of your fear of the unknown, understanding that to God, your circumstances are not a mystery.

By the Book: What mysteries threaten your peace or bring you pain? Look up the verses above and search out other promises of God. Ask God to help you experience these promises in your life. Write them in a notebook or journal to meditate on when the unknown threatens your peace.

Main Character Monday #1

MCMphoto

Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

Today’s Guest is Kat Williams from Callum’s Compass by Sara L. Foust. Thank you for joining me Kat.

Could you please share with us your favorite Bible verse?

Psalm 103:12 (KJV)– “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” This verse reminds me that God loves me, no matter what my past indiscretions and sins have been. When He forgives, He forgives for good, and I am very thankful for that.

Is there a person from the Bible that you most relate to?

Boy, this is a hard question. Maybe Thomas. I never believed God didn’t exist, but I did doubt that God could love me. Thomas doubted that Jesus had arisen, and until Thomas could see for himself the proof he refused to believe. Until I finally humbled myself to the power of God’s forgiveness and love, and saw for myself that beautiful Light, I doubted that it was possible for me to ever feel free from Callum’s death. I miss my little brother every day, but I don’t blame myself for his death any more. That is God’s love working in my life.

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Is there one of these characteristics you find easier to show than the others?

It is easiest for me to exhibit self-control because I have always been a bit timid and self-conscious. Even to a point that I am a little too in control. For many years now, I had been stuck in guilt from my past over losing my little brother Callum. Over the years, self-control became a habit. And I withdrew even farther into my shell. I am so thankful Clayton (I miss him!) believed in me and offered me a “taste of adventure” to help me break free from that self-created prison!

Which one is the most challenging for you?  

What hadn’t been easy for me was love. I blamed myself for Callum’s death and felt unworthy of love from anyone, even God. It took a treasure hunt filled with danger and a handsome new friend with a past loss of his own to show me that love is possible, even for me.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

God loves you unconditionally. You have never done anything so “bad” that He doesn’t still love you. It took a long time for me to realize that. I wasted a lot of years missing out on life and love because of my guilt.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Milk chocolate

Beach or Mountains? Mountains!

Sweet Tea or Lemonade? Sweet tea!

If you could describe Sara Foust in three words, what would those words be? Faith-filled catalyst. If it weren’t for Sara pushing me into a situation (really, several situations) I was extremely uncomfortable with and forcing me to deal with my past, I never would have discovered the light of God’s love.

Thank you for joining me for my first Main Character Monday! I hope you enjoyed it. Callum’s Compass is available from Amazon in both ebook and paperback. And thank you, Sara Foust, for letting us get to know Kat a little better!