Shifting Perspective

To prepare for and celebrate the release of Mistletoe Melody, I have invited several authors to speak on the themes of the novel. Today, I have the privilege to introduce you to a wonderful bible study author, Andrea Thom. Welcome, Andrea.


Andrea writes:

Pain. It’s the inevitable part of every human storyline that is never scripted into our plans yet always arrives on the stage of our lives anyway. At some point we’ll all taste it – at some point we’ll all attempt to escape it. Pain can startle us out of joy and stifle our perspective. If left unchecked, Christian encouragements can feel like cold platitudes and feelings of overwhelm may trump sound theology.

In Mistletoe Melody, Melody Staff wrestles with the growing chasm between her faith and her feelings. Emotional havoc spins her well-planned life and once-strong faith into confusion, and her family’s well-intentioned support falls short of moving her forward. Melody began to lose – her voice, her ambition, her faith. Yet despite the compounding losses, God was sovereignly orchestrating hidden purposes that lay beyond seen circumstances to unseen glory. Melody’s perspective begins to shift – her hope moves from a drug trial to the Lord, and from requiring fairness to requiring the God who would lead her through it. When her perspective shifts, her behavior quickly follows. Hidden fears turn into public courage, grieving silence turns into hope-filled singing, and cold solitude turns into vulnerable expressions of heartfelt community.

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For you and I, how can we shift our perspective from faithlessness to faithfulness when circumstances bite down hard and permanent? When we remove our gaze from ourselves and cast it beyond our feelings and onto Jesus in prayer.

In John 17 we catch a holy glimpse of Jesus praying to His Father before the ultimate brutal climax of His life unfolds.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:1-5)

Christ’s agonizing hour had come and He lifts His eyes to pray with heavenly focus – the glory of Himself and the good of His people. In the shadow of the cross, Jesus prayerfully set His heart beyond worldly preference to godly obedience, beyond humiliation to reconciliation, beyond certain death to ultimate victory. When our prayers centre on God’s glory in each ‘hour’ that comes to us, we will be empowered to endure all circumstances because our gaze has been cast beyond earthly things and onto what is glorious. We are not left to human ability to endure. Since Christ modelled a life of continual communion with God, even leading up to His darkest hour, what great hope we have to connect with the same presence and power of God in prayer today!

Pray

Lord, cast our hearts beyond what’s temporal to what’s eternal, beyond the rescuing to the Rescuer, and beyond our circumstances to display the radiance of Your glorious character.


Andrea is a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio and Christian writing publications including The Gospel Coalition Canada.

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Information on the first two books of her brand new Bible Study series, Ruth-Redeeming The Darkness and Amos-Come Awake!, can be found here.

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You can subscribe to Andrea’s Newsfeed on her website to receive fresh blogposts, off-the-press book release info, awesome deals & other not-to-miss Newsfeed bits, at andreathom.com.


Photo credit, Jason Blackey, Unsplash.

Mistletoe Melody can be found at:

Amazon.ca

Amazon.com

Barnes&Noble

Pelican Book Group

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Faith in the God Who Will Never Leave Us

To prepare for and celebrate the release of Mistletoe Melody, I have invited several authors to speak on the themes of the novel. Today, I have the privilege to introduce you to Emily Conrad.

068Emily lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two rescue dogs. She loves Jesus and enjoys road trips to the mountains, crafting stories, and drinking coffee. (It’s no coincidence her debut novel is set mostly in a coffee shop!)

Thanks for joining me today, Emily!


Emily writes:

How can we praise God if we seem to have been chosen for a special level of suffering?

This question stepped to the forefront as I read Stacey Weeks’ Mistletoe Melody, where amidst sweet family moments and Christmas traditions, characters deal with truly difficult circumstances.

As I read and thought about the impact of such life-changing events as the characters face, I wondered how I would feel in their situations. I didn’t have to think very long before I knew; I’d feel cheated.

But these circumstances aren’t only the stuff of fiction. So many people don’t have to wonder how they would feel in that trial because it’s already their reality, a reality they live instead of the life they dreamed of.

How is that fair?

Thankfully, the story also pointed me back to the answer—an answer I knew, but one we can never be pointed to too often: Jesus.

As a character says in the story, “Jesus came to me. Not to make my life perfect, but to walk with me through the pain.”

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There’s such truth there.

Jesus Himself came to earth to suffer on the cross. If He willingly suffered such a torturous death, who am I to complain about whatever circumstances I’m assigned?

Philippians 2:8 tells us Jesus humbled himself by being obedient to the death, even when that death was by crucifixion.

Considering that, I realized my aversion to pain, this assumption that it would be unfair to suffer, is pride. I’ve got it all backward. Being healthy is a privilege, not a right. And suffering, whether from a disease or other circumstances, is a guarantee.

Yet, come what may, Jesus doesn’t leave me to suffer alone. (John 16:33) He promises He’ll never leave me. (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20)

On the cross, Jesus asked His Father why He’d forsaken Him. (Matthew 27:46)

Because of Jesus’s sacrifice, that’s a question that… well, I’ll be honest. In the throes of discouragement someday, I may ask it as did David in Psalm 22. But if and when I do, God’s answer will be that He hasn’t forsaken me. Because His Son paid for my sin and I put my faith in Him, I’m His now. He’ll never leave me.

In Him, we have the promise of an eternity that will make the trials we experience here seem momentary and light. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

In this world, we will have trouble, but we can take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.


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You can pre-order your copy of Mistletoe Melody on Amazon! Those who pre-order receive an exclusive pre-order bonus! You are able to watch a video telling the backstory of the character Janie, as lived by the character’s inspiration – Kyra. You get to download a FREE Christmas planner just in time for the holidays, some coloring sheets, AND you get to read the first chapter FREE. Email proof of purchase to writerSWeeks@gmail.com

 


Emily offers free short stories on her website and loves to connect with readers on social media.www.emilyconradauthor.com

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Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Justice-Emily-Conrad-ebook/dp/B0792HGXQN/


Photo credit, Greyson Joralem, Unsplash.

Not Just a Storyteller

I am, by trade, a storyteller. I am a novelist, and I LOVE to tell stories. Some of them might make you laugh, some of them might make you cry, and all of them (I hope) entertain you.

You might not know this, but part of my job as a novelist is to manipulate you. I am supposed to massage your emotions into loving my characters and settings so much that you laugh with them, cry with them, and buy book two or book three and become a lifelong fan of them.

From writing to speaking

As an author, I am often invited to speak at events. Usually, people want to hear my story. They want to hear about the writing life, the process of writing novels, and how I create characters. They want a glimpse into the life of a novelist, curious to see if it is as glamorous as the movies indicate.

Spoiler: it’s not. Not unless getting up hours before my kids just to squeeze in some quiet writing time is glamorous.

The Call of a Christian Storyteller

As a writer and a speaker, I have to continually remind myself that the story entrusted to me, the story that I have been called to steward well, is not the story you find within the pages of one of my books. It’s not my personal story about my life as a writer. As a believer, I am to use my talents to tell God’s story.

My words are not powerful enough to change your life. My words might amuse you. They might inform you on some topic of interest or even enlighten you to consider a new idea, but only the Word of God has the power to transform you. I’m just the storyteller called by God to steward the greatest story ever written—His.

Whose story are you telling?

God’s Story

That means that even as a novelist who spends the majority of my time creating fictional worlds and characters, I must be a serious student of God’s Word. I must train myself to handle, interrupt, and teach—yes, teach—the Word of God responsibly. I will be accountable to the Lord for the way I have represented Him in my books and for the way I have portrayed Him during a presentation. That is a weighty and sobering truth.

The most important message I can communicate as a speaker or as a writer is that there is Someone much greater than me desirous of your attention. This Someone wrote an entire book to communicate His great love for his people and the lengths to which He will go to redeem them. This Someone is holy enough to demand all who enter his presence be holy, and then He makes it possible for sinners like you and me to put on the holiness of Christ by faith. This is the story that can change your life for all eternity. The words penned by His Spirit are the ones powerful enough to transform a heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

I am just the storyteller, a novelist with a greater message. I am a student of the Word of God, and I take the responsibility of representing God accurately seriously.


*image by Ben White. Used with permission. Unsplash.com

I need them. They need me. We need Jesus.​

The world tells me that I am entitled to my emotions and how they play out as long as I don’t hurt anyone else.

I sat in my room. Anger and frustration piled high behind an avalanche of unkind thoughts. Even in this heated moment, The Lord revealed the lie feeding my emotions. God does not invite me to linger in sinful self-pity.

My focus must be on honoring the Lord in difficult moments rather than indulging in an emotional release. But how? How do I move from frustrated and angry toward worshipful thanksgiving and praise? How do I move from dutiful obedience to heart-driven joyful action?

I pulled out my journal and started writing.

Why God? Why is it so hard? Why is it so difficult to parent? To teach? To reach? I’m trying, but I just keep hitting this same wall. I can’t seem to break through this barrier.

As I wrote out my thoughts, my heart started to soften. I remembered the day we adopted each one of our children. I remembered the day we realized how God had crafted each one individually and that each one would face their own specific challenges in working out their faith and growing up. I thanked God.

Thank you, Lord, for trusting my children to me. You could have given them to any family in this entire world, and you chose us. Why? I know I am weak. I am easily frustrated. Yet, you chose me. Maybe because you knew the very thing that might drive some others into resentment and tempt them to lash out would drop me to my knees. Maybe because you knew these kids needed these kinds of prayers. Maybe, because out of all the people in the entire world, you knew I needed them to sand off my rough edges and putting us together would sanctify us and stir us to pursue more of You. 

I need them, they need me, and we need Jesus.

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Just like that, the anger was gone. The avalanche of unkindness had melted into a river of love. It is impossible to stay angry with the person for whom you are praying.

Pray. Pray hard. Pray long. Pray faithfully until God changes YOUR heart. He will as He aligns it with His.


*Image by Ian Schneider. Used with permission. Unsplash.com 

Afflicted But Not Crushed

One email changed everything. Bad news rained down determined to drown my commitment to be thankful in everything. Is this challenge from God? Is it temptation from Satan to throw in the towel? I don’t know. When life struck with a severity that stole the breath from my lungs, my limbs trembled.

That’s where I was as I created “Jenna” from The Builder’s Reluctant Bride. I needed to be reminded, like Jenna, that my current struggles didn’t negate the ways God was using me. I needed to remember that God would use everything in my life to shape me into His image and draw me closer to Him.


“I thought after his mom died I had lost the both of them. Then, you came around.” The corners of his eyes crinkled.

“Me?” she squeaked.

“Yes. You changed everything for him. I know you left for college right after graduation, so you likely didn’t see the change. But God took that seed you planted in my son and grew this man.” He gestured to William, who stood with his fire jacket off and held a dog while it licked his soot-covered face. “This man of God.” Carmen looked squarely into her eyes. “I am indebted to you, Jenna.”

She squirmed at his unquestionable sincerity. She didn’t deserve his praise for directing his son to faith, the same faith that later let her down in every conceivable way.


When life hit Jenna with bad news, it caused her to question her faith and question God’s goodness. Bad news comes to everyone at some time and in some way. The truth in the midst is that God is good. Still. Always. Never changing. Good.

It might not feel good. You might want to give up. You might think there is no way for God to redeem your story. You are wrong.

This is what you, me, and Jenna need to remember when our foundation is shaken.

With words, God created the world. Then the Living Word became flesh. Through inspired words, God promised protection. Not protection from all hurt or heartbreak, but protection from His justifiable wrath through Jesus for all who believe. He promises to work out all things for the good of His children. Not always the way that I want, but He will take what the enemy meant to destroy me and redeem it for my good. He’ll finish what he started. He provides comfort in our trials when we seek Him, which is not a promise to remove the trial, but a promise of His presence through it. He will supply all our needs, and we need saving faith in Christ most of all. He will return for us. It is the hope that we cling to. He is coming back. His Word is true.


Today is the LAST DAY to scoop up The Builder’s Reluctant Bride for .99 cents!

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He wants a second chance, she says there’s no going back.


The Builder’s Reluctant Bride—WINNER of Best Romance at the 2016 Word Awards—is only .99cents!


You can also enter to win amazing gifts from the #PelicanBookBonanza. No Purchase Necessary for the #giveaway. https://mybookcave.com/retailer-group/89b60601/

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Oh, and my fall newsletter goes out tomorrow. If you’re not subscribed, you’ll miss links to books less than $1, the updated password to unlock the EXTRAS page, and information about a new book releasing December 1st. Sign up HERE.

Reminders of a Relationship

Some days, the sunlight hits the flowers in the most beautiful of ways.

The cut hydrangeas sit on my desk in front of the windows, in a round vase that reminds me of a marble. I like to think the vase is handblown, purchased in some tourist town gift shop, but I don’t know its history.

I bought it for a dollar or so at a neighbor’s estate sale, but it’s worth much more than that to me.

Though I like the vase independent of its original owner, it’s meaning is tied to her in my memory. She was a friend, and the one person I’ve called 911 for, and one of the few whose deathbed I’ve visited. Though I suppose you couldn’t say we were particularly close, these experiences leave an impact.

Not that I constantly examine them. I can go weeks without thinking of her, but then the sun will hit the papery petals of the hydrangea, and I’ll slow down to write, not knowing where the post will go. As words come, I find the vase is filled not with water and stems, but with a quiet reminder of a relationship.

Reminders of God are Everywhere

I didn’t sit at my desk to look at the flowers or to type a post. I sat to read a Bible passage and to journal about how Jesus’s love for me is reflected in Colossians 1:15-23.

For all things in heaven and on earth were created by him – all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers – all things were created through him and for him. He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him. (vs. 16-17 NET)

Everything around me is created through him and for him. It’s all held together in him.

This is so much more than a casual, once-upon-a-time ownership of a vase. Jesus’s relationship with his creation is ongoing and intricate and purposeful.

I paid a dollar for a keepsake to remember a relationship I lost.

Jesus paid his blood, his life, to redeem a relationship I’d severed.

The reminders I have of my neighbor are few. The vase, and a teacup where I keep my more special jewelry.

The reminders of God’s redeeming love and ongoing care are literally everywhere. Everything is held together in Him. Everything.

Reminders of the Holy

And yet, like I often don’t pause to look at the vase and remember my neighbor, I also don’t often enough pause to look at the world around me and appreciate the reminder of the relationship I have with the Creator and Sustainer.

But then the sun will hit the papery petals of the hydrangea, and God will guide me here. I’ll type slowly,  not knowing exactly how to say, Look, the earth is full of his glory. It’s not filled with mountains and animals and prairies and people, but with evidence of a relationship.

A relationship that’s ongoing, despite our fallen nature. A relationship that means enough to the Creator to die for the sake of His created. Washed in His blood, all the evidences of Him we see in the world around us aren’t melancholy reminders of a relationship we lost—like my vase is—but rather of the ultimate redemption and hope that reaches beyond the grave and into eternity.

I have to believe God wants us to see it. I have to believe that’s why, sometimes, the light hits just right and interrupts our mundane day with reminders of the holy.

Let’s pause when those moments come. Let’s go so far as to seek them out, not to fulfill our own thirst for beauty, but to remember the goodness of our Savior. Let’s echo the seraphim, who cried out to each other:

Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. (Isaiah 6:3 KJV)


Emily Conrad

Connect with Emily: www.emilyconradauthor.com facebook.com/emilyconradauthor Instagram.com/emilyrconrad Twitter.com/emilyrconrad


justice

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Justice-Emily-Conrad-ebook/dp/B0792HGXQN/

Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/justice-emily-conrad/1127841580

Can We Really Trust God?

What causes you to question God? Is it seeing a child in distress? Receiving a life-altering diagnosis? Can circumstances force you to question the Father? It wasn’t that long ago my perfectly settled life was thrown off course. But security rooted in anything but Christ is an illusion.


Today, I’m a guest on author Emily Conrad’s blog, celebrating with her the release of Justice in paperback. Click HERE to read more of Can We Really Trust God?

 

.99 cent sale: The Builder’s Reluctant Bride

I love how a story is able to convey deep theological truths in a compelling and applicable way. I love being lost in a character, thinking and feeling as deeply as them, struggling to find God in their broken dreams, and knowing—as the writer—their happy ending is with their Saviour.

Jenna, from The Builder’s Reluctant Bride, was a particularly challenging character to write; she had been deeply wounded. Like all of us, Jenna is accountable to God for her response to the wounds inflicted on her. For a time, she held onto her anger and bitterness, pulled away from God, and put up walls between her and the people who loved her. Like all of us, Jenna had a lot to learn about forgiveness, love, and the Lord.

Learning from Jenna

If you know what it is like to hold tight to a dream or desire and struggle to submit it to God’s will, you will connect with Jenna. You will ache as she aches, weep when she weeps, and celebrate when she celebrates because you know the struggle. You know what it means to want to forgive yet still feel anger. You understand wanting what God wants but battling with the hardened and wounded heart within. Life isn’t fair, it is too hard, and forgiveness seems to cost too much.

Jenna’s moment of complete surrender is my favorite passage in the book. It’s where she considers that God did hear her prayers, and He collected each and every tear she shed, that His love for her was not dependant on her ability to trust more, act more, pray more, or be more — but was based on Him. He had walked so closely to her during her struggles that she blamed Him when He had wanted her to lean on Him.

The greatest gift to us during suffering is God himself

Jenna’s broken dreams were the catalyst that sparked a search for a deeper intimacy with the Lord. As she examined her sin that exposed the deceptions she believed, she shows us how to move toward fulfilling God’s ultimate purpose for our life – glorifying Him in the good and the difficult.

Jenna’s story raises questions: Do your unfulfilled dreams prompt you to call out shamelessly to God for grace, mercy, and restoration? Have you laid down your dreams and ambitions at His feet in complete surrender?

Jenna’s story is on sale this month for only .99 cents! The Builder’s Reluctant bride is also part of a promotion with My Book Cave. Follow the links below and you can enter to win one of $400 dollars in prizes!


 

He wants a second chance, she says there’s no going back. How much will William sacrifice to redeem his mistakes and prove his love? Can Jenna protect her heart this time or will William break her for good?

The Builder’s Reluctant Bride—WINNER of Best Romance at the 2016 Word Awards—is only .99cents!

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Amazon COM Link


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Engage Your Mind

One child, who will remain nameless, jerked the van’s sliding door in a moment of anger, wrenching door off the track. It hung limply, almost completely unhinged. We were already running late for a dental appointment, and this added a SLOW drive through town while my child clung to the sliding door nearly dragging on the pavement beside us.

Emotionally Overwhelmed

Do you connect the word “overwhelmed” to that kind of situation? Does the word have to be negative? If you’re a parent, think back to the first time you cradled your newborn. Did you cry? Did you laugh? Did you do both because your emotions were so overwhelmed?

I remember the first time I saw my daughter. Kevin and I anxiously waited. We were an ocean away from home, tucked into a room with ten crying Asian babies. Our gazes desperately moved from one tiny face to another until they locked onto the girl who reflected the image of the picture we had received two months prior. We could hardly stand it, waiting for permission to reach out and comfort our daughter.

Spiritually Overwhelmed

I know what it is like to be overwhelmed emotionally. I also know what it is to be overwhelmed spiritually. I know what it means to be moved to tears during worship. I know what it means to be overwhelmed with love for God and add my voice to the choir singing out praise.

I’ve sat under preaching that has touched me so deeply that I could feel the Spirit of God prompting my heart to repentance. I have trembled as a familiar text of Scripture comes alive with fresh meaning as the Lord opens my ears to his Word.

Mentally Overwhelmed?

When was the last time my mind was overwhelmed by God? Jesus said that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and MIND (Matt 22:37).

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Let’s go back to that opening illustration of the van. At that moment, I wanted an emotional release. I wanted to yell, to vent, to express my frustrations. But do my feelings have to drive my actions?


God helped me recall something I often tell my children:

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The sin is not in the feelings of anger or frustration, but it is far easier to fall into sin in those moments of anger or frustration. The sin or victory is revealed in our response.


When my emotion tempts me toward sin, when my flesh wants to indulge in the temporary release of frustration, it is more important than ever that I engage my mind. Scripture tells me that I am a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), no longer a slave to the old ways (Gal 4:7). Scripture tells me that God hears me when I call out to Him (Ps 4:3). Scripture tells me that all things are possible with God (Matt 19:26).

Engage the Mind

God met me in that moment of frustration, and by engaging my mind and recalling the truth that sets me free, I did not sin in my anger. Being overwhelmed can be a good thing when I’m overwhelmed by God and by truth.

Be overwhelmed.

Resting in a sleep-deprived​ World

Our world idolizes working faster, longer, and harder, lifting up frenzied lifestyles like a golden calf to be worshiped. How early we rise, how late we stay up, how many hours we log-in defines us. We own our success letting it lift high our esteem; we own our failure letting it label us as lacking. An unhealthy obsession to prove we can manage drives us to volunteer to fill every need. It enslaves us to hosting Pinterest worthy parties, designing home decor, and creating hand-made treasures. It demands time, attention to detail, and energy that requires an I.V. line of pure caffeine to support.

We wonder why we are tired.

For nights, we labor in vain, tossing and turning, unable to close our eyes lest our fears are recognized while we slumber. We work hours before the sun rises and hours long after the sun sets unwilling to honestly depend on the Lord. We forgo the Sabbath, rejecting God’s design for real rest. It doesn’t make sense to our flesh: How do we work one less day and still accomplish our tasks? How do we tithe one-seventh of our time and energy when we need every last bit to simply maintain the status quo? Rejecting the impossible math, our tired head hits the pillow, but our eyes fail to close. Our minds still spin, plan, design, budget, and justify.


Oh, Lord, forgive my foolish heart. Anxiety proves that I still do not fully trust You as my provider. Disobeying the Sabbath is an outward symbol of self-reliance. An inability to peacefully rest illustrates a fretful heart fighting you for control. I will only lay down and sleep when I believe with all my heart that You hold it all. You are building the house. You are watching the city. When I embrace that truth, I will sleep and enjoy the rest of your beloved (Psalm 127:1-2).


Be still