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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

When the Tireds Threaten



Most often they attacked on Friday, but sometimes Ginny noticed the tireds caught her earlier in the week. Whether the fatigue was physical, mental, or emotional, the effect was the same. As if a dense fog surrounded her, dulling her senses. Have you been there?

The assault was especially troublesome whenever negative circumstances overwhelmed her, like last year’s retreat fiasco. But this invasion was coming after the women’s group declared the annual event a blessed success. It didn’t seem possible that so much delight could bring the same result as a wretched disappointment.

Back then Ken, her pastor husband, told her to carry her sorrow and grief to the Lord, and he’d been right. God heard her cries and filled her with His peace and strength. She’d still be in that dark place if it weren’t for His tender care. But this round made no sense . . . until the study she was working on came to mind. Her feet dragged her to the dining room where her materials sat on the antique table.

The rush seat creaked as she dropped into the straight back chair. Her Bible was still turned to Luke 10, and as her eyes scanned verses 38-42, her imagination went to a New Testament village. A near-party atmosphere flowed from the account, and she sensed these women would have been thrilled to open their home to Jesus of Nazareth.

Ginny identified with Martha and pictured her as the busy hostess scurrying around to make everything as perfect as possible for such an important guest. It reminded her of all she’d poured into the retreat. And she remembered with chagrin that she had complained to Ken some of the committee members weren’t carrying their weight.

Her index finger followed the key words.

She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His Word. But Martha was distracted by all her preparations.*

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part.**

Could it be that her contribution to and excitement over the successful weekend had drained her reserves? She pondered the possibility and had to admit all the effort and organization had distracted her from her daily habit of praise and worship. It was indeed possible that, like Martha, she’d lost sight of the only one thing necessary, to rest in her Savior’s presence.

A grin spread across her face for she knew exactly what to do. She flipped the pages to Isaiah 40 and read the verses God had embedded in her heart when He met her the previous year.*** Nothing is hidden from His eyes and He never succumbs to the tireds. When asked, He shares His strength with His children until they soar like eagles. Now she knew that meant in any situation, whether she was frowning or smiling.

How about you?

What route do you take when the tireds come after you?
*Luke 10:39-40, NASB unless otherwise noted
**Luke 10:42
***Isaiah 40:27-31


Brief Bio
Sandra Allen Lovelace is a continuing missionary, a pastor’s wife emeritus, and a homeschool pioneer. She’s an award-winning speaker and author, and a sought-after mentor. Sandra’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and her current manuscript is Wallflower Women: Ways We Get Stuck & How to Walk in Freedom. She enjoys hiking with a camera in her hand, best done on an international adventure. Sandra and her husband Curt are transitioning to South Carolina.

Get to know Sandra at her website, http://sandraallenlovelace.com/

You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Photo by Stacey Rozells on Unsplash

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

If Only Martha Could Have Ordered Delivery Pizza



I have always thought Mary’s sister, Martha, gets a bad rap in Christian circles. This is probably because I am much more like Martha than Mary. I’m a practical girl. You say, “Let’s take a trip!” I say, “Do we have enough gas to get there?” For many years, I wrestled with this aspect of my personality because everyone at church thought it was better to be a Mary than a Martha. Then I finally dug into the story of Jesus at Martha’s house (Luke 10:38-42), and I realized she was not wrong to fix those guys something to eat!

In Luke 10, we may be looking at the first time Jesus ever set foot in Martha’s home. She welcomed Him and his companions into her home (v. 38). They had been travelling and were most certainly hungry. Since they couldn’t order delivery pizza, it was necessary to prepare a meal.

The distinction may be subtle, but follow for a minute. Jesus, the disciples, and everyone else expected Martha to prepare something. Thing is, Martha got distracted by the preparations (v. 40).
Martha clearly had some pride issues because the preparations took every ounce of her energy and focus. She wanted to make German Chocolate Cake when boxed brownies would have been sufficient. But Martha’s motives may have been good. When I have someone special in my home, I want to give them the very best I have to offer—not for myself but as a way to honor that person.
All of us have walked that fine line between honoring our guests and wanting to be honored for our exceptional hospitality (or any other gift from Him). My kids ask why we clean the house before company comes over. There are days when it’s hard to answer honestly.

Jesus is so gracious to Martha when she complains (v.41). His words make me think He reached out to her, ignoring the dirty apron, the burn on one hand and the worn-out potholder on the other, the sweat dripping down her temple, and the frizz of hair escaping her headscarf. I think He stopped whatever deep and important conversation was developing (or whatever joke was being told, because we know Jesus liked to laugh!), waited until her eyes met his, and spoke into her heart: “We don’t need a lot, Martha....” I think there was gratitude in His tone—something which told Martha He appreciated her service and understood her situation.

I spent years trying to comprehend the “one thing” of which Jesus spoke next. He said, “Few things are needed—or indeed only one” (v. 42). Here’s what He meant: Mary chose to focus on Jesus. Martha chose to get distracted. The one thing needed was to prioritize Jesus.

I don’t think Jesus expected Martha to drop the potholder, wipe the sweat from her brow, ignore the burning rice, and sit down there with the others. We don’t know for sure because–frustratingly—the narrative stops there. We don’t even know how Martha responded. It seems more likely, however, she simply needed to adjust her mindset.  While Mary sat and worshiped, Martha would serve and worship. Both would then be operating within the will of God.

So, my fellow Christ-following Martha-types out there, there is nothing wrong with cooking dinner (or counting how many pizzas to order). There is certainly nothing wrong with hospitality, and there is nothing wrong with giving God our absolute best. We can go ahead and bake the German Chocolate Cake if we can do it without losing our focus on Him and His glory.

Are we distracted from knowing Him by serving Him? Are we more interested in what people will think than how God will be glorified? Get these things sorted out, and our service becomes an act of worship, which is what God intended when He created you and me.


Question for reflection: How have the Mary/Martha labels affected your service at church? How can you find freedom in living out exactly who God created you to be? We’d be honored if you would share your thoughts in the comments below.

Bio.

Intrigued by this brief study of Mary and Martha? Catch the longer version of this post on Carole Sparks’ blog. She has also written a four-week Bible Study about these siblings. Contact Carole for early access to Dwell: Mary, Martha & Lazarus before it’s available to the public. You can find her most days on Twitter, Facebook, and/or her blog.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Conquer Betrayal with Truth


Tension flooded Laura’s body and her head whirled in confusion. Pete’s retreating back disappeared around the corner. She felt her bottom lip curl between her teeth and she stepped back from the edge of the old wooden deck. “What am I supposed to do now?”

His demand echoed in her ears. Her head went back in frustration, allowing her eyes to focus on the star-filled summer sky. A verse from her devotional came to mind. By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.* She wiped away a tear and lifted her faithful kitty from the railing.

“You know, Ginger. Every one of those twinkling lights up there was breathed across the sky by the One who made the world.” Her furry companion twitched his tail. “It may not sound like much to you, but there are millions and billions and trillions of stars up there. And some of them are far bigger than the sun whose light you curl up in.”

Calico ears welcomed the gentle movement of her fingers, a calming habit. Slowly she began to compare the massive complication she faced to the truth of who God is. To think her LORD spoke light into existence and that was only His first step to bring the entire universe into existence … out of nothing. A measured breath escaped before her comment. “Maybe this fiasco isn’t too big for the Creator after all.”

She lowered her head to pray and the betrayal that racked her spirit poured out. But when she started to review the details, she went silent. Ginger nudged her hand and she resumed the stroking. “Am I looking through a microscope? It feels like a mountain of hurt, but it’s probably nothing but a pebble. I can dry my own tears.”

Familiarity didn’t make the insecurity detour comfortable. “You know, Ginger. I have to remember that the same God who invented everything made me and knows everything about me.** He probably sees me right here and knows I’m thinking He’s probably too busy or I’m not important enough. Or this struggle is too small to be worth His attention.”

Her eyes returned heavenward. “Since God is powerful enough to meet the demands of creating and maintaining a universe, He can handle this debacle.” Rich purrs filled the air. “And since He watched over the delicate process of creating me and drew me to Himself through Christ, He will surely see me through this trial with or without Pete’s support.”

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Do the big things or the small ones muzzle your prayers?
Take heart. The general and personal acts of Creation are true.

*Psalm 33:6, NASB unless otherwise noted

**Psalm 139:3,13-16



About the Author: 
Sandra Allen Lovelace is a continuing missionary, a pastor’s wife emeritus, and a homeschool pioneer. She’s an award-winning speaker and author, and a sought-after mentor. Sandra’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and her current manuscript is Wallflower Women: How to Start Living the Life God Designed You For. She enjoys hiking with a camera in her hand, best done on an international adventure. Sandra and her husband Curt are transitioning to South Carolina.

Get to know Sandra at her website, http://sandraallenlovelace.com/
You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bookends


And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken,” (Eccl. 4:12 ESV).

She tried to hold her emotions in check but it wasn’t long before the sobs escaped and traveled across the airwaves through our phones. Her heart was broken and I wanted to be there for her. Earlier that same day I received a text from another friend who was on hold with her bank as she proceeded to file a fraud claim. I wanted to be there for her too, if not in person at least to be praying for her and offer her emotional support.

Life is hard. We need people who will walk with us and be there for us. The only problem is we have a tendency to think we have to face life all by ourselves. Peter tells us in I Peter 5:8 that our adversary, the devil, “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” If we are trying to face life alone, then we are setting ourselves up as an easy target.

He is a subtle enemy. One of the ways he works is by using the power of suggestion—planting a negative thought in our mind or a lie, especially when we are going through a difficult situation—and then he just lets us run with it. Other ways in which he works is by making us think no one cares and by taking our joy away. Yes, he is waiting.

But, if we surround ourselves with others who will encourage us, friends who can and will shed the light of truth on the lies we have believed, and pray for us, the enemy won't be able to hold us in his grasp.

I love the scripture found in Ecclesiastes that says “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken,” (Eccl. 4:12 ESV). Keeping this scripture in mind I reached out to two dear friends who I knew would love, support, and encourage me. They are my bookends. Both of them in their own way walk with me and help me to see and embrace truths not lies from the enemy.

As I look around my home I see a number of different pairs of bookends nestled in with our books. Some are ornate, some colorful, and others are simple. I have heavy ones for larger books, ornate ones that compliment some of our older editions, and some fun ones like Winnie the Pooh that hang out with my children’s books. They all have a purpose.

It’s the same with our bookends. We may want to have more than one pair for the different areas of our lives. I now have bookends to walk with me in my writing world, in my ministry, in my family, and some bookends that I have known for years that I couldn’t imagine life without them standing beside me.

With these confidants by my side I put the enemy on notice by saying, "I am NOT alone and you CANNOT overpower me, for two can resist you, but a cord of three strands IS NOT quickly torn apart . . . I now have my bookends!!!"

Are you walking this journey called life alone? Did you feel like no one cares about you? Are the voices and the lies of the enemy taking away your joy? Well . . . go get your bookends! These will be your sturdy friends who will hold you up as you add chapter after chapter to your book of life.

You don't want to live without them!


About the Author:

The hats I wear are many but with each one brings an opportunity to share heart, humor, and hope. My day job is with a ministry in Greenville, SC but my other hours I fill with writing, speaking, teaching Bible Studies, leading our women's ministry, designing landscape/gardens, rowing at Greenville Indoor Rowing and answering to Beth, mama, and grandmommy. Serving alongside my husband, who is a pastor, for over twenty years, I can say without a doubt that as difficult as it is at times, it's also a great honor. They say that with age comes wisdom, I'm not sure about the wisdom part, but I do know that with age comes the realization that no matter what I go through God is always there with His overwhelming love and grace. 



Connect With Beth:






Tuesday, March 6, 2018

When the Calling and the Children Collide





We’re moving again. The kids will have new schools again. We’ll get to know new neighbors and new local shops again. How can this be good for my children? Kids need stability and routine, and we’re about to toss them in the air. Again.

My ministry responsibilities pull me away when they’re at home. What about my responsibilities as a parent, my calling to be a mom? What if they need me while I’m out counseling someone else?

They don’t know the Bible stories and the Sunday School songs other children know. They have no consistent Godly influences in their lives except my husband and me. I have to teach them everything they need to know about the Bible, God, faith, and Jesus! How can I possibly do that? (This was while we lived overseas.)

Does any of this sound familiar? I’ve thought…okay, said...all these things over the years.

The calling to be a minister isn’t an individual proposition. If your husband is called into church leadership or some other kind of ministry, his family is called as well. Chances are, you too are called, and no matter what, you want to stand alongside your husband in ministry. There’s seminary to consider for one or both of you, as well as possible cross-country moves and the inevitable odd demands of life in ministry: late-night visits, working while others relax, preparation for the next meeting. It takes a toll on your family life…on your children.

In fact, some of those ministry decisions appear detrimental to our children’s development. They go against conventional parenting wisdom. But here’s what I want you to know:

God loves your children more than you love them.

God not only wants the best for your children, but He is actively pursuing it. He knows their future occupations and experiences. He knows what they need right now to move toward their own callings. He smiles on children, loves them, protects them. Even on the days when you should have stayed home but you put the ministry ahead of your own family, He filled in your gaps.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. -1 Peter 5:6-7

If He has called you far away from family and friends, He will take care of you. If the lean years of seminary mean you can’t afford a Christmas tree, He will sustain you. If your kids don’t get to go to Sunday School for all their elementary years, He will open their minds to His Word in other ways.

He did all that for us—and more. I’m counting on Him to continue, too, because we’re planning to move. Again.
Question for reflection: Do you feel the pull of differing responsibilities? Do you sometimes feel the clash between your calling to be a parent and to minister outside your home? How can you cast all that anxiety on Jesus because he cares for you…and your children?

Need more? Check out this post on my blog: When Guilt Grounds Me.

About the Author:

Carole Sparks is passionate about God’s Word—about how it can change our everyday lives! After years of globetrotting, she now lives, learns, and loves (plus a good bit of writing) in the hills of East Tennessee. Connect with Carole through her blog, http://notaboutme1151.wordpress.comor on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.








Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lord, Give Me Patience



Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus.” Romans 15:5 NKJV


With one eye on the clock and the other on my toddler, I watched her tiny index finger and thumb select one cheerio and eat it. After looking around the room and chewing, she would pick up another one and eat it. She had no concept of time or the understanding that I needed to get us out the door to begin our day. As she chewed, she would push on my leg with her foot as I sat by her highchair. It was a morning ritual and nothing was going to hurry her while she enjoyed each individual cheerio.

She didn’t eat much, but what she did eat, she savored. With that little foot still resting on my leg I watched the clock and coaxed her to hurry. To speed things up I tried giving her my breakfast but she was not interested. Her little stomach was happy with her small meal that seemed to satisfy her.

This sweet, but at the time stressful, memory often sweeps across my mind when I’m talking to a new Christian. At times I’ll have someone come to me for advice or to share a concern and I try to hurry things along. I want to slide them a plate full of dos and don’ts along with Scripture as well as give them an example of someone in the Bible when they just aren’t ready for all of that information yet. They need for me to give them a little at a time.

Patience. That’s when I call out to God for more patience. Sometimes when we are in the ministry we have a tendency to forget that some people who come across our paths didn’t grow up attending church and aren’t familiar with Scripture or many of the people that are written about in the Bible. They also aren’t in a hurry. What they bring to us is important to them, and they need to know that we care and want to help.

When talking to a new Christian we need to remember:
  •        Not to assume they know the Bible as well as we do.
  •         To listen to what they are saying and don’t hurry them along.
  •      That at first, a little is better than a lot. Keep things simple.
  •          Not to use a lot of “churchy” words.
  • ·       To pray, pray, pray . . . not just for patience, but also for wisdom.


As pastors’ wives, women will sometimes bring things to us that they don’t want to discuss with our husbands so we need to take our roles seriously. Next time that dear one wants to talk to you, and if you know she is a new Christian, just prepare yourself to settle in beside her and feed her a little at a time. And don’t watch the clock. God is using you to care for this child of His just like He used me to care for my toddler—with patience and love!



About the Author:

The hats I wear are many but with each one brings an opportunity to share heart, humor, and hope. My day job is with a ministry in Greenville, SC but my other hours I fill with writing, speaking, teaching Bible Studies, leading our women's ministry, designing landscape/gardens, rowing at Greenville Indoor Rowing and answering to Beth, mama, and grandmommy. Serving alongside my husband, who is a pastor, for over twenty years, I can say without a doubt that as difficult as it is at times, it's also a great honor. They say that with age comes wisdom, I'm not sure about the wisdom part, but I do know that with age comes the realization that no matter what I go through God is always there with His overwhelming love and grace. 



Connect With Beth:

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Delight Your Soul Today

Worship

Alyssa balled up the empty grocery bags and stuffed them through the swinging cover of the red wastebasket. She plopped into the captain’s chair at the head of her kitchen table. The plaid cushion absorbed the assault. Head tipped back, a groan escaped.

She pulled the paperback Bible to her and opened the concordance. Her friend’s words led her search until she found the reference, Psalm 37:4. Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.* Her back rounded into the chair rungs. “Could I be wrong?” she whispered as she reviewed their conversation.

Gayle had challenged her to rethink her relationship with God as more than a barter system—if you want what you want, be happy in Jesus. Gayle pointed out that David’s opening words said not to fret and offered instructions on how to avoid worry and envy. He directed God’s people to delight, fill up with great pleasure and joy, in our God if we want to conquer anxiety.

Alyssa wondered how to pull off delight on demand. How was she supposed to be cheery, never mind full of delight, when situational and emotional storm fronts drifted across her path?

Gayle suggested she wrap herself in worship, go to the LORD in humble reverence. She said when she united her heart with Him, His presence brought gladness, contentment, peace, and fulfillment every time. Then she shared two types of worship experiences she practiced to maintain the joy of the LORD that was her strength.**

Worship with Others

The corporate worship setting is a glorious opportunity to come before God with our brothers and sisters. To join our hearts and minds, spirits and voices in reverence and exultation for who He is and all He’s done. We grow together as a community through the proclamation of His Word and fellowship around His table.

But she said sometimes, a steady diet of only group interactions, though they’re rich and full, can weaken our individual connection with God. Even a banquet can become unhealthy, if we indulge at every meal. Right?

Worship by Ourselves


Whether with a Bible and cup of tea in a cozy chair or hiking boots and a backpack on a mountain trail, the times we meet with God on our own feed us in a different sense. We’re able to concentrate on who our Father is and how He sees us personally. His individual attention and our intimate responses blossom in this unique interaction.  

Gayle explained it was tempting to substitute alone time for meeting together. And yet, the Father warns us about that habit.*** The trick is to find the balance. For most of us, the corporate experience is set in a once a week routine. It’s the one-on-one delighting we miss—extended, focused, intentional worship … an oversight easy to remedy.

Have you soaked in the delight of the LORD lately?
If not, purpose and plan to do so. He’s missing you.

*NASB
**Nehemiah 8:10
***Hebrews 10:25

About the Author: 
Sandra Allen Lovelace is a continuing missionary, a pastor’s wife emeritus, and a homeschool pioneer. She’s an award-winning speaker and author, and a sought-after mentor. Sandra’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and her current manuscript is Wallflower Women: How to Start Living the Life God Designed You For. She enjoys hiking with a camera in her hand, best done on an international adventure. Sandra and her husband Curt are transitioning to South Carolina.

Get to know Sandra at her website, http://sandraallenlovelace.com/
You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

God for Us and our Marriages




A year ago this month (February), we stood in a marriage retreat with our church.

Often, families in ministry don’t sit together in services. Even more often (and not just for people in ministry), husbands and wives don’t sit next to each other because…well, you know…kids. Often, families in ministry have responsibilities before, during, and/or after services, so it’s easy to get distracted or be pulled away just as we draw our focus onto worship.

Let’s be really honest here: An intense love for the Lord doesn’t mean corporate worship time is automatically easy.
So with no children at this retreat and no responsibilities, I enjoyed the chance to stand with my husband in worship. We held hands while we sang. (I felt kinda cute…)

The worship pastor had chosen a new song for the occasion: God With Us, by Jesus Culture, and it took me a few repetitions before I could really listen to the words I was singing.

As we returned to the chorus for perhaps the third time, my mind was drawn toward our hands linked between us, and I began to think about the repeated “us” in the chorus. It could apply to my husband and myself just as much as to the greater church community.

Consider this:

God with us
In the beautiful and the difficult places, He is present. Yes, there’s this:

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  -Psalm 139:8-10

But what about the near-by places? Have you thought about these as well?
·         In the loan office at the bank
·         In the bathroom, puking
·         In the delivery room
·         In the doctor’s office where we again hear, “Not this month”
·         In bed (yes, there too)
·         On that trans-continental Skype call
·         At the quiet little restaurant where we celebrate our anniversary
·         Through our worst fights

And in a thousand other places, God never fails (Lamentations 3:22), never quits on us, never takes away His grace. This applies not only to me as His child, but to us as an example of His love (Ephesians 5:25-31).

God for us
God is for our marriages! When it feels like everything in our culture is trying to tear us apart or convince us to quit, God is still rooting for beautiful, long-term, covenant marriages.
                                   
Nothing can come against
Our unity makes us stronger than one standing alone. We pull each other up, support each other, and bear burdens together. We cannot be crushed, cannot be swept away. When one is weak, the other is strong. When one cries, the other shouts (Ecclesiastes 4:12, Galatians 6:2).

No one can stand between us

What God has joined together, let no one separate.  -Matthew 19:6 NIV

As long as we hold tight to Him and each other, no earthly entity can separate us, and certainly no created person. God Himself has made us one.

Trying reading Romans 8:38-39 with your name and your husband’s in place of “us.”

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons neither the present nor the future, or any powers, neither height or depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [husband’s name] and me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  -Romans 8:38-39 NIV (amended)

If neither of us is separated from the love of God, then neither are we separated from each other. Such strength in His love!

Our marriage retreat weekend was filled with encouragement, fun, and Spirit-led learning, but my biggest take-away revolved around this new song. Our families are the body of Christ just as the larger church community is His body. The New Testament truths about church (e.g. John 17:23, Ephesians 4:1-3, even 1 Corinthians 12, just to name a few) are also true of your family and mine.

Question for Reflection: What Biblical truth about the church would you like to “own” for your marriage?



Has a worship song (or some other seemingly unrelated thing) specifically blessed your marriage? We would love to hear about it in the comments below!




Bio.


Carole Sparks is a Bible study writer who sees God’s hand in the mundane and the magnificent. (That’s her Twitter bio.) After twenty-one years, she still finds nothing mundane about holding hands with her husband and something magnificent in the way they now have the same ideas without even trying. You can also catch up with her on Facebook or her blog.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Following God Into the New Year

doorway
“The New Year stands before me, like a doorway, waiting for me to enter. However, I want to sit still before it and ask God to go before me.
In the past I’ve raced through the doorway, ready to face the New Year with excitement. Other times I’ve walked through it, hesitant of the future due to current circumstances. And then I’ve crawled through the doorway, dreading the future because of the pain of the previous year.
So I sit, waiting, praying, and with a thankful heart because of this past year’s blessings. Can He do it again? Knock my socks off with His provisions, blessings, and love? It doesn’t matter, the important thing is that He goes before me.
No more racing, walking, or crawling. For He is My Good Shepherd, and where He leads I will follow. For He knows the plans He has for me, and it’s in Him that I’ll put my trust.”

I wrote this at the beginning of 2014—a year I’ll never forget. Three months after I wrote these words my husband had routine outpatient neck surgery and within thirty minutes of getting him home he had a heart attack.
After a ride in an ambulance, hours of waiting in the ER, 10 days in the hospital, a heart cath and then quadruple bypass surgery the day after Easter, we came home again and prepared for weeks of recovery.
            As I look at the New Year ahead I’m reminded that I don’t know what may happen in the months to come for our family, our church, or our ministry. However, I know the One who does know and I put my trust in Him. He was with me that difficult year in 2014, as well as the past three years and I know He will be with me in 2018.
            What about you? Are you moving into this year anxious, excited, expectant, or with dread? Take this month to remember how God has cared for you in the past, how He has showed up when you needed Him, and provided for you whether financially, physically, mentally, or spiritually. Are you seeking direction? Look to Him. Are you looking for answers? Take time to listen. Do you need rest? Be still and let Him carry you.
            Whatever this next year holds, we need to remember that God is already there and He is waiting on us. My prayer for you is that you will trust Him in all things.

            So, as for me and the upcoming year . . .

“I sit, waiting, praying, and with a thankful heart because of this past year’s blessings. Can He do it again? Knock my socks off with His provisions, blessings, and love? It doesn’t matter, the important thing is that He goes before me.
No more racing, walking, or crawling. For He is My Good Shepherd, and where He leads I will follow. For He knows the plans He has for me, and it’s in Him that I’ll put my trust.”


About the Author:

The hats I wear are many but with each one brings an opportunity to share heart, humor, and hope. My day job is with a ministry in Greenville, SC but my other hours I fill with writing, speaking, teaching Bible Studies, leading our women's ministry, designing landscape/gardens, rowing at Greenville Indoor Rowing and answering to Beth, mama, and grandmommy. Serving alongside my husband, who is a pastor, for over twenty years, I can say without a doubt that as difficult as it is at times, it's also a great honor. They say that with age comes wisdom, I'm not sure about the wisdom part, but I do know that with age comes the realization that no matter what I go through God is always there with His overwhelming love and grace. 



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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Enter the New Year Like a Queen


praying hands

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace,
 in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance.* 

The orphan promoted to queen needed to speak with her husband, but she hadn’t heard from him for a month. King Xerxes’ law required the execution of anyone who appeared in his presence unbidden. Without an invitation, she was risking her life.

Since she was a daughter of Eve as we are, Esther likely carried some level of unease. Perhaps she dressed in a queenly outfit to remind Xerxes of her status or catch his masculine eye. We don’t know. What we do know is that, in spite of any hesitation or anxiety, Esther stood on the threshold of her destiny whatever it held.

Have you ever felt that way? As if you were standing on the edge of an unknown and uncertain future? Maybe, like me, you wonder where Esther found her courage.

She’d reached out to meet a simple need. The recipient, a trusted confidant, alerted her of a grave threat with instructions to take it to the king. When she explained her personal risk, he pointed out the responsibility of her position with a warning for her to act.

Her response was to call for three days of fasting and prayer among her closest supporters. In that intimate communion with her Faithful Provider and Guide, her security in His hands undoubtedly grew. The resulting confidence bore her to that dangerous doorway.

Xerxes saw her, and his extended scepter expressed his pleasure. The death threat cancelled, Esther touched the symbol of forgiveness, and stepped into her future. She advanced slowly, with purpose, into the role designed for her, for such a time as this.**
  
We can walk the path before us with the same confidence and courage.

1) Consider circumstances with prudence: sift human interpretation, your own as well as others, and resist outside pressure.

2) Meet with God in communion: welcome His presence, share details of the situation and your reaction, and ask for guidance.

3) Rest in His provision: accept His direction, pursue His plan by His grace, and trust His timing.

Similar to Esther, those who’ve received the offer of forgiveness from our King are released to pursue His purpose for our lives. We stand on the threshold of a new year with unknown twists, turns, and trials—an excellent opportunity to apply her approach. We may not save a nation from destruction or have a holiday established to honor our achievements. But we can step into our destiny with confidence and courage based on who God is and our relationship with Him as His children.

What uncertainties make you blink as you enter 2018?
How do they compare with the nature and character of God?

*Esther 5:1 NIV
**Esther 4:14 NIV

Brief Bio
Sandra Allen Lovelace is a continuing missionary, a pastor’s wife emeritus, and a homeschool pioneer. She’s an award-winning speaker and author, and a sought-after mentor. Sandra’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and her current manuscript is Wallflower Women: How We Got Stuck and Ways to Gain Our Freedom. She enjoys hiking with a camera in her hand, best done on an international adventure. Sandra and her husband Curt are transitioning to South Carolina.

Get to know Sandra at her website, http://sandraallenlovelace.com/
You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.







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