Slow Down, Love God, and Love Others

Author: Karly Grant

Slow down, love God, and love others. These have been the convictions on my heart lately. When the word conviction comes up, I automatically think about it with negative connotations, and I imagine you do too. That doesn’t always have to be the case. While conviction comes with changes that need to be made, it doesn’t have to mean living a life of guilt, it simply means allowing God to work in and through you to make you more like Himself.

I am always in need of conviction. My flawed self needs to constantly be welcoming the Holy Spirit to move in me and change me. How have I been noticing these things lately? While God’s Word is essential, He has also used the words of others lately to stir up these convictions. Through both a quote and a book, I have been encouraged to slow down, love God, and love others.

Karly Grant Conviction

Slow Down and Love God

I recently saw a quote on Pinterest that seemed simple enough, but hit me so hard that I immediately posted it on social media, set it as my lock screen on my phone, and printed it out to post right by my front door so I would see it often. I couldn’t find the source of the quote, but it reads: “Don’t be in a hurry to leave God’s presence. Slow down. Let Him empower you. He has so much to show you, to teach you & tell you.”

More often than I’d like to admit, I find myself in such a hurry or distracted by things in life that aren’t as important. If I don’t spend time with God, seeking His truth, listening, and praying, then I am quick to focus on things that aren’t important (i.e. Netflix, comfort, social media). If I truly allow God to speak to me through His work and through prayer, and start my day like that, I can better see Him as work as I leave my apartment and encounter the world. My day is off to a better start when I start by allowing time to speak to my God and study His Words. When my day starts like this, I am more likely to trust Him and go to Him in prayer throughout my day.

Love Others

“Love God and love others” is a mantra that I heard repeatedly as I grew up in the church. At times it seems rote and redundant. Other times, such as this last month, the simple message hits me hard. As a part of a summer book club, I read the book No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert. Simply put, this book rocked my world. Coming highly recommended, I knew I’d like this novel, but I didn’t realize how deeply impacting a novel would be on my views of the world or how deeply it would stir up a desire to love God’s people.

Conviction Karly Grant

Several topics are presented in this book that are relevant to the United States today (i.e. racism, classism, adoption). I was convicted of areas that I thought I was doing pretty well in, but God used Katie’s words to show me how I could love others around me better. You never know the stories of the people around you. We are quick to judge, even when we think we aren’t. Our job as followers of Christ is to love those around us, no matter what their beliefs, lifestyles, or abilities.

Allowing God to move in and through me right where I am is how I grow and find the refreshment my soul craves. There is a reason that He had me in places physically, mentally, and spiritually different than what I anticipated. He drew me deeper and used words of others to convict. I long to grow closer to Him by slowing down, loving God, and loving others well, and I’ve turned toward just that.


Karly Grant headshotKarly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm of adoption. She is both terrified and excited to see how God moves and what opportunities He provides in this adventure.
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3 Women of the Bible Who Brought Unexpected Celebration

Author: Karly Grant

June is often a time of celebration. From graduations, end of a school year, Father’s Day and the beginning of wedding season, there is often one party after another. In my family there are several birthdays and retirements as I have always been surrounded by educators. All of these milestones are absolutely deserving of recognition, the accomplishments honored, and an acknowledgment of the hard work it took to get there. However, I would argue that it is equally as important to celebrate the victories, blessings, and accomplishments in life that may not be as planned or anticipated in our lives.

Life has not been easy lately as I’ve seen plans that I have made seemingly unravel around me. Things that I anticipated celebrating simply haven’t happened. However, God has remained faithful in showing me the small victories hidden in every day. He has used these disappointments to pave the way for His plans to find life down the road.

For example, I recently started a new job. A job for a company that I didn’t plan to work, in a state that I didn’t plan to be in, and at a different time than I would have liked. On paper, this new path I’m walking is the exact opposite of what I had planned. However, with this job comes opportunity down the road that I hadn’t anticipated, which may actually make my eventual move an easier process. I can celebrate the fact that God is opening doors, even if they are different than the doors that I have been trying to pry open myself.

Celebration Karly Grant

As I have been rejoicing in these unexpected celebrations, I can’t help but think of women in the Bible who found themselves also celebrating things they may not have anticipated or that worked out completely differently than they planned.  

Mary

The mother of Jesus. I have never walked in her shoes, who has, but I doubt that as a child she dreamed of growing up and immaculately conceiving as a teenager, which led her to give birth in a stable to the Messiah.

Even when we dream big, we can’t out dream God. His dream is likely grander than anything we have ever dreamed for ourselves. Mary didn’t plan this life and was understandably terrified as the angel said, “Do not be afraid.” Yet it didn’t take her long to trust God and celebrate. Luke 1:46-55 tells of Mary’s song which begins, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (Luke 1:46b-47 ESV). Mary rejoiced even when things didn’t go as planned.

Sarah

Let’s go back in time to another example of a woman rejoicing about pregnancy. Genesis tells the story of Sarah and Abraham. God had promised that Abraham’s offspring would become a great nation, yet Sarah found herself in her 90s with no children. She was so set in her own understanding of God’s plan that she laughed when she heard that it had been prophesied that she would give birth in her old age. She doubted God, as any of us would in that situation. Yet her laughter was turned to celebration when she named her son Isaac which means “he will laugh.” Genesis 21:6-7 records her response, “And she said, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.

Esther

While childbearing was a common theme for women in the Bible and often seen as a sign of God’s favor on these women, God uses women such as Esther to show you don’t have to pop out a baby to be powerful. Esther’s bravery brought about celebrations that she never could have anticipated. When her own people were being threatened with death, she entered the palace and became the queen.  She boldly approached the king, which could have led to her death, and pled for the lives of her people to be spared. Esther trusted God and believed Mordecai’s encouragement, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, ESV)

She confidently went to the king, saying, “If I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16, ESV). Esther was shown favor and her people were eventually saved from the fear of death. Esther became a leader in the land as a female, and that was a huge thing to celebrate. Even though God is not mentioned at all in the book of Esther, it is clear that He was using people in this story, and especially an orphaned girl who seemed to have no hope, to show that He gives strength and boldness to those who serve Him. Not only was Esther’s life spared, but so were many others, and we still learn from her story today. She only saw the beginning of the celebration that came from her faith and boldness.

Karly Grant Celebration

Mary, Sarah, and Esther are all examples of women laying down their own plans and living out God’s, and this is worth celebrating. Not only in the lives of these biblical characters, but also in our own lives. I have seen His faithfulness in my own life and trust that it will continue. Celebration doesn’t always come in the form of long-awaited successes or recognition. Sometimes there are blessings that God simply offers us that we can’t strive for, things to celebrate that only He can provide. I am grateful to serve a God who sees where I’m at, knows what is best for me, and shows me how to celebrate what He celebrates.


Karly Grant headshotKarly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year, she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm of adoption. God has laid this heavily on her heart and she is willing to trust Him. This homebody is taking the biggest leap of faith yet this spring and moving 1,700 miles away from the life and people she has known as long as she can remember. She is both terrified and so stinking excited to see how God moves and what opportunities He provides in this adventure.

Diagnosing Fear

Author: Kate Franken

I hung up the phone, after having received the results of my liver ultrasound. I felt strangely calm, despite the words the doctor had spoken. I dialed my mom. The minute she picked up, the calm dissipated and the tears formed. With a shaky voice, I relayed the call, “The calcifications they found on my liver likely mean I have cancer in a nearby organ.” In response, my mother remained calm. Her words reassured.

In the hours that followed, my mind raced. I sat stuck in my classroom, grade sheets strewn about, unable to regain the pace I had been working at. Amidst the wandering of thoughts, I recalled a sermon a few Sundays before. Our congregation had been ruminating on Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” and my pastor had posed the questions: “Can, in all honesty, I say for me to die is to gain? Do you believe that departing and being with Christ would be far better than your life?” I had wanted to say “Yes” and for it to be true of me. But now as I contemplated, feeling the ticking of life’s clock, I knew “No” to be the more accurate response. I didn’t want to die.

Once I escaped the classroom, a long weekend unfurled. Visits and phone calls from friends and family kept me fairly occupied, helping me process the potential diagnosis. I got lost a time or two or more on a trail of google searches. From one conversation to the next, a long list of questions to ask the doctor arose. Invariably, tears streamed. An inordinate amount. I couldn’t control the tears. In addition, to the puffy eyes, the tears left me with redness under the eyelids that burned to the touch.

Fear Kate Franken

I felt shame that I worried. I tried to muster strength, repeatedly assuring others with “God’s got this!” A while later, in a Sunday morning sermon, God addressed this shame. The guest pastor averted our eyes to Jesus, how he wept, and how he was emotionally invested in the world. Then he posed the question: “Does Jesus know that the Father is in charge of everything? Of course, Jesus knows.” He owns his emotions and doesn’t put up a facade. Our hurts our real and we shouldn’t put up a pretense either. I loved the guest pastor’s directions to, “Feel. And look to the glory that is coming”.

Finally, Monday came. I sat before my doctor, listening to him expound on a number of potential causes for the abnormal findings on my liver. He eased my tension, conveying less certainty I had cancer than the doctor on the phone.

The next six weeks slowly passed as I took the tests ordered originally by my primary care doctor, then by my gastroenterologist, and then by my oncologist. The tests were never hard. It was in the waiting, that I crumbled.

I attempted to soften the blow of a diagnosis by imagining I already had the disease being tested for. I was already considering the cut and color of the wig I would purchase when I lost all my hair. These thoughts would come and go, particularly when I was alone. But largely, after that first week of processing my ultrasound results, I felt peace. It didn’t make sense, with what seemed to loom ahead. Frequently, I was questioned as to why I wasn’t more distraught. I didn’t have to search for an answer.

Only God can give us a peace that surpasses all understanding. No human can fabricate it. But they can pray for it. For me, God used community to bring about peace. The frequent check-ins, the intentional visits, the prayer said over and for me were constant reminders that I am not alone, God is with me.

In time, breast cancer, cervical cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, ovarian cancer, lymphoma, tuberculosis, Hepatitis A, B, & C, and HIV were ruled out. However, it was discovered that my liver and the surrounding lymph nodes were enlarged. The concern for the size of the liver and lymph nodes was debated upon, but ultimately a tumor board determined that it likely isn’t cancer. I will have a cat scan in a few months to check, just in case.

Sarcoidosis remains a potential cause of my liver abnormalities. It is hard to diagnose, and even with a diagnosis, nothing can be done. There’s no cure for Sarcoidosis. I will be monitored annually with blood tests, to be privy to changes in the functioning of my liver.

I’ve learned a lot, having walked this road with its’ roller coaster hills. The fears it stirred up reminded me I’m not God. I am powerless and dependent. Power emanates from God alone.

I gained awareness of how I misplaced fear. Only God is worthy of fear. I feared cancer, just as the disciples feared the wind and the waves one stormy night. Cancer, wind, and waves are not to be feared. God controls all things. With a love that is unwavering, He chooses how to exercise His sovereignty.

Kate Franken Fear (2)I tackled a question that gnawed at my trust in God: Does God care? When things aren’t going the way we think they should, it’s easy to wonder if God even cares. But all one has to do is look at Jesus on the cross. He knows our pain. His sacrifice shows he cares infinitely. Author Bob Goff says it like it is, “Fear calls out doubts; God calls out our names. Be picky about who you listen to.” Don’t be ruled by your doubts, but be attuned to God’s voice amidst your wilderness.

 

 

God has awoken me from my slumber. While there’s is no definitive answer to my liver abnormalities, there is greater clarity on how I want to spend my life. I want Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21 to be my own. Pastor John Piper restates the verse in his own words as, “Christ is most magnified when we’re more satisfied in him than in what we lose in death and what we have in life.” May we continue to grow in our hunger for Christ and remember this is not our home. May we be like Paul, not caring what happens, just wanting the gospel to be advanced.

 

 


kate-squareKate Franken is a 4th grade teacher and a volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. She enjoys indulging in raw conversation whilst savoring a cup or more of coffee. Her hunt for good books and podcasts is endless. She finds refuge surrounded by trees, on hiking trails, with her two dogs in tow. She is especially fond of mountaintop views, wit, “best teacher ever” love letters, breakfast, a painted sky, and Jesus. She has a heart for connecting people to His church and encouraging others into relationship with Him.

Finding Confident Faith in the Face of Fear

Author: Karly Grant

All of my life I’ve been a worrier. I still remember the prayer that I prayed every night before I went to sleep as a child, “Dear God, thank you for another day. Please help my family to sleep well and to stay safe. Please don’t let there be any fires, earthquakes, or anyone breaking into our house while we sleep. In Jesus name, Amen.”

As I’ve grown up, and grown in my faith, most of my fears have lessened and my prayers have become less rote (although I’m definitely not one to skimp on the “Help me, Jesus!” prayers that I often need). While most of these childish fears only return if I’m in real danger, there is one that has stuck with me from childhoodthe fear of failure. God desires for his children to live in freedom, and as he guides me through my current struggles, I am taken back to my childhood where this fear rooted long ago.

Karly Grant Fear

I revealed the litany I ran through nightly as a child, but once a year, on New Year’s Eve, I would also ask God not to let Jesus return that year. One of my earliest memories is accepting Christ at four or five years old. While I fully believe that I was saved that day, I didn’t automatically have all the answers and that scared me. I cried to my mom one day when I was about six because I was terrified of Jesus returning. I didn’t have the Bible memorized, and in my mind, I was going to get to Heaven and there would be a test. I was afraid I would fail God. My mom lovingly explained the truth to me, but for many years, I thought God would find I failed, and if I could just postpone a little longer surely I would get there. I still haven’t found perfection, but I have found grace.

God was on his own level but this fear seeped down to my relationships with family as well. There was a time when I was about eight that my family was visiting friends overnight. I woke up the next morning and the lady we were staying with told me that my parents were at the hospital because my mom had been struck with a migraine. This was a semi-common occurrence during this stage of my life, but somehow, being in a different city made it seem different. I, being the oldest of three kids at that time, felt the pressure of telling my sisters and comforting them. What if something happened to my mom? Would I know what to do? I piled unnecessary pressure on myself as a child, and I was afraid I would fail them all as I reached for my self-imposed unrealistic expectations.

_On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate._ -Psalm 145_5

Now I fear failing at life in general. I took some huge steps of faith in a direction that I felt God calling me and it looks nothing like what I thought it would. I can’t help but wonder am I failing those who supported me? I am currently unemployed and still living in a place that I am prepared to say goodbye to. My timeline has failed me, and the enemy is quick to step into this area of my life and hiss lies.

Here in the waiting is where God and I are camping. I’ve been fighting against the enemy and speaking truth about who God is and who He says I am, going from fear of failure to confidence that can only be found through God. Scripture and music have been key to remaining saturated in truth. My times of musical worship at home are anything but pretty. I often cry, sing horribly, and pound on the keys of my keyboard. While I may look miserable to an onlooker, these are sweet times with my Savior and some of the strongest points of warfare against our enemy. Michael W. Smith has a song that I’ve been listening to often these days called Surrounded. Some of the lyrics are “This is how I fight my battles… It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You.

I’ve been doing a Bible study called Psalms for Prayer. While I read these Psalms that I’ve read many times before, they have been hitting me anew.

“On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.” -Psalm 145:5

I find that reading scripture out loud and declaring the goodness of God is life-changing. God is so good. I realize in these times that I can be confident in Him. I don’t have to fear failure. He has a plan. He is with me. He never fails.


Karly Grant headshotKarly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year, she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm of adoption. She is both terrified and excited to see how God moves and what opportunities He provides in this adventure.

My Zealous Adonai

Author: Linda Kruschke

Adonai, my Lord of love
How I long to see Thy face
Alight on me, Holy Dove

Bread of Life, strength for the race
Thy Word, my faith, sustain me
Resting, resting on Thy grace

Creator, who made the tree
Sun and moon, all life, mankind
Thou gave us but one decree

Deliverer, oh so kind
Even when I break Thy law
Giving sight when I am blind

Elohim, I kneel in awe
Before Thy majestic throne
In Thee is nary a flaw

Father, mercy Thou hast shown
To Thy undeserving child
Though to wander I am prone

Good Shepherd, meek and mild
Keep me in Thy safe lockup
Bring me back when I’m beguiled

Holy Spirit, fill me up
By Thy abundant measure
Overflow my blessing cup

Immanuel, my treasure
Savior of humanity
Surpassing all life’s pleasure

Jesus Christ, Thy majesty
Bestowed Thy eternal gift
Poured out upon Calvary

King of kings, Thy scepter lift
As Thou lifted on the cross
From me to Thee guilt did shift

Lamb of God, my gain, Thy loss
Light of the world shining bright
Burn from my heart wicked dross

Messiah, Thy way is right
By Thee death is defeated
Prophets foretold Thy great might

Name above all names seated
Now at the Father’s right hand
Thy work, my soul, completed

One True God, salvation planned
Setting Thy people apart
On Thy sovereign grace I stand

Prince of Peace, reign in my heart
That Thee be my legacy
Never let Thy grace depart

Qanna, in Thy jealousy
Oh, let my trust in Thee grow
Remember me tenderly

Redeemer, Thou love me so
Though my days with sin are rife
Paying all that I did owe

Savior, ransom of my life
Answer my fervent requests
Rescue me from pain and strife

Truth upon which wisdom rests
Count me in Thy census
Free me from temptation’s tests

Unchanging God, most gracious
To sing Thy holy praises
Beseech Thy faithful chorus

Vine, the severed branch blazes
Abandoned fields lie fallow
Lest a new crop Thou raises

Way, Truth, and Life, I’ll follow
Word made flesh, Thou art divine
In Thy grace life’s not hollow

Examine my spirit fine
Tune me to Thy lovely gaze
Holy Spirit, gift of mine

Yahweh, the Ancient of Days
Thy virtues I will extol
Help me follow Thy ways

Zealous protector, my soul
Under Thy gaze from above
Make my broken parts a whole

Adonai, my Lord of love
Zealous One, my Holy Dove


Linda_2017_01Linda L. Kruschke is the author of My Name Is Beloved, winner of the Unpublished Memoir category of the Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest, as well as self-published author of two poetry books. She is a wife, mother, active member of her church, and former Bible Study Fellowship leader. After struggling through years of major clinical depression and finding God’s healing grace, she is now a fearless follower of Christ, living in the assurance of her salvation and God’s love. She blogs at Another Fearless Year and Broken Believers.
This poem was originally published at Another Fearless Year.

5 Bible Passages to Quiet the Thirst of a Noisy Soul

Noise is constantly slipping through the cracks of the quiet I long for. When I seek to escape into muted moments, the chaotic racket lurks ominously in the shadows, increasing the hunger I hear growling within me. I thrust myself into the delusive peace of TV binges and smartphone apps to no avail. Even in the silence, I hear it. To-do lists loom, notifications whip out onto screens with a snap, and the world tells me, “do more, be more, give more. More, more, more.”

The loudness of expectation from a world begging for me to listen to the seductive songs of leisure and mediocrity has threatened to leave my nerves strung out and dry. I feel alone, withering away on the scorching asphalt of the demands of everyone and everything except the one I long to serve most—my Lord and my God.

It is only in his presence that I can hear my soul delicately whisper, “shhhh, I am listening for the words of my Master.”

The only antidote I have found to the barrage of solicitation and thirst for more is the familiar cushion of truth found in the scriptures. These five passages bring balm to my blistered efficiency and calm to the chaos.

1.Luke 10:38-42

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

This is the perfect remedy for the overstimulated soul. In the midst of the clatter that arises from within and around us, it honestly directs us to where the truest peace, power, and purpose is found—at the feet of Jesus.

Hunger and Thirst Chara Donahue

2.Psalm 46:9-11

“He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

We don’t always think of peace when we think of sitting in a fortress, but what this passage reminds our battle-weary thoughts is that God is the ultimate maker of peace. While rumors of wars accost our eyes as we scroll through news feeds, God is not to be forgotten. He is to be known. He is mighty and strong, just and merciful, and he is the one who was, is, and always will be. Our enervated hearts can know victory is his. He will be exalted, and because of him, our souls find quietude.

3.1 Kings 19:11-23

“The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”

In this passage, Elijah is in hiding. The threats from Jezabel swung over his future, and he ran for the hills, even after seeing God rain down fire and give victory when Elijah stood against the prophets of Baal. I hate that I recognize this pattern in my own life. That life reaches a high and I see the goodness of God right before my eyes, and still, I can turn, run, and hide when pressure pushes in. However, just as God meets Elijah, not in the wind, earthquake, or fire I find God gently leading me back to the places I can find him speaking. His patience relieves the shame that blinds me.

4.Philippians 4:12-13

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Few suffer as Paul did. He rejoiced and remained content in all circumstances. This verse reveals his secret—Christ who gives him strength. This passage takes away all our right to add to the noise that surrounds us with complaint. Yet it replenishes us by emphasizing that even here, even there, that wherever you are you may be content because you are one of the saved, redeemed, and children of the Most High.

Chara Donahue Hunger and Thirst

5.Matthew 11:28

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

What relief there is in the simplicity and succinctness of this verse. It meets me in my tired and tried places and reminds me that Jesus is not a slave driver. He is a refuge, and there is no true rest away from him. The voices from competing sources are drowned out when we bask in the truth—we are welcome with all we are to enter Jesus’ comforting care.


chara-donahue-head-shotChara Donahue enjoys freelance writing, biblical counseling, and speaking to women when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds an MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She is a regular contributor at iBelieve and her words have appeared at Christianity Today’s Women Leaders, (in)courage, Patheos, and The Huffington Post. She longs to be a voice that says, “Hey we are in this together, and there is room for us all.” You can find more from Chara at One Anchored Voice, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Prioritizing Hunger and Thirst

Author: Karly Grant

Recently I had one of those hard/sweet times with God as He has graciously showed me some of the areas in my life where I am hungering and thirsting after other desires instead of Him and His Word. Some of these areas may appear to be good things on the outside, but inwardly they are at war with the place that belongs to God alone. Sadly, he hasn’t been number one overall. As things that I took for granted have been stripped away, my need for God is causing my Spirit to growl. I’m being renewed and reminded that He is truly all I need.

So what has been so distracting? Let’s start with actual, physical hunger and thirst. For the first time in my adult life, I find myself unemployed and waiting on God to provide a place to live as I take steps of faith that He has called me to take. My moving date has come and gone, and all the pieces I thought would be in place have still not revealed themselves, so I am waiting. However, waiting has a cost.

Hunger and Thirst Karly GrantGrowing up, I was taught to be independent. Suddenly, I find myself with no income, and honestly, some days, not knowing where my next meal is going to come from or if bills will be paid. I don’t like to ask for help and feel like I’m doing something wrong without a job or way to provide for myself in the meantime.

When I can’t provide for myself, God provides for me. When I do provide for myself it is actually a gift from him anyway. As I wait for His timing and provision He has provided for my basic physical needs. Just when I don’t know how I’m going to buy groceries, I get a call asking me to babysit, someone invites me over for dinner, or I have even had people give me money. God has satisfied my physical hunger and I know He will continue to do so.

But what about areas of hunger that are not life threatening but feel like it? I have been known to thirst for relationship. I have wanted to be a wife and a mother all my life, but that has not yet come to be. Unfortunately, the lack of this sometimes leaves my emotions weak.

Yet as I find myself seeking God more, I can truly say that I am satisfied single. I’m an introvert, yet I like having close friends to do things with. Though, when waiting for God to open the door to the next phase of life it’s not always easy on the wallet to go out and do things with friends. Those who understand that hanging out in the parks or on couches with conversation, are like water to dry bones. I am assured that the relationships that are woven with fabric stronger than circumstance and convenience will continue, and in the meantime I am cherishing the super sweet times with Jesus I am finding in this time of transition.

Karly Grant Hunger and ThirstThis season of life is about God and my reliance,and I have made peace with that. Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

I definitely don’t have it all together, and I am okay with that. I am willing to let God strip away the parts of my life that skew my priorities. I haven’t prioritized time in His Word or prayer enough, but I am asking and trusting Him to help me hunger and thirst for those things. I know He is faithful and will always be there. I may chase other things in life, but the God who loves me calls me back to Himself. He is quick to forgive and providing what is needed, so I don’t need relentlessly worry for anything. I can rest in Him and His ways.

 


Karly Grant headshotKarly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm of adoption. God has laid this heavily on her heart and she is willing to trust Him. This homebody is taking the biggest leap of faith yet this spring and moving 1,700 miles away from the life and people she has known as long as she can remember. She is  both terrified and so stinking excited to see how God moves and what opportunities He provides in this adventure.

 

Jesus in the Waiting

Author: Brittney Closner

I don’t know about you, but I would love for the tangible, with-flesh-on Jesus to sit across from me on the couch, cup of coffee in hand, and give me the details of my life purpose. To have the opportunity to ask questions, to hear the answer without fear of improper discernment would be so welcome. Yes, we can have a conversation with God, but there’s so many times that I sit in silence, in His presence (and sometimes struggling to find His presence), hearing nothing. My flesh takes over, my heart gets shifty, and I run with purpose — my own.

Hunger and Thirst Brittney ClosnerMy husband and I are sliding into a benchmark in our marriage — we’re closing in on the four year mark of trying to conceive. Four years of known infertility have loomed over our heads, in our hearts, and in my empty womb. Month after month of negative tests, heartache, and seemingly failed hope; in God’s grace, here we are. Still standing, together. Still hopeful. This season of waiting has us confused, excited, heartbroken — much like any season of wait can be. There is a holy anticipation for the movement of God bound so tightly around our desire.

And yet, still, we’re in the waiting. Not alone, Jesus is here, but the stillness of the wait has my heart erupting in doubt and fear. God has shut down other avenues in our hearts — IUI, IVF, adoption — beautiful tools God uses to expand, but tools God has told us to leave untouched. It’s hard to explain to those who offer well-meaning advice that God has told us we would be moving out of His will if we pursue these options at this time. Does this mean tomorrow He could change it all? Absolutely. This is exactly why with-flesh-on Jesus is always invited to my home to help me draw a map.

You see, God is faithful, He is not impatient. He has given us many stories of women working in their waiting — working their faith, fields, and hearts — to give us the map we so desperately seek.

One story He stirs often is the Woman from Shunem in 2 Kings, chapter 4. Quickly breaking the story down, this woman had extra room in her home — room she probably thought would be filled with toddler tantrums and teenagers one day, but instead it was empty. Recognizing her opportunity for hospitality, the woman built a room for Elisha. She could have left this space barren and empty; instead she filled it with the sacrifice of serving another soul. When Elisha asked how he could repay her for her kindness, she shrugged him off. We do that, don’t we? Keep our desires quiet in fear of vulnerability?

But she had been vulnerable with someone, because there was word she didn’t have children. Elisha comes back and tells her that this time next year, she will hold a son in her arms, and verse 16b is so near and dear:

“’No, my lord!’ she cried. ‘O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.’”

Brittney Closner Hunger and ThirstWho can’t relate to this fear?  Someone speaks prophecy and promise over our lives and we immediately reject it, not wanting to get our hopes up. Yet, when Elisha comes back — the woman did have a son, just as prophesied.

God’s season of wait in my life doesn’t give me permission to sit, unwilling to grow, unwilling to serve, unwilling to live out His purpose for my life. If this woman had refused to open her home to Elisha, what might her life have looked like? Being obedient to the journey God asks us to walk with Him might not make sense in the thick of it, but we have no idea the ripple effects one “yes”, one act of sacrifice, one compromise will make. God will do so much with our “yes” to Him — more than we’ll ever know.

As we mark off another month of waiting, I struggle with wanting to sacrifice anything when I feel I’ve sacrificed years of my emotional tank. It’s in moments like this I am able to pull purpose. I may not be called to open a room for Elisha, but I am called to love people fiercely, in their own barrenness — whether they have no children or seven. Not one soul is immune to a season of waiting, and I can see where God is creating beauty from ashes. I may look back in a year with a child in my arms, or I may be looking at my fifth year in the wait, but no matter what, I’m waiting, anchored to Jesus.

 


FB_IMG_1520521316510Brittney is a married, 30-something, laid down lover of Jesus. She writes at www.promisetothepath.com, and is full of book recommendations, recipes, and laughter, she chases the things that bring her joy in the margin. Married for 6 years, trying to conceive for 4, Brittney has found herself passionate about encouraging women on the infertility journey through raw transparency and clinging to Jesus. Always seeking laughter and purpose in the pain, Brittney jumps at the chance to do the wild things Jesus asks her to do.  An introvert that craves deep connection, she will sit with you in messy living rooms for hours and feel rejuvenated. She loves spending time with her husband and tribe of strong women she calls friends, or with her nose in a book, and has a podcast loudly playing in the background at all times.

A Place to Land: An Interview with Kate Motaung

A Place to Land releases on April 2nd, and if you love a good memoir this one is for you. Kate Motaung tells her story in an inviting way that not only lets readers connect with her, but also shows them truths about their own lives. She walks readers through the gut-wrenching process of losing her mother and the life-long quest of finding a feeling of home. Also included: a good love story, cultural commentary, motherhood moments, and sisterhood bonds. She brings glory to Jesus and his constant presence in our emotional ups and downs, as she guides us through cross-cultural living and grief.

I have the honor of presenting you with a behind the scenes look with this interview.

Q: What can readers expect from your book?

A Place to Land is a memoir, so readers can expect real-life storytelling. They can expect to travel with me from my childhood in Michigan to my young adulthood in Cape Town, South Africa. I should also warn potential readers that the book does walk through some difficult topics like divorce, my mom’s cancer diagnoses, and her eventual death.

It is a heavy book, by my prayer is that readers will find it therapeutic to reflect on their own difficult situations (even if it involves tears in the process), and that eventually they will land in a place of hope.

Q: Who do you think will relate most to your story?

Well, hopefully A Place to Land will resonate with people with a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds, but I think especially for those who are familiar with:
• Divorced parents
• Moving frequently
• Feeling unsettled
• Longing for more
• Dealing with cancer
• Grief
• Loss of a mother (or loved one)
• Living cross-culturally

Q: What do you hope readers gain from reading A Place to Land?

My hope and prayer for my readers is threefold:

1) I pray that A Place to Land would increase their longing to spend eternity with God. I don’t presume to have any idea as to what heaven will be like, except for what Scripture has revealed to us. But I do think that the vast majority of us have a diluted, lukewarm view of eternity. We lack a depth of eager anticipation, and I believe that negatively affects our choices and attitudes in this life.

a place to land image 1I’ve learned through writing this book that intentionally keeping an eternal perspective at the forefront of my mind does wonders for my countenance, attitude, and actions. It has changed me in ways I never expected.

2) I pray that they would find hope in Christ in the midst of their suffering and grief. He is the only one who can relieve our pain. I pray that the readers of this book will find their anchor in Him amidst the turbulent trials of this life, holding fast to the truth that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

3) I pray that they would be reminded that this world is not our home. For some, that is a comfort, knowing that one day those who trust in Christ will lay aside all their pain and suffering in exchange for a sin-free existence forever in the presence of their Redeemer. For others, this realization could be a bit disconcerting. Many of us make a great effort to find comfort, fulfillment, and satisfaction here in this life, and we don’t like the idea of giving it up.

Before writing this book, I struggled with that a lot. I would get incredibly sentimental over certain material things. Now, the Lord is teaching me that those are all part of what Jesus calls “treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Instead, He calls us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21). Writing A Place to Land challenged me to consider where I’m storing my treasure.

Q: How did writing your memoir change or challenge you spiritually?

Writing memoir is an incredibly sanctifying process. For one thing, there are so many steps involved in writing a book of any kind—planning, writing, editing, revising, waiting,trusting, sending, giving, laboring some more, promoting . . . the list goes on. I expected that writing and publishing a book would be a monumental task, but going into it I had no idea how much it would stretch and grow me spiritually.

With memoir in particular, because the story itself is your own, many emotions get tangled up in the process. I struggled to know which stories to include and which to leave out—what would strengthen the main theme? What would resonate with readers? Which stories will fall flat? Which sections do I want to share out of my own pride, and not because they will benefit my reader or contribute to the goals for the book? I had a hard time trying to discern how much of my story to tell without telling too much or too little. Doubt came into play, and I questioned whether anyone at all would benefit from the finished product.

Then during the editing process, it’s very easy to take the editor’s suggestions personally. Thankfully, I was blessed to work with some incredibly gracious editors. I never felt as if they were being condescending, disrespectful, patronizing, or flippant. They carried my story with grace and support, while still offering helpful suggestions to make the book stronger overall. I never felt as if my voice was removed, altered, or stepped on during the editing process, but I can imagine that for other authors, it might be really hard to hear a professional in the field tell you that certain aspects of your story aren’t worth being published. During this stage it’s important to swallow your pride and humbly accept advice from others.

When it came to making revisions, there were days when I felt that I had nothing more to give. If I had already put my best foot forward in the first few drafts, what else did I have to offer? I would stare at my screen and not know what to do. This phase really forced me to increase my dependence on the Lord. I had to trust that whatever words He wanted in the book, He would keep there, and whichever words He didn’t want would be cut out.

As I neared publication and my first readers got access to the book, the dark clouds of fear threatened on the horizon. What would people think? Would they think the book was a waste of their time? Would they think the quality was poor? Would they think my story was boring or too sad or self-consumed? At this point, the Lord continually reminded me that it doesn’t matter what others think. Though this is a lesson I need to learn on a daily basis, I keep going back to the truth that only God’s opinion matters. If I’ve offered my best to Him and for His glory and not my own, nothing else matters. So I guess looking back, the whole publication process is one big exercise in faith— trusting God to open doors and lead the way as He sees fit, and for His purposes.

Q: Which verses from the Bible do you think would be helpful or encouraging to
those dealing with difficult circumstances?

One passage that has comforted me over and over again comes from 2 Corinthians: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Q: What was the most difficult part about writing your memoir?

Writing about my mom’s death. My eyes tear up just thinking about it. I must have cried about 72 times through all the revisions and edits and more revisions. But they were therapeutic tears, and I’m so glad I’ve documented the experience, since the memory does fade. You don’t think you’ll ever forget something like that, but the details do fade.

Another challenging aspect was simply trying to decide which stories to include or not include. Having amazing editors was a huge help in this process, but obviously they can only work with what I give them. There were many times when I would write scenes that my editors asked for, and I would be thinking to myself, “Who the heck cares about this? This is so boring!” But in the end, as a Christian writer I have to trust that the Lord will keep whatever words He wants to have in the book and cut whichever ones He doesn’t.

Q: Where can readers find you online or hear more about your story?

I’d love to connect on my blog, Heading Home, or on Facebook, Twitter, or
Instagram.Interested readers can read the first chapter of A Place to Land here or on Amazon.


a place to land 3Kate Motaung is the author of A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging (2018), A Start-Up Guide for Online Christian Writers, and Letters to Grief. She is the host of Five Minute Friday, an online community that encourages and equips Christian writers, and owner of Refine Services, a company that offers writing, editing, and digital marketing services. Kate blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

God is Faithful

Author: Lila Diller

My testimony always sounded boring to me. I never had a miraculous change or an obviously God-thing happen so that everyone could hear the “Hallelujah” chorus being sung over my head. I simply grew up in church all my life. I heard all about Jesus and His love for me ever since before I can remember.

My pastor always began the invitation the same way every service: “Bow your head and close your eyes. All those who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are saved, raise your hands.” I peeked every Sunday and saw everybody raise their hands. “Now,” he would continue, “anybody who couldn’t do that, who doesn’t know for sure that you are saved, raise your hand so I can pray for you.” Nobody ever raised their hands that they weren’t sure.

I asked my mom one day while she was sewing, “Why does everyone get to raise their hands every Sunday at church?” She told me I needed to be saved and taught me the sinner’s prayer. I bowed my head and repeated that prayer, raising my hand right then.

I just wanted to be like everyone else in my church. That’s just what everyone in my world did. Salvation and baptism were just what every good little church girl did. And I was determined to be the best little church girl. I followed all the rules, trying to please my parents, Sunday School teachers, pastor, and school teachers. When my pastor baptized me, he asked me some questions about salvation. I don’t remember what they were or how I answered them, but whatever my serious answers were, they prompted the entire congregation to laugh at me.

Character of God Lila DillerThe next year, when I was seven, my little sister started asking questions about heaven and hell one night after church. My mom and dad sat us both down and told us again about the Gospel. I felt that I hadn’t really understood it before and was scared to think I might still go to hell whenever I died. I prayed again, and I believe I truly repented that night. But I had already been baptized in front of everybody, so I didn’t tell anyone.

I remember being excited enough to tell the Gospel to my best friend at school. She was shocked when I used the word “hell.” I was always really active in the church youth group and made it a point to “do” my daily devotions every morning.

But I struggled with doubt all through my school years. I would wonder, “What if I didn’t say the right words? What if I didn’t mean it sincerely? What if I hadn’t understood it enough? What if I couldn’t remember the exact date or the exact words I prayed?” I would pray over and over, “Lord, if I wasn’t really saved before, save me now.” But I was never sure.

When I turned 15, the year of spiritual darkness began. I doubted everything I was ever taught, even down to the existence of any god whatsoever! Through soul-searching and a little bit of research in our tiny little school library, I decided there had to be a higher being that created the universe. It couldn’t have just happened for no reason; there is no effect without a cause.

Lila Diller God is FaithfulThen I wondered if He was just a Force or maybe the God of the Muslims, Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I had many times before felt Him speak to me through His Word, enough to prove to me that He was the God of the Bible. But was the Bible to be interpreted literally or liberally? I was even forced into debating religion at school. It was me against all my other classmates, who were either Mormons or atheists. I had answers for all of their arguments and questions. But I still doubted every once in a while.

I made the decision early on to go to a Christian college. I desperately prayed, asking for guidance in college choice as well as career choice. I never got a definitive answer for the career, but I felt my choices narrowing and narrowing until I chose PCC. The very first week of my Freshman year, they held a revival. I realized all this time, though I knew the doctrines and believed intellectually in all the right beliefs, I had not been trusting in Jesus alone. I had been trusting—or rather, not trusting but doubting—in my prayer and understanding of my salvation prayer. After that, I never doubted again! “He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Praise the Lord!


KODAK Digital Still CameraLila is an author of Christian Romance novels, blogger, and homeschool mom. She loves sushi and Mexican food, Hallmark movies, anything dark chocolate, the color purple, and reading in her pajamas. Lila, outnumbered by a houseful of males, lives with her supportive husband Chris, two energetic boys, and a hyper dog in Statesville, NC. She loves to help readers create romance in their marriages and in their spiritual walks with Jesus. You can find her at liladiller.com and at www.facebook.com/loveisseries.