This refrain appears throughout the story Almost Christmas Again—the heart’s cry of a young lady trying to find love, yet finding nothing but closed doors. (Did I mention? Almost Christmas Again is the title of my contribution to a recently released book of six stories: Christmas From the Heart: A Collection of Christmas Romances.)
If the woman in the story had pried open one of life’s earlier doors (figuratively) due to her own stubbornness, she would have settled for less than God’s best and most likely found herself living in regret.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We are all prone to inept human nature trying to take control.
Only by actively choosing to lay aside our will can we accept the perfect will of the One who created us, loves us, and works all things for the good of His people.
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.
What a profound example Jesus sets for us in this verse as he pours out his heart in agony to the Father before his crucifixion. One mark of true Christian maturity is recognizing that our will may not be in alignment with what is best, and then begging God for His will to be done instead of our own. Let’s all focus on embracing this week with a thy will be done mentality and watch how God moves in our lives!
And for all of you looking for a cozy, romantic, festive read with an eternal perspective, I hope you’ll consider checking out the story Almost Christmas Again in the compilation book Christmas From the Heart: A Collection of Christmas Romances. I personally love that the six different stories aren’t full length; less of a commitment, yet still a fun escape during the busy holiday season! 😊
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! Also, let me know what your all-time favorite Christmas book (or movie!) is. I’ll go first – to be honest, I haven’t read a ton of Christmas novels, but the movie White Christmas will always be at the top of my list! Now it’s your turn! 🙂
Being 2021, I’d venture to guess that I’m not the only one whose head sometimes spins with all there is to do and learn and understand. So many expectations and obligations. So many good things we want to do. A never-ending list of things to research, discuss, and understand.
Sometimes it’s enough to tempt me to pack up my family and move to an isolated, technology-free mountaintop (although I hear that comes with its own challenges 😉).
Although my mountaintop backup plan frequently sounds appealing, I won’t be packing up anytime soon. Why?
Because then I’d be missing the point.
And what is the point, you may ask?
As a Christian, the point of this crazy life is to love and be loved by God, and then let that love spill out onto others as we attempt to lead them toward Him.
Hard (though maybe not impossible) to do from a mountaintop.
When I get too busy, I have to slow down and remind myself of these truths. If the things I’m busying my life and mind with aren’t furthering these main points, I need to reevaluate and prune some things off my to-do list to make space for the best things.
It’s easy to get bogged down. It’s easy to feel like God is silent. Like God is small.
In those difficult times, we have to remember. Remember his promises. Remember how he’s shown up in the past. Talk to others and hear their God-stories for inspiration. Remember that he is still active, present, and guiding our steps. Remember how much he loves you. Why is it so easy to forget?
Even if you’re not busy physically, you may be mentally exhausted—this is often harder to bear. Believe it or not, our brains aren’t designed to carry the burdens of the world or make sense of it all. Thankfully, that’s God’s job. But sometimes the madness of the world on top of our busy lives and minds is overwhelming. Life is hard. Why doesn’t he just make it all stop?
Because his ultimate goal is to bring all into relationship with him so that none shall perish. Because our comfort here and now is not the main goal. Because earth is not our home. Too often, people don’t pay attention until hard things happen. Hard things mean the harvest is ripening.
2 Peter 3:9 says it like this, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Like it or not, my pastor pointed out in a recent sermon that since COVID hit, more people have heard the gospel than in multiple previous years combined. God is working all things for our eternal good, even when the process here and now feels like a mess.
God knows best.
When I stop trying to steer the boat and get in step with his purposes instead of charging ahead with my own, the main goal comes into focus. Not that my personal goals or intentions are not good, they’re just not always the best. And he knows best, even when it doesn’t feel like it. And heads up—sometimes our feelings are liars. That’s why we need to be grounded in truth beyond ourselves.
That’s why we need to keep the main goal in mind.
Earth, pain, suffering, and busy lives and minds are temporary.
God is eternal.
Let’s put our focus on loving God, loving others, and reflecting him to those around us. We can trust him to guide our steps and provide as we faithfully keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Do you ever struggle to keep the main goals in sight? What have you found that helps you keep this eternal perspective? I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts in the comments below! And if you could use a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s power and goodness in the form of fiction, I invite you to check out my novel, Power Up. It is designed for tweens and teens, but adults have seemed to really resonate with it too.
My sisterdoesn’t decorate her walls. She has maybe a picture or two up; probably gifts she feels obligated to display. I make fun of her (in jest). I threaten to sneak in and decorate while she’s sleeping. A shelf here, a photo collage there…I could make her blank white walls something beautiful.
But she resists. And I’m finally beginning to understand why.
Our world is noisy.
Recently it clicked with me that the noisiest parts of life usually don’t make a sound.
– all those digital photos you’ve been meaning to do something with.
Not only are our ears flooded with stimuli all day long (people, tv, music, podcasts), our eyes are flooded too. I read once about a woman who removes all the labels from products she buys in order to cut down on visual noise and have fewer surroundings screaming for her attention. I laughed at the time, but now I understand.
And now I understand my sister. (Well, sort of. 😉)
While carefully chosen items on the wall are soothing and inspiring to me, they are simply visual noise to her. She has wisely chosen to curate her home to inspire calm and simplicity in an otherwise chaotic world.
Our faith can be much the same.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the details of Christianity and start running ourselves in circles, spiritually. When, really, we simply need to remember to:
“Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10
In what ways can you be intentional about the noise in your life? What can you tweak in order to cut down on the bombardment, whether it’s audible, visual, or spiritual? Maybe it’s time to undecorate your walls and enjoy the simplicity of your surroundings—physically and spiritually.
Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts, and feel free to add how I can pray for you today! And if you haven’t already, scroll on down (or over) to sign up for my monthly newsletter and receive a free Parent’s Prayer Guide because I appreciate you! God bless!
Isn’t it exciting to suddenly see something old in a new light? I’ve read through the Bible a handful of times, but when I read Acts 27 last week, something new struck me. The story was no longer telling me facts about Paul’s journey; the story was showing me how to face life’s difficulties with faith and assurance. Let me show you what I mean.
To start, here’s a summary of Acts 27: Paul has been in prison for years for no good reason. On board a ship with 275 others, he sails toward Italy for his trial, and their two-week journey is comprised of terrifying, unrelenting, violent storms.
All hope of being saved was abandoned by most, yet Paul encouraged the crew to keep up their courage, telling of an angel who had come to him and assured him that God would grant safety to all on board.
Let’s pause here for just a second. Have you ever gone through something hard? Something so difficult it hardly seemed possible to come through on the other side? If so, have you been able to muster your faith and hold tight to Jesus as he helps you through?
OR, have you ever held onto faith on behalf of a friend or family member who was suffering—speaking faith, encouragement, and hope into their difficult situation?
I’d venture to guess many of you have, and kudos to you—faith in the storm is a challenge every time, but Paul gives us an excellent example to follow.
And to conclude the summary…The sailors know they’re getting close to an island, and there is much rejoicing. Paul is probably thinking, Yep, it’s just how God said it would be; I’m not surprised. And then…
WHAM! The ship runs into a reef.
Although land is in sight, the ship is still far off from shore, and is now immoveable and being broken to pieces by the force of the waves.
THE CALL TO FAITH AND COURAGE
What might Paul have been thinking now? Maybe something along the lines of, What’s going on, God?? We were so close to safety!! (Maybe his faith never wavered, but I personally don’t think that’s the natural human gut response.)
In the end, everyone from the ship is able to swim or float to shore and no lives are lost, as God had assured Paul from the start. The island natives even welcome the weary sailors.
But we’re not done… They build a fire for a much-needed meal, and before Paul knows what hit him, a deadly snake bites him. Everyone pauses, expecting him to drop dead, but surprise—the venom doesn’t even affect him, and life goes on.
There’s no question about it—while Paul’s circumstances were certainly bigger than what most of us have experienced, it doesn’t diminish the fact that life often throws challenge after challenge upon us.
How do we respond to a pile-up of difficulties?
Imagine being Paul.
Really, God? I’m in jail for following Jesus?
Really, God? Nonstop, terrifying storms on the open sea for fourteen days?
Really, God? Land is finally in sight and now I’m stuck on a reef?
Really, God? I haven’t even caught my breath, and now a snake bite?
We often praise God when the shore is within sight and shake our fists at him when our boat suddenly gets stuck on an unexpected reef.
But Paul never sits and licks his wounds. In fact, one of the first things he does on the island is heal the father of the man who welcomed them. You certainly need faith for an act of healing. Three months later, Paul meets up with fellow believers in Rome. Acts 28:15b tells us that “on seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF MEETING WITH OTHER BELIEVERS
Paul held tight to his faith during a pileup of challenges, surrounded by others who didn’t understand his steadfastness. He faithfully kept trusting in God to the point where other people probably thought he was ridiculous.
I love how the Bible tells us that Paul “thanked God and took courage” upon meeting up with other believers.
Paul is an incredible example for all of us. We can do life faithfully without the support of other Christ followers, but God uses other Christians to bring us extra doses of courage and faith. Doing life with other believers is like taking our vitamins when we feel a cold coming on. If we can blast our cold with enough vitamin c and zinc, we just might not get knocked down. If we have other Christians to stand with us in faith, we might just make it to the other side of our difficult situation.
This is one big reason why meeting together in church is so important.Although we can and should connect personally with God whenever and wherever we are (his presence is not confined to a church building, thank goodness), we can connect with God on a deeper level through the faith and encouragement of other people.
THE CALL TO ACTION
Do you find yourself stuck on a reef right now when you thought you were almost out of the boat?
If you have a Christian circle, give a friend or pastor a call. Even just a quick chat and prayer with a Christian friend can help courage rise up so you can face tomorrow with faith.
If you don’t have a Christian circle, try to find one. Try a new church, Christian group, or even online group. Be bold and reach out to start developing encouraging relationships.
Thank God and Take Courage. This Christian faith journey is not for the weak-hearted, but it can be an exciting, wonderful experience to learn to draw near to God’s goodness and mercy in ways you never would have expected.
Comment below with your thoughts or if you need prayer for any reason! I would love to connect with you. And if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up with your email address to receive future posts and exciting email updates from me—you’ll get a free downloadable prayer guide as a thank-you gift!
Also, if you know a middle-schooler who is going through a challenging time like we talked about above, my first novel, POWER UP, might just contain the encouragement they need to keep holding on to Jesus.
QUICK UPDATE on my writing journey: I’m excited to announce that I’m participating in a Christmas romance anthology, which will release from Elk Lake Publishing in November! Seven sweet Christmas romance novelettes in one book—it doesn’t get much better than that for the holidays! Can’t wait to share it with you in a few months.
Also, the literary agency I work with is still a bit backed up, so while my historical romance manuscripts have not yet been shopped around to publishers, they will be in the coming months. Prayers for a great publishing home would be appreciated! Meanwhile, I’m shoulder-deep in writing the third, which takes place in the 60s, so at least I’m never bored! 😊
I’ve spent the past two and a half years working on three manuscripts. What was first one historical novel with three parts has grown into three separate books, thanks to some wise guidance from my agent. Even if no one else ever sets eyes on these manuscripts, I’ve loved every second of all the hours I’ve poured into them. Writing this series breathes life into me. (I’m excited to still have most of the third left to write.) It’s amazing the lessons God teaches you when you are doing your best to partner with him to create something new. Exciting and humbling.
The other day I was browsing the internet for pictures of my characters. My story is set in the forties during WW2, and I’ve had years of developing my main characters in my mind and on the page, but had never had a true visual.
Then I found The Picture. A young couple from decades ago sitting across from each other in a soda shop, staring into each other’s eyes while sipping from the same soda with smiles on their faces.
I can’t tell you how excited I was. I felt like I had just found hidden treasure. Since discovering and saving the photo, I’ve pulled it up over a dozen times just to stare at it for a few seconds and smile. I feel like it’s them—the very people (well, characters) I’ve grown to know and love. Because as any fiction writer will tell you; their characters are so real.
You’re probably asking, what does this have to do with God? Good question. Stick with me.
The evening after I found this treasured photo, I was pulling laundry out of the dryer and thinking. I was thinking of the hard things my characters face as several different scenes flashed through my mind. In the photo, the couple appears blissfully happy and carefree. Aren’t we all, before?
Before the first big life tragedy strikes, most of us are pretty optimistic about life.
Maybe I’d just had a long day, but I found myself tearing up as I thought of my characters—who now had faces—going through such hard things.
Then, my thoughts turned to all the good that was going to come from the struggles. Because, of course, I get to make up the story, so I know nothing is for naught. No struggle within my pages is without purpose. All the loose ends are tied up in the end for a larger purpose. A purpose that never could have arrived without the struggles.
I had a sudden urge to speak to my blissfully happy characters from the beginning of the story. I wanted to tell them to hold on; that I had a big plan for them, but it was going to be a bumpy ride. I wanted to tell them bigger things were at stake; things they couldn’t see just yet. I wanted to tell them they could trust me to bring goodness from the struggle and redeem their situations.
And then I shut myself in the bathroom and let a few tears fall as the correlation struck me so vividly. Wow. I’d never shared such camaraderie with God before. If it wasn’t personal before, now it was.
How many times must God have thought similar things in regards to you and me? God is the author of each of our stories. He sees us in our struggles when we’re doubting, questioning, hurt, and angry. And he knows the only way to the goodness on the other side is straight through the pain. He hurts when we hurt, but he knows how the story ends. He’s weaving our lives through the hardships straight into his ultimate goodness for his purposes that we can’t understand from our place in the middle of the story.
And so we take another deep breath, remember God is good all the time, and determine once again to trust him as we move forward with our unpredictable lives.
Don’t judge your life story just yet. Remember you’re only in the middle, and whatever hard things you’re facing, just let God keep a firm grasp of the pen and let him tell the story to the end. I have a feeling the ending is going to make it all worth it.
When was the last time God surprised you with a deeper understanding of him? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! 🙂
I really want to share the photo of my characters, but I also want to hold it close to the chest for a little bit longer. One day I’ll share it. In the meantime, as always, the publishing game is a marathon not a sprint, so say a prayer for my patience on the journey to find my stories the right publishing home. Have a great week and thanks so much for reading all the way to the end!