Category Archives: Life

Procuring Peace in a Crazy World

How are we supposed to be at peace when it feels like the world around us has gone mad? Some days it feels like an impossible task.

But let’s really think about it for a minute. What does peace look like to you? A home where everyone gets along? A calendar with more open days than filled days? The absence of conflict in the world around you?

First of all, sign me up for all of these things. 😉 Second, while these scenarios are desirable and may make you feel peaceful for a while, they are too dependent on outside circumstances to allow for true, unshakeable peace.

True peace transcends our circumstances, as paradoxical as it sounds. Peace is one of the attributes of the Holy Spirit, which means we need His power in order to live in peace, despite our circumstances.

For the Christian, true peace is a gift from God, but it also comes from deep trust. We trust that God’s plan is ultimately best, so we walk in peace. We trust that God is love and nothing we can ever do will change his great love for us, so we walk in peace. We trust that, in the end, God will right all the wrongs of this crazy world, so we walk in peace. Usually.

It’s all too easy to fall into a state of inner conflict or unrest, and when we find ourselves in this place, we need to examine our souls. If peace comes from deep-rooted trust in God, then conversely, conflict comes from distrust, whether we acknowledge it or not.

We don’t see God moving in the way we’ve been praying for, so we doubt his goodness and our hearts are conflicted. We aren’t convinced God’s love is unconditional, and our hearts are conflicted as we ponder what that means for us. We see people around us doing terrible things and being honored by the world, and we are conflicted as we question whether God will bring justice to the hard situations. (If trusting God is a challenge, check out this relevant post from awhile back: The Huge Truth My Characters Taught Me About Trusting God.)

Peace is largely the result of trust—honest, true, deep-rooted trust. It takes courage to attain peace, because it takes courage to faithfully trust God in all things. And peace is certainly not the result of a lack of conflict in the world around us. I can assure you that’s not going away before Jesus comes back.

How do we go about procuring this peace, especially since it sometimes feels like a moving target?

  • We spend time with God. Not just a few minutes in the morning, but throughout the day. We play worship music, have conversations with others, talk to God about random things throughout our days, and get to know him on a deeper level.
  • We actively display our trust by submitting to him.
  • We pray and ask him for his peace to fill our lives.
  • We remember that Jesus himself walks before, beside, and behind us through all things.
  • We bring him into every part of life until our hearts are entirely yielded to him and once we do that, we don’t stop there because we know it’s a daily process that is easily undone if we let down our guard.
  • When we lose our peace, we pray for more strength and more faith and we declare our trust in God until our hearts and minds are at peace once again, filled with confidence in his trustworthiness and goodness.

Striving for peace is a goal of mine this year. Maybe it is for you, too. If so, join me in lingering on these verses and promises from God:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:7

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world! –John 16: 33

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. –2 Thessalonians 3:16

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. –John 14:27

I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.         –Psalm 4:8

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. –Romans 15:13

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. –Philippians 4:9

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. –Isaiah 32:17

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. –Romans 12:18

Print out these verses and hang them where you’ll see them every day. Share them with a friend or relative going through a hard time. Nothing beats Scripture when it comes to speaking peace into our lives.

I pray, as you read this, that God would fill you with unshakeable peace and that your trust in his love and his goodness would permeate into your heart and soul more than ever before. Amen.

Stopped in Our Tracks: Joy in the Midst of Pain

We can’t really know how strong our faith is until we have an opportunity to exercise it. And it’s not as if we go out looking for these chances, because most of the time these chances come in the midst of pain. Many of us mosey along in life—we read our devotions, do our work, and care for our families on a surface (though genuine) level until something unforeseen stops us in our tracks.

And since we’re on this side of Heaven, that “something unforeseen” always appears sooner or later, doesn’t it? Whether it’s a lost job, a death in the family, a strained relationship, or a scary diagnosis, suddenly life is more complex than we ever imagined, and we wonder how we ever walked so casually through life before. We wonder how everyone else can keep walking so casually through life while we’re pouring all of our energy into managing our crisis situation. How can life continue on around us? At first, it feels indecent. Cold.

But then we center our focus back on Jesus.

The clouds part, if for the briefest of moments, and we’re able to see our Creator walking alongside us. Holding us, even. We realize we’re glad life is carrying on around us—it gives us hope that normalcy (whatever that means) may not be completely out of reach again for ourselves.

We realize that, while we’ve claimed to be faithful followers of Jesus all along, now is our chance to embrace it. To heavily lean into our faith. To draw near to God in ways we never could have imagined otherwise. We feel his tangible presence and his deep peace envelop us as we take the next step and face the next day, and we know—we know—we aren’t doing this alone. Not just in a “Jesus loves me, this I know” sort of way, but in an intense, raw, going-through-this-wouldn’t-be-possible-without-Jesus sort of way.

We fall at His feet in prayer and in worship, knowing that He’s big enough to change our circumstances and acknowledging that His ways are so far beyond us that he indeed may not. We remind ourselves over and over again that His plan is always best. Even when we don’t understand. What peace there is, knowing we don’t have to understand.

And while we would, of course, never choose the difficulty we’re facing, we draw near to God in such a way as to find some semblance of joy in the midst of the heartache. It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. Joy isn’t dependent on circumstances. It’s dependent only on our level of connection to our glorious Creator. Joy in the midst of pain is illogical and impossible to explain. But it’s real. Oh, but it’s real.

So we pray our way through our difficulties, managing what is in our control here on earth and heavily leaning on God along the way. And our faith—our relationship with our Creator—will never be the same. And for that, we’re thankful.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

When You Just Can’t Catch a Breath

Sometimes we just can’t catch a breath. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the abundance of blessings surrounding us, and it’s not that our faith is gone. It’s just that nothing feels quite settled.

Maybe the news has been beating you down so constantly it has become a mental block. Maybe the circumstances you’ve prayed would change for so long haven’t budged and hope is hanging thin. Maybe the hurt of those around you is piling up and there’s nothing you can do, so you feel overwhelmed.

You know God is powerful and capable, but you also know sometimes circumstances don’t change this side of heaven, so you’re hesitant to expect him to move in a big way. You know prayers get answered, but also sometimes they don’t seem to get answered, so you’re hesitant to pour yourself into prayer.

Maybe the door to *fill in the blank* has been closed so many times, you’d rather not try to open it again than risk finding more pain on the other side.

If any of this rings true, here is my encouragement for you today:

You are enough. You are not deficient. Letting God carry you through the difficulties shows your strength and wisdom as you rely on him. In other words, stop trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. You are not that strong in and of yourself. In his arms is the safest place to be.

God is still good. It’s true. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Emotions often lie or embellish. Emotions can help us gather information about ourselves, but they can’t be trusted without reason, logic, and prayer alongside them. Don’t believe everything they tell you or you’ll only end up hurt.

Your pain, hurt, hopelessness, faithlessness, mistakes…none of that defines you. God defines you. And he calls you:

            – a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

            – God’s child (John 1:12)

            – a friend of Jesus (John 15:15)

            – a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)

            – redeemed and forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)

            – a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

If this is what God says of us, who are we to disagree?

When life feels heavy, don’t retreat. Seek community. Let loved ones help carry your load. Take a step in faith, no matter how small it may seem to anyone else.

And more than anything else, lean into God. Seek silence with him. Create space for him to wrap you in his arms and quietly remind you of his goodness, provision, and love. He’s just waiting for the opportunity to tell you.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and if you haven’t already, I invite you to sign up for my monthly email encouragements – you’ll receive my free historical romance novella (Love on a Whim) if you do!

Dear Weary Christian Parent

Dear Weary Christian Parent,

First of all, the fact that you’re weary shows that you care; that you’re in it for the long haul. So congratulate yourself for loving your children so thoroughly—you’re doing great.

I hope you know you’re not failing just because you got short with your child, forgot that appointment, or yelled when the chaos was too much. You’re human. And when you get real with them and ask your children’s forgiveness, it will likely come with hugs and smiles, just as it does so lavishly from our Father to us.

Don’t forget that you were never meant to “do it all.” Even Jesus had limits and boundaries. He didn’t heal every person in every town he visited. He rested. He sought solace to pray. He didn’t drive himself into the ground trying to be everything for everyone around him; he was human. And he simply kept his focus on where his Father was leading each day. And one more time for those in the back—he rested.

Remember to use your “yes” sparingly and intentionally. Saying yes to something means saying no to other things, be they organic playdates, much-needed family nights, or that alone time with God that you just haven’t managed to squeeze in lately. Whatever you say “yes” or “no” to, pray and think it through. You don’t win any prizes for having your children in the most activities…you only get burned out. Trust me—unless they are future Olympians, your children would much rather have a present, peaceful parent than a shelf full of trophies.

When things feel too hard and you wonder if you’re just crazy (as we all do), remember—parenting IS hard. Culture is against you and your desire to raise godly, moral humans. We are constantly at battle against the evil one who wants to guide our children away from us…away from God. No wonder you’re weary. Christian parenting takes diligence, patience, and lots of grace, and while it’s wonderful and rewarding, it’s also exhausting.

Let Jesus carry you. His strength is unlimited and it’s ours free through the power of the Holy Spirit. Walking in His strength is a pretty incredible privilege in the Christian life. It’s a game-changer.

A few last reminders for battling the weariness. Prioritize sleep as much as possible. Drink more water and less coffee. Laugh more. Carve out at least a few minutes of solitude to sit at the feet of God and lay your day before him, and you won’t regret it. You just might find your weariness being replaced with strength and the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Love,

Jessie

PS—One final thing. Don’t forget that YOU are the parent God decided your child needed. The pairing is purposeful. Move forward with confidence as you guide your child closer to knowing the God of the universe. Also, take a deep breath and calm those racing, worried thoughts. God’s got this. God’s got you.

A Powerful Trip to CANDLES Holocaust Museum

DOES HISTORY REALLY MATTER?

I dreaded history in school. Too many names, dates, and complex events that I didn’t care enough to understand. It all felt like a world away. Insignificant. Boring.

Imagine my surprise when, decades later, historical fiction began calling to me. Not only to read, but to write. As I began researching for a manuscript I was working on, all of a sudden history came alive. It mattered. The boring names were suddenly humans with real personalities and reasons for doing the things they did.

I hope everyone comes to understand just how important history is, for the purposes of knowing where we came from and where we’re going; knowing what to do, what not to do; when to take a stand, and when to let things blow over. We can only discern these things and work together to benefit our families and country when we know how it has all played out before.

THE POWER OF CANDLES HOLOCAUST MUSEUM

I recently visited CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. CANDLES stands for: Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments, and the Center was started by Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, who lived most of her adult life in Indiana. She passed away in 2019, but spent the last thirty years of her life campaigning for forgiveness and hope.

It’s hard to fathom, but true: In Eva’s later life, she officially declared her forgiveness of Hitler—the one responsible for her horrendous childhood. She forgave the Nazis—those who killed most of her family in gas chambers. And more directly, she forgave Dr. Mengele—the Nazi doctor known for performing medical experiments on twin children in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He performed horrific and often deadly experiments on nearly 1,500 sets of twins, including Eva and her twin sister Miriam, when they were nine years old.

The Holocaust should never have happened, and yet it did. Why? Because Hitler understood how to systematically get people to abandon their core beliefs in favor of what he was convincing them to believe. Much of the public gladly went along with his ideas, as you can see in the image below, taken with permission from CANDLES Museum.

And once Hitler had his followers, it was simple to band together and carry out his goal of purging the human race of those he believed to be inferiors: Jews, homosexuals, Roma, disabled, or anyone else deemed an “asocial”. In the image below, also from the museum, you can see the specific, calculated steps involved in accomplishing the goal.

That intense level of dehumanization and trauma affects each Holocaust survivor uniquely, and many live the rest of their lives with unforgiveness in their hearts. I can’t say I blame them.

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

But Eva chose a different path. Eva chose forgiveness. See below to read what forgiveness meant to her:

Maybe we haven’t been traumatized like the Holocaust victims, but we probably all have someone who takes negative residence in our minds and hearts. Someone who makes our anger rise just by thinking about them. We encounter situations time and again that require us to either forgive or live with the frustration that comes with withholding forgiveness.

When we face a person or situation that seems too big to move past, we would all do well to remember Eva, the nine-year-old girl who lived through nightmarish situations most of us can’t even begin to comprehend…and the grown woman who decided enough was enough and finally released the hate, anger, and bitterness in exchange for personal freedom and hope.

We can endeavor to move forward from wherever we feel stuck toward a place of peace and hope. With God’s help, that is. God is the master of forgiveness and fresh starts, and his power resides in us, giving us supernatural strength to do the seemingly impossible—like forgive.

YES, HISTORY DEFINITELY MATTERS

I love the famous quote by George Santayana that says: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” If each of us educates ourselves on history, we will be strengthened and empowered to stand up against whatever the world may throw at us next, and together we can keep history from daring to repeat itself. We can also be empowered to forgive when the world does us harm. This is my prayer for each of us.

HISTORY THROUGH FICTION?

One way I love to engage with history is through historical fiction—it makes past events come alive. Let me recommend two favorites.

Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin is historical romance that tells of the underground resistance in Paris during the Nazi takeover. It’s an incredible story that I highly recommend.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom is a true story and offers lots of awe-inspiring details regarding how her family helped Jews hide out and escape the Nazis, and how Corrie herself survived a concentration camp seeing God’s hand everywhere she looked. This is a remarkable book I wish everyone would read.

And I’d love to share my free WW2 ebook novella, Love on a Whim, with you. You’ll dive into Yvonne’s life on a unique part of the homefront, working at a Canteen, feeding hungry soldiers as they pass through. As she struggles to see where God is leading, a friend’s quick decision just might change her life forever. Just follow the link above, enter your email, and the ebook will arrive in your inbox.

Thanks for reading, and let me know in the comments your thoughts, questions, or what historical fiction book YOU recommend!