A God Who Cares

Tonight was trunk or treat at my church. Usually I work Wednesday nights, but God is so good, and He worked it out so I would be able to go! ❤ (Thanks, Abba!) The theme we were supposed to design our trunks around was 1 Peter 5:7. “Cast all your anxieties on Jesus, because He cares for you.” Because that’s such an important truth for people to know and understand and believe: God cares.

For my trunk I chose Psalm 56:8. I was only able to fit part of the verse on it, but the whole verse reads: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

I was reading in one of the Gospels not too long ago, and it said that Jesus’ heart went out to the grieving widow.

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” ~Luke 7:12-13

When I read that, I remember thinking, Wow. Jesus’ heart goes out to me in my pain. He cares about what makes me cry when I am sad. My tears – your tears – do not go unnoticed. They are caught in His bottle, and He records each one in His book.

And praise the Lord for this next truth, which was highlighted at another trunk this evening:

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, ~Psalm 30:11

We not only have a God who cares about our sorrows and catches our tears,  but who takes away our mourning and turns it into joyful dancing.

God cares about our happiness too, you guys. True happiness, lasting joy, is something that is only found in Him. He doesn’t want us to stay sad, but to rest in the hope we have in Him and what He did for us on the cross. God redeems, restores, heals, provides, loves, lavishes, and cherishes…and that’s only the tip of the iceburg, folks. That’s only the beginning of how much God cares for us.

One of the names of God that I love is Yahweh Shammah, which translates to The Lord is There. God is ever present with us, during everything we go through, as Jesus said, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young. ~Isaiah 40:11

This verse brought tears to my eyes when I read it for the first time, when I pictured what the verse was saying. God, holding me tenderly, holding me close to His heart. He doesn’t hold me at arm’s length or comfort me from afar. He gathers me in His arms and carries me close to His heart.

I can talk to Him about anything – any sorrow, any problem, no matter how small or trivial it may seem, because He cares about all that stuff. He knows every sorrow, and exchanges each one for joy. He lavishes me with love.

And why? Why should God care? Because that’s just how good and loving God is. It’s in His character, and it’s something that will never, ever change. He is a God who cares.

 

Advertisements

What’s Up, Y’all?

What’s up, y’all? 😀 It’s been a month since I announced the upcoming release of my YA novel, Mrs. Willows, but boy, it seems like much longer than that! I have been busy, busy, busy. Nevertheless, I am happy to report that formatting has been finished, the dedication and author’s note have been written, and the cover has been designed. Speaking over the cover, EEEEEP! It is soooooo pretty you guys!! I am in love with it and I cannot wait to share it with you! I will continue to keep you up to date on that as time goes on.

Something else I’ve done this month that I have wanted to do for a long time was make homemade ravioli!! My cousin and I found a recipe from Taste of Home and decided to try it out. Our pasta was a little too thick (next time we’ll have to roll it out thinner, but that’s harder than it sounds) and it probably should’ve boiled for a little bit longer…but other than that, we were very happy with the results! Homemade ravioli has been checked off the bucket list, and next on the agenda is cream puffs…at some point. 😉

I decided to take a leap and try to make a ten-stitch blanket on my knitting loom, and so far it’s going well. I’ve enjoyed loom knitting for two years now (LoomAHat is amazing!) and have made hats, scarves, and dolls. Out of those three, scarves are my least favorite to make just because they take so long. My patience for big projects (or lack thereof) is the reason I put off the ten-stitch blanket for so long. I was afraid that I would start it and never finish, but as of now, I’m pleasantly surprised. It knits up quicker than I thought it would and I’m glad I decided to make each ring a different color. I like anticipating a color change.

My To Be Read pile has grown to…*counts on fingers*…five books. No, actually it’s six. 😛 I just finished Beverly Lewis’ newest release, The First Love, which I enjoyed. Now I have to decide between June Bug by Chris Fabry or The Lost Heiress by Roseanna White. Oh, the hard choices we bookworms have to make!! They’ll all get read eventually, of course, it’s just a matter of what order I’ll read them in… I think I’m leaning towards June Bug. It intrigues me, and my grandma (who has read it twice) said it’s really good. 😀

Also I may have a slight addiction to this game on my phone called Township. It reminds me of Farmville on Facebook, and since Farmville never loads for me anymore, this seemed like a suitable replacement. I think I’m on level sixteen?

Excuse me for this short post, but this past week has felt like two rolled into one, and I am exhausted! I shall bid adieu and wish you a happy last day of September ~ and welcome October! I’m looking forward to corn mazes, apple cider, pumpkin carving (pumpkin seeds! yum!) and hot cocoa. 😀 What are your favorite parts of fall?

E m m a   x o

the Love of God | Bible Study Blog Party

Wowzers, I can’t believe its June already! I hope you’ve all had a great start to your summer. 🙂 To start off my summer blog posts (which are really no different than my spring, fall, and winter posts, except for the fact they’re posted during the summer) I am joining Faith at I Like That on a Bible Study Blog Party. I’m cutting it a little close, seeing as how the party ends on the 9th of June, but better late than never, eh?

Anyway, what is a Bible Study Blog Party? As Faith explained it, it’s where a bunch of bloggers read and study the same passage of the Bible and write about it. I was super excited that Faith chose Romans chapter 8 since Romans has become one of my favorite books in the Bible. 🙂

I’ll be honest here—one of the reasons I’m posting on one of the last days of the party is because I didn’t feel like my post was really coming together. My words weren’t flowing like I wanted them to and I didn’t feel like I really got any great pearls of wisdom to share with y’all.

But you know what? I realize that that’s okay. It’s not about me anyways. It’s not about my words or how eloquently I write. It’s about God and His Word. I’m going to do my best to write what God put on my heart and trust Him with the rest. That’s why I love the promise in Isaiah 55 that says the word of the Lord will never return void—God’s word always accomplishes what He sends it to do!

So, let’s get this party started! Which reminds me—you guys need to go check out Faith’s post for this party! God spoke to her about Romans 8:1 (The there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus verse) and it is so good. Seriously, go read it! 🙂

As I read Romans 8, the part that really popped out to me was verses 31-39, where Paul talks about nothing separating us from the love of God and how we are more than conquerors.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   ~Romans 8:31-39

I realize that is quite a chunk of scripture there, but I couldn’t bring myself to shorten it up. It’s such a wonderful truth to know that nothing separates us from the love of God, and sometimes I think it’s hard for us to grasp. In fact, Paul says in Ephesians…

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ~Ephesians 3:17b-19

God’s love for us is so great we’ll never get to the bottom of it!

Nothing we say or don’t say, do or don’t do, will make God change His mind about loving us. God loved (loves!) us at our worst. Romans 5:8 says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God saw us broken, full of sin and shame, and said “Because I love you, you are worth it.” Jesus bore our sins and brokenness on His body because He desired a relationship with each and every one of us. Why? Because that’s how wide and long and high and deep Christ’s love is for each of us.

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah 3:17

This verse was a big one for me too. Because not only does God love me, He takes great delight in me. And in Isaiah 62:4 it says that the Lord will call His people Hephzibah, which in Hebrew means my delight is in her. I love that. God delights to be with me! He rejoices and sings over me! He loves me because I am His child and there is nothing that can change that.

The Bible is full of verses about God’s love for His people…

I am abounding in love and faithfulness. (Ex. 34:6)

I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jer. 31:3)

My love reaches to the heavens, my faithfulness to the skies. (Ps. 36:5)

My love endures forever. (Ps. 136:26)

My steadfast love will not depart from you. (Is. 54:10)

I loved you so much that I gave my one and only Son to save you. (John 3:16)

And of course there’s many, many more, but do you see a pattern? God’s love for us is boundless, limitless, forever, and complete.

Just because God’s love for us never ends, that doesn’t mean that we can live however we want. Like, “I know God will still love me, so I can do whatever I want.” God is very clear that He wants His people to be set apart from the world. That’s why He calls us peculiar treasures in Exodus 19:5 (KJV) and also that we are not to conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2).

So while it is true that Jesus loves us right where we are at, He doesn’t want to leave us that way. God wants us to surrender our hearts and allow Him to change us to become more Christ-like every day. This heart change isn’t something we accomplish on our own (thank you Jesus!) but something God does in His strength, in His love.

God is a relentless lover. He won’t give up loving you. It doesn’t matter where you are at in life or what you are going through, He loves you. It’s just as Paul wrote all those years ago—nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ❤

❤ Nothing. ❤

When Looking to God for Guidance…

A couple of months ago I asked the Lord, “Okay God, what’s the next step for me?” He had asked me to write a book, so I wrote it. He told me the next step was to edit it, so I did. At the time, I wasn’t sure what my next plan of action was. So…now what?

I needed to ask God for some guidance, an age old question that comes in many different forms: “So, God, what’s next?” or “How do I handle this situation, Lord?” or even, “I’m not sure what to do/say…help!” I opened up my Bible and began to look for verses–and I found a bunch!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29

God promises that when we seek Him with all of our hearts we will find Him. We seek Him by praying and reading the Bible to get to know who He is. God desires to have a relationship with us, and if we desire to have a relationship with Him, He won’t hide. We’ll find Him.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

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

I don’t want to live in a constant state or worry, fear, or anxiety over what I should do next. God doesn’t want us to either! He wants us to live in an attitude of thanksgiving and to present our requests to Him in every situation. He wants to hear from us! God wants us to exchange our worries for His peace.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

When we ask God we’re showing (and acknowledging) that we are dependent on Him. “Hey, God, I don’t know what to do and I need You to show me.” God will give us wisdom when we ask Him for it.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Sometimes we don’t get our answers right away and we need to wait. Sometimes it feels like God is taking forever. I love how Psalm 5:3 says “I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” According to the Google dictionary, expectantly means to wait “with an excited feeling that something is about to happen, especially something good.” Why would we wait in expectation if we knew God wasn’t going to answer? No, we wait expectantly because we know God will answer. It might not be instantaneous, but “be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” He will.

For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end. Psalm 48:14

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will have a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Isaiah 48:17

These are some of God’s precious promises to us. And His promises, no matter how many promises He has made, are “Yes” in Christ! (2 Corinthians 1:20) God will lead!

Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

People place their trust in a lot of different things: other people, money, themselves. We need to place our trust in God, who “does not change like the shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

When times are good and we are flourishing, we need to trust God:

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good. Psalm 52:8-9

When times are rough and we are being refined like silver, we need to trust God:

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let the people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us into a place of abundance. Psalm 66:10-12

God will do what He says, because He is faithful.

God is not a human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4

Trust God for your today, but also trust Him for your tomorrow. No matter what you are seeking guidance for, He will lead you. He is leading you. God takes care of the flowers of the field and the birds in the sky, and He says, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25-34) God will take care of His children.

This God of ours, He is faithful. He bestows wisdom upon those who ask. He is trustworthy. He will not lead us astray; He is our guide, even to the end. He is a God of peace. He is a God of love. Continue to seek Him and cling to His promises. He will answer.

God will guide.

The Selcouth Award

Today’s post is a bookish one. Imagine that, a book post on a bookworm’s blog. Ha! I’ve been tagged by my buddy Sarah @ Forever Aspiring Writer to take part in The Selcouth Award. Selcouth, by definition, means strange, unusual, or rare. They’re supposed to be off-the-wall questions about books, writing, or anything literary. 🙂

Here we go!

1) What is one book you would love to see made into a movie that hasn’t been yet?

First of all, we need to establish that if a book is going to be made into a movie, then it should be true to the book. It’s my belief, as I’m sure many of you bookworms would agree, that if a book is good enough to be movie-material in the first place, then there’s no need to change things. 😉 (I’m very passionate about this.) That being said, I should get off my soapbox and answer the question.

I can think of a few. God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew. (All these links go to Goodreads so you can read what they are about, if you feel so inclined.) I’ve mentioned this book before, but it’s the true story of how Brother Andrew smuggled Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. It’s an amazing book full of God-things. 🙂 If you’ve enjoyed The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, then you should give this one a go.

Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin. I love Lynn’s books and can think of several that would make a good movie…I also think I should reread this book soon. Candle in the Darkness would be another good movie. And finally, I agree with my mum when she said that The Yada Yada Prayer Group by Neta Jackson would make an interesting movie!

2) Have you ever created a character for your story that’s based off you?

Well, there’s Emma from my book, Kozmo and Kiki – A Superhero Story. There was Emma from A Baseball Mystery, before she was renamed to Leana. So I guess you could say the answer to this question would be…yes! And yes, I have also based a character off of me without naming them after me…haha.

3) What is a genre you haven’t written a story in yet, but that you might like to try?

I’ve had this idea for an adventure/fantasy book for years now. I haven’t done anything with it beyond a Pinterest inspiration board, a cover I made in the Paint program, and a file containing my scribblings. It’s not a genre I usually ever read or write, so it tackling it would be a whole new world for me. Maybe someday…maybe not…we’ll see!

4) Name one genre which you just don’t like?

I’m not sure because I haven’t really explored many genres beyond the ones I already read (contemporary, historical fiction, some biblical fiction). Maybe I should expand my horizons?…or not… 😉

5) Have you ever read a book you disliked SO much, yet still read it to the end?

I was reading a series that I really enjoyed, but when I got to the last book…I was so disappointed! I didn’t like it at all. I can’t remember if I read it all or if I skimmed it. Because if I don’t like a book, yet don’t want to give up on it completely, I’ll flip through pages and scan them. I’ve done that a few times before. I haven’t always been like this, but now if I don’t like a book or can’t get into it, I don’t finish it and find a book that I do enjoy–otherwise it’s just a waste of my time.

6) Have you ever joined NaNoWriMo and if not, do you ever plan to?

(National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a 30-day challenge in November to write a 50,000 word book from beginning to end.) I attempted NaNo in 2013 with a friend of mine. The key word there is attempted. I sorely underestimated how hard it was to write 1,667 words a day! I was totally stressed and not enjoying it anymore, so I quit on Day 17.

One of the reasons NaNo didn’t work out for me is that I am an edit-as-I-go kind of writer. I write a few paragraphs or a page before I go back and revise and edit until I’m relatively happy with it. If a scene doesn’t feel right, I stay there until I can address the issue and fix it. Call it the perfectionist in me, but I don’t like to move on if I’m not happy with what I’ve written so far. Unfortunately for me, there’s no time for that during NaNoWriMo. 🙂

Another one of the reasons NaNo didn’t work for me was my lack of plotting. My novel was about a teenage girl whose family, due to unfortunate circumstances, moves to the country to live on a farm and her struggles to adjust. I was so focused on researching things for the farm that I neglected to plan out my actual story. Hahaha…you really need a plan and a good plot line for NaNo. Learned that the hard way!

7) At roughly what age did you start writing your first book (if you have written a book)?

I wrote my first book, The Tryouts, when I was twelve. My main character was Sally Johnson, her best friend, Ann Summers, and I thought it was pure gold. (I also saw no need to go through and edit it after I finished the first draft because I was convinced it was perfect.) I remember Googling about publishing, and I may or may not have added “Have The Tryouts Published” to my Christmas list…

8) Have you ever gone back over your blog and been so embarrassed about a post that you’ve deleted it?

No, I’ve never deleted a post out of embarrassment! The only thing that really sticks out to me is a certain blurry, out-of-focus picture that I used in one of my early-days review posts… *cringe*

EOS Lip Balm

9) Name an author whose books you just can’t get into?

I really just can’t get into Karen Kingsbury. (Sorry to disappoint, all you Karen Kingsbury fans!!) I’ve read four books by her and I think she’s a good writer, but I didn’t fall in love.

10) What author do you think you have read more books by than any other author?

I have read forty-five books by Robin Jones Gunn, author of the two best-selling series, Christy Miller and Sisterchicks. Robin is my favorite author! I fell in love with Christy Miller because they were relatable, had a sweet romance thread, and were full of Jesus. 🙂 I’ve been hooked ever since.

11) Have you ever spoiled the ending of a book for someone while they’re still reading it?

I hope not! I hate spoilers, in movies or books! I try to be conscious of who may not have seen or read a book when talking about things, but sometimes I slip, and if I’ve ever spoiled anything, then I’m sorry!

12) Favourite literary couple?

I’m not good at favorites and I’ve been staring at this question, and the next one, for thirteen minutes short of forever. I try to keep my answers interesting and not say the same thing twice, but I’m going to ignore that rule for a moment. 😉 My favorite literary couple is Christy and Todd from, you guessed it, Christy Miller. 🙂

13) Favourite literary friendship?

I received Lynn Austin’s newest book Where We Belong for Christmas and loooooved it! It’s about two sisters, Flora and Rebecca, as they go on adventures. I love how they look out for and take care of each other. ❤

Okay, now it’s your turn. I want to know:

What is one book you would LOVE to see made into a movie? What is YOUR favorite literary couple or friendship?

Until the next time, folks!

Emma xo

2018… A Brand New Year

As I’m writing this it is almost time for a new year to be rolling in. Man…2018 already? When I look back at ’17 I see a year full of change, where seasons of my life ended and new ones began.

In 2016 I had a list of goals for the year, which I wrote on a piece of copy paper and taped above the light switch in my room so I would be sure to see it every day. It came down when 2016 rolled to close, and was replaced by a poem-type snippet I wrote. I don’t think I want to take it down and replace it. I think it applies to me now more than ever, and so I’ll carry it through 2018. It goes as follows…

Today I will trust

Boldly proclaim in Jesus’ name

Follow His guidance, for God will lead me along

Fear will not live where Love has won

That poem sums up everything that God has been trying to teach me in 2017. He’s taught me a lot about trusting His plan for my life even when our timelines don’t match up. As I’ve grown closer to the Lord, I desire to be a beacon for Christ and share the good news of the gospel with people; to be bold for Christ. It’s hard and sometimes I don’t understand where God is taking me, but I want to follow His lead. And most of all, I do not want to live in fear. Jesus defeated fear. I do not have to be afraid. I can rest in Christ, secure in His love for me.

I don’t know what 2018 holds or what God is going to bring my way, but as the plaque hanging above my desk reads, If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

So what word am I going to carry into the new year, besides my poem? Not entirely sure, but there is one word that has been resonating in my heart lately. Love. My mom bought me a key chain for my birthday a couple of years ago, which I love. It has two words on it: Choose Love. In 2018 I want to love unconditionally; my family, friends, those I interact with at work, and those I meet in everyday life. In 2018 I want to show people the love of Christ through my words, my actions, and my life.

And now, it’s finally here. Happy 2018, everyone. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and bring you peace. And may you love the Lord your God above all else.

Blessings and love, Emma. xo

Gift of Grace

The words, “Are you ready to order or do you need a minute?” have become a common phrase on my lips. In other words, I am a waitress. Last month I began my training, which lasted four days before I was assigned a section of my own. Intimidating? Yes. New and weird? Definitely. There always seems to be an hour where things get hectic. It’s then when, in the midst of the craziness I think, “What on earth am I doing here?!” But then things slow down, and I realize that despite the craziness…I like it.

Last week I had a table with two older women who had a boatload of questions about our menu and our food. Because of their numerous questions, I was under the impression that this was their first time dining at our restaurant. I did my best to answer their questions, but if I didn’t know, I found someone who did. Nevertheless, the whole process was very confusing. It didn’t help that the older of the two ladies was hard of hearing.

In addition to this, my other four tables were full of customers as well, keeping me busy with coffee refills, desserts, and check backs–“Can I get you anything else tonight?” I had just finished delivering another table’s order, onion rings and sandwiches, when the women, whose orders it had taken me several minutes to sort out, flagged me down.

“They’re getting their food already when they were seated after us?” she questioned, confusion and frustration on her face.

I froze. Oh no. I remembered using the computer to check prices for them, but never sending their order to the cooks. “I–I am so sorry,” I stumbled. “I forgot to punch your order in, but–but I’ll do that right now.”

Of course they were upset. I told my manager what had happened and he ended up comping the whole meal for them. “Apologize profusely,” he told me. “They’re not happy at all.” I felt horrible. If this was their first time eating there, I had ruined the experience.

I brought out their pie and no sooner had I set the plates down when the older of the two women pushed a folded $5 bill into my hand. I shook my head as I tried to give it back and tell them no,  I didn’t deserve it–but they wouldn’t listen. She held her hand up as if to say, “the matter is closed and I don’t want to hear any more about it.” All I could do was mumble a thank you and move on. As I cleared my other tables, the word grace echoed in my heart, along with its definition:

An undeserved gift.

It got me to thinking. If I didn’t deserve the $5 tip because of my mistake, how much more do I not deserve the salvation Jesus bought for me at Calvary because of my sin? I’m the sinner, yet instead of giving me what I deserve, Jesus came to earth to atone for what I’ve done. He paid the death penalty for my sin even though He is holy and perfect. Yet that’s not the end. Christ defeated death when He rose from the grave three days later. He’s alive! And having paid the penalty for our sins, God gave us all a gift. Redemption. Salvation. New life.

Grace.

He was delivered over to death for our sins, and raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

It humbled me, to be sure. Not only as a waitress, but as a child of God. The truth was renewed in my heart: He has freely given me what I don’t deserve. That’s just how good and loving God is! Because of this, I am brand new and whole, and I have a renewed relationship with Christ.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God made an exchange: our sin for His righteousness. It’s not fair–it’s love. Pure, unconditional, full-of-grace love that never, ever fails.

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

I could try my best to fix the problem in order to be “good enough” for God, but even my best efforts are like “filthy rags”.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf and our sin blows us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

Not only do I not have to try to be “good enough”, God gives salvation as a gift. It’s not something we earn, it is something we are given out of God’s great love for me, for you, for everyone.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

If we could earn our salvation and our way into heaven, we would be the ones receiving the glory. “Hey, guess what guys! I was good enough for God! I did it!” That’s what Paul means when he says “not by works, so that no one can boast.” If we boast, we should boast in the Lord! “God saved me! God is so good!” The focus shifts from us in all our imperfection, whose best efforts are like “filthy rags” to the One Who is worthy to be praised.  To the God Who spoke the universe into existence and used mud to heal a blind man’s eyes. To the God Whose love and faithfulness lasts forever and ever.

The thing about a gift is that, though it’s there for the taking, it’s not really yours until you accept it. You can stare at the person holding the present out to you all you want, but until you take hold of it and grasp it for yourself, it’s not doing you any good.

God is holding out a gift of grace to you. It’s a gift wrapped in new life, and once you accept it and open up the package, you will see everything that’s inside. There’s forgiveness, redemption, peace, love, freedom, joy…God’s Holy Spirit that comes to dwell within our hearts.

But that’s not even the best part. The best part of God’s free gift is that we will get to spend eternity with Him in the most beautiful place. Heaven. Where the streets are the purest form of gold, and a gate is made of a single pearl. Where we will be able to walk, hand in hand, side by side, with the most beautiful, loving, wonderful Man in the whole universe.

God won’t make you accept His gift, but He hopes with all His heart that you will. He loves you, wants to be with you, and is holding His arms open wide for you.  No matter what you have done or do, God won’t withhold His forgiveness if you ask Him for it.

I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. (Mark 3:28)

All it takes is surrendering. Admit you are a sinner in need of a Savior; lay it all down at Jesus’ feet. Believe in what Jesus did for you on the cross. Invite Him into your heart, and into every aspect of your life.

If you declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

That’s all it takes. To believe, and to act on that belief. And when you do, God sends the Holy Spirit to live in your heart where He changes you from the inside out. From there, you are adopted into God’s family. A precious and most definitely loved child of the King. 

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11)

God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:5)

But to all who believed in Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

God is willing to make each and every one of us new. He yearns to. And God, well, God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He loves us more than that.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)

God wants us all to know how wide and long and high and deep His love is. So wide, so long, so high, so deep, that Christ died for each and every once of us so He could give us a life on earth, forgiven and in renewed relationship with the Father.

So He could give us a life forever, with Him in Heaven.

A gift of grace.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

An Unexpected Adventure – A Guest Post

Hey all! Emma here. I am here with a GUEST on the blog today! My brother Ethan, whom I so frequently refer to as The Bro in my posts, has agreed to share his latest adventure with you all today. This is something I have been hoping to do for a long time, so I am very excited. So without further ado, may I present…


An Unexpected Adventure – by Ethan


Once upon a time, I was bored. And by bored, I mean pretty much every day I have off. Since my hobbies consist of metal detecting, an adventure, or fishing of some sort, there’s not many times I can fulfill my desires because I cannot yet drive and I must rely on someone else to take me.

So with the help of Google Maps I found a pond and it’s the only body of water within feasible bike riding distance. So without hesitation I packed my equipment and fishing pole into my backpack. Luckily the fishing pole broke down into two pieces so it could be transferred safely. I rode like the wind with high hopes that I may have just found a fishing hole.

Once I arrived I realized what I had found. It was, in fact, a hole. What Google Maps did not tell me was that it was a retention pond from the gobs of parking lots surrounding me. My enthusiasm shrank as I was preparing my tackle and readying my pole. This wasn’t quite the paradise I was hoping for.

Though there were fish that I saw, I was targeting bass and as I gazed across the two acre retention pond I realized that the depth was slightly lacking. (Depth is usually a good thing with bass fishing.)

I strapped on a fake minnow and cast it out. It is my go-to bait. Within minutes a bass had started following my lure up to the shore, where I was standing. And then I knew. I had found my heaven on earth.

A few months later…

Once again here I am, bored, on my day off. I had already begged my parents and sister to take me fishing. With no surprise, they said no. Even though my paradise was an answer to prayers, it felt as though the challenge had left because the pond was so small. But as it was my only choice, I packed my tackle into my backpack. I returned to the pond in hopes of catching a bass worthy of mentioning.

I had walked around and fished half the pond with no success, when finally, I was able to outsmart one of the bass and haul it in. It was no trophy, being sixteen inches and two and a half pounds, and it only partially fulfilled my craving for fishing. I released the bass when another fish came up out of nowhere.

I quickly changed my lure for another presentation when I heard rustling in the leaves. I had seen a bird earlier so I glanced over my shoulder, but the foliage was too thick to see anything. I was having difficulty changing lures and again I heard rustling in the leaves next to me. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

It was a skunk.

Among the many expeditions I have undertaken, never once have I encountered a skunk so close. It was five feet away, under a bush. I was startled by the white-striped mammal and immediately I dropped my pole and, faster than a bolt of lightning, ran along the trail. I thought it inevitable that I would be taking a bath in tomato juice but to my surprise he didn’t spray. I stopped about thirty feet later, to make sure I was out of range. I had never felt so hunted in my life as I realized it was following me. I yelled and threw a branch near it to try and scare it away, but my attempts were futile. It kept walking along the same path as I, with its own signature waddle.

This saying has never been more true to me: Between a rock and a hard place. On one side there was the retention pond I hoped never to enter. On the other, an eight foot chain link fence, lined with barbed wire. I was truly trapped. With one way to go and the path not wide enough to go around the skunk, I had to simply retreat farther down the trail. It seemed that nothing would stop this juggernaut. (And the definition of juggernaut would be, a massive force, not to be persuaded, moved, or stopped.)

Having retreated all the way, I finally got to the point where it was wide enough to hide in the bushes, hoping it would pass. As I stood in the bushes, not only had the skunk lost sight of me, but I lost sight of it. Thinking I had outsmarted it and it would walk by, I stood there for a while. I couldn’t help but entertain thoughts of the furry ninja sneaking up and ferociously attacking me. With every passing moment I expected to get a closer look at this animal, but it didn’t happen.

Once I realized it wasn’t coming I stepped back out onto the trail. I crept up to where I last saw it and it had vanished. With my experience in the woods I had not forgotten to look up. Yes, up–into the trees. It was no surprise that it hadn’t ventured upward, but I wanted to check, just to make sure. Better safe than sorry.

With further investigation I stumbled upon a hole in the ground. It was in fact the only hiding place that the skunk could be. I deemed it wise to end my investigation there, as provoking the skunk any more, might have resulted in a foul stench on the ride home. I placed a stick over the hole so that I’d know if it crept out again. I hustled to where I’d ended my fishing expedition and packed up. The stick had not been moved, and I made it safely back to the bike, and headed home.

The moral of the story would be: There’s always the chance of adventure in anything that you do, even if you’ve done it over and over again for months.


Thank you Ethan for being a guest on my blog! I hope y’all enjoyed the post. We had a lot of fun putting it together! If anyone has any questions or comments, comment below and Ethan will answer for you. 😉 Ciao! ❤

Save

Faith Over Fear

I am in a new season of life, and it’s scary. I am not a person who is overly fond of change. I’ve grown quite comfortable in my little bubble. The past week and a half, and especially the past three or four days, have been hard. God is leading me on a path that I hadn’t planned on taking. I’ve prayed–my parents have prayed–my friends have prayed–that God would lead me and make His way clear. And He has.

It still hasn’t been easy for me. Too often I have been swimming in fear. Everything has happened so quickly, much faster than I had ever expected. I was letting myself get worked up over all the unknowns, the things that could happen. Allowing myself to dwell on “I don’t want to do this. I am not going to be good at it. I can’t do it.” Was I putting on my belt of truth? No, I wasn’t. I was believing a lie instead of God’s truth, and it was keeping me in a place of discouragement and overwhelming fear. Where was my hope? My joy? It was gone, because I was too busy focusing on fear. But what has God said, over and over again?

Do not be afraid. I am with you. Do not be dismayed, I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Is. 41:10)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged, for I am the Lord your God. (Josh. 1:9)

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. (Is. 43:2)

I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)

Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:20) 

I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Duet. 31:6)

Let me fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Me, so you may overflow with hope in the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13)

I am always with you. I hold you by your right hand. (Ps. 73:23)

My joy is your strength. (Ne. 8:10)

Take captive all your thoughts and make them obedient to Me. (2 Cor. 10:5)

YES!!!!!!!!!!

THOSE are God’s promises to ME! To you! 2 Corinthians 1:20 says that for no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

We don’t HAVE to be afraid. God is WITH us.

Do I believe it?

Yes. I do. Because I will CHOOSE to have faith over my fear. I will CHOOSE to believe that God is working out HIS purpose for my life. He is holding me, He is with me, He is so very near to me, even when I felt like He was far away. God is not limited by time, as we are. He is working ahead of us, preparing the way for us. He is not apart from this, where I am at right now. He is very much involved.

My God is an AWESOME God. I was losing sight of what truly mattered–Jesus. I was neglecting to keep my eyes focused on my King and Savior, my wonderful, beautiful, all-powerful Jesus. When I lost sight of Who God is, I began to stumble, just like Peter, when he was walking on water, began to sink when he looked away from the Lord. I became focused on my circumstances, and not the Author of my story.

I was neglecting to remember the TRUTH that has been hidden away in my heart. The truths that I do not have to be afraid. If my God is for me, who can be against me? My Jesus LOVES me! He wants what is best for me!

My Jesus. My Jesus loves me so much. He died on the cross to SAVE me. He turned the cross–a symbol of death–into a symbol of HOPE. What crazy, in-depth kind of love is that?!

And the most wonderful thing is, guys…He didn’t just do this for me…He did it for you.

Because everything that I have mentioned here, God’s great love for me, how He will never leave me, will always hold my hand…

Guys, this is all for you too. This is for everyone.

God loves YOU. He wants YOU to live in FAITH and not FEAR. He doesn’t want you to be crippled by fear, scared to move and afraid of what is going to happen next. True, we don’t know what is going to happen in life, but God does. God does. And if God knows, do we really have to? Isn’t it enough to trust? Because when I look back at my life, at those times where I thought There is no way this is going to work out, I see where God has done powerful and wonderful things.

There are verses in the Bible about Jesus refining us as silver is tried. (Ps. 66:10) What does that mean? I found this video on Facebook, which I will share at the bottom of the post for those interested. But the short version in words is, when silver is being refined, the refiner has to sit, keep an eye on it, and make sure that the fire is not too hot. And he knows the silver is done when he can see his reflection in it.

Wow.

What a beautiful word picture. When God says He is refining us like silver, He is saying that He is using the fires we walk through to make us more like Him. He’s using those scary, painful experiences for good. The hard times I went through made me more like Jesus. They brought me closer to Him, and I trust Jesus that He will continue doing that, if I continue to keep my eyes focused on Him and Who He is, and allow Him to do the work in my heart.

It’s easy to let fear have free reign. I know, because that’s what I’ve lived with for the past three days. It’s not fun. But when fear is bigger than your faith, go to God. Go to His Word. Cling to His promises. Look back on all that God has done, because He has done so much.

When I think back, I remember all the times God has healed.

I remember when God has provided.

I remember when God has redeemed friendships that I thought were gone.

I remember when God has closed one door, and me being so upset…because at the time, I had no idea what God was working on in the background. And now, I am so thankful, and have been so blessed…because He knew what was best.

I look back and see what God has done…

and I have faith.

That the God Who did all of that in my past, is doing the same thing in my present, and in my future.

I will choose to have

Faith

over

Fear.


 

Save

A Flamingo Flocking Adventure

Before I can share on my most recent adventure, I should make sure everyone knows what I’m talking about so we’re all on the same page. Flamingo Flocking. Have you heard of it? People place a bunch of plastic yard flamingos in a someone’s yard with a sign that says “You’ve Been Flocked!” The recipient of these birds must then give money to a fundraiser or a charity before the birds will be removed from their yard.

PC: Amazon

For the month of July a group of us has taken to flocking our friends. Our flock is rather puny. Twenty birds. Three of them don’t have stakes. One of them doesn’t have a head. But that’s the best we could do.

And what would you know–we got flocked! You’d think that maybe we’d get a free pass, but no. All in good stead because after all, the money we’re raising is going for a good cause. Since the Bro and I are a part of the group responsible for the flocking, we get the pleasure of moving the birds to a house of our choice. Oooh, the possibilities…we pondered over this for a while, and then picked our victim.

Late Wednesday night the Bro and I drove out to our victim’s house, pink birds in tow. Upon arrival we saw that they were still up, watching TV. We’d have to make sure that they didn’t see us. We parked the car on the side of the road, and just as I was about to close my door, I hear from the Bro,

Don’t lock the car! Do you have the key?”

The reason for the Bro’s inquiry would be this: I have a history of using the button inside the door to lock the car, not the actual key. The members of my family live in a constant state of worry, wondering if I’ll ever accidentally lock the key in the car this way. Of course we all know that I would never do a thing like that. I, of course, had the key safely in my front pocket.

We gathered the birds and crept into our victim’s yard. This was our first time flocking a house, but we knew enough to wear all black. Still, we were careful to move slowly and hunched over so we didn’t give ourselves away. Totally ninja. We decided that we would only take a few birds at a time, sneak up to the house, plant them, and return for more. By doing this we could be sure we wouldn’t make a bunch of racket trying to untangle the birds’ necks from each other.

It was good fun, sneaking back and forth. Also a little disconcerting when I thought about the fact that we were this close to their house and they didn’t know we were there. We staked our flock in their front yard, and I even put one of the stake-less ones on the front porch. Our mission accomplished, Ethan and I decided to run back to our car and git outta there.

On the run back I checked my pocket to make sure I had the key. The pockets in my jeans are so shallow, it’s ridiculous. But yup, the key was still there. Good to go.

I slowed to a walk, panting from the exertion, as we crossed the road to our car. I reached into my pocket for the key…and it wasn’t there. I checked my other pocket, and my back pockets as well. I had just had it, but now it was gone!

I ran my hand through my hair. “I don’t have the key,” I told my brother. I shook my head in disbelief.

“Yeah you do,” he replied. Pretending I don’t have the key had been a prank I’d pulled on him several times, albeit, unsuccessfully. Except this time I wasn’t joking.

No,” I said, “I’m not joking. I don’t have the key.”

Not only was it dark outside, but their yard was also huge. Huge-huge. Hard-to-find-a-key-in-the-daytime-let-alone-at-night-huge. Was this really happening?!

“I did have it,” I said. “I checked before we started running. It must have fallen out while we were running.”

Well, we had to find it, but we couldn’t do it without a light of some sort. I was the only one who had a phone so I turned on the flashlight. It was bright! I tried to shade it with my hand so that our victims wouldn’t see the light out their window. We’d been successful up to this point and we couldn’t get caught now, not while we were looking for the car key lost somewhere in their yard!

“Where did you lose it? Where were you running?” We tried to backtrack as best as we could. The flashlight on my phone was too bright and I worried that they would see the light so I turned it off and used the light that came from the screen instead.

“I think…I think I was over here.” I moved to the right a bit and continued walking forward, towards their house, in search of the little black and silver key.

Then miracle upon miracles–less than five minutes into our search I bent over and picked up the key lying in the grass. “I got it!”

“Oh my gosh. Good. Let’s go!”

Gripping the key tightly in my hand, we booked it back to the car and hopped in. We heaved big sighs in relief. “I can’t believe that just happened,” I said.

“How could you lose it?”

I told him how it fell out of my pocket, then I added, “Wouldn’t it have been funny if I’d locked the phone in the car too?”

Save