I've been spending the past month making plans for 2019.
I know some people like to make resolutions. (Guilty of making and breaking many resolutions). So nowadays, I'm more likely to make "plans" instead of "resolutions."
I know not all my plans will work the way I'm hoping, but by laying down a few dreams, the possibilities begin to come to light and hope springs inside of my heart.
How many of you are already thinking about the year to come? Are your calendars already purchased? Planners filled with fresh pages and ready to go? Goals, or perhaps resolutions, written down. Maybe this year we’ll make it to March before scraping them? Ha.
This morning as I was having my quiet time, I was reading the first chapter of the book of James. Here is a book that packs a big wallop. Our Bible study group decided to go through James for the next two months and after three days, I've only managed 12 verses! Yikes!
Today, I read verse 12: Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (NIV)
I wish that I'd come across this verse while I was working on the last Lavender Vale Farm book, Blessed Gifts, because this would have fit the theme and Ben Brown's dilemma perfectly. Ben is faced with making a rather difficult choice which boils down to taking the easy way, or taking the hard way.
The easy way has it's perks, but it's the hard way that the Lord promises is where we will find our true reward. Which is guess is why James said, Blessed is the man who...
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
I lift up my eyes to the MOUNTAINS--
where does my help come from?
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
Declares the Lord.
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
Sorrow clamped its thick hand around her throat, threatening to strangle her.
There's a major problem with that line of thinking. And if you find yourself tripping along that trail, I implore you to stop in your tracks. Freeze right there. Take a deep breath. Gather in your rampant, raging, emotions. And stop listening to the enemy's lies.
Truth is, bad things happen. And being good doesn't shelter you from the storms in this life. It rains on the wheat and the weeds. Being good, or seeking perfection is like trying to catch the wind. I'm sorry, but we were created to be human, we were given free will to make choices. We will, and do, make bad choices.
But God has that covered. No matter what calamity smacks us upside our silly heads, God has a provision in place. Jesus said so himself: Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26)
That last part... Are you not much more valuable than they? God see's value in us. He loves us. And He is good. So as C.S. Lewis says-
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:9
It's realizing that God in his infinite love, extended grace to his children and in return, when we lovingly give our lives back to him, we are washed clean and have a inner desire to show with our lives how much we value that grace and adoration he bestows on us.
In that little clip above I shared from my book Snow Belle, Haley had her big dreams and was charging full force to make them happen. I've been there. I have. I've made a decision on something I wanted to make happen and I ran full speed after it, only to end up tripping and falling on my face. A wasted year. Wasted money on something I was never meant to do in the first place. I could have bemoaned my bad luck, but deep down I knew what happened. I let go of my Guardian's hand. I picked my own path, never consulting God and asking what He had for me.
As Haley ends up finding out as the series progresses, God had bigger and better Grand Ideas in store for her. How can I write that? Because I've lived that. Once I stopped running, dropped my sword and shield and turned to face my Heavenly Father, my good and loving Father, I realized he had been hanging on to a big package for me; something even better than I could have imagined.
Don't be fooled, my friends. God loves you. He has a path established for each and every one of you. Not because he thinks your good or because you can do fabulous stuff. No. Because He loves you and wants good things for you. Open your eyes and see His goodness. It's all around us. If we'll only open our spirits to His promises.
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.
“Lord, when I feel that what I'm doing is insignificant and unimportant, help me to remember that everything I do is significant and important in your eyes, because you love me and you put me here, and no one else can do what I am doing in exactly the way I do it.”
― Brennan Manning, Souvenirs of Solitude: Finding Rest in Abba's Embrace
Don't forget that Raining Fools is still available for the special introductory price of $1.99 until November 1st. Here's a little bit about the next story in this fun sweet romance series.
Bekka Winters hung up the phone. Ethan, her brother, needed her help filming a music video for his new music production studio. She stared at her already packed bags. Why not? She’d just graduated from college and didn’t exactly have a job to go to. Besides, a music video might look good on her resume when she looked for real work.
Stephen Gaines couldn’t believe Ethan had called him after their last blow up. They’d been music partners once. Stephen had ruined that. It was his expertise to wreck relationships especially those he had with women. Fortunately, Ethan didn’t know about him and Bekka. She was the one woman that had broken through to the deep parts of his heart. If only… how many times had he said that in the past? A fresh start is just what he needed.
Bekka’s mind bubbled with ideas for Ethan’s studio. Not to mention she couldn’t wait to see Ethan and Haley, the woman who’d captured her brother’s heart. But when she pulled into the drive and saw the familiar fancy car that Stephen drove, her heart dropped. There was no way she’d let him back into her life.
One of the first songs I learned, and many other children will learn, was Jesus Loves Me. My mom used to tell people that whenever I'd get in trouble, I'd start singing about how Jesus loved me and she'd be hard put to punish me. She said I sang it all the time, and my grandparents testified to that fact.
I was only a toddler at the time, but there's something profound about a child clinging to that very basic fact and belting it out when the situation became dire.
When I was in trouble: Jesus loved me.
When I was alone: Jesus loved me.
What I was playing: Jesus loved me.
Even when I was up to mischief, he still loved me.
I think I understand why Jesus told his disciples that unless they became like a child, they would never be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven. The older I get, the more I understand what he meant.
As we age, the world plagues us with lies about us, doubts about our abilities, fears of the unknown, and conflicting facts about right and wrong. As I've grown, I've found I tend to loose fact of that one simple truth: Yes, Jesus love me. YES, Jesus loves me. Yes!!! Jesus loves me because that's what the Bible tells me is so.
In my stories, I've gotten a bit of flack over how my characters dumbly leave the path time and again. I might not be able to defend myself on the reviewers sites, but I can here. Let me ask, just a general question to those of you who are reading this... Have you always stayed right on course? Have you never made bad decisions? Have you never doubted where you were going or sought for an easier way?
I know for a fact I can not answer yes to any of those questions. I've gone off course too many times to count. I've let fear rule my steps instead of God's word. And I've often sought the easier way rather than the true way. I forgot that basic, simple truth I knew when I was just a toddler: That Jesus loves me and he has me. The Bible is full of promises that God has my life in his hands when I hand it over to him.
So yeah, I'm going to write stupid characters who do humanly stupid things. I firmly believe that since God created us to be human, when he could have created us to be anything else, He honestly doesn't mind when when we act the part. Our humanness, our dumb decisions, our miserable mistakes and our troubled thoughts are what creates a basic need for Him. In all our humanness, he's able to pull us in and cover us in his arms of grace.
From a recent reviewer:"What I also love about the books is the realism among the characters. They are flawed, yet hidden inside of them are great strengths that even the enemy fears! This story truly teaches us that wherever (we) are in our "journeys" called life, when we trust in the One who guides us and remain on "the Path", no matter the trials, we will reap the rewards at the end, and meet our King face to face!"
“Jesus loves me! This I know,
Jesus Loves Me didn't start off as a song. It started nearly 450 years ago as part of a story. But the scene that this song or poem was in, resonated so deeply with people that William Batchelder Bradbury turned it into a hymn. And today, these profound verses remain with us.
Through all that, He loves us... if we'll let Him. If we'll only believe that. As I child I truly did believe that. Wholeheartedly. As an adult, I have to fight to keep that child-like faith that despite life's difficulties, despite my mistakes, that promise still remains true.
Whether you read my fantasy or romance stories, I hope that message comes through loud and clear. No matter what, you are loved. No matter what.
I'm leaving a couple of videos for you. Words that spoke to my heart and continue to speak and uplift my spirit. If you have time, take a listen.
Blessings and Peace and remember to be kind of one another.
My life has been set on a course. I no longer question or argue about the direction I believe the Lord has set me on. In my books, I write about walking the Path. Why? Because, I've struggled to find mine, and even more, have struggled to stay on it.
You think Alyra is bad about wandering off?
I write her that way she is for a reason. And yes, I'm chuckling as I'm typing this.
In my life, I can be walking (strutting) along just fine, doing my thing, working hard on my books, taking care of my family, and just living life. But then things (life, writing, family, ect) comes to a curve, or begins to turn upward disappears into the misty heights. And I'll stumble. I hesitate. I swear, it never fails.
Really, what's that about, anyway? Those annoying curves, and dips, and ... stuff?
I stop and throw up my hands in frustration. Now what? This isn't in my "Plan". You know? I even cry and kick dirt clods around in my frustration.
What I should do, and wish I would without hesitation, is to just keep going. It sounds so simple. But it's not. At least, not in the midst of a temper tantrum. (I'm chuckling again- because we know when we're kicking and fussing, there's no walking going on.)
When I finally sit down beside the road to think things over (pout and groan) I end up coming to the same staggering conclusion: Jesus endured so much more. SO much more.
And if I really knew him as I should, then I would keep going. And not allow myself to get bogged down with dragging along a load of junk (questions and insecurities). Nor would I falter and trip when I'm unsure about where that next turn will lead me.
I'd know he only has my best interest at heart. If I would keep my eyes on him, and not the twisting turns, or the fog that makes it hard to see ahead, then I'd be able to accomplish amazing feats because he's right there leading and cheering me on.
Come on. He's a good God. Don't you agree? He's a good God who has good plans, good purposes, good thoughts for us.
No, it's not a straight road I need. The things that hinder aren't necessarily the circumstances of my life. Nor are they always rooted in sin. More often, they stem from my faulty beliefs, my thought processes, and the fears and doubts I've allowed to clutter my heart.
Doubts concerning who I'm serving and who I am in the Lord will drag down my spirit.
Fear stemming from a disbelief in His truths that I can find in the Bible if I'll only take the time to look.
Both attach to my heart and cause my steps to flounder.
These things must be cast aside so I can run with endurance, as Jesus did on a daily basis. Even when he faced the cross. I don't have to face a cross, or humiliation, or even death. Normally, I'm just trying to make it through an average day, week, and month.
With him, all things are possible. With him, listening to him, spending time and getting closer to him, nothing can hinder me. I'll know I'm a daughter of the living God. And in that, I can stand firm. I can walk with confidence, even when the path ahead isn't clear and the terrain becomes a little rough.
Father God, remind me of the things that hinder me from being all you've created me to be. Help me to cast them aside so I can run with less resistance. May I keep my eyes on you. Not the mile markers. Not the turns. Only you. I pray that my focus will be on you first, so everything else can just fall into place. Amen.
Well, unless I'm busy and forget. That happens.
Hope you enjoy them. Leave a comment if you do.
Blessings and Peace - Be a light in your world, wherever that is.
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.
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