Stars and Yard Lights

purple sky

Dear Friends,

When I was in quarantine, it was dangerous for me to go outside during the day. My neighbors knew my condition–and they tried to be considerate—but they had to live too. When I’d stick my nose out my door, it seemed there was always a ditch being burned or a lawn being mowed. Since I couldn’t always go out during the day, I took to wandering by night. At 2 a.m., the road in front of my house was deserted, and I could walk to my heart’s content. The pitch dark of deep night became my time of freedom.

purple stars

Everything is quiet late at night, and the stars are spectacular. Since I wasn’t in danger of being run over, I’d walk down the middle of the road with my face tipped up toward the sky and look at the constellations. I’d always been interested in astronomy, but I’d never had the time to study it. Now, I had all the time in the world. I learned the names of stars and memorized facts concerning them. With my telescope, I found nebulas and watched moons orbiting the planets. Stargazing was something I enjoyed. However, something I did not enjoy was the stress that seemed to define my existence.

One night as I walked down the dark lonely road, all of my worries and fears rose up to haunt me. As my footsteps echoed against the pavement, I began rehashing all of my problems. I didn’t bother looking up at the stars–my eyes were glued to the shadowy outlines of my tennis shoes. I felt old and worn out. I felt exhausted. Life simply wasn’t fun anymore.

horsehead neb

As I contemplated all my gripes and lined them mentally up in a neat little row, I heard God’s soft, gentle voice deep in my spirit. It wasn’t audible, but it was powerful. He simply said, “Which lights are the brightest?”

I cocked an eyebrow and looked around. God’s question didn’t make much sense, but I was willing to play along. After all, it wasn’t like I had anything better to do. I surveyed the dark countryside, spotting the yard lights down by the barn and the yard lights speckling my neighbors’ properties. I finally decided that the yard light up on the hill was the brightest.

Even as my answer formed in my brain, God spoke again. “Look up.”

night sky

I stopped and looked up at the stars. It was a clear night, and I could see the Milky Way galaxy spiraling in an elegant swoop. Shaking my head, I mumbled in a grumpy voice, “The yard light on the hill is brighter.”

Even as I spoke, I felt God smile. A warm peace ran through my body. God said one simple word, “Really?”

I blinked and looked back up at the stars. Even though they were tiny specks, I knew they were much larger than a light bulb. I was looking at them with the wrong perspective. As I continued thinking, I started to connect the dots. The things that I was so worried about, were they just like the yard light up on the hill? The yard light looked bright because I was close to it, but I could easily hold it in my hand. I couldn’t hold a star if I tried.

pleiades

As I continued walking, I began to ponder my nice, orderly, lined-up gripes. Were they really as incredibly important as I was making them out to be? Would I even remember what they were a few years down the road? Maybe my focus was wrong. Maybe I needed to turn my attention to things that really mattered. As I kicked a pebble down the road, I sighed and whispered, “But what really matters?”

The answer came back softly and gently in my spirit. God said simply, “Me.”

 

“I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained…O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth” Psalm 8:3, 9

blue moon

 

Advertisements

Angela Shaffer–Author Interview

Angela

Dear Friends,

Today, I’m delighted to introduce you to Angela Shaffer—a wonderful woman that I’ve known practically my whole life. Angela and I grew up attending the same church in Colorado. Throughout the time I’ve known her, I’ve been impressed by her sweet spirit. She is one of the nicest people anyone could ever hope to meet! I’ve always known that Angela is extremely talented—musical ability simply runs in her veins—so you can imagine how excited I was to learn that she’s also become a writer! Her devotional, Spoken For, was released in August, and as soon as it hit the shelves, I bought a copy. I’m so glad that I did. It was deeply moving, and it really spoke to my heart. I’m proud to be able to say that I knew Angela “back when!” And it is such a treat to welcome her to my blog!

Danele: Angela, I’m so excited about your book, and I’m happy to have you with us today!

Angela: Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me.  It is an honor and a pleasure!

Danele: Thank you, it is for me as well! Well, let’s jump right into things. Can you tell us when you gave your heart to Christ?

Angela: I was very blessed to be in a family that has always served the Lord.

Danele: That’s true! Your dad was one of my Sunday school teachers, and your mom played the piano during our services. Your family is simply the salt of the earth.

Angela: Thanks! I grew up in the church, but having said that, it wasn’t until I was 30 that I fully gave my life to Christ. Up until then I knew about God, and I had read the Bible, but it was more about religion than relationship.

Danele: I can understand that. Sometimes people who grow up “knowing” about God still haven’t truly met Him. When did things turn around for you?

Angela: In my college years and beyond. I tried so many things to make me happy but nothing ever made me feel complete.  For a short time I left the church.  My life changed when I started focusing on reading the Bible chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse. I began focusing on having a real relationship with Christ.  I knew about the Lord, but I didn’t really come to know the Lord until that time.  I was tired of living my life my way.  I knew I had to change, and that change needed to be surrendering everything to Jesus Christ.

Danele: That’s so beautiful, Angela! Surrendering to Christ, and reading the Bible, are keys to faith. Psalm 119:105 says that the Bible is a lamp unto our feet and a light for our path. When we read it, God just seems to reveal Himself. I love studying His word.

Angela: So do I. I feel the presence of God so much during those quiet times.  I shut off all the outside noise, open my Bible and study, asking the Lord to speak to me and reveal what He wants me to learn.  It’s my prayer time after studying that I love the most.  I feel like the arms of God are wrapped around me. It’s like He is smiling down on me, and all I can do is thank Him and worship Him.  It’s when I am praising the Lord–no matter what I am going through–that I feel the closest to Him.  There is absolutely no other feeling in the world that compares to being in the presence of the Lord.

Danele: That’s so true, and you’ve explained it so well. Some people have told me that God is boring or that He isn’t real. But He IS real.  He is alive. And basking in His presence is such a beautiful thing. You’re right, absolutely NOTHING compares to it! My whole world can be in turmoil, my body can be in pain, but when I’m sitting quietly at the Lord’s feet I feel such peace and love. When I’m with Him, I know everything is going to be just fine.

Angela: I love my prayer time. Sometimes it is so hard to open my eyes and go on with my day because I want to stay in that moment with Him.

Danele: Me too! God is ABSOLUTELY AWESOME!!! He not only spends time with us, but He also instructs us. Has God ever taught you an eye-opening lesson?

Angela: He sure has. I was very good at putting up a front and letting people think that everything was okay.  Little did many know that I was desperate, depressed, and looking for any way out of this life.  When I was at my lowest point, a friend at church pulled me aside to speak with me.  In the past, the few people I had spoken to about my issues would always allow me to feel sorry for myself and allow me to play the victim.  After listening to what I had to say, this friend told me in a very loving way that I was being selfish and that this was not the life God had in store for me.

Danele: Wow! I’ll bet that was hard to hear!

Angela: I was shocked that she would accuse me of such a thing! I had never been labeled as selfish before.  After going home I could not get her words out of my mind.  I prayed to God, asking Him to please show me how I was being selfish. I wanted to see what my friend was seeing.  As I began searching the scriptures, and really studying the Bible, God opened my eyes.  It was my friend’s comment–the comment that had offended me at first–that made me take a good look at myself.  It caused me to change my way of thinking.  Rather than thinking of what I wanted and how I thought my life should be, I began to think of my situation in terms of the way Christ saw me.  I’m so thankful my friend cared enough to give me the truth.  Her honesty, and her love for me, brought me closer to the Lord and brought me out of my depression.  The world today teaches us to be focused on ourselves–what we want and what we think we need–rather than focusing on the Lord and surrendering to His will.  The Lord has taught me that His will is so much better than mine. He has taught me that letting go of my desires actually brings joy and peace into my life.

Danele: Angela, you are really touching my heart! I know that there are people out there who are hurting today. What would you like to say to them?

Angela: I would say to anyone who is hurting that Jesus is the only answer.  The Lord does not promise us an easy life when we become saved.  As matter of fact, He stated that we will face trials and tribulations.  When we turn to Jesus, and fully surrender ourselves to Him, there is a huge burden lifted off our shoulders.  It is then that we stop relying on ourselves and rely on the strength of Christ, knowing that we are not alone and that He has already overcome this world.  The pain you are feeling is very real, but it is temporary, and we need to keep an eternal perspective.  One day we will be with the Lord, and we will be able to say that it was worth it all.

Danele: That’s so true, Angela! Thank you for those wonderful words! Now, can you tell us a little about your writing?

Angela: I recently published a devotional called Spoken For. This devotional came out of a need I felt as a single Christian. Many of the books I had come across were only focused on how to find that “right” spouse.  Even though I looked, I had a hard time finding books that let me know that being single was not a curse–that it was actually a gift from God.  After confirmation through three godly people in my life, I wrote my devotional. Spoken For contains 200 excerpts, each with two verses. It focuses on a relationship with Christ, trusting God’s will and His timing, and knowing that where we are at this moment is exactly where He wants us.

Danele: It really is a beautiful devotional. Can you share a purchasing link?

Angela: Sure. My book is available on amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Spoken-Devotional-Singles-Angela-Shaffer/dp/1515202607/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1444771529&sr=8-2&keywords=Spoken+For

Danele: Angela, thank you for being with us today! Having you on my blog was such a delight.

Angela: Thank you so much for this opportunity to share my heart and to speak with you.  This has been a great blessing!

 

Friends, Angela Shaffer is such a beautiful person. Her love for the Lord shines through in everything she says and does. If you would like to learn more about her, or if you would like to contact her personally, you can follow the links below. I hope you have a wonderful day!

https://www.facebook.com/SpokenForShaffer

a-shaffer@live.com

Does Jesus Really Matter?

purple surise

Dear Friends,

My illness made me question everything I knew about God. Through observing nature, I finally decided that God did exist, but the next question I struggled with was does Jesus really matter? Before I became sick, I would never have asked a question like that, but my suffering made me angry, and I was finished pussyfooting around and being polite. I was mad, and I wanted answers. I knew what the Bible said. I had John 14:6 memorized, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” The idea that Jesus was the only way to heaven was a reoccurring theme throughout the whole Bible. It was a message that I had once wholeheartedly believed and even taught. But now I was starting to question it.  It wasn’t just my hurt and anger that was causing me to doubt—it was also my desire to “get even” with God. In my opinion, God allowed an awful illness to strike my body. I was furious, and I wanted God to know it, and if doubting Jesus got my point across, I was happy to do it. And I’m not the type of person to do anything by halves.

lake 3With the question of Jesus’s importance burning in my brain, I decided to start examining what I believed. I couldn’t get around the scriptures–after all the scriptures are undeniably clear. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the father: but he that acknowledgeth the Son, hath the Father also.” (1 John 2:23). Since I couldn’t figure out a way around the scriptures—and I was too exhausted to try–I simply put my Bible in a drawer and chose to ignore it. Besides, I wanted to look at things without religious-colored glasses. I wasn’t going to deny the existence of Jesus—there was too much historical data to do that. I wasn’t even going to deny the fact that Jesus did miracles. I was simply going to deny Jesus’s deity and the fact that I needed to ask Him into my heart to go to heaven.

Back when I was in college, my classmates held huge debates about God. Many of my friends felt that all roads lead to heaven. They felt that it didn’t matter if you believed in Jesus–all you had to do was be a relatively nice person and believe in God. Thinking back over those old discussions, I went into my bedroom and closed the door. Looking up at the ceiling, I said in a voice that was full of undeniable hurt, “Okay, God. I’ll concede the point that you’re real. But for now, I’m not going to believe in Jesus. I’ll get back to you if I change my mind.” My prayer was rude and to the point.

lake 6For the next several months, I thought about Jesus. I thought about how much I used to love Him. I thought about the Sunday school lessons I had taught about Him. I thought about how unshakable my faith used to be. I also thought about all of the other “good” ways people had come up with to get into heaven. Some days, I would just sit and stare off into space and think. I had lots of time to do that—I was in so much pain that I couldn’t do much else. I had charley horse knots up and down my entire body, and my toes were being pulled so hard by muscle spasms that they were trying to curl beneath my feet.

Golden treesThere is something clarifying about pain. It brings things into perspective pretty quickly. You don’t have much time for nonsense when you’re hurting. I think it was actually my pain that made up my mind about Christ. Even though my Bible was physically in a drawer, the Word of God refused to be locked away. Scriptures that I had memorized continued to resurface. The verse I thought about most was 1 John 4:7. If 4:7 was right, and God was love, how could a loving Father allow Jesus to be nailed to the cross? I was in PAIN, but I knew my pain paled in comparison to crucifixion. How could LOVE allow pain? The only way it made any sense was if the pain would end up allowing great good to come. After all, I hated what I was going through, but I was glad the carbon monoxide leak in the furnace had been revealed by my illness. I was happy that the faulty furnace was NEVER going to hurt anyone else. That part of my pain was worth my suffering. If Jesus was God’s Son, I could understand that He wouldn’t regret the pain of the cross, knowing it would save billions. But I still couldn’t get over God’s willingness to put Jesus there…

Then it hit me.

GOD WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN WILLING TO PUT JESUS ON THE CROSS IF THERE HAD BEEN ANY OTHER WAY FOR MANKIND TO BE SAVED. If just being a nice person was enough to get you to heaven–the cross was worthless. If believing in another prophet or teacher was enough—the cross was worthless. If crawling on your knees, or sacrificing to idols, or any of the other ideas man has come up with was enough—the cross was worthless. And if the cross was worthless then Jesus’s pain was in vain. And if Jesus’s pain was in vain, then God wasn’t loving—He was actually cruel and incredibly stupid. Did I really believe that God was an idiot? Wasn’t that what I was implying by deciding that Jesus didn’t matter and the cross wasn’t important?

Clouds Blue skyThe longer I thought about it, the clearer it became. God wasn’t a moron. This “earth shattering revelation” became another turning point in my faith journey. I was still mad at God, but I didn’t think He was dumb. As I thought about what Jesus had suffered for me, I started to wonder if I was really willing to continue denying His deity just to get my point across to God. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how extremely small and selfish and silly I was behaving. It was as if someone had given me a beautiful ring and I looked at it, turned up my nose, and said, “This gift isn’t exactly what I had envisioned, so take it back.”

Suddenly, I couldn’t take it anymore. My prayer wasn’t fancy. I simply said, “God, I believe in Jesus. Jesus I ask you to come back into my heart.”

WHAM!!!

streamThe power of the Holy Spirit came on me so powerfully that it took my breath away. It was so strong that I had to clutch the wall to keep from falling over. A wave of tangible peace washed over my body. I leaned my forehead against the wall as a cloud of love descended on me–encompassing me–surrounding me. The only way I can describe the feeling is to liken it to being extremely thirsty and suddenly gulping down ice water. Do you know what it feels like when you bite into a peppermint patty? That’s how I felt all over. Clean. Light. Refreshed. It was like I was swimming in a cloud of pure love, and it felt marvelous. All I could do was clutch the wall and praise the Lord.

Looking back at my personal battle of faith, I can say that I had intellectually decided that God was real, and I had logically come to the conclusion that Jesus mattered—but then God took over emotionally. It was as if He reached down and untangled my thinking. And the love that I felt was incredible. That day I learned that just believing in God wasn’t enough. I had to believe in Jesus too if I wanted to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in my life.

Is God real? Yes.

Does Jesus matter? Yes.

In spite of pain? Yes.

That’s what I’ve come to believe. That’s what I’ve come to KNOW.

Three crosses sunset

Penelope Marzec–Author Interview

Penelope Marzec

Dear Friends,

Today, I’d like to introduce you to the FABULOUS woman in this photograph. If anyone could be classified as a Renaissance Woman, it’s Penelope Marzec! Not only is she a wonderful writer, she also sings, cooks, paints, and excels in photography. She is such a talented person, and she injects a twinkle of fun into everything she says and does. Penelope has a huge heart, and she is constantly trying to brighten the lives of the people around her. In my own case, when I joined Prism Book Group, she offered me encouragement on the days that I needed it the most. She is truly a wonderful, talented person, and I am SO privileged to have her on my blog today!

Danele: Hello, Penelope! I’m glad that you are able to talk with us!

Penelope: I’m glad to be here. I’ve appreciated the book reviews you’ve written–for me and other Prism Book Group authors. Reading your reviews has given me more insight into the important details that make a book exciting for readers. The reviews also make me want to buy everyone else’s books and read them.

Danele: I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the reviews! I love good, clean, Christian books, and when I joined Prism Book Group, I felt like I’d found a gold mine. It’s been so fun reading and reviewing the stories. Well, let’s jump right into things. Can you describe a time when God spoke to you?

Penelope: Yes, I can. When my sister was in her twenties, she dated a man for nearly five years. It was very much an on-again, off-again relationship. The young man had no ambition, and I personally didn’t believe he would be a good match for my sister. I fretted about the situation until finally, one day, I asked her if she had asked him whether she could stay home with their children when they were young—if they should have any. Well, due to my prompting she did ask him that question, and he responded by saying, “What do you want, a free ride?”

Danele: That’s awful! A woman should be able to choose whether she wants to be a business woman or a stay-at-home mom without being insulted! Sometimes it isn’t financially feasible, and sometimes it isn’t what the woman wants, but being a full-time mother is one of the hardest jobs there is! There’s nothing “free ride-ish” about it. So what did your sister do?

Penelope: She broke up with him, but she was despondent. She thought she would never find the right man and would never get married. It hurt to see her so miserable, especially since I had initiated the breakup.

Danele: Watching someone you love go through something difficult is so hard! What did you do?

Penelope: I prayed and prayed, but still worried. However, one day as I was driving around praying, I suddenly had an answer to my prayers. I didn’t hear words, and it wasn’t me making up my mind about the situation. I can only describe it as a “knowing” along with a sense of peace. I was given an answer. My sister would get married.  It was a great relief to my worried mind, but I didn’t tell anyone. Not long afterward, my sister met a wonderful man who she later married. Through this situation, I learned that prayers do get answered.

Danele: Wow! That’s so cool! I’m glad that everything worked out okay. And I know what you mean about that “knowing.” I’ve had people ask me how to hear from the Lord, and I always tell them to listen for that little, gentle voice. It’s not audible (at least it hasn’t been for me), but it seems to resonate and bring with it a wave of peace. I think that John 10:4, “the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice,” is one of my favorite passages of scripture. I love the fact that as God’s children, we have the privilege–and the right–to learn how to recognize His voice. Psalm 25:12 says, “Where is the man who fears the Lord? God will teach him how to choose the best.” It’s so wonderful that we don’t have to struggle through this world all alone. The Bible is such a comfort! Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

Penelope: I sure do! My favorite Bible verse is James 1:17 “…all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.” (NAB) I’m very fond of the entire book of James, but that one verse gives me great comfort. I am certain that the Lord is giving me just what I need AND that it’s all the good stuff. In addition, no matter what happens in life–which is full of changes–He will not change and will continue to send down perfect gifts designed for me. I’m convinced that I’ve received plenty of them already. I know I am loved, and I want everyone to know that He cares for them, too. Look for the good stuff!

Danele: That’s beautiful! And you’re right! GOD LOVES US!!!! Isn’t that AWESOME?? Penelope, thank you for sharing that verse! And it’s true–we are very blessed. One of the things I appreciate about you is how you look for the happy things in life. Recently, you’ve been posting pictures of 100 happy days online. Each day, you’ve found something to be glad about. Because of your example, I’ve started finding happy things too. You’re such an encouragement.

Penelope: Thank you!

Danele: Now, I’d love for you to tell us about your recent book release.

Penelope: Patriot’s Pride was released in June. It’s the sequel to Patriot’s Heart. Patriot’s Pride follows Margaret McGowan as she crosses the Atlantic Ocean in 1784. She’s on her way to England to hear the reading of the will of the Earl of Broadcraft, her grandfather. She clashes with the ship’s doctor, Derrick Fortune, who is on his way to study with John Hunter, the illustrious surgeon. The journey is perilous and danger waits for both Margaret and Derrick.

Danele: I haven’t had the privilege of reading all of your books yet, but I’ve loved the way you’ve incorporated symbolism and imagery into the ones I have read. And your characters are so much fun! Can you give us some links to help us find your books online?

Penelope: Sure!

Sea of Hope: http://amzn.com/B004INH80A

Heaven’s Blue: http://amzn.com/B004INH6A2

A Rush of Light: http://amzn.com/B004INH742

The Keeper’s Promise: http://amzn.com/B004INH86Y

Patriot’s Heart: http://amzn.com/B00I9PCMFO

Patriot’s Pride: http://amzn.com/B00ZZ7SDA2

You can also find Patriot’s Pride at Prism Book Group: http://www.prismbookgroup.com/patriotspride.html

Danele: Penelope, it has been so much fun having you with us today! I really enjoyed talking with you.

Penelope: I’ve been happy to be here! I enjoyed the visit and your questions. You have a great blog. Keep up the good work.

 

Friends, Penelope Marzec is such a wonderful person. She tries so hard to be an encouragement and a blessing to others. If you would like to learn more about her, you can follow the links below. I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Website: www.penelopemarzec.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/penelopemarzecbooks

Twitter: @penelopemarzec

Instagram: @marzecpenelope

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/penelopemarzec/

Embrace the Chaos

bonfire

Dear Friends,

During my second year of quarantine, I came down with a severe case of cabin fever, and when I say severe, I mean SEVERE!! Quarantine was REALLY getting on my nerves. As I focused on the things I couldn’t do, my discontentment grew. Some days, I would pace between the table and the couch clenching and unclenching my fists while rehearsing my list of “forbidden” activities. I can’t drive. I can’t go to church. I can’t have lunch with friends. I can’t go to a movie. I can’t go to the grocery store. I can’t go to the mailbox when cars are on the road. I can’t go for a walk when the neighbor is running her dryer. I can’t…I can’t…

One day, the frustration I felt exploded into a burst of rage. I couldn’t stand being trapped inside for one more second. I stopped pacing and stormed out the door. I skirted around the back of the house to avoid a running lawnmower and made my way through a hay field. Suddenly, a sickening sweet smell wrapped around me. My neighbor was running her dryer and the stench of scented fabric sheets was heavy in the air. Immediately, I held my breath, but it was too late. Searing pain exploded through my skull. The pain was so strong it made me stagger. It felt like sharpened pencils were being drilled into my eyes. I knew I should run back home to safety, but my anger wouldn’t let me. Still holding my breath, I stumbled toward the lake. My lungs cried out for oxygen. Black dots began dancing in front of my narrowing vision. I still refused to breathe. I knew I had to make it past the smell.

When I got to the fence line, I took a cautious breath. I was out of the noxious fencecloud. Frustrated, angry thoughts battered my brain. It was so UNFAIR that a BLASTED fabric sheet could hold me hostage in my own home. My frustration mounted. Gasping for air, I held onto a fence pole until the black dots stopped dancing. And then, being the incredibly intelligent person that I am, I kicked the fence pole just as hard as I could. Minutes later, after removing my shoe to see if I had broken my pinky toe, I continued up toward the lake. As I walked, my list continued rolling through my thoughts. I can’t drive. I can’t go to church. I can’t…I can’t…

When I reached the lake, I skirted the water and walked along the East shore toward the hollow where so many bonfires had been held. I had lake treeenjoyed coaching Bible Quiz, and I could almost hear the laughter of my quiz kids as they cooked their hotdogs. My lips twisted. Coaching was something else I had been forced to give up. As I looked at the blackened ring left behind from the last bonfire, I realized that the logs that had been circling the fire pit were all helter-skelter. Rather than being in a neat, orderly ring, they were turned in every direction, and some of them had been rolled several feet away. Anger boiled inside me. Maybe I couldn’t go to church or a restaurant, but I could certainly put those stupid logs back in order.

bull 1I went to work, rolling stumps and dragging logs. One of the logs was a monster. It had a large branch coming off one side that stuck several feet in the air. It was murder to move. I could only drag it inches at a time before I had to rest. During one of my rest breaks, I noticed the bull in the pasture staring at me. He was about 100 feet away, and I didn’t pay him much mind. I had been around cattle my whole life. Bulls didn’t bother me. I continued working.

I wasn’t nearly as strong as I had once been, so it took me a couple of hours, but bull 2with a single-minded, stubborn determination, I dragged and rolled every single log back into place. As I stood and surveyed my work, I felt a glow of accomplishment. As I was silently congratulating myself, I saw a slight movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned around, and my heart froze. The bull was standing about eight feet away. His head was down and he was pawing the ground. I was a farm girl. I knew the signs of trouble. The bull walked forward with a stiff-legged gait. He tossed his head and bellowed. I frantically looked around. The ground was flat. There was nothing to hide behind. No one was around to help. I was on my own. The bull bellowed again. He shook his head and pawed dirt. I knew something bad was about to happen. Frantic, half-formed prayers pummeled my brain.

The bull came closer, his eyes locked with mine. He was just a few feet away. I could see his muscles bunching as he prepared to charge. Suddenly, as he went past it, the branch attached to the largest log brushed his ear. With a bellow, the bull turned on the log. Putting his head down, he hooked the branch and tossed the log into the air. The sight was something I will never forget. I knew how heavy that log was, and the bull was tossing it around like it weighed next to nothing.

bull 3The bull turned his back on me and continued attacking the log. Quickly, I backed away and made it to the electric fence. Hopping over it, I ran through the field. When I got to a place of relative safety, I turned and looked back at the lake. In the distance, I could see the bull continuing to attack the logs around the fire pit. He slung them around, sending them rolling. He tossed some of them in the air, others he kicked all the way into the lake.

My knees felt like jelly. I sat down with a thud (right in a patch of sandburs) and tried to stop shaking. Suddenly, the Lord’s soft voice spoke to me. He said simply, “Embrace the chaos.”  Sitting there, picking sandburs out of my jeans, I tried to figure out what God meant. Suddenly, it hit me. The logs were like my life, and the bull was my illness. I was fighting what was going on. I was stubbornly clinging to the desire for things to go back to the way they once were. I was literally fighting something that was too strong for me—something that was kicking the order right out of my orderly life and forcing me to deal with a new way of living. Embrace the chaos. Maybe I needed to stop trying to force my life into its old pattern and start opening my eyes to what was new…

I made my way back to the house, holding my breath through the scented cloud of my neighbor’s fabric sheets. When I got inside, I sat down at the kitchen table and made a list of things that I could do. Projects that could only be accomplished through time and isolation. Over the next several years of quarantine, embracing the chaos became my new norm. I memorized massive amounts of scripture—committing whole books of the Bible to memory. I researched my family’s genealogy and scanned every family photo I could find into the computer. And then I began to write. And write. And write.Time Counselor Chronicles 2 I finished my first book, Time Tsunami, and promptly wrote Time Trap. I didn’t stop there. I spent anywhere from 8-18 hours at my computer penning my novels. Soon I completed Time Search, Time Awakening, Time Inferno, and Time Nightmare.

Embrace the chaos…

When I look back at that day at the lake, I realize that it was a turning point in my life. It was the day when I realized that some things are simply out of our control. Some things just can’t be changed. It’s our choice whether we want to engage in a futile battle with the bull in the pasture, or whether we want to embrace the chaos and discover new ways of thinking, of working, of living. It is our choice.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19Time Counselor Chronicles 1

Mary L. Ball–Author Interview

Mary Ball

Dear Friends,

Today, I’d like to introduce you to the wonderful woman in this photograph. Mary Ball is a special friend of mine, and she has a truly beautiful heart. Although she has undergone heartbreaking circumstances, she is not only dedicated to the Lord—she is also dedicated to helping people live productive, happy lives. When we speak, she always brings a spot of sunshine into my day. It’s such an honor to have her with us today!

Danele: Hello, Mary, I’m so glad to have this opportunity to interview you!

Mary: Thank you, Danele. You’re an awesome, inspiring lady. I’m honored to be on your lovely blog.

Danele: That’s so nice of you to say—and so like you! You always lift my spirits and make my day a happy one! Well, let’s jump right into things. Can you describe a time when God spoke to you?

Mary: I sure can. At one time, I was in a rut about being an author. I felt I was letting people down because I wasn’t “Miss Awesome Seller.” One day, I was chatting with my husband about my hopes and what I felt might be a few shortcomings. As I sat in the passenger side of the car and contemplated the encouraging words of support my hubby offered, the Lord spoke to me and asked, “Why did you want to become an author?” Silently, I recalled my reason. It had been to shine a light on God’s mercy, and nowhere in my thoughts was the New York Times bestseller list. That one moment brought me back to where I needed to be. I realized that I had let the bling of the big picture pull me away from my real goal of spreading God’s salvation. Not long after that, I received a review of one of my novels. The lady commented that my books “made her want to be a better person.” To me, that was God’s confirmation. After that, I was back on the right track.

Danele: Wow! What a revelation! I know you’re right–God doesn’t count success the way the world does. He looks at our lives and how we’ve impacted people for His kingdom–and your words, and your attitude, have impacted my life. You are such a blessing!

Mary: Thank you! If one of my books can be a light in a dark world and point someone in the direction of Jesus Christ then I’ve done what I feel called to do.

Danele: Mary, you have such a beautiful spirit! Is there another instance in which God helped you overcome a difficulty?

Mary: For me, that’s a complicated question with many facets, and I feel led to explain the road I traveled when I faced losing a loved one. You see, about twenty-three years ago my oldest daughter died in a car accident.

Danele: Oh, Mary! I’m so sorry!

Mary: I’m ashamed to admit that during that time I stepped away from the Lord. I tried to go through the process of grief without God—perhaps feeling He let me down. It was selfishness.

Danele: It’s so hard to understand why bad things happen. How did you reconcile your pain?

Mary: Well, ten years later, I came crawling back into God’s grace. Through His word and fellowship, I began to accept the loss of my daughter. God also reminded me that three months before her accident she received the gift of salvation. Every time I read Matthew 20:1-16—the parable of the workers in the field—I think of her, and I know she’s in Heaven.

Danele: You just brought tears to my eyes. I can’t imagine going through that type of pain.

Mary: Looking back, I should have sought solace in His mercy. I understand now that at the time, I wasn’t spiritually where I needed to be. Thank goodness, the Lord never gave up on me. He was always tugging at my heartstrings to bring me back to the fold.

Danele: God’s love toward us so beautiful. Even when we are angry at Him, He’s always reaching out in love. I’m so grateful that He’s always ready to welcome us back home.

Mary: That’s so true! Losing a child is difficult, and it takes a piece of any parent’s heart away. However, the Lord helped me understand that I would see my daughter again. There’s a lovely song called Knowing what I know about Heaven. It reinforces the idea that God has beautiful plans for each of us that we will understand one day.

Danele: That’s such a terrific song. I love the idea that heaven is a place where life and love never ends. Mary, thank you so much for sharing about your daughter. I know that had to be difficult, and I’m so sorry for your loss. I wish we were in the same room–I’d give you a hug. I know that when you faced your heartache, God was with you.  Was there a specific place where you felt the presence of God the most?

Mary: I feel the presence of God in many situations, but mostly when I’m by myself. During those quiet times, I seem to have a oneness with the Lord. When I’m in the car driving, I can listen to His instructions and mediate on scriptures I’ve read. Also, as I enjoy the outdoors, I feel close to God. The trees, flowers—even the little frogs—remind me of how awesome God’s creations are and that I’m one of them.

Danele: That’s so beautiful, and so true! I love those wonderful “alone” times with God. I love the fact that God wants to spend time with us, and that when we quiet ourselves, He’s always ready to speak to us in special ways. Now, Mary, can you tell us a little about your books?

Mary: Sure, my newest novel is Redemption in Big Fork Lake. It’s my third book, and it was sparked from my debut novel, Escape to Big Fork Lake. Everyone kept asking, “What happened to Rob?” (The bad guy in Escape to Big Fork Lake.) So I decided to write Rob’s story. Here’s the back cover blurb: Can he be forgiven? Only after Robert Turner hurts a woman does he realize how much of a hold alcohol has on his life. For Robert, a chance meeting with an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor offers hope. A new devotion to the Lord and a relationship with Belle McBride gives him expectations for a better future. His life appears to be on the right track, until he comes full circle with his past and faces the one mistake that haunts him daily. Can forgiveness free Robert? Or will heartache drive him to return to the life he once had?

Danele: Your new book sounds terrific! I love it when a villain has a chance at redemption! How can we get more information about all of the books you’ve written?

Mary: Here are some links you can follow:

Escape to Big Fork Lake: http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Fork-Lake-Mary-Ball-ebook/dp/B007NK1EEQ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Redemption in Big Fork Lake : http://www.amazon.com/Redemption-Fork-Lake-Mary-Ball/dp/1503267962/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/redemption-in-big-fork-lake-mary-l-ball/1120795836?ean=9781503267961

Stone of Destiny: http://www.amazon.com/Stone-Destiny-Mary-L-Ball/dp/1940099153/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Postmarked Ever Afterhttp://www.amazon.com/Postmarked-Ever-After-Mary-Ball-ebook/dp/B00TDVE7E2/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Danele: Mary, thank you so much for being with us today. I really appreciate the way you shared your heart with us. I know that your testimony, and your books, are going to touch many lives.

Mary: Thank you, Danele. I appreciated your unique line of questioning. Your questions were more than random inquiries about my books. They made me look inside myself, they encouraged me, and they had me pondering about how wonderful our Creator is.

Danele: Thank you, Mary! I’m so glad you enjoyed being on my blog!

 

Friends, Mary L. Ball, is SUCH a sweet person. Her love for the Lord is reflected in everything she says and does. If you would like to learn more about her, you can follow the links below. I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Inspirational-author-Mary-L-Ball-200478210087932/timeline/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/inspires4mary

Is God Really Real?

 

orange sunset

Dear Friends,

I’d been a Christian my whole life—I’d even taught Sunday School and preached in nursing homes, so when this question rocked my world, it came as a complete surprise. I’d never expected to question God’s existence, but after suffering from a lingering, painful illness, this question could no longer be ignored. Was God really real?

I suppose the root of my doubts stemmed from the deep sense of betrayal that I felt toward God. I had served the Lord faithfully, and in return I’d almost died. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was in near constant pain. If God was real, why hadn’t He delivered me from my illness? Where was He when I needed Him the most?

After a while, my questions spiraled in on themselves until my life felt like a big black hole of misery. I knew I should have more faith, but it’s hard to be “spiritual” when your hair is falling out and your teeth are all loose. It’s hard to sing songs of praise when every movement causes horrible pain. Anger became my status quo, and I turned that anger toward God.

By the time the question of God’s existence fully formed in my mind, I was actually hoping that God wasn’t real. After all, if God was just a myth and all of the beautiful church services I had experienced were just examples of mass hysteria and delusion, then I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. I could be mad. I could die in anger. My suffering would be over. But if God was real, then I would have to deal with my anger and try to reconcile the fact that the God I had loved had let me suffer—and that seemed just too hard to do.

The lake 2Eventually, after months of struggling with the question of God’s existence, I walked up to the secluded lake behind my house. My body was so wracked with pain that each step was agony. I thought about turning back, but staying inside the four walls of my bedroom was driving me insane—I had to get out. Gritting my teeth, I struggled up the dusty path, dragging my feet, willing my body to move. I remembered how I used to run up that very same path, secure in the knowledge that life was a marvelous gift and that God was good. My lips twisted in bitterness. I was so angry that I felt bile rising in my throat. How things had changed.

When I finally made it to the lake’s shore, I collapsed on the grass and looked out over the water. Was God really real? Even as the familiar query formed in my mind, I tried to shove it away. But as I rubbed a muscle knot in my leg, I knew it was time to face the question. Sitting on the fence was making me miserable. I needed to decide what I believed.

sparrowThe knot in my leg grew worse. As I tried to breathe through the pain, something flew past my face. I lurched back and blinked in shock as another tiny bird flew past my ear. All around me, birds began swooping and speeding past me as quickly as lightning bolts. As I watched, they darted over the water chasing gnats and then swung past me in a lovely arc. The sight was exhilarating. I couldn’t believe how fast they were flying. They were coming within inches of my face—it was almost like they were demanding my attention…

I blinked a little. Turning away from the birds, I looked down at the grass below me. Each strand was radiant with different shades of color. I picked a blade and looked at it closely. It was lovely. I wondered why I had never noticed that before. Looking out over the water, I saw the sunlight being reflected in shimmering diamonds. I gazed up at the puffy clouds floating in the deep blue sky. Beauty was all around me. I paused. How could such beauty form out of random blind luck? Didn’t there have to be a design? And if a design—then a Designer?

The lake 1
As my leg cramped again, I rubbed it absently, ignoring the pain and concentrating on the beauty of the lake. Was God really real? If I decided that He was, it wouldn’t be a decision based out of dewy-eyed naiveté. I knew life wasn’t always fair. I knew bad things happened. And I knew that sometimes God allowed bad things to happen. If I decided to believe in Him again, I would have to deal with my anger and disappointment. I would have to choose to serve a God that I didn’t fully understand in light of a painful illness that I couldn’t ignore.

Was God really real? Even as the question formed in my mind, I sensed a waiting. An almost hushed atmosphere fell on the lake. The sparrows stopped circling. Things became quiet.

Looking down at the blade of grass in my hand, I said softly, “Yes. God is real.”

 

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19:1-3purple sunrise