I don’t know what it is about men and fire but they seem to think their success depends on a roaring fire.
I’m just grateful for enough flame to burn a marshmallow.
But with a new firepit and nice weather, we’ve had a few fires.
The last fire did not want to take off. It showed potential, sputtered, and returned to a bright ember.
But then my husband did something that really spoke to me.
He gently blowed on the dying ember.
And the fire came back to life.
I’m terrible with symbolism and even I get it.
Without that time with the Lord, that flame, that passion we carried as new Christians, wanes. It isn’t about going to church. It’s about building a relationship with the One who sacrificed all for love. Talk to Him. Read His Word.
And when we get away from those things, and we do, let the living God breathe life back into you.
One of the most profound Holy Spirit moments I had was during a study on Esther. The host church transformed the sanctuary each week to the theme of the chapter for the week. It was all about the King’s chambers and women were invited to go forward and petition the king, so to speak.
I knelt outside the veiled chamber.
And the gentle breath but convicting message nearly blew me down.
“You always bring everyone to me, ushering them behind the veil. Yet, you rarely take the opportunity to go there yourself.”
It’s true. My heart is so full of wanting people to be set free that I forget in order to stay free, I need to develop that relationship. Allow holy breathing on this fading ember.
This truth really smacked me. How about you?
There are a few things I do beyond the wife and mom thing. I love to encourage others, especially women. There are times I feel a nudge to invest time in someone by sharing my story and what I learned along the way. Sometimes I do this through Bible studies. Other times, it is custom designed and I communicate as God leads.
That’s where some of my time has been lately, working with a dear friend who is shedding an old mindset and adopting a new one. As I’ve shared with her how deeply God cares for us, how specific and intentional He is, I’ve seen the signs to remember this in my own life.
Like my birds.
For my birthday I bought a new feeder. I had no idea how much peace a simple feeder would bring, but I love when these guys stop by for a visit. At first I had trouble attracting birds, so my mom suggested black oil sunflower seed.
And they came in droves.
Since then my mom added that she mixes the black oil seeds with regular food because the birds love the black oil seeds so much it gets costly.
This is news I could have used awhile back. Now my birds are loving the premium choice food, and I’m just as hooked on having them visit.
And then it hit me.
Even though it might not feel like a premium experience at the time, God uses only the best to get our attention and draw us near. For my friend, those events have been masked in circumstances that seem like moldy food that no bird would want. But on further inspection she’s realizing how far she was from a relationship with Him. She was phoning it in, and He knew it.
And He loved her enough to toss her some black oil sunflower seeds to bring her back.
That’s my issue, too.
I am so passionate about leading others to freedom in Christ that I forget I’m worthy to spend time with Him, too. I forget that black oil sunflower seed is for me, too.
A couple years ago I attended an interactive Bible study that each week transformed the sanctuary into the life of Esther. One week was the King’s chambers. Each of us were invited, encouraged to go behind the veil and spend some time with the true King. And as soon as I sat and settled my heart, this nugget dropped into my lap.
You would receive so much more if you would come visit me behind the veil, instead of waiting on the outside while you usher everyone else in.
I have to be intentional about doing that. There are times I think everyone around me deserves the black oil sunflower treatment while I get some cheap blend. Or, in terms I really understand, I lead everyone to Dove chocolate and give myself the nasty kind at the $1 store.
I’m meant to enjoy the premium stuff. And so are you. It’s more than setting an alarm for devotion time. It’s a mindset. A lifestyle that is open to be with Him, hear from Him, and learn from Him at all times. That even in the craziest times, you’re still tuned in, focused on Him against the chaos.
My husband once said that I had a direct line to heaven. As sweet as that sounds, it’s not true.
We all have that direct line, it’s just so few of us utilize what’s been there all along.
So go behind the veil. Change your mindset. Adopt a new standard of living.
And enjoy that black oil sunflower seed.
To say I had a low self-esteem as a young adult would be an understatement. I didn’t feel worthy of love for a few reasons, and would complain when I observed what I thought were high-maintenance girlfriends demanding flowers and chocolates from my friends, their boyfriends. I thought so little of myself I remember uttering that “if he wasn’t hitting me, that would be gift enough for Valentine’s Day.”
When my husband came on the scene, he showered me with gifts, and I struggled. In my mind, he was going to learn who I really was, and that I wasn’t worth loving, and he’d be goe. To me, he needed to save his money and time. But he was stubborn and full of faith, letting me know that the Holy Spirit showed him we had a future, and a good one. I didn’t run, but I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the romantic beauty of the relationship. I was so practical and afraid of enjoying anything of worth I didn’t even want to shop for diamond rings.
Again, my husband to be insisted, but it was a battle of wills within the store. Every ring the poor employee brought out was to me a car payment. Or two. Or ten. All true, but deep down there was something else going on within my rejections. I didn’t feel worthy of such beauty.
I chose the smallest diamond I could find, and a small, simple wedding band.
I wore them for 15 years, through good and bad, thick and thin. Literally.
But last year I needed a surgery where the rings had to come off. I was in a thick season where I’d gained weight and it took an hour and half a bottle of Windex to get those things off. The surgery didn’t last as long. When it came time to put them back on, I couldn’t. My finger was so swollen it wasn’t worth it. So I left my hand bare.
My husband knew of a place where ring re sizing that was inexpensive and did a great job, but he couldn’t remember the exact place. When I called around, the places were not inexpensive. The rings sat.
I lost some weight, but the thought of putting the rings on hurt my knuckle thinking about it. When I thought about it, my mind dreamed about a new ring. After all, I was as different on the inside as I was on the outside. Most of all, God changed and healed me. I realized, like every woman on Earth, I was worthy.
And I felt one day I’d have a ring to reflect His love for me.
In January my husband and I went on a cruise to celebrate our belated anniversary. While browsing the ship’s store, I noticed a jewelry sale. He encouraged me to take a look. The rings were sparkly and big, most too showy for me.
But one stood out. Every time light hit the yellow topaz, beautiful colors showed off the angles. Not long ago someone prayed with me and let me know that was how God saw me. A source of His light. Lots of color. My presence, because of Christ, would light dark places. I believe that prayer, and that ring got a hold of me. To add, the diamonds totaled 14. The main gem made a total of 15. Seemed a great gift for the 15th anniversary.
This is now my wedding ring. It’s not traditional but it is a perfect reminder of how far our marriage has come, how much God has done through both of us. I love this ring. I finally feel worthy to wear something bigger and sparkly. I am a woman, and I’m God’s masterpiece. This is God’s definition for all females. We are all worthy to Him. All. Even you!
But wait, God wasn’t done. A month later I participated in a study called the Esther experience. One of the meetings took us through Esther’s wedding. As a token to remember the event and the significance for us as God’s daughters, we received a simple silver band. It’s as basic as you can get where the ends aren’t even together. I can re-size that band all on my own, thank you. I’m just as worthy to wear that mass band all of us received that night as the one on the cruise ship.
To celebrate the journey, this is what I do: wear the gold wedding ring on my left, and the simple silver band on my right. The left represents how God views me and that this was a gift from my husband. The right represents how simple His love is, yet how deep. My right hand is my dominant hand, so when I wear it, I remember Jesus is my everything.
I have a feeling someone is reading this who feels like junk and has maybe even uttered something like I did years ago that as long as I’m not getting hit by a man, that’s enough. I’m not saying demand gifts and prizes all the time, but please realize you have worth. When you were created God chose you last not because you were an afterthought, but because He wanted to show you off.
You are a masterpiece.
You are a gem.
I have the opportunity to participate in an event that walks ladies through the book of Esther in a tangible way. I’m familiar with her story and have read a lot about her, but little compares to walking in a church and having the sanctuary transformed into a palace. One week focused on her preparation treatments, and this week was about approaching the throne room to see the king.
When it was my turn to enter the throne room, I had a scroll with many things written down that I wanted to give as a gift to the King. Esther found favor with the king’s eunuch because she asked what gift would the king like, instead of choosing something valuable for her own needs. My scroll was full of things I wanted my King to have that were a sacrifice, but out of love, I wanted to give.
I reached the area and the tears were starting. What I wrote wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t giving up the rainbows of my life or fun presents. It was the core of my heart and layers of wounds I wanted to surrender to Him. Thing is, when I went to the basin to drop the scroll, I wasn’t paying attention and I nearly dropped my tissue in the basin instead of my gift.
I corrected it, but instantly I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit.
He let me know I was right the first time. That for me to give my tears is worth millions to Jesus because He knows how hard for me tears are. I’m often strong for others and give until there is nothing left. He let me know I’m worthy—even enough to cry and to be ministered to. My tears were precious to Him.
Years ago I chatted with a mom who felt she lacked in giving to the Lord because she was a mom with young ones. She said she prayed during diaper changes and laundry but having hours to sprawl out with devotions? It wasn’t happening. I told her that the way I see it, she is like the widow who gave a coin. Her gift was special because she gave all she had, and her heart was pure.
I believe it was a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina relief when my mom called for a chat and asked if I saw the celebrity power couple donate $1 million. I admitted I had, but I wasn’t impressed. They were millionaires many, many, MANY times over and one million is nothing to them. I felt if they truly wanted to make a difference, they should have given until it hurt. That was a gift to me, giving to the point that it is a sacrifice.
Do I have a point here? Not an organized one, but I guess an encouragement. If you mean to give something to the Lord but feel it’s not worth anything and why would He want it—don’t be so sure. He took my snotty tissue and let me know to Him, it was worth more than a million.
One grand prize winner will receive:
* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen
* A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf (for KINDLE)
To enter, just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the contest ends on June 20th. Winner will be announced on June 21st during Joan’s A Reluctant Queen Book Club Party on Facebook (details below)! Hope to see you there – bring your friends!
Join the fun on June 21st!
Joan will be wrapping up the blog tour and Kindle giveaway promotion during her A Reluctant Queen FACEBOOK party on her FB author page. During the party she’ll announce the winner of the Kindle, host a book chat discussion, test your trivia skills (Is Esther’s story in A Reluctant Queen fact or fiction?), and more. Don’t miss this chance to meet the author and make some new friends!
More about A Reluctant Queen:
You know the Bible story. Now discover the love story.
Experience the intimate, profoundly stirring story of Esther, a simple Jewish girl, and the Great King of Persia, who finds in her the companion of his soul.
In this meticulously researched novel, you’ll journey into the mind and heart of Esther. Experience her first frightened days in the king’s harem and her gradual awakening love, her anguished realization that she is God’s chosen instrument, and her courageous defiance of Persian law that ultimately saved her people from destruction.
What has for been a powerful historical story for thousands of years will come alive when seen through fresh eyes as a tender love story. Be immersed in the richness of the culture, be thrilled with the political and personal intrigues, and be inspired by the incredible act of faith of one young woman-chosen by God “for such a time as this.”
Joan Wolf has made a name for herself as a historical novelist with starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and bestselling novels that hit the USA Today, Washington Post, and NYT Extended Bestseller lists. A Reluctant Queen is her debut with Christian Historical Fiction.
The back cover makes it clear this is about Esther’s love story and it is a captivating romance that makes a romance fan like me turn the pages with anticipation and hope. For a romance reader with no background on Esther’s story it’s a classic tale of an orphan girl chosen to be queen. She captures the king’s heart but she also has to learn as close as their love is, their backgrounds appear to be too wide for Esther to be at peace. She is a Jew and her Persian King has a confidante who wants to see all Jews annihilated. Will this threat over her people be her own death by her very own husband?
Joan delivers intrigue, a royal setting with all the customs and yes, a perfect romance to read. I can envision beach goers looking for a book taking A Reluctant Queen with them and enjoying the romance. I hope once readers finish if they aren’t familiar with the Biblical story of Esther they would research that aspect of her life further. That’s just as fascinating as her romantic life.
At the end of the book the author explains the challenge of writing a novel based on a Bible story and she’s right. I’m not a Bible scholar but for years I’ve picked up all commentaries and Bible versions to learn all I could about Esther and Biblical accuracy. A novel is fiction and the author admits she had to change things to make it a novel. For those that are well versed in the Bible who know the Biblical account of Esther, this may be jarring.
But for anyone looking for a royal romance not from William and Kate, I think A Reluctant Queen is a sweet tale to start off your summer reading season.
Joan Wolf was born in New York City but has lived most of her adult life with her husband in Connecticut, where she raised two children and countless numbers of assorted animals. Joan is the author of numerous historical novels including The Road to Avalon which Publishers Weekly lauded as “historical fiction at its finest.”
For more about Joan and her other books, please visit www.joanwolf.com
To visit the other great blogs participating in A Reluctant Queen blog tour, click here.
To purchase, click here.
I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy from Litfuse Publicity/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
Have you checked this out yet? Courtney at Faithful Blogging has great prompts going on and the prompt I’m using today is this:
What is your favorite book of the Bible and why?
My answer hasn’t changed since the first time someone asked me in the mid ’90’s.
I’ve been mocked for choosing a book that doesn’t even mention God’s name. Somehow by answering this way I’m less holy or I lose favor in some popular Christian club I don’t want to belong to. Whatever others think, my answer remains.
Esther is a book filled with symbolism, courage, wisdom, grace, forgiveness and miracles. It’s so action packed that yes, her story has been made into a movie. I’ve been reading the Bible for years and I’m still learning from Esther. I believe this will be true until my dying day. Just last week I learned that when Esther was prepared with the beauty treatments it was not a spa experience like I imagined. The fragrances were literally rubbed into her skin until the anointing was a part of her. Told you it was full of symbolism.
Do you know Esther’s story?
In my contemporary nutshell she was a virginal orphan raised by her uncle Mordecai, a man devoted to God. The King, Xerxes, had a wife named Vashti and he summonsed her and well, Vashti said no. That was a huge no no so she was deposed. A call was made for a new queen and Esther, known as Hadassah, was taken to the palace with other virgins to basically apply for the job. There was quite a process before candidates were brought to the king and Esther went through everything. She found favor with many, including King Xerxes. He chose her as the new queen.
King Xerxes had a right hand man named Haman who thought he was way more important than he really was. He had an enemy though, Mordecai, Esther’s uncle. Mordecai saw right through Haman and knew he was an evil man and didn’t bow down to Haman’s demands once. Haman was obsessed with getting revenge on Mordecai so he decided to persuade the king to create an edict that would wipe out the entire Jewish race (think Hitler). The king created the edict and Haman rejoiced. Mordecai would be eliminated.
But the edict meant Queen Esther would have to be destroyed as well. Mordecai approached her in sackcloth and ashes, mourning attire. When he told her the news she went right to action. She went on a fast and asked her servants to do the same. They sought God’s will and timing on how to save God’s people, the Israelites. She was scared knowing Vashti’s story didn’t end well when she broke protocol, but to stop the massacre about to happen, Esther would have to step up and approach her king. Mordecai encouraged her by letting her know her role as queen had purpose. She was born…for such a time as this.
What happened? Well…I’m not telling. I love this story too much to give up the ending. But I’d love you to read the real deal. You can find it in the Old Testament in Esther. If you are new to reading the Bible there are different versions and some will work better for you than others. I suggest for new Bible readers they read a version called The Message or New International Version. You can find a Bible right online. Trust me, it’s worth finding and reading over and over again. When you are done with Esther, why not try a chapter of John, in the New Testament, a chapter a day for a month? It’s a life changing experience.
I also am not afraid to say I got a great grasp on the Bible through Veggie Tales. I’m not legalistic so I’m ok knowing that the characters in the Bible were not really singing vegetables. Yes there is some dramatic license but the essence of their stories aren’t just true, they are memorable. Their take on Esther: The Girl who Became Queen is a good one. It’s available on Netflix as well.
Another dramatic look at Esther is through the movie, One Night with the King. Here is a glimpse of it: