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Jennifer Slattery: God’s Healing Love

Posted by Julie on January 6, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

I’ve always been thankful for the darkness because it allowed me to see the light so clearly. I’m thankful for every moment I received faulty, incomplete, tainted love because it made the real thing, the agape, self-sacrificing love that can only come from Christ, so obvious. And contagious.

 

For the past few months, my husband and I have been walking beside someone who is living in darkness, choosing the darkness over light. And it’s hard. It’s never fun to see someone completely destroy their life, but it’s more than that. I see myself in this individual. I remember when I bounced from place to place, when I drank malt liquor until I passed out, when I gravitated toward the deceived and self-destroying.

 

But God also showed me the light. And He drew me with His love. His patient, unyielding, pursuing love.

 

It took a long time for that love to truly take hold. For me to truly believe it. Rest in it. In all my healing, I primarily credit two people—Jesus Christ, who saw me and loved me on my worst day, and my husband, who saw something in a homeless girl from Washington and decided to hold tight to her, until his love broke through.

 

Oh, what a road that was! Consumed with past hurts, fears, and distrust, I did everything I knew to push him away. I figured it was only a matter of time before he left me, anyway. Everyone else I knew had.

 

Only he stayed. He held tight, and he continued to love me, even when I was completely unlovable.

 

And bit by bit, his love broke through, until one day, I realized, I no longer feared he’d leave. In fact, I knew with every part of my tattered but healing heart, that he’d stay. Till death do we part.

 

That’s when real intimacy, real healing took place.

 

But then one day, on a particularly hard day, Jesus opened my eyes. I was in the middle of gunk, gunk related directly to my past and the pain I’d experienced, and it felt as if I was right back there, in it. I can’t describe what that feels like, but those of you who’ve been there know. It’s a pain that completely levels you and launches that ugly, snotty-nosed cry no one but your mate has any business seeing.

 

That’s where I was—sobbing. Like I often do, I headed straight for the bedroom, for my bed, where I could fall apart in silence.

 

Why is it, when we’re in pain, we tend to isolate?

 

So there I was, feeling alone in my heartache, until … my husband came in. Walked straight to me, and tackled me in a full on body hug. “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you,” he said again and again. Maybe ten times. Maybe more. Making me sob all the harder.

 

Then it hit me, so clear it stalled my breath and my tears. That was Jesus. Jesus was holding and loving me through my husband.

 

Because that’s what He does. He meets us when it feels as if we’re falling apart and He envelopes us in His love. He tells us again and again, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” Until that love breaks through and begins to heal all the broken pieces.

 

So that the pain from the past, those old wounds we’ve shoved down, lose their power over us. And His love, His power, His gentle, restoring Holy Spirit makes us new.

 

Jennifer Slattery: God’s Healing Love

Novelist and speaker Jennifer Slattery has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team put on events at partnering churches designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. She writes devotions for Internet Café Devotions, Christian living articles for Crosswalk.com, and edits for Firefy, a Southern fiction imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte

 

Restoring Love:

Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. She’s almost his worst nightmare, and she s also working on restoring something herself. As he struggles to keep his business afloat and she works to overcome mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends soon discover they have something unexpected in common, a young mom who is fighting to give her children a better life after her husband’s incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back or unite them and bring redemption along with true love?

 

Buy it on:

Christian Book Distributors

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

Connect with Jennifer

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

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A Thanksgiving Challenge by Mary Weaver, as told to Deb Brammer

A Thanksgiving Challenge

by Mary Weaver, as told to Deb Brammer

The family photo I slipped from the pages of my Bible pictured me with my husband and our two children—before I was sentenced to life in prison without parole. As I sat on my prison bunk, I caressed my red-headed son, John, and his blonde sister, Catherine, in the picture. For sixteen months I had only seen them once a week, when my husband brought them to the prison visiting room.

These changes in my life had started on January 22, 1993, while I was providing childcare for eleven-month-old Melissa. I was putting the baby’s snowsuit on her when Melissa quit breathing. I called 9-1-1 immediately and performed CPR until the ambulance came. But the baby died within a day.

The autopsy found a two-inch skull fracture and other severe injuries that were seven to ten days old. Some doctors ignored these older injuries, however, and asserted Melissa’s death was caused by acute injuries from shaking and possibly slamming the baby just before her breathing stopped. Since I was with Melissa during the forty-two minutes before she stopped breathing, they believed I must have caused the fatal injuries.

I had never done anything to hurt Melissa but opinion on my guilt was divided. My first trial ended with a hung jury. My second trial, by judge, ended with a conviction for first degree murder and child endangerment.

Over a year had passed as my lawyers sought to appeal my case, but they still had not been able to get a new trial. Meanwhile, I was separated from my husband and our children.

I believed with certainty that God would eventually free me and clear my name. As a Christian, I knew God would get me through prison one day at a time. But I grieved for my children and for my unsaved husband. As the months passed into a year, my children had turned five and six. I would never get the year back, nor other years still to come.

As I sat in my cell worrying about my family, a guard appeared at the door. “Mrs. Weaver? You got a visitor.”

I laid my Bible aside and preceded the guard down the prison corridor. Who could this be? As I stepped into the visitor’s room, my daughter, Catherine, skipped up to me.

“Mommy, Mommy, I’m going to my dance recital! Aunt Lisa brought me so you could fix my hair!” Catherine jumped around until I could hardly get a hug from her.

I smiled my thanks at Lisa Murphy, my friend who had figured out this creative way to include me in my daughter’s special occasion.

I drew my daughter close. “I’d love to fix your hair, Catherine. Shall we do French braids?”

“Yes, yes, yes! With pink ribbons!” My daughter bounced with every word.

I removed ribbons and elastic bands from Catherine’s ponytail and pulled long blonde strands into sections with my fingers.

“Hold still,” I reminded her as I started one braid. I breathed in the fruity fragrance of the superfine hair as I began to weave the strands into identical braids, then tied perfect pink bows to them at each end.

Catherine shook her head to feel her new hairdo. “Thank you, Mommy! I can’t wait to see myself in the mirror.”

“You look beautiful!”

My daughter gazed at me with puppy-dog eyes. “I wish you could come to my recital.”

I blinked away some tears. “Me too, sweetheart, but Aunt Lisa will take pictures and I’ll study them carefully. Just remember that your mommy is very proud of you!”

I gave my daughter a quick, prison-acceptable hug and watched the two walk away.

“You are missing her recital and all the other important moments in her life,” Satan whispered.

I lifted my chin. “But God allowed me to fix my daughter’s hair. God gave me that precious moment. God is good,” I answered with faith.

I returned to my cell, sat on my bunk, and prayed. “Lord help me focus on what I have, not what I don’t have.”

A prison sentence made it easy to slide into self-pity. Satan could use the unfairness of the case made against me to defeat me, but I determined not to let him do that. Instead I thought about a prison library book I had read recently. It was a biography Corrie Ten Boom who had hidden Jews in Holland during World War II. She had been imprisoned in a bitter cold prison for four months, then a women’s extermination camp in Germany. She lived in an overcrowded, filthy cell with little to eat, no exercise, and no fresh air. She had almost no contact with her family.

Like me, this woman was unfairly imprisoned. Yet she focused on what she still had in the midst of the injustice. In solitary confinement, she thanked God for an ant that crawled into her cell and provided a bit of company. She thanked God for the sunshine when she could stretch to feel its warm rays. Later, at the extermination camp, she thanked God for fleas that infested the stinking straw she slept on because the tiny pests kept the guards away from the bunk where she hid her precious Bible.

I closed my eyes to shut out the conversation of inmates lounging right outside my own cell. My prison cell was the Ritz Carlton compared to the ones in the book. “Thank You, Lord, that my family is safe and that I can see them every week. Thank You that I have other gals to talk to. You’ve even given me a roommate who seems to be born again. Thank You that I can feel safe in prison, that other inmates haven’t given me trouble, that the guards treat me with respect. Thank You that I have a Bible and that I can read it openly, whenever I want. Thank You that I have grown closer to You in prison.”

The first year, the justice system of the state in which I lived had seized all my possessions, even my clothes. Now they were allowing me to keep a few personal things. The State could separate me from my home and family, but they could not take God away from me and they could not take me away from God. I would focus on Him and on the things He sent me to enjoy. Today that meant the joy of fixing my daughter’s hair for a special occasion.

God showers us with so many blessings every day that we sometimes get used to them and claim them as rights. While we have them, we don’t appreciate them. And when we don’t have them any longer, we complain that a right has been violated.

Thanksgiving is a great time to focus on what we have. What has God given you today?

This story comes from the memoir: Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story by Deb zcoveredgesaward_editedBrammer. Due to God’s amazing work in her case, Mary has since been acquitted. Deb teamed up with Mary’s lawyer, Steve Brennecke, to write the book. Deb and her husband also wrote a companion Bible study book called I Survived! It uses examples from Edges of Truth to illustrate Biblical principles from the lives of 5 Biblical characters. For more information see: www.MaryWeaverStory.com

deb-2013c_editedDeb Brammer has been writing for Christian publication since 1980. In addition to these books and many ministry resources, she has written six novels. Since 1980 she and her husband have served in Taiwan and New Zealand as church planting missionaries.

Links:

Website/blog: www.DebBrammer.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/DebBrammerAuthor

Pinterest: https://nz.pinterest.com/debbrammer/

Purchase Edges of Truth: http://www.amazon.com/Edges-Truth-Mary-Weaver-Story/dp/1491070714

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/edges-of-truth-deb-brammer/1117302174;jsessionid=8FB3250602E38E39C313141B6339F5EC.prodny_store01-atgap03?ean=2940153347134

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/edges-of-truth-the-mary-weaver-story

Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/edges-truth-mary-weaver-story/id1146497883?mt=11

Inktera: http://www.inktera.com/store/title/a13238b2-9813-499f-80ce-44544f157db3

24 Symbols: https://www.24symbols.com/book/english/deb-brammer/edges-of-truth-the-mary-weaver-story?id=1612842

zcoverisurvived-_editedPurchase I Survived!: https://www.amazon.com/Survived-Bible-Characters-Who-Disasters-ebook/dp/B00GUKMNDQ?ie=UTF8&keywords=I%20survived%20deb%20brammer&qid=1465002511&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

 

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How Surrender Saved My Marriage by Teresa Tysinger

Posted by Julie on February 25, 2016 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

How Surrender Saved My Marriage

surrender_edited

By Teresa Tysinger

A special thank you to Julie for allowing me to share with you today!

It is my belief that surrender happens at the cusp of time when hope is at a low and desperation is at a high. It usually happens on our knees as we shake under the burden of whatever we must give up to God.  At least, that’s my personal experience.

My husband and I married young, at twenty-one to be exact. Blinded by young love, attraction, and a feeling that we had everything figured out. I realize now what babies we were. (We joke with our parents now, asking what they were thinking allowing us to wed so young!) I supported him as he finished college, he supported me through graduate school, we bought a house and had a baby. But seven years in to our marriage, things were falling apart.

Though I was fully aware of my husband’s love of professional theater and his lofty ambitions, I began to resent the long hours spent on shows – often on the road for months at a time. When he was home, we argued. I felt abandoned, which led to unfair nagging and complaining all the time. We had no idea how to reconcile our different expectations for life together. Finally, we both acknowledged this was not the marriage we wanted. We both began to consider that life might be better apart. It was a heart-wrenching time when finding a solution felt impossible.

Then God began to reveal an escape route. My husband was offered a job in Dallas, Texas – which felt like a million miles away from our home in North Carolina. My exact words, I believe, when he first told me about the opportunity was, “I’m never moving to Texas.” Oh, I’m embarrassed now at my lack of faith!

During this time, we had the least hope and a lot of desperation (and fear, anger, resentment). We decided to lean on the reminders of our family and church friends. We took time to pray. I prayed fervently that God soften my heart. That he CHANGE me in ways I could not change myself. I prayed for my husband, too, of course. And I’m sure he prayed for me.

Then, something amazing happened.

We moved to Texas. We surrendered our own understanding, our own desire to write our story, our fear that expectations might not be met according to our plan. If you ask either of us even today, we’d both say we didn’t want to move to Texas. Even after landing in the Lone Star State, neither of us wanted to be there. Yet, daily, we surrendered to the peace we both felt – undeniable peace – with the decision to move. We trusted God wanted us here. In a place we’d both found jobs to keep us together, with our daughter, working in the same town.

In Texas, we had no choice but to lean on one another for support. The fresh start brought challenges that solidified us as a family unit. We found a marriage counselor and worked on our struggles in therapy for over a year.

And, we fell in love. I sometimes tease him now that the first time we “fell in like,” but eight years later we finally “fell in love.” Through the struggles, we experienced what love really is.

Surrendering does not always mean things will have a fairy tale ending.

We’re still in Texas four years later. I’d never in a million years believed we’d still be here. Interestingly, during these four years, my husband even travelled to New York City for 10 months to work on Broadway. But thanks to the hard work we did to reroute our relationship and lean on God at the center, I was able to happily support him through it without resentment or anger.
To many people, surrender is a word synonymous with defeat or weakness. Yet, surrendering my marriage to God’s will feels like the bravest thing I’ve ever done. In my moment of greatest weakness, down on my knees, I found the strength to reach up.

Though I can’t find the person with whom to credit it, I adore this quote and would like to leave you with the thought:

“Transformation happens on the other side of surrender.”

What do you need to surrender to God? How might God transform you through surrender to Him?

 

TeresaTysinger_Bio_editedTeresa Tysinger is a wife and mother transplanted from North Carolina to North Texas. When not working as the Director of Communications for a large downtown church, she writes charming southern romances inspired by grace. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Religious Communicators’ Council, and the Association for Women in Communications, Teresa has spent over a decade committed to telling stories of faith through written word. She loves coffee, caramel, and stories with happy endings.

Connect with Teresa:

Webhttp://teresatysinger.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/teresatysingerauthor/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/tmtysinger

Pinteresthttps://www.pinterest.com/teresatysinger/

 

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Surrender Story: Jean Ann Williams and Her Healing Book

Posted by Julie on January 26, 2016 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

Julie’s note: Jean Ann Williams is my guest blogger today sharing her surrender story.  I think you will be encouraged and inspired. I was!

So many of my struggles with insecurity stem from my childhood when my mother began the decent into mental illness. As the eldest child and only ten years old, it fell to me to raise my six brothers and sisters. The youngest was a baby brother and newly born.  I became more overwhelmed as the months and years passed, but as I look back, and it wasn’t lost on me then either, God provided mentors. The mentors helped me on my journey of me being a child raising children.

You may wonder what happened to my dad. Dad was an alcoholic who chose to not deal with my mother’s problems. Actually, he only made them worse. But, to give him credit, my dad did recognize my hard work. He gave me my own room, where the other children had to share a huge bedroom upstairs. Then, when I became a teenager, my dad knocked out walls and made my room three times bigger.

It was something, but still not enough. I remember calling my neighbors more than once to help me with a sick or hurt child when my parents were gone or Mom locked herself in her room and Dad at work.

Fear, incompetence, guilt, they have been my battle. And now, at sixty-two, and with my debut book Just Claire, which released 1/7/16, I feel a bit of hope. Hope for others who read this book.

In writing Just Claire, I set out to tell a story to show young readers they are not alone with their sorrows. In the process of writing Just Claire, though, I was surprised when one day I no longer felt angry and shamed with my mother. This hole in my heart I felt Mom had left there was mending. How did this happen? Several critique partners told me Just Claire was my healing book. How neat is this? A double blessing.

Jean Ann Williams shares her surrender story.

Jean Ann Williams shares her surrender story.

ClaireLee’s life changes when she must take charge of her siblings after her mother becomes depressed from a difficult childbirth. Frightened by the way Mama sleeps too much and her crying spells during waking hours, ClaireLee just knows she’ll catch her illness like a cold or flu that hangs on through winter. ClaireLee finds comfort in the lies she tells herself and others in order to hide the truth about her erratic mother. Deciding she needs to re-invent herself, she sets out to impress a group of popular girls.

With her deception, ClaireLee weaves her way into the Lavender Girls Club, the most sophisticated girls in school. Though, her best friend Belinda will not be caught with the likes of such shallow puddles, ClaireLee ignores Belinda’s warnings the Lavenders cannot be trusted. ClaireLee drifts further from honesty, her friend, and a broken mother’s love, until one very public night at the yearly school awards ceremony. The spotlight is on her, and she finds her courage and faces the truth and then ClaireLee saves her mother’s life.

Downloads available at Amazon: http://ow.ly/XmCJ5

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/just-claire-jean-ann williams/1123223218?ean=2940157880842

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/just-claire

See the trailer: https://youtu.be/s8x5lJKZFHU

Jean’s blog: http://jeanannwilliams.blogspot.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeanAnnWilliams

Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Jean-Ann-Williams-848295125269670/?ref=hl

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/

JacketPhotoJean 07 2015_editedAuthor Jean Ann Williams, the eldest in a large family, enjoys digging into her fascinating childhood to create stories for children. Having written over one hundred articles for children and adults, this is her first book. Jean Ann and her husband live on one acre where they raise a garden, goats, and chickens. Her favorite hobbies are hiking through the woods and practicing archery with her bow.

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Confession Saturday: Kathie Lee Gifford’s Return to Work

Posted by Julie on August 22, 2015 in About Me, encouragement, God's Word, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |

I confess I’ve had many conversations regarding Kathie Lee Gifford over the years. She would be listed on my Women’s Bible Devotional and yet when I watched her on Regis and Kathie Lee she was suggestive at best. It drove me crazy. I didn’t see Christ’s light and her approach was a turn off.

Fast forward and she returned to television with the fourth hour of The Today Show. Although I thought it was a step down for Hoda Kotb and her journalism skills, I thought it was a good fit for Kathie Lee. She seemed tamer, more relatable. Her walk seemed to match her talk.

When I heard about Frank Gifford’s death, it really shook me. I think part of it was we have a ten year gap in our marriage and it was a topic we took seriously before we got engaged. We talked about leaving the other behind. I couldn’t imagine the grief Kathie Lee and her children had to be feeling.

Yet I saw her post on Twitter and I heard Hoda share how strong Kathie Lee was.

And then I saw this.

Honestly, it’s one of the best moments of live television I’ve ever seen.

Kathie Lee on her first day back to work after losing her husband shared his last moments. His faith. Her faith. Their faith.

And her challenge about the stone.

I challenge YOU to watch. It’s about 8 minutes and they go fast.

It’s inspiring and emotional.

May God bless her and her children.

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Kelly Tough, Part One

81g0HcX146L._SL1500_I’m going to take two days to cover and review Kelly Tough by Erin and Jill Kelly. Today I want to give the backstory on why I wanted to review this book.

Most everyone knows I’m from Upstate NY. Although my hometown is Corning, I received my BA from the State University of New York at Geneseo. It was 1990-92 when I was there.

The school for the most part was divided into two categories: Upstate NY and NYC/Long Island. Now remember the time frame. Come Superbowl time, it was the Buffalo Bills and NY Giants. Talk about a battle. No, not the football teams. My friends.

When it came down to that one kick that unfortunately didn’t give the Bills a win, my dorm shook. No lie. The uproar between upstate and downstate probably scored on the Reichter scale.

Those were the Jim Kelly years and Geneseo was close enough to Buffalo somehow as an Upstate-er I felt a connection. There were times we heard the players used our track or were on their way to party at the exact places we were at. We had friends of friends of friends who had been to parties. He was part of my college scene by association and again, with that Superbowl moment, embedded into my college memories for life.

It seemed fitting as I graduated and moved on, the Bills kind of faded as well, at least as far Superbowl invitations and national fanfare. I’d hear Jim Kelly news here and there but I was busy carving out my place in Upstate NY.

The next phase where I felt a connection was after college, after marriage, after children. I was evolving as a woman of faith—not as tied to approval as I once was, but still not where I am today. It was the darkest time of my life. My dad was dying. My husband was on the precipice of moving to Ohio for a new job. Our baby was still sick with multiple breathing issues that often had her hospitalized. I wasn’t healed from her near death and how it came at a doctor’s hand. I heard about a women’s luncheon at our local radio station where Jill Kelly would be sharing. I knew Jill was married to Jim and that they had the little boy, Hunter. I thought it would be a nice break to see what she had to say.

Jill’s testimony remains a spiritual marker in my life. As she shared life with Hunter she talked about how each ER visit to them could mean his last. Our situations were different yet I knew that fear she spoke of. How many ER trips we’d endured. Our pede even gave me his personal cell in case I needed it. He had to convince me she was going to live to see her first birthday. When Jill spoke, the grief imploded and I sobbed as she spoke. She was so honest about her past and where her faith was at that moment. Where Jim was at spiritually. Then she shared a verse that was helping her through it all—the therapies, the ER visits, caring for her daughters, encouraging Jim.

 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

I grabbed that verse and held on for dear life as we navigated more grief, sickness and change. I followed the headlines as Hunter left this world. I never forgot that verse. As our daughter stabilized I prayed for the Kelly family. I couldn’t even fathom the depth of their grief.

Fast forward and I then read about Jim’s cancer. I lifted up prayers and continued to follow headlines. When I read the cancer came back, I felt my gut drop. I wanted to do something for them, still remembering how Jill’s talk gave me the courage to move forward in faith. How so many great college memories were intertwined with Jim and the Bills. The only thing I could think of was to pray. I wrote one out on the Facebook page, returning that same verse to them in their great time of need.

During this time I saw Erin’s posts on social media. As difficult as her situation was, a young woman already fluent in grief, sharing their journey to encourage others. I saw such a gift in her writing and a maturity in her faith.

And here we are. Kelly Tough is Erin’s account of her life and faith and I want to say more than that, but I’ll wait for my review tomorrow. But for a family I’ve never met, somehow when I read the Kelly name, I always perked up.

And I think I always will.



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