Wednesday, February 29, 2012

So Do Not Fear

Join me welcoming today's guest, Jennifer Hallmark.

—So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
~Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Have you ever had a day when life dumped everything on you and left you floundering? That day erupted on a Saturday in the spring. A refreshing time of devotion spent with God opened my morning. I didn’t have to work, so I planned a restful day to shop and visit my grandmother. Ten minutes later, life interrupted my devotional reading.

I pressed on, but a car breakdown and my grandmother injured in a fall before I arrived were only a taste of the many unpleasant events of that day. Any one event would upset me, but all in one day? The next day my worry and stress continued as I drove toward my house from work. As I turned in my driveway, I stared at the roof. Twenty or thirty birds perched along the eves and alcoves.

“God, that’s how I feel my life, is. Trouble keeps landing on me like birds, one after the other. I’m overwhelmed.”

My spirit stirred. Even if your roof was covered in its entirety with birds, so many you couldn’t see one square inch of it, it wouldn’t fall. The house has a strong foundation and it’s well built.

At that moment, peace enveloped me and I knew God had spoken to my heart. He had built a strong foundation in my life. I wouldn’t fall, for He also upheld me with His righteous right hand. The car had been repaired and my grandmother recovered from her fall. God’s hand held me tight and will continue, no matter what life brings.

Father God, when life overwhelms me, help me to see Your hand upholding me through it all.


Jennifer Hallmark is an author and women’s ministry consultant. She has a website, and blog, Her first novel, Journey of Grace: A New Beginning is currently searching for a good home. Jennifer resides with husband Danny in Alabama and loves her family, dog Max and coffee shops, in no particular order. You can find her online at and

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Join me welcoming today's guest, Susan Tuttle...

A year ago I had the amazing experience of watching my hubby participate in his first ever Ironman. I’d watched him train an entire year for his race, and while he got up early to run miles upon miles, I drank my coffee and took long, leisurely walks. When he practiced his open water swims, I rode in a boat next to him to rescue him if he sank like a rock. For the hundreds of miles he had to log on his bike, I got him a bracelet—though he refuses to call it one—to hold all his emergency information should someone find him along the side of the road, unconscious. I, as you can see, was more of moral support than a training partner, which was just fine by me!

The day of the race came and my son and I (our daughters stayed home) wore the t-shirts I’d made. Mine proudly proclaimed me an “Ironwife”, his cleverly said “Ironson.” We had my husband’s number on the back and would frantically call out to him, cheering him on. We wanted everyone to know he was ours and we were his.

As I sat and waited for him at the half-way mark on his run I began to think. I had done none of the training. I did not have to endure a 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run, but I did get to claim the “Iron” part of his title and put it on my shirt. Simply by my association with him, I got to be an Ironwife. And boy was I proud of that, as witnessed by my screaming for him, following his course and progress all day, and trying to catch a glimpse of him in a crowd 20,000 strong. Of course, there was also my t-shirt. All day I’d run into people who’d point at my ‘Ironwife’ letters and smile. I’d smile back, “Yep, #875, he’s mine”, or “Why yes, I am an Ironwife. My husband, he’s #875 and he’s doing the race.”

Here’s the thing though, he was just as proud to have us wear those shirts as we were to wear them. He didn’t say we hadn’t earned that title. He didn’t ask us to take them off. He loved that we were claiming him, making sure people knew who we belonged with. He loved that we were so proud to be his.

Then my mind drew a parallel. I didn’t have to endure the cross, but Christ did. And He did it just so I could be His. I get to proudly put on, everyday, the title of “Princess” because He’s the King. He’ll never tell me I didn’t earn it, because it’s not about what I did, but about what HE did. Now that’s something to cheer about! And He wants us to come running after Him, to wear His name, to seek Him out and to be excited—crazy even—in our pursuit of Him. He wants us to let others know; I am His, and He is mine!

My mind didn't stop there but continued down its rabbit hole. I began to really watch the racers. I watched them push on and persevere through pain and problems. Hebrews 12 came quickly to mind. It begins with "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." It goes on to talk about discipline and training, something each of those racers knows a lot about.

See, while we may not all be racers, we are all in a race. One that we need to train for, one that we need to persevere through. One that we need not grow weary or lose heart in, but rather fix our eyes on Jesus and keep pushing through. I watched so many racers fix their eyes on that finish line and push through when everything was working against them. It truly amazed me. Again I was reminded of all that Christ endured so I could have life. The life of a princess. Redeemed, cleansed, beautiful, and cherished. I wonder if while He endured the cross, if His eyes were ever fixed on me. Surely, with all He gave, I can run the race marked out before me and persevere.

How about you?


Susan Tuttle is a homeschooling mom of three and aspiring author. Her devotionals have appeared on FaithWriters and Mended Vessels. When not chasing the family dog or tackling complex math problems to teach her sixth grader, you can catch Susan at her blog, Steps.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Master Plan

“I’m not like the other kids, Mom.” This statement, said so matter-of-factly by my fifteen-year old son, caused my heart to miss a beat. The day had finally come. I knew it would, but somehow I imagined the setting to be something a little more impressive than in the family mini-van, sitting in the parking lot of Toys R Us. I always knew that at some point in his growing-up years, Ben would eventually realize that he, indeed, differed from most of his peers. I dreaded that realization. In fact, there have been times that I almost wished Ben were more neurologically impaired so that he could just live in his own happy little world, unaware of the “regular” life most of us experience.

My own, "regular" life ceased to exist the day that Ben was born. He suffered a severe brain injury during birth and, for the first couple weeks of his life, we were cautioned that he probably would not survive. When it became evident that he would live, we were told to never “expect much” from his little life. I could write a book (and maybe someday I will) about his life and all that we’ve experienced together in the years since! I ignored the doctors’ advice and chose to expect great things from Ben. However, the most painful thing I would have to endure in the years that followed was balancing that expectation with reality. Ben was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant and, more troubling, experiences a form of autism.

But he’s a bright boy and, as I knew it would, the subject of his “different-ness” came up just a few weeks ago. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised it took this long for Ben to catch on. I took a deep breath and stumbled into an explanation of why “different” doesn’t mean “bad.” For the first time, I explained to Ben the circumstances of his birth and tried to emphasize the sheer miracle of the fact that he was even sitting upright in our van, holding a conversation with me. I wrapped it up with a pep talk, encouraging Ben that he would always have to work harder in life to attain the things he desires, but that doesn’t mean that he will have a hard life. Ben’s short attention span reached its limit and we went inside the store.

I must have made some impression on Ben because a few days later I heard him talking to himself, saying, “I will work harder, but my life won’t be hard!” Now, if I could just convince myself of that fact…

I’m a mom. I worry. Seventeen years ago they handed me my first son and I immediately began imagining all the terrible things that could befall this sweet little bundle. I vowed to never let anything or anybody hurt my child. But then Ben came along and I was powerless to protect him from the hypoxia that caused his brain to hemmorage. That’s a terrible feeling. Thankfully, the Lord has walked beside us as we’ve endured the twists and challenges in raising a child with a special needs. Unfortunately, I’ve relied on my own strength way too often and have found myself fearful of the future. Never mind that the future has always taken care of itself and that God has made the path clear for us before we ever reached a point of change! I still worry.

Later this year Ben will start high school. Am I concerned? Oh yeah! But what really sends my worry gene into overdrive is the thought of what comes after high school. What happens then to my precious boy? What will life be like for someone so physically and mentally impaired? Will Ben have dreams that can never be realized? If so, how will I help him endure that? Will he ever be independent or do we have a permanent roommate? What happens to Ben after his dad and I die? The questions swirl.

A few weeks after the conversation in the van, Ben says to me, “Boy, Mom – I just can’t wait until I’m done with high school!” His comment causes a familiar sick feeling to surface in my stomach. I wish the end of Ben’s school years was decades away yet.

“Why is that?” I ask.

“Because,” Ben says simply, “I can’t wait to see what God has planned for me!” He walks away, happily ruminating on the good things that await. And I sit there, stunned, at the depth of faith my boy has in His loving Father.

May his mother grow to have the same degree of faith and trust in a Master plan that sees beyond what she can see and is executed by One Who loves far more than she ever could.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cradled in God's Hand

Today we have a guest, Gail Denham.

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands;
Isaiah 49: l6a

It’s often beyond my scope to recognize that God the Father holds us tight in the palm of His hand.

Especially when I read in the paper the sad account of a mother and child dying after being swept into a rain-swollen stream; when my precious friend dies suddenly from a fast-moving cancer; when a business reversal results in my job being terminated; or when my beloved child determines to travel a dangerous path as an adult.

It’s hard to imagine anything closer than being held in God’s Hand – always. At times of huge stress, I try to visualize that image of comfort and care.

God the Father does not change – and He does not lie. If He declares our names are etched, graven in his palm, and He’ll never forsake us – we can believe it. We can rest, sink down into the comfort of being as close as breathing to our Father’s love.

May we have peace thinking of a Divine Hand so large that ALL His children are inscribed on the palm.

Lord, help me to always SEE the image of You holding me so close.


For over 30 years Gail Denham has seen her work published in books, magazines, calendars, brochures, and newspapers. In addition she sold photos to publications, has produced three poetry chapbooks, and leads writing workshops at Northwest writing conferences.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Gap

There's a gap. So often I don't live out the things I say I believe. I know that trials of different sizes come into my life to help me grow, but many times I live as if I expect God to ‘fix’ all of my problems. Sometimes I pout. Can anyone relate?

After a challenging evening in our church youth program, I returned home to find that my once light-beige living room carpet was now decorated with mod splashes of mango nail polish. It was an accident. My daughter, Riley, hadn’t realized that the cap to the nail polish was loose. When she reached for the bottle, the applicator remained in her hand, while the bottle slipped to the floor leaving a tell-tale trail of orange nail polish. At first, I was too shocked to speak.

We tried our cure-all for carpet stains, Nature’s Miracle. Coming highly recommended from our pet store, it has removed just about any kind of stain imaginable, from those little ‘surprises’ our cat leaves behind, to ink from a dry-erase marker. The stuff is truly incredible. Surely it would do its thing and return my carpet to normal! But it didn’t…not this time.

Anger began to set in as I realized the nail polish on my carpet was here to stay. I couldn’t believe how careless Riley had been. I let her know I was none too pleased. I told her how expensive it would be to replace the carpet. New carpet was definitely not in the budget.

As my blood pressure began to return to normal, I realized that I had a choice. Learn from this little trial or remain angry. It truly was an accident, preventable, but an accident none the less. The relationship I have with my daughter is far more important than the attachment I have to my carpet. Family trumps ‘things’ every time!

Although the stain is a permanent reminder of this trial, we both came away with lessons learned. Riley, determined to be more careful. Me, determined to keep my mouth shut until I can speak the truth in love and not anger (Ephesians 4:15). In both of our cases, God’s truth was evident. He is much more concerned about bringing glory to Himself and changing us, than solving all of our problems.

When I look back on the trials I’ve experienced in life, I can identify them as the times that I’ve grown the most. Not that I’m asking for trials, but the faithfulness of God is clearly seen during seasons when I’m focused solely on Him. He is always faithful, I’m just not always mindful of His faithfulness. If I never experienced a trial, I’m afraid I wouldn’t realize my desperate need for His guidance and direction. Words from the book of first Chronicles put everything into proper perspective, “Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually” (1 Chronicles 16:11; KJV).

How wise I am when I choose to live with the knowledge that there are things in my life that need to be changed. I haven’t arrived yet. I’m a work in progress. Therefore, God is not going to ‘fix’ all of my problems. Each problem is necessary to spur on the transformation process that draws me one step closer to being conformed to the image of Christ.

Are you in the middle of a trial? What step will you take today, to bring glory to the Lord?

Heavenly Father, Thank You for the trials You allow in my life. I know they are designed to draw me nearer to You. Help me bring glory to You in spite of challenging situations. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Because of Him,

*Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker and is passionate about sharing the truths of God’s Word with today’s generation. She lives in sunny Georgia with her husband and daughter, two dogs and two cats. Visit her on the web and download a free copy of her eBook, God Speaking.  Connect with  her on Facebook and Twitter!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Light on the Horizon

About a year ago I posted these thoughts on my blog. Aside from some minor differences (much of our country today is enjoying spring-like weather!) one would think I wrote this yesterday…

Lately it seems like I am surrounded by things that are beyond my control. Loved ones are grieving for senseless tragedies, home mortgages are going belly up, and there is a general feeling of quiet chaos. The snow storms across the country seem to be an allegory for my life right now. Baby, it is dang cold outside.

I have never lived through a tornado warning so I don’t know what people do when a massive storm like that blows through a city. From what I understand from watching The Wizard of Oz, the best thing to do is hit the basement and ride the thing out. Taking my cue from Dorothy, I am riding out the storms in my life in the shelter of my basement. On my knees in my prayer closet and away from falling debris, I am safe from the torrential havoc that is everywhere. I am shutting out the noise so that I can be still before the God that is so much bigger than I can comprehend. I am watching, I am waiting, and I am listening for a sign that it is ok to come out into the sunlight again…

“Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:19

I’m not going to lie to you. The weight of this world and of my own egregiousness threatens to suffocate me. I have to force myself to look past the squall and into the light of the sun just over the horizon. It is there and it is bright with promise of a new and better day not so very far away. In my quiet times with God recently He has been softly reminding me of one solid, consistent truth. He is coming back. The carnage in Syria will not last forever. Hunger, homelessness, and cancer will all one day bow to the name of Jesus and surrender their vise-like grip on humanity. It will end someday, of that we can be sure.

“Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And he said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things and I will be his God and he shall by my son.”
Revelation 21:5-7

Photos by Eric James Photography

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Love beyond Compare

Recently our son, Dennis, had hip-replacement surgery. My husband and I got up very early in the morning to travel to his city to wait with his wife, Teresa, in the surgical waiting room during the operation. All three of us listened closely for her name to be called for us to have a conference with the doctor when it was over. When we finally got to meet with the surgeon, he told us that the surgery had been successful—routine and with no problems. We sighed with relief and thankfulness for answered prayer. I told the doctor that my husband had been praying for him, as well as for our son, that he would have a good night’s rest that night. He smiled and told me he had slept very well.

When the nurses finally wheeled Dennis into his hospital room after a long stay in the recovery room, we were so glad to see him. Yet our hearts were heavy for what he had been through and for the difficult days that lay ahead for him.

For most of the day we spent with him, Dennis was heavily sedated with pain medication. As I looked at my sleeping son’s face, I smiled to myself as I remembered how I had thought when he was just a little boy that my worries about him would be over when he grew up. Little did I know then that my concern for him was a forever thing. I remembered God’s words in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Though I love my son and my daughter in the deepest part of my heart, that could never be compared to the love God has for His children.

On the way home, my husband said, “Either one of us would have had the surgery and taken the pain for him if we could.” I readily agreed. There is One who endured the betrayal of friends and agony of crucifixion for our sakes. He, who had never sinned, took on Himself the sins of all mankind. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 / KJV).

I find great comfort and joy in the realization that I am God’s child. Jesus said that as many as received Him and believed on His name, to them He would give the power to become the sons of God (John 1:12). If you are a child of God, you can sing, along with me, the words of this wonderful old hymn with words by W.C. Martin (1864-1914).

I trust in God wherever I may be,
Upon the land or on the rolling sea,
For, come what may, from day to day,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
I trust in God, I know He cares for me,
On mountain bleak or on the stormy sea;
Tho' billows roll, He keeps my soul,
My heavn'ly Father watches over me.

He makes the rose an object of His care,
He guides the eagle thru the pathless air,
And surely He remembers me,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
I trust in God, for in the lion's den,
On battlefield, or in the prison pen,
Thru praise or blame, thru flood or flame,
My heav'nly Father watches over me.
The valley may be dark, the shadows deep
But O, The Shepherd guards His lonely sheep;
And thru the gloom, He'll lead me home
My heav'nly Father watches over me.

Words by W.C. Martin, Lyrics by Charles Gabriel.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Several weeks ago in the morning church service, I found myself sharing a pew with a dog. Yes, that’s right. A dog. She’s a shaggy, lap sized creature, and was accompanied by her master. They sat at the other end of the pew.

Mind you, I can get sidetracked and distracted without too much effort. But this was a new one on me. Satan seemed to be working harder than usual on a Sunday.

I had seen this dog in previous weeks in the halls, as people walked to the main service from their Sunday School classes. I didn’t think much of it, other than wondering what she was doing in the building.

On this particular Sunday, she was wearing a lovely, green knit sweater and a harness. Before the service began, I overheard her master telling someone in the pew behind us, that the dog loves to wear sweaters. (Yeah, I’m sure she told him
what color she preferred that day.)

Several times during the service she sauntered over and sat next to my purse, which was between us, whereupon I patted her until she was satisfied. It helped that I could see her approaching out of the corner of my eye, so I was able to keep most
of my attention focused on the pastor. Then she walked back along the pew to her master.

I have yet to find out the dog’s and man’s names, why the dog comes to church, and what, if anything, she thought of the service.

I need to be aware of possible distractions that take my attention off of the Lord. Especially the cute ones.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil,
and he will flee from you.”
~James 4:7


Monday, February 20, 2012

Who's the Boss?

Well, somebody is bossy today!

This morning my son Andrew has decided that he rules the roost. He’s only been up a couple of hours and already he is putting me “in my place.” I tried to go into the dining room to read the newspaper. Nope. He pulled me back into the living room. I tried again, this time for a drink of water. Not happening. He pulled me back into the office and tried to seat me in front of the computer, where he thinks I belong.

Hmm. Resisting the urge to say, “You’re not the boss of me,” I go about my business anyway. I am, after all, for the time being at least, bigger than he is. This, however, prompts a fit on the part of my darling son.

“NO! I want you where I want you!” he seems to be saying in a physical display of displeasure. My, aren’t we bossy?

And suddenly, I am reminded of my own proverbial hissy fits.

How many times has God tried to go about His business in my life and I have tried to put him in the corner? How many times have I told God, “Sit over here in this neat little box where I can keep an eye on You while I do what I want.”

Who’s the boss here, anyway?

His plans are infinitely better for me than any scheme I have concocted for myself! Why on earth would I want to hinder his plans by putting Him on time-out?

In Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), it says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

How wonderful! How exciting! How much better than the tantrum I pitched in order to get my misguided way.

Yes, somebody is bossy today…and every day. That somebody is me. Lord, give me the wisdom to yield to your plans. You’re the Boss, and that’s exactly how it should be.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cuddle Up

My daughter has been more affectionate and "cuddly" lately. She seems to need more snuggling and attention than usual. In all honesty, it has cut into some of my computer/work time and that sometimes frustrates me, but most of the time, it is a complete pleasure to get cozy on the couch or on the bed with my sweet eight-year-old.

As I was pondering this the other day, I began to wonder if it was a "phase" she was going through - something fairly common to kids(or at least girls) around her age. I wondered if I went through the same "phase" around that same time of my life. And if I did, how did I possibly handle it?

You see, when I was seven, my mother was in the hospital. Before I was seven and a half, she was dead.
Who did I cuddle with? My father? Sure. That I remember. We lay on his bed and held each other for a long time (at least it seemed long to a seven-year-old) that day in November when I came home from school and found out. There were aunts and uncles, and grandmas and grandpas too. Those cuddles I don't remember specifically, but I'm sure they were there.

But no mama. Yet, I made it through those years. In hindsight, I can only say it HAD to have been God who pulled me through all the emotions, struggles, and turmoil of losing a mother, and all the consequences of that (which I'm not going into here - just suffice it to say there were plenty).  And at that point, I wasn't His child as I am now.
He loved me enough to help me through before I even acknowledged him.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

PhotobucketSomehow, I can imagine those cuddles with my Heavenly Father when things were tough. I still have them with Him. And as much as I love snuggling with my daughter, there's nothing better than time in the arms of God. He never gets frustrated with my need for them, or regrets the time it takes.

I hope my daughter never tires of cuddling up to me. But if she does, I know I always have my Heavenly Father to cozy up to--and so does she.

 Traveling Rough Roads with God's Strength

Joanne Sher. Traveling rough roads with God’s strength. An Open Book.

My Blog

FaithWriters Blog




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by 2009

Back to TOP