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Do You Believe in Marital Magic?

laughingBeth1 2012

My friend Beth K. Vogt wears joy and encouragement like a form-fitting silk dress. She embodies passion for Jesus, her family and her career. After reading her sophomore novel, Catch a Falling Star, I thanked God for her talent and praised Him for the way He’s going to be using Beth to minister to others through her words. Catch a Falling Star is a beautiful story that made me laugh, cry and stay up past my bedtime. Even when life doesn’t go the way we plan, God’s plans are always perfect.

Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best is often behind the doors marked “Never.” After being a nonfiction writer and editor who said she’d never write fiction, Beth’s second inspirational contemporary romance novel, Catch a Falling Star, released May 7, 2013 from Howard Books. Beth is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy (MBT), best-selling author Susan May Warren’s writing community. Connect with Beth at bethvogt.com.

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I love fairy tales – the classic ones like Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty, and the modern day ones like Rachel Hauck’s Once Upon a Prince and Sandra Bricker’s If the Shoe Fits.

In my just-released novel, Catch a Falling Star, the heroine grew up listening to her grandmother read fairy tales to her. Those romantic stories shaped her dreams for romance and happily-ever-after.

And yet, one of the reasons I write inspirational contemporary romance is because I believe there is more to romance than the fairy tales tell us. After all, fairy tales have magic … and fairy godmothers … and impossibly beautiful women who sing and talk to forest animals … and incredibly handsome men (usually princes) who fall in love at first sight and drop everything to rescue the fairest of fair maidens …

I don’t know about you, but on my romantic journey, no fairy godmother showed up to re-do my wardrobe. There was no magic wand waving … no musical soundtrack playing in the background and no talking animals. (I admit talking animals would have freaked me out.) And one other thing was missing: The story didn’t end at the “found my true love” kiss.

I fell in love with a real person who – guess what? – also fell in love with a real person. Translate “real person” as “imperfect.” We promised to love one another “for better and for worse,” never imagining how bad “worse” could get. Miscommunication? Not us. Disagreements about finances? Nah. In-law strife? Nope. A season in our marriage where the only thing holding us together was the covenant we made with God and with our children where we promised there would never be a divorce? Never.

Wrong.

Wrong.

Wrong

And wrong.

It was during the times our marriage struggled the worst that I was most thankful that I’m not in a fairy tale marriage. I live in the real world – but even more importantly, I believe in a real God who cares about my husband, my children, and me. I don’t have to wait around for a fairy godmother because God is with me all the time. I don’t have to wait on the wave of a magic wand because I can lean into prayer and the truth of God’s word. I don’t have to hide my imperfections because God offers me grace, not judgment.

As a young girl, I read fairy tales because they promised me something more. The funny thing is, I found the “more” I was looking for in my real-world romance. I stood in the “wide open space of God’s grace” – with all my imperfections, doubts and fears – and discovered unconditional love. Not magic. Acceptance. Not a fairy godmother. A heavenly father who says I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Not a handsome prince. But an oh-so-handsome husband who loves me, day in and day out – happily ever after or not.

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Catch-a-Falling-Star-bookcoverWhat does a girl do when life doesn’t go according to her plan? At thirty-six, Kendall Haynes has seen some of her dreams come true. She’s a family physician helping kids with severe allergies and asthma achieve more fulfilling lives—a childhood struggle she knows all too well. But are Kendall’s dreams of having it all—a career, a husband, children—nothing more than a childhood fantasy? God says He knows the plans He has for her—why can’t Kendall figure them out and be content with her life?

Griffin Walker prefers flying solo—both as an Air Force pilot and in his personal life. But a wrong choice and health problems pulled him out of the cockpit. His attempts to get out of “flying a desk” are complicated by his parents’ death—making Griffin the reluctant guardian of his sixteen-year-old brother, Ian. How did his life get so off course? Can he get his life back on track…or has there been a divine plan all along?

Catch a Falling Star reminds readers that romance isn’t just for twenty-somethings and that sometimes letting go of your “wish I may, wish I might” dreams is the only way to embrace everything God has waiting for you.

Your Turn: What was your favorite fairy tale as a child? How has your perception of fairy tales helped you define romance today? I’m giving away a copy of Beth’s Catch a Falling Star to one commenter (U.S. residents only). 

 

Lisa Jordan
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Freedom From Crashes: A God of Second Chances

Psalm 51 graphic

 After our youngest son had learned to ride his bike, he earned the nickname, “Crash.”

One afternoon, he and Hubby had gone for a ride down the main drive in our neighborhood. Our son wiped out on a patch of gravel alongside the road, resulting in bloody gashes on his knee and elbow. 

Hubby helped him to his feet, dried his tears, encouraged him to ride home and tended to his wounds.

Christians can experience crashes in their spiritual journeys. When we take our eyes of Jesus and focus on the gravel patches that life puts in our paths, we are apt to spin out and crash. 

We land crumpled at the feet of Jesus in the most humblest of positions. We cry out as our hearts ache from bruises and bloody gashes. He offers His hand to lift us to our feet. He cradles us against His chest and dries our tears. He cleanses our wounds and renews our spirits. Then He returns us to the path He’s laid before us. 

We serve a God of second chances. No matter what past mistakes we’ve made, He is willing to create in us a pure heart just for the asking. He longs to restore the joy of our salvation. 

Your Turn: Are you feeling bloody and bruised by life’s crashes? Share a time when you’ve needed God to help you to your feet and tend to your wounds. 

Lisa Jordan
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Calming the Child

IMG_5049He who He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord God Almighty is his name. Amos 4:13 NIV

Sunday morning I awoke to the sound of the wind gusting and branches smacking our metal roof. I hate storms, particularly anything involving wind or lightning. When I was a child, a tree had fallen on our house. Even though I had spent the night with my grandparents, who lived down the road, that accident created a domino effect of events that changed my life forever. 

As the wind howled and prevented my return to Dreamland, I prayed and asked God to calm the storm. And if He wouldn’t do that, then would He please calm this child. 

For the next two hours, my mind drifted to my current WIP, the previous day’s activities and the week ahead. For the most part, I didn’t focus on the wind until it picked back up again, then I repeated my prayer. 

These gusts of wind are nothing compared to storms others have endured, but they caused anxiety and sleeplessness in me. For me, for that moment, the wind was troubling. God heard the whispers because the wind died down at times, and I managed not to dwell on it. 

Wind can be cool and refreshing on a hot summer’s day. Or it can be devastating and wreck havoc. Even the strongest tree can crack if the wind is strong enough. 

My friend Dee (Delores Topliff) wrote a great post on our group MBT Ponderers blog a couple of weeks ago called Lessons from Aesop, talking about how adversity allows us to lean on God. 

God stays constant, never bending or breaking. And no matter how small or heavy are the wind gusts in our lives, He hears every prayer, every cry of our heart. Sometimes we may think He can’t hear us, but not only has He heard, but He’s at work calming the storm…or the child. 

Your Turn: Does howling wind comfort you or keep you from sleeping? How to you handle adversity in the storm?

Lisa Jordan
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Holding Hands With God

As a mom, my greatest fear is losing one of my boys. Sometimes my fears will smother my faith and twisted thinking will fill my head. I’ll pray for God’s protection over my boys, then stop. I don’t want to pray a certain way because what if God allows something to happen as a way of testing my faith?

Twisted thinking that allows Satan to get a foothold in my spiritual walk. 

After Hubby left for work this morning, I grabbed my tablet and crawled back in my warm bed to do my devotions.

I read about a single mother whose family lived in a poverty-riddled neighborhood. She put her children in God’s hands. Even while attending her one son’s funeral, she said he was still in God’s hands.

Holding hands with God can be tough, and it’s a growing process for everyone, including Christians. Fear is a great motivator for wanting to control our situations. Admit it–at times we think we know more than God. 

I’m not always quick to grab God’s hand when going through tough times. I admit to having days of shaky faith. No matter how shaky or faithless I am, God remains patient and faithful with me. I pray during times of tragedy I will be able to lean into him. After all, holding hands with God means letting go of our fears. 

Your turn: How do you face your fears? How has holding hands with God been a growing process for you?

Lisa Jordan
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Guest Blogger Krista Phillips: Until…it is you.

I met Krista Phillips online through ACFW–American Christian Fiction Writers. When I learned of her struggles with her fourth child Annabelle, my heart ached. I loved her transparency in her blog posts. I loved her ability to hold on through the storm. I loved rejoicing with her family’s victories. Now Krista and I are agent mates. Her debut novel, “Sandwich With a Side of Romance,” releases in September (she’ll be back as a guest blogger then too!), and I couldn’t be happier. 

Krista writes inspirational romantic comedy. She believes a sprinkle of laughter (and a wee bit of chocolate) makes everything a little better! She blogs regularly about life as a wife, mother, follower of Jesus, and mother of a child with a rare congenital heart defect at www.kristaphillips.com. Her debut novel, “Sandwich, With a Side of Romance,” releases in September, 2012.

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You hear the stories about those sick babies, see the prayer requests,  and your heart aches. Yet a tiny part of you is relieved. It’s them. It’s not you.

Until… it is you.

This was us when we had an ultrasound at 26 weeks with our 4th child. Our hearts crashed to the floor as the doctor drew us this ultra simple version of our daughter’s very sick heart.

They give us 70% odds of her survival to age 5.

Friends would say, “70%! That’s good, right?”

But all I could think of was that 30% chance. It haunted me for the next 12 weeks.

Nothing could have prepared me for the reality that we’d be faced with. 5 heart surgeries, including a heart transplant, several cardiac arrests, a total of 355 days in the hospital, 308 of them from birth until 10 months of age when Annabelle went home for the first time.

People ask me all the time, “How did you do it?” Or remark, “I could never do that. I’m just not that strong.”

Here’s the thing.

As a mother, there’s no other option. Sure, I get tired. I’ve struggled at times with depression, and have had my fair share of frank discussions with God, giving Him my blunt opinion on the matter.

God gives me strength for each day. No more, no less. Even now that we’re home and working on pushing through the hurdles that 355 days in the hospital creates, most times I’m still living on my own fumes and God’s  limitless strength-supply.

And oh-my-goodness. The rewards for “keeping on” are HUGE. Every snuggle, every smile, every milestone… with all children they are wonderful, but when you’ve fought so hard for those milestones and hugs, they are even that much sweeter.

Annabelle still has a ways to go. She’s 2 now and just learned to walk. She doesn’t talk yet, although her favorite babble is, “Mamamamama!” This Momma doesn’t mind that a bit! She doesn’t eat, is fed by a tube in her belly because she wasn’t stable enough to try food until she was a year old. B y then, she wasn’t very pleased at the thought.  So eating is a big hurdle.

But I have faith that she’s going to leap over that one any day.

And I have faith that through it all, God is cheering her on with us. I can totally see Him up in heaven doing this massive fist pump in the air, shouting, “Go Annabelle!”

Your Turn: Life is full of trials. Share a time when God’s strength was the only way you could get through each day.

Lisa Jordan
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Guest Author Dineen Miller: Loving God Helps Me Love My Husband

Dineen and I are kindred spirits in many ways–we are both new authors, we share the same agent and we understand the challenges of having a spiritually unequal marriage. When I met Dineen and her ministry, I realized I was not alone. I treasure her friendship. I hope her words bless you as much as they’ve blessed me. 

In addition to writing for Spiritually Unequal Marriage, Dineen Miller has won several prestigious awards for her fiction. She’s also a C.L.A.S.S. Communicator and has been featured on the Moody Radio Network, Family Life and Focus on the Family Radio. Married for 24 years to a guy who keeps her young, she lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two adult daughters, who surprise her daily with their own creativity.

Meet Lexie Baltimore, who is in the supernatural battle of her life. In obedience to God’s calling, Lexie uses her art and dreams to help others. But will she have enough courage to help herself when she becomes torn between her atheist husband and a godly man?

A widower and a father, Pastor Nate Winslow is drowning in darkness. Will he resist his treacherous assignment to win Lexie’s heart, or give in to the attraction between them?

As events unfold, Lexie becomes entangled in a twisted plot. Can she overcome the evil assailing her, or will she yield to the dark side? View The Soul Saver trailer, then purchase your copy of The Soul Saver!  

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I will tell you, in all honesty, that I cannot love my husband in my own strength. It’s not possible. I tried to for a many years and would do fine for a while, but inevitably I would run out of steam. Resentment would seep back in and these feelings and thoughts more often had to do with how little I perceived to be getting back in the relationship. That was my own selfishness creeping in. To truly love my husband requires unconditional love that’s centered in Christ, not me.

Especially since he doesn’t share my faith. My husband and I are spiritually mismatched. Marriage in itself is fraught with challenges, but add a spiritual disconnect and you have an additional conflict, which bleeds into everything else.

First, I had to ask God to help me love my husband the way He loves him. To put a love in my heart for my spouse that far exceeds what I am capable of. God answered that prayer and keeps answering it faithfully, but it truly starts in my love for God. The more we love God—the more we live for Him—the more we are able to love others unconditionally.

Take a look at Matthew 22:37-39:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

First, and foremost, we’re told to love God with everything we’ve got. THEN, we are to love others. Maybe, like me, you thought the part about loving God came first, because God wants to be first in our lives. You would be right, but I also think it’s because that second part isn’t going to happen unless we grasp the first.

Jesus boiled down the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, to two commands. Love God first, then love others. In that order. God never seems to have only one reason for anything He says and does. He is the most efficient being there is! He doesn’t just tell us to make Him first in our lives, He’s also telling us that in order to be able to love others like this, we have to love Him first.

Loving God first opens the door for God to love others through us. That is how we love sacrificially. This is especially crucial in my own marriage because this is the love that wins a heart to Christ. And that is my calling in my marriage, to love my “prebeliever” with a love that comes from God so that he can get a taste of who God is. In my love for my husband, I can be a sacred influence in his life.

The truth of the matter is, loving your spouse, or anyone for that matter, means loving sacrificially. And the only way to love sacrificially is through Christ. 

Your Turn: If you’re married, how has God helped you love your spouse?  If you’re not married, how has God helped you to love others?

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I have a special gift for anyone who signs up for my occasional newsletter. They will receive a free copy of my ebook, The Making of The Soul Saver. It’s a 38 pages of extras, like the special features DVD that comes with your favorite movie. You can read about the stories behind the story, my on location research, the cast of The Soul Saver if it were a movie, an interview with Lexie Baltimore and three brand new Soul Saver scenes! I’m thrilled to share this with you! And I promise not to abuse your inbox. 🙂

 

Sign up here: http://authordineenmiller.com/news-press/

Lisa Jordan
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4 Cs of Marriage

“God created marriage.

No government subcommittee envisioned it.

No social organization developed it.

Marriage was conceived and born in the mind of God.”  

~ Max Lucado

This past weekend I attended a 50th wedding anniversary celebration where a couple from church renewed their wedding vows followed by a nice dinner at a local hotel.

As we watched this lovely couple pledge their faith and renew their commitment to one another and their families, I kept thinking about the examples they set for others. They have servants’ hearts for God, others and each other. Married 50 years, and they continue to go on trips together, show affection toward one another and model Jesus in the skin. 

I didn’t need to ask about their secret of a successful marriage because I knew–when they recited their first vows in 1962, they didn’t repeat words. They made a promise to one another and to God. They put others before themselves. They maintained a strong faith in their household. He is so considerate of her, and I’ve never heard her speak a negative word about him. They have raised four children together and continue to model Jesus in the skin for their grandchildren. I know they’ve had their problems, but they don’t put them on display for public viewing. 

In today’s society, marriage gets a bad rap and is often proclaimed as an archaic institution. Many people are blinded by infatuation and lust and rush into marriage before taking the time to consider making a promise for a lifetime. Check out the tabloids and you’ll see headlines of marriages lasting hours. Why is celebrating 50 years a momentous milestone instead of a norm?

I believe it’s a combination of 4 Cs: choice, commitment, compromise and communication. 

  • Marriage is a choice. We live in a society where marriage is a choice unless you grew up in a culture where your future spouse is chosen for you. The majority of us met our spouses, fell in love, and chose to spend our lives together. Sometimes people put more thought into buying a car than into their marriage. 
  • Marriage is a commitment. Many people put their own wants, needs and desires first–before God and before their intended or current spouses. Putting yourself below God and the needs of your spouse doesn’t mean you should be a doormat or your spouse’s slave. Putting God and others before yourself is a Biblical command that applies to marriage and to life. 
  • Marriage is a compromise. Maintaining a strong and healthy marriage takes work, consideration and compromise. God instructed the husband to be the leader in the home, but the wife is his support. Making decisions together and reaching compromises shows your ability to work together. 
  • Marriage is about communication. I believe this is the biggest obstacle married couples need to overcome–failure to communicate. Yes, it’s tough talking to your spouse about certain subjects, but if you’re willing to rant to your friends about the things that bug you, why can’t you talk to the one you promised to love, honor and cherish for the rest of your life? And, by the way, I’m so guilty at this, but getting better. We all have those lies that echo in our heads, and those lies flare up when the need to talk with our spouses about the big things arises. Whether it’s money, parenting styles or even drawing attention to an issue that drives you nuts, you need to talk about it. Otherwise, resentment builds a wall between the two of you. Before you handle those tough issues, pray about it, seek wise counsel from a trusted individual such as your pastor, then go to your spouse when you have his or her full attention, and ask, “Hey, can we talk?” Be sure to begin your conversation with you instead of directing the blame on your spouse. For example, “I have concerns about the way our budget is being handled.” instead of “You’re doing a crappy job of making the house payment on time.” Speak to your spouse in love and focus on the positive. 

I completely understand marriages do fall apart despite a spouse’s or a couple’s best efforts to keep it together. I believe there are solid reasons for dissolving a marriage, but that’s a different blog post. 

Each marriage is different, and your relationships are unique. Comparing your relationship to someone else’s is like comparing your kids. Pray for your spouse daily. Ask for God’s anointing on your marriage. Support and encourage your spouse to be the best he or she can be. Together, you can strive for that 50th anniversary milestone. 

Your turn: What’s the best piece of marital advice you’ve been given? What advice would you share with a newlywed couple? 

(If you haven’t yet, consider subscribing to my blog to receive posts in your inbox. Use the first box in the right sidebar. Also, consider “liking” my Facebook Author Page.)

Lisa Jordan
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