Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tell YOUR Story

SweetFreedomCoverYou may remember the compilation, Sweet Freedom. We gave it away in our launch basket, and it was available for free on Amazon for a time. (We'll announce the winner on May 1st.)

Well, that book was so well-received, we've decided to release another one! This time, we're inviting you to be a part of it!

They say the best evidence for grace is a life transformed, and the Christian life is one of continual transformation. We all have freedom stories. Those moments when we felt God's presence so strongly, our fears disappeared, or when we finally had the strength to release  toxic bitterness, or when God brought healing to a broken marriage.

Share your stories with us, and let others gain encouragement from them. You might even win something in the process!

Here's how it works: Send your story to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com, and I'll post it here. (Stories will post on Saturdays). If you'd rather remain anonymous, that's fine. :)

Then you all will get to vote on your favorite. Those who submitted the top three voted for testimonies will receive free books, such as the one by Max Elliot Anderson, pictured to the right! (Details coming

COVER When the Lights Go Outshortly as donations are still coming in.)

Then, we Faith-filled Friends' gals will choose our favorites to fictionalized (with permission) to go in Sweet Freedom Book Two. If we choose your story, you'll receive a free print version of the final project. (Everyone else will receive a free electronic version, by request.)

So, get writing! We all have a story, and our stories can bring hope and healing to others.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecV1NHmELuA]

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I Choose Joy

Like most of us, I presume, I love Easter. Last Sunday our church was filled with joyful people, greeting each other with hugs and happy faces. The refrain of “Happy Easter” in different accents was like so many tinkling bells.

As I sat in the service, I couldn’t help but think of the many different blessings God has rained upon us this year. A few rows in front of me sits a family from Pakistan. They were living there in Gojra, a village that erupted in 2009 when Muslims attacked, burning eight people alive and injuring eighteen, because of a rumor that someone had desecrated a paper with Qur’an verses written on it. The father, a leader in the Christian community and quite vocal about apprehending the perpetrators, was then targeted with death threats. He and his family escaped to Thailand and then last year made their way to our church. They were sent here because a pastor there knew our pastor, and knew we had many members from other countries and so they would be welcomed. The three boys are now making up for lost time in high school, and their only girl is in elementary school.

A row over is a lady who is back at church after several weeks. She is fighting cancer. She is thin and wears a blue scarf on her head, but her face is bright and her smile is wide. She gives lots of great hugs after service.

Image credit: keeweeboy / 123RF Stock Photo

Another young woman, not here today, just got her American citizenship. She is from Tajikistan; her husband is from Peru. Together they have two children of their own, and a couple years ago adopted her sister’s two young children after her husband beat her to death in a drug- and alcohol-induced rage. It took them over a year to adopt them and get visas to bring them home. Her own childhood was rough, being bounced from one home to another. She met Jesus when she left to find work in Kazakhstan, then God sent her to Montana, where she met her husband.

My oldest lives 45 minutes from here and attends a church that ministers to ten college campuses in Baltimore. (They had an “early” service on Easter—started at 11 instead of their normal 1:00. First rule of ministering to college kids: Don’t start at 9:30 on Sunday.) She attends their combined Sunday service and also a small group Bible study on campus taught by a young couple. She is earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts at an art college—almost by definition incredibly liberal—but she has held strong to her faith, and I'm sure this group has a lot to do with that.

My husband, my mom and my three children all go to church with me. Voluntarily. That alone is reason to be grateful. With three teenagers, life is never quiet, or easy, or remotely calm, but the blessings far outweigh the hassles. When I think of the hard work, money, time and reams of paper it took to bring these kids home, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I thank God for allowing us to share their lives every day, and I thank God for giving His Son for their souls.

Life is not always pretty, but God is always stronger. He always conquers, always wins, one way or another. There are struggles in my life, in my family, too, but for this morning, I choose to celebrate. I choose joy.

What's your joy story? Share your story, and be entered into our May gift-basket give-away!


One randomly chosen winner, selected from the comments left on all posts published from today to May 1st, will receive a copy of the following (some in print, others in ebook form.) Please note, the following is applicable to readers living in the continental US only. If a selected winner lives outside the continental US, they will receive ebooks, when available. Books that do not have e-versions will be placed back in the “gift-pot” to be sent to a randomly chosen runner-up living in the continental US.


They will receive a copy of:


Delivery by Diana Prusik, Jasmine by April McGowanHear No Evil by Mary Hamilton,Rodeo Hero and  Rodeo Song by Shannan Taylor VannatterAngel Falls by Connie MannThe Shepherd’s Song by Betsy Duffey and Laurie MyersMarriage Takes Three by G. E. Hamlin, and Worth the Wait by Laura Jackson.


Image credits: Emma Towriss; 123RTF stock photos--keeweeboy, gosphotodesign.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Making of a Novel

They say men plumpen up their first year of marriage. In fact, back in my newly wed days, I heard this was a sign of happiness. You probably know the cliché: "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

Well... uh... my man lost weight. Thirty pounds, to be exact.scale

In our first year. And no, he didn't go on a crash diet, suddenly become infatuated with health, or cut off a limb.

He learned, rather quickly, his bride was a terrible cook. Do you remember Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine"? That became the theme song for our first year of marital bliss and heartburn!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N2k-gv6xNE]

You see, I had a diversion to recipes. To following them, anyway. And a rather odd obsession with dill, or at least, the dill that had Firstgardentaken over my tiny vegetable garden and therefore absolutely had to be used.

In everything, from spaghetti to bread. I'm pretty sure, had my mom not pulled me aside one visit, telling me to kill--annihilate, burn, destroy, never to be seen again--the dill, my husband would've starved.

So how did I, the woman who probably should've been banned from the kitchen, end up cooking for 70+ women at Forest Avenue Family Shelter? All by my lonesome, 20140313_095559even???

That was the question I asked myself one afternoon as I stood over three massive hunks of pork, fretting over everything from whether I'd make enough to the very real possibility I could flub it.

Which wasn't an option! Because of all the meals I'd ever cooked (burned, destroyed, shoved down the garbage disposal), I wanted this one to be amazing. To somehow speak love and hope and dignity into the women and children I'd be serving.

Women who, with their frightened children in tow, had fled horrific abuse. Others who'd been tossed out onto the streets by a cruel landlord. Still others, who, after a lifetime of pain unspeakable, had turned to liquor or drugs or anything else that could numb their wounds.

Women who needed to be shown, in a tangible way, how deeply loved they were.

So I did the best I could, praying, angsting, and splattering my small kitchen with pork grease.

A few hours later, as I stood among those hungry, broken women and children, a hunger grew inside me as well. A hunger to be an instrument of God's healing, transforming, life-giving grace!

As God's love poured through me, everything else became inconsequential. That moment felt so incredibly real, and I felt so alive. My mind was flooded with memories--of God's grace and love for me, of all the ways He'd reached out to me, in my period of brokenness.

My heart was flooded with His love to the point it felt it'd explode! His love for me and for them; His love for me revealed through His love for them.

That night, I experienced a taste of the life abundant Jesus promised, and it was empowering, inspiring. Addicting. So addicting, I wanted to share it with others. I wanted to help them experience the heart-exploding emotions that come from serving.

BeyondIDocoverAnd thus, Beyond I Do, my debut novel, was born, a missional romance about a woman who was thrust into a situation hilariously similar to mine. (You can preorder it, at a discounted price, here.) And that situation, and others like it, changed her. Made her see everything differently. Because you can't spend time among the broken without being changed.

I'll be speaking more about this, my story, and the God who's still writing it at a Forest Avenue book-signing event on September 6th. Stay tuned for more information!

What about you? When has a difficult, uncomfortable, or perhaps even painful event turned into something glorious? When have you felt most spiritually alive? In what ways do you show this abundant life to others?

Share your thoughts below and get entered into our May gift-basket give-away!

One randomly chosen winner, selected from the comments left on all posts published from today to May 1st, will receive a copy of the following (some in print others in ebook form.) Please note, the following is applicable to readers living in the continental US only. If a selected winner lives outside the continental US, they will receive ebooks, when available. Books that do not have e-versions will be placed back in the “gift-pot” to be sent to a randomly chosen runner-up living in the continental US.

They will receive a copy of:

Delivery by Diana Prusik, Jasmine by April McGowanHear No Evil by Mary Hamilton,Rodeo Hero and  Rodeo Song by Shannan Taylor VannatterAngel Falls by Connie MannThe Shepherd’s Song by Betsy Duffey and Laurie MyersMarriage Takes Three by G. E. Hamlin, and Worth the Wait by Laura Jackson.