Tuesday, May 31, 2016

At Daddy's Feet


I knew my daddy loved me, but I didn’t always feel his love. He was an imperfect Daddy as all earthly fathers are. Still, I carry mental snapshots of special times of connection. It occurred to me the other day that two of those memorable moments happened at Daddy’s feet. 

When I was a little girl, Daddy would sit in his easy chair. I would run up to him, all arms and legs, drop to the floor at his feet and hug his legs. Just to be close to him was enough.

Much later, at the end of Daddy’s life, I knelt at his feet again and held his hand as he sat in his easy chair. I verbally thanked him for being the first to tell me about Jesus. In his frailty, he was not able to respond to me, but I believe our souls connected in a way that didn’t require words. Daddy died two days later. How glad I was that I’d knelt at his feet and affirmed his contribution to my life. 

For all the ways Daddy showed me the heavenly Father, I thank him. For all the ways, He stumbled in that attempt, I choose to forgive him . . . even thank him. For his human plunders further forced me into my Abba Father’s arms where true love, security, and significance exist for all time and forever. 

Kneeling at Abba’s feet is my chief joy. Looking up to Him through eyes of faith, I accept His invitation to seek His face, as expressed by David in Psalm 27:8. There’s just something special about looking into the face of the one you love. Locking eyes, sharing a mutual smile. So it is with Abba Father. I envision His comforting hand cupped on my face, and I sense His warm acceptance.  

Author Sandra Wilson reinforced this truth for me lately in her book, Into Abba’s Arms. An adult child of an alcoholic and survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Sandy knows the struggle of pushing through feelings of abandonment, rejection, betrayal, and loneliness to discover and enjoy intimacy with God. Picturing Him as a real Person, which He is, and not merely a belief system, has helped Sandy experience His presence more keenly. Thus, her sense of belonging has also increased. 

One of her favorite scripture passages is Zephaniah 3:17.

The Lord your God is with you,

He is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you;

He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.


I, too, love this verse! In the Hebrew, “rejoice over you” carries the idea of God spinning and dancing. Imagine that! God dances and sings with joy over His children. Now that’s a huge, “Wow!”

Years ago, while reading a novel by Robin Jones Gunn, I encountered Zephaniah 3:17 for the first time. I don’t remember the specific story line, but in the Afterword, Robin shared how her grandfather had quoted this verse to her and how God had used the truth of His Word in her life.

I am so thankful for my earthly Daddy, that I got to kneel at his feet, not because he demanded it of me, but because I wanted to. I’m even more thankful for my Abba Father who woos me home to his heart, to kneel at His feet, to share mutual delight day by day.

~~



Eileen Rife, author of 4R Rejuvenation Retreat for Women, speaks to women’s groups, encouraging them to discover who they are in Christ and what part they play in His story. www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife,blogspot.com, www.guardyourmarriage.com.







Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Five Things I've Learned About Anger

by Carole Towriss
   
My husband came home early yesterday morning from a long weekend with his brother, his brother-in-law and and his cousin. They get together once a year to play six rounds of golf in four days and eat a lot. They trade a make-shift trophy of of the aunts made, which I think is an engraved pen. (She couldn't stand the thought of there not being an actual object for one of them to keep from year to year.) Mostly they just want to spend time together.  
     This year another family member added a bit of drama for John. Since he was coming into town specifically to see his brother-in-law, this one conveniently managed to avoid seeing John. Any other time he visits, he is happy to see John. But every year, when John comes to golf, he happens to be busy. Since he is mad at the brother-in-law, apparently John should be as well. This has been going on for the last few years.
     I thought, how much energy does it take to maintain that level of bitterness? To keep up the anger and to try to suck everyone around you into it as well?

    For a number of reasons I've been thinking a lot about anger lately. Here are a few things I've learned.
One.  Anger is a secondary emotion. The primary emotion is generally fear, or sadness, or hurt/pain. These emotions are usually too uncomfortable, so people often go to anger instead. We're trying to protect ourselves from the hard emotions. It's easier to be angry, especially for children. But the underlying emotion needs to be identified and dealt with.
Two.  Anger is a warning sign. It's masking the real issue, but something is wrong. When someone you love is angry, help them figure it out. That's the only way to make the anger go away. 
Three. Anger can be constructive if used properly. Some people think anger is always wrong, but it's how you deal with your anger that is the issue. It tells us something needs to change and gives us the motivations to make it happen. The abolitionists, the American colonists, the suffragettes--all these people used their anger to help right a wrong. It's whether you control your anger, or your anger controls you that is the issue. 
Four.  Anger is self-desctuctive. It damages your health, and can cause irritability, headaches, migraines, chest pains, body aches, high blood pressure, depression and cardiovascular issues. It generally hurts you far more than whomever you are mad at, although it can make those around you upset and put off as well. 
Five.  Anger is a learned behavior. And that means it can be unlearned. You don't have to "vent." There are healthy and unhealthy ways to express anger and to communicate. I'm still working on that.

God tells us "in your anger do not sin, and do not let the sun go down on your anger." He also says we should be "slow to anger." (Eph 4:26,  James 1:19) These verses say to me it must be OK to get angry, as long as we work it out. Don't let it drag on.  

We can't avoid anger forever, so we may as well learn something from it.
After all, we're only human.
~~~~~~

The Walls of Arad, the third in my Journey to Canaan series, releases June 15. For more information see my blog


Before they conquered Jericho, there was Arad...
Forty years have passed since Israel escaped Egypt. Their punishment is over, and the time to take the land is finally here.
Arisha, a secret worshipper of Yahweh, fled Canaan in search of safety. Under Miriam’s care she has begun to heal, but Miriam is close to death. She wants to be assured this abused and abandoned young woman will have a good life, and she entreats Zadok to marry her.
Zadok is the grandson of Bezalel, architect of the Tabernacle, and great- grandson of Hur, advisor to Moses. Selected by Aaron to shepherd the
Tabernacle flock, he has a gentle spirit Miriam believes can help heal Arisha's heart.
The Canaanite king of Arad has heard about the mighty deeds of Israel’s God, and fears he will be destroyed as Egypt was. When Arad goes on the offensive, Zadok will have to make a choice. This time a shepherd’s heart cannot save Arisha.
This time, she needs a warrior. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Choose Life and Blessings and Joy!

When I married Ron in 1968, he attended the Church of Christ twice on Sunday and Wednesday. Though baptized at age thirteen, little did I know he’d never really sought a relationship with Jesus. By early 1974, disillusioned, I filed.

While legally divorced six months—we re-married on our 6th wedding anniversary June 22, 1974—we only lived apart two of those. Shortly after the second nuptials, he met, received, believed, and confessed Jesus as his personal Lord.

Since then, I can’t say it’s been all beautiful with birdies singing and perpetual sun shining—I don't believe marriage ever is—but this I've learned... don't talk to him (your husband) about your concerns of how he acts, talk to Him (your Father) about them.

In a wife's desperation to have her husband be more like Christ, more like he should be (in her humble opinion), she gets in God's way of dealing with him. When I finally GOT this, I was amazed to sit back and see the improvements God made in him...literally. Ron changed so drastically before my eyes…like a miracle!  

So that's my advice, dear ladies...only talk to God about it and then trust Him. He can and will deal with your husband in His perfect time. Though ninety-eight percent of any asked would have said "Ron's wrong", God actually wanted ME to learn His lesson and change my attitudes to be more like Jesus.

I told Him it wasn't fair, too! More than once in our many conversations regarding the man I have truly loved with my whole heart. But once I surrendered and said, "Fine! I want to do it Your way. Please, help me." He moved mightily on my behalf!  

I have a husband now who is more like Christ than any man I've ever known. He isn't perfect, but getting so close! Next month, we will have been together fifty years as we’ve both turned sixty-six. We've never loved each other more.

Recently, when a nurse wheeled me out of the hospital and heard we've been together since age sixteen, she said, "I was listening to y'all, and you can just hear how much you respect and love each other. How much fun y'all have." Ron and I hold hands even riding in the car or walking into Walmart. We are each other's bestie!
  

If you’re struggling precious wife, I encourage you to hang in there and resist those lies from that ol’ wiley devil out to destroy your marriage and steal your joy. YOU do what God instructs in His Word. No matter what he's doing, do not leave your husband…black and white in the Word...even temporarily. 
Submit yourself to him AS UNTO THE LORD.

Rejoice IN THE LORD always! You may not be able to rejoice in your husband at all times, but Christ is always worthy of praise and rejoicing! You get to CHOOSE how you feel. Make up your mind to be full of joy and thankful to God! I love you! :)

Get up and go to church if Hubby isn't against it. If he is, then stay home. I know the Word says forsake not the gathering...but you won't be...your heart IS TO GATHER with them, but you're being submissive as unto the  Lord like the good wife you are!

Believe me, "YOU" cannot be your husband's Holy Spirit. It isn't your job. You're only responsible to do what God says for YOU to do. Right there's worth being thankful and rejoicing!

No one can steal your joy though that’s exactly what the devil is out to do. It’s possible he may be manipulating your husband in his efforts, but only you decide if you will be full of joy (NO MATTER WHAT) or if you give into depression and throw yourself a big pity party. It's your choice.


Choose life and blessings and joy!

Turn away from death, curses, and depression which are not of God. Then YOU will be happy and bright and cheerful no matter what's going on all around you.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day--Ainsley's Story

Thanks to everyone who helped Ainsley, the heroine in Beyond I Do, decide on a special gift to give her mom for Mother's Day. For those who've read the story, you can imagine how difficult the following moment is for Ainsley. Her and her mom haven't been close in some time, and though Ainsley is trying to reconnect, she often feels pushed aside. 

(For those who haven't read the story, CBD is currently offering the e-book version for under $5! Get it HERE.)

Perhaps some of you can relate to Ainsley's struggle. How can you show honor and love to someone who doesn't reciprocate? At what point should Ainsley quit trying, if ever? These are the questions she finds herself wrestling with. 

Read on to see how she decided to handle a rather uncertain Mother's Day. 

Love That Initiates, Even When It's Hard

by Jennifer Slattery

Photo by Hans taken from pixabay.com
“I feel kind of silly doing this.” Hands crusted with salt dough, Ainsley blew a lock of hair out of her face. “Not to mention, the last time my mom and I made salt dough anything, things didn’t end so well.”
           
Gina set her glitter canister down. “But since you never told her how her leaving so abruptly hurt you—”

“It wasn’t just that fact that she left. It was the why—for a man. Always for a man, and never the same one.” Mom went through more boyfriends in a year than Ainsley had had in her entire lifetime.

“She’s just insecure. And lonely. And probably scared.”

“Of what? Connecting on a heart-to-heart level with her only daughter?”

Gina shrugged. “Maybe. Probably. But have you ever wondered why she keeps chasing after men?”

Ainsley sighed. “Yeah. I know. She’s hurting and desperate for someone to love her, but she’s going about it all the wrong way. And pushing away those who truly do love her in the process.”

“So what’re you going to do about it?”

Ainsley closed her eyes. Took a deep breath. “Keep loving her. As much as it hurts, what else can I do?”

Gina squeezed her hand. “Proud of you, girl.”

“Yeah, well …” She surveyed the cross shapes lined on the baking dish. “Not sure if this is the way to do it.”

When she came up with the idea, it had seemed brilliant. Sentimental. A way to let Mom home know how much those times when the two of them had crafted together, back when Ainsley was a kid, had meant to her. But now she just felt silly. 

How many grown women made salt dough ornaments with their best friends? Besides, chances were, Mom wouldn’t get the meaning behind the gift. She’d probably even cancel their Mother’s Day outing, saying something had come up and could they reschedule?

But Ainsley had sent out the invite and she intended to honor her commitment. And hopefully to show Mom the love of Christ in the process.

***
Ainsley sat at a park bench under a large elm tree, gift bag and card in front of her. She alternated between watching the near empty parking lot and checking for missed messages on her phone. She wasn’t hugely surprised Mom was late. Fact was, she’d be more surprised if she showed. So how long should Ainsley sit here, waiting?

She’d give Mom five more minutes. In the meantime, she’d enjoy her time in the sun. She rummaged through her purse for her headphones and tapped on her Pandora app. Ear buds in, she watched a chubby cheeked toddler
Picture by cece1 taken from pixabay.com
chase after a ball nearly a quarter of his size. His parents occupied a bench a few feet away, laughing.

“There you are.”

Ainsley turned around to see Mom huffing up the hill in her direction. Dressed in silver, open-toed heels and a short, pink, and obviously fake, leather skirt. To the park. So clearly walking the trails was out.

“Hi.” Ainsley stood and met her with a hug, her nose tickling at the scent of her strong, floral perfume.

“Sorry I’m late. Kohl’s is having a great sale, so I popped in on the way. Got a bit distracted by the clearance rack.” She laughed.

“No problem.” Ainsley wasn’t sure what she would’ve preferred—Mom putting a man before their time together or cheap, material items.

Love. Show her love. Agape, no strings attached, no expectations love.

“I brought you something.” Looping her arm through Mom’s, she led her to the picnic table and the gift bag. She still felt silly for the handmade item tucked inside but the Olive Garden gift card she’d purchased to go with it helped ease her embarrassment some.

“That was so thoughtful." Mom took the bag. "Thank you, sweetie.” She removed the tissue then peered inside. Her eyebrows shot up, and her gaze jumped to Ainsley. “What’s this?” 

She pulled out the picture frame adorned with glittery salt dough crosses sprayed with shiny sealant. Studied the photograph. It was of her and a much, much younger Ainsley. They were on a teeter totter, both of them laughing.

Mom set the frame on the picnic table and blinked a few times. “I remember that day.”

“So do I,” Ainsley whispered.


Mom grabbed her hand and gave a squeeze. “That was nice. Real nice.” Her eyes grew moist, and she didn’t say anything for a long moment. When she spoke again, her voice cracked. “You always were such a thoughtful girl. Still are.”

“Thanks.” The lavender scented wind stirred Ainsley’s hair, and she tucked it behind her ears.

“You were so young." Mom looked at the photograph again. "Where’d you get that picture?”

“In a box of stuff Dad gave me.”

Mom gave a quick nod and picked up the frame. “I can’t believe you remember this.”

“It was a special day.”

Mom turned teary eyes Ainsley’s way. “It was, wasn’t it?” Straightening, she took in a deep breath. Her eyes searched Ainsley’s, and her mouth quivered, as if there were so much more she wanted to say. But she didn’t need to. Ainsley understood. Mom loved her. She might not always know how to show it, but she truly did love her.

“What do you say we do something to make this day special, too?” Mom asked.

Ainsley smiled. “It already is.”


***
If you've read Beyond I Do, you may be curious as to where this encounter falls in the storyline. It's between when ... hm ... so, I don't want to give away any part of the story for those who haven't read it. If I come up with a cryptic way to tell you, I'll let you know! But it's between an intense moment between her and her mom and the end. How's that? (If you really want to know, feel free to email me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.)

You may be happy to know you'll get to follow more of Ainsley's mom's story soon! Angela's story will release from New Hope Publishers in February of 2017. How fun is that? They haven't given the book a title yet, but I'll let you know as soon as they do. 

Now, back to today's story. Could you relate to Ainsley's angst? Is Mother's Day hard for you, and if so, why? How do you deal with the hard? Do any of you have a special Mother's Day memory? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below. 

And happy Mother's Day Mommas! I hope your day is special
and that you're surrounded by those you love. If this day is hard for you, I hope you'll feel God's love surrounding you and pulling you close. 

Before I go, if you live in the Des Moines area, I invite you to join me for two upcoming events:

May 13th: The Power of Grace
Time: 6:30pm

Location: Radiant Church located at 1300 Metro East 
Drive

Des Moines, IA

May 14th: Book signing, Barnes and Noble, Des 
Moines, IA. BooksigningposterforDesMoinesB&N-page-001
1pm-4pm

Where: 4550 University 
Avenue, 


West Des Moines, IA 50266

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Letter & A Locket




At the upstairs window of the mission house, Maggie swept the sheer curtain aside. The white stucco chapel, dining hall, and school with playground formed a circular pattern around a large stone fountain skirted by a garden. Concrete walkways, flanked by flowers and shrubbery, with wrought-iron fence framed the perimeter of the missionary Oasis Compound. Mr. and Mrs. Weaver, veteran missionaries, headed across the courtyard. Maggie smiled. The nightly ritual—reading a bedtime story to the orphans in the dormitory. The lingering aroma of garlic, ginger, and cumin drifted up the steps, remnants of Mrs. Weaver’s supper handiwork—chicken biryani. She turned from the window, lifted a trembling hand to knock on Mom’s bedroom door. After a year apart from her missionary daughter, Mom had finally arrived in Chennai, India to visit. A dream come true. 

            One among many, it seemed.

Maggie patted the pocket of her kameez where she’d stuffed an old letter. Mom, why didn’t you tell me? She gazed at the ceiling, released a shuddering breath. 

The bed creaked inside Mom’s room. Rustling, then water splashing. At last the door eased open, revealing Mom patting her face with a hand towel. The after-supper nap had done little to erase the dark circles under her eyes. After two weeks, shouldn’t she be over jet lag?

Worry wiggled through Maggie’s abdomen. She rubbed a hand over her stomach. “Mom, I don’t want to bother you if you need more rest.”

Mom waved a hand. “Don’t be silly. I asked you to get me up so we could spend some quiet time together.”

Quiet time. Maggie almost choked on a laugh. Quiet time in crowded, noisy Chennai? Imagine that. But at least they were alone in the missionary house. Even though activity buzzed all around outside. Only yards away, the ayah called the children to bed. Pots and pans clattered in the dining hall. And beyond the wrought iron gate, street noise never really stopped. Honking. Shouting. Not to mention the endless cloud of dust. The acrid odor of burning dung. Garbage.   

It was a lot to ask of Mom—to be here with all the discomforts and the mosquitoes. But then, it occurred to her—she’d never asked Mom to visit. Mom simply couldn’t stay away. No matter what. 

Mom must’ve detected Maggie’s concern because her face brightened in that way mothers’ expressions do when they’re getting ready to cheer up a child. She squared her shoulders, hooked arms with Maggie. “Hey, let’s go raid the kitchen. Didn’t Mrs. Weaver say she left some treats out for us?”

Maggie surrendered to Mom's lead down the steps. “Yes, and chai.”

“Perfect. And over a game, even better.”

Trying to humor a game-loving daughter, most likely. 

Maggie wanted this evening to be special. A time to honor Mom for her contribution to her life. She’d never been great at words. No memorable Hallmark moments. Sharing her heart proved difficult. Showing her heart came much easier. Prayerfully, that’s what she could do tonight. In the small kitchen, Maggie peeked under the lid at the chai brew. The delightful aroma of cinnamon and cardamom always comforted her. 

Mom breathed deeply, exhaled. “Now that’s nice.” She handed Maggie a cup and saucer.

Once settled at the table with tea and treats, Maggie’s eyes flit to a rattan chest of drawers in the corner. A fan whirred overhead, working hard to provide a cooling respite from the heat. 

Mom eyed Maggie over her teacup. “So, what game would you like to play?” 

“There’s something else I want to do first.”
 
Mom’s eyebrows shot up. 

“I know it’s only February,” Maggie pressed on, “but you won’t be here in May. So I wanted to give you your Mother’s Day gift.” 

Mom lowered her cup, pressed her small frame against the back of the chair. How fragile she looked. Maggie wished her mother would stay with her. But she knew she wouldn’t. 

Maggie fumbled for the paper in her pocket. A lump formed in her throat as she tried to speak. “I found this in the attic at home when I was packing to come to India.” She smoothed the paper with tattered edges on the table surface. 

Mom’s eyes narrowed, her face quizzical as she leaned in to examine the paper.

Maggie cleared her throat. “It appears to be a journal entry of some kind.” Why was she doing this? “I’m not sure why I took it, except that, well, it’s written to me.” Her gaze fluttered to Mom’s face.

“Yes, a letter. Dear Maggie . . . “ Mom’s eyes glazed over. “So, you’ve known. All this time.”

Maggie covered Mom’s hand with her own. “Why, Mom?” 

Mom lifted slender shoulders, then dropped them on a sigh. “Why couldn’t I follow through on a missionary commitment I made to God as a teen?”

Maggie winced, not wanting to upset Mom. “No, why didn’t you tell me?” She leaned in, studied Mom’s sad eyes. 

Mom lowered her head. “I didn’t want you to think less of me, for one thing. But mostly, I never wanted you to feel like you had to fulfill your mother’s unfulfilled dream. I was so determined you follow the path God had laid out for you, whatever that meant and wherever that led.” She moistened her lips, stared at her tea. “When you told your Dad and me that you sensed God wanted you in India, I inwardly smiled. I knew God had found His gal—one who was focused enough, strong enough to follow Him across the sea. I knew in His sweet wisdom He was granting my heart’s desire. You might say He gave me a second chance.”

Maggie grew quiet, pondering what to say. Then a grin tugged at the corner of her mouth. “And here you are.”

Mom slowly lifted her head, fresh energy seeping into her tired features. “Yes,” she nodded, “yes.” She squeezed Maggie’s hand, sucked in her lower lip to stifle a sob. 

“I have something else for you, Mom.” Maggie rose, padded across the cool tile to the rattan chest. She opened the top drawer, pulled out a small white marble box and returned to the table. She set the box in front of Mom. 

Mom gaped at it. “It’s beautiful. So ornate.” She ran a finger over the intricate carvings, the inlaid emerald on the top. “Maggie, this is much too costly.”

Maggie shrugged. “Not really, not by American standards. Consider it a preview of coming attractions. Remember, we still have the trip to the Taj Mahal coming up. I know you’ve always wanted to go.”

Mom’s lip quivered, but her face smoothed with renewed vigor. She smiled. “Well, thank you, sweet girl.”

“But that’s not all, Mom. It’s not just a pretty box. Open it.” 

Mom lifted the lid. On a bed of velvet lay an antique locket. Her hand moved to her mouth as she gasped a sob.


“I found Grandma’s locket in the attic, too. I know . . . double bad.” She playfully rolled her eyes. “I was just praying you wouldn’t miss it until I could give it back. New and improved, you might say.”

Mom unclasped the tiny hook. Inside, a picture of Grandma with Maggie and Mom--three generations--smiled back at her. 

“Grandma told me when I was young how she thought she would be a missionary to Africa but instead ended up serving with Grandpa in a Christian camping ministry in the States. Maggie smiled. “As you know, that’s where I developed a heart for missions. 

Mom gazed at the locket. “Me too.”

“You know what they say, ‘God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.’” She took a sip of chai. “Look at the back of the locket. 

Mom turned the necklace over. “God’s missionaries,” she whispered. She looked at Maggie through teary eyes. 
 
“Yes, Mom, God’s missionaries. All of us . . . each playing her part.”

A rap at the door. Maggie set her cup down, reached for a tissue, and blew her nose. When she opened the door, Gavin, the missionary doctor, stood on the stoop, his dark hair matted on his sweaty brow. “Thought I’d check in on your mom before I return to the clinic.” He frowned. “You doing all right?”

She ran a hand through her hair. “Yeah, really good.” Even better if he’d notice her in more than a friendly way. But for now, really good. She turned, exchanged a warm smile with Mom.  

~~

For more of Maggie's missionary adventures . . . and love story . . . 


Journey to Judah available here.