Wednesday, September 30, 2015

HOPE in the Midst of Hopelessness

No one ever wakes up and decides that today is going to be the day they become filled with despair and bitterness, and I was no different. Actually, in the beginning all I wanted and hoped for was something wonderful and beautiful, in and of itself. I simply desired to become a mother, but as birthday after birthday continued to pass, I was reminded that my biological clock was ticking. I prayed, but it seemed as if God was silent. I frantically went from one doctor to the next, seeking answers—some form of hope—yet what I sought eluded me. Even when every alternative solution was explored, it seemed as if they were each blocked by insurmountable obstacles.

I unknowingly allowed myself to slowly sink into the depths of despair as I succumbed to the reality of utter defeat, readily embracing the anger that filled my soul, justifying my actions, reasoning within myself that none of this was fair—that God was mean and unloving toward me. I convinced myself that I was good and deserved something for all my past efforts. I became angry with God because I believed He was powerful, all-knowing, and in complete control yet He purposefully chose to withhold from me the desire of my heart. I willingly dove into a sea of bitterness clothed in self-pity, finding no comfort in the stories of HOPE within the pages of Scripture—Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elisabeth—because all those stories seemed to only mock me with their happy endings.

Like Peter, in the midst of the storm—in the worst possible moment—I decided to take my eyes off my Savior and began focusing on the tumultuous, dark waters that surrounded me. I focused my attention on others, wondering how so many women who were abusers and unloving could be granted what was withheld from me and how God would chose to open the wombs of so many who in turn sought abortions.

I allowed all the despair and bitterness to fester as the pain of infertility continued to linger stretching on for what seemed like an eternity, plummeting me further into the darkness I had so readily embraced. It affected every part of my life, draining my joy and stifling my spiritual growth. Outwardly, I kept up pretenses, but inwardly, I was ensnared and consumed by the very emotions I had so readily justified. My deepening depression, encased in hopelessness, grew to the point I wished for death, reasoning I had nothing left. I became despondent, sinking so low I tried convincing my husband to leave so he could have a life and children with someone else.

With no options left, I finally opted to pull myself up by my own bootstraps, making one last-ditch effort, trying to take control once again, bargaining with God, seeking to mend my relationship in hopes that He’d give me a child. Of course, He, unlike all those around me, knew my heart and wisely chose not to grant my desire; and it wasn’t long after that I reached my darkest hour when I realized I had no hope left—that my dream had been completely shattered—that I was absolutely powerless to change the realities of my infertility. So I, in my bitter state, summoned the courage necessary to verbalize the true blackened-state of my heart. I blatantly confessed, to my husband, that I was angry with God—that I was finished living a lie, pretending to be a devout Christian—that I was, once and for all, finished. It was within the midst of my denial that God, in all His mercy, saw fit to open my womb. Like Peter, in the midst of the hardest test of his life, I denied my Lord and Savior; and yet, He lovingly showed me there was still HOPE because when it feels as if all HOPE has been lost He alone is the source of perfect HOPE.

My journey back to Him has been long, painful, and heart-wrenching. Over time, He has used my circumstances, relationships, location, and even my two beautiful children to show me how truly wretched I am. It took God opening the eyes of my heart for me to become repentant enough to humble myself before Him. He took me back to the foot of the cross and reminded me of what I actually deserve—reminded me that I deserve nothing because I am nothing but a saved sinner who still needs a Savior. He reminded me of my purpose which has nothing to do with me attaining my dreams or seeking some form of happiness but has everything to do with me serving and glorifying Him. He reminded me of who He is and why I need to truly seek Him first and foremost—because I love Him and want a relationship with Him, not because I want something from Him. Because of Him and His love, grace, and mercy, I’m learning to willingly surrender my all to Him, not only my heart, soul, and desires but everything, even the things I find myself wanting most in this life. In letting go, I’ve learned that the indwelling light of His HOPE has filled me with a sense of love, joy, and peace that passes all understanding.

So . . . yes, I really do have HOPE; but I couldn’t just start out by stating this reality in the very beginning because I didn’t always understand that I’d always had perfect HOPE my entire Christian life—that hopelessness is nothing more than the manifestation of an emotional tool used by the father of lies. I wanted you to see this really wasn’t my story of HOPE at all but, instead, is God’s story of HOPE through me. I wanted you to understand that anything that appears to be good in my life is not present because of me but because of Him. I needed to let you see all that darkness so you could understand the essence and beauty of HOPE.

Because we’re continually being molded into the image of Christ and living in a world marred by sin, I can’t promise you that surrender is easy and that everything is going to work out the way you want because it’s not and it more than likely won’t. I can’t promise you that your life will be trouble and pain free if you seek God first because it won’t. I can’t tell you that whatever you desire the most will eventually be fulfilled because it may never be; but on the flip side, I can promise you that the victory has already been won—that you are not alone—that you are far from insignificant because you were loved just as you are before the foundation of the world was ever laid. I can tell you with complete assurance that there is HOPE, and in order to combat the feeling of hopelessness, you must let go of yourself and let God be your only HOPE. No matter your struggle, learn to ask Him to open the eyes of your heart and strive to have a personal relationship with Him—to delve into His Word, pray, and seek Him on a daily basis—so that you too can experience the perfection of the HOPE that already dwells within.

To those of you who may not be fellow believers, I know you long to be free from the clutches of hopelessness—but I want you to understand that, on your own, you will never be able to experience the kind of HOPE I described. The only way you can ever experience this kind of HOPE is by acknowledging that you too are a sinner in need of a Savior. Know that Christ loves you just as you are, gave Himself for you, and longs for you to accept His free gift of salvation.

The story of HOPE I shared has been my inspiration for writing. This is why I became an author—because of where I’ve been and what God has taught me through the darkness. He has graciously bestowed a passion within me to not only weave together stories that are entertaining, inspiring, and intriguing but that also resonate within the very souls of readers, mirroring real-life struggles and triumphs, reminding each of us who we can become when we surrender all and allow God to be our only HOPE.

If you’re in need of encouragement—of a glimpse of HOPE—please read the passage from Romans 8:12-39. A passage which I hold dear because it explains suffering and displays the manifestation of perfect HOPE.

I pray that you and I will live a victorious, HOPE-filled life, no matter the struggles and sufferings we may face, as we rest in the perfect HOPE that is found in Christ alone.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Combating the Face of Evil

I can’t help but ask, “Why?” and “For how long must it continue?” as I have selectively read articles over the last few months about the various atrocities being carried out around our world because to know the intricate details would have only further added to the pain I feel deep within my own soul. It seems like every day new details about senseless murders, sexual predators, natural disasters, riots, ISIS takeovers, and so much more continually fill my newsfeed. I feel helpless and ill-equipped to process such information let alone be able to find a way to aid or even know how to bring about some sort of change. I feel as if my thoughts and desires are random and ever changing. A part of me wants the bad guys to pay—for the swift arm of justice to promptly denounce evil, pronounce their ultimate fate, and never look back in pity for one second. My heart understands David’s pleas even more throughout Psalms 10, especially when he says, “Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” and his cry in Psalms 94 when he says, “Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph? Who will rise up for me against the evil doers? Or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?” I understand the innate desire for God to no longer be so merciful—for His righteous anger to be poured out swiftly and justly on those who continually seek to harm the innocent. Another part of me also wants the human race as a whole to just get along—to not resort to such violence and bloodshed as being the first viable option. I long for peace, but I know there will never be peace, not true peace, not until Christ returns to reign as king.

In the midst of all my warring emotions and longings, I can see so clearly why God waits—why His Son’s return is imminent but not occurring at this very moment. He’s a patient, merciful, loving God who would that all men would come to repentance. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). Those murderers, sexual predators, rioters, ISIS militants, faces of evil in this world—they’re all souls who are lost and in need of a Savior. In realizing and acknowledging this alone, it calls into question if God in all His righteousness suddenly chooses to obliterate them instantaneously for the atrocities they’ve committed then would He have been as merciful to me when I was lost and in need of a Savior?
It kind of puts things into perspective a little, doesn’t it? . . . And, yes, I totally get that their souls are indeed completely blackened by sin . . . but so was mine; and, no, I’ve never committed the atrocities they have but my sin was the very thing that separated me from a holy, righteous God. We must never forget that the ground at the foot of the cross is level because there is absolutely nothing we can do that will make us fit to stand before God except for repenting, believing, and accepting what His Son has already done for us. Being aware of this—what Christ has done for us, in us, and through us—shouldn’t that alone make us want to cry out to Him all the more to be merciful to all these souls as well? Shouldn’t we beg Him to show them their need for a Savior before it’s too late? Shouldn’t we be the first to show them mercy and love instead of retaliation and hate? We should view these people, not for what they are or even for what they’ve done but for who they truly are—souls lost and blinded by sin—souls in desperate need of the cleansing and healing power of the blood of the only One who can bury sin in the deepest sea—remove it as far as the east is from the west—and resurrect a new creature who will ultimately spread love and the message of Christ. Instead of praying that God stops such violence in this world, why not pray that He pricks the souls of those committing such atrocities calling them unto Himself and to repentance so He can make them new creatures in Him?

There are indeed many faces to evil and throughout history that has been proven true time and time again, but remember who the true enemy is—who we are ultimately fighting. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12). Satan seeks to destroy God’s creation by exploiting what God meant for good, and God uses the evil Satan wields to draw the lost unto Himself and to purify and strengthen the ones He already calls His own. Whatever Satan means for evil, God makes good and beautiful in His way and in His time. Until God destroys the heaven and the earth and makes a new heaven and a new earth, we will be plagued by evil. Know that the victory has already been won, and if you are a son or daughter of God, you are on the winning side so be faithful to your calling, let your light shine before all so they may be pointed to the cross, and love first and foremost even if it cost you your very life. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matt 5:44). “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for their's is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-12). “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Matt 10:16-20,22,28,39).

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Serene Courage: Cover and Summary Reveal


Emily Faith Johnson is no stranger to the dark recesses of loneliness, pain, sorrow, and despair. Her life is marked by unrelenting abuse, from the verbal onslaught of her bitter, alcoholic mother to the physical aggression perpetrated by godless men. She copes as best she knows how – existing in a fog while numbly going through the motions of life. Then, one day, four months before her twenty-first birthday, everything changes when she wakes up in the cab of a tractor trailer, faced with the fear of the unknown, the offer of a man she barely knows, and the promise of a complete stranger. Will she be able to find the courage necessary to attain a better life free from abuse? To trust a man who makes her question everything she knows to be true? To believe in a God whom she knows nothing about? To rise above her past to become the woman she was meant to be?
This second novel in the Surrendered Hearts series is a powerful story of redemption and love that beautifully illustrates how God can lift someone from the vilest of circumstances, cleanse their soul, and give them a new life when they're willing to surrender all to Him.
The wait is almost over...In only a few more weeks, this novel will be making its debut in both eBook and print. The eBook will be available on Amazon only for $3.99 and will also be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owner's Lending Library.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Creative Process Update

For those of you who have been eagerly anticipating the announcement that Serene Courage has been finished need only wait for one additional week. If everything goes as planned, both the story and the first edit will be completed by next weekend. Of course, this will only be the beginning of the long process needed to actually have it ready for its release in late spring/early summer of this year. Just so you know, I’m starting to get a little antsy myself about getting this story out there, but I also don’t want to get so caught up in the excitement of it all that I don’t finish as well as I began.

Know that I am working as best as I can to have this novel to you as quickly as possible, and in doing so, I must rely on certain key individuals who give of their time to help me complete the entirety of this process.  First is the talented cover artist whose creation will be nothing short of a beautiful reflection of the story that will lie beneath. Second is one of the most crucial individuals in my overall editing process who just happens to be my husband. I would like to give him a great big shout out for his willingness to take on the responsibility of being the very first set of eyes that will read the roughest version. While romance would never be his genre of choice, he gives it his best and is the harshest critic to date, which is exactly what I need to produce the best for you. Third, but by no means least, are the beta readers who offer an author’s most sought after perspective. Over the next few months, all these individuals will help me to polish and refine the story in a variety of ways so that it will be exceptional, captivating, and as perfect as possible. I will continue to keep you abreast of our progress and will occasionally give you enticing snippets that keep you eagerly awaiting the release of this second novel in the Surrendered Hearts series.   

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Unique Story

Now that the holidays have passed, I have once again picked up where I left off writing on my second novel, Serene Courage; and as I write, I can’t help but be reminded that we each have a story which is unique and beautiful in its own way. Whether it’s a story about loss or love, despair or hope, poverty or wealth, godlessness or godliness, tragedy or triumph, or a little of all these things, no matter what it is and no matter how many may struggle through the same pitfalls or soar through the same victories, no one's story is the same because we are each unique, placed here on earth at this exact time in history and in this exact place in the world so that we can touch the lives of all those around us and be touched in return by their lives as well. Each and every one of our lives tells a story, and each and every day is a new chapter that could be the greatest part of the story yet to be told. The most wonderful aspect of it all is that no one's story is ever fully written not until that last breath has been taken.
How are you writing your story? Will it end in victory or defeat? Will you be beholden or ashamed? Before the judgment throne of God will you hear “well done” or “depart from me”? We often forget, myself included, that the success of our story is not based on the world’s view but on what we have and are accomplishing for Christ. Whether you’ve allowed circumstances to control the plot, edited out the people who really matter, or deleted God from the entire storyline, no matter how you may have chosen to write your story, thus far, you can begin rewriting it from this day forward by allowing God to be the ultimate author and editor. Allow Him to have the freedom and control He deserves and desires; allow Him to guide not only your direction but your heart, mind, and soul; and allow Him to edit out the hate, pride, lust, and unbelief so that your unique story can touch the lives He has placed in your path in a way no one else will ever be able. Let His love shine through, illuminating the way so others may see Him.
In the same way that I want the physical stories I write to bless and encourage others while glorifying Christ and His Word, I also want the story of my life to do the same and so much more. Today marks the beginning of a New Year which is the perfect time to begin anew, to re-surrender, to relinquish control of the pen, and to watch our stories unfold the way He deems best. My prayer is that 2015 will be the year that my story and yours brings more glory to God than ever before as we spread His message of love, hope, and life to all.
Hebrews 12:1, 2 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.