Hope in Desperate Times


Terrible situations deplete of us hope.

It’s easy to lose hope when faced with hardship, broken relationships, illness or a crisis. Or perhaps we’ve been waiting for something to happen – a relationship restored, a loved one to be healed, a wayward child to come home – and it’s been a long, long wait.

But what if we can find hope in the midst of and as a result of those broken places?

That’s what author, Deborah Malone, writes about on her blog and in her new book, Blooming in Broken Places.

Deborah is no stranger to the trials of life. She takes us on her real-life journey beginning with being her mother’s caregiver, to the rocky time of caring for her severely disabled daughter and finally to the disappointment  and trials of an abusive marriage that left her broken and feeling worthless.

But Deborah’s journey doesn’t stop there. Through healing and a gradual realization of God’s unlimited love, Deborah discovered how He could use her despite her limitations. In her book, Deborah delves into how numerous women from the Bible were all used by God, even while they were in broken places.

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Deborah. It was great to get to know her a little better.

First, a couple of easy questions…

Are you a coffee or tea drinker?

Definitely tea. However, I do love my one cup of flavored coffee in the morning with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Where do you write?

I have two places I like to write. If I’m not on a deadline then I will write in the family room sitting on the couch with my laptop. If I’m on a deadline then I will write in the office, at the desk, where it is quiet and I can concentrate.

I think people don’t realize the time that goes into writing a book. How long did it take you to write Blooming in Broken Places? In what ways did you find it healing?

Love this question. This book is so dear to my heart. Many have asked me to write my story for many years. I wasn’t in the right place at the time. I didn’t want it to be negative or depressing, and I didn’t want to breathe life into long buried feelings. I was asked to speak on my life to a group of women who needed some encouragement. So many came up afterwards and told me I should write about my life to share with other women.

I didn’t write it then, but it sparked a flame in me. While I was writing my third book in the Skye Southerland Cozy Mystery Series, I was led to write Blooming in Broken Places. I came up with the idea of weaving my story between twelve women from the Bible that were broken, but whom God used in a mighty way even in their darkest times. In this way it would encourage those who read it. It took a year from conception to publication.

I am not going to say it was easy. After my first draft my editor and publisher both said I needed more me in the story. I knew then I could not get away with writing the bare bones. I would have to dig up feelings long buried for the story to be authentic enough to touch others. I never realized in the writing process I would find the healing I had been longing for.

From the reviews of your book, I would say people really appreciated the “you” factor. Well done delving into those difficult areas.

If you had to pick one women from the Bible that you wrote about, who would be your favorite? Why?

Oh my goodness. You would have to ask this question. During my research and writing I fell in love with all the women and came to admire their tenacity and faith. I call them my posse now. But, if you insist, I would have to pick the Samaritan Woman at the well as my favorite. It is such a beautiful story. Jesus went out of his way to put himself in her path. He had a plan for her life – and he didn’t wait until she was perfect to use her in a mighty way. This tells me I don’t have to be perfect for God to use me, too.

She’s my favorite too! She even ended up being one of the secondary characters in my new book, Rachel’s Son. I love the way Jesus interacted with her.

So what’s the most important message you want your readers to get from your new book?

We are all broken in some way. God can and will use us mightily even in our darkest moments. Also, if our goals haven’t been met yet it doesn’t mean they won’t happen. God’s timing isn’t always our timing. I was 57 when my first book was published.

Hope you don’t mind a final personal question. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

Well, I guess it would be walking on trails in the woods. It’s a great way to get outside and get some fresh air. I’m looking forward to warmer weather. I still enjoy reading, but I don’t have a lot of time to read.

I completely understand. I’m an outdoor kind of girl myself. Maybe outdoors with a good book. 😉

If you’re like most of us, in need of hope, you can find Deborah’s new book on Amazon. Visit her blog and let her know you read this article. Deborah is also the author of mystery novels set in Georgia.

Deborah Malone’s first novel Death in Dahlonega, finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Category Five writing contest. Deborah was also nominated for 2012 and 2013 Georgia Author of the Year in Novel category. She has worked as a freelance writer and photographer for the historic magazine, Georgia Backroads, since 2001. She has had many article and photographs published, and her writing is featured in Tales of the Rails, edited by Olin Jackson, as well as the “Christian Communicator” and “Southern Writer’s Magazine.” She is a member of the Georgia Writer’s Association, Advanced Writer’s and Speaker’s Association and the American Christian Fiction Writers.

Are You Worn Out?


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As the year winds down and winter winds blow us toward giving thanks and a white Christmas (unless you’re in Florida like I am), do you feel worn out?

I do.

This year has been one of the toughest of my life and though the calendar may say it will be over soon, the trials continue to drag on. I believe many all over the nation and the world share my heartache.

Our world is a broken, dangerous place these days.

That’s why I really appreciate a new book one of my favorite authors, Mary DeMuth, Image result for mary demuthhas written. Jesus Every Day releases in less than two weeks, on DECEMBER 1 and already has impacted the lives of those of us who have been privileged to read an advance sample copy.

Mary reaches deep into our soul with heartfelt prayers based on her own life joys and struggles. Her vulnerable, lyrical prose grabs my heart and leaves me whispering through tears “Yes. Me too..”

Today, these words captured my heart:

“Help me know that it is not failure on my part when I can’t carry a burden–it’s simply a signal that it’s time again to surrender.”

Loss, heartache, illness, crisis load us down with burdens of sorrow, grief, fear and worry. But God doesn’t ask us to carry those. He asks us to surrender them to him. When I’m weary and worn it’s a reminder that I’m weighed down by things he never intended for me to bear.

I’m not a failure when I can’t stand under the weight.

That thought alone lifts my heart and gives me feet to move forward in life. How can I take my life forward when I’m dragging bowling balls of burdens behind me? I can’t. But isn’t it good to know that God doesn’t count that as a failure but rather an opportunity to surrender the burden to him?

Jesus promises he will exchange our heavy load for his light one.

He doesn’t insist we carry it, or ignore it but offers to carry it for us and let him replace our weariness and sorrow with his strength, peace and joy.

All it takes is letting it go.

Picture the commercial for letgo in which the man is hanging by one arm clinging to a truck on the side of a cliff while holding a bowling ball in the other hand. Funny, yes. But also life and death stuff here, folks.

When I take time to surrender to Jesus and let him take the burden from me, I find peace that is beyond my comprehension.

And you don’t even need an app for that.

I encourage you to embrace the idea that you have not failed and let God take over for you. And I highly recommend Mary’s new book. You can pre-order it here to enter a drawing for a chance to win a free Bible. Or get it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

I’d love to pray for you and the burdens you’ve been carrying. Let me know how I can help in the comments below or email me at laurabennet14@gmail.com

 

Are You Running Well?


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photo by Agberto Guimaraes https://unsplash.com/@agb800m

With spring we welcome baseball games and track meets in which running plays a predominant role. Even now, as athletes, our kids are preparing for the coming season with conditioning. In order to steal bases, they must run well. And no track star jumped on a track one day and broke a new record.

But whether we are true athletes or the couch variety, we all are running in a life race.

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photo by Martins Zemlickis https://unsplash.com/@mzemlickis

Our race isn’t a sprint either.

The race of life is a marathon with ups and downs, stumbles and skinned knees, exhaustion and refreshing cups of water. And in the end, we want to cross the finish feeling we’ve run the race well. I can’t wait to see Jesus, fall at his feet and hear him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I pray that will be the case. As followers of Christ, I think that is our goal.

Hebrews 12 gives us some helpful instruction to make sure we end in that place.

First, it says to “throw off” everything that hinders us and the sin that entangles us.

I haven’t run a marathon, but I can’t imagine that the runners carry around suitcases full of old stuff, winter coats with the idea it will protect them, or chains with iron balls dragging behind them.

That would be crazy, right?

But in life, we cling to hurts, unforgiveness, sinful actions, and addictions that hinder us.

The Bible says to throw it off. The word means a violent action. Not carefully put it down someplace close by where you can pick it up again. Not passively toss it at your feet. No, “throw off” indicates an intentional act of flinging it as far away from you as possible.

Next, this chapter encourages us to persevere.

A marathon takes time and endurance. My daughter who runs has described the physical and emotional challenge of a marathon—that tenth mile when she thinks she’ll never make it to the end.

When we decide we’re going to throw off junk and run, those old patterns may still trip us up, unhealthy relationships will attempt to pull us out of the race, and we’ll get tired on those days that seem like nothing is working and the finish line is a far off figment of our imagination.

We can’t give up, grow weary or lose heart.

Easy for me to say, right? But many other men and women of faith have gone before us, proving that God is faithful to us and his promises (Read Hebrews 11 for a faith boost.)

In order to persevere we must:

  1. Fix our eyes on Jesus. He began our faith and will perfect it. He endured the cross for us and considers US his joy. He put aside the shame of being beaten, naked and mocked so that we could be in relationship with him forever. Consider the opposition he had—even leading to his death. Most of us won’t ever have to suffer that much.
  2. Embrace trials as an opportunity. God sees everything we are going through. The world is a tough, evil place to navigate, but even out of all those terrible things, God can bring good and abundance to us. Those painful situations shape our character and give us depth. Sometimes they are discipline that God lovingly allows to train us. Like the hard training to run a long race.
  3. Remember that others are watching us. Our race is an encouragement to others. When we don’t give up, they believe they can make it too. And they will see Jesus in us as well.
  4. Not allow ourselves to be robbed. I’m not talking your purse or backpack. Bitterness towards situations or others, uncontrolled sexual desires or gluttony (over indulging in anything) can steal the best God has for us—our inheritance in Christ—the Bible calls it. We miss out on his goodness and grace when we allow these things to rule our lives. Temporary, momentary pleasure traded for beyond imagination fulfilment and joy. Not worth it.
  5. Trust that our God is a personal God. He is mighty, powerful, and consuming, but through Jesus, made a way to draw close to him. He welcomes us with open, loving arms. Don’t refuse him. Instead, worship him with confidence, awe and reverence.

How about you? Do you feel like you’re running well? Or do you need some encouragement from the sidelines?

Let me offer you a cup of water.

Sign up for my email list to receive my FREE guide to help you start or continue your journey. Or book me to speak to your group.  If you find encouragement in reading, check out my books .  My personal story of meeting my soul mate online is one of faith and amazing miracles.

What Is Joy?


2014 was a rough year.

Continuing illness from our house with mold, landlord issues, lack of employment, moving across country, saying goodbye to friends and family, and then a job loss took its toll on our family.

So when our pastor, Matt Keller, at Next Level Church here in lovely, balmy Florida began talking about choosing joy during his holiday sermons, you can imagine my divided thoughts and emotions. Yes, I know God’s good, and in all of it, he has done incredible things.

But we were challenged to choose joy. In every setting. You know the verse in James, “Count it all joy, brothers…”

REALLY??

Interestingly enough, around the same time, I was contacted about Margaret Feinberg’s new book, Fight Back With Joy. Would I be willing to write an honest review if I were provided a few chapters?

Naturally I said yes.

I don’t think this was a coincidence. Joy seemed a struggling commodity in our lives this past year. I wanted joy. I need joy. Maybe my word for this coming year should be “joy.”

Margaret says in her book that she always thought of “…joy as a natural byproduct of a life well lived.” I think that is what I believed too. But if that was the case, then I hadn’t lived well the previous year, had I?

Was joy the measure of whether my life was good or bad?

It couldn’t be. And if joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life, something God grants me then couldn’t I have it for the asking? Couldn’t it be cultivated in my heart?

What is joy anyway?

This is what Margaret Feinberg reveals in Fight Back With Joy.

And she goes a step further, showing how she chose joy in the midst of a diagnosis of cancer. Say what? Who does that?

In her typically engaging, lay-it-all out there way, Margaret shares how her life-threatening challenge created a compelling platform for discovering and communicating what true joy is and what it meant in her darkest time of need.

Defiant joy that declared darkness would not win.

We are encouraged that joy doesn’t deny hardship. It doesn’t sugar-coat our trials and pretend they are easy. No,

…joy is a weapon we use to fight life’s battles.”

Wow. It seems my battles have been joy stealers. The concept that I can choose joy to fight gives me hope and fills me with – joy!

Margaret goes on to explain all the ways God gives us joy. Such as through embracing his love for us, looking for joy in each good thing, being blessed by people God sends to refresh us (like Philemon for Paul in the Bible) and choosing to create moments and situations of hilarity. Those are only a few of the thought provoking and uplifting discoveries this encouraging author offers.

I nearly cried when my first few chapters came to an end.

This is a book I needed. And I have the inkling that many others do as well. We need this honest look at how to deal with the trials of our lives. Life, especially these days, is rough. Not everyone is facing cancer, but as Margaret acknowledges, every one of us has dealt with or is going through some difficult situation.

And God intends for us, enables us to live in joy.

Even in the darkest, most heart-wrenching of times. Not putting on a fake smile of “Everything’s great!,” but existing with something deeper and stronger in the midst of pain or sorrow.

I for one need that.

Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your story. Thank you for showing us how to fight in life with true joy.