My Dream of Being a Smuggler (Big News, Invitation, and Mega Diverse Book Giveaway)

Suggested Reading: Acts 1:1-11

Have you ever had to release your grip on a dream?

When I first surrendered my life to Christ in 2001, I wanted to share His truth and love to the ends of the earth. I dreamed of serving the Lord through mission trips. My husband said mission trips were not for him, so I decided to wait until our sons grew up. I secretly prayed our sons would have missionary hearts and join me in international ministry.

After watching a video showing a group of people in China receiving Bibles smuggled into the country in suitcases and weeping as they savored the God-breathed words of Scripture, I dreamed of becoming a Bible smuggler.

In 2011, I attended a Christian writers conference and spoke with a well-known agent about using writing as a tool for ministry. He asked me if I wanted to use writing for ministry or if I wanted my name on a book.

I said, “I want to share God’s truth and love to the ends of the earth and I don’t care how.”

He said, “Don’t forget the ministry of magazine writing.”

God used that conversation to lead me into a mission field I never considered possible.

But in September 2012, when I turned to pick up a paper from my desk, I ended up writhing in pain on the floor. My overcompensation to ease the pain from my 1992 upper thoracic back injury caused damage in my shoulders and neck. I had my first back procedure and shoulder surgery before the end of the year.

In January 2014, after numerous back procedures and two months before my second shoulder surgery, my mom fell while walking through a parking lot. When doctors reviewed her blood samples in preparation for her procedure, they diagnosed her with Leukemia. They placed her on bone marrow transplant list and sent her to Seattle for treatment in June, just a few weeks before our youngest son graduated from high school.

As we celebrated his achievement, I prepared to move out-of-state to serve as my mom’s live-in caregiver.

I wouldn’t be traveling to China that year.

A few of my aunts visited us in Seattle in September. They helped me celebrate my birthday by paying for me to attend a Christian writers conference the following year, to celebrate my mom’s remission.

After my aunts left, my mom encouraged me to continue using writing to encourage others and point to Jesus. She believed in me and didn’t laugh at me when I shared about my dream to become a Bible smuggler.

I started to dream again and repeated my 2001 prayer.

Lord, I want to share Your truth and love to the ends of the earth and I don’t care how!

My mom danced into the arms of Jesus in October 2014.

I went to that Christian writers conference, still tender with grief, and heard Robin Jones Gunn share about how she had dreamed of being a missionary.

She shared how God kept closing doors when she took the steps enter the mission field and how, years after allowing that dream to die, a young girl from the middle east sent her a letter. The reader thanked Robin for sharing Scriptures in her teen novels. She said she would never be allowed to read the Bible and asked Robin to add more Scripture into her novels.

Then, this young girl said she had prayed to receive Christ as her personal Lord and Savior with the character in the story Robin penned.

God allowed Robin to become a missionary as He sent her words to this young reader.

Weeping, I wrote these words in my notebook: Lord, please use the words I write to share Your truth and love to the ends of the earth . . . and I don’t care how!

During that conference, I received an email informing me that I’d been accepted to serve as a contributing writer for Our Daily Bread Ministries. I found that same agent and shared my news with him.

I would be smuggling Bible verses into China!

God is still allowing me to serve as a missionary, sharing His truth and love to the ends of the earth in ways I never dared to dream possible.

On July 22, 2021, two years after China banned online sales of Bibles, Our Daily Bread Publishing informed me that Different Like Me, which includes Genesis 1:27 and Psalm 139:13-14, is being published in Simplified Chinese.

To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise, praise, praise!

In Acts 1:1-13, moments before His ascension, Jesus establishes the disciples’ purpose and their Power Source.

“He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8, emphasis mine)

Jesus is coming again.

Until He does, we have the pleasure and privilege of sharing His truth and love to the ends of the earth . . . however and whenever He gives us the opportunities.

AND when we work together, we can reach more people for Jesus.

Hallelujah!

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BIG NEWS

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The Lord has blessed me with another wonderful ministry opportunity.

Alan, Xavier, and I are excited to announce the launch of our new family ministry.

Worship Expressed offers Christian apparel and accessories that I design.

I pray for those who will be joining me to worship God through our attitudes, words, actions, and the apparel and accessories we choose to use and wear every day.

Worship Expressed currently offers T-shirts, totes, mugs, steel water bottles, and journals in a variety of styles and colors

I’m currently designing sweatshirts and a few home décor items.

A percentage of all profits from Worship Expressed will be donated to Our Daily Bread Ministries and Compassion International.

Worship Expressed will also host periodic fundraisers to raise awareness for Muscular Dystrophy, childhood cancer, autism, and other ministries that serve children with special needs.

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Would you like to partner with me in ministry as the Lord continues to allow me to share His truth and love to the ends of the earth?

I need Praying-Peeps and Patron Planters.

Praying-Peeps commit to praying as God opens doors for me to serve Him.

Patron Planters join me in planting seeds of God’s truth in the hearts of readers by:

  1. Loving your neighbors by ordering Worship Expressed items and extra copies of Waiting for God and Different Like Me to share as gifts.
  2. Sharing photos of you with your Worship Expressed items and with copies of Waiting for God and Different Like Me on social media.
  3. Host an Author Reading or invite me to share a message at your next event.
  4. Order Worship Expressed items or contact me to inquire about designing custom items for:

* Church Events

* Bible Study Group

* Pastor Appreciation Day

* Church Staff Appreciation

* Ministry Leader Appreciation

* Family Reunions

* Ministry Teams

* Writers Groups

* Writers Conferences

* Fundraisers

* And MORE!

  1. Donate Waiting for God and Different Like Me to public libraries, school classrooms and libraries, free little libraries, church libraries, ministry leaders, and community programs that serve children and adults in need.

I thank God for your partnership in sharing His truth and love to the ends of the earth!

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BOOK GIVEAWAY

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I hope you enjoyed the “Representation Matters” blog series.

That special announcement I told you about is actually a MEGA BOOK GIVEAWAY, which includes signed and personalized copies of the following 4 books:

1. Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

2. Different Like Me by Xochitl Dixon

3. Breakfast with Jesus by Tina M. Cho

4. The Celebration Place by Dorena Williamson

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How do you qualify to be considered for this Mega Book Giveaway?

Follow ALL FOUR authors on Instagram by clicking on the links below:

@DorinaGilmore

@xochitl.e.dixon

@tinamcho

@dorenawilliamson

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This giveaway is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Instagram. All ages can win the giveaway if they have an Instagram account.

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One winner will be chosen at random and announced on Instagram by noon PT/3 pm CT on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. Prizes will be shipped to one winner at a U.S. address only.
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If you received this message in your email inbox, click here to join the conversation by making a comment under the original article on my blog.

I look forward to connecting and growing with you!

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Seeing My Neighbor (Anniversary Book Giveaway Recipients Announced)

Suggested Reading: Mark 12:28-34 and Luke 10:25-37

 

When the pandemic started, someone asked if I thought God was testing the Church.

 

I smiled. “No,” I said. “I think He’s dispersing the Church.”

 

During our conversation I explained how God had equipped the Church to fulfill His mission. In the New Testament, the Greek word for Church (ekklesia) means “an assembly,” “to call out,” or “the called ones.”

 

“Church” was never intended to be defined as a meeting place or time.

 

The Church is a living organism made up of living organisms ̶ God’s image-bearers, believers in Jesus who are commanded to love God and love people.

 

Though I didn’t attend a service in-person during the pandemic, God provided plenty of opportunities to assemble with His people online.

 

He also presented me with opportunities to talk to people in person, as we honored the social distancing boundaries and wore masks as an expression of love toward our neighbors.

 

As the Lord called me out, I spoke to my neighbors, the people God loves who lived in my neighborhood, the people I’d only waved at in the past . . . sometimes as I rushed to worship Him with other believers at Sunday service.

 

I slowed down and saw my neighbors as I walked to the park, shopped at the grocery store, smiled with my eyes, and sent air-hugs as we stood six-feet-apart.

 

I saw my neighbors as they walked or drove by our home.

 

Seeing my neighbors led to praying for my neighbors, as God taught me to truly love my neighbors as He loved them and me . . . selflessly and sacrificially.

 

How had I lost sight of my mission as a disciple of Christ who desired to be obedient to His calling?

 

I found answers by reflecting on the responses of two men, one in Mark 12:28-34 and the other in Luke 10:25-37.

 

In Mark 10, a teacher of the law approached Jesus and asked which commandment was the “most important” (v. 28).

 

Without missing a beat, Jesus said:

 

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (vv. 30-31).

 

This man answered wisely, knowing Jesus had simply affirmed what was written in the Scriptures (what we now know as the Old Testament). The Bible doesn’t tell us what that man did after his conversation with Jesus. I like to think that he went out and fulfilled his calling, to love God and people.

 

In Luke 10, another man approached Jesus. This expert in the law wanted to “test Jesus” (v. 25).

 

When he asked what he needed to do to inherit “eternal life” (v. 25), Jesus asked him to interpret the law (v. 26).

 

Correctly, the man repeated what we have come to know as the Greatest Commandment (v. 27).

 

Jesus called the man to fulfill his mission: “Do this and you will live” (v. 28).

 

Sadly, this expert of the law seemed to be looking for a loophole in Jesus’ command. I sense a hint of sarcasm when I read the man’s response in verse 29: “And who is my neighbor?”

 

Jesus gives the man a clear image of how to love God and people when He shares the Parable of the Good Samaritan (vv. 30-35). He then asks the expert in the law to identify which person in the parable reflected the heart of a neighbor toward the injured Samaritan (v. 36).

 

“The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him’” (v. 37).

 

“Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (v. 37).

 

Like this man, we are called out of our comfort zones to go and do likewise. We are called out of our self-centered pits of despair and discontent. We are called out of everything that hinders us from loving God by loving our neighbors selflessly and sacrificially.

 

God calls us to Him, to be transformed by His unconditional love.

 

He calls us to love our neighbors by turning away from everything that distracts us from seeing our neighbors, especially those who are different from us, less privileged than us, or carefully shoved out of our field of vision so we can forget about the things that make us feel uncomfortable or don’t personally affect us.

 

When everyone goes back to Sunday services, I pray we enjoy the fellowship as we grow closer to God and each other.

 

However, I also pray we remember that the buildings are not “the Church” and the times we assemble together for weekly services are not the main objectives of our mission.

 

Times of assembling with believers are meant to equip and encourage the Body of Christ to become more spiritually-matured disciples who are ready to be dispersed, so we can fulfill the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission . . . wherever God leads us in person and online.

 

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Loving God, thank You for empowering us with Your Holy Spirit who enables us to know You and love You.

 

Please help us see all of our neighbors, especially those who are different from us and those we are more comfortable ignoring.

 

Empower us to love our neighbors the way You love them, selflessly and sacrificially, unconditionally and compassionately, intentionally and genuinely.

 

Show us how to love with our words, our actions, and our attitudes in person and online.

 

Please remind us that You never asked us to change our neighbors, to make them more like us, or to expect them to fit into our vision of acceptable.

 

Make us more like You, Jesus, so we can reflect Your character as we reach out to others and point them to You so that You can transform them through the power of Your Holy Spirit, as You are transforming us.

 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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As I ask God to help me see my neighbors so I can love my neighbors, I’m excited to be a part of a group of authors who celebrate God’s intentional diversity and inclusivity.

 

Throughout the month of August, I’m working with Dorina Gilmore-Young, Tina M. Cho, and Dorena Williamson to help others see their misrepresented and under-represented neighbors in the pages of children’s books.

 

This week, I would like to introduce you to Dorina Gilmore-Young, the author of Cora Cooks Pancit.

 

When asked about the lack of representation of BIPOC characters in Children’s literature, Dorina writes:

 

“We have tasted progress, but we have not yet arrived. Representation still matters. As an author, an educator, and a mother of three brave girls, I want to be part of carrying the torch.” 

 

Dorina’s family has teamed up with Dr. Lucretia Berry, founder of Brownicity, to present a membership program called Global Glory Chasers. Each month they highlight a specific country and introduce a list of books, movies, music, and recipes to help families learn about different cultures.

 

To read Dorina’s article in the Representation Matters Series, “Mosaic Voices: Why Representation Matters in Children’s Literature and Beyond,” click here.

 

To learn more about Global Glory Chasers, click here.

 

To follow Dorina on Instagram, please click here.

 

We have a special announcement to share at the end of August, so I hope you’ll stay connected.

 

I look forward to growing with you as we seek to love God and our neighbors together!

 

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Congratulations to the recipients of the Anniversary Giveaway!

 

Michelle Vegara, you will be receiving a signed copy of Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace.

 

Karen Condit, you will be receiving a signed copy of Different Like Me.

 

I will email the winners to request mailing information.

 

Thanks to all of you who took time to read and respond.

 

Stay tuned! We’ll have another special giveaway SOON!

 

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If you are reading this message via email, please DO NOT REPLY to this email. Instead, CLICK HERE to leave a comment under the original article on my blog. You will have to scroll down to the end of the article to join the conversation.

 

Thanks for being a part of my blog family!

 

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Through the Good and the Bad (Exclusive Anniversary Book Giveaway)

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In August 2018, while I poured out my heart, emptied my tear ducts, and established a treatment plan with my new doctors, I finished writing Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace.

While struggling to adjust to the severe midwestern weather, I battled depression and signed a contract for my first children’s picture book, Different Like Me.

Busyness swept me off my feet, pulled me further from the stillness I needed with my Heavenly Father, and plunged me head-first into a spiritual drought.

I clung to God’s promises until I had no strength left and fell into His arms, exhausted and desperate for His Spirit to refresh my weary soul.

When COVID-19 hit the scene, I almost gave up under the strain of being too-close-to-my-spouse-for-too-long. I lost track of days as I ticked off just-one-more empty box on the calendar during the pandemic that lasted longer than I’d expected.

Amid hardships and heartaches, God unwrapped blessings right before my eyes.

When my doctor said pain management was the best they could offer me, God sent readers to donate the entire amount required for our rescue puppy, Callie, to complete her service dog training with Tails for Life.

When doctors diagnosed my friend’s four-year-old with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, God helped us raise the $22,000.00 required to reserve a fully trained service dog for him from Tails for Life.

When we said goodbye to our sixteen-year-old dog, Jazzy, God brought our sons to visit her for one last cuddle.

When the pandemic prevented me from building a solid launch team for the release of Different Like Me, God sent Mama Jana from Texas to help my ReachOut Bookstore family host the release party for Different Like Me.

As soon as we learned how to dress for midwestern weather and began deepening the genuine relationships we’d been building in Fond du Lac, God provided my husband with an interim position in Napa, California . . . thirty-one minutes from where our youngest son lived.

Good. Bad. Joyful. Sad.

Life happens.

The whirlwind of life’s ever-changing circumstances reminds me to walk in the present ̶ one breath at a time ̶ rejoicing in the presence of God and relying on the power of God.

How could I keep moving forward when I couldn’t seem to get a firm foothold?

Throughout Scripture, the Lord beckons us toward living each day with an eternal perspective.

In response to the Israelites cries for mercy and pardon, the Lord used the prophet Isaiah to remind them that He has always been able and available.

“The Lord says, ‘I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am. Here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name.’” (Isaiah 65:1, NLT)

God’s people rebelled against Him and rejected His image-bearers with hearts infected with self-righteousness (vv.2-5).

He promised judgement (vv. 6-7) and mercy (vv. 8-10), while assuring the Israelites they would suffer consequences for their actions and inaction (vv. 11-14).

Gentiles, the marginalized people the Israelites considered not-enough and not-good-enough, would be invited into God’s Kingdom (vv. 15-16).

“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore” (v. 17).

God’s “true servants” would thrive in the driest valleys, through the fiercest battles, as they trekked through the rockiest terrains in the Meantime Mountains, and as they enjoyed the fragrant fruit of their labor in His vineyards (vv. 18-23).

God would care for His people in all circumstances.

“I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!” (Isaiah 65:24, NLT)

Through the good and bad, peace will reign on God’s “holy mountain” as His people walk in the present, rejoicing in His presence and relying on His power.

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Mighty and Merciful Creator and Sustainer, thanks for knowing us and our needs intimately. Thanks for knowing our prayers before we even know what to pray.

 Thanks for interceding on our behalf, for fighting for us, for hemming us in and having our backs. Thanks for never abandoning us and never forgetting us.

 Loving and compassionate God, thanks for never giving in when we demand our way because we have no clue how much better Your way is for us.

 Please use every hardship to draw us closer to You and refine us so that we look more like You and respond like You.

Give us an eternal perspective as we move forward by faith, dependent on Your power and delighted by Your presence.

 Give us hearts that long to please You and submit to Your will with courage and confidence, through the good and the bad, trusting You and praising You with all You have given us.

 In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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To celebrate the first anniversary of Different Like Me and the second anniversary of Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace, I’m hosting an exclusive Anniversary Book Giveaway for members of my Blog Family.

Please DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL if you’ve received this message in your email inbox.

Subscribers to my blog can ENTER the Anniversary Book Giveaway by CLICKING HERE to scroll down to the bottom of the original blog post, “Through the Good and the Bad,” and answering the following questions:

  1. Where do you live?
  2. How did you find my blog?
  3. Would like a signed copy of Waiting for God, Different Like Me, or either book?

On August 11, 2021, I will announce the names of the blog family members chosen to receive either one signed copy of Waiting for God OR one signed copy of Different Like Me.

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If you want to help me spread the love, you can order extra copies of Waiting for God and/or Different Like Me to share as gifts today!

You can also encourage me by writing a short review on Amazon for Waiting for God and Different Like Me.

To write a short Amazon review, all you have to do is share what you liked about the books and why you would recommend the books to other readers.

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Thanks for being members of my blog family!

I look forward to growing with you!

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Callie’s Birthday Book Giveaway

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Thanks to my blog family members who left comments and birthday wishes for Callie.
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Congratulations, Roxanne Baker from Keewatin, MN (Waiting for God) and Barb Dawson from Smithville, OH (Different Like Me). I’ll be contacting you via email.
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Original Blog Article with Giveaway Details from June 12, 2021 is Posted Below
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BOOK GIVEAWAY: To celebrate Callie the Service Dog’s birthday, I’m giving away one signed copy of Different Like Me and one signed copy of Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace.
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To enter for your chance to receive one of the signed giveaway books, please share your city, your state, and what title you want to read in the comment section.
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If you already have a copy of both of these books, thanks for your support. You can STILL ENTER and, if you’re chosen to receive a signed copy, donate the book to your local library, an afterschool program, a classroom, a Sunday School teacher, or your neighborhood Little Free Library.
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Recipients must live in the continental United States to be eligible for this giveaway.
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Different Like Me celebrates our differences and our sameness as God’s beautifully diverse image-bearers. My first children’s picture book is a 2021 ECPA Christian Book Award Finalist, the 3rd place winner in the 2021 Selah Awards’ children’s book category, and has been placed into the hands of over 4,300 readers between August 2021 and March 2021.
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Waiting for God empowers readers with hope and an eternal perspective. Each chapter invites readers to inhale God’s Word, exhale prayers and praises, and rest in God’s love while He works in and through life’s inevitable waiting seasons. My first full-length devotional won 2nd place in the 2020 Selah Awards’ devotional category, was a 2020 Cascade Awards Finalist, and has been placed into the hands of over 25,200 readers between August 2020 and March 2021.
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To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise, praise, praise!
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Do you enjoy fun dog photos and videos?
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Are you interested in learning more about life with a service dog?
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For exclusive updates on events, special giveaways, and lots of fun photos of Callie the Service Dog in action, please join us on Facebook and on Instagram.
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I look forward to connecting with you on Callie the Service Dog’s social media pages.
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Thanks for celebrating Callie’s birthday with us!
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Do You Really Believe God Loves You Unconditionally?

Suggested Reading: Luke 15:11-32

I grew up loved but feeling unlovable.

I didn’t think people could express love in different ways. I didn’t understand that wounded hearts didn’t really know how to show love in healthy ways. I didn’t even know that I was clueless when it came to showing love or recognizing and receiving love from others.

When I heard about God’s unconditional love, I immediately started looking for loopholes.

How could a good God love someone who was so far from good?

I’d read the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) countless times before I figured out that I’d been missing a big point in the story by only focusing on the main character ̶ the lost son.

As God drew my eyes toward the father in the story, I stepped back and looked at what the Lord chose to share before and after the story of the prodigal son.

When Jesus shared “The Parable of the Lost Sheep” with a crowd of “tax collectors and sinners,” the religious leaders criticized His choice to keep company with such riffraff. Jesus knew if they were ever going to get to that righteous sweet-spot, they would need to be in His personal space.

Jesus knew the religious leaders had grown accustomed to judging those who they considered too-far-gone to be invited into God’s Kingdom. The religious leaders must have plugged their ears when Jesus proclaimed “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (v. 7).

In “The Parable of the Lost Coin” (vv.8-10), Jesus affirms each lost sinner is just as valuable and irreplaceable as the sinners who fluff their feathers and flock to prestigious religious events.

When Jesus introduced “The Parable of the Lost Son” (or the Prodigal Son), I focused on the biggest sinner in the story, the guy I could relate to most, the lost one, the messed up one, the one who knew he wasn’t worth a second chance.

But the father in this story had two nameless sons and I had no idea that I resembled both at different times in my life.

The younger son demanded and received his “share of the estate” from his father (v. 12).

For years, I read those words and bristled. Give me? Whose estate? Pause. Rewind. Does someone need a little home training? I know our sons wouldn’t dare demand we give them anything. (Let’s pause so I can adjust my crown of self-righteousness.)

After a while, God showed me how often I’d approached Him with similar demands. (Let’s pause so I can slip that crown of self-righteousness off and slink away with my head hanging low.)

Just like the father in the story, God didn’t let me wallow in shame or guilt. He turned my eyes to the father and helped me realize what I’d been missing for years.

Some parents understand the heartache of watching an adult child make decisions that we know will lead to painful and sometimes scarring consequences.

Some of us have held on so tight that we squeezed the life out of our beloved children.

Some of us have let go and watched the horizon, desperately praying for God to bring our prodigal children home before they hit rock bottom (vv. 13-16).

Some of us have even gone to retrieve our adult children when they discovered no one else wanted to help them.

Some of us have been rejected even after retrieving those adult children who suddenly realized they didn’t need us after we’d rescued them.

Like all rebellious souls, the lost son eventually had nothing left and nowhere to go. He “came to his senses” and realized that his father’s “hired servants” were living better than him (v. 17). He devised a plan, prepared a speech filled with begging and self-deprecation, and headed home (vv. 18-20).

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (v. 20).

The father had been watching the road, expecting him to return, wanting to welcome him home.

I imagine the son reeked of sweat, dirt, pigs, and anything else he picked up along the way.

Did he fear rejection because of his filthy presence . . . or worse, his filthy past?

Did he consider cleaning himself up before returning to the father, making himself more presentable, proving he deserved receiving another chance?

How would the father respond to his son’s reeking, sin-scarred life?

Before the lost son could spill out his well-rehearsed speech, the father welcomed him home with joy (vv. 21-23). The father didn’t chastise him, demand an explanation, scrunch his nose at the stench that must have been quite ripe.

He began to celebrate (v. 24).

When his older son returned and heard the party in full swing (v. 25). He didn’t ask if his brother was okay or rush to see him. Scripture says he “refused” to go into the house . . . so his father “went out and pleaded with him” (v. 28).

He complained about the father’s grace toward his brother while ignoring the father’s grace toward him.

Blinded by bitterness, he listed the ways he’d been faithful to the father over the years and griped about the things he did not have (v. 29). He referred to his brother at arms-length, calling him “this son of yours” instead of my brother (v. 30).

Instead of chastising or rebuking the older son, the father affirmed the security of his inheritance, which would be of even greater value as time passed (v. 31). He encouraged his son to acknowledge the greater meaning of his brother’s return (v. 32).

The father valued both sons equally, not for what each did or didn’t do but for who they were born to be . . . his beloved children.

As I consider all of my sins, past and present and those yet to come, I know I am always desperately dependent on the Father’s goodness and unconditional love for me and my reeking, sin-scarred life.

My heart aches as I recognize my similarities to the lost son.

I’ve ended up knee-deep into the muddy fields of disobedience and self-indulgence when I wandered from my Father’s presence.

I’ve squandered the gifts He’s given me, made selfish demands, taken Him for granted.

I’ve doubted His unending grace and unconditional love.

My heart aches as I recognize my similarities to the older son.

I’ve compared my sins to the sins of others, as if comparison could make my offenses more acceptable.

I’ve been bitter when someone received grace after hurting me, even when I knew I’d be begging for grace if I was the one crawling back with nothing more to lose.

I’ve focused on what I didn’t have instead of thanking the Father for all He has given me and promised me.

I’ve forgotten that nobody needs to work a little harder or be a little better to be worth loving.

As we prepare for Good Friday, it’s important to recognize how God’s unconditional love led to Jesus hanging on that cross in Calvary.

He cleared the debt caused by our sins in full and in advance, so that we can have a new life in Him.

Jesus did all the work necessary for our redemption and reconciliation with the Father.

But our good, good Father will never try to force Himself on us.

He lets us go when we’re determined to be rebellious, but never leaves us alone or loses sight of us.

He understands we’ll be tempted to wander into the darkest corners of disobedience and disbelief but keeps reaching for us.

The Father loves us all equally, not for what we do or don’t do but for who we were born to be . . . His beloved children.

His unconditional love can heal raw wounds and soften old scars, transforming us into beacons of hope and using us to help others find their way home to Him.

When we grow accustomed to traveling the rocky roads of rebellion, seeping our hearts in resentment, bitterness, and fear, we can become trapped by the lies of comparison and works-based faith.

But as we celebrate how the Father proves His love for us in all three of the parables in Luke 15, we can take Him at His word and answer yes to this question:

Do you really believe God loves you unconditionally?

(Please pause to place the crown of life securely on your head as you shout or sing, “YES!”) James 1:12, Revelation 2:10

***

Which brother in the parable do you most relate to and why?

When have you wandered from the Father’s presence?

How did you respond to God’s unconditional love upon your return?

When has it been difficult for you to believe God’s love and grace are freely given to you?

When have you compared your sins to the sins of another to justify rejecting them?

When have you refused to extend mercy toward someone else who returned to the Father’s loving embrace after a season of rebellion?

***

Loving Father, thanks for reminding us that You are always with us and always ready to welcome us into Your loving embrace. Please bring all of Your lost ones home and help us to love them as You love us. Forgive us for the times we’ve tried to earn Your approval, work off our guilt or shame, or judge others for their sins as if our sins were more acceptable.

Please purify our hearts and our motives so we can build healthy and holy relationships with You and others. Give us the courage to come alongside one another as we invite You to transform us with the heart-healing power of Your infallible truth and unconditional love.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

***

***

Please join me for the Pause for Prayer video series and subscribe to my YouTube channel today by clicking here.

Thanks for your loving prayers and support. I look forward to growing with you!

***

Have you read Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace?

If your heart is weary and longing for answers—for healing, for provision, for miracles—Waiting for God renews your hope with strong biblical truth and encouraging Scripture-based prayer. Guided to inhale God’s Word, exhale in prayer, and rest in God’s love, you will be restored, able to worship the Lord even when the wait feels endless.

 

I share personal stories and the experiences of others to help you reclaim your peace and joy, knowing God has not forgotten you.

 

You can order your copies of Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace and love your neighbor by ordering extra copies to share as gifts today (click here).

 

If you’ve already read Waiting for God, I want to thank you and ask you to please bless me by writing a short review on Amazon (click here). The more reviews a book receives, the more Amazon shares the book with visitors.

Thanks for helping me spread God’s truth and love in this simple way. 

To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise, praise, praise!

***

When We Can’t Seem to Catch a Break from Life’s Hardships

I didn’t even notice when the complaints started overtaking my thoughts.

Expected stress accompanied our move from Wisconsin back to California, but unexpected disappointments increased my grumbling capacity.

After hunkering down in a hotel for the first three weeks as we searched for a rental, we finally found a new apartment. Third floor. No elevators. Community living definitely required a few adjustments, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The furniture dealer didn’t deliver our recliners on the promised date. My struggles with pain management escalated as I adjusted to working with a new doctor. The perfect Thanksgiving feast I expected with both of our sons ended up being a quiet meal with our youngest son and his fiancé.

As the list of things that went wrong and things that did not go as I expected grew, my negativity nourished my complaining spirit.

I snuggled Callie and pouted as I prayed.

Can we catch a break from the hardships, Lord?

In His loving patience, God gently turned my eyes back to His Word.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

How am I supposed to rejoice or give thanks in these difficult circumstances, Lord?

On the surface, rejoicing felt impossible and giving thanks felt fake.

Until I took a closer look at what the apostle Paul was saying to the church of Thessalonica.

When I read each phrase separately, I missed the point.

I couldn’t rejoice always unless I prayed continually, which would lead to giving thanks in all circumstances.

When I focused on God, not myself or the temporary circumstances that affected me on this side of eternity, I could experience the biblical meaning of joy.

Acknowledging God’s constant presence helped me recognize the ways He was working in and through my life, in and through my relationships, and even in and through my trials and suffering.

My prayers became more focused on God, on His promises and His faithful goodness.

As His truth cleared my vision, I remembered all the Lord had done during my transition.

God had answered my prayers by allowing us to move from Wisconsin back to California.

He provided the funds for us to hunker down in a hotel with excellent customer service and given me plenty of opportunities to share His truth and love with the staff and fellow patrons.

Though many families were displaced by the fires and the pandemic, God led us to a gated community that would be safer for me to walk Callie when I wasn’t feeling well. My service dog learned how to navigate those three flights of stairs quickly.

Our furniture didn’t arrive before the holiday, but the Lord provided two temporary chairs that I could use for video interviews after the pandemic.

My struggles with pain management didn’t improve, but my family and countless prayer warriors continued supporting me.

On Thanksgiving, I video chatted with my amazing niece and nephew (Eliza and Emmett) before enjoying a tasty meal with our youngest son and his fiancé.

As the list of things that went wrong and things that did not go as I expected took back-seat to the blessings God showered over me, my capacity for rejoicing increased.

I stopped pouting and practiced the privilege of interceding for friends who were hurting, which helped me view my complaints with an eternal rather than an internal perspective.

Life isn’t going as any of us expected in 2020. But not one moment surprised God or threw him off His game plan.

Though we may not always feel like smiling or cheering, we can experience joy that supersedes our ever-changing circumstances when we rest in the center of God’s will for us ̶ an unceasing and intimate connection with Him, our unlimited source of strength, peace, hope, and joy.

Counting our blessings as we wait on God may sound trite, but I’ve learned it’s hard to keep grumbling when my heart begins bubbling up with gratitude.

Faithful Father, please help us to recognize and rejoice over every blessing that comes through being intimately connected with You.

***

What is the hardest part about viewing life with an eternal perspective when faced with difficult circumstances?

How has God blessed you in the midst of a tough season or situation?

***

For more biblical encouragement and Scripture-based prayers, check out Pause for Prayer: Thriving through the Wait, a video series on my brand-new YouTube channel. Here is the link to Episode 1: God Holds Us.

 

Pause for Prayer: Thriving through the Wait Video Series Begins Today

I’m excited to announce the second season of Pause for Prayer: Thriving through the Wait, which you can find on my new YouTube channel.

I need 100 subscribers before I can receive a custom YouTube channel.

If you enjoy my videos, please help me beat that goal by subscribing to my YouTube channel and encouraging others to do the same. Thanks in advance for your prayers and support. I can do nothing without God or your ongoing encouragement.

From November 21, 2020 to December 21, 2020, I’ll be sharing new videos daily on YouTube that can stand alone or be used as you read the thirty-one chapters of Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace.

During each Pause for Prayer video (5-15 minutes each), we’ll dig deeper into God’s Word, seeking to know Him and trust Him with every moment of the wait.

I’ll be reading selected Bible verses, offering biblical encouragement, and leading a Scripture-based prayer as I explore the challenges, the purposes, and the rewards of waiting.

As we continue trusting God with every moment of our lives, we can walk with confidence in His character, His truth, and His love as we thrive through the wait.

To watch Pause for Prayer: Thriving through the Wait Day 1, November 21, 2020, please click here.

To watch Time to Grow, a message I shared during an Our Daily Bread Ministries chapel time on May 20, 2020, please click here.

***

I have wonderful news to share, too.

Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace was awarded second place in the Selah Awards, hosted by the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, and placed as a finalist in the Cascade Awards, hosted by the Oregon Christian Writers Conference.

To God be the glory!

I enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship with the sisters who joined me for Flourish: Thriving through the Wait.

I’m thanking God for every person who participated.

Special thanks to my fellow author and speaker Mabel Ninan, who facilitated the chat and organized the giveaways, and my wonderful sister in Christ, Amy, who took Callie for her morning walk so I could reserve my strength.

Congratulations to the recipients of the five exclusive giveaways I offered during the event: Becky Heartsfield, Kathryn Robinson, Tamara Glover, Dora Jean Benson, and Carmen Perez.

Some of you have asked how you can pray for me and how you can support me as I continue sharing God’s truth and love to the ends of the earth.

I’ll need your help spreading the word so I can keep spreading God’s Word.

How can you serve alongside me?

  1. PRAY and praise the Lord with me daily!
  2. Subscribe to my blog (link on my home page) and my YouTube channel.
  3. Connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter (links on my home page).
  4. If you enjoy a blog post, a graphic, a social media post, or a video, please share those links on your social media platforms.
  5. When you share a post, tag me so I can give you a shout-out and interact with your family and friends in the comment section.
  6. If you’ve read Waiting for God or Different Like Me, please write a short review on Amazon then share the link to purchase Waiting for God and/or Different Like Me.
  7. If God encouraged you through any of my speaking events or writing workshops, please let me know so I can share your testimony/comments on my speaker page.

I’m looking forward to being rooted in God’s Word as we grow closer to Him and each other over the next few weeks.

*

 

Last Day to Register for Flourish: Thriving through the Wait (FREE Live Women’s Zoom Event with Xochitl Dixon)

Are you feeling tired, frustrated, discouraged, stuck, lonely, or simply longing for a deeper connection with God and other women?

If you answered yes, you are not alone.

Please PRE-REGISTER for Flourish: Thriving through the Wait by Friday, November 13, 2020 at 8 pm (Pacific).

If you pre-register and attend this FREE LIVE WOMEN’S ZOOM EVENT, you will be eligible for a chance to receive one of two signed copies of Waiting for God, or one of two copies of God Hears Her, an Our Daily Bread bestselling compilation.

You will also be eligible for a chance to receive the Mega-Giveaway, which will include: a signed copy of Waiting for God, a copy of God Hears Her, and a signed copy of my first children’s picture book, Different Like Me, with some fun swag.

I look forward to connecting with you after the message.

Father God, please prepare our hearts to hear from You and surrender every aspect of the wait into Your capable and compassionate hands. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

***

Flourish: Thriving through the Wait

Saturday, November 14, 2020 Agenda

Check-In: 9:45 am to 10 am (Pacific)

Welcome and Message: 10 am – 10:45 am (Pacific)

Fellowship and Giveaways: 10:45 am – 11:30 am (Pacific)

Closing Prayer: 11:30 am (Pacific)

***

 If you registered in the month of October or before for Flourish through the FBCVV Women’s Ministry, you do not need to register again.

If you haven’t registered yet, please click HERE and fill out the form.

Registrants will receive the Zoom link and instruction via email and will automatically be entered for a chance to receive one of the exclusive giveaways I’ll be offering during this FREE LIVE Women’s Zoom Event.

***

I will be recording Flourish: Thriving through the Wait for those who are unable to join me for this event. Stay tuned for more details on this blog and on social media. If you haven’t joined my blog family yet, please visit my home page and subscribe today.

***

Exciting Change of Venue for Flourish: Thriving through the Wait

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the First Baptist Church Vacaville Women’s Ministry will no longer be hosting Flourish: Thriving through the Wait on their Facebook LIVE page.

But God . . . Hallelujah . . . God quickly affirmed that nothing would stop me from sharing the message He’s placed on my heart to share with you.

If you registered in the month of October or before for Flourish through the FBCVV Women’s Ministry, the lovely leadership team has already given me your contact information.

You do not need to register again. You will receive the Zoom link via email so you can join me for this spirit-refreshing time of worship, fellowship, biblical encouragement, and prayer.

If you haven’t registered yet, please click HERE and fill out the form.

You will receive the Zoom link and instruction via email. All registrants will automatically be entered for a chance to receive one of the exclusive giveaways I’ll be offering during this FREE LIVE Zoom Event.

That’s right! FREE LIVE Zoom Event!

As I prayed over the change of venue, the Lord nudged me to make this event more personal.

I am looking forward to connecting with you via Zoom on November 14, 2020 from 10 am to 11:30 am (Pacific).

After the message, we’ll connect and celebrate with some fun giveaways.

Here is the original invitation with more details:

Are you feeling tired, frustrated, discouraged, stuck, lonely, or simply longing for a deeper connection with God and other women?

If you answered yes, you are not alone.

Please join me for Flourish: Thriving through the Wait.

We’ll enjoy a spirit-refreshing time of worship, fellowship, biblical encouragement, and prayer as God equips us to thrive through the wait with our hope, joy, peace, and our identities rooted in His unchanging and infallible Word.

If you pre-register and attend the FREE LIVE ZOOM EVENT, you will be eligible for a chance to receive one of two signed copies of Waiting for God, or one of two copies of God Hears Her, an Our Daily Bread bestselling compilation.

The grand prize will include: a signed copy of Waiting for God, a copy of God Hears Her, and a signed copy of my first children’s picture book, Different Like Me, with some fun swag.

Register for Flourish: Thriving through the Wait today!

If you cannot make it to this FREE LIVE Zoom Event on November 14th, I still want to connect with you in the comment sections on my blog and on social media.

I will be recording Flourish to share as the kick-off video for my brand-new YouTube Channel, as I prepare to present the second season of Pause for Prayer.

On November 21, 2020, you’re invited to Pause for Prayer: The Waiting for God Video Series.

 This stand-alone series, designed to complement the 31 chapters in my devotional, Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace, will include Scripture reading, biblical encouragement, and prayers.

 You do not need to purchase a copy of Waiting for God to enjoy this season of Pause for Prayer videos.

Join me on November 14, 2020 for Flourish: Thriving through the Wait and for Pause for Prayer, from November 21, 2020 to December 21, 2020.

I’ll share more information on this blog and through my social media pages.

If you haven’t connected with me on social media, please check out the links in the purple section at the bottom of my website pages.

I’m so excited to see what the Lord has in store for us!

Father God, thanks for assuring us that You have a purpose for every second we spend waiting for You. Please align our hearts with Yours and fill us with wisdom, courage, and confidence rooted in Your Word and Your proven faithfulness.

When the days feel way too long, fuel our perseverance with Your enduring hope. When the road ahead is covered in a fog of frustration, discouragement, loneliness, impatience, selfishness, fear, insecurities, or doubt, clear our vision and sharpen our hearing so we can discern Your directions.

Help us recognize our desperate need for You as we submit to the plan and pace You’ve set for our growth and our good. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

***

SPECIAL EVENT:  If you want to join me in reading through Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace while we enjoy the Pause for Prayer: Waiting for God Video Series, I’ll be hosting a book discussion and prayer time on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 at 6 pm (Pacific).

I’ll share the registration information on my blog and on social media soon.

Love your neighbors by ordering extra copies to share as gifts on Amazon, at Barnes and Nobel, from Our Daily Bread Publishing, or on the Christian Book website today.

If you’ve read Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace, please prayerfully consider writing a short review on Amazon and any other review platforms you enjoy so we can reach more readers with this empowering message of hope.

Thanks for your loving support and encouragement!

***

Are You Tired, Frustrated, Discouraged, Lonely, or Simply Longing for Deeper Connections with God and Others?

(UPDATED November 2, 2020)

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the First Baptist Church Vacaville Women’s Ministry will no longer be hosting Flourish: Thriving through the Wait on their Facebook LIVE page.

But God . . . Hallelujah . . . God quickly affirmed that nothing would stop me from sharing the message He’s placed on my heart to share with you.

If you registered in the month of October or before for Flourish through the FBCVV Women’s Ministry, the lovely leadership team has already given me your contact information.

You do not need to register again. You will receive the Zoom link via email so you can join me for this spirit-refreshing time of worship, fellowship, biblical encouragement, and prayer.

If you haven’t registered yet, please click HERE and fill out the form.

You will receive the Zoom link and instruction via email. All registrants will automatically be entered for a chance to receive one of the exclusive giveaways I’ll be offering during this FREE LIVE Zoom Event.

That’s right! FREE LIVE Zoom Event!

As I prayed over the change of venue, the Lord nudged me to make this event more personal.

I am looking forward to connecting with you via Zoom on November 14, 2020 from 10 am to 11:30 am (Pacific).

After the message, we’ll connect and celebrate with some fun giveaways.

Here is the original invitation with more details:

Are you feeling tired, frustrated, discouraged, stuck, lonely, or simply longing for a deeper connection with God and other women?

If you answered yes, you are not alone.

Please join me for Flourish: Thriving through the Wait.

We’ll enjoy a spirit-refreshing time of worship, fellowship, biblical encouragement, and prayer as God equips us to thrive through the wait with our hope, joy, peace, and our identities rooted in His unchanging and infallible Word.

If you pre-register and attend the FREE LIVE ZOOM EVENT, you will be eligible for a chance to receive one of two signed copies of Waiting for God, or one of two copies of God Hears Her, an Our Daily Bread bestselling compilation.

The grand prize will include: a signed copy of Waiting for God, a copy of God Hears Her, and a signed copy of my first children’s picture book, Different Like Me, with some fun swag.

Register for Flourish: Thriving through the Wait today!

If you cannot make it to this FREE LIVE Zoom Event on November 14th, I still want to connect with you in the comment sections on my blog and on social media.

I will be recording Flourish to share as the kick-off video for my brand-new YouTube Channel, as I prepare to present the second season of Pause for Prayer.

 On November 21, 2020, you’re invited to Pause for Prayer: The Waiting for God Video Series.

 This stand-alone series, designed to complement the 31 chapters in my devotional, Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace, will include Scripture reading, biblical encouragement, and prayers.

 You do not need to purchase a copy of Waiting for God to enjoy this season of Pause for Prayer videos.

Join me on November 14, 2020 for Flourish: Thriving through the Wait and for Pause for Prayer, from November 21, 2020 to December 21, 2020.

I’ll share more information on this blog and through my social media pages.

If you haven’t connected with me on social media, please check out the links in the purple section at the bottom of my website pages.

I’m so excited to see what the Lord has in store for us!

Father God, thanks for assuring us that You have a purpose for every second we spend waiting for You. Please align our hearts with Yours and fill us with wisdom, courage, and confidence rooted in Your Word and Your proven faithfulness.

When the days feel way too long, fuel our perseverance with Your enduring hope. When the road ahead is covered in a fog of frustration, discouragement, loneliness, impatience, selfishness, fear, insecurities, or doubt, clear our vision and sharpen our hearing so we can discern Your directions.

Help us recognize our desperate need for You as we submit to the plan and pace You’ve set for our growth and our good. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*