Friday, April 28, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: When you need God to transform your life


A Promise of Transformation
A devotional by Essie Faye Taylor

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” –2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

I was frustrated, disgusted, hopeless, helpless, disappointed, and discouraged. I was in a rut. 

After spending nearly two decades in the educational field, I was exhausted. It seemed like all of the years I’d dedicated to fighting for inner city Black and Brown children to have access to information and resources were in vain. The sacrifices encouraging students who ultimately made questionable choices, and the losses (kids lost to violence in the streets or those who never finished their high school degrees) were heartbreaking. The seemingly unsurmountable obstacles to equity in education overwhelmed me. I needed a change. I needed a paradigm shift. I need a mental transformation and revival. 

Many times in life, we need a personal transformation. This may be spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, or financial. We need a change because we get stuck in a toxic cycle of negative thinking due to us feeling devalued, defeated, and burnt out. People, especially in the church, felt this way during Bible times too. In the Bible verse above, the Apostle Paul encourages the Corinthian church. He writes of God’s promise of spiritual transformation and a fresh start. Transformation denotes a change in form, nature, appearance, or character. 

Paul could talk about God’s promise of transformation and a fresh start from experience. He was a devout follower of God. Paul studied under the scholar Gamaliel and was a student of the Bible. He was born a Jew and grew up well-educated. Before his name was changed to Paul, he known as Saul and he was devoted to the sect of Pharisees that he persecuted the church of Jesus Christ. Saul had authority to kill those who proclaimed the name of Christ. He was a part of the crowd who stoned the anointed deacon Stephen. He thought that he was doing the right thing, until He met Jesus who stopped him on the road to Damascus. Jesus called his name and blinded him. Saul was converted and his life was transformed after he was born again. This murderer and man who spoke against Jesus and his followers—he sought to kill the saints—was then found preaching about Jesus and proclaiming the Gospel. He became new because of his encounter with Jesus and he received a fresh start. His mind and heart were was transformed. His heart was transformed. He was a new creation with a new mission and a new name: Paul. 

God promises to make you new too! He will change your life and grant you a brand new start. Like Paul’s past persecution of the saints, your past will be forgiven by God. Scripture goes as far as to say that God will be compassionate with us and he will throw our sins into “the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). God will remove our sins from before Him, forgive us and forget our sins (Hebrews 8:12).

In the book of Jeremiah, God declares “for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). This scripture means that God will forgive us and give us a clean slate. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, God promises to make us new, once we are in Christ. Once we believe the Gospel of Christ and receive Christ, we are transformed in our lives, our thinking, our practices, and our habits. This is a process that we begin, step by step and day by day. We are no longer condemned by the sins of our past. We have a new beginning!

Call to Action:

Step #1: Lay down your weariness, exhaustion, frustration at the feet of Christ. He will make you new. He will revive and rejuvenate you. He will transform your life, for the better!

Step #2: Practice walking in the newness of life and according to biblical principles day by day. Transformation takes practice, time, and intention. 

Step #3: Embrace God’s forgiveness daily. Know that you’ve been forgiven. Don’t dwell on your past sins, mistakes, and shortcomings. It happened, but you have been forgiven. You are no longer condemned. Let the past stay in the past and walk forward into the new promise of the present and future. 

Step #4:  Get thinking right: We are human. We make mistakes. But we have hope! According to 1 John 1:9 (KJV), “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That cleansing is part of our newness. We are constantly renewed in Christ. 

Step #5: Remember, our identity in Christ is transformative! We become new, forgiven and accepted into God’s Royal Family. 

Let's Pray: 

Heavenly Father, I thank You for choosing me and calling me your child. Thank You for assuring me of your love and forgiveness. You cried, “Father, forgive them”, while we were sinners. You did for me then, despite my mistakes and faults. You said that I could cast my cares on you. You said that if I confess my sin, you would forgive me. I come to you today confessing and believing your promise of transformation. I am in Christ and I am new. I am forgiven. I am changed. My old life, sinful practices, and thinking are in the past. I am walking forward in victory by changing my habits, practices, thoughts, and lifestyle. Thank you for giving me the power and principles to live a transformative life of abundance in Christ. Thank you Father for hearing and answering me. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen. 

Song of Reflection #1:
 “Create in Me A Clean Heart” by Donnie McClurkin. Listen to it here.

Song of Reflection #2: “The Sea of Forgetfulness” by Helen Baylor. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Essie Taylor is an author, educator, minister, youth advocate, recording artist, podcaster, and improviser. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Rockford College.

She is a veteran educator of Bilingual Education, English as a Second Language, and Spanish Language Acquisition with National Board Teacher Certification. She is an advocate of lifelong learning, language learning, and multiculturalism. 

Essie is the CEO of KenMar Press, an author agency, and The Essie Faye Collection. Essie is the author of Finding the Love You Deserve: 30 Lessons in Self-Love & Acceptance, and Finding The Love Your Deserve: A 60-Day Healing Journal For Women of Faith

She is deeply committed to motivating minorities, women, and youth to pursue God while chasing their dreams and carving out their life’s path. She loves God, people, and helping others. 

Essie has been a Christian for nearly all of her 39 years. She was born again at 15 years old. She has been a bilingual worship leader and interpreter for 10+ years. By the grace of God, Essie helped to establish bilingual ministries at five churches in her young life. She is a survivor of domestic violence (verbal and emotional abuse) and marital abandonment in a prior marriage. 

Essie is a Chicago native. She lives in Chicago with her husband Donald Taylor II. 

Connect with Essie:

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: When you struggle with waiting on God

Waiting on God
A devotional by Tessa Huckstep

“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.” –Hebrews 11:11 (KJV) 

Waiting on God is something I have been struggling with lately.

Usually, I am worried that I will miss something that God has for me or that He will refuse to give me what He promised in His Word because I did not react fast enough.

I think there is an inner desire in every human being to take control of our lives and the situations that dictate our daily living. We fear being subject to someone else. We want to work hard and make it happen. But our timing is not God’s timing.

I love Sara’s story because her doubt is very human, but her faith is something to be admired. Sara knew that God had promised her husband, Abraham, a son. But after years of her own barrenness, Sara assumed that God did not intend to give Abraham a son through her. I cannot imagine how discouraged and disappointed she must have felt. Did she feel like God had cast her aside? Did she feel like God had rejected her and would never use her?

Sara, like most of us, decided it was too difficult to daily face her shortcomings and she decided she wanted the shame to end. So, Sara gave her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar, to her husband, hoping that Abraham will have a seed through Hagar. You can read this portion of the story in Genesis 16. Sara was impatient and tired of feeling inadequate, so she tried to find the quickest and easiest solution to her problems.

Sometimes, God gives us instructions, but we misinterpret what we think God is trying to tell us.

Naturally, we take what God has given us and we try to rationalize what He is saying and try to plan our next step. But God always intended to use Sara to give Abraham a son. You can open a Bible and read Genesis 18:9-15 where God told Sara that she would have a child, but she still did not believe him! In the book of Genesis, we do not see a major turning point in Sara’s spiritual journey where she decided to believe God. But we know from the book of Hebrews that it was because of her faith that she conceived and bore a son. In Chapter 21 of Genesis, we can read that Sara gives birth to her son in her old age because of her faith.

Waiting on God is hard. We want to make things happen and bring about His will in our own way, but our efforts will only bring confusion and destruction in the end. Sara had to let go of her control of her situation and have faith that God was going to do what He said He would do.

What situation are you trying to control right now? What would it look like to let go of the situation and just trust that God will take care of it? Do you need to step back and revaluate what it would look like for you to leave your life in the hands of the God who cares so infinitely for you?

Let’s Pray: Dear Lord, thank You for Your Word and the examples of the great men and women of faith in the Bible. Please grant us the courage to let go of the control we claim on our own lives. Help us to leave our future and plans in Your loving hands. You are the Lord of our lives, and we surrender our hearts and lives to You. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Wait on the Lord” by Donnie McClurkin and Karen Clark Sheard. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Tessa Huckstep grew up in rural Illinois. She was born to Christian parents and has known Jesus Christ personally since the age of five. 

Currently, Tessa is attending community college and majoring in elementary education. In the future, she plans to teach in the public school system, hoping to bring the love of God with her.

Tessa enjoys being active in her local church. She serves as a co-teacher for the two-to-five year old class where there is never a dull moment.

It is Tessa’s passion to be a girl after God’s own heart and through her studying of God’s Word, Tessa longs to draw closer to her Savior. Through her writing, she longs to take others with her on this journey of faith.

Tessa loves all things Regency, needlework, and dainty teacups of every size.

When she isn’t writing or studying for exams, she can be found in the kitchen with more flour in her hair and on the floor than in the bowl, though the mess is always half the fun!

Connect with Tessa:

Monday, April 24, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: God can turn your brokenness into beauty

A Good Work
A devotional by Kerry Sue Teravskis

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

It’s hard to be confident in our comparison-heavy society.

Mustering up courage is a monumental feat. Standing your ground in knowing that God is true, faithful and for us, can be a challenge. We can succumb to the challenge more than we realize.

Not that we intentionally succumb, but we allow ourselves to entertain subtle lies from the enemy that erode our confidence in God.

How can we overcome? For starters, we can note the promises of God as we find them in Scripture and record them in an accessible place to go to when the doubts or lies creep in. We need to immerse ourselves in the Truth.

Once we have this going, we can begin to see what God is capable of and is already doing in our lives for His glory. One of those things is working good in us. He is doing a good work in us. He is molding us and making us into the image of His Son. He is sloughing off the rough edges and causing us to shine more brilliant with His light.

He is allowing us to be a broken vessel so more light will shine through to reach more people, the people who need to hear how God is working through each of us. Our story may not be for everyone, but that is God’s decision. We need to be a willing vessel to let Him work in us.

I will admit being a broken vessel is painful. I’ve been in suffering for more than three years and it does not get easier with each passing day. It gets harder. New realities set in, old habits die hard and expectations either go unmet or unnoticed.

But God allows brokenness in us to shine His light brighter. It is when we are weak, He is strong in us. When we admit our weakness and boast about our weaknesses as the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, we boast so the power of Jesus Christ may rest upon us. We admit our brokenness to a lost and hurting world so God can use our vulnerability to minister to others.

Aren’t you more attracted to the one who is vulnerable, weak and honest? Doesn’t the mere message of humility shine forth from one who recognizes God’s work and knows this work is good?

God’s work is good. It may be hard. Even excruciating, but it is good. Our loving Father calls it good. If we look closely at Philippians 1:6, we see that He is working in us. Circumstances can be quite difficult around us, but God will use them to do the good work in our hearts, minds, souls and strength. He is causing all things to work together for our good through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:28).

He is good and does good things for our good (Psalm 119:68). And He is working good in our hearts. That’s a lot of good. I happen to circle the word good every time I see it in my Bible because I want to see it and remember and be comforted in knowing His goodness is here for me.

With God working good in us, one fruit displayed by the Spirit is goodness (Galatians 5:22) pouring out for all to see. By walking in the Spirit and allowing God to have access to our hearts, we in turn can be used as a light with fruit demonstrating to others the good work He is doing in our lives. God is continuing this work and will not be done until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6).

What God has set out to do He will complete, and He will do this in His goodness.

Let’s Pray: Father God, thank You for being good. This is so reassuring in this topsy-turvy world because I can trust in Your faithfulness to be the same, always. May I allow You to carry on the good work in my life and may I truly boast of my weaknesses and my brokenness so Your light will shine brighter to those around. May my thoughts center on You and Your goodness and not on my brokenness because I truly want all the glory to be Yours. In the Name of Your Son, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “All Things Are Working” by Fred Hammond. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

As a wife and Marmee to three adult children and one brand new daughter-in-love, Kerry Sue’s life is very full. She met her husband in college and served in the mission field with him for a few years before settling down back in the United States of America to raise their family.

Kerry Sue’s family was a homeschooling family for 20 years and they enjoyed it immensely. For the last 23 years they have lived on a small farm in Northern California where they have raised many farm animals, along with growing and preserving their food. Kerry Sue’s family farm has been a great source of enjoyment and a place to host many family gatherings. She maintains an open-door policy for dear friends—old and new.

Following and serving Jesus Christ is an integral part of Kerry Sue’s life as well as her family’s.

Whether it’s singing in our church choir, teaching children or leading and lecturing at a women’s Bible study, Kerry Sue loves to demonstrate her love for Jesus by giving to Him in service. She’s been a blogger for more than eight years, a Bible study writer for two years, and a devotional writer for about one year.

Kerry Sue writes about finding God’s Sovereignty in our pain and suffering.

Connect with Kerry:

Friday, April 21, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: Learning to trust and obey God through it all

Good Things Await
A devotional by Hannah Benson

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”—Psalm 81:10 (ESV)

As I read the story of the Israelites, I realize that I can relate to them in a lot of ways. Many of the lessons God teaches His chosen people throughout the Old and New Testaments can certainly apply to us as well. Do you remember their story? In case you don’t, I’ll write a refresher below. The following is the shortened version.

The Israelites had suffered as slaves in Egypt for 430 years. They wanted nothing more than for someone to come save them and to set them free from their bondage. Eventually, God raised up one of their own—a man named Moses and his brother, Aaron, to lead His people out of Egypt.

It’s a long and harrowing process, but once Pharoah finally let the Israelites go, things seemed to be looking up until Pharoah changed his mind and with his armies, chased the Israelites soon after their exodus. For a moment they panicked because the Red Sea was infront of them and Pharoah and his army were behind them. They needed a miracle and God delivered them by splitting the Red Sea so that they could walk through it on dry ground. As soon as they were safe on the other side, God closed the Red Sea over their enemies, and they never had to see those Egyptians again!

But then, they entered the Wilderness of Sin. They spent days in the desert that turned into months and years before they could enter the Promised Land. A trip from Egypt to the Promised Land should only have taken 11 days but there was a delay because the Israelites complained and disobeyed God. As a result, they had to wander through the wilderness for 40 years. During this journey, they were not content with God’s daily provision of manna from Heaven (Exodus 16). They didn’t have any meat available to them like they had as slaves in Egypt. They said that they would’ve rather “died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 16:3).

Had not God had proven Himself faithful when he brought the ten plagues upon the Egyptians and kept the Israelites from harm? What about when He had parted the Red Sea?

The Israelites had forgotten the faithfulness of God and their past season looked enticing. On multiple occasions, they were even willing to return to Egypt and be slaves again because the fear of the future was too frightening!

In the same way, sometimes, God calls us to walk away from a season because it was harmful for us. Or maybe, it was a great season, but it’s simply time to move on. How many times have we been like the Israelites, afraid to face change? Have you ever wanted to go back to a past season just because change looks too scary? I know I have.

God doesn’t desire that we live in captivity. I also believe that He doesn’t mean for us to stay in the same season forever. But what do we do when seasons change? It can be frightening, and we can be tempted to hold onto the past, whether it was good or bad. But I truly believe that He wants us to let go and step into the new season. Remember His words in Psalm 81:10, “I am the LORD your God,” He tells the Israelites. “who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”

God was faithful to bring the Israelites out of captivity. He didn’t want them to go back. We, like the Israelites, need a frequent reminder of that story. We need to remember that God brought us up out of the last season, out of high school, out of a longtime job, out of a relationship, and we’re not meant to go back.

This is where the next part of the verse comes in. After we’ve come out of a previous season, I think we just stand there, too afraid to move forward, and long for the past because it seems “safe”.

But we’re so busy staring at the past that we miss the present and the fact that God wants to move in our lives now. I believe God wants us to be expectant. We should trust that He will provide for us now as He did back then. There is beauty in every season. Imagine how many good things await us if we opened our hearts and allowed Him to move freely in our life.

Let’s Pray:
Dear Father God, please forgive me for being stuck in the past when you’re calling me forward. Please help me to be brave and courageous and take the next step forward, whatever that looks like. I trust that You have my best interests at heart. You will not lead me somewhere that You will not be. Thank you for that! In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Trusted” by Jillian Edwards. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Hannah Benson is a Jesus-follower who’s passionate about sharing the love of Christ with others. 

From the time she could hold a pen, she was writing. But it wasn’t until she was sixteen that she began to seriously follow God’s calling to write a novel. Hannah is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and has at least four novels in the works. For the past five years, she has been involved with her local Biblical theater company. She wants to show others the love of Jesus through the creative arts.

When she’s not acting or working on her upcoming novel, you can find Hannah laughing with her siblings, cuddling her little fluffy dog, or reading books (usually historical fiction or fantasy stories). You can read more of Hannah’s writings on her blog or on her Instagram where she strives to write content that leaves others feeling encouraged.

Connect with Hannah:

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: God wants to write a good story for your life

Trust God with Your Story
A devotional by Sarah Cole

"Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.”–Psalms 139:16-18 (NIV)

I love a good story.

Give me a free afternoon and a seat in the cafe at the local bookstore, and I escape to another place and time: Boy meets girl, they fall head over heels, and live happily ever after. While romance novels aren't for everyone, happy endings are good medicine, aren't they? Especially if we doubt we'll ever experience one again.

I like to think of God as a master storyteller. With a flick of His pen, He introduces us to other characters, surprises us with new opportunities, and adds enough suspense to prepare us for what's next. As the author of time and space, we can trust Him always to know what's best for us (Matthew 6:8).

When we open a book in the middle of a story, it's a mysterious place where things are messy, and the characters' futures are up for grabs. But skimming a book's contents means we never see the complete picture, especially if we don't know how it ends.

If you're living in the messy middle, you may wonder if a happy ending is just a fairytale. But Jesus Christ’s plans for you are ultimately for your good (Jeremiah 29:11). While the adversity in your current chapter seems endless, you can trust that His favor and blessing will come in the next. If I could write my own story, I'll be the first to admit I would eliminate suffering, loss, and disappointment. But if God gave me everything I wanted, including a pain-free life, I wouldn't reach my potential or witness the miracles that glorify Him.

Knowing Jesus doesn't exempt us from suffering. Instead of giving us cliff notes ahead of time, He provides something better: the Holy Spirit (John 16:13-14) and His Word (the Holy Bible) to comfort and guide us. And when we question His goodness, out of nowhere, Jesus enters the scene and rescues us (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Looking back on my life, it was during times of brokenness that God's faithful hand protected and guided me. While some chapters aren't worth repeating, I wouldn’t want my story written any other way. Not only did my love for Jesus grow, but so did I.

However painful this chapter is, find comfort in God's sovereignty (Psalms 103:19). He knows that what He's allowing will accomplish His best for you. Ultimately death isn't your final chapter because if Jesus is your Lord and Savior (1 Corinthians 15:55-56). You'll know nothing but joy as you spend eternity basking in His presence (Revelation 21:4).

It sounds like a bestseller if you ask me, only better because it's true!

Let's Pray: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for being so good to me. I am confident the story You're writing for me is perfect. When adversity tests my faith, I trust that Your faithful arms will carry me. And whatever the future holds, I rejoice in the eternal future You promised me. In Jesus's Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “God Is In This Story" by Katy Nichole & Big Daddy Weave. Listen to it here

Author Bio:

Sarah Cole’s interest in writing began in grade school when her poem was published in the local paper. As she got older, her mother’s chronic illness inspired her to design a line of greeting cards. Since then, she has written for her college newspaper and two community newspapers where she wrote restaurant reviews and articles for their “Best of” spread.

Her experience as an administrator in the marketing field gave her the opportunity to write ads for a local business journal.

After a 20-year detour and a three-year season of adversity, God reignited her passion to write. Two divine appointments later, the short story she wrote about her father appeared in the St. Paul Almanac, and a short story about Gigi (her Cocker Spaniel) was published in Guideposts (magazine) Mysterious Ways. She believes her adversity was worth the lessons God taught her.

Since 2022, Sarah’s devotionals have been published in The Secret Place by Judson Press, as well as David C. Cook’s Devotions and The Quiet Hour. To this day, she smiles, pinches herself and gives God all the glory.

When she’s not writing, Sarah enjoys watching cooking shows, designing cards and mugs, and taking day trips.

Connect with Sarah:

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Spotlight on "Love Connects Us All"

Join me in wishing a "Happy BOOK Birthday" to my author friend Michelle Medlock Adams! 

Her new children's book, Love Connects Us All, releases today! She's here to share the story behind her book and offer a copy of it to the winner of the book giveaway contest. 

The contest is for U.S. residents only. If you live in the USA, you can enter the contest via the Rafflecopter widget toward the end of this guest blog post. Meanwhile, enjoy Michelle's story!

The story behind “Love Connects Us All” by Michelle Medlock Adams

I love sharing my children’s books at schools across the country. This past year, I had the privilege of reading my Christmas picture book, “Dachshund Through the Snow” to several elementary classes the week before holiday break. There’s a part in my book where Crosby, the littlest dachshund in all of Diggityville, is bullied because of his tiny stature. I always stop after that scene and ask, “Have any of you ever been bullied?” Unfortunately, far too many hands go up after I ask that question, and this particular day was no different.

I had just finished reading the final page when the bell rang, and the students began lining up to return to their classrooms, except for one little girl. She hung back and inched her way toward my book table.

“Mrs. Adams, I was bullied…because I don’t have a mom,” the little girl said in a shaky voice.

I knelt down and hugged her.

“Honey, I’m so sorry that happened to you, but you know what? You are so loved by your dad, and you are also loved by God! That’s a lot of love, isn’t it?”

She nodded her head and gave me a little smile before rejoining her classmates. As I waved goodbye to the students, I prayed that God would heal that little girl’s heart, and I thanked Him for allowing me to be there that day.

That encounter was confirmation that God had truly given me the words for my upcoming picture book, “Love Connects Us All”—a book featuring all different kids of families with the overall message that each one of us is a part of God’s big, beautiful family.

I wrote this book because I wanted all children—like the little girl who came from a single-parent household—to find themselves in the pages of my book and celebrate their special families.

Two verses of “Love Connects Us All” says:

“I’m thankful for my family—

this one that God designed.

My family might be different,

but it’s my favorite kind.” 

“And there is more to praise Him for—

I’m in God’s family, too!

I am a precious child of God.

And guess what? So are you!”

The book ends with a special prayer: “Thank You, God, for my family. It’s not like any other family—that’s what makes it so special! I am so grateful for the love we share. And I’m so thankful because I’m in Your family, God. Amen.”

Our words, whether written for children or adults, hold great power. They can encourage, empower, educate, and comfort our readers. They can bring much-needed laughter, and they can provide a temporary escape into the world of story. As Christian writers, we can make a difference, and just knowing that fact, should drive us to put in the hours studying the craft, learning the market, revising and rewriting, praying over every word, and promoting our books so they can go everyplace they were intended to go and do the work they were destined to do.

I’m not saying that as Christian writers we are expected to have all the answers, but I am saying this—we know the One who does! He can help us help our readers! And it’s our privilege to hold the hands of our readers and walk them through these difficult situations.

Because love really does connect us all.

Author Bio:

Michelle Medlock Adams is a best-selling author and an award-winning journalist, earning top honors from the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Hoosier State Press Association to name a few. 

Author of over 100 books with more than 4 million books sold, Michelle is also a New York Times Bestselling ghostwriter and has won more than 90 industry awards for her own journalistic endeavors. 

Since graduating with a journalism degree from Indiana University, Michelle has written more than 1,700 articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites; acted as a stringer for the Associated Press; written for a worldwide ministry; hosted “Joy In Our Town” for the Trinity Broadcasting Network; blogged twice weekly for Guideposts; written a weekly column for a Midwest newspaper; founded and served as president of Platinum Literary Services; and served as an adjunct professor in the Professional Writing Program at Taylor University. 

Today, she is Chairman of the Board of Advisors for Serious Writer, Inc.; senior editor of her very own children’s book imprint “Wren & Bear Books”—a division of End Game Press; and a much sought-after speaker at professional writing conferences and women’s retreats all over the United States.

When not working on her own assignments, Michelle ghostwrites articles, blog posts, and books for celebrities, politicians, and some of today’s most effective and popular ministers.

Michelle is celebrating her recent releases: Dachshund Through the Snow, Springtime For Your Spirit, Our God is Bigger Than That!, I Love You to the Sun and Beyond and Fly High.

Michelle is married to her high school sweetheart, Jeff, and they have two daughters, Abby and Allyson, two sons-in-law, four granddaughters and two grandsons. She and Jeff share their home in Southern Indiana with two miniature dachshunds and two spoiled kitties.

When not writing or teaching writing, Michelle enjoys bass fishing, cheering on Indiana University sports teams, watching Doris Day movies, and all things leopard print.

Back Cover Copy for Love Connects Us All

What is a family made of?

It can be hard to describe sometimes … but every family has the same thing: love!

Whether someone has step siblings or has lived in foster care or no matter what the size of their family—love connects everyone. It’s moms and dads and pets and friends, and aunts and uncles, too. It’s grandparents and godparents—The ones who treasure you.

In eloquently written rhyme, Michelle Medlock Adams helps readers to see family in a new light. That family isn’t determined by DNA or location—but by the precious love given and received. 

After all, we’re all part of a beautiful family of a very loving God.

U.S. Residents ONLY may enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of this book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 17, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: We need to stay connected to our power source

Stay Connected to the Power Source
A devotional by Angela Anderson

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”—John 15:5 (NKJV)

I recently purchased a new smartphone. The one I owned prior was somewhat outdated, and the battery was going bad. Each time I charged it, the battery life seemed to be getting shorter and shorter. Soon it only took an hour or two of use before the battery percentage was almost at zero!

Instead of throwing out the old phone, I allowed my youngest son to use it for the purpose of playing educational games that are designed specifically for children. His favorite game was constructing animal puzzles. The sound effects plus the celebration with balloons and confetti at the completion of the puzzle kept his attention for a good amount of time.

One day, I noticed that he was getting visibly frustrated. The phone appeared to automatically turn off right in the middle of his game. He brought the phone to me, and I tried to explain to him that the battery ran out of power, and the phone needed to be connected to the charger. He brought the lifeless phone back to the table where the charger was plugged into the wall. He plugged the phone into the charger and within seconds, the screen lit up and the battery percentage registered at one percent.

Although the battery indicator was still in the red, meaning the phone was not completely charged, the phone was still working just enough for my son to resume playing his game. He could see that the phone was on, but he did not realize that the battery was still extremely low. He excitedly removed the phone from the charger so that he could go back to the other room where he was playing his game.

I called out to him and explained that the battery did not have enough power and before long, he would have to put it back on the charger. But he left the room with the phone. He did not understand that he had not spent enough time connected to the charger so that the battery would have enough power to make it through at least one game.

Sometimes our lives are like this old phone. We run around trying to accomplish everything we possibly can, depleting our battery power into the red zone. So, we take a few moments out of our busy schedule to connect to God, the Source of our power. But before He can supply us with what we need, we disconnect from Him and try to continue in our own strength. Yet, we do not have enough power to operate effectively because we simply did not spend enough time connected to the Power Source.

We need to slow down and recognize that God is ready and waiting to pour out His power into us, if only we are ready and waiting to receive it. We must come to Him daily with the understanding that without Him, we are nothing. Let’s make a commitment to stay connected to Him!

Let’s Pray:
Eternal God, we acknowledge that You are the vine and we are the branches. You are the source of our strength and You have a never-ending supply of power that we need from day to day. May we understand how important it is to stay connected to You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Part of Your Story” (song) by Cheri Keaggy. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Angela Anderson was born in Brooklyn (New York) and raised in New Jersey. 

She started writing at an early age and realized in elementary school that it was both a strength and a passion. She continued writing through high school, college, and into adulthood.

Angela is the author of a devotional book titled Just When I Thought I Knew God, and she is currently working on another devotional book that will be introduced in 2023.

This is Angela's third year as a devotional writer for Alexis A. Goring’s “God is Love” blog. In 2021, Angela was a winner of a devotional writing contest where the entry is featured in a book published by Proverbs 31 Ministries. The book is titled, Hope When Your Heart is Heavy. The following year, another one of Angela’s devotionals was published in another publication from Proverbs 31 Ministries, called Living Unbroken.

Angela has a passion for inspiring and impacting others through her writing and speaking.

Angela is a Mom Life Coach. She empowers mothers who want to identify their God-given purpose and live it fully while taking care of their family. Angela develops mothers into mompreneurs by providing them with the necessary tools to be successful and fulfilled in life. These tools equip them to see their value, understand their importance, and reclaim their identity.

Angela has been married to the love of her life, Duane Anderson for 18 years. Together they have two sons: Thomas (age 10) and Ryan (age 5). Angela’s favorite pastime is journaling.

She treasures spending quality time with her family.

Connect with Angela:
Facebook (personal):
Facebook (Author page):
Angela offers free consultations for mothers who want to pursue their dream while taking care of their family. Schedule here:

Friday, April 14, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: God wants to give you a good and perfect gift

God’s Good and Perfect Gift
A devotional by Karen Marstaller

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”—James 1:17 (ESV)

On the Friday before Easter, we remember the gift of salvation which God gave to us long ago.

His good and perfect gift was His Son—on a cross. His reason to give this lavish gift was simple: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).

God’s gift wasn’t wrapped in pretty paper with a frilly bow on top. Instead, His present was covered in innocent blood with “Paid in Full” pounded into the palms of His hands with heavy iron spikes.

Yet, God says His gifts are good and perfect. He says they come straight from our Heavenly Father. He says that every one of His gifts have their source in the light of God’s presence. And if we look closely, we will see His perfect radiance in the gift of His Son, His perfect sacrifice for our sins.

One of our granddaughters wanted a watch for her birthday, so we ordered it for her. Delivery was delayed and she didn’t receive it when she expected it. She waited for many weeks, and when it finally arrived, she opened the box with a lot of pent-up excitement and anticipation. After charging and synching it to her phone, she eagerly showed us all the new capabilities she has with her new watch.

In a similar way, the promised Messiah came to us kind of like our granddaughter’s watch did. God pre-ordered the mission of Jesus numerous times in the Old Testament, but it was a long time for God’s people to wait. Then the New Testament begins with the illumination of a great star at Messiah’s birth (Matthew 2:2). After that momentous occasion, the gospel writers record the truth of the mission of Jesus—to bring salvation to people of all nations. How excited they must have been as the followers of Jesus went everywhere with Him to share the good news of God’s perfect gift.

But then Jesus was crucified.

Shock. Horror. Fear. Despair. It must have seemed impossible to accept that their Rabbi, their Master, was dead. They had believed He was from God and they had followed Him for three years. And now He was gone, and they feared for their lives.

But God wasn’t finished with His perfect gift. From the utter darkness that covered the earth at the death of Jesus on that Friday afternoon, to the early morning Light of God’s resurrection of His Son, the followers of Jesus were terrified and confused. But when Jesus rose again on that glorious Sunday morning, God’s good and perfect gift was revealed. Jesus Christ, God’s promised Messiah, conquered death, rose from the dead, and He is Alive!

Gone were the clouds of sorrow and hopelessness. The followers of Jesus discovered how to walk in the strength of their risen Lord. Fearlessly, they shared the glorious news of God’s gift. Their faith became rock-solid because now they knew Jesus was the Promised One, the precious gift from the “Father of lights.” They were able to boldly declare that the Lord God Almighty, the Giver of all good gifts, proclaims salvation for all who believe in His Son, and He is faithful to His promises.

So, we celebrate a despised and horrific cross because it leads us to an empty tomb. Our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is our perfect gift for every day of our lives, both on earth today, and then in Heaven for all eternity. Hallelujah! Thank You, Lord!

Let’s Pray: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your good and perfect gift of Your Son, Jesus. Thank You for the Life and Light He brings to our lives, for His payment for our sins on His cross, and for Your promise of everlasting life to believers in Him. It’s all because of Your incredible gift of Your perfect Son, Jesus Christ. It’s in His name that we pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Forever” by Kari Jobe. Listen it here.

Author Bio:

Karen Marstaller is a retired high school teacher who spent most of her career challenging creative students to write. Her heart is for her readers. 

She writes to encourage them, to make them laugh, to show them that life is a beautiful journey, and regardless of their past, to show them that there is joy ahead if they will just keep looking.

Karen and her husband live in central Texas in a sweet little home that they completely remodeled. They enjoy spending time with their family, which includes seven precious grandchildren.

Most of all, Karen writes in obedience to the command to love your neighbor, to offer a cup of water to those who are dying of thirst, and to comfort others with the comfort she has received.

You can reach Karen by emailing her at this address:

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: Finding your value in how God sees you

You are His Beloved
A devotional by Dr. Jessica B. Turner

“And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” –Mark 1:10-11 (ESV)

Many are familiar with the Scripture above (Mark 1:10-11) because it paints such a beautiful picture of John the Baptist and his role in preparing the way for Jesus Christ. It was by John’s hands that Jesus Christ himself was baptized by water in the Jordan River. While such an event is paramount, it’s what happens immediately after that has always stood out to me.

Before Jesus performs any miracles or preaches any sermons, God makes it clear how much He loves His son, Jesus Christ, simply because He is His son. But He doesn’t stop there. God goes on to declare how proud He is of His son.

For as long as I can remember, I have found my value in my doing. The better my grades were, the more deserving I was of praise. The more involved I was in extra-curricular activities, the more respected I was amongst peers. As I got older, the actions simply shifted to reflect different roles such as veterinarian, wife, and mother. Yet, the bottom line was always the same: If I am not doing enough, I am not enough. And if I’m not enough, I am not loved.

So, when I first read God’s words to His son before Jesus ever did anything, I was blown away! It challenged everything I had ever believed regarding my value. Instead of my worth being found in what I could do, maybe it was found in who I was.

While this new revelation was freeing, it took time for me to reprogram what I had deemed true my entire life. It wasn’t until I fully grasped my identity as a daughter of the Most-High God that change really took place. Suddenly God’s words spoken over Jesus Christ (“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”) became words spoken over my life.

I am God’s beloved daughter; with me He is well pleased! Not because of my doing but because I am His!

Now, when I am faced with days where I feel I am not enough, I remind myself that I am His beloved and that is all I need because His love endures forever. I hope you find comfort in knowing that you are His beloved as well!

Let’s Pray: Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me so much that you gave Your one and only Son as a sacrifice for my sins. Please help me to see Your love as the precious gift it is. For it is through Your love that I am declared Your child. Help me to stand firm in my identity as a child of God knowing that my worth lies not in my doing but in who I am in You. I love You and I trust You. In Jesus’s Name, I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Who I Am (Official Lyric Video)” by Ben Fuller. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Dr. Jessica B. Turner is a wife, mom, and LSU graduate with a degree in veterinary medicine.

After practicing small animal medicine for six years, she traded in her stethoscope to become an online wellness coach, motivational speaker, and writer with a passion for mental health advocacy. This major life change was sparked after Jessica struggled with postpartum depression soon after she birthed her twin girls.

Along with Jessica’s career change came the discovery of who Jesus Christ really is and how He was the missing piece for her to be able to move forward in past trauma that she had suppressed for decades. Jesus walked alongside Jessica as she underwent a transformation like none other.

God transformed Jessica’s life from a broken mom who struggled with depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and PTSD from witnessing an attempted suicide, to using her experiences to make her a powerful vessel for Him. To this day, God enables Jessica to touch the lives of others through her often unfiltered, yet inviting form of storytelling.

Throughout this process of refinement, Jessica has shared her life story with the world through her social media platforms, in-person events, blog posts, and podcasts. She values the gift of transparency and has discovered that what so many people need to know is that they are not alone. Jessica has walked in their shoes, and she wants the world to know that Jesus is walking with them as well.

Connect with Jessica:

Monday, April 10, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: Lessons on learning how to slow down and rest

Returning and Rest
A devotional by Aubrey Taylor

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”–Isaiah 30:15 (ESV)

I wish it were easier for me to choose to slow down and rest. I tend to keep going until I drop.

If I am not careful, I begin to rely on my own tenacity and the power of momentum, rather than God’s Holy Spirit. Then, I lose sight of the purpose of what I’m doing. I feel stressed and frustrated. My service to God becomes drudgery. Sometimes, the Lord has to allowed me to become sick simply so that I will slow down.

I went through one of these cycles recently. Momentum had built and I was going from one good thing to another. I admit that I knew I couldn’t handle much more. My husband was also feeling stressed, and our children were acting up more than usual. One night over dinner, I suggested that our whole family “unplug” as much as possible for a few days.

I don’t deny that it is easy to unwind by flipping on the television, but is it really the best way to unwind? Is it possible that God longs for us to see Him as our primary source of rest and refreshment? Not just seeking Him with a Bible reading plan or study outline, but by coming before Him with no agenda other than to sit quietly and enjoy His presence?

When I slow down, whether it’s by unplugging or intentionally putting the brakes on a busy schedule, I become more aware of His presence. If I have a fear of missing out, He gently reminds me that what I gain is going to be far greater than what I miss, and in the future I may find myself in a better position to receive His blessings simply because I’ve taken this time to sit at His feet.

It may even be that my busy schedule and technological distractions are causing me to miss out. 

Yes, we all have things that we need to accomplish and we absolutely should be busy about the Lord’s work. But I admit that I feel a certain sense of connectedness when I have my hand wrapped around my phone. I am interacting with people and aware of what’s going on in the world around me. None of these things are wrong in and of themselves but are they the best? Have I chosen the good part as Mary did (Luke 10:42)? Or does knowing how much is going on out there and trying to get as much done as possible, leave us fearful and concerned over many things as Martha was (Luke 10:41)?

Every time I think of going back into my normal routine, I wonder if God is done yet, or if there’s more He wants to show me if I just hold on a little longer. Personally, as I relax and enjoy the quiet in the house, I am tempted to ask whether I even want to go back to that! I will have to eventually but when I do, I want to know that I’ve drawn all the strength I need for the next busy stretch.

Let’s Pray: Dear Jesus, thank You for the quiet moments. If I have not taken time to sit at Your feet for a while, help me to choose to slow down, to unplug, or do whatever I need to in order to draw strength from You. I want to glean everything I can from these quiet moments and draw confidence from Your presence. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Make Room” (song) by Jonathan McReynolds. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

The only child of a single parent, Aubrey Taylor filled her younger years by creating characters and writing stories. This ended around age sixteen when music, friends and part-time jobs began to fill her time. After that came college, work, marriage, and children. 

It wasn’t until the world was beginning to come out of the COVID pandemic that God led her back to her love for writing, coupled with a passion she’d always had for history. It was time to start a new adventure! Her current long-term project is Gott Mit Uns, a German-perspective 20th century historical fiction series.

Aubrey lives in Upstate New York with her husband and three children. She’s busy keeping the home, caring for her family, doing research for and writing her books.

Aubrey enjoys music and is involved with the worship ministry at her church as well as a German choral group. She also plays gigs occasionally with friends as a singer and acoustic guitarist. After all that, she finds time to sketch, craft, and hike.

She is a lover of Jesus Christ, The Holy Bible, history, German culture, tea, and cats.

Aubrey has a special heart for those who struggle with severe anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Connect with Aubrey:

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Jesus Christ is Alive forever!

Today is known as "Easter Sunday". It's a time to remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (John 3:16) that gave us the gift of salvation (Romans 6:23) so we can be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10-11). It is proof that God loves you and He is in the restoration business of restoring souls. He doesn't want to live without you but it's your choice to accept His FREE gift of salvation, be saved and go to Heaven when Jesus Christ returns to take His faithful followers home to Heaven.

How can you be saved?

The Holy Bible says in Romans 10:9-10 (ESV): "Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

That's all you have to do to accept Jesus Christ into your heart then you have to live for Him. What that looks like is spending time reading His Word (The Holy Bible), praying to Him, praising Him daily for all the good things He's done in your life, sharing your faith in Jesus with others, trusting Him, obeying Him and following Him all the way to Heaven. 

If you have not already, join a Bible-based, Holy Spirit-filled church where the leaders and pastors have Biblically sound theology and preach God's truth. Make friends with fellow followers of Jesus Christ too because God calls us to live in community with each other and lift each other up in prayer. We are not meant to do life alone.

Meanwhile, here's a song for your heart by Kari Jobe. It's about the fact that Jesus Christ defeated death, rose from the grave, is alive and will reign forever (Revelation 11:15)!

Saturday, April 8, 2023

The Creator of the Universe loves you

Christians refer to this week (April 2 to April 8) as "Holy Week". Since the start of this week, we've reflected on all Jesus Christ did to save our souls and reconcile us with God. I hope you always will remember how much the Creator of the Universe (God) LOVES YOU.

Listen to this song "Thank You Jesus for the Blood" by Charity Gayle. It will help you see how much Jesus loves you. He thinks you're worth dying for (John 3:16) and He wants a close, REAL relationship with you.

May God bless you today, tomorrow and always. 

Friday, April 7, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: Keys that renew the reciprocity of righteousness

The Reciprocity of Righteousness
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” –Psalm 24:4-5 (ESV)

When I was young, I was fascinated by keys. They opened doors. I admired men who had large key rings. I equated the ability to open doors with responsibility and authority. When I was 10 years old, my father gave me a house key. Later, I got a car key. Now I had freedom, I thought.

As I matured and became religious, I discovered some spiritual keys. These keys opened doors of interior authenticity and eternal realities. I became aware of my responsibilities to God, taking good care of my body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, my family and to my community.

Spiritual disciplines and authority over evil inside myself and outside were illuminated to me. I began to comprehend that spirituality was a portal to expansive freedom rather than restrictive rules. I became aware that spirituality was a symbiotic cycle rather than a parasitic relationship. As I received and shared, I received more to share.

The writer of Psalm 24 distills this process to the simplest essence. The clean hands and pure heart are metaphors for renewal and clear, forward focus. Innocence and piety flows into doing good things for people, and enhancing your quality of life, righteousness and blessings.

Life experiences can rob us of naivete. Moral injuries, disappointments and failures can jade us. But life requires that we keep living. It is easy to move through life dragging the baggage of pain and frustration fueled cynicism. Soon, rectitude and a lifestyle of soaring compassion can degenerate into a cycle of simply getting more and doing more.

However, the keys in Psalm 24 are ways to refocus on the presence of God. Psalm 24:1-3 suggests that awe, worship and proximity to divinity are the keys that renew the reciprocity of righteousness. The cycle begins with God awareness and appreciation. Sunrises, sunsets, breath- taking vistas of earth or sea can create awe. The unrivaled beauty of a flower, or a spring of fresh water flowing from a tree, a vast canyon or majestic waterfall can be catalyst for songs of praise.

Reveling in the presence of God can lead to confession and a change of heart that is reflected in open spirits as opposed to clenched fists, open minds rather than myopic bigotries. Tender heartedness feeds optimism and looks for the best in everything, everywhere, all at once.

I encourage you to ask God for godly naivete, the willingness and ability to do good things for Him and His people and for His presence and blessings in the conduct of our lives.

Let’s Pray: Dear God, thank You for being with us wherever we go and in all that we do. Let us radiate Your grace and mercy as we live to bless others because You have blessed us. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Author Bio:

Chaplain Paul Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps. 

Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.

He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.

You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address,

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Thankful Thursdays: God is close

It’s Thursday and I’m thankful God is always closer than I realize.

Last night (April 5), I was discouraged because for months now, I have asked God to show me how to get closer to Him. The crazier our world becomes, the more important it is to have a close relationship with God and follow Jesus Christ’s lead. But to me, my prayers to God were met by radio silence from Him. And in the process, it felt like I was drifting farther away from Him. 

The silence and distance felt devastating. I asked God over and over again how to be closer to Him. I asked Him to help me feel His presence and experience His peace but still it felt like He wasn't answering me nor drawing near to me.

I am also a perfectionist and an overachiever. I know that God speaks to His people through His Word. So I bought a new study Bible in hopes that reading through it from Genesis to Revelation, would help me become closer to God. Yet despite my best efforts to draw closer to Him, God still felt distant to me and I was becoming more and more discouraged by this situation. 

However, in the midst of my discouragement and feeling far away from God last night, He put a song on my heart that I hadn’t heard nor thought of in almost two decades. The song is called “You Were Much Closer” by Fred Hammond and the lyrics remind the listener that God is always present in your life. The lyrics also encourage the listener by saying God is much closer than you realize! 

The Holy Bible says God will NEVER leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus Christ promises to be with us until the END of the world (Matthew 28:20) and He means that in the most literal sense!

God often speaks to my heart through songs. When I look up the lyrics and listen to the song on YouTube, it’s always exactly what I need in that moment.

Last night was no different. God met me in my situation through this song. And I am so grateful. I think He also was letting me know that I don’t need to perform my way into a closer relationship with Him. God just wants us to trust Him and let Him lead. I am determined now to remember that God is not far away and out of my reach. He’s right here with me, in fact, He is closer than I realize!

What are you thankful for today?


Alexis A. Goring, MFA
Founder of "God is Love" blog

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: Planting tomatoes taught me about God's Love

Healed for a Purpose
A devotional by Casey Wayne

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
—2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)

Over the last few years I have started to do some gardening.

Last spring we moved to a new city and I already felt behind on my gardening plans. I wanted the garden to be as successful as possible and excitedly waited for any signs of vegetables to appear.

As blooms transformed into vegetables my excitement increased in anticipation of cooking with them and being able to say I grew them myself. One day, as I rushed out to the backyard to water the garden and check the plants, I noticed some of the tomatoes had busted open. In defeat, I threw a couple over the fence. About a week later I saw a couple more I must have missed. The lines where they had busted were now covered with a grayish, scarring like material. Assuming that it was not worth keeping, I also threw those over the fence.

A few hours later, as my husband and I discussed our day, I started sharing what I had discovered over the last week in the garden. He looked at me confused as I recounted the experience. Then, as I mentioned how I had thrown them over the fence he looked shocked. Before I could finish my story he blurted out, “Why did you do that?” After sharing my logic, he chuckled a bit, and told me how they just busted from an excess of water, but it does not make them unusable. They just burst from too much water but then begin to heal.

I'm so thankful our Heavenly Father (God) sees us the way my husband saw those tomatoes. Psalm 147:3 (ESV) says “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Sometimes we get overwhelmed and we start to break under the pain or stress this imperfect world inflicts on us. But the grace and hope of our faithful God redeems, restores and heals us. Just like those tomatoes I found in my garden, the Almighty can heal the damage we experience in this life. Those imperfections and scars leave a mark reminding us of what we have been through, but the important thing to remember is that God can use all things for His glory.

As my husband reassured me that the tomatoes are fine, it reminded me that we are never too far gone to be unlovable or unusable by the Almighty God we serve. Our stories of healing and hope become a light to others who need to connect with Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can do that takes us too far for Jesus to heal us or use us for His Kingdom purposes. Let’s read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV) where Paul tells the believers in Corinth, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

No matter who you are or what you have been through, God loves you, can restore you and has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11). If you are in a season of life where you need healing, come to the feet of Jesus and give Him your pain. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in you, healing all the brokenness so that, in His timing, your story can become a beautiful testimony of His faithfulness.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for Your love and hope. Thank you for the gift of Jesus, who saved us from our sin. I humbly ask for Your healing and restoration in my life. Create in me a new creation for Your purposes. Open my heart to the work of the Holy Spirit so that You may redeem my brokenness for Your glory.

In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “Look What You’ve Done” by Tasha Layton. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Casey Wayne is a wife and mother of two children. 

She enjoys time with her family doing simple things like movie nights and cooking together.

As a devotional writer, Casey strives to share her story with relatable honesty, showing how God is faithful throughout the big and small moments of life.

She has a heart for encouraging the faith walk of other moms, praying they gain a deeper connection with our Heavenly Father.

Her family lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.

Connect with Casey:

Monday, April 3, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: When God calls you to love Him and the earth

Loving earth and loving God
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

As someone who was born and raised in the city, gardening is absolutely foreign to me. But I’ve always admired it. Deep down, I have a secret fantasy of being a homesteader, and I’m certain if I lived centuries ago, I would’ve been a farmer’s wife—maybe a farmer’s wife who somehow figured out time to write books on the side, but definitely someone on a farm.

I’ve made a couple of minuscule attempts to garden over the years, but they all ended in disaster. I did grow a tomato once, but something ate the rest of them, and I don’t know what I did wrong, but the other vegetables didn’t grow at all. And while I managed to grow one or two dahlias, that was it. I know the problem was with me, of course. I didn’t have a lot of time in that season of my life, and I didn’t put in enough devotion and care to really do it properly. Also, I gave up too quickly.

But in the last few years, for a variety of reasons, I’ve become increasingly convicted that I need to start gardening. More than that, I’m feeling a deep sense that not only my family but all people need to start returning to our roots—literally. By this I mean growing my own food. I’m entirely too dependent on my grocery store for food. Yet our ancestors were not this way. And frankly, between the prices of eggs and the shortage of some grocery items that we saw during the pandemic and its aftermath, it’s kind of scary to realize how dependent I am on stores.

What happens if catastrophe hits? How will I eat? Will I even know how to feed my family? I know God will always provide, and my earthly life is just temporary, but I also want to be equipped to help take care of people as long as God has me on this earth, and while I’m living here, I want to do so responsibly and thoughtfully. And I feel like God is telling me I need to start learning how to do some of these things for myself.

So this summer I’m going to start baby steps toward a garden. I’ll try a few vegetables, and my daughter is really interested in growing some flowers. We’ll see what happens.

It’s completely out of my comfort zone, but I feel like it’s an act of love and faith and obedience to God. Most of the time when I think of love, I think of it in relation to other people, or maybe even to animals. I might think of it as how I relate to my family or those I encounter in my community, and it’s also the wider community of people all around the world. But love also includes the earth. I know God loves the earth because God created it. God intentionally spent much time handcrafting the land and the seas and the heavens, and when He created people, He tasked us to take care of the animals and the land, to manage it well for Him.

As the Bible says in Genesis 2:15 (NIV), “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

I appreciate technology as much as anyone. I use a cell phone, a laptop, electricity, running water, air conditioning, a microwave and stove, a dishwasher … all things of my ancestors did not have.

But let’s face the truth: Many of us are far too disconnected from the natural way of things, myself included. There’s no substitute for touching soil or leaves, for planting our feet in dirt or sand, for breathing in fresh air, for feeling the sun on our skin.

The Holy Spirit is nudging me to start gardening, and so I’ll respond. I’ll see what happens.

Whatever happens, I trust it’s going to help me appreciate creation more and, in turn, appreciate God more. For we are all connected—people, the land, the Lord, everything.

Let’s Pray: Lord, help me to love the earth as a way of loving You. Help me to honor You as I learn how to garden and tend and till, trusting and remaining open to whatever You wish to teach me. And help me always to love others in Your name. Amen.

Song of Reflection: “For the Beauty of the Earth” by BarlowGirl. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning journalist, author, blogger, editor, writing coach, and devotional writer with thousands of articles to her name. 

Since 2010, she has served as the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, which has won 123 journalism awards during her tenure. She is the author of Feed My Sheep: A 40-Day Devotional to Develop a Heart for Hunger Ministry (2019) and More Like Jesus: A Devotional Journey (2018) and the editor of a number of other books from her newspaper’s Advocate Press, which she helped found in 2017.

She has won more than 100 writing awards and is a seasoned speaker and frequent contributor to,, and, among many others. She has a weekly faith blog at and is part of the team at Wholly Loved Ministries, with her work included in many of their devotionals and Bible studies.

Brodie holds a Master of Arts in English, and she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in communications/print journalism from Florida International University. Born and raised in Miami, Brodie now lives in Lexington, South Carolina, just outside Columbia. She has also lived in Ohio and in the mountains of western North Carolina. She and her husband, Matt Brodie, have a blended family of four teenage children and stepchildren.

Brodie has written several novels and is actively seeking publication through her agent Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency. Her novel The Memory Garden won the 2018 Genesis contest for Contemporary Fiction from American Christian Fiction Writers, and her novel Tangled Roots won a third place Foundation Award in Contemporary Romance at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2019. She is finishing the third in the series, Hidden Seeds, now.

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