This story from Emerald Barnes is perfectly timed. I knew it was meant to be when Em selected January 28th--my dad's birthday. It's been just over six months since he passed away, and I miss him as much now as the day we lost him to cancer. But I know I can rely on my Heavenly Father to get me though the pain of losing my earthly dad. Life isn't always easy, but it's easier with faith, in knowing that God has plans for us, plans to give us hope, and a future.
The Greatest Love Story, by Emerald Barnes
I don’t have my very own love story. At least in the normal sense.
I’m a single woman in her late twenties, and I have yet to be in a relationship that budded into marriage, and that’s okay with me because the greatest love story that has happened to me is the one that I’m about to tell you.
When I was around the age of nine, I asked my father, a preacher man, how to be saved. He explained it to me: ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, repent for those sins, and live a life for Him. That wasn’t hard for me because I had always lived a life for Jesus. I was raised in church, and I still go to church to this day. I couldn’t imagine one day without Him.
I had my ups and downs, of course, as I went through my teenage years and fell into discouragement from some situations in my old churches which caused us to leave, and there was plenty of family drama at home. I felt like I didn’t need to go to church. I could be a Christian without being in church, right?
A few months later, my dad found a new pastoral job which he accepted. We began going to church again, but my heart was never in it. I didn’t read my Bible, and frankly, I didn’t want to be a part of this church. I went every Sunday, but I only went for show, because it was expected of me.
When Dad had to leave this church, I was done. I told him that I never wanted to go to church again. I was tired of being hurt by church after church, and I didn’t want to be part of any church he might pastor in the future. The hurt far outweighed Jesus at the time, and that never should have happened. But it did, and I can’t say that I’m sorry it did either. Otherwise, I might not be where I am today.
At some point, my brother-in-law talked us into going to a church he went to in his teenage years. I don’t know what prompted me to go that following Sunday. In fact, it had only been a few weeks since we left the other church, but I got in the vehicle with my family and went to church. I turned my life around that day. Jesus got my attention completely, and I have only missed a few Sundays due to sickness or vacation since that day almost five years ago.
My relationship with God has grown and continues to do so. I am living a life fuller and closer to God than I ever have before. My relationship with Him is just that, a relationship. I’m no longer going through the motions. I’m His daughter, and He’s my Father. And I love Him more than I ever have. It’s no longer just going through motions. I feel this love deeply, and I’ve learned to feel that same love from Him.
My love story will never end, because my Father will never stop loving me. And He won’t stop loving you either.
#IChooseLove every time I wake up and thank Him for another day. #IChooseLove when I get onto my social media accounts and remind others that they can love themselves like our Father loves them. #IChooseLove when I look at my Bible and am reminded of everything that Jesus did for me when He died on the cross.
And I’m grateful that Jesus Chose Love instead of asking God to stop the series of events that led to His death.
#IChooseLove because He chose me.
About Emerald Barnes
Emerald Barnes graduated with a B.A. in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women. She resides in a small town in Mississippi and has the accent to prove it. She’s an auntie to three beautiful nieces and two handsome nephews. She's a Whovian, a little bit of a nerd, a reader, a writer, and a family-oriented person. God is number one in her life, and she thanks Him continuously for His love and favor.
Connect with Emerald online: Facebook * Twitter * TSU * Blog * Website
Read More from Emerald in Entertaining Angels & Before We Say I Do
About Entertaining Angels
Madison Andrews can’t face her reflection in the mirror. All she sees is a big, fat nobody. Yet, deep inside she longs for something more, something that’s not skin deep.
Along comes Zach, the new guy in high school. He’s smoking hot and totally out of her league. She somehow catches his eye, and he makes her feel beautiful for once. But just as she gets close to Zach, her nerdy best friend, Chase, won’t let Madison doubt her true beauty, no matter how many meals she skips.
Dark forces are at work, darker than the lies and mocking from her peers, stopping her from amounting to her full potential. With her newfound Christian faith, can Madison find true happiness in her own skin amidst the battle of angels and demons?
Get it online: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Goodreads
About Before We Say I Do
Following the best-selling first book of the series, Entertaining Angels, comes Before We Say I Do, An Entertaining Angels Short Story.
Chase Sanders and Madison Andrews are about to declare their love for one another in the most sacred of ways. Everything has been going perfectly, especially when an old friend returns to town to stand by Chase’s side on their big day. But is Zach there to see their union, or was he sent by God on another mission?
Chase has lived perfectly fine without his father around, but now that his father is divorcing again, his dad is seeking forgiveness. Chase can’t look at his father, let alone forgive him. Chase must learn to let go of the past before the demon that haunts him ruins his wedding.
Get it online: Amazon * Goodreads
This post from Lydia Thomas isn't one about finding THE ONE, but about loving yourself, and allowing yourself to be loved. It is a choice to act and react with love. It is a choice to love others even when they don't deserve it. It is a choice to allow someone to love you, even when you don't feel like you deserve it.
#IChooseLove: When You Think You Can't Choose Love Anymore,
Thinkin' of a way to explain-o
Back in the day there was a man
About Tabitha Caplinger
Connect with her online: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads
Read More from Tabitha in The Chronicle of the Three: Bloodline
In this first installment of the Christian fantasy trilogy The Chronicle of the Three, Zoe Andrews learns that not all shadows are harmless interceptions of light. Some are a more sinister darkness that wants to torment the soul.
Get it here: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * iTunes
I Want to Know What Love Is, by Niki Krauss
Love is oftentimes fickle. People fall in love; they fall out of love. How can it be so unreliable? Yet, unreliable or not, we continually look for it. Love isn’t perfect. That’s obvious if you’ve been in a relationship for more than, say, ten minutes. We’re broken, fallen human beings not even close to being perfect, so our love bears our imperfections. The love of another human being will never complete you—no matter what Tom Cruise said in Jerry Maguire.
So, then, is it hopeless? No. As imperfect as love is, it’s also wonderful and beautiful and worth seeking. But, there can be ups and downs and ebbs and flows. Sometimes there are conditions to love; human love tends to be based on something tangible: I love you because you ________. Fill in the blank. It’s hard for us to love unconditionally. What about when he drives me crazy? What about when this child continually chooses to disobey? What about when my feelings get hurt? I don’t want to love you then. Love can be painful in those kinds of moments.
If the love of another person won’t complete you, what will? Even in the best of love relationships, there is a void the other person will never be able to fill, and it can be disastrous to put that expectation onto the person you love. He’ll never be able to fill it because it’s a God-sized void, and only the love of God can fill it. That God-sized void is present in all of us. The sad thing is a lot of us don't recognize it. Until you've invited God in and he fills up that void, you likely wouldn't have even known it was there. It's only when he's changed everything about you and for you that you can see what was missing.
Unlike human love, the love God pours out comes without conditions. It’s not based on who we are or what we’ve done. God’s love is based on who he is. There is no other love like it. The Bible says we can’t even fathom how much God loves us. One of my favorite passages, Ephesians 3:16–19, explains the unexplainable to help us better comprehend the incomprehensible:
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
About Niki Krauss
Connect with Niki online: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads
Read More From Niki in Little Girl Mended
Little Girl Mended is both a story of abuse and a story of redemption, spanning more than fifty years. From the loss of innocence at age seven, through ten-plus years of abuse, forty-five years of silence, and finally—well into my fifties—coming to understand that healing is possible. My walk through recovery coincided with a deepening of my relationship with Jesus Christ. Through that relationship I came to experience the Father’s love—a love I couldn’t fully understand while viewing everything through the distorted lens of incest.
In this first-person narrative, I examine painful memories and difficult emotions, allowing myself to feel for the first time in my life. As I grapple with shattering hurt and long-buried pain, I come to realize there can be no healing without surrender. It’s not in my strength that I find healing, but in my complete surrender to Jesus Christ.
The power found in the pages of Little Girl Mended is there for you, too—whatever the circumstances of your own life’s story. Come along and claim it.
Get it here: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * iTunes
Perfect for Each Other, by Mary Graziano Scro
Gliding toward her, quickly yet stiffly, his arms pumped in perfect “pump” form. He could hardly wait to pull her into his tanned, strong, he-man arms and meld his lips with hers, sure they’d be a perfect fit. His brown, wavy hair – not too curly or too straight – remained perfectly styled as he flew toward her.
Her dress, oh, her dress – flimsy, flowing, flowery fabric – revealed every perfect curve of her body as it rippled with the breeze. His own body – muscular, lean, and perfectly packed into his denim jeans and short-sleeved t-shirt – was a perfect match for hers.
Finally, the moment arrived where their hands, then arms, then bodies met in a stiff but perfectly timed embrace. He brought his mouth to hers, and held it there for what seemed like an eternity, relishing the most perfect moment of his life.
Sally Jane snatched up Barbie and Ken by the legs, and went in for lunch.
…law is perfect (Psalm 19:7)
…way is perfect (2 Samuel 22:31)
…works are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4)
…gifts are good and perfect (James 1:17)
…power is made perfect in (our) weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)
…perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)
“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14 NIV)
If you’re tired of looking for perfect love in all the wrong places, come to Jesus. He died for you so your sins could be forgiven, was resurrected so you could share in His life, and is waiting for you with open arms.
You and Jesus – you’re perfect for each other.
About Mary Graziano Scro
Connect with Mary online: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads * Amazon
Read More from Mary Graziano Scro
The devil’s goal is to separate us from God and from each other – not with obvious attacks of evil, but by luring us away, one small, seemingly innocent choice at a time. He can only defeat us if we let him – if we are unprepared, unaware, or unwise with our choices.
God calls us to advance the Kingdom of God on the earth, and to love the lost into it. He gave us the authority we need in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to empower us to do what we cannot in our own strength – all to accomplish His mission.
In Intentional Warfare, author Mary Graziano Scro shares practical advice and testimony from her life, supported by Scripture, about how to win the daily spiritual battles through Bible study, obedience, perseverance, and faith in the One who already won the war.
Get it here: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * iTunes
Choosing Love, by Allison J. Kennedy
Like many of us, I have experienced the types of wounds that don’t just happen once, but rather come again and again, reopening the scars that had barely begun to heal. I often wonder how many of them were self-inflicted; how many of them I brought on myself because healing would be much more painful. But I’m not here today to reminisce about those wounds. I’m here to tell you why choosing love is what saved me.
When I met my husband, I was on the tail end of several years of battling for inner peace. I was hard and cold, but strangely receptive to his kindness, even if it only reached the outermost layer of my walls. For months I wondered what this gentle, God fearing, devoted man could possibly see in me. Why did he pray with me, even when I refused to close my eyes? There was a time when I loved God too. There was a time when I trusted Him with my life. But that time had passed, and somehow that didn’t matter to him. Somehow he knew I was worth the wait.
I remember saying my vows on our wedding day, still broken, but filled with hope. I remember thinking my new husband would wake up next to me in the weeks to come and realize he made a mistake. But there was something inside of me that chose to believe he knew what he was doing, and that meant he knew I would let him down or be difficult to love a times. Something within me believed in his love for me. And I loved him with everything I could offer. Looking back, I know it wasn’t nearly what he deserved.
Let me be clear and say my husband didn’t save me. I was clinging to the hope that his love (which, when from a human heart, always has the potential to fail) was perfect and complete. I thought I was saved. I even began to pray again. But my walls were still there, and there came a point when I knew he would give up on me. I looked him in the eye and waited for him to pack his bags and run. I even offered him the option, shrinking into myself with hopeless tears. And then he said something that I knew didn’t come from him at all. It came from something much bigger, and much more perfect.
He said, “You don’t get to choose how much I love you. There is nothing you could do that will ever make me love you less.”
It hit me like a blast of wind off the ocean, clearing my mind and opening my heart. My husband chose love, and not because it was within him alone to do so, but because God first loved him.
Friends, that was the day I woke up. That was the day I really understood what love means. Through my husband, I learned how perfectly and unconditionally I am loved, even in my ugliness. And though embracing it was hard, I too found the courage to love vulnerably and completely.
Now I sit here feeling my unborn child moving within: a new, innocent life whose heart will be open to everything good and bad when she is born. And the only thing I can do in this moment is weep with thankfulness for this gift, looking forward to the days when we can not only pour that love into her, but also teach her Who loved her first.
About Allison J. Kennedy
Born and raised in Oregon, she now resides in Oklahoma with her husband and two cats.
Connect with Allison online: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest
Read More from Allison
I lost myself the night of the party. Just like that, my innocence and my sanity were torn away.
I would like to say that time heals all wounds, but it doesn't. And I would like to say that falling in love is what rescued me, but it wasn't. Nobody told me what to expect in the coming days and weeks and months after conceiving a rapist's child. Years later, my wounds are still just as fresh as the night they were made. It would be so easy to disappear and allow the memories to consume me.
But that's the choice, isn't it? To live instead.
**This book contains rape triggers. Discretion is advised.
Get it here: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
Keeping Love Alive, by Kandi J. Wyatt
I can honestly say I married my knight in shining armor. My husband proposed to me at a medieval feast during court in front of the king and queen of the realm and five hundred or so people in attendance. Our wedding was medieval style. He greeted my dad with a sword salute and the two of them handed the swords over to the best man to set aside. We literally tied the knot at the end of the ceremony with a ribbon that our pastor tied around our clasped hands.
However, over the course of the years, I've learned that my knight's armor can get tarnished. It takes care and work to keep the flame of love alive. We've done many different things to fan the flame. We've attended marriage workshops, held date nights, had “couch time” (sit on the couch and talk while kids play at our feet), and trade off years to surprise each other on our anniversary. One of those celebrations happened in our eleventh year of marriage.
The next day, Eric, my husband, left for work as usual around 5:30 in the morning. I went back to sleep and was surprised when the alarm went off at 7:00. I hadn't set it. I debated getting up, but with a one-, six-, seven-, nine-, and fourteen-year-old to look after, I decided to stay in bed for a few moments longer. I must have dozed off, because a knock on the door woke me up. Putting on my robe, I went to see who was there. Two friends, AJ and Sara, greeted me. Sara was wearing my Irish dress! AJ held a video camcorder and was dressed in a blue outfit complete with Shakespearean style floppy hat! Sara handed me a roll of paper. Curious, I took a look. The wax seal came off easily enough, but the thread around it was another matter. Finally, I was able to unroll it, careful that none of the burnt edges fell off onto the floor.
If you still hold true to your promise of love,
then do as my servants command,
and come quickly.
“Can I get dressed first?” I asked, looking at my robe.
My friends nodded. So, I hurriedly got dressed. I did ask about the kids and was told not to worry about them. Trusting my husband to have taken care of things, I went with my friends in the car. They took me into town to another friend's house where Sara and AJ took out a white gown, cloak, and flowers. Sara and our other friend proceeded to help me get dressed and do my hair up with carnations. Once I was ready, it was off in the car again.
By now I was really curious as to what was going on, but I knew Eric had everything under control. As we pulled into a beach overview and began to recognize some cars, I started to wonder who all was involved and to get a little nervous. This was now public not something in private homes.
Out on the steps down to the ocean, AJ put a little horn to his lips and blew. I began to laugh. I couldn't help myself. It sounded like a seal mating call! Despite my chuckles, he sounded it again.
Moments later, he said, “The master comes!”
I followed the direction of his finger pointing and saw something shiny on the beach. Two dots distinguished themselves from the mill of people as two horses. On the first was a man in chain mail armor with a sword, hence the shiny object, and shield. It was my husband! What shock registered through me.
AJ and Sara escorted me to the bottom of the stairs, where Eric and his “servant”, another friend's daughter riding the second horse, greeted us. I walked hand in hand with my husband down the beach to a little alcove where our parents and the kids awaited us. Our pastor stood there as well, the breeze rippling through his monk's robe. All five children and our parents were dressed in medieval tunics. A friend step around the rock. She was the owner of the horses and the mother to the “servant”. What a surprise! Her husband came walking down the beach to join us.
There in the shelter of two rock walls, we pledged our love to each other for the second time. I was floating on a cloud, my emotions so full. After the short ceremony, Eric brought out fruit and bread for a small snack. As we were eating, a stranger asked if we were filming a movie! Once we were all finished, Eric helped me mount one of the horses. He joined me on the other. We road off down the beach, my cloak billowing in the breeze.
Several photo stops later, we loaded the horses into the trailer and got into our car. From there we drove just a few blocks to a hotel. I thought I would have to come back to the real world at that point. However, stepping through the door of our room, we found it decorated in a medieval style complete with tulle to make the bed look like a four poster bed. Standing in front of the mirror admiring my gown and hair, I felt Eric come up behind me.
“Will you still marry me?” he asked.
I met his gaze through the mirror. My eyes held stars as I answered yes. From his side, he pulled out a circlet.
“As a token of my love for you,” he said.
I thought I had gone the gambit of emotions and couldn't get any higher or melt any more. I was wrong. I wore on my head a physical reminder of that morning and his love for me. He had planned the day for over a year. All of his efforts had paid off.
For weeks, even months later, all I had to do was look at the circlet and my eyes would shine as I remembered and told the story of my knight in shining armor. That wasn't the last demonstration of his love for me, or even the most elaborate, but I still look back on it and feel the deep love and commitment as I felt that day.
About Kandi J. Wyatt
Find Kandi Online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Pinterest
Read more from Kandi in The One Who Sees Me
On a daring journey to heal her heart, Faru encounters the Existing One. Will she trust Him and do His bidding even if what He requests is so hard?
Follow Faru’s tale in author Kandi J Wyatt’s retelling of a Biblical story found in the Old Testament book of Genesis, showing that when things don’t make sense, God will guide the way.
Get it here: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Goodreads
So.........without further ado: #IChooseLove
You've seen me post about it before, but this year I'm making a conscious effort to dwell in the love that surrounds us all. We have the love of family (even if we have our moments with them), the love of our friends, co-workers and neighbors. But the greatest love story ever told has been God's love story to man--the Bible.
I firmly believe that the Bible was created for the sole purpose of showing the gift of love. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." Isn't that beautiful? That God sent His Son from heaven to lead people into the gates of heaven, and deliver us from evil? Isn't it beautiful that Jesus died for us, knowing the pain he'd endure, so that we could be saved?
I did something similar to this with the second edition of Breathless. I put out a Valentine's edition in 2012 with love stories from my family, friends and fans. My favorite of these will always be my parents' love story, told from both perspectives.
Our relationship began at the small German army base far from our family homes in Iowa and Georgia. We grew closer during our travels together across Europe. We explored castles, caves, museums, and cuisines. Chuck enjoyed life to the extreme which made our time together exciting in every way. That Christmas, he handed me a small box and I just knew it had an engagement ring! I was so excited, my eyes were brimming with love and tears. The sky fell as I opened the box and a Mickey Mouse ring was garishly smiling at me - I was humiliated and angry. Chuck laughed and said it was just a prank, but I was too hurt to laugh with him or forgive him.
Shortly after that disappointing day, Chuck was discharged from service and returned to his family in Georgia. He contacted me a few times as I was still in Germany, but I was not in a receiving or forgiving mood. My pride and humiliation would not allow me to see how much he truly loved me.
I was discharged from service and returned to my home in Iowa. Several months living in Iowa I awoke only to find myself in an out-of-body experience. I felt my spirit looking down on me and telling me to call Chuck. I hugged myself and the love of God enveloped me and I knew that I was to marry Chuck. I called him that night but he was not home. I became despondent when I did not hear from him that week.
Chuck finally called me and again, I felt my spirit lift outside my body in total elation. We talked and we made plans for me to fly to Georgia so we could see each other face to face to make sure that we both wanted the same thing. I arrived at the Atlanta airport right on schedule, eagerly anticipating to see my love's face again. An hour passed since the plane landed. My stomach twisted in a knot as I held back tears fearing that once again I had opened my heart to another human being only to be rejected and humiliated.
An hour and a half into my wait, I sat on the cold, metal bench in the middle of the baggage section all alone as the other travelers had left with their family or friends. Out of nowhere an attractive man approached me and offered to take me to dinner and put me up for the night. I was scared and alone but had enough sense to turn him down. My plan was to go back to the ticket counter and return to Iowa that evening. As I stood up to go to the counter, Chuck came running up to where the man and I were standing.
Chuck appeared to be angry which further confused me. I felt I had been abandoned in a strange city with a stranger nipping at my heels. Chuck took my bag and my elbow and headed outside to the parking deck. The Georgia heat slapped me in the face causing my already blushed cheeks to turn bright red.
This scene was NOT what I had imagined our reconnection would look like. Chuck was upset because he thought I was going to leave with the strange man. I was upset because I thought Chuck had deserted me. The majority of the ride from Atlanta to Macon was strained and tense. As it turned out, Chuck had just purchased the Vega and the process took longer than expected and then he hit heavy traffic putting him further behind schedule. I explained to him that I absolutely was not considering leaving with anyone but him and that I had begun to panic and had decided to return to Iowa. I began to cry which actually eased some of my anxiety which in turn presented Chuck with the opportunity to comfort me and we were able to move forward in a positive direction.
After a week of bliss with Chuck, meeting his friends and family, it was time to return to Iowa. We had skirted around the issue of marriage and confessed our love to one another, but never directly talked about getting married. Once we arrived at the airport and it was almost time for me to leave for the plane, I anxiously looked into Chuck's eyes and asked him where our relationship was going. He chuckled, lovingly smiled at me and asked me to marry him.
Thirty-five years later, he still keeps me guessing, laughing, and loving. Oh, by the way, he never replaced the Mickey Mouse ring!
About Becki Brannen
Find Becki online: Website * Facebook * Twitter
The book that started it all
Keeping secrets is never easy, especially since Ryan Spalding is on the cover of every magazine and this year’s “Hottest Hunk under 30.” Good thing busy lawyer Carly Sparks is so out of the loop when it comes to celebrity affairs, or she’d realize she was in one!
Leading man Ryan Spalding tempts Carly Sparks in ways she’s only ever seen in the movies. She’s drifted away from a promise she made to God as a teenager, but Carly must rely on her faith when her relationship with Ryan is put to the test. Will it be enough to keep them together, or will theirs be just another failed Hollywood romance?
Get it here: Amazon
I've been watching One Tree Hill, a show for teenagers on the CW that ended a few years back. Normally rife with swearing and teenagers doing things I don't want to even contemplate my daughters doing when they reach that age, every once in awhile they do something that surprises me - they show a Christian message in a messy world. Those of you familiar with Vox Dei Publishing know that that's our motto - Christian books for a messy world.
In an episode I was listening to earlier today, a teen was shot and killed in a convenience store robbery, and one of the main characters tells his mom, "Your strength is inspiring." The mom says, "My strength is from Jesus Christ. I am going to miss my baby boy for the rest of this life, but I know we are going to see him again, and our faith will see us through."
What a powerful message, and one I needed so badly. Sometimes it takes a mainstream show to get out an important message, and today was no exception. I saw that even as my family and I face illness and grief, we must show strength--inspiring strength that can come only through our faith. No matter what road God leads us down, we will not be weak because our strength comes from Jesus Christ. Though grief may bring our tears, it cannot diminish God's love for us. When we lose someone, we will miss them for the rest of this life, but we know we will see them again. What a beautiful message from such an unlikely source.
"Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:10 NKJV
Becki Brannen is a thirty-something writer born and raised in the heart of Georgia. Her debut novel, Breathless, is the result of NaNoWriMo 2011, having been written in just twenty-nine days. Becki primarily writes "chick lit with a Christian twist," marrying one of her favorite genres with her Christian faith. Her life verses are Jeremiah 29:11 and Isaiah 41:10. Becki and her husband have twin daughters and a poodle, Sophie.