Genesis 5020

My Story for His Glory

Write to the Point with Jessica Keller February 27, 2013

Filed under: Author Interviews — Melissa Finnegan @ 11:51 am
Tags: , , ,

Congratulations to Megan Parsons who won H.L. Wegley’s book, Hide and Seek.

Today we get write to the point with Jessica Keller.

headshotTell us about yourself, family, where are you from, how long have you been writing?

I’ve worked a lot of random jobs while growing up – zookeeper, a librarian, camp counselor, horse wrangler, housekeeper, and finance clerk, but I now love my job in law enforcement. I’ve lived in the Chicagoland suburbs my whole life and am a Midwest girl to the core. I love the outdoors, running, and making homemade meals. I’m married to an amazingly supportive husband, have one beautiful daughter, and two annoyingly outgoing cats.

As for writing…you could say I’ve been writing stories my whole life. I’ve always had an active imagination (which led to seven broken bones and countless scars as a child) and from as young as I can remember I was making up stories. I started publishing magazine articles in high school and by college had short stories published in books. I now write young adult fiction and romance and am loving every minute of it.

How did you come to know Jesus as your Savior?

I was blessed to grow up in a home where both of my parents love and follow the Lord so I learned about Jesus at a young age. I didn’t actually come to a saving understanding  of the Jesus until the summer before fifth grade while I was at overnight summer camp. We were all standing in a circle singing Amazing Grace and it hit me…everything my parents had taught me and everything I’d learned in church. I asked Jesus to be my savior that night.

Tell us about your latest book(s). What do want your readers to take away after the last page?

In Home for Good – Eight years ago, Ali Silver’s husband walked away from her. After being injured in combat, Jericho has finally come home to Bitterroot Valley to makeHome for Good peace with his father and regain Ali’s trust. But the single mom’s keeping secrets of her own. And someone’s killing off Ali’s cattle and sabotaging her horse therapy business. Jericho will do whatever it takes to protect his wife and be a real father to his son. Because when it comes to love and second chances, he’s one determined cowboy.

After the last page I want people to be encouraged to look for sources of bitterness in their life and get rid of them, but more than that, if someone feels far from God, I hope by the end that they see that God has never stepped away from them. If we feel like God is far away, it’s us that walked out the door on Him, not the other way around.

How often do you blog and what do you cover in your blog?

My writing theme is “A Place to Belong” and that’s the tagline for my blog as well. My posts are meant to be honest, uplifting, and let people know that they belong – there is a homey feeling to it. I post 2-3 times a week and often have recipes, book reviews, cover pop culture – I believe adventure can be found in everyday life and that’s what I feature.

What are you reading right now?

Ha! As I write this post my less than one-month-old is sleeping in her swing only three feet away from me. With a baby that small in the house there is not a ton of reading going on, but the books I am looking at right now are all child rearing non-fiction books. J

I remember those days, they will pass quickly, enjoy them.

Can you share with us a Genesis 5020 in your life?

Yes. Speaking of that one month old…my husband and I have been trying to have a child for four years and when we were told we were both infertile we both had a hard time with it. Instead of letting it shatter us though, we dug deep and prayed a lot and read our Bibles for encouragement and the trial grew our marriage into something so much stronger than it was before we went through the years of infertility treatments and waiting and hoping. So what looks like something terrible, God used for our spiritual and relational good.

Do you have a life and/or a ministry verse?

Zephaniah 3:17 – “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

That verse amazes me every time. The Creator of all, the Alpha and Omega…He sings over me??? I just can’t fathom it. I’m a sinner and deserve to be told that but instead He takes delight in me and like a mother smiling at her newborn – sings over me. WOW.

Where can we find you on the web?

Glad you asked because I love interacting with readers online (and might be a little facebook obsessed).

Blog: www.jesskeller.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jessicakellerauthor

Twitter: @AuthorKeller

Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. May God bless your family 🙂

Readers, Jessica is giving away a paperback copy of her book. Leave a comment for her by March 5  at 5:00 PM to be entered.

 

Review and Giveaway: The White Umbrella February 25, 2013

THE WHITE UMBRELLA_full final_081512a_highres_RGB

The White Umbrella by Mary Frances Bowley

From the back cover of The White Umbrella: 

Sex trafficking. We hear about it on the nightly news and in special interest stories from around the world, but it occurs daily in communities all around us. Every year, thousands of young women are forced into sexual exploitation. Most are under the age of 18. The damage this causes to their emotions and souls is immeasurable, but they are not without hope.

The White Umbrella tells stories of survivors as well as those who came alongside to help them to recovery. It describes the pain and the strength of these young women and those who held the “white umbrella” of protection and purity over them on the road to restoration.

This book offers principles and guidance to anyone with a heart for these hurting young women and a desire to help. It is an ideal resource for individuals or organizations seeking to learn what they can do to assist these victims in becoming whole again.

My thoughts:

This is a non-fiction book. As someone who is involved with survivors who have been trafficked and/or abused I really liked this book as a way to inform people about the need to for help and to share the hope that is being offered to many young women. I think anyone would benefit from reading this book. I don’t think you can read this book and not be moved to do something to help.

Mary Frances Bowley runs Wellspring Living, a ministry that helps girls that have either chosen to leave the trafficking life or were forced to leave.

The book is full of stories from people who work with Wellspring Ministry or from the girls who have been through, or are going through, the program. This book offers hope and gives you ways you can help too.

All profits from The White Umbrella will go to Wellspring Living. So you if want to help right now order your copy here and make a difference in a young woman’s life.

If you live in Michigan or Ohio and want to get involved in a ministry closer to home you can check out The Daughter Project, located in Ohio.

I am passing along my copy of The White Umbrella to one commentator. Leave a comment by March 3rd at 5:00 PM to be entered to win.

I was given a copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

 

Back to the Club-Part 14 February 22, 2013

Today we hear part of Heather’s experience in the club, next week we will finish it off.

candle-1350399555gnnOn February 4th, I made my way to Connection Church in Canton, MI.  There, I met Laura and Margie, another lady on the outreach team for My Sister Song.  I learned a lot about what we do on the outreach and so much more! 

My Sister Song is much more than a strip club outreach, they have so many resources for women in the sex industry who are seeking help.  Going into the clubs is a vital part of our ministry but the follow-up is just as important.  If you’d like to know more about it, please visit the website: MySisterSong.com. 

The morning of February 9th, a wonderful lady from elem3nt Church planned a prayer service for me.  My friends, my sister, the elders of our church and Pastor Gayle all prayed over me and let me know they were sending me out on this Godly mission but I am not alone, they are behind me all the way! 

What an awesome feeling to be supported and loved through this!!  I am so unbelievably blessed!!

That night I met up with Laura and Margie and we loaded up Margie’s van with gift bags and ear warmers and scarfs for the girls working at the strip clubs. We prayed and headed out to the clubs. 

I was so excited and nervous! I knew this is what I was called to do but I had no idea how I would feel going back into the darkness of the strip clubs. 

When we pulled up to the first club of the night, we were greeted by the valet. We gave them some homemade cookies and made sure they knew who we were. We got out of the van and walked into the club.

The smell of cigarette smoke and men and women’s cologne was overwhelming to me. The darkness of the club brought back so many memories, so many emotions

Honestly, I wanted to cry right then and there but I knew I couldn’t, I had work to do, God’s work!

I followed Laura and Margie through the club. We gave cookies to the bouncers and managers. Any girl who wasn’t actually dancing while we were walking through the club, we gave a gift bag to. 

We made it to the dressing room where the house mom was and there were more girls there getting ready to work. We handed the girls gift bags. 

They were so appreciative of the gifts. We talked to the house mom, she’s pretty much in charge of the girls while they’re in the dressing room, she knows how many are working and would make sure each girl got a gift if we weren’t able to give it to them ourselves. 

Some of the girls thought we were selling the ear warmers, it was so awesome to watch their faces light up when they realized they were gifts for them. Laura made sure the girls knew what we were doing there and she told them even if they just wanted to talk to someone who understands what they’re going through, they could call us. 

While all this was going on, I smiled and watched and learned from Laura and Margie. 

Seeing those girls, I was seeing my old self.  I could tell some were high, some weren’t. I could see the pain in their eyes behind all the make-up.  My heart was breaking for them but I knew I was being the hands and feet of Jesus and His presence was among us and among them.

When we walked out of the first club, it took everything I had not to cry, I wasn’t about to mess up this Godly mission. 

I breathed in the night air. I was glad to be out of the smoke-filled club but was sad that I had to leave those girls in there.  I wished I could take them all away from the club and show them there’s so much more than that but it’s not that easy. 

I know all too well, a girl has to want to leave, it has to be on her terms, then she’ll find her way out. That’s where we come in, we’re there when they’re ready.

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78-80 NLT

I believe this is what we are called to do once we leave our dark places, our sin. Go back and shine the Light so others will find their way out. How are you shining God’s light today so others can find their way to Him?

LivingWell

 

Write to the Point with H.L. Wegley February 20, 2013

Filed under: Author Interviews — Melissa Finnegan @ 11:10 am
Tags: , , ,

AuthorPicture_HLWThis week we get write to the point with H.L.Wegley.

Tell us about yourself, family, where are you from, how long have you been writing?

My wife and I were raised in Grants Pass, Oregon. But after a stint in the military, during the Viet Nam War, we ended up in WashingtonState. Working as a research scientist in atmospheric physics, I wrote for several years, publishing technical reports, journal articles and some books. But it was only after I retired in 2008 that I thought about writing fiction. I wrote my first novel in 2010. Then I rewrote it twice and received a contract for it in 2011.

How did you come to know Jesus as your Savior?

My parents took me to church every Sunday from the time I turned five, but I remained on the outside, looking in. I was a pretty good kid, but at 18 I was facing adulthood without having settled the most important issue in life. At that time I started dating a young lady who immediately challenged me on the salvation issue. I committed my life to Christ as Lord and Savior at 18. Two years later I married that young lady.

Tell us about your latest book(s). What do want your readers to take away after the last page?

My debut, an espionage thriller with romance, released on February 1. Besides telling a suspenseful story, I had a couple of things in mind when I wrote this book. For those who know our Lord and Savior, I hope they will see that the barriers to faith on others’ lives are most often the heart-rending existential questions, not the big intellectual issues. We have the answer to all their questions, the Person of Jesus Christ, and we need to share that answer with them. For those who don’t know our Savior, Hide and Seek is my heroine’s redemption story. I hope these people will see that a relationship with the one true God is available to them through Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

How often do you blog and what do you cover in your blog?

Ouch! That’s a sore spot. My blog, The Weather Scribe, has great potential, but it has been sadly neglected during the past 6 months while I wrote 4 manuscripts. I want to use Weather Scribe to help writers with weather-related aspects of setting, help them deal with apologetical and technical issues that arise in their stories, and I’ll devote some time to guest posts and book reviews.

I would love a blog like that, what a unique offering for writers.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Christy Barritt’s Key Witness (posted reviews on Amazon & Goodreads) and am restarting Tim Downs’ Nick of Time. Tim is one of my favorite authors.

Can you share with us a Genesis 5020 in your life?

We were young parents in the USAF during the Viet Nam War. Just before I made captain, I had orders to a remote base on the Cambodian Border. Simultaneously we were offered an opportunity to choose an early out. For our children’s sake, we decided to forego a military career. This all happened during the oil embargo of the mid ’70s. The Air Force gave us a really early out. We left North Dakota in the dead of winter, headed for Oregon with only 3 weeks notice and no job leads, heading into an economy that had completely tanked. Inflation was running wild. Gas was scarce.  We drove on fumes most of the way across Montana. A month later we were still living with our parents in Oregon, money was running out, and when things looked their darkest, I was offered a Meteorologist’s position at Pacific Northwest Laboratories in Washington, but the job didn’t start for 3 more months. We took what little money we had and drove to Washington hoping somehow this would all work out. To make a long story short, we found a house where there were no houses available, a temporary job that lasted precisely until the permanent job started, and “accidentally” drove into the wrong church on our first Sunday morning, a church that became our home church for 12 years. Only in hindsight did we see that the plans God had for us were better than any we could have made.

Do you have a life and/or a ministry verse?

I’m somewhat of a self-taught Christian apologist. You can probably guess what my ministry verse is, 1 Peter 3:15. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give anperf5.500x8.500.indd answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (NIV)

Where can we find you on the web?

My web site: HLWegley.com
Author page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HLWegley
Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/harry.wegley.1
My blog: The Weather Scribe

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to add?

Thanks so much, Melissa, for hosting me on your blog. Launching a debut novel can be a crazy, intimidating time, but help from people like you makes it much easier.

Thanks for stopping by and we pray God’s blessing over your writing.

Readers, H.L. is giving away an ebook copy of his book. Leave a comment for him by February 26th at 5:00PM.

 

Review: Wishing On Willows February 18, 2013

cover

Wishing On Willows by Katie Ganshert

Wishing on Willows is Katie’s second book and a spin-off from her first book Wildflowers from Winter.

I read Wildflowers from Winter and enjoyed it very much. I talked about that book here. So I was very excited to get a peek at Katie’s second book.

Isn’t the cover beautiful? It just draws you in with the light colors. The willow tree reminds me of a willow that once stood in my grandma’s yard.

Katie did not disappoint with her second book. Wishing on Willows was wonderful, I loved this book. The only downside is that it doesn’t release until March 19th, so you’ll have to wait a month to get it, but you can pre-order it, you won’t be sorry.

Honestly, I think I liked Wishing on Willows even more than Wildflowers from Winter and that’s saying a lot. I really liked the first book. But the story of Robin and Ian had my heart in knots.

This book has Genesis 5020 all over it. If you read Katie’s first book you know one of the characters was Bethany’s friend Robin. Robin’s husband dies while she’s pregnant. Wishing on Willows picks up on Robin’s story and how she copes with life four years after her husband’s death. She is using her experience from loosing her husband to help others who have lost a spouse, at the same time rasing her son and running the café she dreamed of building.

Ian McKay comes into town and plans on building some condos and wants to build them right where Robin has her café. Needless to say this adds a lot of tension between these two individuals who are both dealing with heartache and sometimes question God, like so many of us.

If you have ever raised a boy you will also appreciate Caleb, Robin’s son, and how Katie describes his boy-ness, down to an extra pair of Spiderman underwear in her purse — that made this mom laugh:)

Even if you haven’t read the first book you won’t be lost if you read this one first — although I recommend reading the first one as well 🙂

Click here to read the back cover blurb.

Click here to check out Katie’s website.

Click here to read Katie’s bio.

Click here to read the first chapter.

Reminder: the book releases March 19th.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

 

Being Brave-Part 13 February 15, 2013

I said this would be Heather’s last week, but who knew my sister could be long-winded? She has a few more weeks of story to share before she is done, which is just fine. It’s amazing to hear and read.

So here’s more of Heather’s Genesis 502o, the updated, happening-right-now part 🙂

I went back into a strip club last weekend.  Actually, I went into several strip clubs. 

Before I tell you about the awesome mission God has put me on, let me tell you how it all got started.

On December 9, 2012, the message in church that week was a video of me reading my Genesis 5020.  That was a very special day for me.  That was the day I officially became free. 

My story was out there, everyone at church knew all the shame I had been hiding under.  I did one of the things I feared most, I put myself out there for all to see, hear and judge.  But something amazing happened that day, instead of being judged, I was loved.  I never received so many hugs in one day my entire life! 

I was finally free from my shame and could talk openly about my past.

As you all know, at the end of my Genesis 5020, I talk about a couple ministries, one of them being My Sister Song, a strip club outreach.  Well, after giving my testimony at church, saying how I would love to help women in the sex industry, I felt like that left me sort of accountable, like I had better actually get involved and do something in some ministry.  But I just wasn’t sure which ministry and what type of involvement that would be.  So I left it alone for a little while and prayed about it.

On January 13, 2013, I went to church just like I do every Sunday.  I thought the only thing special about the day was that it happened to be my birthday, which seems to get less special every year because I’m only getting older. 

But as I sat in church that Sunday, God stirred something inside me.

Pastor Gayle spoke about Joshua and how he led the Israelites to Jericho.  How they marched around the city and blew their horns and the walls of the city came crashing down.  (I am not doing the sermon justice, if you’d like to hear it for yourself click here.

 But then he asked us what was our Jericho?  What walls in our life did we need to knock down?  Are we going to be like the ten men who went into the promised land and came out saying there’s no way we can take over that city or are we going to be like Joshua and Caleb, who came out saying, this is what God wants us to do, so let’s do it!  Pastor Gayle challenged us to be strong and courageous, just as Joshua had been.

God was working on my heart, especially that day.  I decided I was going to be like Joshua, strong and courageous. 

So, that evening I went to My Sister Song’s website.  I had checked it out before, I knew what the ministry was all about. 

Ihere’s a place on the website where you can send them an email.  So that’s what I did.  I sent an email saying that I am a former stripper/prostitute and I would like to be involved in their ministry in some capacity.

Later on that same night, I received an email from Laura Urenda, the founder of My Sister Song.  She had a few questions for me and wanted to know more of my story.  So I emailed her back, answering her questions and gave her what I called the short version of my story.

The next day, she emailed me back asking for my address so she could send me a care package that she sends to girls who are or have worked in the industry who contact My Sister Song.  I received the package the next day. 

gift-331280343755JVC1It was filled with lotions, body spray, earrings, information about Connection Church, which is the church their ministry is based out of.  It also contained a book by Harmony Dust who is the founder of Treasures, a strip club ministry in California (My Sister Song and  other ministries like it have been trained by Treasures staff), the book is called Scars and Stilettos. 

It also had a little book titled, Jesus Loves Strippers.  Laura also included candy and crayons and a coloring book for my little girl.  The care package was an expression of Jesus’ love, I totally understand why they send them out!

There was also a cd in the package.  It was Laura speaking at Celebrate Recovery.  She told her story of how she worked in the sex industry and how she got out but she also talked about the various reasons girls find themselves working in the industry. 

She gave a lot of statistics as well.  It was very moving.  I emailed her back after listening to the cd and told her that I was a little jealous of her being able to speak like that.  That’s something I just don’t think I’m very good at but would love to have the courage to do someday. (Whoa, did I just say that?)

So then she said if I felt like I was ready to go back into the strip clubs, she knew a great way I could get involved in her ministry.  And if I wasn’t ready to go into the clubs, there were several other ways I could be involved.

When I read that, I jumped up and down for joy!  

I’m ready, so ready to reach out to these women and let them know they have a Heavenly Father who loves them dearly, and not only that, even though that’s all any of us need, I love them and understand what they’re going through.  

This is what I am called to do!  I felt it all throughout my body. 

I emailed her back and said sign me up, what do I need to do?!  She set up a training class for me on February 4th.

It’s your turn to be brave.

Heather does have a few more weeks but I need someone who is willing to share their story after her. Will it be you? Have you been trying to talk yourself out of every time I ask but it keeps coming up, “Maybe I could share.”

If it keeps coming up  then you are supposed to share. Someone needs your story and it’s not really yours anyway, as Heather said last week, it’s God’s story, you’re just living it. Email your story to: 5020genesisstories (at) gmail (dot)com

 

Write to the Point with Staci Stallings February 13, 2013

Filed under: Author Interviews — Melissa Finnegan @ 11:02 am
Tags:

Congratulations to Veronica Sternberg and Abbi Hart who won their choice of a book by Susan Page Davis.

This week we get write to the point with Staci Stallings. This is a great interview, Staci really shares we heart. She also has unique giveaway, so read to the end.

Tell us about yourself, family, where are you from, how long have you been writing?

I say in my bio that I’m a stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids, and a writing addiction, and that pretty much sums up my life.  I also have 3 businesses, 3 blogs, a house, and 2 schools.  I’m the founder of two groups for authors. I teach Sunday School and direct plays for VBS over the summer.  I also have two large extended families who get together multiple times a year.  So “busy” or “crazy” might be two words to describe right now in my life.

As for writing, writing and words have been with me as long as I can remember. My grandma used to read Cinderella to me at nap time when I was very young, that and the story of St. Stephen were my two favorites.  So romance and God were already interwoven into my heart even when I was four.  I wrote all through school, high school, and college.  In college, I was a journalism major and worked on the university newspaper.

After college, I taught English, journalism, and typing at the high school level for three years, and then quit to have my first child.  It was when I found myself at home with this tiny baby all day with four channels on television and nothing to do that I went back to my original love of writing.  That was in 1995.

Yes, I would say you are busy. God is definitely using you.

How did you come to know Jesus as your Savior?

Unlike some people, there has never been a time in my life that I didn’t know Jesus.  I was baptized at 10 days old.  I went to church every Sunday.  I sang in three choirs, ushered, and served in the youth organization.  I could probably count on two hands, not using all of my fingers the number of weekends I haven’t been to church in my life.

But when I was 35 years old, I really started seeing how empty I was inside.  I worked and worked and worked–on the books, with my family, for the church and schools, etc.  And yet there was this huge void.  I didn’t understand it, and then God shook everything up with two books that hit my life like a one-two punch.  Grace Walk by Steve McVey and The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.  The gist of these two books was, “Stop trying to do it on your own.  Stop trying to ‘please’ God.  It’s not about earning Heaven.  It’s about accepting what God’s already done for you.  He loves you just like you are.  No need to prove anything.  Breathe and accept His love for you. Then just love others through the overflow of what He’s doing in your life.”  That’s when my life really changed.

I still go to church every weekend, but now it’s not a duty.  It’s going to spend some time with my best friend.  And that’s made all the difference.

Tell us about your latest book(s). What do want your readers to take away after the last page?

Eternity-cover-716x1024My latest book, “Eternity” is probably my least directly religious book.  At least one of the characters is Christian, but it’s pretty much in name only.  It doesn’t really affect her life or the way she lives.  There are going to be a lot of Christians who get mad at me for this, but I think that’s the way a lot of Christians live.  They say they are Christian, but it doesn’t really affect their life.

The crux of this book is the world trying to tell young people that sleeping together is normal and acceptable–that you are some kind of freak if you choose to not sleep around.  It’s just that the message in this book comes in a very practical form rather than a very religious form.  You see, to me, God gave us the “rules” because they make sense in a practical way.  People who don’t like the rules tend to argue against God and religion without seeing that leading a life of purity really does make things easier in the long run.  It really does make a huge difference in the relationship of a couple.  It’s not God rules vs. practical.  It’s God being incredibly practical and wanting what’s best for us long term, not just doing what feels the best in the moment.

I think you are right on, Staci, there are too many Christians who use that title as a ticket into Heaven instead of wanting all the God has for us, which is more than we can ever imagine.

How often do you blog and what do you cover in your blog?

Oh, goodness.  Well, I currently have 4 blogs.  I have my own blog Spirit Light Books, which just moved over to my new site at http://stacistallings.net   This blog is my Christian living blog and my personal thoughts and challenges on life’s road.  Then I have a marketing blog that I put together last year to walk new authors through how to make social media work for them.  http://www.stacistallings.net/category/marketing/

I also have Grace & Faith 4U, a blog with authors from that group who share about their journeys–writing and otherwise.  Finally, I’ve just started the CrossReads blog with a bunch of other authors.  Right now I’m writing on that one a lot.  As CrossReads gets going, I will probably step back in a more advisory role on that blog.  All of my blogs are a work in progress!

What are you reading right now?

Lately I’ve been so busy with launching CrossReads, I haven’t had a lot of time for reading, and what I do read, I read a small part of and then six months later, I’m like, “I really should read some more of that.”  Books I have read that I would recommend include:  Having a Mary Spirit, anything by John Ortberg, Forgiven Forever by Joe Beam, and How People Change by Timothy Lane.

Can you share with us a Genesis 5020 in your life?

The hardest thing I’ve ever had to walk through was my brother’s death from suicide back in 2007.  With three young kids and a wife, he seemingly “had everything,” and then depression set in and bi-polar took over.  As the depression got worse and worse, he and I spent hours on the phone trying to find good again.  He was struggling, trying to right the boat on his own.  I was just learning to trust God and breathe.  It was really, really hard.

When I got the call, March 30, 2007, I knew life would never be the same again.  First, there was my brother’s young and fragile family.  Then there was my parents and the devastation they were feeling.  I was now the oldest, and my younger sister was just in pure anguish.  My three young children and husband were reeling as well. It was incredibly difficult.

After the funeral and the initial shock, I began to see life and others much differently.  I began to see how hard we are on ourselves and on each other.  I began to perceive how much God wants to help, and how often we take it as a badge of courage that we’re going to do it on our own.  I began to see that the only real difference in the road I went down and the one my brother ended up on was learning that I can’t but God can.  Total surrender to God and His Will, His plans, and His promises.

I learned a compassion for people and myself that I never had before.  Oh, I wanted to love them, and I did.  But this was so different.  I learned how deeply people are hurting and how seldom they let you know that. I learned how important it is to be gentle with others and with yourself. I learned that certain words can be devastating to the hearer even if the speaker is not aware of it.  Words like suicide and death and divorce and unemployment.  Words like cancer and hospital and terminal.  Words that will go through you, stabbing you in the heart until you can’t breathe and you think you might not live to the next minute.

Finally I learned the real meaning of the Prodigal Son.  That you can go completely off-the-rails, do the worst thing that can be imagined, and love still prevails.  I’ve watched my dad stand with other families in the midst of tragedies because he knows how important that is.  I’ve watched my mom hold babies and mamas and daddies because those fragile people need to know someone is on their side.  And I have, myself, walked some very dark valleys with some very awesome people who had tried and tried and tried, and who felt rung out, burned out, and on the verge of giving up.

I can’t explain to you why this happened.  Why my brother.  Why then.  What I can tell you, is that if you can open your heart to God’s true and abiding love, His love can change even the most heart-breaking situation into one where His love can come into the world through a heart that’s changed because it’s been broken and tenderly put back together again in a new shape that looks like mercy and grace and hope and peace.

Powerful, Staci. Thank you for sharing that.

Do you have a life and/or a ministry verse?

Lots of them actually.  Here are a few:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

“You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”  — 2 Chronicles 20:17

and probably my favorite…

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

Where can we find you on the web?

My new home:  http://www.stacistallings.net/

and the all new…

CrossReads:  http://crossreads.com

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to add?

God is truly awesome!  The more you learn that and just let Him love you, the more life will become what you have always hoped it could be!

Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a #1 Best Selling author and the co-founder CrossReads.com a new website that gives Christian readers and authors a place to meet and fellowship. With a newsletter, a blog, a forum, and other exciting, inspiring areas to visit, CrossReads visitors can find fabulous Christian books they never knew existed.

Come over on Feb. 12-14, and enter to win one of 169 virtual baskets of ebooks, gift cards, and other prizes!

Click here to enter
the CrossReads Rafflecopter giveaway