Faith is the presence of Hope | www.thereisgrace.com #unshakable

We will all face circumstances that shake us and threaten to destroy our resolve and our faith. Those moments when we are just not sure we can carry on.

For me, that moment came with the words, "It's cancer." No one wants to hear those two simple words, but to someone who has battled that deadly disease before, those words carry extra weight. They undo all the fighting and bring immediate defeat. That simple statement stole every ounce of triumph—all the success of my previous battle—and left my emotions and my faith in a crumpled heap.

Yes, I had beaten cancer once, but I didn’t want to have to do it again. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was up for the fight...

I'm incredibly privileged to be sharing another chapter in my story today over at Message in a Mason Jar. I would be thrilled if you'd join me there, and together we can become Unshakable.

signature-1Read the rest of my story in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm.

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When your doctor tells you the cancer is back and uses the words, "non-curative" and "chemo for the rest of your life," your mind reels, your world is shattered, and your faith is shaken.

Then there's that moment you recall the lessons you learned as a child in Sunday school, and you realize...This God—He is THE ONE for my situation. HE is unshakable.

I'm privileged to be sharing part of my story today at LiveLaughRowe.com. Won't you stop in and see me over there?

Be Ushakable,

signature-1Read the rest of my story in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm.

 

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Unshakable book

It's here!

Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm is now available on Amazon!

When you purchase a print copy here or the Kindle version here, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the cancer compassion organization I work with. Simply select Compassion That Compels. You can read more about Compassion That Compels here.

Happy reading!

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It's coming...May 17!

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I got my proof of Unshakable in the mail last week! That means it's gettin' real up in here, y'all!

The book is scheduled to release on May 17!! There is a lot going on, and a lot of details to tie up before then, so please be praying we make that deadline!

In the meantime, I am offering you a special sneak peek! Because so many of you have been on this journey with me, I am giving you the first chapter...before the book is even available!

To begin reading Unshakable, download the first chapter here. Then on May 17, you'll be able to purchase the entire book here or on Amazon!

 

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Happy reading!

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In case you've wondered about the radio silence around here lately, here's what's been going on...

Coming in May...Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm

Yes, it is really happening! And it's getting close! (Final release date still to be determined.)

In the meantime, here's a sneak peek from the back cover:

When a cancer diagnosis rocked her faith to the core, Nancy Backues found herself fighting an even greater battle than her illness. She was also fighting for her faith.

In Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm, Nancy shares openly about her struggle with fear and doubt and addresses the tough questions many of us ask in the midst of difficult circumstances. Questions like

  • Is God really good?
  • Does God really love me?
  • Is God big enough for my situation?
  • Is God even aware of what I’m going through?
  • How can any good come from my situation?

As Nancy’s story unfolds, she wrestles with these difficult questions, answers them with overwhelming evidence of God’s love and faithfulness, and takes readers on a journey to find faith that is unshakable.

 And here's what people are already saying about it!

Unshakable speaks to anyone going through a trial of any kind
and is full of so much truth  and heart and awesomeness!”
~Rosann Cunningham, author, UnEmployed Faith

Unshakable provides the blueprint for victory in every life storm.”
~Kristianne Stewart, founder, Compassion That Compels

"Unshakable is not a book that brings God into our story; it beautifully displays how
God brings us into His. I’m thankful that Nancy was willing to share her honest
discoveries in her darkest hours.” ~Heather Gilion Co-author, Dancing On My Ashes

"Anyone who argues the Bible isn't relevant for today needs to read Unshakable!"
~Kristen Feola, author, Spiritually Strong and The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast

"Through Scripture and personal reflection, Nancy shows that it’s possible to feel
completely shaken by a difficult circumstance and yet to come through it to
find a faith that is unshakable...because of the God who is unshakable."
~Darcy Wiley, blogger, Message in a Mason Jar

I will be sure to announce the release date as soon as I have one. For now, stay tuned for ordering info and special deals! In fact, go ahead and enter your email on the sidebar so you don't miss any upcoming news!

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It's been a few years, but I still remember the look of pain in my daughter's eyes. She came home from first grade in a bit of a funk. When I asked what was wrong, she explained that some kids at school had called her a name.

Instantly, I felt my inner "Mama Bear" awaken. WHAT?!?!

Defying every impulse I had to call the school and chew someone, anyone, out for letting some second-grade hooligans hurt my baby, I calmly asked,  "What did they say?"

Her eyes filled with pain.

"I can't tell you. It's a bad word." There it was again...Mama Bear Rising. It took a few minutes longer this time, but I managed to control my it.

She reluctantly agreed to whisper the offensive word in my ear. She leaned close and whispered a word that is simply not allowed in our home..."Stupid." Then I saw tears fill her gorgeous brown eyes.

I held her close and assured her she is not stupid. I don't think she's stupid. Daddy doesn't think she's stupid. Most importantly, Jesus, who created her, absolutely does not  think she's stupid.

"Do you think you're stupid?" I asked. She shook her head. "Then it doesn't matter what anyone else says, does it?" The waterworks came then.

"But it still hurts!" she cried.

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless #BeIntentional | thereisgrace.com

And she was right. The old playground saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," is quite simply a lie.

Words do hurt. Whether they're simply said without thinking, for a good laugh, or out of raw emotion in the heat of an argument. Once they're said, they can never be taken back. They can be repented of, even apologized for, but never taken back.

Kids are notorious for being outspoken, a little clueless, and sometimes rude. They are, after all, kids. They are also remarkably resilient. It didn't take long for Little Miss to bounce back and dive, carefree, into her latest art project. But those words will stay with her for a long time. The next time she is called something unkind (and let's be honest, it will happen), it will hurt a little more, because hateful words have already left a tiny wound.

I'd like to think that, as adults, we know better. We know to think before we speak and weigh carefully our words. But if my life is any indication I'd have to say that's not always the case.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. (Proverbs 18:21, The Message)

That tells me that (1) my words have the power to bring life to someone or bring death to their spirit, and (2) that I have the power to choose.

If words can bring life or death, we should at least consider the power in them before we let them tumble out of our mouths. If I held a high-powered weapon, capable of killing with a single shot, I wouldn't wave it around or shoot it off aimlessly. You'd better believe I'd be extremely careful in how I held it, carried it, and transported it. I'd refrain from using it, except when absolutely necessary.

Maybe that's what the writer of Proverbs meant when he said:

Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief. (21:23)

Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything. (13:3)

Observe the people who always talk before they think—even simpletons are better off than they are. (29:20)

Knowledge flows like spring water from the wise; fools are leaky faucets, dripping nonsense.(15:2)

The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words. (10:19)

For me, it's a daily struggle, and it's worse when I'm tired, stressed out, or overwhelmed. (Who isn't all of those things most of the time?). But I keep at it. Why? Because I want my children to realize the power of their words.

I want them to understand that they possess great power in their words. And with that power comes great responsibility. 😉 Their words can bring life or bring death. They should be chosen carefully...used wisely.

Maybe our grandmas had it right after all... "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!"

Let your conversation be always full of grace... (Colossians 4:6)

BeIntentional-250How do you strive to #BeIntentional with your words? Share your ideas in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

More great reading to help you #BeInentional with Your Words:

The Words We Say

 

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The weeks leading up to Easter--Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week--are often filled with somber reflection. Even as I write this, it's a gray and gloomy Good Friday as though nature itself mourns the memory of what Christ did. I get that--we should reflect on what our sin cost our Savior. We need to remember we were lost and hopeless in our sin, and Christ paid a terrific price for us.

But Easter should be about more than reflection. It should be about celebration.

 

--we should reflect on what our sin cost our Savior. We need to remember we were lost and hopeless in our sin, and Christ paid a terrific price for us.

In reading through the crucifixion story this week, one overwhelming theme jumped out at me: God was always in control.

It was His plan. He called the shots.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ (Matthew 26:17, 18)

Did you see that? It's a whole week before Christ would go to the cross, and He's already in control of the situation. He is aware of what's coming, and He is already prepared for it.

And later, when He was betrayed...

Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?" At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” (Matthew 26:54-56)

I love this moment in the story. Jesus--who is fully God even though He is fully man--had full authority to summon the powers of heaven and deliver himself from danger. But He didn't. He willingly gave himself up. Why? So that Scripture might be fulfilled...not just a centuries-old prophecy, but a promise to bridge the gap between a Holy God and an unholy people. A promise rooted in God's love for us--every. single. one. of. us.

Even in death...

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised...When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

At the moment Christ breathed His last, a great earthquake struck, tearing the temple veil from top to bottom and cracking wide the tombs. It was as though God wanted to reiterate: "This was not man's doing; this was My doing."

And my favorite part...

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb...But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen!" (Matthew 28:1-6).

This was it: the pinnacle of God's plan.

Christ came...in God's timing.

Christ died...on His terms.

Christ defeated sin, hell, and death...completing God's plan.

The cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. ~Oswald Chambers

The ultimate plan bringing the ultimate victory. If there was ever cause for celebration, I'd say that is it!

If God remains in control of the circumstances surrounding Christ's death, and if He's able to orchestrate the details of an historical ransom for the souls of His people, is He not able to also orchestrate the details of your life...no matter your circumstances?

Yes, let's reflect on Christ's suffering today. And YES! let's celebrate His resurrection on Sunday. But let's not limit our reflection and celebration to one week a year. Let's celebrate His victory in our lives each and every day!

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For as long as I can remember, there has been a piece of paper held to the front of my grandma's fridge by a magnet.

On this simple piece of notebook paper, scrawled in my grandma's handwriting, are two simple statements of great wisdom. I've read these statements many times over the years (usually as I snuck "just one more" bite of homemade cookie dough.)

When I was younger, I didn't give much thought to the words. Now that I'm a Mom, these simple statements have taken on new meaning. I don't know where they come from...if Grandma read them or heard them somewhere, or if God just dropped them into her heart one day. Because that's the sort of thing He does for my grandma.

I have watched her live these words for decades. And if I can remember these truths and learn to live them out, too, then maybe I can give my kids the love my grandma has so freely given for so long.

I don't know who (besides my grandma) to credit these great truths, but I pray they will encourage you:

Grandma's Wisdom {printable}...true then, truer now | thereisgrace.com

Grandma's Wisdom {two printables} | thereisgrace.com

Go ahead...print them out. I bet they'd look nice on your fridge.

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Three different people--in separate conversations-- last weekend told me they loved my hair. Three hair compliments in a 48-hour period is a major score for any woman, but for someone who spent months "putting on" her hair , those three statements were like gold.

What's funny is, I'm loving my hair these days, too. And not just because it's my hair (although that is a plus). I'm loving the short 'do...which is surprising, because thanks to a terrible Dorothy Hamill haircut in the eighth grade, I've been a long-hair girl most of my adult life.

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Except for The Hair Catastrophe (as it came to be known) in my mid-20s...

I went in for a trim. What I got, instead, was a complete style makeover...and not a very good one. I don't remember exactly what it looked like, but I do remember standing in front of the mirror, staring in horror at my reflection. I also remember my roommate walking in with a look of concerned terror and asking, “What happened?!” The events that followed are a bit fuzzy, but they may have included tears and a few "sick" days off work.

Yes, it's just hair. And yes, it does grow back, but if you've ever been on the receiving end of an over-zealous stylist, you know in that moment all you feel is panic--a dreadful feeling of I’m going to look like this until it grows out, and there’s nothing I can do about it! I have been there, my friend. I have been. there.

I had another, similar, experience just a few years ago. It wasn't nearly as devastating as the first, but it was almost as painful. I asked for "a little shorter"  and got several inches shorter. Instantly, that same feeling of dread came rushing back. When I looked in the mirror, all I could see was my 20-something-year-old self and that devastating haircut from a decade before.

Thoughts of my hair consumed me the rest of the day. Do I like it this short? Is it really cute? Or just weird? Can I pull off hair this short? I was convinced my thick, natural curl combined with the short cut made me look like a giant Q-Tip walking around!

That evening I was still reeling from the haircut and feeling very self-conscious when I ran into a friend. She had obviously been crying. She smiled at me weakly and said through her tears, "I like your hair." Well, score one for my hair cut, I guess. But I couldn't fully enjoy the victory. I knew why my friend was crying, and it had nothing to do with haircuts.

Her family was going through a terrible trial...one I wouldn't wish on anyone, and I knew her tears were related to their situation. After my encounter with her, I began to think of my other friends who were facing overwhelming circumstances: one was still looking for a job after several months, one had lost a 9-month-old to a rare illness, one had been trying to sell a home for almost a year, one was facing surgery in just a few weeks, one had a sister battling a difficult form of cancer, one was in the middle of an unthinkable legal battle, and the list went on. I had been entirely consumed with my little world and my own insecurities, I hadn’t stopped to think about the needs of those around me.

In the previous weeks, I had spent hours talking with, listening to, and praying for these same friends and their situations. But that day it had been all about me. My hair and my situation had literally consumed my thoughts and energy.

It reminded me of how my children can sometimes be so completely consumed with their own problems they become oblivious to anything going on around them. How many times have I been in the middle of doing something for them (making dinner, doing laundry, etc.) only to have them come to me with a fresh list of demands, “Mom, I need you to…” “Where is my…” “Can you…” “He won’t let me…”

We tolerate, even expect, such selfishness from children, because self-absorption is a sign of immaturity. Children have to be taught to become aware of, and compassionate toward, those around them. It’s not often a trait they find on their own (although we’re so thankful when they do!).

Unfortunately, it’s also a sign of immaturity in me. When will I learn life is not really about me? There are times when we need to focus on our own needs--for health, for restoration, for healing of relationships. But when God brings us through those situations, we need to remember to turn our attention to others. When your biggest stress is a haircut gone awry, you're in a pretty good place; you have time and energy to spend on someone else.

God, in His grace, will help us to look beyond ourselves, our needs, our daily “emergencies,” and find needs in others. When we do that, He can use us to demonstrate His love and meet the needs of those who are hurting.

Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (Philippians 2:4, The Message)

This thing called life is about more than my wants, my insecurities, and my to-do list. God has designed us to do life together--helping each other, carrying one another's burdens, and learning to serve one another in love. That’s what makes this thing called life worth it. That’s what God's grace in action looks like. I pray that one of these days I’ll finally get over myself (and my hair) and remember that!

How can you show God's love by helping someone in your life?

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No, I'm not single. Let's just get that out of the way. I'm happily married with two children...but before you leave, let me explain...

My husband and I started dating when we were 27 and got married when we were 30. That means I spent roughly 12-15 years of Valentine's Days single. (Technically, I spent almost 30 Valentine's Days single, but those last 12-15 were the hardest.)

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Believe me when I tell you I know a thing or two about being single. As a general rule, I wasn't sad or depressed. I lived a full life--I had a lot of friends and a healthy social life. But there was something about Valentine's Day that seemed to bring me down, no matter how content I was with my life.

While the rest of the world is expressing their love to their most important person, you can't help feeling even more alone when you're single. Somewhere, deep down, you really are happy for all the happy couples in the world. Still, it's not an easy day when you're not one of them. I get it.

As an old married woman now, I think I have a little perspective to offer. So if I could sit down with each of my single friends over coffee and share my "big sister" advice with you, here's what I would say:

1. You are loved.

Remember this: Alone does not mean unloved.

Just because you're the only one who doesn't get roses at work or a card in the mail, it doesn't mean no one loves you. You probably know this already, but you've somehow managed to forget it in the midst of all the greeting card and jewelry commercials.

There are people around you who love you...parents, siblings, friends, family. They may be focused on their own relationships right now, but that doesn't mean they love you any less. They're just distracted. You need to know that.

And just in case you can't think of anyone who loves you, let me give you a hint...

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. (1 John 3:1, The Message)

2. God has a plan.

I can see your eyes rolling now. Because, yes, that's what I did at age 25 when someone said those words to me. It seemed so trite at the time, when I was "so old" and still single. Trust me...it's not trite. It's not cliché. It's true.

God sees you exactly where you are. He loves you exactly how you are. And He has a plan for you.

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (Jeremiah 29:11, The Message)

I don't know if His plan includes marriage. I don't know if it includes a relationship (and yes, I know how scary that sounds right now). But I know this: His plan is the best. And just because you're not in a relationship right now doesn't mean you'll never be. And, hear this: it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you!

3. Have fun.

This might seem a little difficult this Valentine's Day weekend when you're afraid to venture into public for fear of puking at the sight of another red heart balloon. But you can invite some girlfriends over to watch a movie (maybe not a romance) or play games. I guarantee you're not the only one without plans this weekend!

Here's the bigger idea: Instead of pining away or growing anxious about your singleness, make the most of your time. Further your education. Volunteer. Take up a hobby. Grow your interests. Press in to know God more.

In the 10 years I was a single adult, I was able to complete my education, gain valuable work experience (that's when I seriously took up writing), lead a ministry team, participate in numerous missions trips, and travel to places like Alaska and Paris. I love my life now, but trust me when I say there are no plans to visit Paris anytime soon! 😉

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (Philippians 4:11, 12 The Message)

This is where I would set down my coffee cup, lean in close, and hope you really hear me when I say, Your story doesn't begin when you get married; you're writing your story now.

Yes, dear sister, dream about your future mate. And definitely pray for him. But don't forget to live your life now. God not only has a plan for your future; He has  plan for your present.

Make the most of every opportunity. (Colossians 4:5)

Married friends, what did I miss? Any other advice you'd offer?

 

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