Brokenness to Beauty

Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life


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Finding Hope

“All of us need hope to move through life. We become especially aware of this when faced with circumstances beyond our control. When our lives are falling apart, where do we find hope to move ahead each day?” (Excerpted from Lesson 4 of the Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life.[1])

Suffering and trials come in all forms, from serious health issues to extreme poverty due to war and political turmoil. I am familiar with life-threatening and life-altering health problems. Raella, however, has lived under the threat of war, poverty and starvation in her country of South Sudan. She is suffering things I know nothing about.[2]

But I do know the way to hope is the same for both of us.

How can I say this with certainty? I didn’t think it up myself. It comes from an authority much higher than me. In fact, it comes from God himself.

Listen to what Paul, under the inspiration of God, wrote in Romans 5:1-5 (HCSB):

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Photo by Gertop

Faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord brings us peace with God and ultimately hope, as the Scriptures here reveal.

But there’s more! God is the God of hope. I got that right out of the text too. Romans 15:13 (HCSB) says:

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Faith in Jesus Christ brings us into the place of peace with God, who fills us with joy and peace so that by the power of his Holy Spirit who comes to live in us, we overflow with hope!

Hope originates in God. It becomes our own through a restored relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Scriptures say in John 1:14 that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have discovered that this Word is Jesus, God come in flesh to bring us redemption, forgiveness of sins and peace with God. We call his coming into the world as a human, the Incarnation.

Raella has discovered this truth too. In fact, she has seen “the Word (become) flesh” through a group of women. She has seen Christ Jesus in the women who lead the She Is Safe (SIS) Transformation Group she joined[3].

Through this Transformation Group Raella learned skills to start her own business so that she wasn’t dependent on a job that didn’t exist. She learned good business skills and saving and lending practices along with the other women in the group, so they can help one another. She also learned other vital life skills.

In her own words Raella says: “Today I have saved enough with my new business to rent a small house. My children are in school.” (This is significant where primary and secondary education is not free as it is in our country.)

Raella is lifting up her life, and the lives of her children, above their trying circumstances.

She and her children have a safe place to live. They have food to eat. The children are getting an education. All because Raella found the SIS Transformation Group and because she has worked hard to put into practice what they have taught her. Make no mistake, Raella has very little of this world’s wealth. She works hard at her business to bring home and save enough for a roof and food and education.

But business skills are not all Raella learned in the Transformation Group. She learned about the God who loved her enough to send his own Son to die to provide for her salvation.

She knows it is true because of the women giving of themselves to teach and train her in the Transformation Group. These SIS trained leaders are “incarnating” the Word of God, putting flesh on the timeless truths of God’s Word.

Because these followers of Jesus found a way to bring new skills and the Good News of Jesus Christ to Raella, and hundreds of women like her, she now has hope. These Transformation Groups are the “hands and feet” of Jesus to the Raella’s of the hard places in the world, places like South Sudan.

Raella’s testimony doesn’t stop with being filled with joy and gratitude for the good things in her life as a result of her training. Out of her poverty she also tangibly lives out her gratitude: “My first offering is always to God because he has given me hope.”

My heart was smitten when I read her words. Am I as grateful as Raella is for the grace of God in my life, for the hope he has given me? Is my first offering–skimmed off the top of my finances–to God because he alone has given me hope?

God has given me so much in every way. Am I living out his truth the way Raella and the Transformation Group leaders are, even in their unimaginable circumstances in South Sudan? Am I putting “flesh,” my own flesh, on the truths of God, living them out sacrificially for others every day?

Jesus’ words in Luke 12:48 remind me that, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

God help me—God help us—to whom much has been entrusted, to be faithful and follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

May we be found putting his Word into practice every day so that the Raella’s around us see Jesus in us, and find hope.

In upcoming posts I hope to share with you some ways God is leading me to live out his truths here in southern California, as well as give you updates on the progress of the writing and publishing saga of the Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty.

Stay tuned.

[1] Brokenness to Beauty is available here on Amazon as well as other online outlets. The Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty is in the final stages of writing, soon to be published.

[2] Not her real name.

[3] Transformation Groups are self-help groups led by She Is Safe-trained local women. Learn more about the ministries of She Is Safe at SheIsSafe.org.


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Surprise!

God is always surprising me.

When I was asked a few weeks ago to present a workshop on prayer at a women’s retreat, I silently gulped and said, “Yes, Lord.” Then I responded (audibly) in the affirmative to the lady asking me if I would do the workshop.

It is humbling to have someone ask me if I’d do a presentation on the subject of prayer. I’m still a learner in that field. I always will be, of course. And to consider speaking publicly, well, that is nothing short of miraculous.

That I can say “yes” to speaking in front of people, and on the subject of prayer, is a wonder to me on two fronts:

1) I can physically do it and

2) I have material already compiled from which to draw to put together such a presentation.

A few years ago I never could have agreed to talk in front of people for an hour. I have MG (myasthenia gravis, a severe muscle weakness) and have been extremely weak for most of my life. The miracle is that I have been stronger for the past eight-plus years than I have been since I was thirteen years old, and I now can do public speaking!

Even though I planned this workshop to be an interactive Bible study time, not an hour-long lecture, I still had to do a lot of talking. My ability to speak this much is the gracious and miraculous work of God. It is the answer to many prayers prayed over the span of more than forty years.

I also had what I needed to present in the prayer workshop. A few years ago I had finally said “yes” to God about writing the book Brokenness to Beauty (and I’m now writing the Bible study guide to go with it; a work in progress), and I had already thought through and written much of the material I used for this workshop on prayer.

Though I wasn’t at a loss for what to say, I did earnestly pray for direction from the Lord to narrow it down. Volumes could be said about prayer (and volumes have been written on prayer), but it certainly wouldn’t fit within that one hour time frame. I needed to speak to what these ladies needed to hear. Only God has that information. He again answered prayer.

Most important to me when I speak or teach is to direct women into the Word of God. If they forget what I say but hear what God says in his Word, I will have been successful.

I initially thought I was going to the women’s retreat (hosted by our former church) in order to take it all in for myself, enjoy the beautiful mountains around the retreat center, and especially to see many dear friends I hadn’t seen since moving from Bakersfield to Colton last fall.

As it turned out, not only did I get to do those things, I ended up with the privilege of serving God by serving the women who came to the prayer workshop. What a great weekend we had!

 

Did I mention God is always surprising me?

I was mighty tired after driving the three hours it took to get to the retreat center, the busy weekend and the three hour drive home, but I give thanks to our great God for giving me the strength to do it. He truly “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

Photos of women’s retreat by Alayna Condon and Lindsay Long.

Scripture taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. https://www.biblegateway.com.

 


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It takes a village … or a few friends, at least

I have to write the final lesson, Lesson 10, of my Bible study. In the last two days during my allotted hours for focusing on writing the Bible study I have: read the three chapters from my book the lesson is based on, written a prayer letter (and mailed it), written the note that goes on the Mustard Seeds’ March receipt to be sent to donors (a monthly task of mine), made several phone calls, read an email letter from the Christian writer’s conference I’ll be attending in June, and glanced at other emails. Though all these were necessary activities, I was not too focused during my writing time, to say the least.

my-writing-desk

Oh, but I did research some quotes and word definitions for Lesson 10. In total I’ve written about one paragraph of new copy for the lesson. In the last two days.

Obviously, I’m not moving ahead very fast here.

But I had a thought that could help me a lot, based on prior experience.

Last year I worked with a small group of ladies over the summer and into the fall as I wrote my way through developing the first several lessons. I’d write a lesson, give it to them, we’d meet one day a week and go over it, and they would give me their feedback on the lesson. I found their insights and participation of great value. (And it was fun being together.)

Then I moved.

I’m happy to be where I am but I don’t have my little group of friends to bounce my ideas off of. I miss them. I need the feedback of other women as I write a Bible study for other women (and men too).

So I’m going to beat the bushes for a few friends who would be willing to give me feedback to my questions and manuscript as I work to write the last lesson of this Bible study rooted in the book, Brokenness to Beauty. If you’ve read the book (hey, it’s available on Amazon if you don’t have it. It’s a good read, so I’m told) and if you are interested in joining such a group, let me know.

One benefit to you would be to get the inside scoop on what I develop for this final lesson in the ten lesson Bible study. I’ll send you documents to review and give feedback on as we work through the lesson.

I’m one lesson away from completing the Bible study for Brokenness to Beauty. Consider being a participant in propelling me over the finish line toward publication!

Leave a comment in the comment box on this site if you want to be in a beta study group with me for Lesson 10. You can also message me on facebook.

Or leave me a comment just because you want to chat. I’d love to hear from you.

And have I mentioned you can pick up my book in hard cover, soft cover or e-book, online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Bookstore for e-books,  and WestBow Press Bookstore. I also sell and ship the soft cover version. So many ways to get it!

front-cover-copy


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Good News from 2016

One year ago this month Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life was published, going live on Amazon and other book outlets. Hundreds of books have been sold and from the positive comments I’ve received, scores of people have been encouraged in their journeys through the difficulties of life. By God’s grace this is just the beginning of many more people finding strength and encouragement to go on through their dark valley of suffering.

front-cover-copy

This was my purpose in writing Brokenness to Beauty, to lift up and strengthen those struggling through all kinds of trials in life. The verse of Scripture I use when signing my book is Hebrews 10:24: “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” I believe I have done this in Brokenness to Beauty.

It is not only in the good days of life that we can demonstrate “love and good deeds.” In our darkest days we can shine brightly for the Lord as we lean into him for strength and grace to go through each day. Our suffering, whatever form it may take, does not keep us from being a witness to the grace and love of God, of letting our light shine before men in such a way that they see our good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:26).

In fact, it may be that in the cauldron of suffering we have our greatest opportunity to demonstrate God’s grace and power to those around us. Else what did God mean when he said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)?

Speaking for myself, I know I need to learn to do what Paul declared he did: “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b).

What would it be like to have the power of Christ dwell in us in the way Paul meant? We have the power of Christ dwelling in us as believers, but it is our own “strength,” our reliance on ourselves and our abilities, that hinders the power of God from being perfected in and through us for the benefit of others and the glory of God.

“The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great strength. … Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness” (Psalm 33:16, 18).

“He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His lovingkindness” (Psalm 147:10-11).

This is what Brokenness to Beauty is all about, pointing us to the Lord in our weakness, teaching us to wait on and hope in God and God alone. In him we find strength to put one foot in front of the other, day after day.

Are you struggling with something today? Do you know a friend or family member going through deep waters of suffering? I encourage you to order a copy of Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life. It is friends like you telling your friends about Brokenness to Beauty who have the greatest impact getting this book into the hands of those who need it most.

Brokenness to Beauty may be purchased online at Amazon Books,  Barnes and Noble Bookstore, WestBow Press Bookstore and other online book outlets.

Let’s make good news for 2017.

 

 

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

Scriptures copied from https://www.biblegateway.com.


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The First Step to Building a Bible Study: Making a start

Not all the ladies who had been invited could attend, but we made a start. It was our first meeting to “build a Bible study” based on my book Brokenness to Beauty.

A few months earlier, when I first sat down to begin writing a Bible study for Brokenness to Beauty, I wondered how in the world I could write a Bible study for a chapter in a book that is rather like a portion of a memoir. That’s what the first chapter of Brokenness to Beauty is. It is “my story,” my life story in a nutshell. How do I make a Bible study to go with that?

About that time I’d been reading Psalm 145 in my daily Bible reading. I had camped out there for a week or so, reading and rereading that psalm every day. There was so much there, I just couldn’t move on.

Then I came to this question of developing a Bible study for the book’s first chapter about my life story.

When those two separate thoughts converged in my mind–my story and Psalm 145–it suddenly made perfect sense to develop a Bible study of Psalm 145 to go hand in hand with my life story. It would make perfect sense for every woman’s  story. I began writing.

This became the draft of a Bible study for Chapter One of Brokenness to Beauty that I used it at our women’s retreat in April. I did some rewriting on that first draft based on things I learned from the women as we worked through the study during the retreat.  This was exactly what I knew I needed: the contributions of differing perspectives, insights, comments and questions; and seeing the lesson in action. I learned so much in April.

It was this rewritten draft I handed to my friends gathered around my table on this first day of a “Bible study to build a Bible study.” As we also worked through the study, I made more margin notes as comments and insights were shared by my friends. Then followed more rewriting, adding and deleting as I considered the comments and suggestions given me that day.

This past Tuesday more ladies were around my table for our second Bible study to build a Bible study. Once again I handed out a rewritten draft of the study for Chapter One, plus a partial draft for chapters two, three and eight.

Progress.

I value these times with these women, and the perspectives and suggestions given me to ponder and pray about as I craft this Bible study. I wrote my book alone. I cannot write this Bible study alone. I need other women’s input.

Photo by Gaborfromhungary

Photo by Gaborfromhungary

 

My desire and goal in writing a Bible study to accompany Brokenness to Beauty is to provide women with the tools to help them grasp truths from God’s Word that will give them the strength to go through their tough times.

It won’t be my words that help them so much as my pointing them to the Words of God, who alone is our “very present help in trouble.”

 

 

Are you struggling with a burden that seems too heavy to bear, a trial that threatens to drown you? Do you wonder how you can make it through these dark days?

front cover

 

Brokenness to Beauty: Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life was written for you.

Pick up your copy at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or WestBow Press Bookstore today.

Send me your comments or questions and I will prayerfully consider them as I craft a Bible study companion to the book.

 


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How to Build a Bible Study

“Do you have a Bible study for your book?” “Is there a Bible study guide to go with Brokenness to Beauty?” “You should write a Bible study for your book.”

After hearing these kinds of questions and comments a number of times since Brokenness to Beauty was published in January, I decided I did indeed need to write a Bible study guide to accompany the book. A start has already been made on Chapter One which I used at a women’s retreat in April. That weekend I got valuable feedback from my friends and learned a good bit about writing a Bible study (and we had a good time in the process, in the beautiful mountains near Bakersfield!).

Not wanting to wait until I wrote a Bible study, two groups of women have, on their own, begun studies based on Brokenness to Beauty. One group is in Georgia and one in a town near Bakersfield, CA. Pretty exciting!

front cover

And next week Tuesday a small group of women and I get serious about diving into a full-fledged Bible study based on Brokenness to Beauty. These women have agreed to work through each chapter with me, giving me their questions, comments, perspectives and insights. Obviously, this will not be your run of the mill Bible study!

This will be a Bible study “formation” group, that is, we will be taking what I’ve written in Brokenness to Beauty, and with the material generated from the input of these women, I will further develop topics and concepts I wrote about, delving deeper into the Scriptures, to form and shape it into a usable study for other women to use in the future.

Have you read Brokenness to Beauty? Do you have questions, comments, insights and perspectives you’d like to share with me to consider as I write this Bible study?[1] I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to email me at Jacqueline@brokennesstobeauty.com.

Brokenness to Beauty may be purchased online at Amazon books, Barnes and Noble and WestBow Press Bookstore.

[1] Submission of questions, comments, perspectives, insights, etc., is no guarantee these will be incorporated into the Bible study but I promise I will read and prayerfully consider all sent to me.


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It’s all a matter of the Will

Springtime in Georgia is beautiful, with many flowering bushes, large and small. I was there the middle of April and watched the buds on my hostess’ rhododendron bush open into full bloom. It reminded me of the large rhododendron in the yard of my former home in West Virginia. Gorgeous.

Almost heaven, West Virginia, where everything is green ... and grows!

Almost heaven, West Virginia, where everything is green … and grows!

 

While I was in Georgia representing Mustard Seeds and Mountains at a missions conference, I was able to attend three book signing parties for my book, Brokenness to Beauty, put on for me by long-time friends.  I so appreciate each of these host ladies! I got to visit with them, share about the ministry of Mustard Seeds and Mountains with the guests, and then had readings from and discussion about my book, Brokenness to Beauty. One passage we read was from Chapter 5—The Scriptures, Our Life:

“I remember well my daily struggles with fear, pain, and uncertainty in the days of cancer treatment, crying many tears as I talked to God. Though Randy was able to be with me for a few months at the beginning of my treatment, most of that year and a half he was back in West Virginia working while I stayed in California. Every day I turned to the Bible. I poured out my heart to God in prayer as I read his Word.

I once wrote on my blog:

The Scriptures, God’s words to us, sustain me daily. They are our life. They bring the only light to this dark path.

At the end of his wilderness journey, Moses knew he was about to die. He had faithfully obeyed the words of the Lord. He led the Israelites out of Egypt, bore up under the crushing load of their complaining and rebellion against God (and himself), and gave them the law of God, the first five books of the Bible.

Before he turned over the reins of leadership to Joshua, Moses sang a scathing song of warning and chastisement before giving the Israelites one last charge. He said:

Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life (Deuteronomy 32:46–47).

These words about the Bible are for me as much as for the Israelites of thousands of years ago. The Scriptures are not idle words for me; they are my life. I take that statement to heart.”

God has given us his words. Do we grasp the significance of that? I am convinced, even from my own life, that we do not understand as we ought what it means to have God’s words. If we did our lives would be different!

His words are meant to transform us. That only happens when we take them in (usually through reading and studying them), understand them to some degree, put them into practice, and by so doing change our thoughts, words, behaviors and lifestyles.

As I write this blog post on my laptop in my home in Bakersfield, CA, I marvel at the patient work of God in my life, even though I’ve been slow to learn the value and importance of his words.

The words of God to the Israelites are for me, and for you, today:

Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. (Deuteronomy 32:46–47, emphasis mine)

Will we take seriously, to our very hearts, the words of warning from the Word of God given to us through Moses and the other writers of the Scriptures?

Will we faithfully teach our children to carefully obey the Word of God, setting the example for them to follow our steps of faith and obedience?

Will we grasp the truth that the Word of God is our very life, not to be taken lightly or pushed aside, following the noise of the culture around us?

Will we live in the truth that we do have all the time we need for spending in God’s Word (rather than the lie that “I don’t have time”)?

Will we strive, as the writer of Hebrews says in chapter 4 verse 11, to enter into God’s rest through diligently obeying his revealed word?

It’s all a matter of the Will.

No more excuses.

May we will to do his Will. God help us.

And he will.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed … work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13, NASB.)

 

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation