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The Story Behind Fresh Out of Amazing [Guest Post]

Have you ever opened a book and felt like you were sitting across the kitchen table from a best friend sharing their heart with you? When I read Hope for the Weary Mom, that happened. I knew when I closed that book, I wanted to know the authors better. When one of those dear women, Stacey Thacker, started writing her second book, Fresh Out of Amazing, I was thrilled with the opportunity to get to know her better. I’m so excited to have her answering some interview questions here about her new book and the vital part God’s Word plays in her daily life.

  1. How would you summarize your journey to the spot where you felt “fresh out of amazing”?

    I think I’ve spent years weaving in and out of feeling fresh out of amazing. I have felt it deeply at different times in my life. I jokingly tell people I’m practically a professional at feeling this way! That being said, when God began the journey of writing through this all too common feeling in my life there were a few specific things that marked my journey.

    The first time I wrote the actual words on my blog I was buried in every way as a weary mom. My youngest daughter at the age of two had not been a good sleeper and my older girls were needing me to help them with very important school projects. My husband was also traveling and we had a hurricane on the way. My heart finally broke wide open on the floor in the middle of a 2-3 loads of clean laundry. I told the Lord I felt like I needed to be amazing and I was fresh out of amazing. At this point, after we had a nice tearful chat, the Lord prompted me to write about it. I wasn’t sure that was a good idea, but I did it anyway. From that blog post God has birthed ”Hope for the Weary Mom” and also Fresh Out of Amazing.
    When I started working through the specific message of this particular book, it was right after my dad passed away suddenly. So part of my story, and you definitely can read about it in the book, is walking with Christ through grief and loss.

    stacey thacker elizabeth cravillion fresh out of amazing god's word daily life

  2. What motivated you to write this particular book, especially after writing Hope for the Weary Mom, also about depending on Jesus?

    Fresh Out of Amazing and Hope for the Weary Mom are different books, but I like to think of them as friends. The work God began in my life through “Hope” was necessary and I will always be grateful for what God did in my heart.  I still preach HOPE over my life daily. The new book is a continued, deeper work for me. I like to compare it to buying a fixer upper house. Sometimes you can see work right away that needs to be completed. You need to add a new roof and paint the exterior of a falling down house. But once you get inside and tear down a few walls you see the foundation needs to be repoured and the electrical is out of sorts. The Hope work was obvious—I was a weary mom who needed hope. Fresh Out of Amazing was the part of the story I was still trying to hide. And God called me out and said, “You’ve come to the end of yourself. It is time for you to see me big in your life.” Even today I tear up thinking about that moment. He has been so faithful.

  3. As I was reading Fresh Out of Amazing, I loved how you retold Bible stories in such a fresh, relevant way. How did you choose which stories to include? Were they ones that had previously impacted you?

    The different Bible stories really came as a result of my interactions with my readers. They were so great to share with me their journeys as well.  I had asked them, “What is going on in your life when you feel fresh out of amazing?” They identified five key ways: Burdened and Busy, Comparison, Death of Dreams, Believing Lies, and Loss and Grief. As I sat down to pray and think through these real women who were struggling just like me, I asked God to take me to examples in His Word that would speak to their hearts. God gave me the the first four (Martha, Leah and Rachel, Hannah, and the woman at the well).  My editor, Kathleen, suggested adding Naomi for the chapter on grief. I found my passion in writing through their stories. Of course, I could visualize the flannel graphs from years of Sunday School as a child, that probably helped too!

  4. What keeps you coming back to God’s Word, even on days it’s harder to make the time to do it?

    God’s Word is living and active—truly it is. It is the only thing in my life that can cut through fear, grief, lies, and the busyness of my days. I have realized it is the tool God will consistently use to resurrect and revive my heart. I don’t have time every day to dig as deep as I’d like, sometimes I just have five minutes while I drink my first cup of coffee. Still, it is the one place I can be sure of God will meet me and the truth is I need that more than I need sleep these days. I keep coming back to it because I need instruction, I need truth, I need my hope stirred up, and I need to receive that living water that he pours out as I draw near to him in the pages of his Word.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    You can find Stacey’s book wherever books are sold. I picked mine up at Amazon. I ordered five copies because I knew I would be sticking one in the church library and handing the others out to friends. I’m already re-reading it. Thanks, Stacey, for sharing with us today.

    stacey thacker elizabeth cravillion fresh out of amazing god's word daily life

God’s Word Speaking


she speaks 2016 elizabeth cravillion lindsey smith god's word
My cell phone vibrates on the table beside me. It’s 6:00 AM…my three little people will be getting up anywhere in the next 30-45 minutes but instead of letting their hands tugging on my blanket be what jolts me out of sleep, I’m choosing to get up and start my day before them. As a blogger who writes about the value of God’s Word, I feel like I shouldn’t type this next sentence. This is the first time in 5 years I’ve habitually started my day on purpose with Jesus.

I won’t rattle off excuses about struggling with this. I’ll just say that motherhood has been harder than I ever dreamed and I haven’t been finding my rest in Jesus like I know I can.

This isn’t about keeping rules. It’s not “to be a good Christian girl I’d better be reading my Bible every day!” Nope. It’s about knowing that only Jesus can fill me with joy and make me strong to face the challenges life throws at me.

A year ago, I retweeted something from Proverbs 31 Ministries for a chance to win a ticket to the annual She Speaks conference in Concord, NC for writers, speakers and leaders. And I won. Say, what?? At that time I was 6 months pregnant with my third child and had no idea how getting from Iowa to North Carolina would even be possible. But I was thrilled, and just waited to see what God would do.

God worked out every single detail of traveling and expenses and at the end of July I hopped on a plane, leaving my kids with my husband and mother-in-law and took off for a weekend of truth.

God has been quietly drawing me back to his word for a couple of years now. Books, podcasts, personal pain and frustration, this blog, whispers in the night… As my kids have been sleeping more at night, I’ve gotten stronger and I knew I was at a place where committing to daily time with God again was next.

she speaks 2016 elizabeth cravillion shaun a niequiest god's wordAnd from the moment I stepped into the conference rooms at Embassy Suites God’s Spirit invited me back to his Word. Woman after woman shared truth from the Bible reminding me that God’s Word has power and that I have all I need for life and godliness in Jesus Christ and his Word.

Can I confess something else? In many ways I stopped reading the Bible every morning because it stopped making sense. How could sacrificing sleep as a baby momma ever make sense? When I have no mental energy, how could picking up a book to study make more sense than mindlessly escaping to social media?

But God spoke so clearly to me at She Speaks: faith doesn’t always make sense. My brain screams, “Do this! Do that! Accomplish! Survive!” but God invites, “Come meet me in the silence and let me speak truth and peace into your soul.” That is the way of life. God designed me to live fully depending on him.

At She Speaks, Glynnis Whitwer said, “Study scripture for yourself, not primarily to teach it.” Yes. I need to pursue God for myself. Be filled with his truth and let it transform me before I can minister to anyone else in any way.

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Wendy Blight reminded me, “Teaching God’s Word is a high calling.” Every day I get to show up and say, “God, what do you have for me to do today?” If I’m not seeking him daily, I won’t be hearing his voice and won’t know what it is he’s calling me to obey.

God met a need I didn’t know I had through a conference I barely knew existed a year ago, in just the context that thrilled my soul. He is good.

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Courage to Show Up Today

god's word everyday life new baby courage to show up crystal paine elizabeth cravillionHello friends. It’s good to show up to write again. I’ve taken a 3-month leave of absence to welcome to our new little man, Eddie Jack, last November, into our family. I’ve been wondering when and what and how I would start writing again…but today I read this quote:

“You can push fear away and assert your way toward courage by just showing up and giving your all.” Crystal Paine, Money Saving Mom

I didn’t realize I was afraid until I unpacked that quote and realized that, yes, fear has kept me from showing up and writing. Fear of not getting enough rest, or of not being consistent in my blogging, or of producing less than excellent work. But I can’t let those fears conquer me. No. I’m showing up here, today, to write because it’s my calling. I’m called to be a mom and mother with all my might in this season but I’m also called to write and I can find ways to carry out that mission as well.

god's word everyday life new baby courage to show up crystal paine elizabeth cravillionIn the past three months I’ve truly been living out the title of my blog – God’s Word in everyday life. I’ve realized more than ever as a mom that I desperately need God’s truth guiding every moment of my day. His wisdom, his promises, his assurances of love – I can’t make it through this journey without him speaking into my heart. I’d like to share some of the truths I’ve been learning to live.

Also, I’ve begun a study on Psalms with a friend and as we work through it I’m planning to dig back and sort through what we know to be true of God and write it out. This will be posts I’m calling The Old Testament in a Nutshell. It can be easy to shy away from the Old Testament because there’s a lot we don’t understand unless we study it comprehensively. Doing that was one of my favorite parts of Bible college – getting a grasp of the overview of God’s word and how it fits together. So little by little we are tackling it and I plan to share that information here, too.

It doesn’t feel like much but even the pyramids were built one brick at a time, right? Together let’s make the decision to show up and do the one thing we need to do today to move forward.

So…What’s Up with You?

Sometimes life throws a curveball at you and there’s not much you can do about it. It’s spring now and in our home that means baseball. Opening day is a national holiday here. We even planned an awesomely fun cookout to celebrate this year.

But we never had the cookout.

A week before opening day, aka Easter this year, I went to the ER with beyond severe pain in my upper back and side, ended up being diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs and promptly admitted to the hospital. 24 hours and a CT scan later I was also diagnosed with blood clots in both lungs.

IMG_3047The next day a doctor sat down with me to answer my questions and one of the first things she said to me was that when people end up in my position, blood clots sitting in the safest possible place in their body, having come from who knows where, who knows when, she tells them they should go play the lottery because their stars have aligned.

That statement is still sinking in. And any time I repeat it a whole new wave of deep emotions shakes my soul. I’m not sitting here typing this blog entry today because I’m lucky, however. I’m here because God, who holds my times in his hand, ordained that I live more days on this planet with the ones I love.

IMG_3048I have a Facebook page for this blog, and each time I get on my personal Facebook, the site informs me that it’s been over 4 weeks since my readers have heard from me. Thanks, social media. I’ve wanted to write again but for obvious reasons that hasn’t been possible.

I’m home now, resting and recovering, being well cared for by dear ones. The weariness has engulfed me for weeks, and I finally feel the energy creeping back into my bones.

I tell my three-year-old, “Momma isn’t sick anymore. Momma just needs to get stronger.” It helps with his fears that I’ll be gone again like I was for 6 days in the hospital. And it’s also the truth. I’m waiting for my strength to return.

By the way…a week before all this happened, we discovered that we are expecting Baby #3 in November. Surprise, Cravillion family! Think God has some kind of plan for our sanctification lately? It might be a long summer, folks. :)

I have a lot of thoughts and hopes for this blog this summer (the first being to finish the James study!) so as I’m able, I’ll be writing again. Thank you for your patience, and your love and support.

Enjoy some sunshine today and thank God for the breath he’s given you today!

The Tongue is a Fire – Deeper Life: James – Day 13

Begin your time with prayer

Scripture
James 3:6-12 And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence – and is set on fire by hell. For every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and sea creature is subdued and has been subdued by humankind. But no human being can subdue the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse people made in God’s image. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters. A spring does not pour out fresh water and bitter water from the same opening, does it? Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters, or a vine produce figs? Neither can a salt water spring produce fresh water.

deeper life james bible study elizabeth cravillion fire flames tame the tongueReactions
What is James talking about here?

What are your initial reactions?

Digging below the surface
James uses several figures of speech here again. What are they? Why do you think they are good descriptions?

What would it mean to “tame the tongue”?

Is fire good or bad? Could “the tongue is a fire” have a good implication as well as a negative one?

Making it stick
How aware are you of the power of your tongue?

Ask God to help you evaluate your speech. Is it a spring of fresh water or bitter water?

Notes
If it weren’t for our tongue – our words – we would have no means of communicating what is in our souls. We each have power within us – power to build up or tear down. How we use our tongue determines what we do with that power.

The spark from one person’s tongue can set the whole world on fire. When I think of fire, I think of two kinds. The first, a raging fire that destroys everything in its path. The second, a fire kindling warmth and light with its heat.

James mentions an inconsistency here, too. On one hand I use my tongue for good. Then I spin around and use it to tear down. I am saved by God’s grace but am still a sinner. I’ll always struggle with this, because I can’t tame my tongue on my own. I need God to tame it – to take its power and use it for good. Again, it’s about dependence on God. “No human being can subdue the tongue.” But God can.

Lord, only you can tame my tongue by changing my heart. Will you reveal to me the power in my tongue and show me how to use it for good? Especially as I speak into the lives of those closest to me! Help me to speak words of grace and kindness and always truth, to kindle a healing, warming fire in them rather than one that burns and destroys.

Walk the Talk – Deeper Life: James – Day 10

Prayer
Has there been a worship song you’ve been hearing on the radio or at church or running through your head lately that strikes a chord with you this week? Find it on YouTube and play it. Sing it as a prayer to God.

Scripture
James 2:14-19 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that – and tremble with fear.

james greek new testament deeper life bible study elizabeth cravillionReactions
Have you ever known someone who was all talk and no walk? What did you think about that person?

Digging below the surface
List the questions James asks in this passage.

Does he answer them for us, or expect us to understand the answers on our own?

What are the answers?

Is it a godly practice to say one thing and do another thing?

What does that tell you about God’s character?

Making it stick
How does your faith affect the way you live?

What is important about showing others our faith by our works?

Notes
I just want to be up-front here. It is not easy to be a Christian. Jesus never said it would be. In fact, he promised the opposite. Following Christ means a life of dying to self and being willing to do the hard things.

So often, however, I have dead faith. I put up this clean front that says, “Look at me. I’m such a nice, neat Christian.” But my motives are wrong. Or I ignore the Spirit’s leading to reach out to someone. Or I say blithely, “I’ll pray for you!” and then promptly forget all about the request.

Why do I bother going through the motions of Christianity if it isn’t real and isn’t going to change me? I mean, spending time with God each day, all the effort of going to and serving at church, enduring stigma from being a Christian – none of that is worth it if I’m not going to be 100% all-in from my heart.

To be honest, I don’t have too much trouble feeding and clothing other people – that’s a personality trait of mine. But I do have trouble acting out my faith in my personal life. I struggle to believe that God will give me the resources to obey what he’s called me to do. I fight to believe that I can overcome. Is my faith going down deep and truly changing me? Or is it all a bunch of talk?

Lord, you are good. You’re a great God. You have all the resources I need. You say, “Give and it will be given to you.” In my various roles in life I’m constantly giving to others. My faith is dead if I don’t believe you can fulfill me, and if I don’t let you create a new attitude in me. Lord, I want to keep my eyes on you. I want to live a life that is pure – what you see is what you get. I want to be real. Amen.

Seeking God in His Word – an Interview with Christine Hoover

I love how God brings people into our lives just when we need them. When Nate and I first began serving our church, I was looking for encouragement from other church leaders’ wives and discovered Christine Hoover’s blog, Grace Covers Me. At the time, as a church planter’s wife, she was writing for church planters’ and church leaders’ wives and I found so much encouragement there. She still shares from her heart on that blog, and lately God has given her a new writing focus. She writes about her journey from legalism (trying to be good all the time – what she calls “the goodness gospel”) to walking by faith and the grace of God.

Hfrom good to grace christine hoover elizabeth cravillion bible studyer book From Good to Grace released this week (read my review here), and today she’s sharing here on God’s Word in Everyday Life about how her understanding of grace has impacted her Bible study and her search for God in his word. I’m so excited to share this time with her!

Can you tell us briefly what your Bible study time was like before you really started understanding the “goodness gospel”?

Before I understood God’s grace toward me, my Bible study times were inconsistent and duty-driven. When the voices of guilt inside my head grew loud enough, I’d muffle them by making time to read my Bible. It was obligatory and done to make myself feel better, not to meet with God.

What changed in that one-on-one time as you began to see grace in a new light?

Everything changed when I began to receive God’s grace toward me. Because I learned that God is for me and not against me, I experienced a greater desire to read my Bible. However, I had been so legalistic in my approach to the Christian life that I didn’t quite know how to gel grace with spiritual disciplines. I didn’t want to swing to the complete opposite side of legalism.

A verse helpful to me in those first colt-like steps toward a grace-filled understanding was Psalm 27:8: “You have said, ‘Seek My face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.’” Throughout my day, I noticed a Spirit-driven nudge (gentle and loving, never guilt-laden), that seemed to say, “Now would be a good time for you to come meet with Me.” Psalm 27:8 told me that God will lead, but it’s my job to respond in obedience. The Lord began to invite me to meet with Him through these nudges, and in time a consistent rhythm developed, as well as an eager desire.

You write in your book that spiritual disciplines, such as Bible study, are “intended as ways to ask for and receive help from the Holy Spirit.” Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve been learning as you’ve grown in this process?

I mentioned that I didn’t know quite how to think about spiritual disciplines for several years after God revealed His grace to me. At some point along the way, I realized that spiritual disciplines act like doors. I practice them, not because they are what makes me pleasing to the Lord or because it is an obligation, but because they are a means of making myself available to God in order that He can speak to me and work in my life. I open my Bible and study it each day as I would open a door and invite someone in. It gives God leadership in my life, because I am submitting myself to His Word, which is living and active and will cut to my heart.

You also write in your book that you searched the Bible not just for knowledge, but for God himself. What did that search look like? How did you find God? What were you doing differently as you read the Bible than you were before?

I used to read the Bible looking for what to do and what not to do, which only fed my legalism. I missed that the Bible is a window into the character of God, and that the entire book speaks of His care and nurture of His children.

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine basically walked away from her husband and her faith and it really shook me. I didn’t know how to love her in a way that called her lovingly to repentance, so I started studying how God loves us that way. I read many books of the Bible with just one question: “How does this book show God’s love?” I learned that God’s love is multi-faceted, and that He loves me in such a way that I can trust Him with my whole life. I can trust His heart toward me, even in painful situations. That kind of perspective definitely changes how you read Scripture because, if God’s love toward me underlies everything I read, than the motivation for obeying Him is to love Him in return, not to earn His love or to do something out of obligation.

Have you learned to recognize signs as you read God’s word that you are slipping back into the “goodness gospel”?

I’ve learned to recognize thoughts that correlate with the goodness gospel: “I’m not good enough” or “I should be like so-and-so” or “God is disappointed with me and will withhold good things from me”. Anything that is all-encompassing and general condemnation is based on the goodness gospel and is not from the Lord, because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). God doesn’t treat us the way we treat ourselves. Will He convict us of sin? Yes, but it’s a specific conviction and followed by forgiveness and the hope of His help in changing.

When I’m thinking these thoughts, I often go to God’s Word, especially Romans and Galatians, because they set me straight and remind me that Jesus’ grace covers my salvation but also my sanctification. He has won for me past, present, and future grace. That’s why it’s called amazing.

Christine’s book From Good to Grace is available now. Only $11 over at Amazon.com. Go check it out!

Deeper Life: James – Day 5

Prayer
God, I’m facing a long day. I’m struggling in my heart and just need peace. I need confidence. Everything feels overwhelming. Is it true that you can speak to me through your word? Will you prove that to me today? Will you open my eyes as I read and show me that you’re there? That you’re with me today?

Scripture
James 1:16-18 Do not be led astray, my dear brothers and sisters. All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change. By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Reactions
What jumps off the page as you read this passage?

What is James saying, in your own words?

Digging below the surface
Make a list of the things James writes about God here. Think through them. Are any of them new to you?

Read verses 13-18 straight through (yesterday’s and today’s passages). Compare and contrast what the verses say God DOESN’T do with what he DOES.

Making it stick
If we really believed that God is generous and giving and that he never changes, would our daily lives look any different?

How is our thankfulness today?

james 1:17 deeper life elizabeth cravillionBehind the Scene Notes
“Firstfruits” is an expression from the Old Testament. In the law, God asked the Jews to bring him the first part of their harvest (hence “first-fruit”) as an offering. They were to acknowledge God’s gifts before they kept any of the harvest for themselves. Deuteronomy 26 explains that God provided for the people because he treasured them and he wanted them to remember his love.

In this passage, James is reminding the Jews of God’s history of generosity. Through Christ (“the message of truth”), God brings us into his family. We are a new creation – the first part of God’s new creation. One day he will create a new heaven and earth for those who love him. The Jews James wrote to were witnessing the beginning of God’s new creation –the very first believers in Christ. One day all of us will witness the rest of his new creation, coming straight from his loving, generous heart.

Notes
God is not a God who tempts people. He’s a God who gives good gifts! He’s a God who never changes. I’m convicted when I read this. So often I live like God must be stingy with his grace for me and with the fruit his Spirit can produce in me. But he willingly made me his daughter through the word of truth. He gives and gives and gives. He never says, “Come on, get some endurance going here. Be perfect. Don’t sin,” without helping me. And he never gets tired of helping me! It’s so good to be his.

God, you saved me, just because you love me! You have created a new heart in me. I still struggle with temptation and sin but I understand that you’re not the one tempting me. Lord, will you remind me that you give me good gifts? Will you help me to be thankful? Thank you for never changing, and for being so good. Guide my steps today. Help me to have victory over sin and discouragement. Amen.