Crucible: a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new (Merriam-Webster.com). What’s your crucible? Are you there?
My kids and I dove into a Bible story the other day, where God rescued his people from Pharaoh’s impending doom. He’d rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and Pharaoh allowed them to leave captivity. The people left, headed home, facing days and nights in the hot desert, following a pillar of fire toward the unknown. They ended up on the sands of the Red Sea, a body of water flowing for miles in both directions. And then Pharaoh and his 600 men and their raging chariots raced to recapture them. The Israelites freaked out then, as I think most of us would. They projected their fear, they cried, they whined. And God replied, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:15-16). Essentially, God told Moses to tell the Israelites they couldn’t go over it. They couldn’t go under it. They couldn’t go around it. They had to go through it. And to stop whining.
Just like the classic picture book of “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt,” the adventurers had to face a challenge bigger than they understood.
You, oh incredible wayfarer, will face challenges bigger than yourself and bigger than you understand. It’s the plight of mankind. It’s your job. Don’t ask, “Why isn’t this easier?” Ask instead, “How can this make me better?”
The good thing about these challenges is that they make us into our best selves. Challenges aren’t just part of the story; they’re the story.
1) Challenges show us God’s bigness.
On this tiny planet, as this one tiny soul, I often don’t see the big picture. I’m one puzzle piece, you’re one puzzle piece, and sometimes we lose sight of the whole puzzle and all it entails. But God’s there, with this big love for us. In the fire, beside the wide sea, and under the grinding weight of the mortar’s pestle, God stands right there in the middle of the crucible beside you, with the strength, grace, and power to go on. He’s an endless source of strength, and he offers it to his people. In these challenges, we get a mere glimpse of how he can fuel us.
2) Challenges teach us gratitude.
“My struggles are my own unique manifestations designed specifically to give me the opportunities to love and accept myself fully” (Jill Coleman). Seeing a challenge, obstacle, or hardship as an opportunity to raise a hand in gratitude teaches stability. Accepting challenge as a chance to love is part of why we’re here. The apostle Paul mentored his friend Timothy with these words, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Being grateful in adversity proves faith. How much faith do you have? How grateful are you for the rain? How grateful are you for the wall you just hit? Are you grateful for who you are so that you can be in this place and time to face this challenge? Are you ready?
Practicing intentional gratitude exhibits a willingness to level up.
3) Challenges make us stronger.
“In the days of the sailing vessels, this is the way they chose a tree to make a mast: They did not go to some sheltered place where the trees were protected from the elements. They went up into the mountains where the soil was thin and rocky. They found a tree that had been buffeted by the storms and beaten by the winter winds. That tree, that hardened tree, they cut down for the mast of their ship. So suffering hardens and strengthens us” (Robert Shannon).
In being a wife and mom, I’ve found strength to be a power. Maybe that sounds silly, but I feel like there’s still a big train of thought out there than women should be soft and weak. And I’ve never been able to be that. I love lifting heavy weights and pushing limits, because when I lift those heavy weights, life feels simple and free (and super sweaty hot). I love the feeling of picking up my twenty-pound weights and not struggling to do so. I love being able to do interval sprints and not pass out dead on the ground. I love that with a consistent daily grind over the years, I’ve built up my strength in a tangible way that I can see for myself and nobody can take it away from me or deny it. I love that now the effort has proved itself. In the beginning of trying heavier weights in my work outs, I couldn’t hardly finish a twenty-minute workout, the fifteen-pounders made me just about fall flat on my face (maybe they did one time), and the idea of ‘sprints’ was absolutely laughable.
But now. Now I know that trying harder challenges means I win. If one of my kids ever needs to be carried? I can carry her. If I need to help someone carry something? I can help. If someone else cries out, frustrated, saying “I can’t do it,” well then I CAN say, “Yes, you can.” Because strength manifests itself. People are drawn to it. People want to overcome. People want to be the mast of the ship, carrying their people home. Or, at least I do. I bet you do, too. And I’m excited about tomorrow’s opportunity to try again.
Are you grateful for the workout?
4) Challenges teach us courage.
Being that mast on that ship? Where will it take you? Oh my friend, it carries you into the vast unknown. With each challenge you face, with each fear you mow down, you build up a portfolio of proven records. It all builds up.
Never once did the authors of the Bible instruct or show the necessity of fear and letting it win. No, in fact, the Bible displays the opposite. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God made you powerful. God made you loving. God installed within you a sound mind. He dwells within you, and you are worthy to take on this challenge. Maybe you just needed to hear that. Very often, the things you fear are the paths you need to take in order to be your best self.
5) Challenges offer us a life greater.
“You’ve got to try this new show!” “You’ve got to get this soap!” “You’ve got to visit Venice; it’s beautiful!” In this context, a friend will probably be recommending something to you because that friend cares, with enthusiasm.
You’ve got to take on this challenge, because on the other side awaits a life greater. You’ve got to do these hard things, so that you see the beauty in the madness. Don’t miss this opportunity for greatness. Don’t miss these steps, small or scary as they seem. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
What’s your best life? Being in God’s will. What’s God’s will? For you to intentionally live a life grateful for the challenges he presents to you. No better path exists than the intentionally joyful path. You’ve got no reason to be sad or to complain or to give up. When you hit a wall, look up. Look around. Celebrate what IS, because it’s a glorious adventure.
There is only the journey toward God’s heart. And this journey is a life greater.
In working with Clean Reads, I've gotten to virtually meet some cool people who write great books. One author, Sara Turnquist, has written some historical romances which I wanted to share about because I enjoyed reading them so much. So these books are Kadee Carder Ink verified, in that you can trust that you'll enjoy them. Five stars! After reading these stories, I had to reach out to Ms. Turnquist and ask her some questions. She graciously answered my questions and I wanted to share them with you. She’s put a lot of thought into writing these books and I adored hearing her take on the backstory.
For your reading pleasure, here's two quick book reviews and a fun question/answer sesh with Sara Turnquist!
Now let’s chat about "Hope In Cripple Creek." I ABSOLUTELY adored this book! Imagine if you combined “When Calls The Heart,” by Debbie Macomber, “Anne of Green Gables,” and a Kate Alcott historical, and you've got this delightful story of a girl following her heart, even when it forges into the wild unknown. About halfway through I just started grinning and almost couldn't stop, except a few times when my eyes widened in shock. I couldn't put this one down. Romance, heartache, a headstrong heroine, and some twisty characters who don't know how to keep their hands to themselves, the bunch of them make up the fascinating little town of Cripple Creek, Colorado. The challenges that Katherine faces really spoke to my heart, and I think a lot of women will appreciate the struggle and how she manages it. It's a quick read with great pacing, lovely characters, a fun setting, and I wanted it to be longer. Grab this one RIGHT NOW. You will love it.
“A Convenient Risk” offers a tale of love lost, tricky relationships, and redeemed hope. Amanda is one hot mess. She cries a lot, she doubts her worth and parenting abilities, and she finds herself making out a TON with a super hot rancher whom she can’t seem to read. Ms. Turnquist provides a sweet story with swoon-worthy kisses, entirely relatable characters, and some brilliant (and, fun fact, historically based) plot twists. Through a winding road of risky business deals, unnerving country living, and lovely sunsets, “A Convenient Risk” provides readers a memorable story of second chances worth their weight in gold.
Directly from Sara Turnquist:
1) Have you been to the places where you set the stories? Or, What made you place the books in these locations?
Other than through Google Maps/Google Earth, I have not visited these places. I did a great amount of research on them.
For "Hope in Cripple Creek", I was looking for a city in Colorado for the last great gold rush to that area. I asked my husband, who lived in Colorado for a short stint, to give me the name of a small town in Colorado to set my story in. He offered up "Cripple Creek". When I started researching this town, I found this whole history of this great miner's strike that gave me my secondary story line. Love when that kind of thing happens.
For "A Convenient Risk", I knew that I needed to anchor this story brewing in my mind somehow in time. I wanted it to be in the late 1800s in the west...and that sparked my interest in a renowned outlaw. Billy the Kid's timeline worked out with my story's timeline. For that reason, I placed the story in Arizona as Billy the Kid was in Arizona in the late 1800s. But I chose a small town, Wharton City, for the story to be set in to fit in with some of the events pertaining to Billy the Kid's timeline and my own story's needs.
2) What kind of research did you do for these books? How long did it take to write them?
This is a time period I am somewhat familiar with due to books I have read and TV shows/movies I have seen. However, I that is not really primary research. So, while I rely on that for a general feeling/tone of that era, I researched when I needed details. Research for novels, as you probably know, has to be reliable. Especially since anyone can post anything on the internet. Wikipedia is a great place to start, but I would not consider it a reliable source. The bibliography on Wikipedia are great resources though.
3) Where did you get the ideas for your main characters?
"Hope in Cripple Creek"...I'm not really sure where these characters came from. I'm sure they are pieces of personalities of characters I have read and seen in other characters, but I cannot point to one place and say, this is it.
"A Convenient Risk" - this is a different story. A friend of mine loves to visit cemeteries for the interesting history there...just go with me here. We found a set of tombstones that appeared to be where a woman had married a man much older than her, he died, and then she married a man closer to her own age. It intrigued me. It was a marriage from the early 1900s. I wondered if that first marriage had been arranged by her parents or a marriage of convenience for monetary reasons. But then I began to think about second marriages and the way we tend to remember people who have passed on sometimes differently than they really were...in a glassed over sort of way. We tend to remember the good times and gloss over the bad times. Is it difficult for a second husband to compete with the memory of a first husband when the wife tends to gloss over or forget the bad times altogether?
4) What's your next project in the works?
I rarely have only one project going on. I have a book coming later this year, called "The Lady and The Hussites", that is a sequel to my debut novel "The Lady Bornekova". I just this past week turned in my last round of edits (proofing edits). This story continues to follow my characters into the Hussite Wars (the religious civil wars in the Czech lands in the late 1400s). I am also working on my backlog. "Trail of Fears" (about the Cherokee Trail of Tears) and "Among the Pages" (about the Women's Suffrage Movement) are getting covers this summer and edited for release early next year. I am also starting to plot my first Biblical Fiction (or Historical Fiction set in the Biblical Era).
So reader friends, if you’d like to grab these lovely romances, I highly recommend them. Seriously, go get Hope In Cripple Creek. If you have a heart for adoption or caring for the weak, you’ll adore it. If you need a refreshing romance that's hot but not too spicy, grab A Convenient Risk. And check out Ms. Turnquist on her blog: http://saraturnquist.com/ She’d love to connect with you!
Power within her. War without.
Between the lines of flirtation and justice, Saylor must seize the missing pieces of her fate. While harnessing her ability to communicate with deadly weapons of mass destruction, attending the annual gala, and fighting her growing feelings for the hunky Australian soldier, Saylor’s instincts become increasingly distressed. Tempted by greed and independence, she must determine what she stands for and on whose side she belongs.
Volume Two of the Insurrection trilogy is NOW AVAILABLE! Get your copy now for only $4.99, and continue Saylor's adventure on Isla Barina!
Join me for a fun celebration on Facebook, the Incomplete Release Party. We'll have confetti, games, and an hour of clinking virtual sparkling drinks, and freebies. RSVP HERE and hang where all the party people roll. :D
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