Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Running for LIFE



For runners, heading out for a run is more than logging in miles or training for a upcoming race. No, running is therapy. It's spiritual renewal. It's a way of life we can't do without!


Run for Your Life!

I am honored to have two running stories in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul book: Running for Good that has just been release in time for Global Running Day.

Years ago, I ran in high school track and on the cross-country team. I ran because it was fun and my friends were also on the team. But I never felt like a runner.

One day, it happened.

During cross-country practice, we ran eight miles. I had never run that distance before. Stopping to think about it, I finally felt like a runner... a real runner!

I haven't stopped since.

I always warn new runners that, the first time they run eight to ten miles, they will fall in love with running. They will experience that runner's high and never look back. It's tempting to run all the time, I warn them, but don't do it! Be sensible and rest to allow your body to heal. Those who listen, go on to experience fun and exciting running events. Those who don't listen to advice or their bodies, experience injuries early on.



The Spiritual High

That's why running is so appealing. Your body will speak to you as you run. You can have a long, deep conversation with your body while you're logging in eight to ten miles. At first, it whispers to you. And if you continue to ignore it, it speaks loudly to you. And if you still continue to ignore it...your body will scream at you!



That's what I experienced while training for my favorite race: The Marine Corps Marathon

I wrote about this race in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Running for Good. I trained and trained so hard for this once-in-my-lifetime race, that I ignored the warnings my body was sending me daily. I ignored it until it screamed at me and I couldn't take another step.

So, I rested and paid attention to my body's needs. It healed and off we went to the marathon!

I call this the Spiritual High because running allows you time to really listen. You can think deep thoughts while out on a run. I tend to write scenes for my latest writing project while I run. Sometimes, I work out problems I'm having at work or at home. Most of the time, I talk to God and seek His wisdom. Because I was bedridden during my pregnancy and afterwards, I went almost two years without running. Today, I appreciate every workout more than ever. When you've been forced to lie in bed for almost six months and experience atrophy, and then have surgery that keeps you from returning to normal life for another six months, getting your health back is priceless.

As I lay in bed, day after day, worrying about my unborn child and my own health, I prayed and bargained with God. "Lord," I prayed. "If you give me my health back, I promise I won't take exercise for granted ever again. If you get me back out there on the trails, I will always give you thanks. I promise."

That was 25 years ago and six marathons, eighteen half marathons, four ultra-marathons, and sprint triathlons later. After every workout, I thank the Lord for giving me my health back to enjoy.



My hubby is my main support! I couldn't do any of it without him.

Run for Your Life

In this book, I also wrote about how running helped me heal after suffering the tremendous loss of my older sister, Tammie. I have since lost my mom, aunts and uncles, grandparents, as well a beloved pet dog, and continue to use running as a time of therapy and renewal. I know my sister and my mom wouldn't want me to stop doing what I love. So, I run for them and all those who can no longer hit the trails.

Running is a way to enjoy life and prolong a healthy lifestyle. Smart training and planning can ensure successful race completion. I have found running to keep my health balanced and my body fit. In the book, you will read so many stories about people who found new health through running.

Their stories are so incredibly motivating!


Running through Rome in the 2018 Maratona di Roma

Last year, when I trained for the Rome Marathon, I had to have a complete physical as part of the race registration process. My doctor was astounded by the results of my bloodwork. "I haven't seen such excellent numbers in a long time."

"Running," I said. "Clean living and running will do that for you."

Running in the Across the Years ultra marathon
I run for pleasure and for life. But I know I won't be able to do it forever. So, I also ride my bike, swim, do Pilates, and hike. An active lifestyle goes along with spiritual health and mental health. Because I have learned so much about how running improves mental health, I plan on returning to school for a second Masters degree in Mental Health and Wellness at Grand Canyon University. Writing more about how running can improve emotional stability in addition to physical stability is my goal. Hopefully, more and more people will be inspired to try running.


I have a few more races to enter and complete before I hang up my running shoes. I also have more "metaphorical" races to enter and complete. Running has prepared me for the obstacles I will face in life. I hope to inspire others to try running and see for themselves how their bodies and mental state will grow stronger.


Running really is for good!


Your turn: Do you run? How has running changed your life? If not, what do you do to maintain mental health and renewal? 


Blessings,
Ruth

















































































Friday, May 31, 2019

Enter (Writing Contests) at Your Own Risk!








How to Prepare Your Work for Writing Contests


One of the most effective ways to get your work noticed is to enter contests. Even though you may not win or place, there's nothing to lose! Most writing contests offer helpful feedback on your work by talented, published authors, literary agents, and editors who act as contest judges.

If you do place or win, you're immediately afforded the chance to put the contest details in any query letter you send to literary agents. This increases your chance of representation by an agent and landing your first publishing contract.

Woo hoo!

So, what steps should you take to enter? Keep reading...





Preparations Matter

But before you submit your work and hit "send", there's much to consider. Best-selling author, Gail Gaymer Martin, recently spoke to our Christian Writers of the West group about how to best prepare your manuscript before you hit "send." She ought to know! She's won many prestigious contests, including the Holt Medallion Award, the Golden Quill Award, and the National Readers Choice Award. I'd like to share with you some of the tips she shared with us:

First Steps

Begin by reading the submission requirements on the contest website. If they ask for the first 15 pages, then submit your first 15 pages. You may be tempted to send chapter four instead because you feel that's your strongest chapter, but don't! Instead, ask yourself why chapter four is your strongest chapter. Maybe you should make it chapter one!

Next, make sure your writing is polished to a shine. In other words, hire an editor! After it's edited, ask friends (preferably other writers) to read your work for critique. This means, someone other than grandma who loves everything you've ever written since you were five years old. You'll need someone who cares enough to tell you what works and what doesn't work in your story. Trust me, it's worth the pain of going back and revising.




Read the contest categories carefully. If your story is speculative fiction but the contest wants only romance, then don't enter it. Find the contest that best aligns with your writing style and genre. But don't be afraid to try a new genre. That's what I did recently and I placed third in the contest. It was a stretch for me to go from middle grade fiction to contemporary women's fiction, but I am all about change and improvement. I wrote a women's fiction story, found a contest with that category, and entered. So, give a new genre a try! 



Check your story. The contest judges want to see the main character, the inciting incident, and the possible resolutions in the first few pages of your story. If the contest wants only the first three chapters, but your inciting incident doesn't happen until chapter four, you have some revising to do. Most readers have the attention span of five seconds. If the action, the inciting incident, and the main character don't appear right away, readers will put down your book. Read and re-read your story to make sure these requirements are present right away. Judges will be on the look out for them!

If contest organizers require formatting (and they usually do), be sure to follow those formatting requirements to a tee! If they want your name in the upper left-hand corner, then don't include a fancy cover page. Obey their every command! Otherwise, your manuscript might be sent back for corrections or they may never even read your manuscript at all.



Enter Contests: You Have So Much to Win

Entering contests is about more than just winning. Even placing in the top three is desirable and beneficial. Literary agents and editors participate as judges in contests sometimes because they are on the lookout for the next BIG story and successful writer. That could be YOU. Thoughtful judges will provide you the feedback on your story that will make you a better writer. They will mention what you did right and what needs work. I was so blessed to have received excellent feedback on my work-in-progress when I placed third.

Most contests have reasonable entry fees and turn around times, so you really have nothing to lose by entering. You do, however, have so much to gain!

Our Christian Writers of the West Rattler's Contest opens in August. Please consider entering your work.

You won't regret it!


Blessings,
Ruth




















Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Author Websites and You


Author Websites


A couple of years ago, I sat in a session offered at the ACFW Writers Conference in Texas. In this session, the speaker (a web developer) spoke about the importance of the author website. He covered the "dos and don'ts" about creating an effective website an explained why authors need a site to inform readers about themselves and to sell their books.

I walked away from that session inspired to create my own site. Being an artist, I understand about composition, principles of design, and navigating through a web host template. It was easier than I thought it would be. However, I know many authors don't possess these skills and need to hire someone to build their sites. This can be expensive.

Last month, at our Christian Writers of the West (the local chapter of ACFW in Arizona), we had web developer Gabrielle Koza speak to us about how simple it is today to design your own website. I couldn't agree more!

She explained to us the various web site hosts out there that offer FREE templates we authors can use. I, personally, use Weebly.com for my site. Here's brief video explanation about Weebly:




https://www.loom.com/share/6d150996467f425b85ad788ab6c5a4cb


There are so many other free web hosting service providers out there. Gabrielle listed a few for us:




and many more!

You don't have to be an expert in design. These service providers walk you through the process with easy to navigate templates. Be sure to include the necessary pages to your site first:


  • Home
  • Services
  • News
  • About
  • Contact

After these pages, you can add a blog page, award page, or even individual pages for each of your books. Be as creative and informative as you can. Your author website is where your readers will go to learn about you and buy your books. It should be as detailed as possible but not overwhelming. Remember, less is more. Browse through some effective websites of authors you follow. Learn from them.

Lindsay Harrel
Sara Ella
Tina Radcliffe
Susan May Warren
Liz Johnson
Agent, Rachelle Gardner



Good luck and have fun building your author website!

Blessings,
Ruth





























Saturday, May 12, 2018

How to Avoid the Root Canals of Life



No one in their right mind enjoys visiting the dentist's office. 

Right?


In the Word

I teach a Bible study at my work and thoroughly enjoy it. But teaching God's word requires much time spent in God's word. 

Being in God's word brings conviction of sin. It stings! So many times I think, Okay, this will be my last Bible study because I need a break. I have other things I need to do instead. 

And that's when the dentist office comes to mind...




Root Canals

I've had a root canal and it hurt. I had to have seven shots in my mouth before the doctor could begin work. Ouch! Because I had poor oral health as a child, I am reaping what I sowed today at age 51. 

I won't lie. Studying God's word does cause the sting of conviction. Just like a visit to the dentist, a normal person would want to avoid that pain, wouldn't they? 

Like when you feel that sting of pain when you brush your teeth. Uh oh! A visit to the dentist office might be required. 

No! I don't want to go because I just know the dentist will find...something wrong! That could mean a lot of  time and money spent, as well as, ultimately a lot of pain. Who needs that?

As a result, you just might stop brushing your teeth if it causes so much pain, right? Problem solved. And then what happens?

Instead of needing one root canal, now you'll need several. 

Is it worth it?




How to Avoid the Root Canals of Life

It's the same way with reading God's word. Yes, I spend hours each week preparing for the Bible study I teach at work. Sometimes what I read convicts me of my sin. And that leads to a time spent arguing with myself, rationalizing my actions, and then, finally, confessing that sin to God. That leads to repentance and PEACE in my soul.

I could set down my Bible, send an email to my attendees informing them that I will no longer teach, and then take a break from the pain of reading and teaching God's word. That's the easy thing to do, right? Who doesn't need a break once-in-a-while?

...but then instead of a few sins to confess, I will find myself with a soul full of many sins to confess. 

Sitting in that dentist's chair waiting for the root canals is terrifying for folks like me who HATE the dentist. But it is necessary, isn't it? Poor oral hygiene can lead to other health issues like heart trouble. How? The bacteria seeps into the blood stream and heads to all the other parts of the body, infecting everything. 

It's the same with sin in our lives.

It spreads and permeates all other parts of our lives. We begin to complain, covet, gossip, hate life, and despise others, until we become what we claim to despise most:

Ungrateful to God. 



Just Do It

As a runner, I need my heart to be in top condition! Good oral hygiene is a step in the right direction. We've all seen the Nike slogan, "Just Do It" right? Well, it's the same with reading God's word and teaching it. I need my soul to be in top condition if I am to teach God's word to others!

I need to stop avoiding it and just do it! Paul understood about the conviction of sin that comes from being in the presence of God's holiness:

2 Corinthians 7:10  "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."

Don't despise that sting of conviction. It is assurance of God's presence in your life. It is far better than worldly grief.

So, spend time today talking with God. 

In doing so, you're going to avoid those "root canals" and enjoy the joy of good spiritual hygiene of a life without regret. 


Your Turn: How much time do you spend alone with God? How do you handle that sting of conviction?


Blessings,
Ruth

Monday, April 23, 2018

How the 4-Drive Theory Motivates Writers

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Needs

We all have needs. Some are easier to meet than others. Some needs are easier to communicate than others.

Communicating our needs is essential to obtaining the assistance we need in order to reach our true potential. The 4-Drive Theory is typically used by management in businesses, but we can also use this theory to motivate us in our writing careers.

Acquire- We all have that need to achieve and accomplish, so we attend conferences to acquire the information needed to become better writers. This will help us compete and achieve.

Bond- Writers tend to be loners, so the need to bond with other writers may not be communicated successfully. It is hard to ask for help, sometimes. But in order to bond with other writers, attending conferences helps, participating in a critique group helps, and even being a critique partner helps. Building a culture of caring and support is what every person needs.

Comprehend- Learning opportunities are out there. The need to learn new things is vital to our personal growth. By meeting this need, writers stay motivated to write. Challenging ourselves will also cause us to stay motivated. Writing in a new genre is definitely challenging, but this causes us to grow in our profession. Trying something new will keep our creative juices flowing.

Defend- In business, this would be where the employee defends his/her work in an evaluation. In writing, we have to defend our work all the time: To editors, agents, publishers, critique groups, etc. But the act of defending our work makes us better writers. If we can't defend our stories to our editors and critique partners, then how can we defend them to total strangers like agents or publishers? Explaining a story is different than telling a story. But we obtain confidence when we defend our stories. This confidence will motivate us to write more, enter stories into contests, and feel accomplished.

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Stay Motivated

We all need motivation from outside and from within. Extrinsic motivation has been known to be temporary. "Atta boy" statements and pay raises last for a while, but the intrinsic motivation tends to be more permanent.

Knowing how to motivate ourselves and stay motivated when times get tough is what we all want to achieve.

We've all been there: Receiving a rejection from an agent or contest judge hurts. Being able to work past that hurt is what keeps us in the race.

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The 4-Drive Theory can apply to our writing journey as well as in business. We can use this theory to learn how to work through the setbacks and achieve our goals.

In other words...keep writing! Never give up.

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R. A. Douthitt is an award-winning author of middle grade books. She is currently working on her women's inspirational novel, Leaving Eden, to be release later this year. To learn more about her books, visit her website: www.thedragonforest.com

Friday, March 30, 2018

Healing With Words

How Researching PTSD Changed My Book

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A Higher Purpose

When I was a writing teacher, I would often show my students J.K. Rowling's commencement address she gave at Harvard. I showed this speech to students so they could learn how to properly write and give a speech. Rowling did an excellent job. 

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But as I listened to the moving speech, a few things hit my heart rather hard. In addition to sharing her writing journey, she described her time working for a human rights organization. She went on to describe the impact her time at the organization had on her life and on her writing. After learning more about her time there, readers can easily see how important human rights are to her just by reading her famous Harry Potter series. 

PTSD and Other Issues

That revelation by Rowling made me pause and consider my own writing projects. Do they have an impact on my readers? Am I successfully conveying my message to them?

I'd love to be a writer simply to make money, but that's just not me. I write to send a message, too. In my current WIP, Leaving Eden, my protagonist is a war correspondent who suffers from PTSD. She doesn't realize it at first, but friends and family recognize the symptoms. When they confront her, she resists getting help at first. But later she realizes her friends and family are right. She seeks help.

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So many people don't truly understand the disorder and what trauma can do to a person's mental state. I know I didn't understand the scope until I experienced it when my mother died suddenly. I then started studying it. 

The disorder was first recorded and researched at the time of the Civil War. Military physicians called it "irritable heart" and "soldier's heart." Later it was called "battle shock."

Experiencing and witnessing a sudden traumatic death can forever change a person. You can't "un-see" what you have seen. I worked in a criminal court and saw the horrific crime scenes and listened to descriptive testimony about those crimes. I also witnessed several autopsies live because I once thought about going into forensic science. I once sat four feet away from a mass murderer and rapist. All of these experiences stayed in my mind and began to change how I thought. I had no idea this was happening until 7 years later. I knew I had to walk away from this atmosphere. Imagine the police officers, medical examiners, paramedics, and firefighters who cannot walk away. They need their jobs!

And I also knew that I could never be a forensic scientist. And that's okay. It's important to respect your boundaries

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War

Now consider those who have experienced war! The constant threat of death and destruction does affect the psyche. 

During WWI, soldiers were psychologically wounded. The weapons of war had advanced and chemical weaponry had a severe result on soldiers. The term "shell shock" entered the vernacular and alerted Freud. He submitted a memorandum about the brutal treatment wounded soldiers were enduring. Not only were they physically wounded, but psychologically wounded. Doctors had to learn to treat wounds they could not see. 

WWII changed the terminology and called PTSD "battle fatigue" and "combat stress." These men (and even the women who served as nurses) had reached their limit. 

PTSD wasn't even officially diagnosed until the 1950s. 

In the 1960s and 70s, of course, Vietnam veterans and the mistreatment of their psychological wounds perpetuated the problem rather than prevented it. 

Today, we all know more about PTSD and its affects on those who have served in war. The good thing is that the more PTSD is discussed, the more prevention options are discussed as well. 

Books About War

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War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters who Covered Vietnam

American Daughter Gone to War: On the Front Lines with an Army Nurse in Vietnam

In my book, Leaving Eden, my protagonist experienced war in Afghanistan and Iraq by embedding with the troops in both countries. 

To prepare for writing this book, I read War Torn by Tad Bartimus and Tracy Wood which is about women journalists who served and reported on the Vietnam War. It was an eye-opening read. I knew women journalists went to Vietnam, but I had no idea what they had endured. 

Another good book to read that also prepared me was American Daughter Gone to War by Winnie Smith. This book is also well written and fascinating. It opened my eyes to what nurses endured during Vietnam. 

But the aftermath of war was also presented in both books. That's what intrigued me the most. Survivors of war suffer much when they return home; Survivor's guilt, depression, anxiety all of which are typically self-medicated at first, resulting in alcohol abuse and drug abuse. 

Now that my protagonist is home again, how will she adjust? How do all war vets adjust?

Knowledge is Power

Now that I know more about PTSD, I can write about it. There is still so much for me to learn. I want to interview those who have returned home from war to ensure I am adequately portraying the affects of the disorder in my story. 

Now that we know more about PTSD and its affects on people (and not just veterans but all victims and survivors of trauma), we should do our best to spread the knowledge. 

If we keep quiet about it, we perpetuate the problem rather than solve or prevent the problem. Words can heal.

For this reason, I am making sure the issues that surround PTSD are addressed in my novel. My protagonist is a strong headed woman with a purpose. Pride and fear keep her from understanding the effects of the trauma she has experienced after 8 years of dealing with war. Pride almost kept me from seeking help after I experienced the trauma of losing my mom suddenly. What else keeps people from seeking help or talking about their traumatic experiences? How can they be helped to move forward?

There are resources out there. Books are just some of the resources. As writers, we can help get the conversation started by addressing PTSD and other issues in our stories. 

I suppose that's why I write what I write.: Flawed characters who do their best to move forward, conquering the "dragons" along the way. 

Write with a purpose, that's what I always say. 

My purpose is to help others cope with what life has handed them. 


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For help with PTSD, please visit: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/

R. A. Douthitt is an award-winning author of books for middle grade readers. She is now working on a contemporary inspirational novel, Leaving Eden for release later this fall. She is also an educator and speaker with a Masters degree in Education.

References:
History of PTSD in veterans: Civil war to DSM-5. National Center for PTSD. (2016). Retrieved from //www.ptsd.va.gov/index.asp

Friedman, M. J. (2015). History of PTSD in veterans: Civil War to DSM-5. Retrieved from //www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/...

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Broken Vessels

Kintsugi




Last year, I attended a thought-provoking conference for writers that challenged my thinking.

As a Christian author, I work hard to ensure my books contain Christian themes and principals: redemption, deliverance, faith, hope, covenant, salvation, justice, forgiveness.

 Because of this effort, I struggle with my own past. The devil is good at attacking those who seek to do God's will and he has definitely attacked me over the years.

Our conference guest speaker, Allen Arnold, reminded me of the healing that comes from God. I was struggling spiritually. My heart was heavy. Without knowing the significance of his actions, Allen Arnold provided me with a composition book with the word Kintsugi written on it. I quickly Googled the word and saw what it meant:

By repairing broken ceramics it’s possible to give a new lease of life to pottery that becomes even more refined thanks to its “scars”. 

The Japanese concept of Kintsugi aligns perfectly with my story. I am a broken vessel repaired by a good and merciful God. I have been given a new lease on life and am more refined thanks to my "scars."




Broken

But revisiting that brokenness is never easy. I remember one day, at another writers' conference, where I had to deal with the sins and shame of my past. I sat in a hotel room I shared with two other Christian women. These two women were almost twenty years younger than me. In the room, they spoke of how they had met their husbands and how they had waited to be intimate with their husbands until their wedding nights.

It was like listening to fairy tale romances! I sat there mesmerized by their lovely stories. And then it hit me.

Shame.

You see, my own story isn't all that romantic. My husband and I had dated for almost 3 years and we did not wait for our wedding night to be intimate. We participated in sexual sin as Christians. Knowing full well what we were doing was wrong, we continued. Our actions displeased God immensely. It was a time of great darkness for me. The darkness engulfed me and separated me from Christ. Not the love of Christ, nothing can separate us from His love, but I couldn't have fellowship with Him while living in sin.

Living in daily sin as a Christian has a horrifying effect. I became so depressed. It felt like I was at war with the darkness. And the darkness almost won. I almost took my life. But God intervened and stopped me...and admonished me.

As I sat there listening to these young women tell their romantic stories of courtship with their spouses, I didn't say a word. Inside I was hoping they wouldn't turn to me and ask me about my courtship. I was hoping they wouldn't ask me to share because I had shame. In the midst of their beautiful "light-filled" stories of love and obedience to God, the darkness and shame of my past began to fill the room. Their light began to hurt my eyes just like it did when I had lived in darkness for almost 3 years.

The shame made me sick to my stomach. I was reminded of who I used to be: That broken vessel.

Blessedly, the two young women didn't ask. They simply went about the rest of their day. "Whew," I thought. "So glad I didn't have to revisit my past..."

Yet, I did revisit it. I often do.



Broken Vessels Repaired by God




I read through the information about Kintsugi with tear-filled eyes. It was the first time I had ever heard of this Japanese concept. Who knew you could repair what was broken and then reuse it!

Who knew?

God knew. 

He knew what I needed to see that morning. He saw my heart that morning. I couldn't believe it! But then, as Yoda said, that's why we fail isn't it? We don't believe God when He says He resides with a broken and contrite spirit:

"I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite..." Isaiah 57:15


Why does God dwell with those with a contrite and lowly spirit? To revive the spirit! He repairs us so we can be used by Him.

Praise God!

I am repaired by a loving God. As a result, like the Kintsugi vases, I am more beautiful now than I was then. Today I regret not telling those two young women my story. Who knows how God could have used it.

So, I am telling my story now: I am a sinner saved by a loving, merciful God! I was broken, but He repaired me to be used by Him. Now I shine with the Light of Christ. 

My story could have shown those two young women how God works in us in spite of us. He takes what is rejected and despised by the world and uses us. Much like how King David sought out the family of his enemy, Saul, because he remembered his covenant with his beloved friend, Jonathan.



King David's servants brought to him Mephibosheth, the lame grandson of Saul. A lame man is considered broken, a reject of society, unable of being anything other than a beggar for life. Yet, King David welcomed him into his court. He sat Mephibosheth at his table and treated him like one of his sons.

One of his sons!

 What a beautiful picture of what God does for us. He repairs us, seats us at His table, and loves us as much as He loves His own Son, Jesus.






Repaired By God

How amazing is our God! Look how much He loves us. He knew I was down that morning. He knew I struggled with my past. Yet He used the Japanese concept of Kintsugi to remind me of how much He loves me and wants to use me to do His good works.

How is God speaking to you, today? How is He challenging you to use your story to tell others about His wonderful works? 



You are a broken vessel repaired by God. Go and tell others about it! They need to know...


Blessings,
Ruth