Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind, but now, I see.
— Amazing Grace, John Newton
“Mom, sing Amay … sing Amay!”
You know, it still makes me smile after all these years—and, yes, tear up—that precious request my daughter would utter over and over again from the moment she could talk. “Mom, sing Amay.”
And so I would, rocking her in my arms in the middle of the night while I nursed her as a baby or when storms or nightmares would waken her as a toddler—Amazing Grace was definitely number one on the Lessman top 100 Billboard. So, why that song and not other wonderful children’s hymns like This Little Light of Mine or Jesus Loves Me? Well, first of all, Amazing Grace happened to be one of the few songs I knew by heart, at least the first stanzas, and then secondly … well … it’s the song of my life. And yours.
For me, it’s also a song that fits perfectly with this upcoming holiday—Memorial Weekend. Yes, this is the holiday we celebrate and remember our veterans, those men and women who gave of themselves so unselfishly and in many cases, their lives, to ensure that we, as Americans, remain free. We owe them a great debt and our undying gratitude for the sacrifice they made. Our life of freedom as we know it would not be possible without them.
But taking it a step further, neither would our life of freedom—spiritual or otherwise—be possible without a God Who also gave of Himself in every way, even His life, to set each of us free. And, I’m happy to say, a God who does not remember the sin of a wretch like me.
I woke up this morning not really sure what my Journal Jot would be. Mind you, I usually have an inkling based on something that happens to me in the prior week or a devotional or Scripture I read in my daily devotional time. But this week? I knew I was going to have to wing it because nothing readily came to mind.
Oh, it was a great week, to be sure—filled with wonderful things like a 13-mile bike ride with my honey on Grant’s Trail, a part historical/part residential biking trail where I literally talked the poor man’s ear off; a wonderful dinner out with the miniature love of my life, my granddaughter Rory; a new cover for book 1 in the Heart of San Francisco series Love at any Cost, which I hope to release in my summer newsletter; and incredible 70-80 degree weather all week in which I wrote up a storm on Marcy and Patrick’s prequel, A Light in the Window, for which—drum roll, please—I only have two and a half scenes to go!! So, yes, truly a wonderful week, full of God’s blessings.
And then when I woke up this morning and checked e-mails, I read a post by one of my dearest friends, Casey Herringshaw (yes, the same Casey who won my contest to have a character named after her in A Heart Revealed) entitled “Be a Mary Newton.” OH MY! What a thought-provoking and, I might add, beautifully written post by a young woman whose name you will see in bookstores one day, mark my words. Casey did such a wonderful job on this post that I encourage you to read it for yourselves at Casey’s blog, Writing for Christ—The Audience of One. The gist of it is that although John Newton is the man who garners all the praise for writing one of the most powerful hymns in Christianity—Amazing Grace—it was Mary Newton, the woman who loved him, that fought the spiritual battle for his soul. Truly an unsung hero, Mary, through the amazing grace of God, fought for and won the freedom of the man she eventually married … and she did it on her knees.
WOW, Casey’s post got me to thinking! Men and women go to fight and retain our freedom, but how many of us truly take our spiritual warfare as seriously as we should? You know, that single young woman who should be praying on a daily basis for that mate that God will hopefully bring her some day or that single woman who had to break up with a boyfriend because he wasn’t a believer? Or that wife whose husband is not a believer or only a surface believer without an intimate relationship with our God? Young women, young wives—we need to be relentless in our prayers for those we love or will love. And you gals out there with a good-to-great marriage who think you’re off the hook? Think again! Because the truth is that each of us have been enlisted by God to enter the spiritual trenches on behalf of those we love.
I will never forget a time early in my marriage—about four years in, before kids—when my husband sat me down to tell me that he was worried I was becoming too fanatical about God and he thought it would ruin our marriage. Mind you, I married a good man who accepted Jesus as God and Savior and went to church, but he did not understand the relationship I had with Christ. Did not understand the love affair I had with God. You see, I didn’t just believe in Jesus—I lived and breathed Him like those amazing lyrics from Michael W. Smith’s famous song, Breathe—“this is the air I breathe, Your holy presence living in me.” God was—is—my All in All. Back then, as now, I devoured the Bible on a daily basis, prayed with a prayer partner on a weekly basis and practiced spiritual warfare every moment of every day, binding and loosing according to God’s Word. And, yes, my sweet husband thought I was over the top.
I can still remember the phone conversation I had with my sister that day about Keith’s fears—and his ultimatum that I pull back from God just a bit. Although my sister and I were raised with religion, neither of us really “knew” God or had an intimate relationship with Him until I came to Him first at the age of 23 and then brought her to Him years later, actually just weeks prior to this particular phone call.
“Keith says he’s worried I’m a fanatic and will ruin our marriage,” I sobbed to my sister that day, a woman who was virtually just a baby in Christ. “What are you going to do?” she asked, knowing that I espoused the dreaded “submission” precept laid out in Ephesians 5:22—“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord,” a Scripture, I might add, in which the Lord quickly showed me to replace the word “submit” with “respect.” “Well, I guess I’ll have to pull back from God somewhat,” I whispered, a heaviness settling on my soul like a shroud.
Silence. “Kate?” I said, wondering if I had lost her on the line. “No,” came her response. “Pardon me?” “I said no, Julie, you cannot pull back from God. That is exactly what the devil wants you to do because not only will it hurt you, but it will hurt the man of God your husband will be one day if you persevere.”
I blinked. Somewhere overhead, the sun came out and hope shafted into my heart like the rays of sunshine shafting through window, drying my tears. I realized then that I was in the spiritual trenches—not just for my husband, but our future children and all the people I loved in my life. From that day on, I toned down the Christian-eze and talked less about the Bible to my husband, trying to live it instead as Francis Assisi so wisely advised: “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” And then I ramped up the prayer—BIG time—and lo and behold, today I literally have a marriage “made in heaven” with a husband who loves God with all of his heart … just like his “fanatical” wife!
And so, on this Memorial Weekend, let us remember the veterans, yes, but also the God whose amazing grace not only saves “a wretch like me,” but allows us … empowers us … and yes, requires us … to fight the spiritual battle for those we love in trenches overflowing with His amazing grace.
I leave you with some “amazing” examples of God’s grace in my life—a precious granddaughter who is the beautiful result of years in the trenches for my husband, my children and now my grandbaby, Aurora “Grace.” The first one is at a wedding with both of her grandmothers, “JuJu” and Nana Freeman. The next one is a pic Amy took of Rory this week when we babysat her—Keith put his baseball cap on her in our living room. The next two are my daughter-in-law Katie with Rory and then Rory in highchair. If you look close, you can see she has lips just like her mother and like I have never seen before. They have a natural dark rose lining as if a lip liner had been used, and the inside are a pretty pink. My daughter-in-law can literally just wear lip gloss and look like she has lipstick on. I am SO jealous!! 🙂
May your weekend be overflowing with “Amay” until all those you love have been truly “found.”
NEXT WEEK I ANNOUNCE THE WINNER OF MY CONTEST!!! You still have time to enter until May 31st and you have three chances to win!! Either win a signed copy of any of my books, including A Love Surrendered, a $50 gift card or have a bit character named after you in Steven’s story, A Love Surrendered, due out in October. DETAILS ON THE CONTEST TAB OF MY WEBSITE, SO CHECK IT OUT!!
NEW FEATURE ON MY WEBSITE!! I read somewhere (Publisher’s Weekly, I think), where authors need to put excerpts on their websites because it increases sales, but I have been MOST negligent in this, so I have remedied that. I now have a tab on my website called “Excerpts,” where I list my favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of my books, including my upcoming novel, A Love Surrendered. So spread the word if you know anyone you think might like my books—just direct them to my Excerpts link for a taste of my writing style, okay? Thank you SO much!!
YEP, THE SALE IS STILL ON … Steven’s story, A Love Surrendered is ON SALE IN PRE-ORDER!!! For a very limited time, you can pre-order A Love Surrendered for only $7.72, which is almost half off, so if you plan to order it, NOW is the time to do it and if you do, PLEASE like the link, okay? Here are the links, but keep in mind that CBD.com’s sale price may not be loaded yet:
Barnes and Noble: