Today we're featuring a guest post from Kate Washleski, who writes about the challenges she's faced recently and how God continues to use them to teach her things in unexpected ways:

Have you ever felt like piece by piece your life is changing, and not seemingly for the better? Maybe you're even thinking, “My life is falling apart.” Maybe things at work have changed and you don’t have the same responsibilities you used to, or things at home have changed in some small, but noticeable, ways. Or maybe there’s so much change that you don’t know which way is up. 

Sometimes, it's just one of "those seasons"
This has been one of “those seasons” for me; it feels like much is being taken away, especially at work. I have had some pretty extreme and unforeseeable changes that have been quite challenging, including a new role that I didn’t ask for. Parenting our little guy has been a lot harder than I expected, and we’ve had to see many specialists over the last 20 months to try and determine why his body is growing so slowly and what the impact is on his development as well. Lately, I’ve been struggling to be fully engaged with my family when I’m home and be content, find joy, and be intentional with others, especially as my husband started another term of his master’s program again this fall. I think I feel a bit lonely, if I’m honest, and I’m at my limit more often than usual. 

There is a whole generation of young women (late 20s and 30s) getting cancer -- simply because
Nina Matthew Photography
they were "daddy's girls" at age ten.

These daddies worked with asbestos in the days when the public didn't know it was scary dangerous. The fine asbestos dust hitched a ride home with them on their coats, their boots, their clothing. 

Daughters (and we don't know why it isn't happening to sons, too) slipped on these same coats to feed the rabbits, slipped on these same boots to check the mail, they worked next to him in the garage or the barn or the shed. And as they played and walked and did chores, they breathed in the dust.

Mesothelioma (cancer) lies in wait 20 to 30 years before suddenly manifesting itself physically. Otherwise healthy young women and their young families are suddenly and unexpectedly faced with a grim diagnosis and a long journey of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. And it is 100 percent preventable.

Called to walk the road less traveled (Photo: berud on Flickr)
There are roughly 417 times that sacrifice is addressed in the Bible. In the Old Testament, the word “sacrifice” is mainly given in the context of animal sacrifice ritually performed. The New Testament moves beyond the sacrifice of many to the sacrifice of one – the sacrifice of a holy, sinless Jesus Christ. Although Christ’s sacrifice altered our relationship with him, he still desires us to offer sacrifices to him.

The question we face today is, What does sacrifice look like for me, specifically? Although our sacrifice may be unique, the Bible does lay out specific ways that our lives should be sacrificial.

As I was getting ready for bed last night and thinking about Christa’s story, an old song came to my mind that we would sing in church when I was a little girl. The verses talked about choosing and following God, but the words of the chorus were what kept ringing in my ears: no turning back, no turning back.

A simple phrase. And yet powerful if fully realized and pursued. 
Photo by Jeff Ruane on Flickr

And I was thinking about all the ways we make choices in our lives. How we decide what we will choose, what we will follow each day.

So here is a short list of what is most important for me to choose today:

I choose my husband. Even though he’s not perfect (and neither am I), even though we argue and disagree, even though we can hurt each others feelings; I choose him. I don’t just want to love him, but I choose to make him my priority everyday.

It can happen slowly. Without intention. A drifting. Until one day we realize we’re at a crossroads, not sure how we got there. Or maybe there’s a temptation. We know we shouldn’t give in, but we just can’t help it. Maybe we’re caught in old patterns of behavior that are hard to change.
Photo by Neal Sanche on Flickr

Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, there is a way back to God.

For this week’s devotional, we’re highlighting Christa, who shared her story in chapter four of The Ruth Experience about how she walked through a season of desiring something that wasn’t God’s best for her life and how she turned things around. Here’s part of her story:

“Once I became right with Jason [her husband] and took the action to say ‘okay, this is going to stop,’ then I was able to cry out to God, because I knew I could wholeheartedly,” she said. “Numerous times throughout the day I would say, ‘Put a desire in my heart for my husband. Put a desire in my heart for him. Change my heart.’ All the time I would say it.”

My husband hurt my feelings. I feel as if my trust has been broken. And as I lay in bed angry and stewing two days later, I realize that my hurt feelings toward my husband had not only turned to anger towards him, but also toward God.

I’m so mad I could just yell. Or curse. Or something else I’m sure wouldn’t be appropriate for a Christian woman. But I don’t feel very Christian today. I’m hurt and angry.

And then my email dings on my phone. It’s a response I’ve been waiting for from Linda, one of the women who shared her testimony in TRE’s book. We’re planning a devotional for fall, asking some of the women who shared their stories to give us some practical advice. Linda was asked to tell us how to start to trust someone again who’s hurt you.
Photo by Michael Gil on flickr

Great. I think. I don’t know if I really want to read what she has to say right now.

Why is there always this part of me that wants to stay angry?

This battle between giving up and lowering my defenses or holding onto my anger has always been a struggle for me.

I open her email.

She’s so kind and loving. Offering her honest encouragement and advice, wrapped up in the wisdom and understanding of having gone through it herself. I’m struck by her first step: Trust Him (God). Wait, the first step isn’t about the other person? I think. The first step is about my relationship with God? She goes on to explain that the first step to building trust is to start by trusting fully in God alone. Only then do we move to the people around us.

For the month of September, we are going to be doing a four-week devotional centered around some of the themes found in The Ruth Experience. You will not need to have read the book in order to participate or use the study. We will be covering topics such as trust, sacrificial living, turning back towards God, and what to do when you’re waiting. We went back to a few of the women who shared their stories in our book and asked them to offer us some practical advice, based on their experiences, that could help us on our own journey. Our hope and prayer is that these four weeks encourage honest conversations and growth between you, God, and possibly those around you.

Kendra, Julie and Kristin

Week One: Trust.

Trust. It’s a sticky word. One we often find ourselves leery of, especially if we’ve been hurt by people in the past. There’s this part about trust, this feeling of giving up control, that is hard for many of us to want to do. And yet trust is vital to the growth and intimacy of any relationship.

Photo by Richard Bonnett on Flickr
So what exactly is trust? The dictionary defines trust as:
  • reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
  • a person on whom or thing on which one relies: God is my trust. 

In the first chapter of The Ruth Experience, we spoke with Linda, who shared with us the story of her husband’s betrayal and how God worked through that very hard time in her life. She shared not only the death of her original dream, but how ultimately, God gave her something so much better in return.

Back-to-school is an exciting time, especially if you’re a kindergartner. My daughter Jasmine has been talking all summer about how excited she is to go to school.
Jazz getting on the bus for the first day of kindergarten!

We’ve gone school shopping, gotten all her supplies, bought a few new items of clothing and packed her backpack for the first day.

So this past week when her school had an open house and we were planning to go, I thought it’d be more of the same excitement we’d experienced all summer.

But instead, as we walked into the school, found her classroom, put things in her locker and met her teacher, Jasmine seemed hesitant, reserved. Not the bubbly child I am usually accustomed to. Without time to ask her what was the matter, we hurried to simply check off the list of things we needed to get done while there: organize supplies, fill out paperwork, sign up for conferences. Then, with a quick walk around the school, we left.

As we sat in the car on the way home, Jasmine quietly began to cry.