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identity

Peace in the Storm

December 23, 2016
By: Kendra McClelland
Picture yourself getting ready for a formal event with all your best girl friends. You gather hours before you need to leave to allow for spontaneous dance parties, light snacking, and welcomed distractions. Once you’re ready to go, you step outside, and there’s violent gusts of wind tossing your hair like crashing waves. Suddenly, your perfectly curled hair looks like a tornado hit, and the delightful bliss cultivated for the past three hours turns into frustration, ironic laughter, and possibly a couple of tears.
Such is life, ladies.
On a spiritual level, the same circumstance occurs. Morning devotions, daily prayer, Bible study, church, and occasional retreats help cultivate a healthy relationship with Jesus. However, we live in an imperfect world that doesn’t block the gusts of wind from steering us off course.
Sometimes it feels like right when I find peace, chaos strikes all around me. At first, I cling to those spiritual habits resisting the temptation to let stress and anxiety kick in, but when the gusts of wind keep coming with greater force, it’s challenging not to lose my footing.
Before I know it, my prayer life and my trust in Jesus mirror the image of my post-tornado hair. My inner peace has vanished, and everything feels like the end of the world.
It’s overwhelming. I feel small. I feel conquered by the chaos around me. Satan has me right where he wants me.
Isn’t it easy to forget that God shows his greatest power through the weak and vulnerable?
A small stone thrown by a small boy killed the giant, Goliath. A young boy with a couple of fish and loaves of bread entrusted to Jesus fed five thousand people. A young, poor woman gives birth to a baby boy in a feeding trough who is the Savior of the world.
God does miraculous things in the midst of our littleness.
During those chaotic moments, we have a choice. We can choose to make room for Jesus to birth peace in our hearts, or we can join the innkeepers. Do you believe that God will defeat the giants in your life, or do you go into battle alone?
When I make room in my heart for Christ’s peace it doesn’t change the chaos around me, but it preserves my inner peace and prevents me from getting tossed in the wind.
It’s only when I trust in God’s faithfulness and strength that I am able to see the world’s chaos in proper proportion to my God. There’s nothing quite like being immersed in Christ’s peace unafraid of the chaos surrounding you.
I am tired of being an innkeeper.
I’ve learned that the stillness of Christ’s peace is the only tactic to shield chaos. There’s not enough room for chaos and peace, so I am clearing out the stress and anxiety that bully my heart and making room for Jesus.
The decision is yours. Is there room for Jesus’ peace in your heart?

“The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

 

Kendra McClelland is the regional chapter director for Santa Clara University’s Wonderfully Made chapter. She works in leadership consulting and is pursuing a Master of Divinity with the dream to serve God’s kingdom in pastoral ministry. Aside from her work and studies, she enjoys traveling internationally, running, and losing track of time over coffee with her dearest friends. There’s also nothing like a good worship jam session to set her heart ablaze, she loves Jesus and she’s not afraid to say it (or sing it)!

 

Gratitude Through the Ups and Downs

November 27, 2016

By: Rachel Brown

November is a month of thankfulness, causing us to sit back and really contemplate the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. Here at Wonderfully Made we strive to thank God daily for all He’s done for us, but we find ourselves in a particularly thoughtful mood each year when Thanksgiving rolls around. We know that it’s easy to practice gratitude when things are going well in our lives—when we’re in an exciting new relationship, when we get promoted at work, when we turn in a particularly difficult assignment, when we get to take a wonderful vacation—but we’ve started focusing on intentionally practicing gratitude all the time, even when the going gets tough. As you might expect, this is a challenging adventure to embark upon, so we’ve gathered some tips and tricks for getting us into the habit of expressing thanks no matter what season of life we find ourselves in.

Remember That Everything Is Beautiful In Its Time

 My favorite verse is Ecclesiastes 3:11—“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” This poignant reminder has helped guide me during dark days when it seemed that there was no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. This verse officially became my mantra during my senior year at Pepperdine University. I had been in a serious relationship since my freshman year. My boyfriend and I had discussed marriage, but things had started changing between us over the last several months—we cared for each other like we always had but we both started wondering if we envisioned futures for ourselves that didn’t include one another in them. I was running on the beach one afternoon a few months prior to graduation, thinking about my future as a young professional and also in terms of my relationship. I candidly asked God, “What am I supposed to do?” A thought popped into my head immediately, one that I knew was from God: “It will present itself to you.” I ran on, frustrated, wondering what that was supposed to mean.

The intention behind the thought was revealed to me a few short weeks later when my boyfriend and I suddenly broke up. Even though things had been rocky, I was totally caught off guard and incredibly heartbroken. While reading my Bible one day, I stumbled upon Ecclesiastes 3:11, a verse I had read a thousand times but had never stopped to soak in in its entirety. But now the verse took on a new meaning for me; it represented encouragement and hope in a time that felt bleak and painful. He would, I realized, make everything beautiful in its time—not in my time. God had painted a beautiful picture for my life, and only He knew exactly how the timing was going to play out. I realized that I needed to practice patience and exercise trust, being grateful for the present moment and especially thankful for a God who so clearly had me in the palm of His hand. Looking back now, I know that God gave me that lovely relationship in college to help prepare me for my incredible husband, the man I was meant to be with from the beginning. God knew we needed time to mature into the adults we are today so that we could serve and love each other in the sweetest ways possible. There have been (and will continue to be) so many moments just like this one, moments where I’m reminded that everything will be beautiful in God’s time.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

 We bet you’ve heard this tip before, as it’s a ubiquitous piece of advice when it comes to practicing gratitude, but that’s because it’s truly such a great way to keep thankfulness at the forefront of our minds. Whether you splurge and buy a pretty notebook where you can write down your thoughts or simply keep a list running in the notes section of your email account or phone, the act of documenting the things for which you are grateful will help you realize all of the goodness in your life, even if the days feel long and hard. There is always something we can be grateful for—fresh air, clean water, a warm bed, a home-cooked meal. Look for joy in the little things, and write them down—it will be refreshing and invigorating to reflect upon them on days that are difficult.

Send Love Notes

 Take the time to be intentional with the people you love by sending them a note that expresses your adoration for them. Use this opportunity to pick up some fun stationery and stamps and actually put pen to paper to tell someone how much you care about them. Email and text messages do the trick, too—the key is to be sincere and direct. Though it’s a wonderful thing that telling people we love them is so commonplace, sometimes the depth of the phrase can unintentionally be lost due to the frequency by which we use it. So if we’re using technology to convey our feelings, let’s make sure we’re thoughtful and intentional in our comments, citing a specific reason why we love the recipient of the messages so much or reflecting on a special time we shared together. Expressing gratitude for our relationships will help us be thankful for the goodness inherent in our everyday lives.

 

Photo Cred: Hoang Viet

about the authorRachel  is the Director of Development for Touch A Life, an organization committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of children who have been exploited and trafficked in West Africa and Southeast Asia. Though she loves working in the non-profit world, Rachel has always been passionate about writing, pursuing opportunities to put pen to paper outside of her day job. Aside from writing for Darling Magazine, she maintains a personal blog, Coffee & Tacos, where she connects with others through food, travel, faith & community. Rachel lives in Dallas, TX, with her husband, their adorably large English mastiff, and a new baby girl, Ruby.

Identity Theft

October 5, 2016

By: Sara Barratt

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Imagine a world where roses were called skunks and skunks, roses. Can you?

Yeah, neither can I.

While I understand the point William Shakespeare was making in this oft-quoted line from “Romeo and Juliet”, a rose is synonymous for its beauty and sweet smell that we can’t imagine it being called anything else – especially something it’s exact opposite. So, while I shouldn’t contradict our dear Shakespeare, it’s obvious names are important. Incredibly so.

Today, children are given names chosen by their parents because they like the name, or to honor a dear friend or relative. It wasn’t always this way, however. Throughout Scripture, you see children so named because the meaning of their name represented something important to their parents. Sometimes, it meant a blessing. Sometimes, a curse.

Think of the prophet Samuel. His mother, Hannah, desperately cried out to the Lord to give her a son. God answered her prayer, and the name Samuel means “God has heard.”

Or how about Jabez? His mother was in such pain during his birth, that she named him Jabez, meaning “He will cause pain”. He lived with this curse until he cried out to the Lord and asked God to “keep him from evil and from causing pain.”(1 Chronicles 4:10)

And there were those who had their name changed – either by themselves or others.

Like Naomi, whose name means “Pleasant” or “Sweet”. Through this, we receive a glimpse into Naomi’s character and temperament. But when life dealt her one too many hard blows, she said “do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Lord has dealt very bitterly with me.” (Ruth 1:20) Because of her circumstances she changed her name to one that meant “bitter”.

There are countless others, like Daniel who was given the pagan name Belteshazzar by the Babylonians in an attempt to change his identity from “God is my judge” to “Bel protects his life.” And think of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob… the list could go on and on.

In each of these stories, their name was not merely what they were called— it was their very identity, spirit, character, and legacy. It meant much more to them than what our names mean to us today.

Even so, we are given names that shape who we are, or who we become. Names that can be woven into the very fabric of our identity and worth.

Names like worthless, priceless, failure, smart, stupid, daughter, outcast.

At times these identities are forced upon us by people, but occasionally we can even place them upon ourselves.

No matter whether they come from the mouths of people around us, or from deep inside our hearts, there are really only two voices attempting to label us.

The first is the voice of our enemy. It’s his goal to degrade our blood-bought identity as daughters of the King. He knows if he can steal our identity, he can steal our hearts. If he can convince us we’re not beautiful, priceless daughters, loved beyond measure, then he can make us doubt God’s love. Sweet sisters, do not let the enemy invade your heart and defame your worth. He will taunt and mock. He will roar, whisper or do anything to make you listen to him. Do not listen to his lies. Combat them with truth. He may try to make you feel less than, but you are truly more than enough.

The second voice, and the one that should be the loudest, is that of our Heavenly Father. Everything the enemy says is exactly the opposite of what God says, just as the name Naomi is the exact opposite of Mara. When we accept Christ as our Savior, He gives us a new name. That name is chosen, redeemed, and loved. It’s not up for grabs. It’s not under dispute. It’s hundred percent sure, and right, and ours. Why don’t we claim it? Why do we live each day under attack, when our identity was already bought by the blood of our Savior?

The enemy came to steal, kill, and destroy.

God came to heal, restore, and redeem. He came so you could be His, and died so we would have a new name as His children.

Let’s go back to Daniel. When taken away to Babylon, the Babylonians gave him a new name. But Daniel didn’t accept it. All throughout the book of Daniel, he was always referred to as… Daniel. Even when brought before the rulers of the land, he wasn’t called Belteshazzar, but “Daniel whose name was also Belteshazzar.” He clung to his Hebrew name, because it represented much more than just a name. He didn’t let anyone steal or change it, no matter how hard they tried. No, he was Daniel, and God truly was his judge.

Let it be this way for us. No matter how hard the world may try to change our name – our identity, we need to cling to what God calls us.

No one is authorized to steal the identity of the King’s daughter.

 

Photo Cred: Alex Blăjan

about the authorSara Barratt is a youth leader, piano teacher, avid reader, chocolate lover, and “I Love Lucy” fan.  She strives every day to know her Savior better, and fall more in love with Him. She is excited about teaching today’s youth to passionately serve the Lord, and make a difference in the world around them! Sara lives in the woods of northern Michigan with her family.

My Mirror vs God’s Truth

August 24, 2016

“You’re so stupid.” “I guess I look okay.” “Why did I eat all of that? No wonder I’m fat.” “I should have worked out harder.” “I’m such an idiot for forgetting that!” “No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be on time.”

Talk, talk talk. Negative self talk. You know what I’m talking about?

Sometimes it’s so subtle we don’t even realize we’re doing it. The negative thoughts pop up in the moment sounding accusatory and mean. And Satan thrives on our negative self-talk because it tears others and our own selves down instead of building up.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Really, I don’t know why we are so negative and hard on ourselves as women and daughters of the King, not when we have the written truth of the Word at our fingertips! But I’ve felt convicted of this negative self talk and harsh way of communicating with myself when it comes to daily life, my looks, and my work.

It’s like a constant qualification of how I am doing throughout the day. And it’s an amazing tool of the Enemy to get us so ingrained in negative talk and accusations about ourselves, lying and going against God’s very word.

But then I heard the soothing truth straight from the Holy Spirit this one day when I was getting ready for work. I looked at myself in the mirror one last time- Earings, check. Makeup, check. Cute shoes, check check. But instead of saying “Thanks, God, for all the blessings you’ve given me this morning,” I actually said out loud: “My face looks fat, but I guess I look okay otherwise.” So quickly I heard a gentle rebuttal, “No. You’re beautiful.”

My heart grew quiet knowing Who spoke and I realized that I need to be in the Word more when it comes to my words and language, especially in regard to my own self talk. How can I truly be uplifting and encouraging to others if I’m not even that way with myself?

After all, it’s not my mirror that speaks, it’s God’s word.

A quick look at all the good things God says about His children I learned that God calls me His daughter (2 Corinthians 6:18), redeemed (Ephesians 1:7), chosen and holy (1 Peter 2:9), a child of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5), and so many amazing words of truth my head should be spinning with joy!

But with one subtle dart from the enemy I allow myself to give in and call myself an idiot, stupid, that I’ll never change, and even disqualify being fearfully and wonderfully made by simply saying I look “okay.”

NO! God called us good and very good at the beginning of time in Genesis. Very good. God’s words not mine. I don’t feel very good most days. I feel worn out and depressed. But as God convicts me of my self-talk, ultimately it’s His word against mine. Haha! Who’s right? Certainly not me.

Ladies, we need to be aware of building each other up and it can start with ourselves.

What truth are you allowing into your mind and soul? The word says to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Are we obeying Christ in guarding our hearts from the enemy by speaking truth, encouragement, and life?

If we allow negative thoughts, name-calling, and bullying within ourselves to take root in our hearts and minds, God isn’t honored. The truth is we are His chosen daughters and we should allow grace and mercy within our self-talk for our own souls to be lifted up and soar with life!

So ladies, let’s be wary of the enemies schemes, our negative self talk, and the image of God we represent to our friends, family, and those who don’t know the truth.

I challenge you this week to combat the negative talk with three positive names that God calls you, each and every time you are tempted to give into the accusations and lies Satan wants to pull you down with. We can fight this battle with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

Below is a list of names that God calls His people. So when you are tempted, or if you hear a friend giving into negative self-talk, take a deep breath and refer to this list. Fight the lies with the truth and let’s reclaim our identity as women, building each other up!

Wonderfully Made – “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” Psalm 139:14.

Beautiful – Let the King be enthralled by your beauty; honor Him, for he is your Lord” Psalm 45:11.

A TempleDon’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself” 1 Corinthians 6:19.

ChosenBut even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him…” Galations 1:15.

Holy and God’s Special PossessionBut you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9.

BlamelessFor he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” Ephesians 1:4.

Apple of His Eye Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” Psalm 17:8.

What is your favorite name from God?

Photo Cred: David Marcu

about the authorJuliandra Durkin is the manager for Wonderfully Made’s blog Know Your Value. She also writes at Written Jewels, a personal blog with stories and reflections on life. Besides writing, she spends her free time exercising or out in nature. Give her a beach or a mountain; sunrise or sunset, she loves it all, especially walking her dogs in the woods! A graduate of Westmont College, Juliandra was able to attend three study abroad programs exploring Spain, parts of the Middle East, and Mexico. These experiences gave her a heart for culture and travel and she hopes to get more stamps in the passport soon!

Passionate Pursuit

August 11, 2016

By: Katie Messer

What do you think of when you hear Cartier? Bentley? Personal staff? Private yachts? Multi-million dollar estates? What about, filling the pages of your passport? Dating the “hot” guy? Being the center of the social universe? Getting the job? And still, what do you think of in regards to being a good person? How about nipping, cutting, numbing or altogether altering yourself? If you answered “happiness,” “contentment,” or “the life” to any of these, may you be encouraged by the Word of God this very day.

Although there is a myriad of ways to “better” ourselves or “make it” in the eyes of the world, if we are looking for fulfillment to embrace us behind any one of these—we will be sadly disillusioned—each and every time. Why would this be?

Our society trains us to chase “big dreams” as are defined by the world. But, what does one do when such dreams are conquered? When the Cartier is now a few fashion seasons old; the evening is finally over and it’s time to go home, the passport book has indeed been filled; or the medication begins to wear off? Then what?

We have been trained to want things and passionately pursue them, yet continually come up frustrated when the sensation of pleasure fades away at the end of each conquest. At that time, many return for another hit. And if the same level of ecstasy cannot be reached as before, we supplement the pleasure in another pursuit.

This vicious cycle of yearning for more is nothing new. In fact, King Solomon in all his splendor wrote many wise sayings regarding the human condition within the Holy Bible.

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 (HCSB)

When we realize that our pursuits apart from God were never meant to bring us lasting happiness, we need to return to the Lord with apologetic hearts. When we acknowledge our love for things of this world over the things of the Lord, and sincerely repent of this idol worship, God is then able to redirect our gaze and do something truly new and exciting within our spirits.

Listen to these encouraging words offered to those who place their hope in Jesus Christ…

“Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 (HCSB)

How faithful is the Lord to take us back each and every time—in order to fill us with our deepest desires—love that won’t go away and peace that will last beyond the storm. Praise God for His mercy and grace within each of our stories!

You see, whether you “live big” as defined by the world—as was the case for King Solomon (1 Kings 10:14-22) and Queen Esther (Esther 1-2), or modestly as was the case for John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3-4) or the women with only a tiny offering to bring to the temple (Mark 12:41-44)—God can use each of our stories for His glory—right where we are! It is up to each of us to separate our eyes from the world’s idea of “success” and come to grips with the reality that contentment is found in Jesus Christ alone.

The Bible teaches that each and every life is valued to God (John 3:16-18). Thus, whether the world would define one as rich or poor, popular or an outcast, the eternal status of each soul is the same. We all are in need of Jesus Christ’s redemptive work (Romans 3:23-26).

Regardless of where we are on this spinning rock today, may we fall to our knees and ask the Lord to use our lives to bring Him glory. May we thank Him anew for placing us in this time in history and ask to be used to speak of His mercy (Isaiah 6:1-8). May we breath deep and embrace a fresh dose of peace that does not come from the world, but from our Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:27). May we use the gifts, talents and resources allotted to each of us to share of God’s hope, redemption, and unabashed love story for each heart from each culture around the world!

 

Photo Cred: Rachael Crowe

about the authorWhat is love? Is it s’mores on the beach at sunset? Is it a mountain vista overlooking acres of evergreens after a hike? Is it scuba diving through a shipwreck? Kayaking as the summer rays kiss your face? Climbing sand dunes? Skydiving? Author and blogger, Katie Messer, would answer that any interaction with God’s creation points to the infinite love of God. Yet, the place in which she sees God’s love most fully manifested is in the ultimate act of unabashed love by her Lord, Jesus Christ. She thanks God for her God fearing husband and their two children who share in these international adventures. “Mirrors to Window: Change your view to see God’s true romance” is a book of Katie’s own honest testimony of God’s radical rescue and redemption within her own life. “Blooming Beauty” is Katie’s official blog site. Check it out for encouragement in how to see and thank God through all circumstances of life. Why? Because you are worth it to an infinitely loving God.

Stop and Smell the Flowers

August 1, 2016

By: Tekoa Manning

It finally happened last year– I went to look in the mirror and saw my mother. I thought about how swiftly life can zoom past while we are in the fast lane, but when we move over to the slow lane we get a glimpse of the rearview mirror. Flowers and quilts come to mind. The next time you pass a flower fully in bloom standing in all its glory stop and drink in its perfume and vibrancy because it will fade, but so will we. Each flower from the red velvet petals of the rose to the lemony yellow buttercups will have its moment when it stands proudly at attention, marching out in all its glory.

And so will we.

First things first– the flower. A tiny seed encased in a hard coat gets pushed down into the dark soil. A tiny sprout, a tiny leaf, a tiny stem, and a tiny birth has happened. Picture a baby in the womb coming out of darkness into the marvelous light of life. Our environment can be dangerous. Some seeds need to go through a fire in order to survive. Some seeds need more nutrients and more light. It’s the same way with us.

Plants and flowers are all different and have different needs. Some plants are early bloomers and a small bud of a flower may appear after a few days but other plants can take years to bloom. I started college at thirty. I became comfortable in my skin in my forties but I still have days where I do not like my body image and especially after rounds of medical steroids. Many of us have heard the phrase, “I was a late bloomer.” It’s true. We all know someone in High School that was nerdish who later became gorgeous. Well, on the outside at least. The flower buds. It has already formed completely but it lays tightly closed up and protected until that moment when the flower opens up and presents itself to the world. Think caterpillar and butterfly. One of the saddest things is to be standing in all your glory and have no one takes notice or validate you.

Alice Walker said this in the book The Color Purple, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it’s always trying to please us back.”

Notice your spouse, notice your parents, your dearest friends, notice the tiny sweet spirit in your pets and yes, notice a flower.

Another quote often spoken is “Don’t forget to smell the flowers.”

This stage in life is often a person in their late twenties and thirties. This is the time period where the flowers vivacious colors and pleasant aroma attract bees and pollination happens. This is the time most couples have children and reproduce, others give birth to their dreams. Some are still brightly blooming in their forties. Henry Ford invented his model T when he was 45, Vera Wang became a famous designer at 40 and Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at 50.

Then once you pass this time period you reach the 60’s and 70’s and the vibrant colors and sweet smelling fragrance start to fade. The red velvet petals turn pale and begin to drop. The limbs begin to lack strength and before you know it you realize you are a flower fading fast– here today and gone tomorrow.

So how do we deal with this later stage, this golden era? At times it can be difficult. You see youth in others and vitality and you realize that when you had it, you were not even aware of its worth and more so if you have health issues. But something else happens, you begin to appreciate life. You notice the small things and you appreciate the time others give you. You notice the wonder in the birth of a baby. You notice the miracle of creation and you begin to realize that all your years and all your situations helped create you like a quilt that was hand pieced by the Creator.

My aunt makes quilts. She has won several awards for her quilts and has many ideas for different types of patterns she would love to create. When I last spoke with her at her home she explained to me a vision she had of a quilt that was intricate in detail and involved flowers, a garden, and a brick pathway.

She has the vision in her mind already for what she wants to create. She can pick up a scrap of material that you and I would see nothing special in and know exactly how to use it with another scrap to make a tree’s bark or a robin’s nest. To us, it may not look like much but to her, it’s a collaboration of colors and patterns and shapes forming one elaborate piece of pieces collaged into beauty. A quilt of many colors.

We live and breathe and have our day under the sun. Some days are beautiful and other days it’s as if creosote has been smeared upon our fabric. Our quilts become dirty, sticky, drug through the muck, or worse, tucked away in a closet with moth balls, considered old and outdated, antiquated, but on other days our quilts are spread out for a picnic, young lovers cuddle up, warm babies tucked in tightly, a fire lit, a bed dressed, a table spread, a beautiful patchwork of warmth waiting for someone to notice the detailed stitching and vivid colors, patterns, amongst the threads that are coming apart, the backing peeking out and a frazzled edge exposing cotton, laugh lines and smile lines and places where sagging has taken place from a toddler tugging on our hems, and the fragrance of all the hands and feet and breaths that breathed into our fabric, sharing in the warmth of our quilted soul.

Yes, multiple hands mend our tattered edges and yet we in our latter years are still able to be a shelter from the cold for someone. The patterns repeated and passed down to those whose tiny feet slept atop its cloth. An heirloom.

I leave you with this . . . Shine in your colorful purple silks and when you’ve begun to fade, find warmth in your soft worn touch, your lingering scent, and all the hands that folded you and found a piece to connect to your patterns and your beauty and stitched themselves along your heart.

Bloom in your moment and for Pete Sake, SMELL THE FLOWERS!

 

Photo Cred: Arno Smit

about the authorTekoa Manning is the author of two fiction works, Polishing Jade & Walter the Homeless Man. After a neurological illness left her disabled and eventually homeless, Tekoa began to channel her creativity into writing and devouring the Word of Yahweh. She is the wife of a retired police chief and the mother of three sons. Tekoa and her husband reside in a small town in KY. The pen name Tekoa means Trumpet, the instrument that unites people at a sudden impulse.

You can find out more about Tekoa and her writing endeavors at tekoamanning.com

Little Quote, Big Reminder

July 16, 2016

By: Juliandra Durkin

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” –Kathryn Stockett, The Help

Life lessons to a two year old that I need to remember… what a great quote! Has anyone else seen or read The Help? Over and over throughout the story, Aibileen, one of the main characters, tries to ingrain this message to the little girl she looks after, Mae Mobley, that she is worth something. Mae Mobley, though a little girl, get’s her heart broken by her own mother, who ignores and is distant from her daughter throughout the story.

I was feeling distant from God recently and praying through it, this quote came to mind. It’s like God held me on His lap for a second just like Aibileen held Mae Mobley in The Help, to remind me that I am kind, smart, and important.

After the quote from The Help came to mind, I prayed again and I asked God “Why?” What makes me so kind, smart, and important? So quickly, and so gently, He brought a Bible verse to mind, that’s far more relevant than any fictional story and full of so much truth. I was kinda blown away. Read it with me now…

“From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:26-27

Wow. Can you believe that Paul wrote this in Acts over 2,000 years ago?!

God determined the time frame of history and what country you and I were to live and grow up in, all so that we might seek Him where we are in time and space.

To me, this speaks of GREAT purpose and intentionality that God has with how He created each and every person in the history of humanity.

The family you were born into matters. The city or town you grew up in matters. The culture you came from, your nationality, and the fact that you are alive in year 2016 matters.

YOU MATTER!!!

It might sound silly, but my day-dreamy, lover of the past, historical-fiction reading self, always thought I would make a great girl in the 50’s wearing poodle skirts, drinking milkshakes in diners, and going to drive in theaters like in the movie Grease. But that didn’t happen. God made me to grow up now, in the 90’s and beyond, because He has purpose for me in this time period, with the family He put me in, to have influence as a woman in today’s world, ultimately to seek Him, reach for Him, and go after Him.

I can get caught in a spiral of thinking God made a mistake in how He made me. It is SO easy to romanticize a past I never lived or dream of a better tomorrow. If only I were… wealthier, healthier, smarter, from another country, etc. If only I like politics more. If only I wasn’t confused about gender roles today. If only this, if only that… it could go on forever!

But those “if only’s” don’t matter in the end when we are kind, smart, and important now. When we are chosen and recognize we have a destiny for the Lord today.

Your family. Your heritage. Your country of origin. Your culture… It ALL matters to God because He destined that it would be so. He wanted YOU to seek Him where you are sitting today. He wanted YOU to know Him in this modern world. He wanted YOU to call out to Him when the days are confusing and harsh, AND beautiful and joy-filled.

I don’t know if you are going through a break up, or health problems, or are the victim of abuse, or if you simply partied too hard last night and have a hangover and feel guilty about it… All that matters is that you see Jesus, through it all and know your value to Him today.

 YOU ARE KIND, SMART and IMPORTANT. He made you and destined a path for you. So reach out and seek Him today.

 Why do you think God made you for today?

about the authorJuliandra Durkin is the manager for Wonderfully Made’s blog Know Your Value. She also writes at Written Jewels, a personal blog with stories and reflections on life. Besides writing, she spends her free time exercising or out in nature. Give her a beach or a mountain; sunrise or sunset, she loves it all, especially walking her dogs in the woods! A graduate of Westmont College, Juliandra was able to attend three study abroad programs exploring Spain, parts of the Middle East, and Mexico. These experiences gave her a heart for culture and travel and she hopes to get more stamps in the passport soon!

Facing the Son

June 23, 2016

By: Kaci Piccillo

Wanting to fit in is a woe faced only by junior high schoolers, right?

Ha.

Certainly, it becomes less pronounced as you come to know and accept who you are as an individual, but the desire to be a part of something bigger than yourself— to belong— is one that persists throughout all of life, expressing itself wherever a community of people collects.

We all long for acceptance, to be deeply known and deeply loved.

But today’s culture of constant comparison, where our every move can be documented and evaluated by likes, it easily perpetuates those situations where we already tend to feel on the outside.

I’m not as witty as that person, or as likable as the next. I’ll never be as funny, intellectual, hip, edgy, or important as ________. No matter what I do, I’ll never truly be “in,” never enough.

By nature, I’m most comfortable blending in with my surroundings. Hiding, even. Too easily, I find my security in the safety of others, adapting as needed in order to maintain approval and not stand out.

Though I’ve come a long way in loving the qualities that make me unique, owning those differences sometimes leaves me feeling exposed. Simple observations suddenly become distorted.

If only I were more this/that, I’d be as liked, as accepted as this/that person.

I’d feel more a part of that group.

The temptation is to play the part, to follow the cues of what I’m “supposed” to be, because at least if I’m hiding behind something, it’s not my true self that will be judged or even rejected, and that’s a bit more bearable.

But God has a unique purpose for each one of us, made urgent by the unique perspective each of us holds, glittered with insights from our individual stories. And following God’s call on our lives likely means looking different than those around us, and maybe even feeling alone in that at times. Forfeiting that for the sake of fitting in and playing the part means that also forfeited, is a unique voice which can never be duplicated.

We all have situations in our lives where we sometimes feel on the fringes— not like those around us, different. That’s never a fun feeling, because what it feels like can be summed up in one word: alone.

A few weeks ago I was having one of those days. Driving around an unfamiliar area for work in a daze of tiredness and sadness, I was robotically following the directions spouted out by Siri, just about to make a right hand turn when something caught my eye.

Right there on the side of a desolate road was this massive, overgrown bush filled with beautiful, delicate white blossoms. And right there in the middle of it was a tiny little sunflower stalk, growing out of the sea of white petals surrounding it from within.

There it was— beautiful in its own right— and there God used some deserted street corner in the middle of Fresno to speak into my heart, gently reminding me not to be afraid of being different. Beauty doesn’t require me to look like, or even be liked by everyone around me. It requires me to be ME, faithfully.

It’s so easy to get caught up with those around us, using them as our measuring stick telling us where we should be in life, or who we should be in life.

But I’m learning that the point isn’t to blend in with our surroundings, mirroring everyone around us. Merriam-Webster defines the word “belong” as “to be rightly placed in a specified situation.”

Sometimes, God doesn’t call us to places simply to fit in and be liked, but to influence change from within those places. Just because we don’t look like those around us, doesn’t mean it’s not where we’re supposed to be. God is strategic in His placement of each one of us. A sunflower was never meant to be a white blossom, because the former has something to offer that the latter never can— and vice versa.

Our job is simply to bloom where we are planted— to be faithful wherever God puts us, no matter the outcome. Faithful to who He’s created us to be, faithful with our gifts, passions, and time— no matter how those things are received.

Sometimes, God plants a sunflower in a bush of delicate white blossoms, or a beautiful white blossom in a field of golden sunflowers. Because the reality is, we all have something we can learn from each other; each of us is uniquely different in ways that can better those around us.

It takes boldness and courage to live out of the sweet space of your true identity in a world where it’s easy to conform, but it’s so worth it, because God made each one of us fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139:14), and He made no mistakes. We need to celebrate the things that make us unique because they’re often connected to greatest contribution God calls us to make towards furthering His Kingdom in this world.

My prayer— for you and for me— is to be like a sunflower: sight swayed only by the movement of the Light, face fixed eternally on the Sun.

 

Photo Cred: IB Wira Dyatmika

about the authorI’m a 23 year old living to know Jesus more deeply every day, and to share Him with others. Everywhere we look, we can find God’s truth and beauty, and I’m passionate about creatively communicating these things through the form of story to bring hope and encouragement to others. You’ll most often find me laughing with friends and family, working my corporate job in communications, traveling, getting lost in the mountains, sticking my nose in a good book, or diving deeper into the heart of God.

Follow Kaci on Instagram: @kacinicole and find more of her writing at kacinicole.com

Follow Me, Memes, and Me Me

April 21, 2016

By: Tekoa Manning

A few months ago, I took the first steps, like a crack addict or an alcoholic breathing in a bag, I admitted I was addicted to Facebook. A couple days ago I hit delete and let the DT’s begin.

I started realizing that I was carrying my phone with me like I would a 3-month-old baby and not getting much accomplished with my writing.

I’d scroll through Facebook while I drank my coffee in the morning. I’d scroll while my husband drove me to my doctor appointment. No need to look out the window, that’s too boring, right? If the conversation at dinner or even an outing hit a lull I’d see what the latest update was.

I read blogs, researched doctrines, studied history, and opened Wikipedia. I learned about racial tension, global warming, corrupt politicians, digestion tips, natural medicine, and church decline in America. I had a wealth of information at my fingertips and yes my brain was rapidly eating and absorbing, but what about my spirit man?

So the other day, while I was fed-up with yet another political rant and even more so with my addictive behavior. I disconnected my Facebook.  It felt so liberating, that I swiftly went to work removing over 500 people from my Twitter account. My husband shook his head. “Why would you do that honey, aren’t you supposed to be getting people to follow you, by following them? Don’t you want to sell books? ”

But you see, I don’t care anymore if they follow me or I follow them. What does “follow” mean? It’s when one has a body of supporters or admirers. If the whole world admires me and yet, the Lord Adonai does not know me, what have I gained?

If I follow HIM, the One who Created it all, He will lead me and guide me where I am supposed to be. He created men and gave them gifts. How do I know this?

“See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.” -Exodus 31:3-5

These men did not have to get a few thousand Twitter followers or Facebook friends to do what they were BORN to do. No. All they had to do was wait for their gift to make room for them.

Why would over fifty people in one day, take the time to copy and send me a letter they’ve drawn up and ask me to “Please follow them on Twitter?” Like them on Facebook, follow their blog, follow their podcast, and follow their book, film, movie, brand, product, politician, and ministry? Why? Because of our obsession with becoming known, famous, liked, wealthy, understood, and so forth. Jesus-Yeshua healed a man who didn’t even know his name or who he was, “But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.” John 5:13.

I want to slip away and work on my spirit man, not my flesh man. My spirit man needs meditation, drinking in the earth, and the beauty of the Creators artwork. My spirit needs to help make things better without having to advertise who I helped, or how I helped, or what I did. My spirit needs to take the time to connect with my sons, my family, and my community instead of a Meme, an empty text stating my political or religious belief. My spirit needs to talk to my Maker and actually LISTEN and wait for Him to speak back. My spirit needs rain and humbleness and joy. Becoming the next famous author could be the biggest curse to ever fall on me or my seed.

The things and people we spend our time on tell us a lot about who we are and who we want to impress. Yes, your gift may be your voice, your words, or the creative shark brand you’re selling, but could it transpire behind the scenes?

I once had a dream that someone very important was coming to one of my book events. The dream was so real I told my husband about it. I even asked him if he thought the dream was prophetic. I pondered the possibility that there would be an agent there, or a publisher or even my all-time dream of meeting a producer who wanted to make my novel into a movie! I remember waiting and watching the people who showed up. I secretly told a friend about my dream, as she and her husband have a similar desire to see their novel on the big screen.

I had surgery a week or so prior to the book signing. During the event, I was in my motorized scooter, weak, fatigued and feeling like death. That evening at the restaurant /lounge area, I met a broken soul who was ready and prepared to take his life the next day. Only thing was I had no idea. I was able to listen to him and his stories, pray with him and share a laugh or two. I was able to learn from him and he was able to learn from me. We both cried tears. We prayed aloud at a bar table. I held his hand and he held mine, my husband’s hands placed over the top of ours. The next day I was sent a long email about the plans he had for the day… plans to take his own life. He said he felt better now. He felt ready to tackle some things, change some things, and move forward. He said he felt something as we prayed that he couldn’t describe with words.

I cried reading his letter because it gave me hope. My physical body was broken but my spirit met his spirit and we made a connection and The Father’s Holy breath blew through the room- His Spirit. I shared the experience with the same friend I mentioned above. She said, “But you knew someone important was coming!” YES, Someone IMPORTANT had shown up at my event and I’ll take that over fame and fortune every day of the week!

This is what matters. It’s not how many likes we get, how many times a week we sit on a church pew, or whether we know the difference between Easter and Ishtar. Yes, it helps to be taught right truths, but it helps more to be a person who does Torah, not just knows what it is. James 1:22 says, “But prove yourselves doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Our self-importance can delude us into thinking we are important, intelligent, right, biblically sound, politically correct, and need to help people who are not quite as smart as us by posting our meme’s, our views, and our truths. Our self-importance can delude us into thinking that our relationship with Him is just fine.

Is it easier for a person like me, who has autoimmune disorders to minister from my phone or my PC? Yes, but there is something called sunlight, human touch, nature, ministering, and balance.  Yeshua told Martha that she was busy doing many things, but that Mary had chosen something better. What was that? She was sitting at His feet, drinking in His wisdom and restoring her soul. Good Shepherds lead their sheep to water and feed them good food. Follow Him and His voice for it will surely drown out the silence and bring more joy than any meme ever could. Because meme is sort of like “I” phone, it’s about “me” “ME”…Yes, and you and I can still have an online presence and be in His presence. Balance my friends, balance.

 

Photo Cred: Roberto Nickson

about the authorTekoa Manning is the author of two fiction works, Polishing Jade & Walter the Homeless Man. After a neurological illness left her disabled and eventually homeless, Tekoa began to channel her creativity into writing and devouring the Word of Yahweh. She is the wife of a retired police chief and the mother of three sons. Tekoa and her husband reside in a small town in KY. The pen name Tekoa means Trumpet, the instrument that unites people at a sudden impulse.

You can find out more about Tekoa and her writing endeavors at tekoamanning.com

More Than Reflections

March 24, 2016

By: Alyssa Spang

“What would you do if they developed houses on this land?” I recently asked my sister.

“I don’t know—have a protest or something.”

Beside my parents’ house, there is an innocuous patchwork of cornfields and a rugged central Pennsylvania farm path. In middle and high-school, I used to walk the path ruminating and reciting poetry—Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott.” Sometimes, I would pray. At night, when I was feeling particularly whimsical, I’d climb out the window onto the roof, scurry down a tree, and head to the cornfield as if I were absconding to some secret, undiscovered corner of nature.

Now, granted, I’m a romantic who will do the inconvenient thing (like climb a tree) in order to experience a bit more wonder. If you asked me what my childhood was like, I’d tell you I scampered around the countryside with tangled hair, bare feet, and scratches from climbing trees.

I have almost no memories of electronics from my childhood in the late 90’s.

To put this in perspective, I remember saving up points from cereal boxes to win a free computer game. For a while, some ridiculous Cap’n Crunch© game was the only computer game I played with my siblings, and I’m pretty sure we were only allowed to play it if the weather was miserable.

Now, I certainly don’t believe that technology is evil. I like the convenience of having an iPhone. On the other hand, I do notice I’ve acquired a certain attachment to my phone over the past few years.

There are thousands of insightful articles about phone addiction, fear of missing out, and the comparison culture. Even as I attempt to write this piece, the romantic in me demands, “Come up with something original to say.” Well, in the first place, is anything truly original? (Sorry, that’s a whole other conversation.) Secondly, despite zillions of witty pieces about excessive screen-time, I still observe people of all ages walking around with their corneas glued to their phones. Sometimes, I’m just as bad. They may as well start implanting computer chips into our brains.

The point is, I don’t believe we were intended to look at screens, particularly social media. In fact, I will go so far as to say that looking at social media or a phone screen too often is sinful. Now, before you get the town together and throw me in the stocks 1700’s style, let me explain.

Looking at social media is not unlike staring in a mirror. Please bear with me as I nerd out for a minute; I’m an English teacher. Nothing good comes from spending too much time in front of a mirror. Narcissus gazed at his own reflection so long he lost the will to live. The Evil Queen in Snow White attempted murder she was so wrapped up in her own image. Dorian Grey compromises morality and ethics to preserve his youthful good looks and literally rots from the inside out. Read these stories; they don’t pull any punches.

I don’t believe we were made to look at our own profiles—our own image or reflection of ourselves to the world—and weigh and value our place against our followers just like I don’t believe we were made to spend all our waking hours staring into the bathroom mirror. I have the sneaking suspicion that we were made for more.

So, spend a day, a week, or a month unplugged from social media. There truly is so much more to see than the small, shiny screen buzzing to life with endless notifications. We are more than our reflections.

Don’t tell people about your social media silence (or fast if you want the technical term). Don’t mention why you’re doing it. Of course, you can private message a few people who would panic if you didn’t answer right away. Use discernment. But don’t make you social media silence a big deal because the goal of this exercise is to turn your attention away from yourself.

We are in the middle of celebrating Easter, a time in the church calendar where we are meant to reflect on what Jesus gave up for us. Forgoing interacting with our online presence is a simple way to remember who Jesus is even as popular culture encourages us to focus inward.

Just log off.

While you’re logged off, find a piece of land you would have to protest if they developed it, your own ‘cornfield’ if you will. Climb a mountain, jump in a river, do whatever it is you crazy folks do these days that pushes you away from your own reflection and to something greater than yourself. Read a book. Get coffee with a friend and, shocker, leave your phone at home. Open your eyes to the wide world and thank God for the beauty all around you. That’s what we were created to do.

 

Photo Cred: Vladimir Kudinov

about the authorAlyssa Spang teaches English at Grace Prep High School in Pennsylvania. When she’s not hanging out with literary-minded high school students, she’s probably sitting at a coffee shop or wandering through the woods. Aside from her Creator, there are few things she loves more than freshly fallen snow. Her short story “Let me Tell You about Mount Vesuvius” was published in the collaborative novel Frozen by Fire. She hopes continue writing in the future.