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Season of Romance

February 15, 2017

Hey Ladies! Check out this post by Asia Major-Waithe who was willing to share her story about God drawing her into Him in a deeper way as her Bridegroom and Husband. Valentine’s Day might be over, but our relationship with God can continually grow deep, even as single ladies!

By: Asia Major-Waithe

It can definitely be difficult to be single these days… sometimes it feels like you are the only one out of your friends, especially for me as most of my friends are married now. There are times where I really struggle with my singleness, and the enemy makes me question if there is something wrong with me.

The Truth is that Jesus is my husband and the lover of my soul. And to the Church, He is our bridegroom. Sometimes that revelation doesn’t necessarily bring the comfort needed- but it is true, and as believers we need to stake our lives on what is true rather than what we feel, think, or what Satan tries to throw at us.

I have been in a season where I’ve heard God say multiple times that He is the only thing that will truly satisfy my heart (Psalm 63:5, John 4:13). When you look up the definition of satisfy it literally means to fulfill a desire or need. It is ingrained in our DNA to be with God… It’s a deep soul thirst, and He truly is the one that can make things complete. I see shadows of this when I listen to moving music, see beautiful art, or stand in the midst of the majesty of creation. These aspects of life stir deep within me, but only point to the One that created it.

The Creator designed us to be with Him so intimately, that when we step into that place of intimacy…nothing else can touch it. Our world puts such a high value on the physical world of what is seen and felt like art, music, or nature- but as believers we need to live in what is unseen and known pointing back to Him. As you come to know this Holy Being that came and died for you, please consider the amazing romance He offers to you.

And He is the most Romantic… He left everything He had in Heaven, majesty and all. He came to a world that scorned and mocked Him. What bigger way is there to show His love? The world still turned its back and spit in His face- more broken than it had ever been… and yet the choice of Jesus was to Come, Teach, Serve, Love and Die all because He knew He needed to fulfill His greater purpose: to reconcile the ones He loved most to the Father, so that they would not live in forever brokenness and despair, but in Glory and Restoration.

That, my friend, is something beautiful and worth fighting for!

This last season I repented for being a “fickle wife.” Jesus is so tender and sweet, as He brings the hard things up not to hurt us but to heal us (Hosea 6:1). And in this season, He showed me my weakness, my sin, and my shame. He showed me when things got hard I would run away rather than toward Him. And he pointed me to a book of the Bible where this idea of running from my Bridegroom is so clearly illustrated.

The book of Hosea has spoken to me in many seasons of life, this last one I had the realization that I am Gomer, a prostitute taken in by her husband but left him to go back to her lovers, but her husband found her in the desert and wooed her back to himself there.

After reading Hosea, I realized that I am the one that gives herself to other lovers, other masters, other people. And He so lovingly and graciously draws us back to Himself by sometimes putting us in positions that are hard. He fences us in. He brings us into the wilderness where all we have is Him. (Hosea 2: 14) It’s in the lonely, tough times when you have to choose what you believe.

I thought my other ‘lovers’ (exercise and relationships) would save me, but the truth is those things only provided momentary comfort and were ultimately distractions from the greatest romance of all.

Ladies, my prayer for you is to seek the One whose hand stretched beyond the cross and into your life to be with you. Solely because He loves you. I pray that you come to know this Lover of your soul, this Bridegroom, this Husband of yours in a more real way than you ever could before. I pray that His pursuit makes your heart beat faster. And that His delight in you makes you overwhelmingly delight in Him. I hope you turn to Jesus when you are in the desert because He will sustain and romance you in a way that no man ever can.

Photo Cred: Rachel Crowe

 

Asia Major-Waithe grew up in Elmont, NY. She’s been an athlete her whole life and now trains other athletes. She loves Jesus and came to know him during her college years in 2010.

 

Trusting Completely

February 3, 2017

By: Danielle Kingsley

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. May it be to me as you have said.” – Luke 1:34-39 (NIV)

Mary must have been stunned by such a breath-taking appearance that delivered such an unbelievable message to someone so unsuspecting. Take a moment and think about a time that literally took your breath away, and multiply that by a thousand! I am not sure my response would have been that of Mary’s. Her trust in God was so evident in her words. I know, if I was in Mary’s place I would have stumbled over every single sentence, made some sort of awkward facial expression, followed by a million, long-winded questions, then I would have Gabriel go and explain this whole situation to my parents and fiancé. Then, alone in my room, it would all be followed by a whole Why Me God moment with all the waterworks. It wouldn’t have been one of my proudest moments.

Trusting in God completely, like she did, likely cost Mary her reputation and more. She was young, unmarried and pregnant – and not only was she pregnant, but she was telling people she was carrying the Savior of the world in her womb. How could it be? Her life, as she knew it, would never be the same. Her future was unknown. Yet, she trusted fully in God and sang His praises:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.” – Luke 1:46-49

Mary was told she was to be the mother of the King, but she did not know what came next. She rested in knowledge that her life was safe in the hands of the Lord- because she knew that nothing was impossible with God.

Growing up, I was always the last person to volunteer to take part in The Trust Fall Game. Whether it was in Sunday school or Girl Scouts, I had no desire to demonstrate my trust in that manner nor in front of a group of people. I would watch as my friends would start to fall backwards into the arms of others, but then eventually chicken out and not fully submerge into the fall. I sometimes still catch myself doing the very same thing to God. Do you? Trusting is hard. Trusting is a a daily journey of surrender. It is realizing we are not in control. Trust is where we simply place our lives in the hands of the One who is not only in control- but also knows what is best for us.

Having faith in God means we trust Him in the joy and in the sorrow. It means we trust Him in the little details and with our big dreams. Having faith in God means we trust in Him in everything because we know He is always working for our good. We can trust in our God because He is trustworthy. May it all be as He has said.

Is there something you need to trust God with in this season?

Maybe it’s a financial struggle.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Maybe it’s a broken relationship.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Maybe it’s your singleness.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Maybe it’s your job.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Lord, we know that You are a God of miracles. May our trust have no limits. May we have faith in You in every season for we know You are always working for our good. No matter the circumstance, and no matter the outcome – You are good. May it be as You have said. Amen.

 

Photo Cred: Jenn Richardson

 

Danielle Kingsley, a Southern California native, served as a missionary and worship leader for ten years at a growing church planted by her family in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2007, Danielle moved to Nashville, Tennessee where she was provided the opportunity to be the original vocalist to record the now popular worship song, Your Great Name. In 2013, she released her first EP Falling, that generated two #1 singles on International Christian radio.

Since the recent loss of her father to a brief battle with cancer, Danielle has been sharing her story about finding hope through loss and the peace that is found in Jesus at a variety of conferences across the United States. She is writing her first children’s book and devotional, and is currently on tour with Secret Keeper Girls. Check out her blog at www.DanielleKingsley.com. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter @DKingsleyMusic

Abundant Life

January 18, 2017

By: Juliandra Durkin

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” -John 10:10

Abundant life. I dream of that some days. After packing my lunch, cleaning dishes, putting gas in my car, working all day, barely getting a shower after my work out and in between church groups and going out with friends.

Abundant life. Most days seem monotonous. Routine. Maybe adventurous when I travel or perhaps my days seem like a comedy when joking with coworkers. But abundant?

Is that what Jesus really said?

Yes. He has called us to an abundant life, my friend. And this is how I know it’s true:

Throughout my college and post college years I struggled to get along with my family. A divorce split my parents my freshman year at school. My brothers have been on and off of drugs and in and out of jail for over a decade. And I felt like I could do life better on my own, without the drama, on the other side of the country.

Well, about a year after graduating college, because of circumstances beyond me, I moved 3,000 miles back home. That was two years ago. And for most of that time, I begged God to open up any door, in any country so I could leave my hometown because of the painful memories here.

But wouldn’t you know that my hometown is where God called me to start my career.

After a YEAR of applying to jobs and internships, with few interviews, watching my bank account grow small from living off of my savings, and struggling to forgive my family for how normal it was in conversation to bring up “police” and “lawyer” I finally got a “Congratulations we can’t wait to have you on our team!” letter.

The last two years have been a journey for sure… bringing me to the past 4 months, where I am getting a taste of abundant life right in the middle of everything in my home town.

Yes, it’s written right there. In the Bible. Plain and simple. Jesus came not just to forgive and pave a way to the Father, but to bring us abundant life and He is showing and teaching me how to have life abundantly where He’s called me.

Career taking flight, I now work in TV Production as a sports Producer and Director, where I am challenged daily and feel freedom to be “me” in my work. I was able to take a 10 day vacation back to Southern California for Christmas. My Dad took the time to help me pick out a new, safe car that I can afford- a blessing these winter days in Pennsylvania. And despite the family saga of crap that has been the main narrative for 10 years, God is teaching me to forgive, forgive, forgive and in that I am connecting with my family in new ways these days.

Abundant life.

I pray that in the routines of life you may find yourself. In the trials- relational, financial, physical. Behind the closed doors that make you feel claustrophobic or trapped. I pray you continue to press on, with bravery, and trust in the Lord that He has special plans for you. It might not come the way you expect, but your abundant life is just around the corner my friend.

Do not lose hope.

 

Photo Cred: Chelsea Steller

Juliandra 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!

5 Ways to Show Thanks This Season

November 22, 2016

By: Katie Messer

As Thanksgiving is upon us in only a matter of days, take a moment to assess your true feelings of giving thanks. Are they determined by a situation or by the unchanging status of our Lord, Jesus Christ? As I have reflected within my own life, I have come to the conclusion that the world only champions certain blessings. And for other types of godly blessings (e.g. heartache, difficulty and trials), the world looks on. What’s my point? If we aren’t focused on the Word of God and living thankful lives, as referenced in the Scriptures, it is easy to grow complacent.

The Bible speaks of many gifts the Lord has given to us through Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3-11). Ladies, bottom line, we have everything we need to live a life that is pleasing to God and a blessing to others. I love that even in times of not knowing what to say or even what to pray, the Lord encourages us to come to Him for wisdom (James 1:5)! Thus, if you find yourself feeling a tad bit overwhelmed by the social pressures around you as the holiday season revs up—silence all devices and sit at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39 & Luke 10:42). After a time of serious refreshment, check out these five ideas of gifts of thanks for those who have made an impact on your life.

As you consider who you would like to bless this Thanksgiving season with an encouragement, the biggest thing is to pray for the person by name. Ask the Lord to bless and direct the steps of the individual.

Idea #1. A Ray of Sunshine Bottle: This is a fun way to create a memorable gift that will be treasured for years to come! Take fifteen to twenty paper strips and write out an encouraging verse or personal encouragement for the recipient. Fold the notes, or “rays of sunshine”, in half and place into a small mason jar or other glass container. Now add a little glitter to the jar, close it up and shake. Tie a ribbon around the lid, and deliver!

Idea #2. Shadow Box of Memories: Gather some little items that represent the times you have shared together. For example, little pebbles or leaves from a path you walk together. Arrange them within the shadow box and write a short card sharing something you have learned from the recipient on such a walk together.

Idea #3. A Steaming Basket: This is a great gift for those who enjoy a hot cup of something to warm up as the weather continues to cool off. Gather an assortment of individually sealed tea, coffee, hot cider and/or hot cocoa and display them in a small wicker basket, atop a pretty seasonal napkin or decorative straw. Wrap some burlap and ribbon around the basket and add a little verse to complete the gift (e.g. Psalm 18:46, Psalm 46:10, 2 Peter 1:3 & Matthew 6:10)

Idea #4. Bouquet of Thorns: This one may sound a bit unconventional, but it really is a blessed reminder of God’s faithfulness in the midst of difficulty. Inspired by a Revive Our Hearts podcast this past Thanksgiving. Go to the florist and ask for a bouquet of roses…without the rose heads. Ask for a beautiful bow to be tied around the rose stems. The bouquet of thorns signifies that there is beauty that comes out of seasons of discomfort, longing and even great heartache. Include a card to accompany the bouquet. Encourage the recipient that you are praying for them in their season of great difficulty for the Lord to provide His strength, steadfast love and ability to praise God in the midst of it all (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 145:18, Isaiah 57:15).

Idea #5. Three Ingredient Cupcakes: Ok, ladies, this is a total favorite in our home! Three ingredients…no eggs…super easy! Mix 1 cake mix (chocolate, vanilla, yellow or white) with one 15 oz. can of Libby’s Pumpkin…add 2 cups chocolate or butterscotch chips. Mix and put into oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes at 350F. Done. Delicious…instant win!

No matter how you choose to bless someone in this season, remember that you are a blessing in their lives—not simply the gift you bring.

 

Photo Cred: Evan Kirby

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.

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.

Warrior Women

September 12, 2016

By: Juliandra Durkin

If you have been walking with God long enough, then you have probably experienced some highs and lows of being a daughter of the King in a war torn kingdom, planet Earth.

Life is many things, but hard is definitely up there when you have an enemy whose best weapon against God’s heart is to break yours.

However in James we read, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1: 2-4).

I picture all of us on a deep, dark adventure, following a mighty King who we are asked to trust, and continue to give Him our allegiance. There are fiery battlefields, misty valleys, and tall mountains where evil lurks behind rocks and crevices, trying to trip us up and make us tumble back down.

Maybe the battlefields and journey of following God don’t looks so drastic in your life, but have you ever lost a job? Or watched your parents carry out a divorce? Or experienced a boyfriend breakup? Or let go of friends you know were a bad influence on you? Or have you seen a family member or loved one hooked on drugs and alcohol that no matter how much you pray they don’t seem to let go of?

The testing of your faith produces steadfastness…

This wild King asks us to give us our love and allegiance even when we get burned and shot at by arrows of Satan and his demons. But here’s the catch about this wild King, inviting us to join Him on a dark adventure: though we don’t always see Him, or know His plan, and we might get pretty angry with circumstances in life when the journey get’s rough, we can have faith that He loves us and knows that we are capable to handle to the battles of our lives.

He put you and me in strategic places on planet Earth so that we can be a light that points others back to Him. Others that don’t know Him or have rejected Him.

Our beloved King that we were created by and for loves all the people on our journey (John 3:16). He commands us to be courageous (Joshua, the Psalms, Timothy, Matthew, Isaiah, Philippians- the Bible is full from beginning to end with verses on courage). And He did not leave us defenseless when it feels like we’re on our own, fighting a battle we didn’t ask for… Ephesians 6:13-18 says,

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

From head to toe, we are covered. Helmet, shield, breastplate, sword- every day we are called to put on righteousness, faith, truth, peace, and pick up the word of God so that we can do battle.

Fellow warrior Princesses, we are in a battle over our heads and beyond our imagination, but we can know that God has not abandoned us in body or spirit in those dark times.

I picture Joan of Arc who at age 17 led the French army, or Queen Elizabeth who established stability in England after one of the biggest religious factions in England’s history, or Mother Theresa who loved on “the untouchables” in India and won a Nobel Peace prize for her ministry, or Rosa Parks who refused to move on the bus during segregation and became a civil rights activist… If I had a full day, I wouldn’t be able to cover all the inspiring women throughout history we can look up to who in body and spirit picked up their swords to battle.

So, my fellow Warrior Princesses, will you join me in this battle? Will you pray for me as I pray for you? Will you pick up your armor that God has given you and continue to give your allegiance to the King, even when you don’t understand the battle or see the end of it?

Wherever you might be on your journey know that in truth, love, faith, and calling on the Spirit to help you are a called Warrior Princess with a task and mission from the Great King himself.

Do not lose hope.

Photo Cred: Daryn Bartlett

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!

What Do Our Hearts Know?

July 18, 2016

By: Tekoa Manning

“If our hearts know nothing against us, we have confidence in approaching God” 1 John 3:21.

What do our hearts know? “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 KJV. Yahweh searches the hearts of men to see whats inside them. He knows.

Simple. Short. To the point. Can you remember a time in childhood when you were uneasy about approaching a parent, or teacher or another authority figure due to some promises you failed to keep or something secretive you were doing? Let’s say you failed to wash the dishes, mow the yard, and take out the trash. You are in trouble for failing to do your chores, but your friends want you to go to a concert and even have free tickets. All you have to do is ask your parents. The problem comes when it’s time to approach them knowing that you failed to do what they asked you to. You do not have that boldness you need.

Perhaps they discovered that you have been secretly doing a number of things behind their backs that they don’t approve of. You are certain they are very disappointed over this but you need new gym shoes or money for a car repair and you have to approach them for help. Picture the same scenario only it’s our Heavenly Father. We need Him to smooth out a relationship with a parent, sibling or dear friend. We need a healing or a financial situation is in dire consequences and we are desperate for our Father to come and help us.

“Here is how we will know that we are from the truth and will set our hearts at rest in his presence: if our hearts know something against us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts know nothing against us, we have confidence in approaching God; then, whatever we ask for, we receive from him; because we are obeying his commands and doing the things that please him.” 1 John 3:19-22 CJB.

Hopefully, this is making more sense. The examples I used above may seem elementary, but our issues at times with the flesh are very elementary. We indulge in too much of something good. Food can be good but too much is gluttony. Grapes on the vine can make for a good Chianti but too much of anything good is an indulgence. We all know the things we need to stop doing because our conscious tells us. If we gossip, spend money recklessly, lust after things with our eyes, or seek revenge, and harbor unforgiveness, we get an alert from the Holy Spirit of Truth. But if our hearts know nothing against us we can come boldly before the Father. We also have a High Priest who has compassion and is interceding for us.

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16 NASB.

Ephesians 3:12 says, “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” NLT. What a great feeling it is to have a parent you know is proud of you–one you can boldly meet with. And if perhaps you never had that relationship with your parents, know that you can have one with HIM.

 

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

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

Growing with Purpose

June 16, 2016

By: Kate Rapier

There is this tree right outside of my front window. A wall of trees actually. They are big, lush, green trees. Not evergreens, but in the spring and summer months they are big, vibrant, beauitiful trees. I apologize that I do not know the proper name for these guys, but botany has never been my strong suit. All I know is that they are tall, green, and beautiful.

I was drinking coffee while looking out the window at this row of big green trees one morning, and smack in the middle I saw a small amount of bright red. I was so confused. I thought it had to be a very still red cardinal. It was that kind of intense, bright red that just stood out. Once I realized the red wasn’t moving, my only other rational thought was that I must be hallucinating or that my eyes were bleeding. Ha! Seriously…I just didn’t understand it. There, about twenty feet high, on a little branch something BRIGHT red. I rubbed my eyes (and really secretly prayed my eyes weren’t bleeding) and tried to focus. I also prayed that I hadn’t completely lost my marbles and that I hadn’t started hallucinating.

And then I saw it. FLOWERS. Red, bright, blooming flowers. Like, real flowers with petals. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I have never seen flowers blooming, ALONE, out on a branch, 20 something feet in the air. Yet, there they were. In a sea of green, there stood these brave little bloomers.

Ever since spotting them, I am completely fascinated. I think I am so enthralled because I feel like I am those flowers sometimes. I feel like they are out there, literally “out on a limb,” doing their own thing. I think about how it’s lonely sometimes not being planted with other flower friends in the same box. That being out on a limb, they don’t have the security of rich soil surrounding them when rain, wind and storms start to come.

Yet, these flowers, right where they are planted, are GROWING and serving a PURPOSE. And it reminded me that I, too, am growing and serving a purpose…even when it feels like I’m alone, out on a limb.

Also when I take a closer look, these flowers aren’t just out there alone doing it by themselves. They are actually connected to a tree. Growing from a tree. A big, strong, vibrant tree…whose roots run deep into the ground. And it reminded me how important it is for me to be connected. Connected to something bigger than myself, my Creator, and connecting myself with other friends who nourish my soul and who lift me up. Because the lie that I am out there on my own, is just that: a lie.

It also reminded me that I can’t compare myself to where others are planted. For where I am planted is serving a unique purpose that only I can fulfill. But guys, why is that so hard? I know comparison steals joy, but it’s still a trap I have to fight hard to not let myself fall into. It’s been a real struggle for me lately. God is gently reminding me. Sweet one, I have you planted where I want you to be planted. You are growing and serving a purpose.

So, thank you bright red flowers for teaching me to appreciate where I’m planted. Thank you for the reminder that I am growing and fulfilling a purpose meant just for me. In a sea of green leaves and foliage I want to be more like you. Bright, vibrant, fully present and rocking it on my branch out there in this crazy awesome world.

Photo Cred: Chelsea Steller

about the author

Kate Rapier grew up all over the world. She attended school on 3 different continents (Europe, Africa, and North America.) Her love of music eventually landed her in Nashville where she currently writes and performs as one half of the pop/acoustic duo, Jill and Kate. When she’s not writing or performing, you can find Kate drinking coffee or wine, eating candy, and seeking out adventure…probably all at the same time.

Learning to Own My Story

May 27, 2016

By: Lauren Goderwis

“What happened?”

Hearing that question sends my stomach through the floor. Every. Single. Time.

It yanks me back to the shame and embarrassment, the confusion and darkness, that I walked through not too long ago. It punches me with the pain, the hurt, the hopelessness, and the loneliness I thought I’d never escape.

I freeze.

“It’s a long story.”

Why is it so hard to tell the truth? To just tell the story…

“I hurt myself.”

A few years ago, I was in a dark place. I was hurting. I was numb. Life had lost its colors. Everything felt gray and lifeless.

I was struggling with an eating disorder. I was intentionally hurting myself to try and numb the feelings of frustration, anger, pain, and worthlessness that had become my constant companions. I was depressed. I had kept it all secret. I tried to convince myself (and everyone else) that I was fine. That nothing was wrong. I hadn’t been hospitalized. I wasn’t underweight. I didn’t have any near death experiences. And more than anything, I was a Christian. I thought that I was supposed to be okay. I didn’t think that I could claim to be following Jesus if I was struggling like I was. So I did everything I could to hide the truth because I was afraid of what recovery would require. And I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.

You’re only as sick as your secrets. And the longer you keep your secrets secret, the sicker you become. I eventually reached a point where hiding wasn’t possible anymore. My secrets started to leak. People were noticing that something wasn’t right and they began to ask the questions I had been afraid to hear for so long.

I had two options: I could lie and keep running from the truth OR I could surrender and let people in to help.

Brené Brown once said,

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

My body is littered with scars. Physical, visible scars. Each one of them tells a story. Stories of pain, loneliness, frustration, shame, and emptiness can be seen etched into my skin.

These scars tell another story. One story. A story of hope and redemption. A story of healing. A story of something broken being made beautiful. MY story.

When people ask about my scars, I shrink. The answer demands vulnerability and vulnerability is scary. It’s choosing to let people see who I really am, rather than trying to convince them of something I wish I was. Vulnerability is telling the truth when the truth is too hard, too painful, or too embarrassing to tell. It’s choosing to show up and be seen rather than run and hide.

Every time I tell my story, I show people the raw places of my heart. The places I so often see as ugly and painful and undesirable. It makes me feel weak and exposed. Naked. Sick.

BUT every time I work past the initial feelings of shame and embarrassment and allow people to see the story behind the scars, something incredible happens….. People see strength rather than weakness. Healing rather than brokenness. Hope rather than despair. And ultimately, life rather than death.

In telling my story, my weaknesses become my strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is beginning to make a whole lot more sense.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God tells us that His power is made complete in our weaknesses. That when we let people see our failures and our flaws and our struggles, we actually get to experience God’s power in the process. His healing, redemptive, life-giving power. Who doesn’t want that?

I’m still learning to own my story. It’s not easy. It’s awkward. But I’m finding that when I tell people the truth behind my scars, I experience a little bit more freedom and healing each time.

I want to share my story. I want people to know that there’s hope. That healing and recovery are possible. That death and darkness don’t have to win.

Ultimately, I want people to see that victory is found only in Jesus.

Have you told your story? Why or why not?

 

Photo Cred: Chelsea Steller

about the authorLauren is an adventure-seeker at heart. Taking risks excites her and she loves a challenge. Currently a student at Northern Kentucky University, she will graduate in December 2016 with a degree in Secondary Biology Education. Lauren is passionate about teaching others what it means to be physically and spiritually healthy. In her free time, you can usually find her running, playing in the woods, or laughing with friends.