Fighting for Control

Control. We are all grasping for control: in the big things in our lives and in the little things in our lives. I see children, teenagers, and even some adults acting out because in their topsy-turvy lives their behavior is the only thing they can control. After a year like 2020, you don’t have to look very hard to see people fighting for control in their lives. Maybe you’re one of these people fighting for control.  

One thing that tends to look the same is that as things continue to spiral out of our control, we tend to do a couple things. We either fight harder, trying to grasp onto control again or we give up and let the feeling of helplessness weigh us down. I think a lot of people have tried both options. I know I have. Neither one does much to help. 

Grasping for control in our lives can look different for each of us. We try to control our finances, our diet, our bodies, our education, our relationships, our sleep schedule. You name it and we’re trying to control it. Sometimes we try to control different situations and scenarios. I tend to overthink situations before and after they occur. Before I’m thinking of all the possible ways things could happen and after I’m thinking of all the things I should have said differently. We plan and prepare and do everything we possibly can and yet…. Life throws a curveball and what little bit of control we seemed to have gained has slipped right through our fingers. Your car breaks down, your family member is sick, you lose your job, your child is acting out, you get an unexpected bill… one thing right after another. Again. And again. Sometimes we place all of our hope and trust in earthly temporal things hoping and trusting if it works out, everything will be right and in control again. 

Control. No matter how hard we try, how far we reach, it’s always just beyond our grasp. Sure it might seem like we have control for a little while or in certain situations. But in reality, we as humans, can control nothing apart from the choices we make as we react to the world around us.

So we can continue to fight harder in the battle for control, we can give up and let the hopelessness wash over us… or we can choose option three: surrender.

Surrender.

Surrender and the term “giving up” may seem like synonyms at first glance, however I promise you they are not.

Surrender can be defined as a laying down of arms and submitting to authority. 

Stop your fighting. Stop striving in your own strength. Stop. But don’t give up hope. Don’t let grief, anxiety, and stress overwhelm you. 

Picture this with me: gather up everything you’re trying to control, the big things and the little things. Imagine holding all of your problems in your hands. Maybe you have so much you need to load up your arms, maybe you need a backpack, or a cart just to hold everything. You’re probably a little overwhelmed holding all your problems. Look at everything you’re holding and everything weighing on your shoulders. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could set it all down? 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.

1 Peter 5:6-7

Let’s take a moment and analyze these verses from 1 Peter. 

Humble yourselves – You need to choose to make yourself low, of less significance. This does not mean you’re going to beat yourself up, think the least of yourself, and look at all of your flaws and shortcomings. This means you’re acknowledging that you are not strong enough to do it on your own. You are not so strong, powerful, mighty or grand enough to carry all the burdens weighing you down.

Under the mighty hand of God – in submission (yielding) to God, who is mighty

Therefore –  as a result

So that he may exalt you at the proper time  – In God’s timing, not yours, you will be lifted up and elevated

Casting all your cares on him – “Cares” are the things you give serious attention to, the things you worry about, and all those things that you haven’t been able to let go of in your mind. Take every single one of your worries, your struggles, everything that is weighing you down and give it to God. The word “casting” literally means to throw something forcefully in a specified direction. So you are not to just hand your cares over, you’re not to be holding them out in your hands waiting for God to fix it, and your not to be clutching them tightly. Cast them upon God. Literally throw your worries at His feet in prayer.

Because he cares about you – In this phrase “cares” is a verb defined as feeling concern and having serious interest in something. However, it also can be defined as to look after and provide for the needs of. He (God) cares about you. The Creator of the universe has taken a serious interest in you. He will look after you and provide for your needs.


Will you put your trust in yourself, your family, your finances, your political leaders, your job or in other earthly things OR would you rather place your trust in our sovereign, immutable, good God?

You might be thinking in your head,
“I trust God. But it’s not that easy. I still get worried. Have you looked at the world?
I a m s t r e s s e d  o u t. ”

Something I’ve realized is that sometimes when we are seeking control, we are seeking for it to come from another person or the “stability” of a certain situation. For example, many people across the United States were placing their faith for a good and better future of the nation in a candidate. With President Biden having been inaugurated some people feel crushed and in despair. They worry and fret about their future and the future of the United States. On the other hand, some Americans feel a sense of joy and hope for things to come now that President Biden is in office. If President Trump had won the race we would have people on both sides as well. Those elated and those crushed. The feeling of hopelessness comes from placing your trust in someone and a political system that are actually not in any sort of control at all. Likewise, the joy and hope placed in the political system and its leaders is also fleeting because this too shall pass. Romans 13:1 tells us that  there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God, therefore God is the one in whom we should place all of our hope and all of our trust because He is in control. God is in control of every aspect of every thing.

There is nothing that surprises God and nothing occurs without Him allowing it to happen.

 Surrendering control is hard. But the great thing is that we, humans who can control nothing, can surrender to the One who controls everything. God is sovereign. This means He possesses ultimate power, He is supreme ruler, in absolute control.

Lamentation 3:37 says, “Who is there who speaks and it happens, unless the Lord has ordained it?” 

Practically, how does one do this? One cannot literally take their worries, make them tangible, and actually lay them down at God’s physical feet. 


“Pray without ceasing”

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Surrender looks like prayer. Steady. Constant prayer.

When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, all of those cares and worries start pressing down on you, be intentional in immediate prayer. You might not even have the words to say, you might not know what needs to happen, what will happen, what should happen, etc, but that is okay, because not only does God know every minute detail, God holds it all in the palm of His hands. 

So I urge you to do a few things:
1. Do not give up.
2. Surrender.
3. Confess your worries and your attempts to grasp onto control
4. Confess if you’ve placed idols in your heart in the hopes your idols will provide control and peace around you.
5. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray when praying is the last thing you want to do. Pray when you have no words to say. Pray when you are happy and hopeful. Pray when you are crushed and broken. Cast all of your cares upon Him because He loves you beyond all measure.

Lay it down at the feet of the One who holds it all and surrender control. 

Here I am
All my intentions
All my obsessions
I want to lay them all down
In Your hands
Only Your love is vital
Though I’m not entitled
Still You call me Your child

God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life
And the way it should go
God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To open my hands up
And give You control
I give You control

I’ve had plans
Shattered and broken
Things I have hoped in
Fall through my hands
You have plans
To redeem and restore me
You’re behind and before me
Oh, help me believe

Somehow You want me
The King of Heaven wants me
So this world has lost it’s grip on me


Tenth Avenue North – Control (Somehow You Want Me)

Tossed By The Wind

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God – who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly – and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:5-6

Are you tossed by the wind? The wind is strong and forceful, but you don’t have to let it move you.

Do you know what you believe and why you believe it? Do you have doubt flooding your heart? Maybe you’re not sure what to believe with misinformation and conflicting information constantly presenting itself.
Do you doubt God and His plan for your life? Do you doubt His sovereignty in this world of chaos?

There is a lot of wind right now. Sometimes it feels like a gentle breeze and other times it feels like hurricane force winds. Either way, the question remains: Will you be tossed?

Pick any topic and you’ll find people on either side and you’ll find the people who are easily swayed. Some topics are arguably more important than others and compromising may not be a huge deal depending on what the topic is. There are silly topics like whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza and then there are more serious topics like who to vote for in the election. There is one topic that stands above the rest: your faith.

I was watching a television show the other day in which a character stated the Bible was not meant to be taken literally and that the majority of scripture was metaphorical. They were even so bold as to say that the Bible was inspired by God, but not actually dictated by God. They mentioned the idea of God inspiring the words written, but they did not believe that the actual words were God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). If I did not know what I believe and why I believe it I could easily be tossed by the wind. The inkling sometimes pops into my brain, “I don’t think God actually means…” and that my friend, is a dangerous statement that could lead me down a dangerous path. If I begin to question His Word, it wouldn’t be long and I would be questioning God’s character and my faith in general.

But I do know that scripture is God-breathed. I know it’s true. I know that there are things I don’t understand in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It doesn’t mean the whole book or chapter is a metaphor. What it means is that I am human. My understanding may be lacking or skewed, but God’s word never is. If I find something in scripture that I think conflicts with another part of scripture, it’s not the scripture that’s wrong. Instead, it is me and my perspective that is in error. John 17:17 tells us that God’s Word is truth. It does not say bits and pieces are true or that you can feel free to pick and choose what you think is true. God’s Word is truth. All of it. So if you are lacking understanding or wisdom, ask God for understanding and wisdom. He gives wisdom generously!

Be Rooted

Back in the days of the New Testament Galatian believers were being deceived. In Galatians 1:6-7 Paul writes, “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” I’ve experienced times in my life where I was being turned away from truth and I didn’t even realize it, which is why it is vitally important to know what you believe and why you believe it. There are people who will purposefully attempt to sway you and also people with pure intention, but still walking in error.

You say you believe salvation is a free gift and cannot be earned. Why? What if I showed you my good deeds? I’ve never been in trouble with the law, I do community service, I go to church, and I am a good person. Would you be tossed if I told you that by my works I was earning my way to heaven?

You say you believe that God is good. Why? What would you say if I pointed out every flaw, every tragedy, every little thing that didn’t go right? What if I told you God was not good or loving because a good God surely wouldn’t let such awful things happen in the world. Would you be tossed?

I could keep throwing out scenarios, but I won’t. Colossians 2:7 says, “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.”

If you don’t want to be tossed you must have roots. Think of a big tree that has withstood the wind for many years. Why doesn’t it blow over? It is deeply rooted. We must be like the tree planted by the river of water. Our roots must run deep to the source of living water: Jesus. Read your Bible. Get to know your God. Get to know your Savior. It is okay if you don’t understand everything. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you.” 1 John 2:27a.The Holy Spirit will teach you. Don’t stress it. I’ve also learned that I can read a verse a bunch of times, but then one day it just hits different. Be patient with yourself. Show yourself grace. You don’t need to understand it all right at first, I mean, there is still stuff in the Bible that is way over my head and I’ve been a Christian for the majority of my life. Don’t let it discourage you. Ask God for wisdom and understanding. Keep digging your roots in a little deeper day by day.

Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

Stand Tall

The tree that is deeply rooted is not afraid to stand tall. When the wind comes with a vengeance the tree whose roots run deep will not be plucked out of the earth. The tree that is deeply rooted is unashamed to stand tall. Are you like the tree, deeply rooted in the truth of God’s Word?

Don’t be afraid to stand in your convictions. Don’t be ashamed of your stance on the immutable truth of God’s Word.
This does not mean getting into heated debates and arguments with those who believe differently than you or are in error. Ephesians 4:15 says, “But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ.” We are to speak the truth in love; not in anger or self-righteousness. The Bible also tells us to be gentle in correcting others. I know from personal experience when someone is harsh or rude in their correction towards me it often turns me off from actually listening to them and taking to heart what they are saying. In the quest to stand tall it is also important to have a teachable spirit. You don’t know it all and I most definitely don’t know it all either. So inevitably the time will come when I am the one who has misunderstood God’s Word or am the one who is in error. But it is so vitally important to go back to scripture. If someone tells you something, don’t believe them just because they’ve been a Christian longer than you have. Go back to God’s Word. Does it line up? If you’re not sure then ask God for wisdom.

A Prayer

Dear God,
I pray that you would help me to dig my roots in deep to You and Your Word. I pray that you would help to discern what is true and what is false. Help me to bravely stand unashamed in my convictions. Lord, help me to grow in every way so that I may be more like Christ. I pray that you will help me to be gentle when expressing my stand, but I also pray you will give me a teachable spirit. God, help me to stand firmly in the truth of Your Word so that when the wind inevitably comes I will not be tossed.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

Valerie loves going on adventures, spending time in nature, and getting lost in the wonders of God’s creation. She works in the 6th grade resource room at the local middle school, co-runs a faith-based youth mentoring program, and is actively involved in Bible camp ministry. Valerie loves mentoring other women, teens and children. She has an obsession with pens and stocking up on beautiful journals. Valerie’s greatest joy is sharing Jesus with others. Her greatest desire is to know Him more deeply and make Him known. You can find her on Instagram @valerieeejayyy

When God Answers Prayer

Prayer should not be merely an act, but an attitude of life.

Billy Graham

Billy Graham says it well when he goes on to say that “prayer is a two-way conversation between you and God” and “it is the Christian’s greatest weapon”. In Philippians 4:6-7 we are encouraged “[to not] worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

God always answers prayer.

“This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him.”
(1 John 5:14-15)

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.  And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.'”
(Matthew 21:21-22)

“Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.”
(Matthew 7:7)

“Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
(John 14:13-14)

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Thess. 5:16-18)

In these verses above it clearly shows us that if we ask, He WILL listen and He WILL answer, if we simply trust. In your prayer time, declare these promises and know that He is always with you and is always listening. He wants to bless us, according to His divine purpose for us, so that we may go into the world and ultimately bless others. In the Bible God answered many of His servants’ prayers with a big YES! Here are some examples…

God said yes to Hezekiah when he prayed for healing.
(2 Kings 20:1-7)

God said yes to Hannah when she prayed to bare children.
(1 Samuel 1:1-20)

God said yes to Joshua in the heat of battle when he prayed that the sun and moon would stand still.
(Joshua 10:11-14)

God said yes to the Church when they earnestly prayed for Paul’s release from prison.
(Acts 12:1-17)

God is in control.

So what about when we feel as though our prayers are going unanswered or even unheard?

First, be sure you begin your prayer time by asking God for forgiveness and for Him to cleanse your soul of all impurity. God desires for you to come to His throne with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:3-4). Once you have done this, God casts away your sins as far as the east is from the west and remembers them no more. You can now rest in assurance that God is listening.

So what about when we’ve asked God for forgiveness, we know He is listening, we’ve prayed the same prayer over and over again, but it still seems as though there is no answer?

God answered you. Yep, you read that correctly. God always answers our prayers… He just may not answer in the way or timing that we anticipated. But I can assure you that His answer is the best answer, even if we don’t see it. He hears our cries and He knows our hearts and our deepest desires.

Let me remind you: God is God. He reigns supreme, He knows what is best, and He is in control. It is difficult to comprehend as human beings because we want control and it can be difficult to let go of that. Ultimately, God wants us to trust in Him. He wants us to let go of control and allow Him to take the steering wheel of our lives. We are not meant to understand His ways, instead we are simply meant to trust His ways.

God is still good, even when the answer is “no”.

I wrote this blog post to encourage and remind everyone that God ALWAYS answers prayer. Sometimes when God says “no” we believe the lie that our prayer went unanswered, but let me remind you that “no” is still an answer. Receiving a “no” can still come with new revelation, experiences, and excitement. When God says “no”, He may be closing one door to open up an even greater door. In the moment, the closed door may sting a little, our finger may get jammed, and our dreams may be crushed. Here is another sweet reminder: God has a plan and His plan is so much greater than any plan we could dream up for ourselves. His plan and purpose is perfect and full of goodness. In fact, Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you’—this is the Lord’s declaration—’plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

God said no to David’s request for his child’s life.
(2 Samuel 12:1-23)

God said no to Moses entering the promise land.
(Numbers 20:1-12)

God said no to Elijah because He had something better for him in the waiting.
(1 Kings 19:1-4)

God said no to James and John because of divine appointment.
(Mark 10:35-45)

God said no to Paul when he pleaded to have the “thorn in his flesh” departed from him.
(2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

God said no to Abraham and Sarah for a time, because God’s timing was perfect.
(Genesis 17)

God even said no to Jesus when he prayed for the cup to be taken away from Him right before He was to be arrested and crucified.
(Luke 22:41-47)

“Let’s remind our hearts of this truth [today]: Prayer does make a difference. We don’t need to know how. We don’t need to know when. We just need to kneel confidently and know even our most simple prayers extend far wide and far high and far deep. Keep praying, friend. God is listening.”

Lysa TerKeurst

God is listening, sweet friend. He hears you, He cares deeply, and He loves you with an everlasting and unconditional love. He only wants what is best for us and sometimes that may involve closing doors and unwanted answers. In the midst of it all you can remember that God always has a plan, through good and bad seasons. His will for us is perfect.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Please forgive me of my sin. Purify my soul and help me to live a life that is more pleasing to you, so that I may radiate your light through my words and actions. God, give me spiritual eyes to see your will for my life and to trust that it is good and perfect. Help me listen closely for when you answer. Even when it may not be the answer I hoped for, help me to have faith and to trust in You. In your Name I pray, Amen.

Kaitlyn is 23, a wife, a chinchilla mom, and she currently works full-time as a retail department manager. She dabbles a little in portrait and nature photography, as she enjoy capturing memories and natural beauty. Kaitlyn loves to write, spend time with her hubby, and explore God’s marvelous creation. She enjoys playing the piano, even though she’s still a beginner. Random fact: She would probably cry if she was ever given the honor of holding a sloth. Most importantly, Kaitlyn loves Jesus and is so grateful for His unconditional love and grace. She learns more about Him everyday, and desires to journey with other women, as we learn to walk in bravery, and shine His light through our lives.

Dreams and Desires

I’m a dreamer and a doer. The wheels in my head are constantly spinning and they won’t stop. I’m always coming up with a new idea, painting a picture of what’s next, or creating a fresh vision. This dreamer mind-set stirs up so much anticipation and excitement about the potential in situations or the possibilities in life that are yet to come. It’s charming and spontaneous, perpetually striving for more and new and better. You know what, though? It’s exhausting, too. It is a confusing, blurred line. Have I actually entered into an ugly, never-ending competition with myself that will never be satisfied or completed? I’m asking God to deeply search my heart and draw out any toxins getting in the way of what He is truly calling me to.

Do you ever feel like your plate is spilling over in every direction? Have you ever felt caught in a dreary pile of tasks, busyness, to-do lists, and 5-year-plans? There is nothing wrong with productivity, accomplishing goals, or chasing after dreams. However, we can easily become over-scheduled and hyper-organized, searching to uncover joy underneath busyness, tasks, and checked-boxes. This isn’t the life God designed for us, leaving no room for Him to breathe into our weary souls

Many of us are in seasons of life that feel full. We may have a plate that is visibly overflowing. We live in a culture screaming at us all to “keep up”. Do you ever feel like you are always seeking more? Do you struggle with feeling like you could do more or be more? Do you sometimes wake up and feel immediately overwhelmed at the tasks before you, yet you feel paralyzed and stuck, unable to find refreshment for your soul?

It is so easy to get caught up in a sea of accomplishing goals and striving after dreams. Can some of the dreams in our heart come directly from God? Yes. However, sometimes the dreams and visions can get clouded and mixed-up, making it hard to know if we are following God’s desires or our own. God did not create us to simply expel out a list of desires that we want and wait for the check mark to appear. Even if some of the dreams we envision are good and honorable, we can easily miss out on so much while we fantasize and wait. In the same way, if we become too busy and encompassed with noise, never slowing down to breathe, we don’t leave any margin to allow God to move. While we concern ourselves with building an earthly kingdom, making perfectly-curated vision boards and running on empty in a dark cloud of do, do, do, we begin to neglect our purpose on this earth and stray further and further from it. We are not owed ANYTHING apart from the unearned, radical salvation that Jesus so freely offers when we allow Him in. We are not promised security. We are not promised wealth. We are not promised a dream job. We are not promised that the bills will always be paid. We are not promised a home. We are not promised children, or a spouse, or a family.

My security, my hope, and my foundation are Jesus. 
He is my portion.
He alone is what I have been promised.

Everyday when we rise, Jesus is the only stable thing that can be counted on. We have to keep relearning this over and over again. We may feel like we know this truth, but do we truly KNOW it? Do we truly know it even in the midst of disaster and darkness and idols lurking in the shadows waiting to consume us? Each day we have a chance to wake up and lay our hearts wide open as a blank slate for Jesus to use, completely disregarding our own needs and wants. Oh, but it’s hard – so, so hard to put our flesh to death and choose Him over discontentment and busyness. Not only is it hard, but it is sometimes downright painful to live in this world full of credit scores, down-payments, and brushed-over Instagram posts. How on earth are we supposed to stay the course? There is nothing wrong with dreams and desires, especially for God’s kingdom and especially when God’s desires become our desires, but there is something terribly, horribly wrong when our blackened hearts think we are owed everything that we’ve dreamed up.

There is nothing outside of a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”-Mark 7:15
We focus on the world and everything around us needing to change, but in reality we need desperately to change. The darkest sins come from lofty and greedy desires stemming from the depths of our own hearts. Yes, some of that is influenced by outside sources, but ultimately it comes from within. The problem isn’t our neighbors; the problem is us. The darkness all around isn’t something out there in the world to protect our children from, instead it is right inside of us. Until we realize that without Jesus we are literally nothing, unable to move or push the rubble off of ourselves, we will continue spinning aimlessly on a wheel without a destination.

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?”-Mark 8:35-36
The temptation to give our lives over to the pressures and influences around us and from within us has never been stronger. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are doing “good” by accomplishing and “checking-off”, by over-scheduling and constant-dreaming, but its quite the opposite. In the pursuit of contentment, we lose our souls and forget what is actually promised to us.

Our homes could be taken away today. We may never be able to have children. We may never put our gifts and dreams on a platform for the whole world to applaud. Our loved ones might die. There might be nothing left in the bank account.

But we still have Jesus. 

We must find contentment in Him alone, minus all of the stuff distracting us.

Maybe you crave comfort, security, and stability like me. At some point, though, pieces of that security will slowly get chiseled and ripped away. Then what? Are Jesus’ promises somehow void?

We all have access to the true peace and contentment that Jesus brings, but we are all running away. How long can we run? Instead of flocking towards Him like we read in the gospels we can sometimes find ourselves running away from Him, breathless and scared.

“And wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”-Mark 6:56
I want to be desperate to touch Jesus like that. I want to yearn after Him. I want each day to be a new chance to accomplish His will and appreciate the beauty that He is building, not that I am building. I want to be obedient to His calls and plans, pushing away my own. I want to radiate joy when it doesn’t make logical sense. I want to be generous when I have nothing; love when hate is the theme all around me.
And then….when I look back on my life, I will know it has been a true masterpiece, because the Creator of life itself has crafted every twist and turn.

Wife to Simon and mama to Theodore Samuel. Hannah began her walk with Christ at age 17 and He is radically reshaping her world daily. She find so much joy in coffee cup conversations with other women at her home, serving alongside her husband at our church’s middle/high school youth group, exploring new cities, cozy days with a book, decorating/reorganizing, filling journals with brightly-colored pens, hand-writing notes on pretty stationary and time at the beach.

What If I Told You…

What if I told you…

What if I told you I’m sick?
What if I told you I have a disease?
What if I told you I have a heart problem?
Would you comfort me, take me to a doctor?

What if I told you…

What if I told you I’m a liar?
What if I told you I’m a hypocrite?
What if I told you I have a problem with lust?
What if I told you I’m a thief?
What if I told you I’m filled with hatred?
What if I told you I’m gay?

What if I told you…

What if I told you I’m a murderer?
What if I told you I’m a drug addict?
What if I told you I watch porn?
What if I told you I’m sleeping around?
What if I told you I’m the reason your friend is suicidal?

What if I told you…

What if I told you I’m broken?
What if I told you I’m racist?
What if I told you I’m manipulative?
What if I told you I’m struggling?

What if I told you….

What would you say to me?
Would you condemn me?
Would you judge me?
Would you joy in my short comings and failures?
Would your heart break for me?
Would you think I am equivalent to my failures?
Would you think I am defined by my brokenness and sickness?
Would you think I’m unworthy, undeserving, despicable? 
Would you think I am too far gone?

What if I told you…

Would you think I put on a good act?
Would you think I am the lowest of lows?
Would you think I’m a fake and a fraud?

What if I told you…

What would your face say?
What would you think of me?
What would your eyes reveal?
Would you still love me?
Would you still value me and my words?

What if I told you…

Would you unfriend me?
Would you trash my name in the comment section?
Would you verbally destroy me?

What if I told you…

Would you pretend we never met when I passed you in the grocery store?
Would you disown me?
Would you choose to forget me?

What if I told you… 

What if I told you… You are sick too?
What if I told you your body is riddled with a disease?
What if I told you there was a problem with your heart?

What if I told you….

Would you hate me?
Would you compare your brokenness to mine?
Would you think you’re good and I’m a liar?
Would you think you’re fine and I’m mentally unstable making such harsh assumptions of you?

What if I told you I know you are broken?
What if I told you I know you’ve been hurt?
What if I told you your mask of perfection is slipping?
What if I told you our struggles stem from the same thing?
From one thing…

What if I told you…

What if I told you I know a place?
What if I told you it’s the culmination of every wrong thing every human has ever done?
What if I told you it’s the darkest of darks?
What if told you it’s the worst unending torutre?
What if I told you it’s real?
What if I told you we deserve it?

What if I told you the root cause?
Would you believe me?
What if I told you our disease was genetic, contagious, a pandemic?
What if I told you it affects not only you and me… but everyone else too?
What if I told you our brokenness may look different, but it’s just a side effect of the disease called sin?

What if I told you it’s not about me?
What if I told you it’s not about you?
What if I told you it’s not about what we can or can’t do?
What if I told you we could be set free from the weight of our brokenness and sin?
What if I told you the key to our chains is found in a smidgeon of faith?
What if I told you the Jesus is the cure?

What if I told you that tugging on your heart is God?
What if I told you his love reaches past every bit of brokenness, every crack, every flaw, every failure.

What if I told you His arms are reaching towards you?
What if I told you He wants you despite everything.
What if I told you He will always want you?
What if I told you that if you were the only human being on earth…
He still would have endured the beatings, the mockings, the whippings, the nails and the cross just for you.

What if I laid aside my fear? What if I told you?

But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.

Romans 5:12

Sins. Imperfections. Flaws. Shortcomings. Some of them are mine, but some of them are yours, your family members, your friends’, and the average person you pass on the street. I challenge you to examine your heart. How would you respond if someone beared their heart to you? Would you jump to judgement or would you jump to compassion? Would you shame them or would you show them Jesus?

Did you know that there is no condemnation, no shame, to those who are believers in Jesus Christ? If you’re a believer, don’t live in your past, but glory in the Lord and how He has set you free from the burden of sin. If you’re a believer, God has rescued you. You have a rescue story. Use it to draw others to Him. Don’t live in fear… You are free. It’s your story… Share it for His glory. God has worked in your life in a different way than He has worked in mine. Your story is uniquely different than mine and this means we can impact different people who will impact even more people.
Don’t live in fear. Don’t live in shame. Share the story God is writing in your life.

This is the message of faith that we proclaim:If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Romans 10:8b-13

Valerie loves going on adventures, spending time in nature, and getting lost in the wonders of God’s creation. She works in the 6th grade resource room at the local middle school, co-runs a faith-based youth mentoring program, and is actively involved in Bible camp ministry. Valerie loves mentoring other women, teens and children. She has an obsession with pens and stocking up on beautiful journals. Valerie’s greatest joy is sharing Jesus with others. Her greatest desire is to know Him more deeply and make Him known. You can find her on Instagram @valerieeejayyy

Available + Faithful: Women with Jesus

Mary, Susanna, Joanna, and Lydia.

Luke Chapter 8 and Acts Chapter 16 give us a glimpse into the lives of women who had their hearts wide open to the transforming power of Christ. These women didn’t keep Jesus’ power private, but instead they had willing hands to put God’s work on display and humbly serve those in their path.

Is this type of bold, selfless, passionate heart for service still attainable today?

Luke 8:1-3 tell us about women accompanying Jesus on His mission: “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,  and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.”

We learn that Mary, Susanna, and Joanna had been healed. The amazing part that can’t be missed is that their journey with Jesus didn’t stop after being healed; it was only just beginning! Not only were these women miraculously healed, but they were healed and then using their gifts. That is who we are called to be in Christ: healed, set free, and then able to love and serve others abundantly. When we realize that Jesus has forgiven us and washed us clean, we are driven to live wildly for His glory. Maybe we aren’t trekking on a literal by-foot journey with Jesus, but in a sense we are. There are people all around us that need encouragement and can benefit and flourish from the faithful stewardship of our gifts.

Titus 3:4-5 says, ” But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

He saved us, not because of works.” Using our gifts while journeying with Jesus is not what saves us. Believing the lie that productivity leads to Christ’s love is a dark and dangerous path. Instead, when we embrace His merciful kindness and healing power towards us, we can begin to desire to put our works on display for His glory. Only after salvation and transformation, after being with Jesus and allowing Him to change us, can we be a fountain able to pour out sacrificially on others.

“On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there.  A God-fearing woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying.  After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us…..After leaving the jail, they came to Lydia’s house, where they saw and encouraged the brothers and sisters, and departed.”- Acts 16:13-15, Acts 16:40

In the book of Acts we also see how Lydia’s heart affections were stirred toward Jesus and His message. She was changed from the inside-out and had influence over her family. They were changed too- her entire family was baptized! Immediately after understanding Christ’s message, she opened her home without question and made herself available to serve in a tangible way. She prioritized service and hospitality in a way that was contagious and memorable, because her house was the first one Paul and Silas visited after they got out of prison during their ministry. She, too, had an encounter with Jesus that left her changed and ready to serve.

Right now women are under attack. The drive to empower women has never been stronger in our society than it is now. How does having a changed heart that is ready for service fit into all of this?

First, we have to realize that Jesus Himself empowered women. He called women out of shameful hiding and ushered them out of darkness, spurring them on to walk confidently in His light. The way He interacted with women was different and even questioned by most in His day. Jesus loves to raise eyebrows. He did it then and he still does it now through actions of radical love. Jesus did not see women as less-than, but He saw them as created-for-a-purpose. In our culture today we are losing that purpose in a sea of noise. An independent, successful, powerful woman can seem to have it all but simultaneously be void of Christ’s power and lack the one thing that truly matters: an encounter with Jesus leading to a changed heart. In our screams for independence and hunger for the spotlight we can miss the opportunity to cultivate gentleness, selflessness, and generosity through our time, skills, gifts, and resources.

As women we have a platform to humbly bless others in the name of Christ. We can influence and inspire those around us by glowing with truth after being in Jesus’ presence. Romans 8:15 tells us that we have received a “spirit of adoption” instead of a “spirit of slavery.” Are we living enslaved to the world’s view of womanhood or are we living in the liberating spirit of adoption that Jesus provides? Once we embrace whose we are, it changes everything. Others are watching and craving a nurturing love. Are we ready to meet those needs around us? Mary, Susanna, Joanna, and Lydia were. They saw the needs and they filled them with joy. They didn’t grumble or violently rant about their need for privilege or power.

2 Corinthians 6:2 says “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” It’s tempting to put it off and think that we’ll just serve later. In our back-burner mentality, we begin to embrace building our own empire while forgetting all about building Jesus’ kingdom. The harvest is ripe and it is happening now. We can either put off having a life-changing encounter with Jesus or run after Him now. We can either settle for stone-cold hearts or make ourselves ready and available to serve now. Now is the favorable time- what will you do?

Wife to Simon and mama to Theodore Samuel. Hannah began her walk with Christ at age 17 and He is radically reshaping her world daily. She find so much joy in coffee cup conversations with other women at her home, serving alongside her husband at our church’s middle/high school youth group, exploring new cities, cozy days with a book, decorating/reorganizing, filling journals with brightly-colored pens, hand-writing notes on pretty stationary and time at the beach.

Steadfast

“He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in His faith and gave glory to God, because He was fully convinced that what God had promised, He was also able to do.” (Romans 4:20-21)

The second part of this verse is something a lot of us struggle with and probably couldn’t always proclaim with confidence. We are told in Romans, though, that Abraham was able to to proclaim and believe with confidence that God was able to do what He promised He would do. Abraham believed that God was steadfast.

God is the ultimate storyteller. He didn’t write a story with a cliff-hanger. We don’t need popcorn. We know the ending already and it’s a beautiful one. God finishes what He starts. He is trustworthy and can always be counted on. Romans 8:20-21 tells us: “For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children.” That’s the ending. The ending is that we will be set free. We don’t have to wait around wondering if this reality will show up in some far-off sequel. Instead, we can place our hope in the fact that this promise has already been written, is being fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled.

How many things are truly unchanging? Our society is always on an epic hunt for something new, eye-catching, and thrilling. At times, the idea of something remaining the same can appear stale and bland. Many of us believe we can truly thrive on unpredictability and fresh experiences. There is nothing wrong with being adventurous and spontaneous, but when we welcome in too much of this attitude, we can find ourselves feeling like we’re sinking in a pool of dissatisfaction when we can’t keep up with the demand. “I’m over it” or “I need a change”, we say as we toss things aside and prepare for the next thing. Loyalty is an antiquated concept.

New hair. New job. New house. New life.

What if there was beauty in, not the unexpected, but in the expected?

What if life could be found in something unmovable, unshakable, and never changing?

Definition of Steadfast

1a: firmly fixed in place IMMOVABLE

b: not subject to change

2: firm in belief, determination, or adherence

There is this ravenous desire within us for change, yet if we’re honest, at core, we actually do desire a firm foundation of stability. It’s possible, though, to chase down stability in a way that will never truly deliver. When we hunger for steadfastness, something unchanging and unwavering in relationships and material objects, we are oftentimes left feeling hollow and empty when those things do change and do waver.

When our emotions zig-zag throughout the day and circumstances in our own lives and throughout the world have become entangled in weighty darkness, God is steadfast.

When we come to the end of ourselves and feel completely void of strength, God is steadfast.

The steadfastness of God is mentioned 132 times in the Psalms alone. When God’s steadfast nature is spoken about, it is almost always associated with His LOVE being steadfast. Although we have been gifted the grace of experiencing God-fueled, love-driven relationships with others, this form of love between humans could never measure up to the overwhelming steadfastness of God’s love.

He alone is steadfast.

Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.”

That is a promise to cling to in the shadows of life.

We can remain steadfast in Christ by seeking Him with our whole heart. Only then is God able to meet us there and gently walk in step with us. This is a continual process, not a once-and-done, prayed-a-prayer, good-to-go type of seeking. Remaining steadfast in Christ is a beautiful habit formed; one where you find comfort in letting praise leave your lips, constantly acknowledging that God Himself is steadfast. We are able to remain steadfastly planted in Him BECAUSE He is steadfast first.

Water your heart with His unchanging truth and unwavering love.

Plant your heart firmly in His endless promises.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Wife to Simon and mama to Theodore Samuel. Hannah began her walk with Christ at age 17 and He is radically reshaping her world daily. She find so much joy in coffee cup conversations with other women at her home, serving alongside her husband at our church’s middle/high school youth group, exploring new cities, cozy days with a book, decorating/reorganizing, filling journals with brightly-colored pens, hand-writing notes on pretty stationary and time at the beach.

Use Permanent Ink

Bravely Pursuing God’s Vision for Marriage

My outlook on marriage has been a patchwork of feelings and opinions that have shifted over time. I thought maybe I would be married somewhere far, far in the future at 35 or something. Most of the time trying to conceptualize the thought of marriage at all seemed like a stretch.  I would have laughed bluntly if someone told me I’d be lumped into the “young and married” category.

“Why would I limit myself?” I used to think. 

“Why put my hope in another human being who will  break my heart into a million little pieces?” 

“I’m young, I have a life to live, things to accomplish, and a husband will just drag me down,” I told myself.

I used to view marriage as a prison cell that only locked you into a life of confinement, disappointment, and less opportunity.

It was pouring rain and my life was about to change. I didn’t know that, of course. You never know when something groundbreaking is about to happen. Usually you can’t foresee the big moments that wind up being a pivotal event- the kind of happenstance that ends up defining how you describe everything else in your life.

This day would later end up being a bold, italicized, LARGE font event written on the timeline of my life, even though at the time it all seemed very commonplace.

I was about to get into a very dangerous car accident. Everything I once knew would be completely turned upside-down.

Seventeen. Senior year.

This was one of the darkest seasons of my life, to be brutally honest. I hated God, I hated love, and quite honestly, I hated myself. I had turned to self-destruction and I was completely unstable, lacking any fragment of purpose or direction. My heart was hollow and closed off and I was out of breath and exhausted, always running away from God. I was petrified of Him and I wanted absolutely no part of that “love”. My heart was nailed shut to keep out God’s love or the love of anyone else. Love was the last thing on my mind in that season; love with God, love with a man.. I wanted no part of it.

I saw another car’s headlights in my lane. Through the splashes of rain, I realized there was no time to react.

Death was upon me.

I couldn’t run anymore.

I didn’t realize how much I truly did yearn for life and love until death was a few feet away.

I sharply turned the wheel, then cried out to the God whom I wasn’t even certain I believed in. 
“I’m not ready to die yet. I want to live for you. I still desire to meet my husband and have a family someday.”

My car spun uncontrollably, eventually ending up in the ditch on the other side of the road after hitting a telephone pole. The telephone pole fell on top of my car, causing the front end to catch on fire just as I stepped out of it.

This was when my heart first danced with Christ.

Adrenaline pumping, sparks in the background, I surrendered.

He saved me.

It was a gradual and sometimes painful process, but Jesus began reshaping and capturing my heart. All of the lies that I had built a foundation upon were being ripped apart and tossed out forever.

Over time, He began to reveal purpose to me, breathing life into everything that had been lifeless.

I began to understand my need for Him. I started to understand, not just my need for Him, but also His wild love for me; love that was boundless and unimaginable to the point of death. Something I was once uncomfortable confronting became a comfort: I was a sinner in desperate need of a Savior. He was there to love me mightily, restore my soul, and then die on my behalf to atone for my shortcomings.

Walls broken down.

He opened my heart to love.

Two days after the accident, I met and started talking to the man who is now my husband. 

Two weeks later is when I knew he was the man I was going to marry (this is laughable now, because we are talking about the same girl who was totally against the idea of getting married young).

Simon loved God and wanted to pursue a life of serving Him. He was patient with me as I started to understand what all of that even meant. I had no prior understanding and it was a process  to shed the gruesome layers of my flesh (this process never ends). In the beginning of our relationship, we learned what love was together. We learned how to love each other and love God together. We grew from teenagers to adults together.
I will never be able to wrap my head around the weight of what God did that year of my life. I was in a downward spiral and He called me by name and drew me to Himself.

My view of marriage started to shift, as did everything in my life.

Naturally, during our dating and engaged years, my outlook on marriage changed into a sea of prince charming and white horses. Looking toward marriage I envisioned endless happiness, no arguing, constant fun, holding hands in the sunset, candle-lit dinners, and romantic getaways.

After being married a few years, though, God is chiseling my understanding yet again. God did not create marriage so that we could be happy, get all of our needs met, or fill a void in our heart. He didn’t even create marriage so that we could have a lifelong partner to have deep conversations with or go on lavish dates with (though there’s nothing wrong with those things and they are actually a by-product of a healthy marriage).

There’s a war going on in today’s society. There are broken, empty, and confused people everywhere. God’s design for marriage is for a husband and wife to come together in unity to accomplish His mission and share the gospel as a team. Marriage is meant to be a union in which the same vision is shared for how to point other’s towards Jesus. 

Yes, marriage is supporting one another’s dreams.

Yes, it is carving out intentional date nights.

Yes, it is laughing so hard you cry.

Yes, it is cozy movie nights with way too much popcorn.

Yes, it is long drives in the car with even longer deep, heart talks.

Yes, it is dying to one-self and choosing to serve your spouse over your own desires and needs.

But at the core, it is chasing after the same vision together. 

There is only one vision to chase. The vision is the same for every couple that He brings together: to make disciples and love others, as Christ did, alongside one another. The way this takes form is different for every couple depending on gifts and timing. It is so easy for this to get diluted and over-complicated. 

There are influences from the world saying that marriage is all about pleasure, happiness, and perfection.

On the flip-side, there are toxic influences even in christ-centered communities slowly seeping into our hearts about marriage. These messages are more subtle and they are wrapped in appealing packages. Hearing these influences can make us forget about the vision of the gospel and instead focus only on bettering ourselves and strengthening our own home. Family time has so much value. Spreading the gospel has the most value, though. This is beautifully imaged when done as a family team. Entertainment, comfort, and ease try to pull our focus off of what has the most eternal value.

Faith in Jesus was meant to be shared beyond our walls. Marriage is more than an amalgamation of cooking meals together and cuddling on the couch. Those things are a blast, but they can’t be the only purpose in marriage. I think often in faith-based communities, messages about marriage mean well. We hear about respecting and honoring our spouse and spending enough time together. We see step-by-step processes of how to have a constructive argument and how to have beneficial communication. These things are all good.

In the midst of all of this advice, though, we also need to be asking one important question: what are my spouse and I doing together to further the kingdom of Jesus?

Everything needs to be built around that. God has provided a vessel in marriage for this to happen; a unique way for His message to be carried. God’s love for us is not based on performance or service, but a thriving marriage will be a deep well overflowing with love to pour out on others. It does not mean every couple will be missionaries in a foreign country, but it means that God calls us all to be missionaries right where we are. He placed you and your spouse in a specific location and time period for a reason and brought you together for a reason. He desires for you to love and enjoy one another, yes- but also to extend that love to others around you as a team.

Don’t misunderstand – marriage is meant to be pleasurable and delightful and beautiful, but these things come from flourishing together in your calling. There are some days filled with tickle fight, board games, adventures and movie nights. I believe God wants us to enjoy marriage, too.

Also understand this: there will always be challenging days. Stop and think about the austerity involved with combining two people and two lives together. There is going to be friction. There will be harsh words exchanged and bad choices made. You will hurt each other often. We are flesh and selfishness rules through our whole being. Trying to mix two broken people together is difficult, but worthwhile. The vision is bigger. The vision for God’s kingdom is bigger than socks left on the floor or your husband forgetting to ask how your day went. Some days it might be hard to forgive or extend grace, but remember the vision. When you remember the vision and you truly understand what you signed up for, dissatisfaction can’t reign.

When you get married:

Don’t sign up for perfection.

Don’t sign up for bouquets of flowers and loves notes (although those are a sweet surprise sometimes).

Don’t sign up for manicured lawns and children in matching t shirts.

Don’t sign up for Instagram photo shoots.

Don’t sign up for only pursuing your own dreams.

Don’t sign up for no conflict,

and don’t sign up for building your own kingdom.

Sign up for unity.

Sign up for embracing imperfections.

Sign up for constant forgiveness and grace.

Definitely sign up for striving after God’s vision to share the gospel together.

Sign up for forever.

Use permanent ink.

My love story with my husband evolves daily. We know each others’ hearts deeply and intentionally. It is breathtaking to pursue God’s calling together and the most attractive thing in the world is to see my husband desire God.  We laugh together and cry together and there is no one else on this planet I would rather have by my side. We are still learning how to pursue this common vision together, though. We are constantly being purified and refined by God. We still argue while driving sometimes, things get chaotic and we say hurtful words, and at times, we altogether forget the unity  God has called us to. But God always sweetly reminds us once more of His miraculous love and His purpose for our story together.

Wife to Simon and mama to Theodore Samuel. Hannah began her walk with Christ at age 17 and He is radically reshaping her world daily. She find so much joy in coffee cup conversations with other women at her home, serving alongside her husband at our church’s middle/high school youth group, exploring new cities, cozy days with a book, decorating/reorganizing, filling journals with brightly-colored pens, hand-writing notes on pretty stationary and time at the beach.

This day would later be a bold, italicized, huge- font event written on the timeline of my life, even though it seemed so commonplace at the time. You see, I was about to get into a very dangerous car accident and everything I once knew would completely turned upside-down. This was one of the darkest seasons of my life; I hated God, I hated love, and quite honestly- I hated myself. I had turned to self-destruction and I was completely unstable, lacking any fragment of purpose or direction. My heart was hollow and closed off. I was out of breath and exhausted from running away from God. Honestly, I was petrified of Him and I wanted absolutely no part of the “love” that I had seen coming out of some “christians”. My view of love was seemingly flawed beyond repair. Love was the last thing on my mind in that season- love with God, love with a man- I wantedno part of it.
Through the splashes of rain, as I saw another car’s headlights in my lane, there was no time to react. In that moment, I realized how close death was. I couldn’t run anymore; it was coming straight for me. I didn’t realize how much I truly didyearn for life and love until pain and death were a few feet away. I sharply turned the wheel at the last possible second and I cried out to the God whom I wasn’t even certain I believed i
“I’m not ready to die yet. I want to live for you. I still desire to meet my husband and have a family someday

How Soon We Forget

“The disciples were astounded. They didn’t understand what had happened with the loaves of bread. Instead, their minds were closed.” (Mark 6:51-52)

The disciples had just witnessed Jesus do the unthinkable. It was altogether breathtaking and miraculous. They had just witnessed Him feed 5,000 hungry people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Although, they didn’t just watch in awe. They were actually a part of the miracle in action. Mark says that Jesus “kept giving them to the disciples to give to the people.” They were quite literally passing out and sharing the dynamic miracle that Jesus had performed. Even though they had been submerged in this amazing act, just hours later they found themselves full of fear and worry as Jesus got into their boat and the wind stopped blowing. The text says that they were astounded, they didn’t understand, and that their minds were closed.

How can one witness an unfathomable multiplication of food, then see the Son of man calm a storm just by His presence, and still be confused and have an anxious heart? It is SO easy to judge the disciples and want to just yell, “WAKE UP!” in this situation. In the middle of pointing my finger at the disciples, I could almost feel God belly laugh. He spoke to my heart and helped me realize: How often am I doing just that? How often might we all do it? How often does Jesus allow us the opportunity to take part and witness a miracle or amazing work He is doing and we so soon forget, too?


When we witness Him heal someone, change someone’s soul, or see elements of His love pour out of people, it’s easy to praise Him in that moment. In the middle of the miracle, we are easily able to fully give Christ the credit due and marvel in awe. But how soon we forget the love He drenched us in, the truth He washed over us, and the miracle He cascaded in front of us when a storm comes. We forget. He tells us “Calm down! Don’t be afraid!” as He told the disciples in Mark 6:50, when they were petrified of His presence. We, too, often become timid in His presence, lacking the faith in Jesus that is binding and so essential to survive in a storm. We forget the unmatchable work He has done and turn away from the gift of salvation He has given. Instead, our minds are closed and we allow the wind and the waves to get into the boat. We altogether forget to call on the savior whose speciality is chaos.

Let’s boldly ask Jesus to help us to not forget. Let’s ask Him to keep the miracles alive in our hearts. That way when a storm comes, our minds won’t be closed and we won’t be astonished or scared when our Savior shows up. There are small miracles in each moment waiting to be noticed and participated in. Jesus is present in the small and the big. He is capable of so much more than our minds can even fathom. I want to be ready for that. I want to be waiting and hopeful, expecting Him to move. I want to collect all of those miracles in my heart. Doubt, fear, anxiety, incompetence, complacency, and confusion can’t beat me down anymore after His vibrant miracles rest safely in my heart. Those lies won’t stand a chance.

I don’t want to forget.

Wife to Simon and mama to Theodore Samuel. Hannah began her walk with Christ at age 17 and He is radically reshaping her world daily. She find so much joy in coffee cup conversations with other women at her home, serving alongside her husband at our church’s middle/high school youth group, exploring new cities, cozy days with a book, decorating/reorganizing, filling journals with brightly-colored pens, hand-writing notes on pretty stationary and time at the beach.

How Environmental Protection Ties to My Faith

Did you know that there is a ministry in environmental protection? Now is time to rediscover the oldest form of ministry, because now more than ever we need to give it our attention. Nature is a ministry not limited in its audience and it has no language barrier. The environment is a topic that when viewed through a biblical lens can reach everyone! Unfortunately this wonderful spiritual connection is being ignored, and abused. We are lied to everyday when we are told there is nothing we can do about it. Nature is the oldest ministry there is because it shares with us a deeply personal connection to our Creator.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:15 NIV

This involves all of us. On the day the first of humankind was created we were given two gifts. The first gift was free will and the second gift was dominion over the other living creatures on earth. The first gift greatly impacts the the second. When God gave us this significant amount of control over our environment, he also gave us a responsibility to take care of it. Even more, what we do with that authority will forever have consequences. Thankfully this also affirms a truth for us. The lie that we are powerless to make a difference in environmental change is just that: a lie! Government policies are not the environmental save we are all waiting for. What we need are changes in the little decisions we make day to day.

Why Environmental Protection Ties to My Faith

Let’s start by reconnecting with our roots. Let’s look at our ancestry. When God made Adam, He placed him in Eden with instructions to take care of it. In those days humanity was at peace with nature. We didn’t have to build back soil, or worry about bugs and fungi overpowering our food. More significantly, when we had a close relationship with nature we also had a close relationship with God. Imagine knowing God so closely that you can go for a simple stroll just to talk! Adam and Eve had that, walking with God in the garden on a regular basis. In fact, the Bible says that when we know nature we know for certain there is a God.

They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Romans 1: 19-20

How could we look at creation and not know there is a Creator? So much of nature just works together so efficiently in a way that could only be designed. For example, one of the rumors I remember mentioned by a teacher in high school is that cows are bad for the environment, because they give off CO2. Well, guess what converts any CO2 into oxygen. The pasture the cow grazes on! Letting grass grow to feed the cows gives us more oxygen. Plus, consider the alternative, pastures give us so much more than the CO2 from a gas guzzling lawn mower. God’s design works better than our own every time. It’s even an educational standard in Next Generation Science, used in our public schools. Children are taught to look to nature for design help:

“1-LS1-1 Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.” — Next Generation Science Standards

Nature is not only great on its own, but it is also great for us. Multiple studies have looked into the health benefits of being in nature, finding that regular contact with nature has psychological benefits. Think of God’s original intention for Earth. He was creating it for us and what we as humans need. Two studies, one in the USA and one in the Netherlands, found that time with nature reduces cortisol levels, taking away our stress and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Another study in South Korea found that exposure to nature improves cognitive function, helping us think clearly and improving our memory. Plus nature has been seen to have a positive impact on diabetes, obesity, and circulatory heart disease. A daily dose of time in nature is preventive medicine! There are even multiple studies emerging in the topic of “nature-deficit disorder” which suggest that time in nature is not just preventive medicine, but an actual human need. “The Last Child in the Woods” is a book which makes the understandable claim that more exposure to experiences in nature will even improve “behavioral problems” in young children.

Everything about the earth was specially made to sustain us as our food and for our mental health. Taking care of the earth is an extension to taking care of ourselves. I know who made this earth, and I can see Him in the things that He made. However, our daily lives revolve around distractions and it is easy to feel separated from God. Likewise, nature which shows us God, is easy to feel separated from. We have so many man made things to keep our attention such as TV screens, computer screens, money, and all the things we think we need because society says so. Meanwhile, those same man-made things have led us to abuse our natural resources. We cover the world over with concrete, and treat it as disposable. We have the ability, the ingenuity, and the responsibility to take care of our planet.

So What Can We Do?

I’m one of the save the world from plastic types. Plastic is the environmental issue that any individual person can make a difference in. Whether global warming is an issue or not, we have other concerns which require the same response to take care of our planet. We know about the plastic in our oceans. The problem is not just the presence of plastic in the ocean. The problem is that plastic was designed to last. In natural creation plants die and they become compost, animals die and they become compost, even people were made from dust and will return to dust. Plastic does not rot. Nothing is lost in nature because it was designed to repurpose itself, but plastic is man made and here to stay. Every piece of plastic which has ever been made still exists today and we are producing more than we are recycling.

I feel that by respecting God’s creation we are showing Him our respect. I want us to be encouraged knowing we can make changes in how we use resources so that we can give back to God’s green earth. Thankfully there is already a growing number of people wanting to make changes to live more peaceably with our environment. There are small decisions that each of us can make that will provide big changes. In 2016 I stumbled upon the Zero Waste movement, including the whole trash in a mason jar fad. I loved the aesthetic and I binged all the information I could on how reducing plastic will save our planet. What I have learned is there is noticeably more to reducing waste then the mason jar aesthetic. The movement has since been renamed the Low Waste movement, because the first thing to know is that it is not a total elimination of waste. Essentially the call of the movement is to reconsider how we use plastic and avoid purchases of plastic items with a disposable nature. After avoiding the plastic that we do not need, the second part to the Low Waste movement is to add to and go beyond our current methods of recycling. Rather than the 3 steps of Reduce Reuse Recycle there are 5 steps.

More than just Recycling

Refuse.
Reduce.
Reuse and Repair.
Recycle.
Rot.

Refuse plastic disposable items whenever possible, and look for alternative items which will serve the same purpose. In many cases the solution will be something retro.
Reduce. This applies to all resources and can be as simple as turning off the lights when we leave an empty room.
Reuse and Repair. A lot of the products we buy in plastic today were one of three things in the 1940s. They were made of materials closer to nature such as glass, steel, and wood; such as glass baby bottles as opposed to plastic ones. Perhaps the product was designed to be reusable such as a cloth towel rather than a paper one. In other cases products were repaired; such as mending a shirt with a tear rather than tossing it.
Recycle. Recycling is not perfect, since every item we recycle can only be recycled a few different times. Even still recycling plastic saves money and resources which would have otherwise been spent on producing more plastic. So good job!
Rot. Only a small percentage of our planet has usable topsoil, which we need for growing our food. Composting not only disposes of waste but it builds back our soil.

I hope to write more about environmental protection in the future so feel free to like and subscribe and follow us on social media such as Instagram, or Facebook for updates on new posts. Be sure to leave a comment and join the conversation. Let me know what you think of the topic or if there is anything related that you noticed I left out.

Works Cited:

Kim, Bo-Young, et al. “Horticultural Therapy Program for the Improvement of Attention and Sociality in Children with Intellectual Disabilities.” HortTechnology, vol. 22, no. 3, 2012, pp. 320–324., doi:10.21273/horttech.22.3.320.

Rodiek, Susan. “The Role of the Outdoors in Residential Environments for Aging.” 2006, doi:10.4324/9780203820193.

Berg, Agnes E. Van Den, and Mariëtte H.g. Custers. “Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress.” Journal of Health Psychology, vol. 16, no. 1, 2010, pp. 3–11., doi:10.1177/1359105310365577.

Lachowycz, K., and A. P. Jones. “Greenspace and Obesity: a Systematic Review of the Evidence.” Obesity Reviews, vol. 12, no. 5, 2011, doi:10.1111/j.1467-789x.2010.00827.x.

Olivia is an eclectic creativity enthusiast. A teacher by profession, but an aspiring storyteller on occasion. Her super power is her compassion.