God’s Art

The sun has been out this week and there is something so blissful about a warm sunny day. In the midst of this lovely summer season, there have been difficult stories like dealing with war, losing loved ones, and sicknesses. I ask God a lot, “How much longer does all of this have to go on?” And by a lot, I mean several times a day. It just seems like there are so many sad things happening all the time, everywhere. I am amazed by God’s patience with this world because I don’t have a lot of it when I hear about all this stuff. Even though this world appears to be right full of junk, there is still God. His beauty and generous gifts are everywhere.

I was staring at the hummingbirds yesterday and I stood in wonder of His extraordinary creations. Some of these birds fly all the way from Mexico just to eat at one of my hummingbird feeders and that is just fascinating to me. For me, driving all the way to our nearest city, which is just under two hours, can be such a chore and I have a difficult time staying awake. God made this little bird that can fly over 2000 miles to Maine in a matter of several days just to slurp on my sugar water and that’s pretty cool. 

Everything He creates is infused with such amazing detail that it often blows my mind. He draws every speck of color on the blossoming trees and flowers. He strategically places every hair in beautiful perfection on my cats to make them look stunning. He constructs each of us so meticulously that no two are alike. God loves to create all the marvelous things on Earth and I bet He has a lot of fun doing it too. He takes joy in His creations and ultimately, His glory is on full display for all of us to see. We can get so busy that we don’t notice Him in our surroundings. I give thanks for the smile on my daughter’s face, for the unique relaxing sound of a cat purring, for the delicious scent of a grilled steak, for when I hear my dad perfectly play the piano and so much more.

I give thanks. 

For the big things down to the minuscule things… I give thanks that He even thinks about blessing me. Each of us have been tremendously blessed by God because He gave us Jesus. Plus, in the end, we get to be with Him forever and ever. We can’t even fully imagine how Heaven will look, feel, smell, taste or sound like!! This earth can’t even compare to what is waiting for us on the other side of life. Even if Heaven was solely Jesus and nothing else I would be ecstatic, but I believe God has amazing forever plans for His believers. I believe our souls will be enraptured by what He has built for us. He has a new life already planned out for us and therefore leaving this world doesn’t scare me in the least bit. 

While we are still here in this world, we have to get out there and minister to those who don’t know Him! Ministry takes a lot of work, patience, and love. It takes a small army to run a church or a ministry of any kind. Often, it feels like the army is retreating, and because of this I pray that God will spur the hearts of His people to get back into the fray. Serve God with a pure heart and His presence will never leave you. Even though we could never repay God for the enormous amount of blessings He has gifted us, we can serve Him and be thankful, right? These words are from Jesus – “If anyone serves me, he must follow me. Where I am, there my servant also will be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” John‬ ‭12:26‬ 

I hope all of you get to enjoy this summer especially after last year. God bless you and remember to smile because He loves you more.

Guest Writer: Cara

Spirit Lead Me: A Prayer

Jesus, purify me.

Deliver me. Cleanse me. Renew my very spirit and forgive me of all unrighteousness. Help my human soul to become heaven focused.

Thank you for your unfailing grace, mercy, and love. Thank you for redeeming me over and over again, even though I do not deserve it.

Your grace is unmeasurable and indescribable. You love us so much; You sacrificed everything.

Guide me, Jesus. Direct my path. Give me spiritual eyes to see what you desire me to see. Give me spiritual ears to hear your voice more clearly and louder than any other voice.

Allow your Holy Spirit to lead me, so that I may walk as You would walk, speak how You would speak, and act as You would act. Give me discernment and wisdom.

Help me to see the world through Your eyes and Your heart. Break my heart for what breaks Yours and help me to ignite change.

This world is so dark and full of hatred. Let Your light shine through me and allow kindness and love to flow out of me like a rushing waterfall.

Remind me to focus on You, and to remember that You are always with me, and always in control. You have a plan and a purpose, even when I don’t see it – even when I don’t understand.

Remind me of Your goodness every day- in the mundane of a busy work day and on my days of rest. Remind me of Your goodness in the beauty and intricacy of a freezing droplet of water and in the midst of your astounding creation. In a crowded room and when I’m all alone.

God, You are so good and all-powerful. Even the sun stands still when You tell it to (Joshua 10:13).

I thank You for Your promises. I thank You that You are my God, my Father, my Friend, my ever-present help, my Healer, my Savior, my Provider, my Protector, my everything. Thank You for all that You have done, all that You are doing, and all that You are going to do. I believe and trust in You with all of my heart. Spirit lead me.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

In Everything

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. “- 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

In past years, November has been an easy month to focus on all that we are grateful for. In 2020, however, this hasn’t come so easily. Usually around this time, as a culture we tend to naturally switch into “be thankful” mode and write lists of what we are thankful for.

I’m not sure where this year has left you, but it has left my family and I feeling vulnerable.

My husband and I moved in March just days before the entire country shut down and we went into our first quarantine. My parents graciously allowed us to move in with them. Our plan was to stay until Christmas, but the first quarantine left it next to impossible for either of us to find jobs. Our bank account dwindled. We had to learn how to be married in a house that totaled 5 people and 4 pets. There was also no escape from each other. Personalities clashed. Anxiety was at an all time high. Eventually we found jobs, but the idea of moving out became impossible. The days of quarantine turned into weeks and then into months. I remember the first time we were able to go sit at a restaurant and eat – I cried.
As someone who struggles with anxiety, going out in public became very difficult. All the while, masks became a fashion accessory. Throw all of that into a heated social climate, a political battle that never seems to end, and tragedies happening all around- it’s surprising how we have all made it this far.

But here we sit the week before Thanksgiving somehow surviving another day.

It’s challenging then to read a verse like 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and think to yourself that it’s even possible. As someone who tends to lean hard into the negative anyway, this year has given me every reason to shut down, disengage, and complain. Even with the upcoming holiday, our plans have changed. It won’t look like a “normal” Thanksgiving. The fact that I had to use the phrase “normal” is enough to send some people spiraling.

But there’s something important I’ve come to learn in the midst of all the chaos:

Our God is not chaos. He is peace in the midst of it all.

I know that’s hard to hear. It’s hard for me to write. But – I think it’s a reminder we all need to hear right now. That’s the beauty of 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It doesn’t just say “in everything give thanks” and stop there. It goes on to say, “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” We don’t have to find the courage to be thankful alone. We have a loving Savior who wants to gently remind us why we can be thankful. Yes, even in the midst of the most chaotic year.

The other night at dinner when the five of us sat down we asked the question, “Are you better off than you were a year ago?” Consistently that answer was yes. I was shocked by that at first, but then I realized that our perspective had shifted from simply dealing with the latest tornado thrown at us to instead gaining a full picture of what had actually taken place throughout the whole year. Yes, we moved straight into a quarantine. A year ago, though, we were in a stuck season. We didn’t have the full words for it yet, but the reality was that we were drained. If we had stayed in that, our marriage may have crumbled right along with our faith. Throughout the unexpected year, though, God has allowed us to heal and move forward out of that stuck place. He gave us a new, unshakable strength, despite the uncertainty. A reason to be thankful in everything.

That’s what God did in 2020.

That’s not what I did, what covid did, or what the latest social/political conversation did. God alone did.

It’s obvious this year hasn’t been normal. Regardless, I want to encourage you to ask God the question: “how am I better off than I was a year ago?”

Be prepared to have Him shock you with the answer.

Heavy-Hearted, Yet Still Thankful

“The Lord Gives, and The Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”- Job 1:21

Many of us have already put up the Christmas tree, turned on the Hallmark movies, and began our Christmas baking. 

Our family has already put up our tree, we haven’t yet put up any other decorations. I don’t intend to skip over or make light of Thanksgiving. This year, I feel the Lord is asking me to look at my blessings daily and teach our boys to recognize just how blessed they are. 

2020 has been an odd year. No matter your political stance or perception of the pandemic, we are all in need of a little extra cheer.

Are we so concerned with fast-forwarding to Christmas that we are overlooking the blessings God has already bestowed upon us? 

Many of you may be in a season of suffering. Maybe you’ve lost loved ones, lost your job, or you’ve been unable to worship within the walls of your church. You might be reading this and are thinking, “What do I have to be thankful for?”

I want to remind you that God is sovereign over all. He is good when it rains and He is good when the sun shines. 

We can learn a lot about thankfulness from Job. 

In the book of Job, God grants Satan permission to attack Job, who is one of God’s most faithful believers. Satan believes, however, that Job is only faithful to God because he is blessed so greatly. So God, being almighty and all knowing, allows Satan to attack Job and to take away many of the most important things in his life. 

After some bad advice from friends, Job questions God’s goodness. God lovingly corrects him by asking Job a series of questions that no man can ever answer. The only one who can answer is the Lord. 

Job comes to see that it isn’t our responsibility as believers to know why God allows suffering, but it is our responsibility as believers to know that God is sovereign  and that we can trust Him at all times.  

“Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” Job 42:1-3 

If you are having a hard time knowing what to be thankful for this year, try making a short list of 1-3 things each day. They can even repeat- that’s okay! My three things are:

1. My Lord Jesus Christ

 2. I am alive. Even on the hard days, even if my life resembled that of Job’s, it is no denying that life is a gift.

3. My husband and our boys. 

Lord, I pray that you are with each and every sister who reads these words today. Many of us are suffering. We are saddened. We are lost. We are broken. Please Lord, help those who feel as if they have nothing to be thankful for. Remind them of their blessings, no matter how small they may seem. A blessing is a blessing and it is surely great. Lord I pray for peace this month and in the upcoming months. You are the Prince of Peace and our redeemer. I pray for healing and love for each of these women, Lord. Remind them they are not alone. We thank you for this day. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Kal-le is a wife and mama living in beautiful West Virginia. She has a passion for worshipping Jesus, sharing God’s truth with others, and writing about her own personal sin struggles. Kal-le serves her family full-time at home where she aims to glorify God in the everyday moments of life. You can follow her on Instagram @mama__schrader.

An Attitude of Gratitude

I think that having an attitude of gratitude is an essential tool in battling thoughts of negativity, pessimism, doubt, worry and anxiety, gloom, angst, and hopelessness in our minds. Here’s why:

Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness

I really love the definition of ‘gratitude.’ If you read enough of my blog posts, you’ll quickly realize I’m a bit of a nerd. Well… maybe a lot of a nerd. I like words and I really love knowing their exact definitions. I find that I sometimes use a word and I really like that word, but then sometimes lack the ability to define it and do it justice. I look up the definitions of words a lot. I think the phrase “have an attitude of gratitude”, or something along those lines, is pretty common. I feel like I see it a lot on Pinterest, on wall decor, t-shirts, or coffee mugs. When I use the word ‘gratitude’ it’s usually in place of ‘thankfulness’.  However, when I started writing this blog post, I looked up the dictionary definition of gratitude, because I really want to do the word justice. 

Part A, “the quality of being thankful;” Yup. Knew that. Got that. Alrighty.
Part B, “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”. 

Having an attitude of gratitude is all about being thankful, but it’s also about being ready to show appreciation and return kindness no matter what your circumstances are. The definition doesn’t say, “the quality of being thankful [when life is going good]; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness [except when you feel like everything in your life is a mess and you have no idea how things could possibly get worse, but yet they are]”. You mean to tell me that’s not in the dictionary? Weird.

I need to ask myself, “Valerie, are you ready to show appreciation and return kindness no matter what your circumstances are? Are you ready to show appreciation and return kindness no matter what kind of mood you’re in? Are you ready to show appreciation and return kindness no matter who has wronged you, hurt your feelings, or been ungrateful towards you? Are you ready to show appreciation and return kindness in all things despite what your circumstances may be?

We live in a crazy world. That is not news to me and I’m guessing it’s not news to you either. A lot of garbage happens on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s easy for us to ignore it, we simply shut off the TV or scroll past the news headlines on our phones.  Sometimes it’s not easy to ignore and being oblivious is not an option. As a result of sin, our world that we live in really is quite the mess. As a result of living in a sinful, messy world and being sinful human beings, our lives can be quite a wreck too. Some people seem to have it all together, but I promise you they don’t. No matter how perfect a person may seem, or how put together their life is, they have struggles too. You have struggles. I have struggles. When things get extra struggle-y, it can be hard, seemingly impossible not to lose hope, doubt God’s plan, His goodness, His sovereignty. It can be so hard to not let yourself be pulled into the worrisome thoughts of “what if” and hopelessness. I have been in negative ruts before and it can be really hard to focus on all the good when there seems to be a plethora of straight-up not good. The more you focus on the negative, the doubts, the worry, the hopelessness, the more difficult it is to focus on what is right in front of you that is so very good.

You probably know a person who always needs something to complain about. Maybe you are that person. There is a gal in my life who is constantly focused on the negative and how much her life sucks. Whenever I try to point out something good she has a “yeah, but…” prepared and continues to find something to complain about. She is stuck in a rut of negativity. It’s her focus. She is literally always complaining. Now, you might be comparing yourself and thinking, “I complain sometimes, but I don’t complain all the time.” Well, I complain sometimes too, but I really shouldn’t. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. 

Here is a quote from Thomas Watson that really puts things in perspective for me: “Murmuring (complaining) is the rising up of oneself against God. It sets oneself against God as if I am wiser than He.” Am I really in a position to say or act as if I am wiser than the Creator of the universe? Yeah… Definitely not.

God’s Word tells us to give thanks in everything. Every. Thing. Like even our sufferings and trials. Why would God want us to be thankful during the hard times? Because even though my life may be rocky and the waves are crashing in, God is the constant, steady, faithful, unchanging rock upon which I stand. The struggle is indeed very real, but God is indeed very good.   God is faithful to never leave me in a lurch. Even if I have nothing but God, I have all that I need, and that indeed is something to be thankful for.

So how can being thankful, having an attitude of gratitude, help you battle negative thoughts?

I have one word. Neuroplasticity.

Neuro: relating to the nerves or nervous system.
Plasticity: the quality of being easily shaped or molded.

You can literally rewire your brain to be more positive. It’s scientific. But, it takes work. 

This is why I believe daily affirmations, grounding yourself in the promises of God’s Word, and claiming those promises is so, so important. When you are intentional about being thankful it is a huge shift in mindset. I can choose to sit inside, be sad that it’s raining, be grumpy because my sunny day plans got canceled, OR I can choose to dance in the rain and go puddle jumpin’ in my rain boots! The more you are intentional about being grateful the easier it gets. Over time it’s not so hard to be thankful when things look bleak and it seems your life is in constant torrential downpour.

Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice”. This is coming from Paul who had it pretty rough. He wrote this while in jail and I’m pretty sure his jailer wasn’t giving him 3 square meals a day and making sure he was getting daily exercise.

Rejoice: to be glad; to take delight in. Rejoice in your circumstances, take delight in your life. If you’re reading this I already know a few things about you.

  1. You can read. That is something you can be glad about. So many people around the world do not have the opportunity to learn to read or receive any sort of education. According to a couple quick Google searches: there are approximately 7.8 billion people on earth and approximately 14% of those people are illiterate. That’s still over a billion people who can’t read.
  2. You have breath in your lungs. You are alive! Take delight in the fact that God has blessed you with this day. If it’s raining, literally or metaphorically, take delight in the rain. Dance in that rain, girl, because God loves you and you are alive!
  3. You have an opportunity. Today. In this moment. You have an opportunity to change your mindset, to be intentional about your attitude. Is your attitude going to be one of joyfulness, gladness, and thankfulness, or will your attitude be one of negativity, pessimism, a weight that pulls others under the water with you?

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I’m not saying it’s going to be immediate. I’m not even saying it’s going to be what you want to do. Sometimes I just want to complain, rant, or vent. I get it. But let me tell you… It is so worth it to change that attitude to one of thankfulness.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”.

Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. That’s what God wants for you. Hopelessness, worry, fear, anxiety, doubt, and gloom do not come from God, and He most certainly does not want you to be overcome by the weight of those feelings.

Many times I’ve been faced with the choice to focus on everything going wrong in my life, or to focus on the good I do have, and I’m sure you have faced that choice too. Swim against the current. Fight. When anxiety and depression are pulling you under, I 100% believe that you can do this. Just be grateful for one thing today, even if it’s as simple as having all ten fingers and toes. Even if you only have 9 fingers, maybe you don’t have any fingers… but you still have blood in your veins. Tomorrow you can work on being thankful for two things.

I woke up one morning just a complete and total grump. I was angry and frustrated with no real reason. I was driving to work and I remember crying out to God, “God, I don’t want to feel this way! I don’t know why I’m feeling this way, but I want to choose joy. Help me to choose joy”. Then I put on “Old Church Choir” by Zach Williams, volume cranked, and I intentionally set myself upon joy and thanksgiving. It was work… I had waves of negativity come crashing in roaring with frustration, and when that happened I again asked God for help. That day was a battle, but I got through it. Even though it was a struggle, this I know: my day would have been much worse had I chosen to give in to the negativity.

Some people may have a hard time with this, and I understand. If you’re struggling to think of things to be thankful for or positive things to dwell on… make a list.

Every time you are able to think of something to be grateful for, something you can delight or rejoice in, write it down. Eventually you will have quite the amazing list. I love having a list of “go to” scriptures. When the waves come, I read them over and over. I pray them. I get on my knees and claim them.  I also love just praying to God and thanking Him for what he has blessed me with. Sometimes I pray out my thankfulness, and sometimes I just simply make a list. 

Here is my list of what I am rejoicing in today, while social distancing and being in “lockdown”, due to the Corona Virus:

  1. God loves me and has a plan for my life.
  2. I have access to clean drinking water.
  3. There is food in my house.
  4. I had a hot shower this morning.
  5. I am safe and healthy.
  6. The sun is shining.
  7. There is gas in my car.
  8. God is in control so I don’t have to be.
  9. I have hope and confidence in Christ.
  10. I have been able to go for lots of walks and spend more time outside.

Here is a list of some of my “go to” scriptures:

  1. Philippians 4:6-7 God gives me peace when I take my worries and problems to Him.
  2. 1 Peter 5:7 I can take every single one of my cares to God because he cares for me.
  3. Philippians 4:8 I can ask God to help me think on what is good.
  4. 1 Corinthians 15:57 I have victory in Christ
  5. Romans 8: 37-39 I am more than a conqueor through Christ and nothing can separate me from His love.
  6. Colossians 1:14 Through the blood of Christ I am redeemed and forgiven.
  7. Romans 5:21 God’s promises are not empty.

I interviewed one of my closest friends, Kyleigh DeMerchant, about this topic. She blows me away with her courage, grit, and love for Jesus.

Kyleigh DeMerchant

V: Does having an attitude of gratitude come naturally to you, or is it something you have to be intentional about?

K: Personally, having an attitude of gratitude has been something I have to strive daily to be intentional about. We live in a world that loves to be negative. It is full of complaints. It can be so easy to get caught up in the drama and the noise. It’s easy to go along with your coworkers or friends when they rant or vent. But it is infinitely more satisfying for me to step back from all of that, and thank God for what he’s doing for me. When I stop and intentionally think about it, I have so many things to be grateful for.  When I can continually come back to thanking God for His work in my life, His provision, protection, love and faithfulness, it becomes more difficult to find things to be negative about. However,  I must intentionally make that choice to do so. 

V: When you start your day out thanking God and have an intentional mindset towards gratitude, how does it impact the rest of your day?

K: In the last six months or so, I have begun prayer journaling every morning. As I write out my prayers each morning I begin by thanking God for who He is and what He’s doing. I try to focus just on thankfulness before I bring any requests before Him. I have noticed that if I fail to do this it sets a different tone to my day. I am less positive and more irritable. The little things that pop up throughout the day that are not in my plans, get under my skin more than they do on the days that I begin with gratitude. Sometimes it’s just a subtle difference in my day, however, I would choose to start out with a grateful heart and attitude towards God over skipping it any day. In First Thessalonians 5:16-18, it reminds us to rejoice always, pray constantly and give thanks in everything. Then it tells me that this is God’s will for me. God desires my thanksgiving and prayer. In my experience, it is difficult to have one without the other,  however, to have neither can completely disrupt my day. 

V: Have you noticed changes in your life or thought process since you started making it a point to thank God in the good and the bad?

K: All the time. That may seem like the short and simple answer, however,  honestly, just this one change in my thought process has made a significant difference in my spiritual walk. I worry less and I praise God more. I have found myself taking negative conversations and steering them towards more uplifting ones. I have learned to see that there is good even in the messiest situations I am placed in. This gives me a grateful heart and hope that my God is working, even in the little things. 

V: How does being thankful affect your contentment?

K: When I even think of the word contentment I immediately think of Paul who was once Saul. After persecuting Christians and being a zealous Jew he came to Christ. He then suffered in rat-infested, dark, damp prisons and withstood stonings and beatings for the sake of spreading the gospel. Paul has a powerful testimony because in the midst of great hardships he wrote letters such as the Philippians, in which he can say “I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with a little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content- whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me”. (Philippians 4:11-13 HCSB) Paul was able to have this unexplainable contentment in spite of his circumstances because of the strength he had in Christ Jesus. I too can depend on Christ’s strength to keep me content and I can thank God endlessly, for Him blessing me with this contentment. I know that thankfulness was a healthy part of Paul’s prayer diet, because he uses all the verses leading up to this passage to describe how he has the joy of the Lord, and how in the Lord he rejoices. Even in prison, a place where it was dark and lonely and Paul probably had endless time to think, he could dwell on who God is and he could thank God for his character. This allowed Paul to be content. I have begun to apply this concept to my own life as well. If Paul can find things to rejoice about in prison, then no matter where I am or what I am going through I can find a reason to rejoice in my Savior. When I find myself doing this, I notice that I am content. 

V: Does having a mindset of gratitude help you fight against worry, anxiety, depression, doubt, etc.?

K: My anxiety crops up when I dwell on all of the things going on in my life, the big decisions I have to make, the responsibilities I have, time and financial commitments I need to keep. These decisions seem to pile up and weigh me down. Although, as I have established a pattern of beginning each day with gratitude, I have learned to dwell on the positive ways God is working in my life more than I think about all of my unanswered questions. Through this, I can be content. When I constantly remind myself how God has provided for my needs, He has helped me to meet deadlines, He has orchestrated my schedule so that everything fits in perfectly, He has mended broken relationships in my past. If He could do these things for me before, how could He not do them for me again and again? Knowing this makes me thankful that my God is all-powerful and abundantly able to enable me to overcome any hurdle I face. I just want to leave you with one more verse, which is a lifeline for me in this area. It is Philippians 4:6 (HCSB): “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”. 

Wow, I can’t tell you how much this girl inspires me! I am so thankful and grateful to call her my friend!

God tells us, “Don’t worry about anything.” This is my challenge to you: Pray more, worry less, be thankful, and be intentional with your attitude. You’ve got this.

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