This idea of planting seeds has always been a little bit fascinating to me.
The idea of breaking apart the soil, taking a tiny seed, and burying it in the dark.
After all, that poor, little seed has no idea why it is being placed into the dark with dirt covered hard over top of it. It doesn't understand that it's being buried in the broken soil for a purpose greater than itself. The purpose of a garden. A beautiful garden full of vegetables and fruit, or flowers that make each visitor stop and savor their smell.
I think this peaks my interest so much, because sometimes...sometimes I can be that seed.
And God? God is the perfect Gardener who gently places me in the broken soil and buries me deep for a purpose greater than myself.
He places me in the midst of broken plans, broken dreams, broken relationships, and He asks me to grow there.
But sometimes I just don't understand. I don't understand how pain can bring beauty. How the pain of being buried deep in the broken can cause growth that brings a beautiful garden.
And I wonder...I wonder if Lazarus felt the same way.
We can read his story in the Gospel of John chapter eleven. The story of his death and resurrection.
So many times I have read this chapter--this story--and I have seen it from the perspective of Mary, of Martha, of Jesus, of the onlookers. But Lazarus? I haven't really stopped to think about his perspective before.
You see, he was sick. Really sick. The Bible doesn't tell us what exactly he was sick with, but we know it had to be bad.
Think about a time when you were so sick you felt like you might die (or perhaps you weren't really that bad, but your dramatic side made it seem much worse). That's probably how Lazarus felt...and worse.
Because he did die.
In the midst of his sickness, his sisters called for Jesus to come heal him. I wonder if he knew this. I wonder if he sighed with relief, thinking that Jesus would show up right away and heal him...rescue him from the suffering.
But Lazarus died. Jesus hadn't come.
And I wonder how Lazarus must have felt. Because he didn't know. He didn't know that Jesus was on His way. He didn't know that Jesus had a great, wonderful plan. He didn't know that the suffering was not in vain.
All he knew was that he was buried like the seeds in the broken soil.
He was buried in a dark tomb that signified death and the end.
Jesus was on the way.
Even when they didn't know it. Even when they might not have believed it. He was on His way to them.
I know you've felt it too. We all have at some point. This feeling of being buried. Of being pressured under the dirt of the broken soil. And we sometimes suffer, wondering why Jesus hasn't come yet.
Friend, He's on His way.
And let me just tell you, He will stop at nothing to heal your broken soul. He is coming to heal you, He is coming to bring your miracle. Because He has one. The art of a seed dying in this broken soil, and resurrecting into a beautiful garden is a miracle in itself.
Whatever you have gone through, whenever you feel like you are buried too deep in the soil, just remember...He is bringing your miracle. I don't know when, but I do know it's coming. Maybe not until you greet Him on that beautiful shore in Heaven. But He does have a beautiful plan. And His plans never fail. His faithfulness never fails. His love never fails.
I'm almost certain when Lazarus heard those words of Jesus, "Lazarus, come forth!" he must have smiled a little bit. In that moment, perhaps he didn't understand all of it, but perhaps when he heard those words he understood just a little piece of it. And in that moment, I would venture to guess that he understood a little bit more about the beauty of seeds and of death and resurrection. The miracle it brings.
The words are coming to you too, friend.
When Jesus calls to you to "come forth" from the broken soil.
And someday you will look back on the beautiful garden of your life and be amazed at how the death of a seed could bring something so absolutely, stunningly beautiful.
Happy Monday, friends.
Due to the fact that my time for the blog today was running low, I decided to create somewhat of a fun post. Something that I haven't really done in awhile.
Because Christmas is my favorite holiday, I always have quite the list of fun things I want to do in December. And so here is just a little glimpse into my December bucket list of fun...
1) Have a snowball fight.
2) Drink hot apple cider and watch the snow fall.
3) Have a gingerbread house decorating contest.
4) Watch lots of Christmas movies.
5) Bake and decorate Christmas cookies.
6) Have a dance party to some great Christmas music. ("Come on Christmas" by Matthew West is our preferred song of the season!)
7) Spend a day Christmas shopping.
8) Decorate the Christmas tree together.
9) Try a seasonal drink at Starbucks.
10) Write a Christmas story.
Sounds like fun, right? It certainly is. And aside from my list of fun to celebrate this special season, I also have a more serious bucket list. A list of things I want to do to remember this season forever. Here are those:
1) Pack an Operation Christmas Child Shoe Box.
2) Give a smile to someone.
3) Read an advent devotional.
4) Tell someone the gospel and about the little Baby born in the stable for us.
5) Buy warm gloves and scarves to give to the homeless on the street corner.
6) Donate stuffed animals to a homeless shelter for children.
7) Surprise someone with an early Christmas gift.
8) Perform a Christmas song at church that gives hope to those who listen.
9) Go Christmas caroling and with every carol sung, remind those listening that Jesus loves them.
10) Spend more time with my family.
What are some of your fun or more serious December bucket list ideas? Share in the comments below!
Christmastime is one of my most favorite times of the whole year.
But oftentimes amidst the rush of the season, the crowded malls, and the gift buying, we can tend to lose our focus.
Somewhere amidst the noise of the busyness we can forget to be still and remember why Christmas starts with Christ.
Today I wanted to invite you to join me on the quest of making this Christmas season count. I wanted to invite you to join me in quietly embracing this time and remembering what it's really all about. I wanted to beckon you to look to the manger and know that Emmanuel is not just something you sing in Christmas songs, but it is God with us.
God with us every day. And perhaps at this time of the year we have even more of an opportunity to show others that He is with them too.
Are you ready to make your Christmas more meaningful this year? I certainly am. Here are just a few ideas I had to put Christ back at the front of Christmas.
1) Slow down and remember. I think every year the malls and the stores seem to get more crowded, people get more grumpy, and the schedules get more hectic. Everyone is in a constant state of busy with somewhere to go, someone to buy for, and something to do. In the midst of all this, we can forget. Forget to slow down and remember why we are celebrating in the first place. Take a step back, sit down with a mug of steaming hot chocolate (an over abundance of marshmallows preferred), and read Luke 2. Remember the Baby born in the manger who came just for you and me. Share this remembrance with someone else today.
2) Surprise someone who wouldn't expect it with a small gift. Maybe a co-worker, new kid in school or youth group, the new neighbors next door. Whoever it is, just surprise them with the knowledge that you cared. It doesn't have to be big. Maybe a tray of Christmas cookies you baked. Just put your love into it.
3) Purpose to be thankful. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the gift-giving and the gift-getting that we forget to stop and be thankful for the beauty of the season. To be thankful for the beautiful snow falling, the lights twinkling on the Christmas trees, the joy of the season, and especially the gift of the Baby in the manger. The One who saved us. For He is truly the greatest gift of all.
4) Give a gift to someone who may not get anything else this Christmas season. Last year, my family and I excitedly shopped for little gifts to put into boxes that we would hand out to the homeless on the street corner in our city. This year my family and I put together Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes for kids in other countries that don't have anything. Maybe you can donate gifts or toys to local homeless shelters, or do something like we did. Get creative and give a gift to someone, sharing with them the love of Jesus.
5) Make someone laugh. I get sad when I look around and notice the way so many people get stressed out by the busyness of this season and become grumpy with each other at home, the store, or church. Put a smile on your face and spread some joy and laughter to the people around you. Tell someone a joke, a funny story, or just laugh with them. Spread the joy of Christmas this season.
6) Remember to cherish the moments. As I said above, Christmas is one of my favorite times of the whole year. I love the sights, the smells, the sounds, everything. Don't miss out on the season by getting caught up in your busy schedule. Make time for your family. Bake Christmas cookies, decorate a gingerbread house, have a snowball fight (come on, snow, hurry up and get to PA!), drink lots of hot apple cider, decorate your Christmas tree together. Spend time with the people love, reflecting on the love of Jesus.
7) Leave a tract in the hands of someone who doesn't know true Love. Don't let this season pass without giving someone the chance to know the greatest gift of all. Tell them about the Baby born to save us. Tell them about His love and His grace. Give someone the greatest gift you could ever give them.
Let's make this Christmas season the best one yet.
Do you want to know a secret?
Okay, so, here it is…
I am terrified of heights.
I see you smiling and rolling your eyes, but yes, I am perfectly serious. Heights terrify me.
Earlier this fall, my family and I drove up a mountain to see the beautiful view. It was a perfectly clear day, shining sun, and a fantastic 75 degrees. As we drove the whole way up to the mountain and finally parked at the top, everyone eagerly bounced out of the car.
There were a bunch of rocks to climb up on top of, as well as a set of cement stairs leading up to a gigantic rock platform people were standing on that overlooked the valley below.
“Let’s go!” my sister exclaimed.
Yeah, I don’t think so.
I knew that gigantic rock that people were standing on was a drop off.
Into thin air.
My anxiety just couldn’t handle that. It took everything my sister had just to simply convince me to slowly climb the cement stairs towards the platform.
That was close enough, please and thank you. I had no desire to go any further. I sat down at the beginning of the platform and refused to inch my way any further. Partly because I was afraid of tripping. And partly because I started to hyperventilate. But that’s beside the point.
I’m sure you get the picture. I just can’t do heights. My fear prevents me from enjoying anything fifteen feet above solid ground.
But do you know what else my fear prevents me from?
Doing what God has called me to do.
Because sometimes I fear a whole lot more than a gigantic rock platform hanging on the side of a mountain.
Sometimes my fear of rejection keeps me from sharing an article or devotional I’ve written with others. Sometimes my fear of failure keeps me from writing the article or devotional altogether. Sometimes my fear of pain prevents me from giving my dreams to God and experiencing His best for me. Sometimes my fear of people keeps me saying yes to everything someone asks me, until I have nothing left to give and I’m left empty.
Sometimes my fear keeps me from what God has called me to do.
You too? Good, I’m not alone.
Dear heart, fear can paralyze us, like it did to me that day on the platform. It kept me from taking one more step forward. It kept me from standing up.
And you know what? I missed out on the majestic view that everyone else saw from standing up on the platform and looking out across the valley.
You too will miss out on the beautiful adventure God has for you if you don’t find the courage to stand up on your platform of fear and face it.
But how do you face your fear when it’s so strong you can almost taste it? How do you walk forward in courage when you’re trembling in your boots (Or sandals. Sandals are always better)?
Well, I sure don’t have all the answers, but it’s been a privilege to get to learn along my own journey. And here are just a few of the steps God has taught me to take to push back my fear and move forward anyway…
Turn the light switch on your fear. Admit out loud exactly what it is you’re afraid of.
Are you deathly afraid of heights like me (girl, I feel you)? Say it out loud. Are you terrified of rejection? Speak it aloud. “I’m afraid of being rejected, because I think rejection will reinforce my fear that I am not good enough.” Stare at yourself in the mirror and yell it if you have to.
Good, now you’ve admitted it. You are leaps and bounds closer to conquering it.
2. Tell someone about your fear. Do you remember what else you would do when you feared the monsters under your bed? After frantically turning on that light switch, what was the next thing you did? Go running to your mom or dad, of course.
With tears quivering on your eyelids, you would confess to them your fear of the monsters. Smiling that reassuring smile parents give, they would hug you tight, walk back to the room with you, and show you that there were clearly no monsters under your bed. With their gentle reassurance, you knew it was finally safe to go back to sleep.
Friends, do you know where I’m going here? The next step to conquering your fear and climbing onto that platform that has you so paralyzed is to admit to someone else that you are afraid. Maybe it’s a parent, a sibling, a best friend, or a wise mentor. Whoever it is, invite them out for coffee or ice cream and explain your dilemma. “God has called me to (insert your own calling), but my fear of (insert your fear) is preventing me from moving forward.”
They’ll probably look at you and smile as they reassure you that your fear isn’t as bad as you were convinced.
3. Give your fear to God. I think a lot of times, this is the step we miss most. We admit our fear to ourselves, we tell our friends about our fear, but then we try to conquer our fear all on our own. We try to do it alone and that road merely leads us back to square one, with no courage and feeling more discouraged than we did before.
We forget the words God has said to us in places like Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
We don’t have to fear, because He is with us. When we try to do it all on our own, the fear takes over again, because we quickly realize that we can’t do this thing alone. Then we feel discouraged and end up being afraid to try again, because we fear failure.
Don’t do it alone.
Give every last bit of your fear to God. Give it all to Him. Tell Him what you’re afraid of and tell Him why you’re afraid of it. Then leave it in His hands and let Him work on it.
You let Him handle the fear, and you just be faithful to do what He’s asking.
4. Do that thing that makes you afraid. This, friend, is the step we can so often forget. Because this may be the hardest step of all.
After we admit our fear, tell someone else, and give it to God, we can convince ourselves that we need to wait until we feel courageous to take the next step.
So, okay, here’s another secret…
Courage is not a feeling. Courage is acting in spite of what you’re feeling.
I don’t know what you’re afraid of, but that’s not the point. I want you to do whatever it is that is frightening you. Do it afraid.
Do you want to submit a guest article online but you’re afraid of rejection? Submit the article this week. Do you want to talk to your friends about Jesus but you’re afraid they’ll laugh? Tell them about how He changed your life this week.
Do it afraid.
Let’s do it together.
Maybe I’ll climb up on some rocks this week and admire the beautiful view below.
Happy Thursday, friends! Although this post is going to be much different than the typical style of my articles, I thought it would be a fun way to brighten your day. In this post I am going to list advice or things I have learned in my life for each letter of the alphabet. Sound like fun? Let's go...
A: Always put God first. He died for us, so let's live for Him and put Him first in everything.
B: Believe that God always knows what He is doing. It may not always be easy, but He really does know best.
C: Create something beautiful every day. Create something that your future self will thank you for.
D: Determine to think about the positive. There is enough negative in the world. Think about the good.
E: Everything has a season and not everything lasts forever. And while sometimes it's hard to let go, God really does have something greater coming for you.
F: Forgiveness is not easy, but it sets you free. Holding onto bitterness is locking yourself in a prison for something someone else did.
G: Give generously. Give of your time, money, or talents for the work of Jesus. Give more of yourself to God's people every day.
H: Humility is true strength. Always stay humble.
I: Increase daily in your knowledge of Christ. But not just a head knowledge. Make it a heart knowledge first.
J: Joy is a gift. A gift that you don't have to wait to experience until everything in life is going perfect (which will never happen, by the way). It's a gift to experience even in the midst of pain. The joy of the Lord is your strength.
K: Keep being brave. Courage does not mean the absence of fear. It simply means you keep being brave in spite of the fear.
L: Love God and love people. That's really what it all comes down to. We can make it so complicated. But if you love God first and you love His people second, the rest falls into place.
M: Money isn't everything, so don't let it come first in your life.
N: Never give up. The path ahead may be hard, but God has a purpose. Keep going, dear heart.
O: Own your faith. Your parent's faith or your friend's faith does not make you a Christian. Own your faith and live like it's a priority.
P: Put others before yourself. Practice the art of selflessness and kindness.
Q: Quality is better than quantity. Something my mom has always taught me. That whatever you do in life, it is better to do it right than just rush through it to get it done.
R: Read. Books open up an incredible world of possibilities for you. Don't take this privilege of reading for granted. Embrace it and go on every adventure you could possibly imagine.
S: Sacrifice whatever you must to serve your King. If you have to sacrifice your dreams, your goals, or your comfort for His glory, then do it. It's worth it. Trust me.
T: Tell everyone you come in contact with about the love of your Savior. You can't always tell with words, but you absolutely can always tell with your attitude and heart.
U: Ugly is not a word used in Genesis to describe anything that God created, so never use it about yourself or anyone else.
V: Victory is truly in Jesus. To conquer every sin, heal every illness, and move past every hurt. Victory is in His Name.
W: Worship with your life. Worship is not simply a special kind of song that you sing on Sunday morning. It is a lifestyle. Live in a daily act of worship to your Creator.
X: eXamine your heart and life. Is there anything keeping you from a closer walk with Christ? If yes, get rid of it.
Y: Youth is a gift. Do not waste it. You are only young for a short time. Use those years wisely, for the glory and good of Christ.
Z: be Zealous for the Gospel. Everyone you pass or come in contact with is either going to spend eternity in heaven or hell. Do your part to point them to heaven.
Do you have any ABC's of advice? Maybe you don't have a full alphabet list, but perhaps a few letters? Share in the comments!
Growing up, kids are so easily influenced by the people they're around.
Do you remember being a little kid and looking up to the "big kids" or the teenagers who we thought had it all together? When you're young you want someone that you can admire and look up to, someone who is older and has gone before you. As a kid I certainly had my share of older girls at my church that I would look up to. I'm sure you did too. And of course I had close people in my life that I looked up to as well, like my mom, grandma, sister, and friends.
I still remember when I was fourteen, I was inspired by the music and story of Jen Ledger. I can still remember the day I read her story for the first time, about how she traveled all the way from England to pursue God's calling on her life. Her story was soaked in courage and faith. And then I remember the first time I watched her play the drums and sing. On that day I determined that I wanted to do that too. I wanted to create beautiful music that inspired people the way that Jen did. But more than that I wanted to have a fearless faith like she had that followed Jesus even if it was scary.
So I did.
I learned to play the drums and I joined a worship band that played music for our church. But her story also inspired me to be courageous enough to pursue the dream God placed on my heart to publish my books and start my blog.
She is still an inspiration and role model to me in her music and faith and I'll always be grateful for the impact that she had on my life, even though she will probably never know that.
But when I think about the way that Jen and countless others have inspired me--often without them even knowing it--I ponder a simple question. Who is looking up to me?
We all seem to have someone we are looking up to and admiring. But do we sometimes forget that we have younger eyes looking up to us as well?
I think one of the greatest reasons that I admire Jen is because she lets her light reflect back to Jesus. And this causes a challenge for me.
When younger eyes are looking up at me, are they seeing more of me or more of Jesus?
In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul says: "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (NIV)
Is my example to others an example of Christ or an example of my own selfish nature?
So many times I can get caught up in my own selfish plans.
How then can I provide an example of Christ to the young ones looking up to me? And how can you and I become someone that points to Jesus with everything we do and say?
Stay grounded in Jesus.
Sometimes the world pushes and pulls at us, distracting us from what really matters. When we get caught up in the troubles and distractions surrounding us, we can subconsciously grow distant from our relationship with Christ. In order to be providing an example worthy of being followed, we must make it a priority to stay grounded in the Word of God and our relationship with Jesus. Make Him first.
Admit when you're wrong.
I think a lot of times when someone is looking up to us, we can get it wrong by assuming that we have to cover up our mistakes so that no one knows. But when we pretend to have it all together or that we don't make mistakes, we're lying. Because the truth is that no one has it all together and every single one of us makes mistakes daily. Just because you are in a position to influence or encourage someone, does not mean that you have to be perfect. You just have to have the humility and courage to admit when you're wrong and seek ways to make it right.
Invest in younger people.
Think about a close relative or friend who invested in you growing up. This person may have spent time with you or encouraged you to get into the Word of God or made a weekly/monthly effort to invest in your life. When I was fifteen I had a friend who was several years older than me. Although we did not live near each other, she made a serious effort to call me a couple times a month and talk about things we were learning in the Bible. During my time in the Bible Bee, she even would quiz me on my verses. There are so many young people you could invest in, even if they don't live nearby. But do you know some that I'm thinking of right now that you could invest in today? Yep. Your siblings.
Friend, you don't have to be perfect to influence someone, because none of us are. You just have to be willing to stand out from the world, invest in those lives around you, and reflect Christ right where you are.
Who is looking up to you today?
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." (Psalm 118:29)
Happy Thanksgiving, friends! God is so good to us and He gives us so many reasons to be thankful to Him. This can be a crazy world we live in and sometimes amid the turkey and stuffing and the early Black Friday deals, we can lose sight of the true meaning of Thanksgiving. We can sometimes lose sight of what really matters. Like being thankful for what we have and stopping to let the people you're thankful for know that you love them.
Friends, won't you join me today in giving thanks to God for all the many good, wonderful gifts He has given us? From the small things like baked corn (yes please, my favorite), to the big things like His never ending, never wavering love for us.
To celebrate the true meaning of today, here are just a few of the many things I'm thanking God for today.
1) The love of my Savior. His love is so great and so wide that nothing can separate me from it. Not pain, not sadness, not sickness, nothing. He loves me. Thank You, Jesus.
2) My beautiful family. The people who know me best and love me anyway. The people who I love with all my heart. Thank You, Jesus.
3) The crazy amazing people I call friends. Those who didn't have to stick around, but did anyway. Thank You, Jesus.
4) A safe place to sleep at night. My house and my room all decorated in teal. Thank You, Jesus.
5) Good health. For the good days when I don't have a headache and for the days when I know He's going to heal me. Thank You, Jesus.
6) For Thanksgiving food. Like baked corn. And pumpkin pie. Or my Mama's macaroni and cheese and green bean casserole. The food You've given us. Thank You, Jesus.
7) Books that smell like adventures. The books lining my bookshelf that have filled my heart and life. Thank You, Jesus.
8) My dreams come true. My own books with "Morganthal" engraved on the spine, my blog, my magazine ministry. Thank You, Jesus.
9) Memories. Sometimes life takes us to new seasons and it can be hard to let go. I'm thankful for the memories that make me smile. Thank You, Jesus.
10) Sunlight streaming bright and warm through the front screen door. Even though the air is cold, the sun is warm and it's my favorite. Thank You, Jesus.
11) You reading. For the ones who read what I write and support the journey He is leading me on. Thank You, Jesus.
What are you thankful to Jesus for today? Share in the comments! Have a wonderful day counting the innumerable blessings from a God who is crazy about us. <3
Well, happy Monday again, friends! Get out your coffee (or tea if you do things more my style), because this morning I have another delightful post for you as a part of Livy Jarmusch's Regal Reads Blog Tour! All these blog tours this past month, it's been awesome, right?! So many great new books. I hope you're having just as much fun as I am celebrating them all.
This time we're celebrating Livy Jarmusch's mini series, Regal Hearts. If you've read Regal Hearts, you know that Livy writes them almost like you're watching a TV series. You get little "episodes" each week digitally, or you can purchase the whole first season in paperback. If you haven't read Regal Hearts before and you know nothing about it, well don't worry. I've got you covered. Here is my Regal Hearts book review...
Season 1 of Regal Hearts was thrilling, adventurous, humorous, engaging, and a pull-at-your-heartstrings kind of movie--uh, I mean--book. ;) Because it not only reads very much like a movie (Livy is excellent with her descriptions) and releases in episodes like a movie, it's super easy to get caught up in the series and envision every scene.
I am a huge fan of reading in paperback, so I waited to finish the whole first series until I had the season in paperback. I LOVE the cover Livy created for the book, it looks so unique and charming. The book is a pretty big size too, which, if you're a book nerd like me, you'll love this.
Let's see how much I can tell without spoiling any parts of the story...
Regal Hearts follows the story of different sisters who were separated at birth, and later find out that they have royal blood running through their veins. They are each a princess! Envision the scene from Princess Diaries when Mia exclaims, "Me? A Princess? Shut up!" (Livy, you will appreciate this sentence)
You easily fall in love with each character throughout the book/series. Livy has an excellent way of connecting you to her characters and bringing them to life. I love each of them.
As you may also be aware, Livy released her new novel, The Coronation, at the beginning of this summer. I am in LOVE with every bit of The Coronation and often wish I lived in Tarsurella. With that being said (does this count as a spoiler?), at the end of Regal Hearts Season One, there is a reference to Tarsurella which makes this heart giddy with joy.
Regal Hearts is truly an uplifting, fun, creative, energetic, inspiring read for any girl, young or old. I totally recommend it.
Livy Jarmusch is a twenty-something author, singer, and songwriter. She enjoys crafting YA Christian fiction that is pure, lovely, inspirational, and of course, entertaining! When she's not writing, you can usually find her playing guitar, blogging, drinking peppermint tea, connecting with new friends, planning her next trip to Disney, or pinning images of Europe and Golden Retriever Puppies.
Connect with her here:
When I look around at the people whose lives I pass every day, I notice that many of them are acting.
And if I had to guess, I'd have to say that you have also become pretty good at acting.
I think we all have. We've all become pretty great at "having it all together" on the outside, when inside we're anything but OK.
After all, everyone around us is smiling so we better smile too, right? Everyone around us lives incredible lives, or so Instagram shows us, right? The others aren't standing up and admitting they're not OK, so why should we?
So I'll go first.
Do you mind if I whisper just a little bit? You see, this week has been just a little bit more difficult than I first thought it would be. This week resembles the loss of my dream, the pain of loneliness, and the hurt of what couldn't be for me.
And I'm not OK right now.
The truth is that my heart hurts and I'd really love to ask God why. Why the prayers answered differently than how I prayed, Lord?
Good, because the thing is there comes a time in all of our lives where we're not OK for whatever reason.
We live in a sinful, fallen world and bad things happen. People sin, they get broken hearts, there is pain.
And there comes a time when we fall apart a little bit.
I've often wondered if I had to hide my pain and always cover it up with a smile and, "Everything has a purpose."
Yes, everything does happen for a purpose. God works everything together for my good and His ultimate glory. God is good to me. But when I use those things as a cover up for my pain and I bury my pain under those things, in a way I'm actually dishonoring God.
In the middle of my deepest hurt, when I can admit to myself and others that I am not OK, but even so God is faithful, I have the opportunity to bring Him the greatest glory.
God is faithful in every moment. Even when I want to ask Him why, I know that He is good and His answer is good. But if I bury my pain, force a smile, and tell everyone I'm doing good, I'm not honoring Him in the way that I could.
It's okay to drop the smile and admit that you're not doing good. It's okay to feel the pain. It's okay to cry.
Yet even so, cling to Him through it.
Even when it hurts praise Him.
And wait for Him to show up. Because He always does, friend. He's going to show up, your morning is going to come, and someday it'll all be OK.
But for now, it's okay to not be OK.
He's holding you even then.
Dear beautifully brave you,
First of all, anxiety is real.
I understand that because the honest truth is that I deal with anxiety too. I never would've expected myself to, nor would I have admitted it to myself at first. I was fine, I would tell myself, anxiety does not control me.
But it does.
I write this now not because I have it all figured out and under control, but because I know I don't have to "have it all together" to speak truth to you. To speak truth to myself.
Yes, anxiety is so real. The way it gets difficult to breathe is real. The way your heart starts racing and your palms feel sweaty is real. The way you feel numb inside is real. The way you can look fine on the outside, but inside you're fighting an unseen battle is real.
The way anxiety steals your peace, the way it steals your present moment, the way it steals your joy, it's all real.
The reason I'm telling you it's real is because you need to admit it to yourself to move on.
My anxiety is real.
But my anxiety does not have to control me.
Yes, there it is. The truth that your soul has been missing for so long.
Although your anxiety is real, it does not have to control you, because it does not own you. You belong to Someone greater than your anxiety.
The God who loves you is bigger than the anxiety controlling you right now. The God who loves you is greater than any struggle you will ever face, including anxiety.
I think of the disciples so long ago in Mark chapter 4. I think of the night when the waves and the wind beat into their boat and they feared for their lives. I wonder if any of them had just a little bit of anxiety. After all, they thought they were going to die.
And then Jesus.
Jesus rose in the middle of the storm and rebuked the waves and the wind and said, "Peace, be still," and the sea was calm (vs. 39).
I think about this and I think that sometimes my anxiety feels like a great windstorm. Like the waves and the wind beating in my heart and I'm powerless to stop it.
The disciples were powerless too.
But you know what?
Jesus didn't tell them to get up and work harder or try harder to keep the water out of the boat. He said "Peace, be still."
And the truth is that I think His words were meant as much to the disciples as they were to the waves.
Have peace. Be still here. I will fight this battle for you.
I wonder what I have to do to fight this anxiety. I wonder what I have to do to control it. And I see the answer in 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV).
"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you."
That's the answer? Give the anxiety to Him?
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5 NKJV)
As simple and as crazy as it may seem, the truth is that we don't have to figure out our anxiety all on our own because there's a God who cares for you and wants to take it for you. He wants to stand up to the waves and wind in your heart and quiet them. He wants you to trust Him, that even if you don't see what's happening and that makes you anxious, He does. And you can trust Him with everything.
Oh, and another truth for your soul? You--yes you--are brave enough to face this. Over and over the Bible commands us to be strong and courageous. To not fear for He is with us. To be brave. And you, dear heart, have what it takes to be brave. Because you can do all things through God who gives you strength.
So yes, friend, anxiety is real.
But your God is real too.
He's got it from here.
*Quick note here: if you do need to seek counseling or medical help to deal with your severe anxiety, please do so.*
If you didn't know this already, I'm just a little bit weird.
I'm not talking about the way I like to eat beets with ranch for dinner or the way I get irritated if someone leaves my closet doors open. I'm not even talking about the way I hate the taste of pumpkin spice drinks, but love the way it sounds to say I ordered a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks (weird, I know).
Nope. I'm talking about the way I'm weird, because I'm different from the world.
Like the way I decided I was going to change the world when I was twelve. Or the way I hated talking only about boys and fashion trends, when I would much rather talk about making a difference with my life. And even the way I felt disconnected from my youth group as a teenager, because it felt more like social club than Bible study.
Yep. I said it.
Growing up, youth group felt more like a place to go hang out and have fun than a place to go and learn how to impact my world for Jesus.
I went to youth group off and on throughout my teenage years, mostly only attending regularly when I joined the youth band.
I loved it for awhile.
It was something new and fun to do on Wednesdays nights. Someplace to go see my friends and also play great music.
But something was always missing.
I never felt like I was actually learning something new and real.
And unfortunately it's something that I see missing in so many youth groups today.
In the name of "meeting teenagers where they are," youth groups decided to create a place where teenagers could come and "have fun" and, oh, at the last ten minutes open our Bibles.
First of all, let's get one thing straight. I love youth ministry and I am not condemning it in any way. I'm also not saying that you can't have fun at church or have fellowship while playing games. I'm not saying any of that. I'm talking about balance. And if anything I say offends you, I only pray that it offends you into action. Because this is my call for action. My call for a change.
Let's stop being the generation that goes to youth group to see who can drink the most soda in five minutes, and let's become the generation that goes to youth group to join forces and become mighty warriors for the Kingdom of God.
This is where we have it all wrong, friends:
We've gotten so caught up in entertainment, that we've become apathetic. We keep our focus on what makes us feel good, instead of what makes us grow in Christ. We've settled for comfortable Christianity and it is starting in our youth groups.
Luke 9:23 says: "Then He said to them all, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
This verse says nothing about, "When you become an adult, then take up your cross and follow Him." Nope. Jesus is talking to anyone who wants to follow Him, telling them to take up their cross today.
Are we teaching that to our youth? In between the relay races and the nerf gun battles, are we teaching them that our Christian walk should be about denying ourselves, taking up our daily cross, and following Him? Or did we miss this somewhere along the way?
Are we training up a generation of selfless warriors for God, or a generation of selfish, comfortable Christians of the world?
Yes, there is absolutely a time to have fun together. There is definitely a place to joke around and goof off. But are we putting that time first in our youth groups and missing out on the precious time of becoming students of the Word of God?
To anyone in the youth group generation--young person, leader, or youth pastor--this is my call to you...rise up and be the change. Seek to change the world, not be like it. Study the hard truths of the Gospel, not just the ones you want to hear. Put the Bible first, and your comfort last. Find ways to get your hands dirty in this business of making a difference and don't just stay in the shallow end. Take up your cross daily and follow Him. Be the generation that sets the standard high for the generation of youth coming after you. Be the generation that makes history. Be the change.
Rise up and be the generation that I know you can be.
Rise up and be the generation that God is calling you to be.
Happy Monday, y'all! First of all, I can't believe that it's November 6th already. Second of all, we're six days into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I'm having SO much fun. Have you checked out the little bit of friendly competition going on between my twin sister and I? You can check it out on either my Instagram or Facebook.
Well, I've got another blog tour stop here on the blog today and I'm super excited. Chloe, author of the new fiction story "The Light", is a beautiful person and I'm thrilled to be supporting her first self-published book.
So without further ado, I present the author interview I did with Chloe and more about her story, "The Light"....
Bella: Thank you so much for joining us here today, Chloe! <3 Please, share with us just a little bit more about yourself so our readers can get to know you better!
Chloe: Of course! I am nineteen and I live on a farm with my amazing family! I I enjoy doing so many things, it would take a few minutes to name them all, but two are singing and acting, besides writing! I feel God wants me to reach people for Him through acting, singing and writing so I am looking forward to seeing what He's going to do through me! I am also very passionate about purity and reaching people who are hurting.
Bella: Awesome. Now, when did you first begin writing and why is writing important to you?
Chloe: I wrote my first novel in 2014, writing the last words the night before my sixteenth birthday. I have always so enjoyed reading books and if I didn't have anything to do I would probably just read everyday all day! I reckon the reason that it is so important to me is the fact that God can give you a story or a message, and you sit down and He helps you create that story from start to finish. And what you write can change a life, and tell someone about Jesus.
Bella: Where did you come up with the inspiration for The Light?
Chloe: Well, ever since before I was twelve, God has given me stories to be made into movies someday. But when I planned it all out, I always had the people being too perfect-they never did anything wrong before they were saved in regards to purity. I wanted to write a story, putting someone in the worst situation and show how there is a way out through Jesus, and that there is forgiveness. (I can't tell you if the character in The Light comes out or not because that would spoil the end!) I wanted to show people that no matter what you've done in the past, when you ask for forgiveness from God then you are just as pure and forgiven as the next person!
Bella: What is the most important writing advice you've ever been given that you would like to give to another writer?
Chloe: The most important advice...I've been given to much great advice but the two most important that I would want to pass on is to make sure your writing is always pointing to and glorifying Jesus and to write as though you were talking to someone--as though you were sitting down and having a conversation with a friend!
Bella: What is the most important lesson you want readers to take away after reading The Light?
Chloe: I want them to take hold of the courage that God gives them and not be afraid to shine forth for Jesus! And I want them to know that-no matter where they are or what they've done-that there is always a way out through Jesus and there is always forgiveness! Don't you know that He is holding His arms out just waiting for you to run into them so He can hold you!!
Bella: That sounds wonderful, Chloe. And finally, if you could be any of the characters in your story, who would you be and why?
Chloe: Oh, there are different things from each that I admire. I believe that I would take a little from each character and combine it into one!
Thank you so much for doing this and for being apart of my bog tour! God Bless you!
Chloe Hadassah is a Christian gal who strives to live for her Jesus. This is her first published book and she hopes it touches those who read it! God Bless!
To connect with her or purchase "The Light" please visit:
Welcome, my friends! What a special, special day this is. Why? You may ask.
Well, because last week my twin sister (*finally*) released the sequel to her first novel! Her new novel is titled, "Out of the Dark." Cue the cheering and excited squealing. I'm thrilled and what I'm even more thrilled about is the opportunity for you to hear from my twin sister today yourself.
Kenzie is taking over the blog today and sharing a guest post with you and more about, "Out of the Dark." Please, check out her book and purchase it (because you won't regret it) and leave her some love through your comments below.
*passes out the cupcakes* Now let's get this party started...
I’m so excited to be featured on my twin sister’s blog today! Bella has such a beautiful and inspirational blog here, it feels like I’m “star-struck” to be able to write a post here ;) Thank you for participating in the “Out of the Dark” blog tour, Bella! This new novel is book two in the Mission for Freedom series, and deals with the difficult topic of human trafficking. As I thought about what to write today, I struggled with finding the right words. How do I share in a short post about the purpose behind this book, and how it’s so much more than just mere entertainment?
I’d like to start with this. I’d like you to close your eyes and think about things you’re thankful for. Little blessings or luxuries that you have in life that you are blessed with. Maybe you’ll think about your own car, or your family, or the home you live in. Or maybe smaller things, like fall flavors returning to Starbucks, a pretty pink sunset, or listening to your favorite song to cheer you up. Okay, are you starting to think of your own now? Now I want you to do this in only thirty seconds and try to list as many as possible in your head. You can comment below and let me know how many you were able to think of if you’d like. Remember, you only have thirty seconds!
Are you finished? Thirty seconds isn’t a lot of time, is it? But I’m sure you were able to come up with a great list in that time. So while you’re thinking about all those little blessings, I want you to think of something else. I want you to take another thirty seconds, remember all the blessings you just listed, and then imagine having each one ripped away. Taken from your hands. These next thirty seconds I want you to imagine losing everything. Everything that made your heart smile so big when you just brought it to mind.
It’s heartbreaking and even devastating to imagine losing some of these things we hold so dear. But in reality, in those thirty seconds, there’s really someone out there who did just lose everything. Their life, their freedom, their happiness was snatched away in less than a minute. And in another thirty seconds it will happen all over again.
Because every thirty seconds, someone becomes a victim of human trafficking.
I don’t tell you this to make you feel guilty for the blessings you have. This activity was to educate you about this crisis happening all over the world. To help you see it and feel it in your mind. To realize that this crime is taking place in our cities, in our towns. In our own backyards. It’s happening to lives just like you and me. And it’s happening far too much, to far too many innocent lives.
There is an estimated 27 million in slavery around the world today. Only one percent of these victims are ever rescued. The passion in my heart to end this first grew when I listened to a radio interview with a human trafficking survivor. I heard her share about the things in life she never got to experience because she was living in bondage. Things that every person should be able to experience, like going to school or spending weekends hanging out with friends. That was the moment when I went from, “Wow, something needs to be done about this”, to “Wow, I need to do something about this”. But what can one person possibly do to make a difference in a crisis with numbers this staggering? God showed me that we all have the ability to do something. It doesn’t have to be huge. Even small things can make a big impact. For me, it was writing. Writing has always been a God-given ability for me, and that’s what became my something. I could use writing to bring awareness to this topic.
“Not Abandoned”, my debut novel, shares a story of four different girls whose lives are forever affected by this tragedy of human trafficking. Some may find it odd that I chose to use a fiction story, what is usually just used for entertainment, to share such a deep topic. But for me, this novel was never just about entertainment. It was about sparking a revolution. About creating change. Educating young people so that they can protect themselves. Inspiring a generation to get involved and find their something that they can do to end it.
My prayer is the same for “Out of the Dark”. That God will take this story and use it to ignite a passion in your hearts to get involved and save these lives being affected by the modern-day slave trade. For me, all it took was one moment when I heard that radio interview to make me realize that I was going to do something to fight human trafficking. Maybe you’ll find your moment in the pages of my books.
Thirty seconds can change so many lives. They can become the heartbreaking seconds that a life is horribly taken by this evil.
Or the next thirty seconds can become your moment. The moment you choose to find your something that will make a difference in this fight. The moment you rise up and take a stand.
This can be the thirty seconds that not only change your life…but also save someone else’s.
It’s not over yet…
It’s been three years since Haley Hampton rescued her sister, Avery, from a human trafficking ring. They are still struggling through the aftermath as both women desperately long for healing to come. But the emotional wounds are not easily forgotten. And the past is quickly catching up to them. A string of death threats leaves Haley on the hunt for a potential killer. As tensions run high, a single mistake could jeopardize Avery’s life.
Then Haley encounters Elaine, a young teen trapped by human trafficking. Could she be their missing link in the case? Is there anyone they can trust? Haley must rely on God now more than ever if they intend to make it out alive. Will they find a way out of the darkness closing in? Because evil is lurking closer…and determined to win this time.
MacKenzie Morganthal is the author of the Mission for Freedom series. Book one, “Not Abandoned”, was her debut novel. She lives in Pennsylvania where she is a monthly e-magazine columnist, Creative Artist, and musician. She loves Jesus most, sweet tea, singing along to the radio, and spending too much time at Starbucks.
To purchase "Out of the Dark," click here:
Hi, friends! Happy Thursday. Today I have a special article planned for you. Miss Moriah Simonowich is guest posting here on the blog today and I'm honored to share her encouraging words with you. Please, take a moment to comment below and show her some love for joining us. :)
What if the fiercest point of intensity during a trial proves the sweetest place--the only true place—to experience the nearness of God’s presence?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew their God in the furnace flames. Their circumstances burned and raged, but they were safely sustained, unharmed, by His presence with them in the valley of the shadow of death (see Daniel 3, Psalm 23:4).
They came through that blazing fire completely untouched when survival was deemed absolutely impossible.
They didn’t smell of smoke; they weren’t singed, but oh, they must have shined at having been with Him (v. 27).
God is a God who performs miraculous impossibilities. Nothing is ever too hard for Him. He breathes hope when our hope exhales its last and dies (Luke 1:37; Jer 32:27).
Mining for gold
I’ve always dreaded hardship; most people do.
When trials surface, a lie from Satan is quick to slither through my mind:
This difficulty must go away for me to be happy again.
The truth is, invaluable lessons about God's character and His Word are nuggets of gold that must be mined in the deep bedrock of hardship. Blood, sweat, and tears—repenting of sin and stretching of our faith—are all necessary to claim the treasure of knowing Him more deeply because it simply doesn't come by walking a smooth road of ease.
Experiencing affliction in my body and the fears that have surfaced because of it has taught me to cry out for God in a way that would have never, ever been possible had my life been straight and smooth, no bumps, no trying of my faith.
In trials, God's nearness quells fear
I never thought I would type these words, but after a grueling week of fighting anxiety and scary symptoms from Lyme disease, I can say even trials are a costly gift.
Fear may leap as a fiery flame to lick at us, but it cannot consume because He’s there, His love driving out everything else that’s thieving ugly at our peace and joy...
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior… -Isaiah 43:2-3a
Sin purged during hardship
Trials have a way of erasing all the insignificant comforts and trinkets we cling to that wile away precious, precious time.
Tears flow just thinking of all the moments that I've squandered in my lifetime on foolish sin instead of pursuing Christ, the only way to holiness and sanctification.
How we live our lives as a Christians is how we express our genuine gratitude for what Christ has done for us.
Often, I’ve lived my days quite carelessly.
If the One who knit me together in my mother’s womb, breathed life into my lungs and even now sustains me on this earth came as a baby, the God-man, to die in my place, King of kings dying for the lowest of the low, how am I living to demonstrate thanks?
Do I pour my life out in return or shrug indifferently, maybe unknowingly?
It’s so shameful.
Confess and press on
But, there is a choice. I can cry out to God, asking for forgiveness for all that heinous sin. I can follow Him with fresh fervor.
Isn’t it a mercy that trials do this? It is a chance for closer, richer, deeper communion with God. He gently calls our attention to what Spirit quenching sin must go so our fellowship with Him can be rekindled and our souls purged.
The undying promise
Hunger for God is the most important thing in this world. Anything God allows to come our way that cultivates that hunger is extremely beautiful, dear…
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. -1 Peter 1:6-7
It is indeed precious that Jesus would use trials as a means to purge and purify us until He etches more of Himself onto our souls, made malleable by affliction.
Nothing else matters but the undying promise of God’s nearness—Him never leaving or forsaking, but allowing us to be comforted, held and sustained by the joy of His presence.
No matter what happens or what tragedy comes, the one truth that refutes every arising fear throughout our trials is the comfort of His nearness.
Moriah Simonowich a twenty-year-old living in North Carolina who loves porch swings, wide open skies, lattes, lab puppies, and the crispness of October. It’s rare that she misses an opportunity to slip outside and quietly capture sunsets. Writing is like oxygen to her heart. You can connect with Moriah here:
Sometimes I forget to be bold with the gospel.
Sometimes I miss an opportunity to tell others about the greatest Gift they could ever receive. And sometimes...sometimes I let people carry on with their lives without asking them if they've considered whether they're going to spend eternity in heaven or hell.
The other day it occurred to me that I've never posted a message on my blog about salvation. I write this blog for Christians. I write it so that I can encourage my fellow believers to live out their identity as a child of the King.
But what if you're reading this and you never thought much about Jesus before?
What if you're reading this and you're even, possibly, hostile to Christianity?
It would be wrong of me--a tragedy in fact--to not take a moment to stop and tell you of a story that changed my life.
Because that's really all I want to take a moment to do.
I don't want to be one of those Christians that shoves religion down your throat.
I don't want to give you a list of all the reasons why you're a sinner and need saved, or even offer you a neat, highly-practiced "sinner's prayer."
I just want to tell you a story.
The greatest story I've ever been told. The greatest of all stories. The story of how Someone loved me so much, He couldn't imagine eternity without me, so He did everything He had to do to have my heart forever.
This is the story of my Jesus.
A very long time ago a Story greater than any other story we have ever heard began to unfold.
A Story of beauty, temptation, sin, danger, death, rescue, redemption, and most importantly…love.
This Story was like none other and it would change the world forever.
It would change me forever.
A Hero came down to a fallen world ravaged by sin and destruction to save a people that did not even know Him. A people that would only laugh and turn their backs on Him.
Death would be the only way to break the cycle of death and separation in the world and He would pay that costly price.
All for love.
Because He loved His people too much to be separated from them forever.
It was a love that felt our pain and healed our hearts. Love that knew our temptation and provided an escape. Love that was so deep nothing could stop it…not even death.
We all long for it. That love that is so unconditional nothing can change it. A love that won’t leave or desert you if you make a mistake. A love that will keep loving and being faithful, even when you are not. A love that only One can ultimately give to us.
We search for it everywhere.
We search for it in our families, in our friends, in romance. We search for it in another person. We search for it in our dreams and in our hopes. We search for it in our jobs or in our money.
But nothing can satisfy that desire to be loved completely and unconditionally.
And yet we look at the Story told for centuries and choose to look past it or ignore it. We don’t listen to the Story that could change our lives because we don’t believe it.
But the best part of this Story is that it is real. It is a part of our history and it is a part of our present. It is the love we long for so deeply but can never seem to find elsewhere.
You see, the Hero of our Story is Jesus Christ.
With a love that only Jesus could possess, He willingly became the Hero of our Story because it was the only way to save us. And as our Hero, He would have to give His life and die.
Jesus came to earth as a little baby, born in a humble stable, to give each and every one of us life. He lived a life of a true Hero, perfect and sinless. He taught, He healed, He changed lives.
And when the moment came for Him to lay down His life, He did it with you in mind.
Our Story changed a long time ago in a beautiful, perfect garden when one woman and one man decided to disobey God’s plan and His instructions. This one act of disobedience changed everything forever. Separation from God was the cost. And there was no way for us to get back to Him on our own. We were lost until Jesus came. We have all sinned. We have all done our thing, gone our own way. No amount of good deeds would help us. No other ways could save us.
You may be hurting right now. You may not trust anyone. Everyone and everything you have ever loved may have left you. Your heart may be shattered in pieces around you.
But even when everyone else leaves or hurts you, Jesus will always be right there to pick you back up, look into your eyes and tell you how much He loves you…
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
~1 John 4:9-10
God’s love is unconditional. He will love you no matter what. He will never leave you. His love will never stop.
Forgiveness for your sins is just a prayer away. God’s arms are outstretched to you right now. The gap between you and God can be filled by His love for you if you just ask.
There's no fancy way to do it. No string of perfect words to get you in.
You don’t have to do anything to earn His love. You can’t do anything to earn His forgiveness.
It is a gift and it is a gift that is being extended to you right this very moment.
All you have to do is believe and accept.
Welcome to the greatest story of your life.
Isabella Morganthal (20) is a homeschool high school graduate who loves Jesus with all of her heart. She is a drummer, writer, creative arts director, and modern-day abolitionist.