I have always loved fairytales.
I mean who doesn’t love a good story that includes princesses, knights in shining armor, drama, and a good old fashioned, “Happily ever after”?
And I think it’s safe to say that, from the time we were little children, we’ve known how every fairytale begins.
Once upon a time…
After all, the great Disney classics start this way. It signals the beginning of a new story, something new and great and mysterious.
But maybe why this part of the story is so memorable is that it is, in a way, predictable.
“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess...”
Predictable and easy, right?
It’s the beginning of the story, but it’s the easy part that most people already know and understand.
But the middle and the ending--the future—of the story? Well, that part seems just a little bit scarier. Reminds me a little bit of life too. Because when I’m living in the middle of my story? That’s the part I don’t know yet. The “happily ever after,” hasn’t come yet and I’m sometimes not sure if it ever will.
Maybe that’s why I love the “once upon a time” so much. It’s certain.
But real life? The reality of the story?
It’s not so certain.
Life can change as quickly as you can blink your eyes. A phone call from the doctor with your test results. A knock on your door from an unexpected visitor. An overdue payment letter in the mail. These things can disrupt your happy “once upon a time” as quickly as they can affect your “happily ever after.” They are the unexpected that flip your normal upside down.
And when that happens?
We wonder where to turn. Where can we go that will be safe and certain through the midst of all the messy middle parts of our story?
One of my favorite Bible verses from Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV) says this:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
I find comfort in this. When my future is changing and uncertain, I can know that the One holding my future isn’t changing. He is staying the same. His heart towards me is staying the same. His love for me is staying the same. And His plan for my life is most definitely staying the same.
Maybe it won’t look like what I wanted. Maybe it won’t be what I prayed for.
But it will be good.
Because every story He writes is good. Not easy, but good. Because He is good. It will be better than the grandest fairytale you’ve ever read. Sweeter than the happiest of ever after’s.
Dear one, when life feels upside down and uncertain, know that you can trust the One who wrote, “Once upon a time,” into your story, and believe that He is bringing you to your “Happily ever after” with Him.
Trust your Author.
Hi friends! Today here in my little space of the internet, I have an author interview with Miss Lydia Howe who just released her new book, "Where Dandelions Grow." Sit back, enjoy a virtual cupcake or two and read through the short conversation that we had...
Bella: Welcome to my blog, Lydia! I’m excited to have you joining us here today. To start off, please share with the readers just a little bit more about yourself.
Lydia: Thank you, Bella! It’s a privilege to be on your blog. Ah, what do I say about myself? If I could start any fashion trend, it would be to wear sparkly socks with dress flats. Since that doesn’t seem likely to become popular, I limit myself to dressing like that for special occasions - like book releases. Even though I’m twenty-five (or will be next week), I’m a little girl at heart: Dancing in the rain, enjoying cotton candy, sleeping on the floor (makes life like one continuous sleepover, plus I don't have to make a bed), and dreaming of one day owning a pet skunk called Charlie Kate. When I’m acting a bit more grown up I work at a coffee shop, dedicatedly write/edit, and read and review gobs of books. Sundays are my favorite days of the week because then I get to hang out with my church family and help with the 3rd and 4th grade Sunday school class. Mondays are my second favorite days of the week because there’s nothing more fun than a whole week just waiting to be filled with accomplishments.
Bella: Have you always wanted to be a writer? Why is being a writer important to you?
Lydia: I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was seven or eight. Being a writer is super important to me. Growing up I remember it being hard to find good, interesting books and I decided way back then to change that when I grew up. It’s really special to me to get to use my imagination to help entertain others.
Bella: What has been your most embarrassing writing moment?
Lydia: I have a friend who sometimes texts me when he catches a typo in my online writing. A couple of years ago he sent me a text with the correct spelling of a word and he said: “You don’t even want to know what you made the sentence say by using the wrong word.” So, I quickly corrected my mistake and took my friend at his word and didn’t look at the wrong word I’d used. I decided I really didn’t want to know what I’d mistakenly posted, but I figured it was probably pretty embarrassing.
Bella: When did you first get the inspiration for your book, Where Dandelions Grow, and why was it important for you to write?
Lydia: As a little girl I did everything I could with my cousin Alexa. We were close in age, and although we were very different personality-wise, we had a ton of fun together. I originally wrote the book for her high school graduation. The book took so long to get to this point though, that she’s now already graduated from college and is married. Working on this book again has been a great reminder of the wonderful bonds between cousins.
Bella: If you could become any one of the characters from your book, who would you choose?
Lydia: Probably Mrs. Reed. She’s the kind of character I’d be delighted to know in real life.
Bella: Thank you for joining us here on the blog today, Lydia! God’s blessings on your new book! ♥
Lydia: Thank you so much for having me, Bella!
About the Author:
Lydia Howe (aka Aidyl Ewoh) is a twenty-something adventurous author who is partial to hiking in the mountains of Asia and South America, building life-size models of dinosaurs, taking road trips across Europe, visiting friends in Africa, growing up in a barn and everything in-between. She currently works in a coffee shop during the day and concocts stories by night. Find her online at her Blog, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, and Google+
Links for the book:
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35969327-where-dandelions-grow?from_search=true
I’ve never been one to handle pain very well.
Papercut? Yeah, I’ll cry like a baby.
Stubbed toe? I’ll whine for several minutes.
Sore throat? I’ll sulk in bed until it goes away.
But even though my pain tolerance is low, there is one pain that I’ve had to learn to live with since I was young.
I’ve grown up with chronic migraines. Sometimes they’re worse than other times. Although I get headaches very frequently, my migraines are always so much worse and I have anywhere from one, to several a week. My headaches often affect my stomach as well, so because of that I have to stay away from certain headache medicines.
Growing up, we tried everything we could to figure out the causes of the migraines and to eliminate triggers. I remember spending hours in the grocery store as my ever patient and loving mom looked through every ingredient on the foods we would buy, double-checking that they didn’t include any of the trigger ingredients we had to avoid.
As I got older the triggers became much more difficult to figure out, as the migraines can occur just out of the blue.
I’ve struggled with this often. I’ve prayed fervently. My calling in life—what I believe to be my purpose—requires me to frequently sit at a computer screen as I pour my words into magazines, articles, blogs, and books. However, oftentimes the computer can intensify my migraines or trigger them. I have desperately wondered why. How can something that is my calling and my ministry cause me such physical pain?
The migraines can prevent me from writing for a few hours, to a few days. And I just don’t understand. Why, God?
Well, instead of a direct answer, He simply gave me this…
“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV)
I’m puzzled over this.
I wonder…why would God choose grace as the simple answer? Not healing, not relief. Grace.
When Paul asked for the thorn to be removed, God didn’t even respond with, “Someday,” or, “Wait.”
He said, “My grace is sufficient.” My grace is enough for now. My grace is enough for your pain. My grace is all you need.
I’m still puzzled because I don’t understand. This is such a different answer than the one my flesh cries out for. Why would God not remove the thorn--why would He not remove my pain?--when healing is a good thing?
The answer that came to me was, maybe…
Maybe grace is the healing all along.
Perhaps, in seasons of physical suffering, our hearts are not always longing for a physical healing. But perhaps, our hearts are searching for an internal miracle. Something that will heal the deepest wounds in us, that physical healing can’t reach. And grace? Well, grace can be that miracle.
Then it occurred to me. Maybe I didn’t need perfect health to fulfill my calling after all. Maybe through the pain, He could be more glorified.
Maybe what the devil intended as harm, God just couldn’t wait to use for my greatest good. And I believe that. Yes, I believe it with all of my heart.
So, in typical Bella style, instead of staying away from my writing—my calling—to prevent or bring relief to my pain, I instead laugh in that old devil’s face and say, “Watch me change this world anyway.”
Because when the devil is fighting so hard to keep you from pursuing that calling God has given you, then you know--you know—that calling is big. That calling just might change your world.
Whether it’s physical or emotional pain you suffer from, His grace is sufficient. His grace is enough. His grace is the healing your soul looks for most.
Yet, God doesn’t just leave it at that.
When Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn in his flesh (whatever that may have represented, physical or spiritual), God didn’t just leave him hanging and say, “Sorry, Paul, you’re on your own.”
He gave Paul His grace, and then He promised…
When you are weak, then I will be most strong in you.
His strength is made perfect in every physical, emotional, and spiritual weakness you have had to carry. At the places in your life you are most weak, God is ready to shower His rain of grace and make you most strong.
Because strength isn’t about perfection, relief, or painless living.
Not at all.
Strength is about doing His right thing, even in the pain.
So whatever that calling is He has given you, grasp onto His grace and push forward into what He’s beckoning you towards.
His strength will be enough for whatever lies ahead. I promise.
And He does too.
Who am I?
It’s the age-old question that everyone has asked themselves at some point in their lives. Perhaps we don’t always question it out loud. But in our hearts? Yes, our hearts can echo this question loudly.
I understand, because sometimes I wonder about my identity too.
Finding the truth about who you are in the midst of a culture that daily tries to tell you who they think you are, is a lot more complicated than it may seem. The world says that our identity is based off of what we’ve done or what has been done to us.
Did someone profess to love us and then break our heart? Then, we must be unlovable. Did we make a bad decision and it changed everything? Then, we are guilty. Have we been ignored or treated like we have no value? Then, surely we are worthless. These labels placed on us by others—and also by ourselves—begin to shape how we view our identity.
But if these things don’t define us, then what does? And if the world can’t tell us who we really are, then who can?
When we become children of God, by accepting His free gift of salvation, everything changes. Now our identity is shaped entirely by the One who created us, according to His grace.
Happy Monday, friends!
Today, I have a very special post for you. My dear friend, Olivia Bell has been so kind as to allow me to use her most recent article titled, "Dreams," as a guest post here on the blog. I was very touched by her words, and believe you will be too. I would love if you'd take a moment just to comment at the bottom and thank Olivia for sharing her heart with us today! :)
One more quick note: Olivia founded her own e-magazine for young ladies (as you'll read in the article), and if you would like to sign up to receive it, just please simply fill out the contact form below and I'll pass that on to her. :) You'll love the magazine, trust me!
(Olivia is also a columnist in my monthly e-magazine, The King's Princess, and if you want to subscribe to that, please click here.)
So without further ado, here is Olivia Bell's article...
We all have dreams that we hold onto tightly inside our hearts, dreams we cherish and think about every single day. I want to talk about those dreams because I am just like you; I had dreams in my heart that I wanted to make happen. But there was one little problem, or more like a big problem.
I thought I should wait.
I thought of my dreams; starting my own business, beginning a magazine to encourage and inspire Christian girls, and write my first Christian fiction novel. As I thought of these around the ages of 15 and 16, I thought, “I can’t do them now, I have to do school. I think I’ll just wait and do them once I graduate…” And so I didn’t make my dreams happen, I put them on the back burner with the thought of “someday” I’d make them happen. Now that I look back on it, why did I think that? Life is a gift, each day we have we cannot take for granted because we are never guaranteed a tomorrow. But still I waited.
Then something a friend said changed my whole outlook on my dreams.
She said something along the lines of, “Why waste your entire life thinking that ‘someday I will chase that dream of mine, someday I will do what I’ve always wanted to and feel called to do’, all the while wasting the years of your life until one day ‘someday’ is too late.” I felt as if she were speaking right to me in that article and it really hit home for me. She also mentioned that our youth is a gift; these years will not last forever. Look at David; he killed a giant with three stones in his youth!
So, one day I decided something. I wasn’t going to wait until I finished school; I wasn’t going to wait until ‘someday’ to make my dreams come true. With the Lord, I was going to make my dreams come true right here and now and stop wasting my life waiting for that ‘someday’.
I started out on the journey of following the dreams that the Lord had laid on my heart. The Lord opened a door for me to start my own craft business called, “Olivia Rose Originals ~ A Beautifully Handmade Crafts Company”. I was thrilled to be able to share my creations with others and to see them enjoy the things I had made.
Then along came another dream.
After contributing to numerous Christian magazines over the years, I had cultivated my love of writing. I found that expressing my heart and thoughts on paper (or computer screen) was how I was best able to convey my messages. I loved the Christian magazines I read and contributed to, and in my heart a small dream was forming like a tiny flower bud in spring before it burst into a beautiful bloom.
I wanted to start my own magazine.
This dream came along probably about a year ago and I decided on the name of “Sisters of Salvation” for my magazine. I do not remember exactly what happened, but I think the same old familiar excuse arose not shortly after. I decided to wait until I finished school. But, even though I was putting off my dream, I think it was the Lord’s way of saying, “Not yet, wait for My perfect timing.” It wasn’t until May of this year when my mom mentioned that I should start my own magazine (she now says she always knew as I wrote all the articles for other magazines that I would start my own someday) that I felt the Lord saying it was the right time to start the magazine. And now look where He has taken me! When I was just starting to bring together my ideas and plan how I would distribute this magazine, I never knew that in just 2 issues I would have such an amazing team of columnists and photographers, along with a large group of subscribers in such a short period of time. “Christ’s Light Magazine ~Shining Bright in a Dark World” was born. The journey that the Lord has taken me on with this magazine has been such a wonderful one and hearing from my readers that they have been encouraged and inspired by it really makes my day every single time. I am so glad I followed the dream the Lord gave me of starting a magazine, because this magazine really is not mine at all. Jesus made it happen and it is His for Him to use for His ultimate glory and honor.
I had one more dream though. A dream of being published.
I have been writing a continual Christian fiction story for the magazine, “The King’s Princess” for around a year and a half now. I can’t believe the time has gone by so fast and that I am now on part 12 of the story that Lord placed on my heart to share. From the beginning of that story I had dreamed of one day combining and lengthening each part to form a novel, and it wasn’t until recently that I was inspired to put this dream into action by that same dear friend with the same words she had spoken before. Why was I waiting until I finished school? This friend is my role model, an author who writes books that touch my heart and soul in many more ways than one; she is the one who inspires me time and time again. I thought of her, having published her very first book at the age of 18, and I thought, “Why can I not do that? She didn’t keep her dreams bundled up until the day she finished school; she stepped out with Jesus and made her dream happen.” I knew in my heart Jesus wanted me to write a book, and my dear friend was just the right person to inspire me to make it happen. I am now in the process of lengthening and combining each part of my story into a Christian fiction novel that I am hoping and praying every day to be able to self-publish when it is finished. The Lord is making my dreams come true, and He used that dear friend to be His messenger to inspire me to step out and make them happen. I am forever grateful and thankful to Him for making my dreams come true and for bringing that friend into my life in the fall of 2015. She is my dearest friend and constant encouragement, she has never let adversity in her own life pull her down and crush her dreams. She has overcome a lot of things in her life, very hard things, things that would crush me, and how she has every single time trusted the Lord and overcome them has been the biggest inspiration to me. I look up to her, she is my source of inspiration and encouragement, she will never know how much she has affected my life and inspired me to dream with Jesus. My dear friend, you know who you are, I thank you for being you, the one and only you that the Lord brought into my life to inspire me to do big things for Him. I love you.
And now I am following Jesus on my biggest dream of all. A dream of becoming a missionary to the African country of Uganda. I know in my heart that the Lord has called me to be a missionary there, and I pray every single day about it. That same friend knows in her heart that the Lord has called her to Uganda as well, she has known from a very young age where as I have only known I am called there for about a year or so now. What are the “odds” that I would have just happened to find a friend who shares the same calling as I do? There are no “odds”; it was the Lord at work in my life working out His master plan. I pray, pray, and pray some more that soon my friend and I will be able to go and serve together in the beautiful country of Uganda. I know the Lord has big plans for us, but you know something else?
He has big plans for you, too.
So take those dreams you are holding in your heart that you know are from the Lord, take them and with Jesus make them happen! Don’t waste your life waiting for that ‘someday’, do it now—today. The Lord is only waiting for you to step out; will you take His hand and let Him lead you on that incredible journey?
Olivia Bell is The King’s Princess magazine columnist for the “Story Nook”, writing a continuation to her on-going book each month. She also has her own column entitled, “Serving the Lord from Craft Room to Kitchen” where monthly she shares a how-to craft tutorial from her own studio or a delicious recipe straight from her kitchen. She frequently publishes articles according to the magazine’s monthly theme, or to what the Lord is leading her to write.
Olivia is a young lady in her teens, residing in the Pacific North West. Some of her many interests include: reading God’s Word, reading and writing articles for Christian magazines, making creations for her small craft business, baking and cooking treats, photographing nature, writing letters to her many pen-pals and publishing her own, free bi-monthly Christian magazine for girls titled “Christ’s Light Magazine ~ Shining Bright In A Dark World”. To subscribe, please contact her below. She aspires to acclaim Christ’s glory and honor through everything she set’s her pen to.
This has always been one of my favorite words.
I would scribble it down on paper, using it to try out new letter art. Or I would buy notebooks and wall art that read that word. It was always just a pretty expression, a beautiful string of four letters. But there was also something special about them. I knew they were meant to always help me remember: Hope is my anchor.
Yet there are times now when I look at this word and I wonder how. I wonder why.
How can you have hope when everything is crashing around you?
Why should you hold onto hope when you don’t get what you prayed for?
I don’t understand. I don’t know how I can hold onto hope when things turn upside down.
I look around at a suffering world—a world where things most certainly aren’t as I think they should be—and I ask God why. Why so much pain?
My heart aches inside as I scroll through pictures of the destruction in Texas from the recent Hurricane Harvey. I feel heavy as I look through death tolls and areas of flooding. How can we have hope in this? I question.
I flip through the TV channels and watch as everyone talks anxiously about the hurricane getting ready to hit Florida in only a few short hours. I know people who have to evacuate and might lose their homes. I watch the TV screen as people rush to the stores to get supplies and try desperately to prepare for a storm that they can’t control. Can they find hope here?
My faith feels so small when looking at these things. These storms I can’t stop from killing innocent lives and destroying homes. What’s Your plan here, God? I want to ask.
Maybe…maybe that’s it.
We want to know His whole plan because clearly things aren’t going according to ours and we need an explanation. If He would only tell us why, we believe we will then understand. But how? For: “’My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
His ways, His thoughts, His plans…they’re all so much higher than my own. He can see the whole, grand tapestry when I can only see a small, simple piece of it.
Okay, yes, He has a plan, but…
There’s always that “but” because we so desperately want an answer when faced with such unimaginable grief.
After all: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
One of the most commonly quoted verses in the Bible. God’s plans for us include good. They include hope. But how in all of this?
I still don’t understand. And then I look at Isaiah 43:2 and it tells me, “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.”
Quickly reading it, my first thought is, “Great, so God’s telling us that those bad things won’t come near us and we won’t have to deal with them, so…why are we?”
But no. I read it again.
That’s not what He’s saying at all.
He says…when you pass through the waters…when you walk through the fire.
What? Where is the hope in this passage? What hope can all of the victims of these massive hurricanes hold onto?
And that’s when I see it.
The hope--the promise—it’s right there. It’s right there, shining beautiful in the midst of the pain…
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
There it is.
I catch my breath as it hits me. Our hope is not that bad things will not happen. Our hope is not that we will be spared from the waters or the fire—all those things that threaten to break us inside. No.
Our hope is so much greater. Our hope is that even in the bad things happening around us, He is with us. Our hope is that He will never leave us. Our hope is that God has a good, good plan for our lives and, even when we don’t understand, nothing in this world can destroy that plan. This takes my breath away. The hope God is giving us has nothing to do with outside circumstances—things that change like the tides.
The hope God is giving to us is a steadfast hope. Some of the definitions or synonyms for steadfast are: firm and unwavering, reliable, constant, steady.
This hope does not change because our God, the author of our true hope and faith, does not change. (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 12:2) He is our Hope!
And that’s when we know.
Whatever comes our way, whatever struggle or pain lies ahead, we know we will be okay. We will come out unbroken because our God stands with us. He is working good in our story—even in the pain—and even if we don’t understand the purpose until heaven.
If you are a victim of Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma, my heart aches for you. I can’t possibly understand what you’re going through, but I hope to encourage you by pointing you to the One who does understand. He understands every bit of your pain and looking at your pain, He weeps with you (John 11:33-35).
When you walk through the water or through the fire, take heart. He is with you. He will never let you go.
Hold onto your Hope, beloved.
*Florida, my prayers are with you tonight. God, give you strength. ♥