I am so excited to announce what I have kept secret for so long--that my brand NEW devotional, "Journey of Faith: A Devotional for Young Women" released TODAY!
What a journey of faith this book has truly been and I am beyond thrilled that it is now available for the world to read.
Description of the book:
"Have you ever wondered if you were meant for more? More than what the world wants to offer you? Even more than what you have planned for yourself? Have you ever wished to live with more faith? In Journey of Faith, Isabella Morganthal wants to encourage you to live a life of faith that honors God. She has compiled some of the articles from her last two years of blogging and turned each of them into a daily devotional. Each devotion is meant to remind you that walking your journey of faith may not always be easy, but it is always worth it. Jesus is always worth it. Journey of Faith also features articles specifically for writers, special author interviews, and even some fun quizzes and resources. If you’re ready to start living with more faith, then start reading today. And let’s walk this journey together."
Thank you all so much for your support of my writing and this blog. If you read this book I pray God uses it in your life and I pray that this book is a reflection of the goodness and faithfulness of God.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a celebratory cookie (or two!) to eat.
To God be the glory, great things He has done.
Wow, what a year.
It's hard to believe that 2018 is just around the corner...only a few days away. 2017 has been quite the year. I've learned a lot, experienced a lot, and lived a lot. God has been good. Because He is always good, no matter what's going on around us.
When I think back over 2017 I'm amazed at the doors God has opened and the things He has done. I can hardly believe the year it has been.
The year started off with the rush to get my fourth book finished by April. On April 30th "Yes You Can: A Guide to Writing and Sharing Your Story" released to the world. Another dream come true for me as I searched my name on Amazon and four titles came up. Something I had waited years for. God is so faithful.
Throughout the spring/summer I prepared to host a Local Bible Bee for my second year in a row. I loved serving my local kids and investing in their young lives.
Over the summer I also signed up for the Young Writer's Workshop from Brett Harris and Jaquelle Crowe--something that completely changed my writing life. The encouragement, advice, and guidance from the YWW program has been invaluable in my journey as a writer.
Towards the end of summer I started a new job, which was a huge leap of faith for me and has also been wonderful. On top of that I became a writing ambassador for a wonderful ministry I love, Lane of Roses.
Throughout the year, God also gave me the opportunity to be featured on The Rebelution, Kingdom Pen, and Project Inspired. These were dreams come true.
Looking back over all these things, I'm so humbled and honored at what God has done in my writing and in my life. Not to say it's always been easy, for it most certainly hasn't been.But He is still good.
In 2017 I also developed a regular schedule here on my blog and it's been so wonderful to see how God has used this little space of the internet for His glory. Here is just a little look back at my top ten favorite posts from my blog in 2017:
Why Religion Is Not the Answer
When You've Got Nothing Left
Dear Brave You
Life is Not a Competition
3 Reasons Why You Can't Give Up
We Have This Hope
My Journey with Chronic Migraines
The Greatest of Stories
A Different Kind of Beautiful...thoughts on life
My A-B-C's of Advice
What a year it has really been. I am so thankful for each and every one of you who have read my words, shared my posts, commented your thoughts, or subscribed to my email list. I am grateful.
I can't wait to see what God has in store for 2018.
Whatever happened in 2017 and whatever is going to happen in 2018, know this, friends...His plans for you are good. Rest in that.
Happy (almost) New Year 2018.
What are some things that happened for you in 2017? Would love to hear more about your year! <3
White, twinkling lights. Red and green decorations scattered through the house. The smell of pine needles from the Christmas tree. Icing left on the counter from the cookies baking in the oven. All the different types of snowflakes falling outside the window.
These are some of my favorite things.
Picking out the perfect gift and giggling as you find the perfect hiding place for it. Caroling down the street. Signing dozens of Christmas cards.
These are just a few of the things I love about Christmas.
But when I stop and pause, looking around at all of these things I love, I know this isn't all that Christmas is to me.
And it shouldn't be all that Christmas means to you either.
I pause and wonder as I watch the busy shoppers strategically weave in and out of the different stores in the mall. Or as I help customers where I work find the perfect gift. I wonder...could we be missing it all?
Could we be missing the meaning in all of the excitement?
I see the santa clause figurines lining the Walmart aisles and I wonder. What happened to the true meaning of it all?
And then I look deeper.
I look into the weary faces of the shoppers and I see it more clearly. I look into the heart of the grumpy store clerks and I understand. I look into the empty eyes of the man shivering on the street corner and I know.
You see, there's more to all of this.
Thank God, there's so much more.
The world is broken. I can see it in the eyes of the people I pass. I can see it in the flurry of excitement and busyness. The way we try to hide it and mask it and make it go away just for now. In our brokenness we think staying busy with the cookie making or shopping lists or gingerbread decorating will somehow make us complete again.
But it doesn't, does it?
And I look around again and I know that in the middle of everyone singing the carols of joy, there are those who feel anything but joy. There are the broken. The broken in all of us.
And if the meaning of Christmas was simply decorating the perfect tree or finding the best gift, we surely would be lost in our brokenness forever.
But God. Oh, praise God.
You see, what I love most about Christmas is Him. The Baby in the manger, sending a cry of hope into a dark night. The tired Mary and Joseph in awe of the Child they have been given. The star that reaches across the sky to declare, "He is here. He has finally come. Hope...hope is here."
Emmanuel. God with us.
That is what Christmas means to me.
The God who created me stepping into my world so that He could make me a part of His again. The God who loved me deciding to bear my brokenness so that I would never have to bear it alone again. The God who loved me choosing me. Choosing you.
If that's not hope I don't know what is.
Wherever your brokenness has you tonight, it's going to be okay. I promise.
Because the Baby born in that manger so many nights ago came to make you whole again. He is here with you. In this moment. Emmanuel.
Lift your head and take hold of Him.
He has always loved you....and He always will.
Merry Christmas, friends.
"Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
Wow, these past few weeks have just flown by! Can you believe that Christmas is just seven days away?! I can't.
Anyway, today I have a special author interview with you celebrating the release of Anna Pustai's latest book! Anna is a sweet, bright light for Jesus in this world and it's an honor to have her drop by today. Come in and join us...
Bella: Hi Anna! Thanks so much for joining me on the blog today! Would you mind starting off by sharing a little bit about yourself? How did you first get started writing?
Anna: Hi Bella! Thank you for having me here for an interview! It’s great to be here! I’m Anna Pustai, the author of Memories with the Meadows and The Most Wonderful Gift of All: A Collection of Short Christmas Stories. I have a big passion for writing and I enjoy writing everything from blog posts, and my monthly newsletter, to short stories and books! Aside from writing, I enjoy taking photography, reading the Bible, learning American Sign Language, playing clarinet and spending time with my three sisters and puppy. I feel God calling me to be a missionary someday, but in the meantime, I hope to encourage others through my writing.
Bella: You've just recently released your new book, which is a compilation of three Christmas stories. Why is this book important to you? Where did you get the inspiration or idea to first put it together?
Anna: Yes! This is very important to me, because this is the first book that can appeal to a person of any age and it has the most important message weaved throughout the collection of stories. I hope and pray that others will understand the true meaning of this season this Christmas!
The inspiration ultimately came from God! He has given me such a desire to tell others about Him in another country someday, and I struggled with the question: “what can I do now?” After I began writing short stories at noblenovels.weebly.com, my mom suggested I write a book of the many short stories I had written at the end of the year. When I remembered that the two stories I had already written on my page were Christmas stories, I immediately had an idea—to make a Christmas story collection! This was in November, and all I can say is that without God, it wouldn’t have been possible to write this collection of Christmas stories!
Bella: That's wonderful. Now, as a Christian, how does your faith affect your writing? Why do you think it is important to give your gift of writing back to God?
Anna: Faith really affects my writing in many ways! If I didn’t know Christ, I wouldn’t have the same purpose in my writing. He gives me every idea for my book…yes, every single one! I just write it on paper and keep praying! Faith really affects my writing genre, too.
I think it is so very important to give the gift of writing back to God for SO many reasons: He writes, through me He is my friend and Savior, He died on the cross for my sins, and He’s blessed me in so many ways!
Bella: Since your book is a compilation of Christmas stories, what is one of your most favorite parts of Christmastime?
Anna: Oh my, this question is hard, haha! I love Christmastime! One of my favorite parts of Christmas is knowing that our Savior came to this earth to save us and that He is our hope! I love that I get to share the special day with Jesus--it’s also my birthday! :) I also love spending time with family, singing Christmas carols and so much more! (Oops, that was a bit more than one favorite part…lol!)
Bella: Well, we are wishing you the biggest, happiest birthday ever next week! Now if you could give one last piece of advice to your generation, what would you say?
Anna: Trust God always. He has a wonderful plan for you! Always remember that He is there for you at all times.
Bella: To end with a fun question, if you could invent any ice cream flavor in the world, what would it be? :)
Anna: A gluten, dairy free version of peanut butter, chocolate fudge ice cream!!! :D
Bella: Thanks so much, Anna <3 Congratulations on your book!
Connect with Anna at her blog here.
Or visit Amazon to purchase The Most Wonderful Gift of All.
Anna Pustai, the author of Memories with the Meadows, has a love for writing and writes as much as she can in her free time. She is excited to use the talent God has given her to bless others. Aside from writing, she enjoys taking photography, learning American Sign Language, playing clarinet and spending time with her three sisters and puppy. She hopes to write more books in the future and desires to encourage others through her books and other writing.
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.