christian women

You Are God’s Masterpiece

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” -Ephesians 2:8-10, (emphasis added)

 

 The greatest artist of all calls you His masterpiece. The very one who took a desolate void and created light, separated land from sea, and spoke abundant vegetation and livestock into being then stood back in pleasure (Genesis 1) looks at you with the same admiration.

Take a moment to let this sink in, sister. Close your eyes and imagine yourself just as you are—every mistake, every joy, every heartache, and every scar. Now picture God in all His glory and perfection stepping back to admire each bit of you as His newest and most beautiful creation. He is the artist and the potter. You are His canvas and clay.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The Apostle Paul exhorts the church in Ephesus to take action. Understanding that each was exquisitely formed in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16) then birthed into a new creation upon belief and surrender to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2:10) was just the beginning. These masterpieces were not meant to simply hang on a wall, be placed in a cabinet, or set on a shelf to be admired.

They are masterpieces with a purpose.

There are things God planned and ordained for them to do.

 And while the Ephesians were created in that space and time for particular purposes, so were you created for this time and for specific good works.

It is not a mistake that you are alive and living in this season. It is not a mistake that you bear particular burdens and scars. It is not a mistake that you are unique and sometimes feel different and out of place. It is not a mistake that you have the neighbors, sphere of influence, gifts, talents, circumstances, and experiences that you do. Our great God has purposed and ordained you for such a time as this. A masterpiece designed to do “good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).”

Take a moment to be silent before the Lord. Let images of past experiences, joys, traumas, or sorrows flood your mind and heart. As they do, lay them before your Father, and praise Him. Each and every one of those experiences has prepared you for the work He wants you to do right now. In this very moment. For His glory.

Ask our great God to reveal the specific role He has for you today and in the days to come. Wait quietly and listen to His voice. Make note of the people, places, and situations He brings to mind. Who needs to know Christ as their personal Savior? Where can you serve and bring the light of Jesus? How can you be the Church, and who can you invite to come alongside you? What do you need to say or do to bring glory to God and make His grace and truth known to others?

As you begin to process God’s particular purpose for you in this season, be assured that He is raising up your fellow sisters to do their own good works for the Kingdom. The author of Hebrews reminds us to “hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-24, NLT, emphasis added).”

While Scripture is clear that we have the same Missio Dei—the mission of God to bring Him glory and make that glory known to the world (1 Corinthians 10:31, Matthew 28:16-20)—the way He uses us as individuals to manifest that calling will be different for each (1 Corinthians 12). We must rally around one another and spur one another on as we seek to love the lost, love the Church, and share the gospel.

Prayer and Worship

Close your time today by listening to this song. Use it as a prayer and resurrender your life for His Kingdom purpose. And then, sweet sister, take a step down from the shelf and let Him take you where He wants you to go. Start living as the unique masterpiece you are.

“Sails” by Pat Barrett

“Canvas & Clay” by Pat Barrett

About the Author – Lisa DaSilva is a wife, mom of two teenagers, a teacher, and an advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul, and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word. Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.

Guarding My Heart: A Sixteen Year Old’s Thoughts on Creating and Surrendering to Gatekeepers

A couple years ago I was a part of a very toxic friend group. They were very two-faced and deceptive. I started to realize this half way through my eighth-grade year and after seeing the signs it all went downhill. I didn’t want to do all the things they started doing, so they started saying nasty things about me. Instead of letting it get to my head, I decided to start reading a devotional. It helped me work through all the painful behaviors that were going on and walk away from this group.

Now one thing that I do every morning to guard my heart is read from a daily devotional. The one I really love is “Devotions for the Soul Surfer,” by Bethany Hamilton. It is super relatable and I just love the way she has written it. Like most devotionals, it includes scripture alongside stories of her past experiences. Many are stories from when she was a teenager that encourage and inspire me to stay on my path with God. Reading through a daily devotional really helps me get into a good mood for the day and refreshes my mind. I definitely see a difference in myself after I read Scripture – I just feel like a happier, better version of myself.

This time also gives me a positive perspective of the world around me. So many things we encounter are out of our control. I stay close to God through reading my Bible along with the devotional. Doing these things reminds me of His promise to give me hope and a future and keeps me grounded. It equips me to be quick to forgive and see the best in others. It is currently teaching me how to define healthy boundaries with individuals I am around regularly and to choose my friends carefully – Reminding me to spend time with those who are like-minded, positive and who desire to walk with God, that care about me and my future, as much as I care about theirs.

I also think it’s important to receive what God promises us now. I not only believe in His plan for my future, but spending time with Him daily reminds me that He cares about my present life as well. He wants me to have a good life, good friends, good experiences, as well as peace – Free from anxiousness, stress and unnecessary troubles. The Bible says there will always be trials and tribulation, but those of us who have Jesus should find peace in Him.

Last month, my mom shared her thoughts about guarding her children’s hearts on this website (link here). As a teenager, it’s not always easy to accept what she thinks is best for me. Some of the toughest times are when I would like to go somewhere and she and my dad wont’ let me. They do explain why, whether it is unsafe, unhealthy or they do not know whom I will be with, but it is still hard to accept. Having parents who have rules and boundaries is going to impact me for the better when I am an adult. They have put guidelines around me since I was young that have helped me develop trust in myself and in God. By obeying them, they see that I am able to make good decisions and am trustworthy. When I mess up, they are there to help me reflect on it and learn from my mistakes. They teach me to discern what is right in more mature situations to come.  

Even though some of their rules are frustrating right now, I’m going to be thankful for them keeping me from things and teaching me to recognize things that could take me down the wrong path and affect my future.

Resources I Recommend 
  • Who Do You Think You Are: A 21 Day Journal for Teens by Ardren’s mom, Jen Windus – Available to purchase by emailing Jen. Inquire here.
  • The Bible App

Scriptures That I Lean On

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

“God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12

 

About The Author, Arden Windus:

I’m 16. I play soccer & love to ski, even though I hate the cold. I believe that life is short, so you do the things that you really love and be kind. My favorite colors are lavender and sage green. My absolute favorite place in the world is Hawaii!!

 

 

You Really Can Start Reading Your Bible: Tips and Testimony from a Middle Schooler

Saved from Near

As a just-turned 14 year old, I have been going to church my whole life.  However, I didn’t experience a relationship with God until I was in middle school, even though I was baptized at age 6. It was at my first church camp in 6th grade that I discovered that true joy comes from God and nothing else in the world. That’s when I truly started my faith walk and committed to following Him.

Testing of Faith

But having faith wasn’t always easy. I have had hard times and I know there will be hard times ahead. Through my difficult experiences, God showed me ways to encourage myself and others. I found a family in my church youth group, and was able to go early every week to help wherever I was needed. Serving others, seeing them smile and appreciate what I do, made me so happy. No matter what stress was in my mind at the time, I just felt loved. I also found so many friends at church who encourage me in everything. They have held my hand while I cry happy tears and sad tears. As I walked my walk of faith, the raw and vulnerable way, God gifted me with wise people, good family members who care for me, and challenging questions that have caused me to grow. He showed me how I needed to pray more and worry less, and prayer became my communication with God. Even with all of this, I just felt ready for more. I’d been feeling a little distant from my faith during online school, so on whim decided to start reading my Bible.

Knowing His Word

I had always viewed reading my Bible as insignificant or too hard to me. But as I committed to reading, it started to become a daily habit and I felt God spurring me on. I never really realized how much I would love it, and how much joy and peace it would bring to my life.

I totally understand how reading your Bible can feel like another item on your to-do list, but it’s not supposed to be a chore. Digging into the Word is a gift from God, and that time is meant to be cherished. Getting into a daily habit requires patience – It’s like getting strong in sports or learning a new skill. If you want to get good at it, you need to be willing to commit to actively making the effort to form a new habit.

Remember, through your journey, that reading your Bible doesn’t have to look one specific way. Everyone has different preferences and ways on how they get into the Bible. How you read, take notes, and learn will be different for everyone. That’s totally ok! It’s intimate and unique because it’s how God wants you to comprehend His love.

Here are some strategies and ideas I used to start reading and understanding the Word on my own.

Ways to Engage with the Word of God
How to Get Into Your Bible Idea #1

This is the strategy I use:

  • Open your Bible to the table of contents.

  • Then go through each book, writing down books that you want to read, names you recognize, or a title that sparks your interest. Don’t worry about getting all the books you want written down, just start with the first ones that catch your eye.

  • Choose one book that you wrote down and read the first chapter, or even a few sentences, just read at your own pace.

  • Highlight questions, add notes to the margins, or underline things or people that are familiar. But just read, annotate, and ask questions. Find a style of note-taking that works for you. Don’t be afraid to use a journal if that works better for notes, instead of writing in your actual Bible.

The way I do my study is to highlight wisdom or things that make sense, write questions and notes in the margins, and always read a chapter a day. The reason this works so well for me is because I get to choose what to read, what I note, and what to ask. Being a person who likes being able to choose how I spend time with God makes my time much more fruitful.

How to Get Into Your Bible Idea #2

Accountability is a huge part of reading your Bible. Here are some ways that help keep your attention in the word:

  • If you are in online school, and start later in the day, make the first piece of work you do reading your Bible.

  • Text a trustworthy friend, small group leader, or adult. Ask them to check in with you daily, asking if you have read your Bible.

  • Set a few alarms on your device. Try to keep yourself responsible to stay on schedule and read around the alarm time.

  • If you plan your days in any way, add Bible reading to your day. Pick a time to give your undivided attention to the Bible. I read my Bible either in the morning before the day gets busy or in the afternoon when I find some alone time.

Don’t beat yourself up if you have a hard time getting into a rhythm of actively and daily opening your Bible. Let yourself into it slowly and let God do the teaching.

How to Get Into Your Bible Idea #3

It’s ok not to know what to do, sometimes you have to let go of your need to have the answer and let God decide what you are going to read. This is hard, no doubt about it, but we all have to start somewhere.

  • Take time to pray. Ask God for help to give you a fruitful time. Wherever God wants you to be in the Bible, He will make it clear.

  • Open your Bible and begin reading the page wherever the first word pops out. Keep in mind that all Scripture is God breathed. Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Reflect on that verse.

If you happen upon a passage that doesn’t make much sense, pray. Ask to see if that is where you need to be, sometimes you need to read tricky things, but just ask for the guidance of God.

Finally, if you aren’t finding anything that interests you, open to Genesis 1:1 to learn about creation. If you love a good story open to Ruth 1:1. If you are looking for poetry and wisdom open to Proverbs 8:6-23. And if you are looking for answers about Jesus, look to Matthew 19:13-15.

The Benefit of Children’s Bibles

Have you ever read something in the Bible and thought, “Well, that was so confusing. I don’t think I’ll ever make sense of this book.” I know I definitely have. But I’ve found a hidden gem that has helped me understand the Bible incredibly, and it’s… a kids Bible. I have an Adventure Bible and HCSB Illustrated Study Bible for kids. They are so explanatory and have many underrated sources.

In my Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) there are colored maps, timelines, and pages that explain what a quiet time is and how different Bible verses can help with your different feelings. There are also charts that show how verses relate to different topics. This Bible helps me find things quickly and helps me learn how to really get the most from the Word.

My Adventure Bible has some helpful pages that help understanding the words on the page you’re reading. It has summaries of peoples’ lives, excerpts about what life was like in Bible times, tips for living out the Word, and highlighted sections with verses to treasure. I love this Bible because it explains and highlights the words right in front of you.

Both of these Bibles are simplified. If parts of my NIV don’t make sense, I gladly turn to my children’s Bible or my colored maps and timelines. They help me understand what I’m reading and learn what God needs me to know in that scripture.

My point is that kid’s Bibles have benefits for adults too! And any age for that matter! Don’t be afraid to look into a children’s Bible to seek an answer, simpler text, or new fact.

Kate’s Suggested Resources

 

About the Author, Kate Kesler:

I’m Kate, a creator at heart. I have a passion for baking, music, and Jesus.

 

Guarding Their Hearts – One Mama’s Reflection on Being the Gatekeeper

My grandmother welcomed Jesus into her heart as she began to slip away from this world. She had been a hard-working nurse and mother of four. Widowed at a young age, she did not know what she did not know raising her young children. She did not know to guard their hearts from that which would seek to destroy them. She did not have a life filled with experiencing a relationship with Jesus, but I do believe she saw God’s goodness from time to time – Through her children when they were young, through the grandchildren that adored her and through her daughter who met Jesus in her 20’s and began to change before her own mothers eyes. 

That daughter was my mother – A woman who transformed the direction of our families’ spiritual legacy. 

She did this by making the boldest of changes when she said yes to Jesus among friends, siblings, and neighbors who could not see what she could see in Him. My mother went against the status quo and gave her life to the Lord so she and her children could live a different kind of life. So we could find a life of joy, peace, faith, and hope – Rooted in an understanding of true love. She undertook the challenge of what it meant to guard her own heart and ours. I continue the process of building this kind of legacy by creating a home centered around Christ – That my children may know how valuable their hearts are and learn to guard them on their own. So they can jump off my shoulders to reach even greater heights.  

The Castle & Its Sentry

I once heard a beautiful metaphor about guarding your child’s heart: “Build your castle strong and it will not crumble under attack.” In other words, guard your heart and you will not be destroyed by the things that would rob you of the life God has planned for you. It radically solidified my beliefs that this was my job with my children – To help build protection against influences that seek to destroy the goodness and purity of our children’s hearts. 

Before becoming a mom I had spent over 25 years caring for other people’s children, learning about children, and studying human development. The heart is the center of the castle, the eyes and ears are the gates. Do you remember the little song from Sunday School? “Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little ears what you hear.” While children are at home, parents are the keepers of the gate or sentry.  Webster defines a sentry as “any of the men of a military guard posted to guard against danger.” A sentry has three responsibilities. First, they are to watch for the enemy or sheep in wolf’s clothing. Second, when the castle is under attack, the sentry must close the gates. Thirdly and possibly most importantly, the sentry notifies the King’s commander when an intruder has entered.  

Possible Intruders

When I was a girl I had a cousin who loved scary movies and I loved my cousin. So guess what I would watch when we were together? Yep. You guessed it. We were between 8-10 years old when we would go to our Grandmother’s house and spend the day running errands with her and playing outside. Our grandmother’s home was the home she had raised her children in. It was built in the 40’s with two stories and several bedrooms. Each bedroom had a small closet and was filled with all sorts of items from years of life including a bed left behind from each of the four children who were raised there. Three of whom were daughters who sewed. There were dress forms and sewing machines, boxes of fabric and other items that sparked the curiosity of young children. At times, several of her 13 grandchildren were in the house playing hide and seek together.  We loved her, so we loved her home. Unfortunately her house was broken into several times over the years. She was a nurse who lived on her own and worked nights. She had to put a special door on and she had loud feisty poodles on guard. This made for quite the setting for late night movies and wild imaginations.  So when she would go to bed we would stay awake and fill our minds and ultimately our hearts with what came across the television. Those characters made it into my heart and tried to haunt me for years. Leaving fear of places, situations and interactions. My parents had no idea we were watching these movies, no blame is to be placed, nor did they know the fear that had entered me. The experience had left its mark on my heart and the enemy had invaded my “castle.”

Other invaders through movies are pornography, sexual activity in youth, drugs, violence, and death. The lack of the value of life seeps in so quickly when your mind is numbed over time to the darkness of media through your eyes and ears. It makes me think of a movie where a man is sent by the enemy masquerading as friend. His chief purpose is to whisper evil into the ear of the king. As time passes and the words seep into his heart, the king begins to age and rot as he sits on the throne. Day by day the filth that is being spoken into him manifests on the outside as a once vibrant King begins to shrink on his throne. His beautiful blond hair turns stringy grayish white (not the beautiful salon style we see on models today) and his body grows weak.  The viewer can watch the damage done when an outsider who seeks to destroy goes after the heart to tear down the man. It is a guard who recognizes the strategy and does not give up attempting to rid the evil one from the kingdom.

As the mother of two teenagers I am glad I learned this while they were young. I am glad that God showed me the connection between what goes in and what comes out

Raising children to be solid and strong and in love with God is hard in this world of temptation and media all around them, but what I think would be even harder is to let them choose at a young age to listen or watch whatever they desire and then try and work in reverse to “clean it out” as it comes out of them with age. I am the guard of my child’s castle, and the sentry of our home.

Assuming Position

Dear mom, we are human. We are not perfect. We are tired. We are weary. We are distracted. 

We are also not alone on the journey of Motherhood. 

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Moses is our same God. He can give us the wisdom, energy and discipline to guard our children’s hearts. I challenge and encourage you to sit with Him today. Ask Him for courage if you need to better guard or change some things in your home, energy and wisdom to be more intentional with schedules or influences, and the desire to look at what is going into your children now that could come back and haunt them or derail them later. Put on your armor, take your position and stand guard. 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Romans 8:28

 

 

Recommended Resources  
  • Love Is: A 21 Day Interactive Journal for Mama’s – Available to purchase by emailing Jen Windus. Inquire here.

 

Scripture to Encourage
  • Proverbs 4:23-27 
  • Psalm 84:11
  • Luke 6:45
  • Colossians 3:15
  • Philippians 4:7
  • 1Peter 5:8

 

About Jen Windus

Hi I’m Jen. I’m a friend of Jesus. Daughter of the Most High. Wife to my boyfriend and Mama to two miracles. I am a teacher by trade & at heart. I love the mountains, all creation and seeing light bulbs go off in people’s minds and faces as they learn and experience God’s love for them.

 

Encountering God Through Lectio Divina – FREE Printable PDF

A Quick Note

2020 has left many of us isolated and in need of encouragement. Our desire is to draw strength, peace, and guidance from the Bible as we begin 2021 together. We know many who are struggling to find rhythms and time alone and with God right now. We understand, can relate, and want to help.  

Therapist Marnee Alfson regularly uses the practice of Lectio Divina to meditate on Scripture. She’s used her wisdom and expertise to create this four-session guide to lead participants through John 4:4-26 in a way that allows us space to encounter our amazing God.

Just print the attached guide, find the quietest place you can, light a candle, get cozy under a blanket, and prepare your heart and mind to savor Scripture and let it speak to you.

For more details on Lectio Divina or to to print the, Encountering God Through Lectio Divina resource  for yourself or your small group, click on any of the pictures in this post, or link directly to it here.

If you’ve already participated in our online Lectio Divina study of John 4, or want to delve further into the practice of scripture meditation, simply substitute John 4 for another passage. We suggest the following to get started or continue your practice:

  • Genesis 45
  • Psalm 8
  • Psalm 19
  • Daniel 3
  • Mark 5:25-34
  • Luke 5:1-11

 

 

Things to Have on Hand as You Engage in Scripture Meditation

 

About our Lectio Divina Author:


Marnee Alfson
is an EMDR trained trauma specialist in private practice in Vancouver, WA.  Marnee received her training under the direction of leading author and developer of Story Informed Trauma Therapy (SITT), Byron Kehler, MS. She has worked with survivors of various traumas such as sexual and/or domestic assault, displacement, first responders, attachment in relationships, body image, life transitions and mood management.

She believes we gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience we choose to walk through.  Trauma recovery therapy is an important part of hope in helping other survivors live their lives free of the pain they have experienced.

 

 

Things I’ve Gained Through Quarantine

Here we are. Again.

Eight months into this pandemic, and we are back on temporary lockdown. Can’t go here, can’t do this, you can do this but with these restrictions, etc, etc, etc. In some ways, 2020 has felt like one big “NO.” It is insane to me how the span of eight months can feel like an eternity. But if we are thinking in terms of actual eternity, eight months is merely the blink of an eye, an almost invisible blip on the radar. 

It goes without saying that, for almost everyone, this has been a year of loss. Some have experienced significant loss: the death of a loved one(s), job loss, financial hardship, marital strife or even divorce, or the loss of absolutely every earthly possession they own in the wildfires that ravaged our region. Many others have taken on incredible amounts of stress as they work the front lines of this pandemic (shout out to ALL healthcare workers, law enforcement, firefighters…you’re the real heroes), or try to navigate the challenges of working from home while also trying to homeschool their children (for anyone in this position, you da real MVPs). And almost everyone has taken on the burden of navigating the loss of relationships, connection with others, and the feeling of isolation that comes with having our everyday lives come to a screeching halt.

It can be easy to toss around Scripture during times of stress, loss, and grief. The Scripture below is no exception, but it truly is one of my favorites in the Bible:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am humble and gentle in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)

Stop for just a second. Read that again. What blows my mind is that Jesus desires to trade our heavy burdens for his light one. That He wants to exchange our trash for his treasure…if we would just come to Him. He promises rest. I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a healthy dose of that after this year.

Because of all this, it’s a little comical that I felt like the Lord was prompting me to write this post about things I’ve gained in quarantine. It is so easy for us all to revert to all the things we’ve lost this year…but what about the things we’ve gained? When I look back on 2020, am I going to remember all the hardships and inconveniences? Probably, yes. But even more so, I want it to be burned into my memory the things the Lord has revealed to me this year, both about Himself and about myself. I want to focus on the steps forward that I’ve made and view this year as pivotal in my walk with the Lord, not as a year to be forgotten or written off.

 

Gain #1: Perspective
  • Social media has taken the world by storm, even prior to COVID-19 and even more so after. While it can be used as an incredibly powerful tool to keep us connected to our family, friends and communities, ask yourself: is it draining you? Are you constantly comparing your life to others or dealing with discontentment based on the squares of other people’s so-called “life”? Are you going down rabbit trails and finding yourself wracked with anxiety? Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean abstaining from food and drink. Maybe it’s time to disconnect from the virtual world that we are immersed in and get back to basics. My phone has become an “escape” (dare I say…idol?) during this pandemic and I have been convicted on more than one occasion to set it aside and engage in what is right in front of me rather than what’s on a screen.
  • I have felt numerous times over the course of the past eight months that this pandemic is absolutely a tool that God is using to encourage His people to press “pause;” to slow down, to rest, and to lean into Him. Not just lean in, but rely on Him. A MAJOR reset. I have longed so many times in my adult life for things to slow down; to be able to off-load things from my plate, to spend more time at home with my family, to just breathe. Yeah, it’s not always easy working from home full-time with a toddler. I am wracked with mom guilt a lot because she has above-average screen time as I try to juggle several things at once (like everyone else). No, I don’t get a lot of alone time. BUT, I’m home with her. I’m here. And even if I don’t feel present all the time, I get to be the one to be here for everything. And this is time I will never get back.
Gain #2: Self-Awareness
  • The ironic thing is, now that life is moving at a much slower pace, I find myself trying to constantly replace (or fill) the slowness. I feel restless, sometimes borderline impulsive. Like I need to disrupt my newfound peace and quiet to feel “productive”. Why? Why can’t I just soak in the peace that I have been craving for so long (and that God has graciously gifted me with)? 
  • As an introvert and a homebody, my tendency is to isolate myself and to go inward, particularly when I’m struggling with my mental health. To stay in my bubble, safe and unbothered. That’s dangerous, because being in your own head all the time is unhealthy. The Lord recently made it very clear that I need to be more intentional with my intentionality: seek people out, seek out opportunities to connect and stay connected, and be present.
  • Reading my Bible is similar to exercising; I never regret doing it, and I always feel amazing afterward. Why, then, are these things SO difficult for me to stick with? Particularly with this extra time on my hands? Let’s be honest, I am not that busy. This just tells me that I have some serious re-prioritizing to do.
  • In the same breath, I’ve realized that I’m done riding the shame spiral. Done putting unrealistic expectations on myself, done feeling like a failure when I don’t meet these unrealistic expectations, done putting myself in a box. A dear friend (you know who you are) recently pointed out to me that I like to proclaim things about myself and write them off as “truth”. That I resign myself to “facts” about what I can or can’t do, or that I am/am not passionate about something because deep down, I’m afraid to be a child at something and to risk failure. Annnnd…mic drop.
Gain #3: Appreciation
  • I have been clinically diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This means that my brain literally never stops thinking, analyzing, worrying, etc. My therapist asked me once to think about when (if ever) I last experienced boredom. As the mother of a toddler, a serial overachieving perfectionist, and someone who used to base their productivity on how many boxes they could check off on their completely unrealistic to-do list, this was a completely foreign concept to me. For the first time in years, there are days during this pandemic where I have actually experienced boredom! It actually makes me feel triumphant when I start to feel bored, because this means that I am taking control of my mental illness rather than it taking control of me.
  • In contrast to my first bullet point, I am actually incredibly grateful for technology and the benefits it has given me during this time. I have transitioned to working from home full-time with virtually zero interruption and have been incredibly fortunate to remain employed; I am able to communicate and stay connected to those dearest to me; and I have even completed an inductive Zoom Bible study!
  • Finally, I am eternally grateful for the gift of time. Time with my daughter, time with my husband, time with Jesus. Time to breathe, time to explore hobbies I forgot I loved and passions I forgot I had. Time to focus on actual self-care (not just pampering and fluff): taking care of my mental, physical and spiritual health.

 

I guess what it boils down to is this: we have a choice. Every day, the stress of this year (or life in general) threatens to swallow us whole. And let’s be honest: some days we give in. We let doubt, fear, anxiety, worry, apathy, shame, guilt, and pride creep in and settle in the places where Jesus has been working so hard this year to clean house. It’s there that the enemy wants to keep us, focusing on all the things that have gone wrong this year and the uncertainty of what is to come.

But guess what? Jesus always has the final say. And He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it. Stay the course, friend. 

Much love,

Ali

 

About Ali Gadbaugh: Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Ali is a homebody who counts coffee, her husband and daughter, and Jesus as a few of her favorite things. She likes to add a little sarcasm and humor to life, and is passionate about growing and deepening her relationship with her Savior.

 

“He Will” – An Advent Bible Study

Preparing for Christmas

There are trees to decorate, lights to hang, stockings to stuff, cookies to bake, gifts to buy, and special meals to cook. In all of the excitement, rushing, and overwhelm we may wonder what the fuss and hustle is really about. Many of us long to soak in the real reason we celebrate.
For centuries, Christians around the world have set aside the four weeks before Christmas to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We call this Advent (meaning “the arrival” or “coming”), and embrace it as a season of anticipation for both the birth of Christ and the glory of God still to come – A time to ready our hearts and honor God’s gift to us in our Savior, Jesus.

About the “He Will” Advent Bible Study

We hope you’ll experience this Christmas season with a fresh and renewed perspective as you participate in this four-week study either individually or with a group. Expect the following as you journey through the first two chapters of Luke using the “He Will” Advent Bible Study:
  • A guided plan organized by week rather than day so you can use your own judgement and schedule your time accordingly.
  • Dig deep and glean new revelation from this well-known gospel story.
  • Better understand the prophesies, context, and events surrounding Christ’s coming.
  • Discover and cling to the character traits of God revealed in both the Old and New Testament.
  • Utilize an inductive study method by making observations, marking key words, and interpreting  the text.
  • Remember that in His great love and mercy, God has given the gift of salvation, just as He promised.

 

The Bible is for Everyone

We believe that the Bible is for everyone. You don’t need to be a scholar to start growing! Our heart’s desire is that this guide would be a useful tool for you, and we hope you will learn some new things and practice studying the Bible for yourself. While it’s suitable for both individuals and groups, we strongly recommend asking others to learn alongside you. Invite some friends and meet each week to discuss new revelations about the text and our amazing God.

Join Us

While November 29 is the official start of Advent this year, go ahead and start a week early (November 22) if you want/need to be finished by Christmas. We simply hope you’ll come alongside us as we prepare our hearts to celebrate what amazing things the Lord has done.
Be sure to subscribe on our website to receive free printable scripture cards containing key verses from this study, check us out on social media for a short IGTV video to encourage your learning, and listen to our “He Will” podcast with special tips and guidance after you finish Week One. 
With great love and affection for our sisters in Christ, 
Authors Eryn Kesler, Mary Straker, and the team at Arise Ministries Collective
Get your copy of the He Will Advent Study by clicking here or on the image below.

About the “He Will” Co-Authors

Eryn Kesler has been married to Matt for 20 years – the best thing that’s ever happened to her. She’s mom to 5 amazing kids, a recovering over-scheduler, and a wedding & portrait photographer in Brush Prairie, Washington.
Mary Straker is wife to her loving husband, Derek, and a stay-at-home mama to three sweet and busy little girls. She has been changed by the study of Scripture, and longs for other women to abide with God through the treasure of His Word. Mary lives in Ridgefield, Washington. 

 

Living As Light

 

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light  (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” – Ephesians 5:11-14, NIV, emphasis added)

 

We bought our house in the dead of Winter. Abandoned for a year, the inspection was done without electricity and water. There was a leak in the roof, filthy toilets, a bullseye target painted on the window, and remnants of someone who’d used it as shelter during the time it sat vacant. We hoped and prayed everything would work when we made an offer and called it our own a few days before Christmas.

But sheer angst was what we experienced several days later.

Winters in the Pacific Northwest are dark and dreary, so we were excited to see the sun finally peek through the clouds while unpacking. It was the light that unleashed what was hidden. Thousands upon thousands of beetles scurried out from under the cedar shakes on our south-facing home to bathe in the warm sun. Once gray in color, our new house looked black. It was absolutely covered in insects. 

I took the window screens off and hundreds dropped out. Even the attic vents were full of the pesky bugs. More beetles tucked themselves under the shingles than I knew what to do with. Years of no one dealing with the pests made for a breeding haven and I was completely overwhelmed. There were times that I stayed inside on sunny days to pretend they weren’t there, and even thought about cancelling plans with friends so they wouldn’t see my infested home.

When ignoring the problem no longer worked, online tutorials and articles helped me decide how to overcome my new arch-enemy. The plan for victory meant keeping a pressure-washer always ready with a special soap and water mixture.  Spraying them with the sudsy solution was tiresome and tedious, but it worked! The beetles dwindled in number and what began in anguish ended in anticipation. I rushed home on sunny days just to deal with my pests and get rid of them for good.

If you’re anything like me, you may not always want to expose things that are hidden. Like the beetles that lived under my shingles, It may seem easier to pretend they aren’t there than go through the hard work, exposure, and even embarrassment of dealing with them and admitting they’re a problem. 

The same is true for sin. Only when it’s exposed and known can we truly surrender it to the Lord and be cleansed from it. The pesky, debilitating, and loathsome problem of sin can only be reconciled in the light. 

I believe we are living in a time of sin-reckoning, Sisters. I believe this current pandemic, racial tension, and national discord is exposing both personal and corporate footholds. They are bringing to light weaknesses in our character and revealing values inconsistent with Gospel truth. They are uncovering idolatry and the darkest places of our heart. They are unveiling the filth that lurks under the surface. 

And I believe the same is true for the Church at large. God’s bride has been hiding sin in the shadows. Covering it. Justifying it. Perhaps even unaware of it. The Light of God in all His radiant perfection and glory exposes things we may not have wanted to see –  In ourselves, our neighbors, our systems, our communities, our leaders, and those we love. 

But there is beauty in the revelation of sin – If we humbly acknowledge it and repent from it. The apostle Paul tells us that everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”

Imagine for a moment what the world would look like if we, daughters of Christ, fully surrendered our sin and walked in the light of the Lord (Ephesians 5:11)? If we let Him refine and cleanse that which has been exposed? We would illuminate our homes, workplaces, and nation for His glory! 

Oh Sisters, may we boldly ask the Lord to reveal our offences and humbly repent of them. May we bravely plea in the same manner as David: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). May we reflect His image “in all goodness, righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:11). May we be examples of confession and reconciliation for all the world to see and “live as children of the light” (v.11) for His pleasure. May we stop trying to hide our fear of being exposed (John 3:19-20) and fully surrender to our great God’s mercy. May we hold fast to the truth that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (John 1:9).

May we let Him consume us. Refine us. Cleanse us. Purify us. All for His glory and His Kingdom. Amen.

 

About Lisa: Lisa DaSilva is a wife, mom of two teenagers, teacher, and advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word. She is the Director of Arise Ministries Collective in the Pactific Northwest.

Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.

 

 

 

Podcast 031 – “Seeking First: Mission and Singleness” || The In-Between Series With Jess and Amanda ||

Wow! We’ve made it to the last podcast in The In-Between series, friends! We are so thankful for you listening in and joining us as we explore what it looks like to seek the kingdom first in singleness or whatever season you’re in. 

In this last podcast, we discuss the core issues of our hearts in a waiting season: Our desires, our faith and our identity in Christ as disciples. We hope this conversation will exhort and empower you to fully step into the mission God has before you – Regardless of where you are right now. It’s exciting to look at the purpose of our lives with eternal vision and we hope this will encourage you to do just that.

 

Scripture References

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28 (NIV)

The Parable of the Persistent Widow – Luke 18:1-8 

Proverbs 31

 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with youi always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21 (NIV)

“And he said to them: ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Matthew 4:19 (ESV)

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 (NIV)

Hebrews 11

 

Seeking First: 5 Ways To Keep Our Eyes On the Mission

Seek Opportunity: Ask the Lord to help you see ways to step into Kingdom purpose/mission. Recognize that as a follower of Christ, you’ve already been called to the work of the Great Commission – Even in the in-between.

Seek Scripture: Does what you want/feel like you should do align with God’s Holy Word?

Seek Counsel: What do your Christ-following friends and family members have to say about your gifts, talents, and opportunities?

Seek Identity: Is your identity and the way you feel about yourself circumstantial, or rooted in who Christ says you are. Take the time to truly flesh this out, friends. If we put our identity in things we shouldn’t, that will translate into how we see our purpose here on earth. Ask God to help you understand where your true identity lies. 

Seek Christ First: When we align with Christ, His desires will become our desires. When we know who God is in Scripture and through prayer and communion with Him, we can trust that He is faithful to provide. His promises are true even if we try something and fail.

 

Quotes, Articles, Songs and Resources to Help

 

Thank you again for joining us in this series, listeners and friends. We would love to connect with you if you have questions or thoughts on these issues – To hear some of your own story and even join you in prayer. Leave us a comment here or on social media so we can reach out and get in touch.

We may feel in-between many times in life, singleness included – But we are not lost in the mission God has for us.

“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

 

About Our Co-Hosts

Originally from the Bay Area, Jessica currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Jessica obtained her undergrad from Biola University in Psychology and her master’s in Counseling Psychology from California State East Bay, and since that time has been a recruiting coordinator with a large banking company. An extroverted introvert, Jessica has a huge heart pull towards facilitating Christ-honoring and truth-filled discussions with women of all ages in the church. It’s her deep desire to seek the welfare of the city through her hope-filled heart with the abilities and gifts God has generously given her.

 

 

 

Amanda works as cardiac ICU nurse and moved to Portland three years ago. She has a heart to see the great commission carried out in the city and around the world. Her heart is for encouraging the Church in the written word of God and the great joy on the other side of obedience in our walk with the Lord.

 

 

 

 

Podcast 029 –
“Seeking Contentment In Singleness”
|| The In-Between Series with Jess and Amanda ||

Welcome friends,

What do you do when you’re dissatisfied with life? Like you’re in a ditch and can’t get out or feel like staying in the pit you’re in? Portland millennials Amanda and Jess have experienced this, too, and want to encourage other single women to find true contentment in Christ. Listen along as they share personal stories, insight, and wisdom in this first episode of the three part series they’re calling, In Between.  

 

Scripture References

“And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have. I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.” Philippians 4:11-13 GNT

“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NLT

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139: 23-24 NIV

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:3-4 NIV

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 NIV

 

Steps to Finding Contentment

  1. Begin on your knees. Ask the Father what’s going on deep in your heart and in your mind. Ask Him to show you if there are deeply embedded roots of sin that are causing poor fruit/discontentment to grow. Ask Him for vision and to reveal Truth from his Word that will replace lies of the world and from the enemy. Ask Him to humble you to hear and respond to what He has to say.
  2. Focus on the Word. Take time to meditate on Scripture. Memorize passages for recall when you’re feeling discontent or discouraged. Print the resources below and put them up around your home or tuck them in your wallet. Make sure you’re staying in the Word, and consider joining a study or group to hold you accountable.
  3. Ask For Insight. Talk to trusted friends, mentors or parents and ask them if they see patterns that contribute to your state of discontent. Invite others to come alongside you in the journey. Be willing to share your struggles and receive their words of wisdom/encouragement.
  4. Practice Thankfulness. Make lists of things you’re thankful for each day. You may want to keep a journal and record prayers of gratitude. These remind us of the good things God has for us in our lives when we’re struggling to see it.
  5. Consider Others. While it’s important to understand, acknowledge, and deal with personal trauma, loneliness, and disappointment, too much time focusing on the self can leave us bound to discontent. Begin looking for opportunities to volunteer and share your gifts/resources with others. Pray for people, bring a meal to someone, and find places to serve. Make plans and engage in the community around you.

 

Quotes, Articles, Songs and Resources to Help

Sometimes we need a little outside encouragement finding contentment in Christ. Amanda and Jess shared some songs and articles they found helpful, along with suggestions for clinging to the Word of Christ through meditation and memorization. Click on the links below for direct access to these resources.

There are free printable scripture cards available from us here at Arise (a gift from artist Anna DeRoos of She Letters Truth – Just tap the images below for the printable PDF) as well as some for purchase through The Daily Grace Company.

We don’t always get to choose our situation, but we do get to choose how we think about it, how we shape our hearts in it, and how we come to God in it. 

Pursuing contentment right alongside you,

Jess and Amanda

 

About Our Hosts:

Originally from the Bay Area, Jessica currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Jessica obtained her undergrad from Biola University in Psychology and her master’s in Counseling Psychology from California State East Bay, and since that time has been a recruiting coordinator with a large banking company. An extroverted introvert, Jessica has a huge heart pull towards facilitating Christ-honoring and truth-filled discussions with women of all ages in the church. It’s her deep desire to seek the welfare of the city through her hope-filled heart with the abilities and gifts God has generously given her.

 

 

 

Amanda works as cardiac ICU nurse and moved to Portland three years ago. She has a heart to see the great commission carried out in the city and around the world. Her heart is for encouraging the Church in the written word of God and the great joy on the other side of obedience in our walk with the Lord.

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