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Jesus and My Mental Health| By Emily Lawson

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139: 14-16 (KJV)

I am finally to the point of pregnancy where I feel like a normal person. I am also to the point where I can begin to feel the kicks of the tiny human growing inside me. 

Yet, with the excitement and thankfulness I have, worry at times still consumes me. 

“I haven’t felt him today. Is that normal?”

“That was a really quick movement, not his normal stretches. Is that normal?” 

“My oldest just kicked me so hard in the stomach. Is that going to cause an issue later?”

“Ugh, healthy food is so blah, I just want some salty chips. Am I ruining my baby?”

When I was pregnant with my first, I had such high anxiety levels, that I had to go to a counselor for five weeks. I was too anxious to take medicine. I was too anxious to call the doctor. I could not function at work, literally having to walk away from my desk several times to hide away and cry. I would cry over everything. I spent forty dollars on three pairs of pajamas and a robe for the hospital (really, a decent deal!). The next day I had a panic attack at work thinking I had spent too much and wouldn’t be able to afford diapers for my new baby. 

The counselor helped how she could, releasing me with some breathing exercises and telling me to use my husband when I felt overwhelmed. 

And though those breathing exercises helped me through a few moments, God saw me through that entire time period. Though I felt like I was drowning at times, and I felt that there was no way I could make it through, He was able to guide me through those last (very long) seven weeks of pregnancy, and hold my head above water. I knew during that time, that although these feelings would consume me for periods of time, that’s all they were. Feelings. They weren’t the truth. They weren’t real. They were the conclusion of my brain believing the lies that the enemy laid before me.

God’s eye knew the outcome of those feelings. He knows the outcome of my current pregnancy. He knows what I’ll be going through each and every second of the rest of this pregnancy. He knows the outcome of my children’s lives. 

He knew when my son would take his first steps, as I fretted and compared to other children His age.  

He knows when my son will finally get over this picky stage and will eat normal food, all the while I fret if he is getting enough nutrients to make it through the day. He knows the exact moment that my second will be born. 

In His book, each and every one of our thoughts and actions are written. He knows what we cannot see and He knows what is to come. 

It is all in His plan and no matter the degree to which I worry and panic over it, He knows the outcome. 

And here is the exciting part. 

As scary as my mental health was to me, it was not enough to scare Him away. The scariest thing that my brain could think up, was put in its place when God stepped in. When I thought that I had gone too far, He never let go of my hand.

I am not saying that it went away. My brain still got overworked. I still had moments where I sat in the fetal position on the floor of a room with no windows and cried. I still had bad moments. 

However, when I allowed God into those moments. When I reached out and just let Him take over, I had peace in the midst of the storm. My heart was still racing. The tears were still flowing. But I had the knowledge that this was temporary. That though I felt detached from everything, I could still take small steps to ensure that I was moving in the right direction. 

Life is hard. The enemy will do everything in his power to throw loops and hills and potholes in your path. But clinging to the one who holds tomorrow in the palm of His hand is the one thing that can keep us grounded. 

God knew those seven weeks would be grueling. He also knew that I would make it through those seven weeks from the moment I was formed in my own mother’s womb. 

He wrote my story, just as He has written yours.

Life is hard. But nothing is too hard for God. 

Ah Lord God! Behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee. Jeremiah 32:17 (KJV)

If you are struggling with your mental health, I encourage you to reach out. Don’t let the enemy keep you in a pocket of fear and wondering. Talk to the doctor. Take the medicine. Try the exercises. Write out those feelings. Don’t lay down in the darkness. Cling to the Lord as He guides you where you need to go. My experience is not unique. I didn’t take the medicine then, but coming out the other side, I know that it would have saved me so much anxiety. Pregnancy Anxiety and Post-Partum Anxiety and Depression are real things. Don’t let anyone tell you that “It’s just hormones, it’ll pass.” Address the issues and remember that you need to take care of yourself so you can enjoy every little thing this new adventure has to offer. Pregnant or not. Feelings are real. They exist in you, and dealing with them is the best way to get past them. Don’t settle for mediocre. You were worth sending an only son to die on the cross for you. You are worth the effort to feel better! Feel free to reach out to me directly also at @the_modest_wife on Instagram if you ever need to talk. You’re worth it. Never forget that!

God Sees the Bigger Picture| By Christna Stubbs

For the past two years, I have been waiting on God to intervene on my behalf in a particular situation. It has been an emotional journey walking through this process. I remember thinking during most of 2019 that if I could just overcome this giant, I could move on with my life and finally do what I knew God had called me to do. 

If what I was going through emotionally at the time was not enough, I fell ill and began to struggle physically. At this point, I had had enough. I had already been grappling with emotional turmoil over the past two years and now, on top of all of that, there came a physical battle that I had to fight in my body. On the outside, I appeared healthy to everyone, but everyday, I was in constant pain and discomfort, not understanding why I had to face something like this. 

In the midst of my emotional and physical pain, I constantly asked God the age old question: “Why?” “Why is this happening to me now God”? Why does it seem like I can’t catch a break? Why doesn’t my life make sense anymore? Why am I struggling with a health issue when I should be enjoying my youth?” 

My vision of the future that I once dreamt about was now a blurry mess! I could not see through the fog; my pain and suffering just felt too real. I would wake up every day feeling numb. The pain, the confusion, and the uncertainty was overwhelming. 

I remember one particular day in the midst of my pain, I had been asking God why He never allowed me to see what I had been praying for. I thought to myself, “It’s been two years God, why haven’t you intervened already?” Aren’t you supposed to answer the cries of your people? Aren’t you a good, good Father?” 

The prayer requests I had were all things that He had promised me, but it just seemed like it would NEVER happen. At that moment though, I felt the Holy Spirit speak gently to my heart. 

In the sweetest voice, I heard “If I had given you the breakthrough you prayed for, you would not be able to handle it”. 

You see, if God had given me what I had been praying for, it would have required me to move to the other side of the world. I would have endured my illness in a forgeign country, alone, away from my family. I knew within myself that it would have been much harder to walk through a season of sickness without the support of my family, and the recovery would have been much more gruelling. 

I believe without a shadow of a doubt that God already knew this. In His love and mercy, He held off from opening a door because He knew that I would not be ready for what was to come, no matter how ready I thought I was. 

I chose to share my story because I realize that oftentimes, we only see a mere speck on the painting of our lives. We are looking at a small stroke, and we try to make sense of it, when God already has a full view of the portrait. When we are walking through a season of delay or difficulty, it is easy for us to focus so closely on what is in front of us that we forget that God already knows our end from the beginning.We might only have a limited view and understanding of everything that takes place in our lives, but God sees everything. He sees the bigger picture, and we can trust that everything that He has planned for us will be good because He is a good Father. 

I pray that as you read my story, you can find comfort in this truth that God sees the bigger picture of your life. You may have been praying for something for years and because it has yet to happen, you have lost hope. Or, you may have expected your current circumstances to look a lot different than they do right now. Whatever it is that you are facing, remember that God sees everything. He already knows what is going to happen. He knows why you are where you are now, and He knows where you are going. I believe with all my heart that once we trust in Him, we can rest assured that the bigger picture that He is painting is much more beautiful than we can ever imagine. 

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)

Unplug to Recharge| By T’eoria Murray

In today’s society we move a mile a minute and I am no exception to this rule. With my phone in hand, hours can pass by in the blink of an eye. Even while having devotional time, my phone is within arm’s reach. From the moment we wake up in the morning we are flooded with sensory stimulation- phone alarms, music, news, social media. We interact with people and ideas almost 24/7.

Informatics professor Dr. Gloria Marks stated in an interview that the average person checks their email 74 times a day and switches tasks on their computer 566 times a day. 90 percent of young adults in the US actively use social media and 50 percent of people use social media while driving. With high speed internet literally at our fingertips, it is no wonder that many of us have lost the art of solitude and silence. 

Given the choice of stimulation or being left to our own thoughts, it is a no-brainer. A study was published in the July 2014 edition of Science in which students surrendered all their belongings, including their smartphones and spent 6 to 15 minutes alone in a room with nothing to do but think. Not surprisingly, more than half of the participants reported the task was difficult. What surprised researchers was that when instructed to occupy themselves with their thoughts and given the option of administering themselves a mild electric shock if they wished, 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women voluntarily gave themselves at least one shock during the thinking time. The baffled scientists recorded, “Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative.”

It’s easy to become addicted to stimulation without even realizing it. Noise is the new normal and boredom is to be avoided at all costs, but what are we missing out on when we are constantly plugged in?

Austin Phelps, a 19th century pastor, noted, “It has been said that no great work in literature or in science was ever wrought by a man who did not love solitude. We may lay it down as an elemental principle of religion, that no large growth in holiness was ever gained by one who did not take time to be often long alone with God.”

This principle is illustrated in the scriptures several times. Perhaps the most memorable illustration was in the life of Elijah. After facing off with the pagan priests at Mount Carmel, then running for his life from wicked Queen Jezebel, Elijah was physically and emotionally spent. After meeting his physical needs, God taught him an important lesson. There was a mighty windstorm tearing rocks loose from their places, then an earthquake, then a fire, but God was not in these things. He was in the gentle whisper that followed them.

God can speak in the noise, but He often chooses the silence. In His life on earth, Christ was often alone with His Father (Luke 5:16). He would spend whole nights in prayer (Luke 6:12). Silence and solitude was His place of strength. So what happens when we step away from the notifications and viral videos for a while?

  1. It reminds us that life will go on without us.
  2. It clears the clutter from our minds to allow for wise decision making and planning.
  3. It creates inner space to hear the voice of God.
  4. It allows us to disconnect from the world and deeply connect with our soul. We can get to know ourselves without the voices of friends, family, television, podcasts, books, technology, work and everything else that vies for our attention.
  5. It helps us with other spiritual disciplines such as Bible study, prayer and fasting.
  6. It boosts creativity.
  7. It creates increased appreciation for our relationships.

Finding time to escape alone and experience solitude and silence can feel almost impossible in our busy world, but it can be done if we are intentional.

If you’re a mom, this may mean waking up an hour earlier or staying up an hour after the kids are asleep. Spend your lunch break alone. Go on a retreat. Have a social media fast for a set period of time. Just a few minutes of purposeful quiet each day can benefit us more than we could imagine.  It may be difficult at first but hang in there. God wants you to have the blessing of silence.

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15 (NLT)

Jesus and Therapy| By Jessica Carpenter

In 2016, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It was relieving to receive an official diagnosis because it put a name to all of the chaos in my brain. However, it was also terrifying because affirmed the lies I already believed about myself.

One of the most disheartening things that I struggle with is the balance of trying to cling to Jesus while the church either tells me to “try harder” or  completely dismisses the topic of mental health altogether.

I have made it my mission to tear down every stigma that says I do not love Jesus just because I cannot fix my brain.

I could sum up my journey of living with a mental illness as a big “EVEN IF”

Even if depression tells me I am worthless, His redemption is irreversible 

Even if I feel damaged and disposable, He still calls me friend 

Even if I choose to isolate, His hand still reaches

Even if it gets hard to breathe, He is always near

Dear friend, 

When it seems hard to cling to Jesus (even when you know it is the very thing you need), it is okay. When scripture memory is out of the question because the simplest task of getting out of bed feels impossible, you are not alone. When your days go from the absolute best to feeling like it cannot get any worse, keep fighting to see more of those good days. They will come.

My scores on the GAD scale fluctuated for two years between severe and moderate-severe. In December, I finally scored mild. I cried the entire way home. I cannot tell you that it was not hard, but I will tell you that it was all worth it. Again, fight for those good days. This is nor to say that I will never be above the mild range again, but I am confident in the tools I have to keep me grounded. Open those blinds and windows. Meal prep for those rough weeks. Have a friend ask those hard, but necessary questions. 

Dear church,

Learn to know more than just the faces you see on Sunday mornings. From the pulpit to the back row, there are people suffering from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, PTSD, panic disorders, and so much more.

“Just seek help!” 

I agree; however, it is not as easy as it sounds. It takes courage to reach out and ask for help, but to also remain committed to the work of seeing healing take place. From personal experience, **trauma counseling gave me nightmares and made me sensitive to certain topics and situations. There were times where my depression and anxiety both spiked at the same time. So yes, I did seek help, but it did not excuse me from the realities of the healing journey.

**Please note this is not the case for all people!**

Know that there are people who may not show up consistently each week to Sunday Service or small group for these exact reasons. Rather than assuming Sunday mornings and small groups are the answer for all of life’s difficulties, learn to lean in and ask questions. 

Reach out with a simple, “hey, we missed seeing you last week. If you’re willing, I’d love to catch up with you and talk or listen!”

 Follow through. Then, do it again and again and again.

I have no doubt that Jesus would go through hell and high water for those who cannot do it for themselves. My hope is to see the church begin to rise up and do the same for all who suffer in silence. 

Psalm 42 (ESV)

“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,

for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember,

as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.”

The Journey of Motherhood| By Jennifer Gonzales

“I know it’s hard mama. I know it can be hard to get up everyday and have these little people rely on you. I know it’s hard to feel like sometimes your world is so small. I want to remind you, you are their world. You are the world that those little ones revolve around. You are their nurture, their home, and their comfort. You are everything to them and I hope even on your hard days you know how special you are. Especially to your little people.” 

As I read this quote over and over, I sit here in the thick of motherhood. If I am honest, as a mama to four boys and a new baby girl, it can often feel more like the “trenches of motherhood”.

A trench, by definition, is a long, narrow ditch. I am all alone, there is no end in sight, and I am sometimes fearful that it will all cave in on me. It is chaotic, loud, and messy. My eyes wander around my house. I scan over my mental “to do” list, hear the many little voices demanding my attention or care, and my chest tightens.

How will I get it done? How can I give 100 percent to all that is being asked of me? Am I giving each one of these little people all that they need? Is it good enough?

 As these thoughts race through my head, I feel my heart sink deeper and deeper under the pressure I have taken on. I feel my shoulders slouch a little lower as I carry a weight I was not created to carry. 

Why does it feel like this though? 

You see, these are the things that I prayed for. This is the life I dreamed I would have — to be a mama to many and spend my days at home with them. I had dreamed up the big picture, but had not given much thought to the details. Being overwhelmed had not crossed my mind. Loneliness was not on my radar. Yet, here I am. 

Then it happens. As I am on the brink of weariness and defeat setting in, He comes. Jesus shows up and meets me right where I am at — right there in my mess.

There is so much grace when I see Him. I say when I see Him because He really has been there all along, but my vision fails me. My eyes see the mess, and my sight is clouded by it all. My ears hear the noise, and His voice is silenced. But when I see Him, everything changes. There is still mess and chaos. There is still noise. It does not magically disappear. 

But grace! It changes what I see. That trench I’m in? The long, narrow ditch? I begin to see it open up. I start seeing the walls expand and widen. My heart gets lighter as I see wide open spaces ahead of me. I start to see the blank canvases that are my little people, and excitement fills me as I think of the beautiful story God is painting with each one of their lives.

I can rest now. The burden is not mine. In His grace, I do my part and watch Him do the rest. He is faithful — Jesus really is that good. This is motherhood. The most beautiful, messiest and scariest hood there is. It has been quite a journey so far, but I could not be more privileged.

This is His dream for my life, and it is well with my soul. I will rise up every morning and say YES to this journey. I will give my all and trust that God will fill in the gaps.

If you are a mama and find yourself hidden away in a trench, take heart. The trench is a lie. Step out of it and into the wide open space. It is what you were created for, and you are doing a fabulous job! So, buckle up and enjoy the ride. Ya know what they say –“ ain’t no hood like motherhood.”

She watches over the ways of her household and meets every need they have. Her sons and daughters arise in one accord to extol her virtues, and her husband arises to speak of her in glowing terms. Proverbs 31:27‭-‬28 TPT

All He Says I Am| By Jasmine Beard

Who are you?

I recently had the opportunity to share with some high school students, and we chatted about identity.

There are two questions that people young and old ask themselves at sometime in their life.

1.) Who am I?

And

2.) Why am I here?

When I asked the students the first question…

One student  cheerfully and confidentially responded, “I’m a football player.”

I responded, “Well, what if you get injured really badly, and you’re never able to play football again? Then who are you?”

I didn’t say that to stump him or to belittle his answer, but to simply get him thinking.

We are not what we do.

As people, we like to identify ourselves with everything except God, whether it be in what we do for a living, in our past, what has happened to us, or in what others have to say about us!

 “But you are God’s chosen treasure—priests who are kings, a spiritual “nation” set apart as God’s devoted ones. He called you out of darkness to experience his marvelous light, and now he claims you as his very own. He did this so that you would broadcast his glorious wonders throughout the world.” 1 Peter 2:9 (TPT)

What lies are you believing about who you are today?!

“Worthless.”

“Ugly.”

“Won’t amount to anything.”

“Trash.”

“Rejected.”

“Abandoned.”

“Forgotten.”

“Not special.”

It would be impossible to walk throughout life without having someone say something hurtful to you!

Sometimes things can be said so often to us that instead of rejecting those words we accept them and begin to wear them as our identity.

As we accept those words as our identity, we go throughout life trying to prove those words wrong or by self-medicating to numb the pain, overcompensating with makeup, numbing with alcohol, or hopping from relationship to relationship.

But all these things are only a cover up – a cover up to a truly broken and hurting heart!

Today, I want you to break-up with those word curses and refuse to speak them to yourself or agree with them again!

YOU ARE NOT WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT YOU!

You are a daughter or son of the most High God!

And He calls you:

“Beautiful.”

“Worthy.”

“Forgiven.”

“Free.”

“Bold.”

“New.”

Think on these things instead because what God says about you is TRUE!

The Bible tells us that we are made in the very image of God. Meaning our looks, characteristics, and personality all derive from Him!

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

So today, if you are questioning “who you are?” and “why you are here?”, look no further than to the One who created you in His likeness.

Once we know Whose we are, we will have a better understanding of who we are and what we were created to do.

When our identity is solidified in The One who is identity we no longer have to waiver or fret in the question of who we are because we find out who we are only in Him. 

From Broken Places| By Patience Daigle

Have you ever gotten to the gate to board a plane only to realize the flight had been delayed for hours? 

On a recent trip, my flight got delayed 3.5 hours because of maintenance on the aircraft. Those in charge with the airline did not feel confident in the broken mechanisms so they advised us passengers to wait and put us on the next plane going to our destination. Exhausted from the wait and scrambling through the line to retrieve my boarding pass to enter the newly assigned plane, I could not locate where my seat number was.

I showed my pass and asked the flight attendant, “Ma’am, can you tell me what my seat number is?” 

She graciously replied, “Oh! Someone has sat in your seat. Go to row 4. I’m going to put you in first class.” 

I could not help but soak in the awesomeness of the blessing I had just received. I mean, leg room, personal blanket, and snack of my choice that did not include pretzels or peanuts. I was eating it up and bragging to my friends about what I had just experienced. However, as I sat waiting for the plane to take off, the Holy Spirit overcame me so sweetly. 

All I could hear in my spirit was, “He wants to take you from broken places.” 

Earlier that morning, James chapter 1 had been on my mind, particularly verses 2-4. 

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2-4 (KJV)

To be honest, when these verses first came to my mind, I immediately cringed. The fact is that sometimes the trial is long and seemingly unbearable. Often dark and bleak, but God never intends for the outcome to be fruitless. 

I believe that as you have read this blog, your places of brokenness have been apparent in your mind. Do not hold back from God. Surrender those pieces of your heart. Believe that your Savior endured the Cross to give you life and allowance for the Holy Spirit to transform the fragments. 

The uncomfortable, sometimes excruciating, afflictions are inevitable. Maybe you have been waiting a long time. Maybe you have experienced unthinkable tragedy. Maybe you have let doubt and fear cloud your faith. Maybe there is unrelenting sin in your life. Whatever it is, God wants to take you from those broken places. To move from them, you must walk in faith. Allow the Holy Spirit to transform you through each trial. Look to Him, and you will see how He brings you through each time. Spiritual endurance will build in your heart as the image of the King sharpens until that glorious day you behold Him in completion. Perfect and entire, wanting nothing but Him. 

Count it all joy! Along the journey, you will turn around and see the faithfulness of God gleaming. You may even buy an economy ticket one day and end up in priority seating just so He can use the experience as an opportunity to reveal more of Himself. Nevertheless, allow Him to fix the broken mechanisms in your heart so you can ride first class into the next season of life.

Forgive and Love| By Zuzana Niedelova

When I was a child, I learned that broken things are sharp; and what is sharp can hurt me. But then when I was growing up, I learned that people are broken too. And if they are broken, they are sharp and can just as easily hurt me.

I have no doubt that you have been hurt in your life; maybe someone hurt you today or maybe years ago. No matter when it took place, how deep the wound is or how much you are trying to protect it, I want you to know that you were not created for the pain.

God did not make you to be treated without care, respect and love. He made you more precious than rubies, to be loved, cherished, respected and looked up to.

I long for you to know this truth deeply in your heart because these are not just plain words of comfort. They are your truest identity which has been placed in you before the creation of the world.

However, people can make you feel different sometimes and although it doesn’t always seem that way, he knows your pain. He knows exactly how you feel and he knows how to love you well.

God, who is your creator, will provide for all your needs and desires if you delight in him first.  People can’t offer what you have been created for in the measure that is sufficient, but your Father can restore every wound and every broken piece of your being because he knows how much you are worth.

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

Although, knowing this truth is important, it is not enough. There are still people to be dealt with – those who hurt you, the broken, the sharp. Some of them really did not mean to hurt you. They are doing their best in getting through life with all the baggage they have been handed. Forgive them and let them know to be more careful next time. Show them you care for them, that they are valued and worthy of love. Show them what you have been shown by your Father.

And then there are those who hurt you on purpose. Forgive them too. It was not right and there isn’t a good excuse for their acts, but there is a good explanation; they themselves have been hurt so deeply and their needs haven’t been met so many times that they became broken, sharp and are trying to mend their own brokenness in the wrong places. Don’t be too hard on them; you don’t know what they have been through. Whether you can see it or not, they need your love and forgiveness so much more than you think they deserve. They need it because they didn’t get enough of it; that’s what broke them and made them so sharp after all.

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Luke 5:31 (NIV)

I know it’s hard to forgive things that seem to be unpardonable, but you are not the judge, you are God’s vessel and reflection – he sustains you and only then you can go and bring life to others.

Therefore, be God’s hands and feet here on Earth. Find strength and comfort in Him and then go and comfort those in need, the broken and even those who hurt you. That’s what you have been created for; to reflect his identity and so when he shows you love, respect, care, when he comforts you and lifts you up, go and do so to others. Yes, even those who hurt you because trust me; they need your love and forgiveness more than you need your hurt and bitterness. And by doing so, you’ll fulfill the very purpose you’ve been created for – to reveal His character He put into you to the world. 

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them” Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

A Generous Spirit| By T'eoria Murray

One day after school when I was about 6-years-old, my mom told me that we would be making a stop at the toy store on the way home. 

“Tee, I need to get a Christmas gift for your god-sister. I want your honest opinion because she’s about your age,” she told me. “Pick something that you would want for yourself.” 

I remember sticking my chest out with pride at the prospect of giving her my input. However, once we were inside the store I could only think about all the things I wanted for myself. My mom tried to coax an opinion out of me a few times. 

“Do you think she would like this? What do you think about this doll?” I would offer a half-hearted “Sure” or shrug indifferently. I didn’t want to pick a toy for another girl after seeing half a dozen things I wanted for myself. 

Finally, I picked the nearest baby doll and assured my mom it would be fine. She paid and I reluctantly followed her out of the store. I forgot all about this incident until weeks later when Christmas rolled around. Amid my myriad gifts, I was surprised to find the very doll I had chosen without thought! My mom watched my face closely and said she had wanted to give me the chance to pick my own gift without ruining the surprise. I tried to look pleased, but I was stunned and more than a little disappointed with myself. If I had given real thought to her request and embraced the opportunity to give another child a gift, the blessing would have come back to me.

Yourdictionary.com defines generosity as “readiness or willingness to give; the quality of being willing to share.” 

If you are like me, when you think about having a generous spirit, the first thing that comes to mind is money, but there is so much more to giving than that. The principle of generosity is weaved in and out of scripture. God Himself is portrayed as the embodiment of generosity in giving His Son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. In His life on Earth, Jesus made it plain that generosity isn’t about isolated acts, but rather a lifestyle that is others-focused. He was constantly giving of Himself- His wisdom, His time, His kindness and encouragement. By His unselfish example He demonstrated that we all have something to give. 

So how can we practice generosity in our daily lives?

  1. Generosity with our time

We all have 24 hours in a day, but somehow it never seems like enough. We live in a fast-paced world that never stops and time is a precious commodity. Is there someone in your life that you can invest in? Is there a child who needs mentoring? A friend who needs a listening ear? An elderly neighbor who could use help around the house? Time given to uplift others is time well-spent.

“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” Hebrews 13:16 (NLT)

  1. Generosity with our abilities

Do you love to sing or play an instrument? Do you have a practical skill like plumbing or electrical work? Maybe you have the gift of teaching or are good with finances. Whatever your talent or skill, ask God to show you opportunities to use it to help others. Bring the joy of music into a dreary place. Help with the repairs at a place that desperately needs the work done but can’t afford it. Tutor those young people who have stopped believing in themselves. Our talents and gifts were given to brighten the lives around us. 

  1. Generosity with our belongings

When it comes to the things that I own, I often face a dilemma you may be familiar with.  When I need something to wear it seems I don’t have much at all, but when I have to pack or reorganize my stuff I suddenly have far more than I need! Are there extra clothes, shoes, books, electronics or other things around your house that you’re saving for a just-in-case or a rainy day? Occasionally, it’s a good idea to prayerfully look through the things we own for ways to bless others who may need something more than we do. Our apparent clutter could be their answered prayer.

“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)

  1. Generosity with our money

The idea of giving can be daunting because what we have to offer may look small in comparison to the great need that surrounds us. The old saying goes “little is much when God is in it.” It’s safe to say your donation won’t solve world hunger, but God cares more about the heart of the giver than the quantity of the gift. You may know a teacher who needs supplies, a young mother who needs baby clothes, or a family who could use groceries. What creative ways can you find to bless others? 

Christian author Randy Alcorn wrote, “The single greatest deterrent to giving and to living more simply is the illusion that this world is our home.” 

As we ask God to open our eyes and change our priorities, we will realize that we are only stewards of our time, abilities, possessions, and money. He will show us how to use them all for the greatest good- His glory. 

“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25 (NLT)

Mere Human| By Emily Lawson

Tell me a little about yourself.

What comes to mind?

Your name, age, job, relationship status? Maybe your hobbies or interests?

Mine would go something like, “Hi, I’m Emily! I’m a wife to my high school sweetheart, and a mommy to my son, with another baby on the way! I’m currently a financial service representative for a hospital pharmacy, but would love to stay home someday. Our family loves to be outdoors to hike, camp, and travel…”

But who are you? Really? Down to the nitty gritty.

Human.

We are each a ball of emotions and heart strings and hot messes.

And that is what each of us focus on when we look at ourselves. How quick our temper is. How easy it is to make us cry, or how often we don’t cry. How lazy we feel, or how much time we don’t take to relax.

How does God see you?

After church the other night, I figured it out.

To God,

I am water.

I am a storm at sea.

I am a fish.

I am a blind man.

Every item is common and unique.

I am a shepherd’s staff.

I am a rock in the desert.

I am an oil container.

I am dry bones.

Every item is unmoving.

I am Moses.

I am David.

I am Esther.

I am Job.

All just plain humans.

Until…

God moved THROUGH them.

Water turned to wine.

A fish to feed thousands.

A shepherd’s staff to part the sea.

Dry bones turned to soldiers.

A youth David to fight a giant.

A woman to save a nation.

This time of year, we resolve to be new and better. We grow in strength and in health.

This year, though, what if you resolved to sit back and listen? A little more closely. A little more intently.

What if we resolved to have more conversations in our prayer closet? Asking for less to be taken, and instead asking for more grace and understanding in our circumstances. No matter if they are positive or negative.

Jeremiah 33:3 (KJV) says: Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

Ask for the strength to face the world we live in boldly.

Ask for the vision to see the opportunities that He lays before you.

Our workout routines will still be there each day. Our diet plans will help us feel better each meal.

However, our prayers can be there for us when the gym closes and when the refrigerator is still calling us after we have met our intake for the day!

When we can’t sleep at 2am. When we are having a rotten day and we’re stuck in traffic. When our plans are cancelled last minute and we cannot help but be disappointed.

Friends, family, and significant others are wonderful, but they are not as available as a limitless God. No need to remember a phone number. No need for the phone to be charged. No need to find the right words.

You do not have to be a special person. Moses saw himself as someone that could not speak well, but God saw him as the one to free the slaves. Job was just a father and home owner, but God saw him as the perfect one to demonstrate true faith to the world.

Resolve to be YOU this year.

Let God work THROUGH you. Make yourself available. Allow God to use you.

A New Year’s Resolution has never changed your life so much!