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Hope in the Valley

We are more than a month into 2017 and I can’t help but reflect on God’s provision over the last year. He provides every year – all the time, but looking back at the last year I have no idea how we would have made it without his guiding hand. Everyone says don’t talk about finances. It’s an uncomfortable subject, but we have to be uncomfortable, we have to show our humanity, and we have to admit our struggles in order to give God the glory. It’s not comfortable sharing something that makes us vulnerable, but when we do that’s when He can move. So I share this to give you encouragement and hope as well as a reminder to trust God in not only times of hardship, but at all times. He will provide uniquely for your situation.


Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns — and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Matthew 6: 25-26


For the longest time, I was being stubborn and stuck in a selfish mindset that I wanted to be “comfortable”. The idea of working for someone else and not loving what I’m doing has always given me anxiety. I continuously called myself the exception and ignored the rule everyone else followed. My career plan didn’t turn out as planned. The curriculum for my degree was not what it needed to be in order for me to be successful and I lost direction. I was about to get married with no income, no career, and no concrete solution. It makes you feel like you’re less than adequate in today’s society. But blogging has been my passion, my solution, and my struggle. As I’m learning and as I’m growing, I’ve also been fighting through mental and emotional blocks. You know, the usual … depression, anxiety, lack of motivation, etc. It makes it hard to do anything. It makes it hard to blog and run a business on your own time.

Two months before we got married, Jonathan lost his job. He too didn’t know what direction he wanted to go in so he decided to focus on his business. Before long, he had racked up a good amount of debt and decided owning a business wasn’t for him … and then we got married. Two people unemployed and starting a life together. Tell me how that works. We struggled to pay the bills and ended up in even more debt. Jonathan started watching a lot of COPS and decided for the mean time he would take a minimum wage security job. And then, I found out I was pregnant. Amplify all of the depression, anxiety, and lack of motivation I already had on top of little to no energy and an emotional/hormonal pregnant woman and you’ve got a serious mess of a human. In my mind, we were not ready for a baby. We could barely take care of ourselves. How were we going to afford this? We had no healthcare let alone all the necessities and expenses a baby requires. I knew we would make it work – we had to, but I didn’t know how.

The security job wasn’t working out for Jonathan so we came to a crossroad. He decided to finally take up the calling he felt God had placed on his life years ago to be a police officer, but he would need to go to school and get a degree before he could go to police academy. It turned into a two year plan. Jonathan had always promised me that I didn’t have to work if I didn’t want to; he would provide. My one desire more than anything was to not have to work when I was pregnant and when I had a newborn. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t mind working from home, but I wanted to control my schedule so I can be there and available for my children. That wasn’t going to happen which made me feel even worst. We made the decision to send Jonathan back to school so he could follow his calling and I agreed to work in the meantime except I was still struggling with everything going on emotionally and mentally and couldn’t find a job that would pay enough to relieve the weight of our bills without the credentials or experience to back up my abilities.  I found myself in that dreaded catch 22. I finally got a temporary and part-time job as an admin at a university while the full-time admin was on sick leave. It helped us scoot by. By the time I left, I was in my third trimester. I didn’t work for those last two months before delivering. I had too much anxiety about finding a job just to leave it again. I would have been miserable if I had worked during that time and big props to those ladies who push through it and work up to their due date. Thankfully, we were able to work out a situation that allowed me to stay home.

We’ve hit 2017. We’ve got our baby with both of us happy and healthy. We have no medical expenses. We’ve never had to purchase or spend any money out of pocket for any baby-related items. We’ve never had our electricity or water shut off, although it’s come close. We don’t have rent or a house payment. Jonathan is currently in his last term and will start academy in the fall. How did we do it? I don’t know. We wouldn’t have without God’s provision. Financial aid covered all of his school and left us with enough to just barely live off of, we qualified for aid that covered our food for the month and the baby’s formula, healthcare that covered all of our medical expenses, our house was given to us as a wedding gift, we used the money from our wedding to renovate a room for the nursery  (which was not suitable or safe for a baby prior), and our baby shower literally showered us with everything we needed. We are surrounded by family who is so supportive. They are always there lending a helping hand when we needed help painting, emotional support, or needed someone to watch Landon while I started working full-time as of the new year. I was blessed to get the same position at the university I was in before after the other admin retired. We are making it and it took a while to get back onto our feet and we aren’t back to running yet, but we are getting there.

Jonathan was driving me to work the other day and we looked out the window and saw a man waiting for the bus. That’s not me. We may be down to one car at the moment, but even so that’s not me. I have a way to work, I have family who is willing to pick me up and take me home from work if I need it. Even with the hardships we’ve been going through, I am so so blessed. God’s hand has been in our situation from the beginning. He’s guided us, He’s provided for us, He’s blessed us. To Him be the glory.

 

 

Spiritual Journaling: S.O.A.P. Method

soapjournal

I’ve always been a fan of journaling. Spiritual journaling is something I’m starting to get into more in order to have a richer understanding of the Bible and document what I’m learning better. This is also a great practice to implement into your Self Care Plan. One spiritual journaling method that I’ve come across recently is called the S.O.A.P method. When Jonathan and I planned on getting married, we started going to a Bible study at his church and it was there they taught us this method that I was surprised to find I had never heard of or learned before.


How It Works:

‘S’ = Scripture

Pick a passage to read out of and once you’re finished, write the scripture down and/or the reference you’re choosing to focus on. Pick one that stood out to you.

‘O’ = Observation

Share what you observed from the text. In your own words, what is it communicating to the reader?

‘A’  = Application

Share how someone in general or specifically yourself could take what is observed in this verse and apply to your life.

‘P’ = Prayer

Document a prayer referencing the application of this text to your life.


I have a Praise journal that lists a topic and verses supporting that topic to journal a praise about. This one focuses on God being our Provider. The text is Psalm 145.

For Example:

Scripture

Psalm 145:15-19

The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.

Observation

The Lord provides for every living creature on the earth. He not only takes care of our needs as well, but longs to satisfy our desires so long as we trust that He wants to and will.

Application

I need to make more of a conscious effort to trust Him enough to ask for not only my needs, but also the desires of my heart. Additionally, thanking Him for not only when He answers my prayers and meets my needs and desires, but for His goodness and blessings in the day to day things that I haven’t even thought to ask for.

Prayer

Lord, you are so good, so loving, so giving. You are waiting and ready to hear our cries and provide for us. I want to cry out to you and have you hear the depths of my heart. You see my longings and short comings. You know when I’m short on bills or when I’m overwhelmed with uncertainty when an emergency arises and taps into our funds. You know when my spirit is burdened and broken by unkind words and emotional baggage. You know when I really want to treat myself or when I long for the support of a friend. You know, Father. Remind me of your love and desire to provide for me. Remind me to come to you first when I feel discontent so I can find peace in the storm. Thank you, Lord.

 

I hope you had a wonderful time with family and a very blessed Thanksgiving. My love to you as you journey on with your day. I pray you find peace as well.

loveamanda

Embrace Your [True] Value

Whether it’s in the whir of rushing through a crowd of people or it’s in the quiet hum of my own thoughts before I fall asleep at night, there are still times when I get the best of myself – when my mind runs down dark paths of loneliness, doubt, and self-destruction. I wonder if my thoughts are right and if there is a truth to them. It’s the haunting reality that I’m not enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not skinny enough. I don’t work hard enough. That even with my best efforts, they aren’t good enough. That even at the best version of myself it’s still not good enough. And, yes, there is some truth to that. I will never be perfect. Knowing that isn’t the hard part. The hard part is still believing that I can get as close to perfect as possible and being disappointed in myself when I still fall short. This cycle leads me to devaluing myself. It’s not just with my own thoughts, but the ghosts from my past whose whispers still glide past my ears reminding me of their words that made me feel so insecure and sensitive to who I am both inside and out in the first place.

But I’m not the only one. There has to be someone else out there who feels the same way, who fights with her thoughts, and struggles with her self-worth, insecurities, and confidence

  • About 20% of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood.
  • Over 70% of girls age 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school, when they feel bad about their looks.
  • 7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.

Not only am I not the only one, but these feelings and thought process start at a young age. Devaluing one’s self and one’s life can, at an extreme, result in suicide which is the second leading cause of death from 10-24 year olds.

Regardless of your choices, ethnicity, weight, height, success, or even how YOU think or perceive yourself, let me tell you something …

Everyone at one point or another in their life struggles with insecurities, their self-worth, and confidence. That means you’re not alone in this fight. I’m not alone in this fight. But it also means that this is a fight worth battling because if so many people are going through it then we need to find a way to be victorious.

These truths aren’t just ones I have to accept, but ones I HAVE to believe in completely. Someone can tell you something and you can agree with what they have to say, but if you don’t truly believe it then you aren’t going to allow it motivate you to make a change. These are truths that anyone who struggles with self-worth need to not just agree with or accept, but truly believe in order to be victorious in this battle.

Truth #1

I am not perfect and never will be perfect, but my level of perfection is not equivalent to my value. I know this is true because of truth #2.

 “For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.”

-Galatians 5:17

Truth #2

There is no perfection in humanity which is why it took a man who was 100% human and 100% God and in His sinless and perfect nature was able to take my penalty of death upon himself and give me a life of freedom and redemption. If I were valueless, why would such a man choose to go through unimaginable pain, agony, and eventually die for me? His death gives me value.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.

– Romans  8:28

Truth #3

My value is immeasurable as a result of Christ’s act of love. His love was the adoption seal that made me a daughter of the Most High King. By default I’m not just royalty, but a Princess. A Princess’ value is immeasurable.

“I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”

-2 Corinthians 6:18

Truth #4

I can never be too beautiful or too ugly, too skinny or too fat, too rich or too poor for God because regardless of my imperfection I AM enough. His love is unconditional and His love gives me value.

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:”

-Romans 8:35

 

Truth #5

And even though my beauty does not give me value I can be confident in knowing that I am the most beautiful creature on earth because I am fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image who has defined beauty Himself. 

I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration – what a creation!”

-Psalm 139:14

These truths have helped me to realize that my value is not found in my perception of what my value is or even in what other people’s perception of what my value is. My value is based on the truth of Christ. If that weren’t true, I would have no real value, but He is the reason this battle, I personally face and our society faces, can be won and why we can have victory to take back our confidence, laugh at our insecurities, and once and for all embrace our true value. I hope this can be an encouragement to you today. What ways do you overcome your insecurities? What are the truths you believe and live by?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:
http://dosomething.org
http://jasonfoundation.com/prp/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/

 

DEVO Day: Love is a Choice

Can we just say … relationships are hard? Relationships are also a lot of wonderful things, but the concept of being selfless and giving up what you want for someone else is not an easy task. In any relationship we have choices we have to make be it a friendship or a marriage. Relationships force two people to learn how to come together and form one unique bond where selflessness and compromise are necessary factors. There will always be differences, disagreements, and arguments between two people because no one is a carbon copy of you. And learning how to mesh the differences of two people who plan on spending the rest of their life together can be the most challenging of all. Love needs to be present in any relationship for it to work. Love is a choice in and of itself, but in a relationship it comes down to a consistent choice whether or not you’re going to act in love.

When we want something from someone or something doesn’t go our way, it’s human nature to seek out change and resolution. Often times we get so caught up in our perspective we end up demanding instead of requesting. Your wife isn’t obligated to make you a sandwich and your husband isn’t obligated to give you a massage. They have a choice to act in love. That choice makes it all the more special and meaningful when someone chooses to bless you with your request instead of being forced to out of obligation because you demanded it. In marriage, a wife is called to submit to her husband. She does this not by demanding, but requesting. A husband is called to love his wife. He does this by acting selflessly.

Not only does this hold true to our earthly relationships, but also our relationship with God. He doesn’t demand that we choose Him, follow Him, serve Him, or talk to Him. He gives us a choice and it’s so much sweeter to know that an almighty God who has the power to force us to love Him gives us the choice to love Him instead after He showed His unconditional love for us by sending His Son to die so that we can have a choice that we as sinners don’t deserve. It’s up to us to act in love by giving those we are in relationships with the freedom of choice and it’s up to us to act in love by being selfless in return when those we are in relationships love us by giving us the freedom of choice.

“We love because He first loved us.”

– 1 John 4:19

As Valentine’s Day approaches let’s not dwell on the Italian food, chocolate, and teddy bears. Let’s focus on choosing to love unconditionally and selflessly those around us.

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:13

Bed Time Routine

btr

The older I get, I realize more and more how important it is to not only have a schedule, but to have a daily routine. This includes a set time to go to bed that will allow you to wake up with enough sleep and time to go through your morning routine before work, meetings, appointments etc. Here’s my newly updated bed time routine that prepares me to get a well-rested night sleep and makes it easier for me to wake up in the morning. Hopefully it can be an inspiration to you in developing your own bed time routine.

1. Remove Makeup/ Wash Face – feeling clean

2. Brush Teeth – proper hygiene

3.  Drink a glass of water – stay hydrated

4. Set alarm across room – forget snoozing

5. Turn phone off and charge – no midnight interruptions

6. Turn on the heating blanket – & no freezing this winter!

7. Plan an exciting breakfast to eat in the morning – gives you something to look forward to

8. Schedule the following day by making a list of the 6 most important tasks with the hardest being number 1

9. Read a book – crack a binding and feel the ink printed words as you turn pages the old fashioned way

10. Turn off all of the lights – you get better sleep in total darkness

I make sure I get 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Your body needs rest and time to heal.

What is your bed time routine?

DEVO Day: Walking into the Unknown

The subject I’m going to breach has caused me to have a lot of anxiety in my own life so for some of you this subject may do the same, but I think it’s one that at the same times helps to counteract the anxiety.

My biggest fear: the fear of the unknown. I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen next especially when that could be anything. Maybe it’s the control freak in me or maybe it’s just human nature.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Life would go by so much smoother and worry-free to just be able to surrender the future to God and accept that we are in His hands and whatever happens will happen. We have to trust that God will get the glory in the end. It makes the hard, almost unbearable circumstances seem hopeful because you know everything will be okay and work out in the end. The beauty is God will never leave your side. You can have peace.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Romans 8:31

DEVO Day: Leading the Blind

DSC_0603

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:4

I heard about this new app called “Be My Eyes” which allows those who are vision-impaired to connect with a volunteer through a live video chat where they can ask for assistance requiring sight to make their everyday lives easier. Based on my understanding, it sounds like a phenomenal app to help people, but it got me thinking …

I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

Acts 20:35

I’ve been blessed with sight. I’ve been blessed with a lot of things, however it is more blessed to give than to receive. Our talents and abilities are gifts God has given us to bless others with. That is one of the ways in which we can show our thanks. It’s not just our physical abilities, but also our spiritual abilities. Being raised in a home that loved and worshipped God, where I went to church every Sunday, provided me with varying spiritual insight that can allow me to help others. My parents grabbed my hand and raised me up, teaching me the ways of the Lord and how to love like Christ loves. We can still learn things from our spiritual mentors, but there comes a time when we have to look behind us and see who else is around who might need a guide and reach out our hands to them. We have the world to offer someone who has nothing. We are called to be leaders so we can raise leaders up.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Matthew 25:35-40

DEVO Day: Loving God

In order to understand how to love someone, in this case God, we have to understand its origin and what it is.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

– John 3:16

What is love?

According to the dictionary….
love
ləv/
noun
noun: love; plural noun: loves
an intense feeling of deep affection.
“babies fill parents with intense feelings of love”
  1. a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.
    “it was love at first sight”
    a personified figure of love, often represented as Cupid.
    noun: Love
  2. a great interest and pleasure in something
    Sounds to me like a pretty shallow definition especially when the type of love God exhibits involves a choice, sacrifice, and commitment. Love may be a driven result of having deep affection, a great interest, or having pleasure in something, but I’m convinced it is not the definition of love. So what is love?
    “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there aretongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”
    – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

    The Biblical definition of love is applicable and makes the most sense when breaking love down into it’s four Greek distinctions:

    1. Agape: love that is unrequited and unconditional typically found between God and man.

    2. Eros: love that is passionate and intimate typically found between a husband and a wife.

    3. Philia: love that is loyal and equal typically found between two friends.

    4. Storge: love that is accepting and affectionate typically found between a parent and a child.

    Why do we love?

    It’s simple.

“We love because He first loved us.”
– 1 John 4:19

God chose to love us by committing Himself to the decision to sacrifice His only Son so we could have the opportunity to live an everlasting life with Him that we were condemned from because of our sin. We understand love because God showed us what it looked like. We choose to love because it’s the natural and reciprocated response and form of gratitude.

How do we love?

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
–  John 15: 9-17

Understanding that love consists of three things:

1. Choice: being able to look ahead and acknowledge the commitment and sacrifice that will come as a result of a decision and making the choice regardless.

2. Commitment: sticking it out during the sacrifices no matter how difficult they are because you made a choice.

3. Sacrifice: the hardships and selflessness you will have to endure to strengthen and keep the bond created between two individuals based on the initial choice of commitment.

The first step is confirming your choice to commit to a sacrificial life. The second step is recognizing some of the ways you will have to sacrifice. The specifics will be personal for each individual, but the essentials are the same. You’ll have to sacrifice your time and desires for God’s instead. It’s a small price in comparison to the value of drawing closer to Him as a result. Spend time talking to Him, reading His love letter to you, respecting Him, and being obedient to His commandments and will for your life. You’ll come to find the will you had for yourself transforming and aligning with God’s will. That is what the product of love looks like and why it’s worth so much.

DEVO Day: Being Thankful

thank·ful

 adjective \ˈthaŋk-fəl\
: glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.
: of, relating to, or expressing thanks

The biggest desire I have for my life is God’s will. I spent a lot of my life trying to figure out what that looked like. But there are only a couple times where the Bible specifically says that something is the will of God; one of those is being thankful in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Incidentally, ever since the week before Thanksgiving the message of gratefulness has been coming up in my life consistently. In my heart, I knew I was lacking thankfulness for all things in all circumstances and I was taking a lot of what God has blessed me with for granted. As a result, I was living in a state of confusion and frustration because I wasn’t at peace with where I was standing. I hadn’t been thankful for how far I had come or appreciative of the time I had in which I could just breathe and take in how God would be using me to grow and become stronger as a result of some of the hardships I was enduring. All I wanted to do was keep moving forward when God was telling me to be still. I was a grain of sand that had to go through the heat and pressure – become uncomfortable – so that I could become the beautiful pearl that God had planned for me to be – that I longed to be.

When we are so focused on ourselves, we become ungrateful for the work and sometimes pain it involves during the journey to becoming that delicate treasure. Not only should we be thankful for all things (Ephesians 5:20), but even more so when we have to endure trials and testing. That is where we see God work and we can rejoice knowing that through the hardship we will come out so much better and more refined in a way that will allow God to use us more efficiently for the purpose He has for our lives.

It is hard to be thankful in all circumstances if we aren’t focusing on the reason why we are being thankful in the first place.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”

-Psalm 118:1

It has helped to ground me by keeping a journal where every morning I write down 5 things I’m thankful for and why. Being thankful draws me away from my selfish nature, away from frustration, and only leads me to the peace and comfort found in worshipping the goodness of the Lord.

DEVO Day: Happiness Is Overrated

There is much misconception about happiness. It seems like the ultimate life goal to achieve. After all, America was formed based on the pursuit of happiness and if we are all happy then we have no problems. Except the problem is, happiness is a shallow, confused emotion based solely on self. What makes you happy? Sitting here writing and sipping on a cup of tea makes me happy. Morning cuddles with my puppy, Isabel, makes me happy. Spring flowers and blue skies make me happy. All good things, but eventually I will have finished this post, my cup will be empty, Isabel will wake up and want to play, the flowers will whither and the clouds will turn gray. Does this mean that when the things that make me happy come to an end my happiness in turn does as well? There’s a time and a place to be happy, but it is one that is fleeting and momentary because it is based solely on changing factors. I don’t want to live a life of happiness and I certainly don’t want to make that my ultimate life goal. Because of it’s momentary affect, choosing what makes you happy isn’t always the right or best decision especially since the emotion you receive from happiness shouldn’t be one that comes and goes. Instead, much like love, it should be a choice. Despite circumstances, in the end, how you feel is your choice and no outside factors should be given the power to alter that. The real life goal we should be seeking is joy. Joy is the byproduct of the exact opposite of what happiness is a product of: selflessness. When we refocus our lives on making others happy and putting them before ourself, we receive a deeper sense of fulfillment because we receive joy. In the end when everything that makes us happy is gone, there is one thing that will always remain that brings us joy: our salvation from the Lord and knowing that the battle is already won. He is the true, unwavering, and unfaltering source of joy. He is the reason we can choose to put a smile on our face and keep it there regardless of what is going on in our lives and how the seasons are changing.

“But let all those who take refuge and put their trust in You rejoice; let them ever sing and shout for joy, because You make a covering over them and defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You and be in high spirits.”- Psalm 5:11