Am I Living By Faith or By Fear?

Take the first step in faith.  You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.  #quote Martin Luther King

Recently I finished a Bible Study Habakkuk by Moody Publishers by Dannah Gresh.  At the same time I read a You Version Bible Plan Hope in the Dark by Craig Groeschel which also followed in the book of Habakkuk.  I didn’t realize the plan would be about Habakkuk as well, but how amazing when God orchestrates His plans.

The book of Habakkuk is in the Old Testament and only three chapters long, but it is packed full of godliness and wisdom.  Each chapter has an important pattern of ask questions to God, WAIT, and Praise.  The chapter starts out with Habakkuk crying out to God, asking why all the violence, all the iniquity, injustice (Habakkuk 1:2-5)?

God responds-

This study was so timely for me.  I’ve been working in the COVID ICU’s taking care of very sick patients.  I wouldn’t wish what I do or see on anyone.  All of it is so heavy and hard to watch over and over.  I feel like Habakkuk, looking around seeing all the suffering, the injustice, and loss of life at the hands of a violence but in my case a virus.  I can just picture him on his knees before God crying out, ‘how,’ ‘why,’ ‘when?’  It’s hard at times not to focus on the fear of it all, am I next?  Am I exposing others? How many more will suffer? When will this all end?

It can be difficult to see that God will use all of this pain and devastation for His greater work in us and the nations.  It’s hard to believe God will use all this to strengthen our faith when we wait and trust in His timing.  Physically, logically my brain can’t comprehend what is going on around me, but by faith I don’t have to have it all figured out and answers to all my questions.  The only thing I need to know is God’s outcome is loving and good.

I admit there are times I have to catch myself and question, Am I Living More in Fear or in Faith? Click To Tweet

Being honest, I’ve focused a lot on my fears of what surrounds me.  It FEELS as though God has left and I’m walking through this battlefield ALONE, just waiting for the explosion to go off.  BUT I KNOW, these thoughts come from a place of FEAR.  They are NOT God’s TRUTH or what He PROMISES US.

It’s easy to look around at what the world is doing and Fear there will be more spread of the virus.  People are at their wits end and just want to be TOGETHER.  I believe God doesn’t want us to LIVE in FEAR, but He wants us to also practice Discernment and Wisdom.  He wants us be in community to support one another by giving empathy and compassion.  God is the creator of universe and science. We will all have a different opinion and comfort levels on what we believe is safe for our health and well-being and that’s okay.

It's Not my JOB to FIX the outcome, control people, or take away others' FREE WILL. My Job is to Love them and Trust God's outcome is BEST. Click To Tweet

When the world of chaos feels out of control, I have to stay anchored, centered, and grounded in the ONE who IS in CONTROL.  The balance of trusting, surrendering, having faith, and standing firm can be a fine line to walk.  My HOPE will never be found in the ability to figure it all out.  When I CHOOSE to LIVE in FAITH and not by FEAR, there is always HOPE.  When I TRUST and ALLOW God to GROW my FAITH way beyond anything I could ever do on my own.

He is the God of HOPE.  He is the God of PEACE.  You are loved.  You matter.  You are KNOWN to God.  What you are going through Matters and He will use for all for His good.

“His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.  His brightness was like the light;  rays flashed from his hand;  and there he veiled his power”. Habakkuk 3:3-4

I will ask.  I will wait.  I will praise.  Just like Habakkuk.  My faith will carry me and  take me further than any amount of fear can.  When I am troubled by what surrounds me.  When I waiver at the battle before me. I remember the one who has it all in His control.

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10 Bible Verses About Grief

With so much going on in the world, it seems everyday we wake up there’s something new we have to grasp about realities we don’t want to face.  Or we just want a break from what’s going on around us.  We are not in control and have no say in what’s happening which can be HARD.  We may not like what’s going on, but I know God is still doing a great work in us.  He still loves us, wants the best for us and will never leave us in all this mess.  He’s refining us and using this chaos for His greatness.  Even though we know all of this, being real with the heaviness of our struggles is a necessary process to go through.  We can’t pretend our struggles aren’t our struggles for them to magically go away.  Stepping into the pain of our struggles with Jesus is our best chance at healing and peace.

Grief is on the rise especially now with all who are sick and with holidays coming up.  I want to acknowledge your grief–I am so sorry for what you are going through.  I pray for God’s healing and hope to fill you and for your willingness to let Him walk you through your pain.  Losing a loved one is never easy nor is dealing with grief.  Holding on to God’s promises of what He’s able to do will allow more room for God’s HOPE to be working in our lives.

Here are 10 Bible Verses About Grief:  That will Provide More Hope and Healing

  1.  “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33- I love how this verse says we won’t have difficulties here on this earth but it is possible for us to have peace in Jesus despite what we’re going through.  No matter what happens in this life Jesus has overcome.
  2. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Revelations 21:4-  This verse gave me so much comfort after our son passed away.  Grief can be so hard and painful.  One day there will be no more pain, crying, or mourning in heaven.  This life is so short compared to the eternal life we will have in heaven.  God is taking care of our loved ones and that is so comforting.
  3. “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”  John 16:22-  There will be times the pain of missing our loved ones is so great.  This verse is a great reminder there will be times to grieve and times to rejoice.  When we have Jesus to walk through this journey with us, nothing can take away our joy.

 

4.  “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:  a time to weep, and a time to laugh;  a time to mourn, and a time dance;”  Ecclesiastes 3:1,4-  I love how this verse depicts the highs and lows of the seasons of our lives.  There will be times we’re weeping then laughing, then mourning then celebrating.  The emotions and feelings we go through don’t limit us from being able to still experience the joys in life, but are necessary to go through the process of our new normal.  Learning how to embrace the roller coaster ride grief, instead of being in a constant state of wrestling is a good place to be.

5.  “When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and save the crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:17-18-  This verse has helped me so much.  When I’ve felt at my lowest point of brokenness I’ve repeated this verse to myself so many times.  I’ve never felt closer to God during my times of brokenness and heard Him so clearly.  He is with you in your times of hurting and will never leave you.

6.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”  Romans 8:28- I love this Bible verse so much, our family had this verse engraved in our son’s headstone.  This verse reminds us there is no pain without a purpose.  God doesn’t waste anything.  He is always working for our good, no matter what.

7.  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”. Romans 8:18-  Nothing that happens in this life can compare to the life that God has prepared for us.  He cares about every hurt, every pain, any suffering we go through.  There is nothing we go through, Jesus hasn’t been through already.  He would never allow us to go through what we go through without having a plan for our pain to turn it into something better.

8.  “In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the LORD. “If I cause you the pain, I will not stop you from giving birth to your new nation,”  says your God” Isaiah 66:9 NCV.  In the same way childbirth is painful, the birth of a new baby is worth it.  No one gives their baby back and says no thank you that was too painful.  The birth of something new, the joy you receive in the new birth, far outweighs the pain we go through to birth it.

9.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”. Matthew 5:4-  It is so comforting to know God is with us when we mourn.  He is close to us and is there for us in our sorrows.

10.  “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is see, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18-  The struggles we go through when we are dealing with grief are hard, heavy, and painful.  God doesn’t want us to have pain, but knows the path towards eternal healing.  Any pain we go through He knows how to heal us!

Grief can be all consuming and overwhelming.  There is no pain God can’t heal.  Learning to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, focusing on what He’s able to do even when we can’t see it, allows for His eternal hope and healing.  God is able.  He is in the business of all things eternal.

Are you struggling with grief?

What Bible verses give you hope and healing?

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How To Stay Connected In A World Filled With Loneliness

Feeling disconnected? Lonely? Apathetic?

Are you feeling un-motivated?  Apathetic?  Loneliness is huge right now.  It’s an ever expanding abyss getting bigger and bigger as each day goes on.  We may all be experiencing pandemic fatigue.  It’s a real thing and you are not alone.  With the winter season approaching, the days will become shorter and darkness will increase.  Sickness will surge as flu season and our pandemic numbers rise to alarming numbers.  Seclusion and isolation are utilized to protect us physically but are harming us mentally and emotionally.  Why?  Because we were never created to be ALONE we were made to be TOGETHER.

In the Bible when God created Adam, his plan was never meant for him to be alone.

“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.  ” I will make him a helper fit for him” Genesis 2:18

Adam had all the livestock he could ever want, but there was not a suitable companion for him until God made Eve.  “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon man (the first anesthestic 😂), and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;  she shall be called Woman, because she was take out of Man”. (Genesis 2:20-23).

In the book “Together:  The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World,” by Dr. Vivek Murthy (19th Surgeon General of the United States), he talks about studies that show the power of healing in human connection and community.  “When people feel they belong to one another, their lives are stronger, richer, and more joyful.”  People who have strong family structures, are apart of supportive groups or communities do better as opposed to those who are alone.  With our ever increasing need to physically isolate to stay safe from what’s to come, our need for connection is growing stronger than ever.

Loneliness magnifies our pain, contributes to emotional burnout and exhaustion.Click To Tweet

Feeling Apathetic?

How to Stay Connected In A World Filled With Loneliness

With all the social distancing and quarantines going on, more and more people are feeling apathetic and un-motivated.  It’s easy to slip into patterns of laziness and not wanting to engage with others because this is becoming the norm.  We were created to do life together not be isolated.  Even though there are nationwide mandates to socially isolate and distance, we can still be creative in how we gather together.  Life still happens even amidst a pandemic.  People still need surgery, they still get cancer, accidents still happen.  You can’t stop babies from being born, people finishing their education, or weddings from happening.  Life continues on despite our world falling apart.

We need to stay connected.  We were made for connection.

So how do we stay connected when the world is telling us to stay apart?

Be real with our emotional and mental state.  The best thing we can do right now is to be honest with our emotional state.  Be real with how this pandemic is affecting your emotional and mental well being.  Talk about it with someone you trust.  Whether it be a friend or a counselor, connecting with someone who feels the same way is so powerful.  Allowing someone to come alongside you will let you know I see you, I hear you, your problems are known and validated.  Your anxieties and fears will be met in your loneliness when you bring them out of the darkness into the light.

“Let light shine out of darkness,” 2 Corinthians 4:6

Acknowledge the struggle.  There is power in acknowledging the struggle.  There is healing when we can recognize, we aren’t super heroes, we’re human.  We won’t be able to always handle the burdens that this pandemic brings, the isolation, the interrupted routines in our schedules, schools, lack of community, connection, the emotional break-downs, financial hardship, the list goes on.

Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks about how the majority of our fears, anxieties, and chronic illnesses are rooted in loneliness.  Loneliness was an epidemic before this pandemic even started (the pandemic just unearthed what was already there).  The underlying dark common thread of loneliness gives rise to the more overt issues we see on the surface such as addictions, depression, anger, and anxiety which are only the symptoms we see not the root of our issues.  These struggles seem to stay in a a cycle of despair because these symptoms and behaviors are believed to be shameful (Murthy, xv).

Find where you belong, join a group. We need each other right now.  Finding where we belong is imperative to our mental and emotional states.  Find a mentor, join an online community where you can zoom face to face, get outside and do something active to unlock your dopamine supply and connect with others.  We may not always be able to meet face to face but we need to be creative in staying connected with one another.  We are having to recreate how we meet, how we exercise, how we receive our education, new ways to work from home, how we dine, how we engage in our everyday lives.  And it’s tiremsome.  It is draining us, making us all weary.

Something changes when we have to wear masks, we lose the ability to see each other’s smiles.  Mirror neurons are a real thing, when a person smiles it stimulates another person to smile.  We aren’t able to shake hands, hug others the way we used to and it becomes isolating.  We are turning off our cameras when we’re in meetings or school so others can’t see we’re really in our pajamas or didn’t put our make-up on and don’t want others to see the real us.

Staying healthy and connected are vital to our emotional and mental health right now.  Staying motivated and disciplined to be intentional about the well-being of our health is necessary for our future.  This time of isolation does not give us an excuse to stay hidden from our struggles but a perfect time to bring them into the light and be real with them.

To learn more how we are made for connection to do this life together read the book Together by Dr. Vivek Murthy.  I learned so much how we are not alone in our loneliness and ways to build community and connect with one another on a deeper level.

Are you feeling un-motivated and apathetic or lonely?

How are you preserving your emotional and mental health right now?

How are you staying connected in a world filled with loneliness right now?

 

Self-Care conference

Need a Break? Do you feel like this world is getting more chaotic and you just want some peace and rest?

I am so honored to be one of the 50+ Women Speakers at the 2020 Christian Women’s Self-Care Conference.  There will be live workshops filled with lots of much needed goodness!  And get this, it’s FREE!!!!!! (But for a limited time only). Take advantage of watching this conference in the comfort of your own home.  Take time for yourself.  Learn what areas of your life could use a little healing and attention.  I am excited about my workshop:  You are Known:  Loving Yourself Well which will be on day three and I address the struggles of co-dependency.

To register either Click Here or on the image.  To view, a complete list of speakers and workshops click on the link at the bottom of the page near the registration button.  Make sure to join me over the next on Facebook and Instagram.  I will be doing LIVE chats and giveaways!  Let’s get the conversation started!

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Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

 

To Celebrate or not to Celebrate?

With the day of Halloween approaching, many of us who are Christians, have our views about whether to celebrate this holiday or not. Halloween like any other Christ-centered holiday has been turned into a secular holiday. Originally Halloween was a holy holiday for the saints. In fact, the word Halloween comes from the word ‘hallow,’ which means ‘holy.’ Halloween began as ‘Hallows Eve’ meaning holy evening. It was the night before ‘All Saints Day’ which is dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and the faithfully departed.

According to The Free Dictionary, hallowed means “to make or set apart as holy, to respect or honor greatly; revere.” We use the word ‘hallowed’ in the Lord’s prayer “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” Matthew 6:9

So how does a holy holiday meant to honor the dead, become about worshipping devils and demons?

Halloween is believed to have been derived from a pagan holiday, Samhain, which was celebrated on the same day as Hallows Eve by the Northern Celtic People. Pagan resources will say this holiday was ‘Christianized,’ when really it’s origination is entirely Christian, having originated from the Roman Catholics.

To celebrate All Hallows Eve, the Church held a vigil, where they worshiped, prayed and fasted (in honor of the dead) prior to the day of the feast. Even though both holidays may have similarities in celebration of the dead, the pagan and Christian holidays are separate, not associated with one another.

Is it true Halloween is on the same day as a pagan holiday? Yes.

Is it true the origination of Halloween was in fact intended to be a holy holiday? Yes.

Halloween, just like any Christian holiday has been altered to conform to secularism. Christmas has become about Santa Claus, Easter has become about the Easter bunny and Halloween has become about the devil.

Does it mean that Christians should not celebrate these holidays just because they have been secularized? Of course not! Otherwise, we would not celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas or the resurrection of Christ on Easter. Just because the world changes the definition of something doesn’t mean Christians should conform to it.

Romans 12:2 ESV
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

As Christians should we participate in this holiday?

If we participate, does that mean we are conforming to the pattern of this world?

Our decision to celebrate or not celebrate should be based on the truth and God’s desire for us. Whatever we decide, I don’t think there is a wrong or right answer. How we choose to celebrate or not to celebrate, can shine Jesus’ light to others.

As Christians, when we allow our children to participate in Halloween it doesn’t mean they are worshipping the devil. Halloween is an opportunity to open the doors of the church for those who normally don’t attend. That is why we see churches inviting the community in by hosting trunk or treats or fall festivals. It is a chance to expose Jesus to non-believers.

Even though the world has made this holiday about evil and darkness, it is an opportunity for Christians to shine the light of Jesus.

What better way to shine the light of Jesus than in the dark?Click To Tweet

As Christians, we can make choices in how we celebrate this holiday. We can choose not to allow our children to dress up as vampires, murderers, demons or devils. We can carve jack-o-lanterns with a cross and put a candle in it. We can hand out candy that has a Bible verse on it. We can pray for the boys and girls who come to our door that may not know Jesus.

7 Ways to shine the Light of Jesus (Click on link to download).

7 Ways to Shine the Light of Jesus during Halloween

How we choose to celebrate or not to celebrate this holiday can be a light to others. If you choose not to celebrate, share why and allow it to be a light to others during this dark holiday. If you choose to celebrate, let it be for the glory of God. Let His light shine through your family for others to see.

How do you celebrate or not celebrate Halloween?  Please Share! 

What are your thoughts on Halloween?

Happy Halloween!

“ the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 NIVClick To Tweet

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Does Our Faith Save Us?

Is our faith enough to save us?

Earlier this month a beloved Pastor named Jarrid Wilson took his own life.  He was a Pastor of a Harvest Christian Fellowship and founder of Anthem of Hope Ministries, a ministry to help those who struggled with depression and suicide.  He brought many to know Jesus and was an accomplished author of a few books, “Love is Oxygen,” “Jesus Swagger,” and “Wondrous Pursuit.”

As a Pastor and Man of God we think how can this happen?  It goes to show struggles are real and even godly people aren’t exempt.  How is it a man who walked with God so closely, spread His good news, helped hundreds with depression and brought many to Christ take his own life?

Jarrid Wilson’s situation asks deeper questions.

Did Jarrid not have enough faith?

If His faith didn’t save him, then what’s the point of having faith?

So many people in the Bible can ask the same question.

Did Daniel’s faith save him from being thrown in the lion’s den? No

Did Shadrack, Meschack, and Abendago’s faith save them from being thrown in the fiery furnace? No

Did the Israelites’ faith save them from being attacked by the Egyptians? No

Did Jesus’ faith prevent him from being crucified on the cross? No

You may be thinking, then what is the point in having faith if it doesn’t keep me safe?

Samaritan’s Purse put out a movie a couple of years ago called  ‘Facing the Darkness’ which was a documentary of the Ebola crisis outbreak.  Dr. Brantly the doctor and first American to contract the Ebola virus, said something so profound. He said, “Faith is not something that makes you safe. My faith did not save me but got me through it. My Faith actually brought me to the Ebola crisis.”

These examples of faith did not PREVENT them from being put in scary, dangerous circumstances. Standing firm in their faith DID PROTECT them and allow for God’s greater plan to happen.

If Daniel didn’t have faith we would have never seen GOD’S POWER to shut the mouths of lions.

If Shadrack, Meshack and Abendago didn’t have faith we would had never seen GOD’S POWER protect them from being burned in the fiery furnace and how God was with them.

If the Israelites didn’t have faith we would have never seen GOD’S POWER to part the Red Sea providing a way out from their enemies.

If Jesus refused to put his trust in His Father’s hands, we would have missed out on the greatest plan that ever existed—OUR ETERNAL SALVATION.

Each example of faith, including Dr. Brantly’s brought them to the heart of a crisis where their lives were at stake. Through each act of faith, we were able to see how trusting in God’s plan moves mountains and makes the impossible, possible.

How big is your faith?

Matthew 17:20 “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

It’s not the size of our faith that moves mountains, but the size of our God.  

IF our FAITH was enough to save us, there would have been no point in sending Jesus. Click To Tweet

Our faith allows God’s greater plan to play out. Our faith does not save us, but God’s grace does. 

Our faith will not SAVE us from our bad circumstances or GUARANTEE us a life without struggles. Our FAITH will not prevent us from being thrown into a pit of lions, a fiery furnace, being attacked by our enemies or contracting a deadly disease. Having faith does not exempt us from harsh realities of this world.

Our faith DOES allow God to be in control and puts the trust in HIS capabilities. Our faith is the very thing that will get us through to the other side and live in the abundant blessings God has to offer. It doesn’t matter what circumstances we are up against, when we have faith we become OVERCOMERS in Christ. Our faith allows us to experience PEACE in the storms and JOY in our struggles because of what God has already gone ahead of us and done.

Where will you allow your faith to take you?

Our faith may lead us into scary, dangerous places.  Be encouraged……..

God's grace will not take us where his love cannot protect us. Click To Tweet

God’s grace and love are greater and bigger than anything in this world.

1 John 4:4 “ You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

How has your faith protected you in your hard circumstances?

Friends, suicide is never the answer.  If you are having suicidal thoughts please reach out and ask for help, call a friend.  Please know your life matters, you are worthy and valuable.

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5 Ways to Make a Killer Instagram Feed

This post will be a little different than my others posts.  I have asked my friend Becky Nutall, to do a guest post on a topic I’ve been interested especially since she has such a creative eye and is a photographer extradoinaire!

Have you ever wondered why some instagram feeds are so much more eye appealing and attention grabbing than others?  Why some instagram feeds can draw you in and keep you scrolling through their feed more than others?  What makes an instagram feed more attractive than the other?

Five Ways to Make a Killer Instagram Feed:

1. Pick an Aesthetic
Settle on a cohesive aesthetic that is seen throughout all of your photos. When you stick to an aesthetic, it will give you freedom to post content that might not necessarily flow; ie. food, travel, fashion, mom life, etc. When the color scheme and lighting are consistent with your aesthetic, you are going to have an Instagram profile that causes people to stop and scroll awhile. You might choose bright & minimal, dark & moody or colorful & vivid. Whichever aesthetic you choose, make sure it is appealing to YOU and to your eye. Don’t just copy another feed. By all means, be inspired, but find your own style. Doing this will make sure your feed stays consistent and scrollable.

Here is an example of my feed from my photography business @bschwartz. This profile lends to a bright, soft color palette with clean backgrounds and consistent lighting.

2. Shoot for your Aesthetic

Having professional photos or at least professional looking photos is important. I always encourage bloggers to learn a few tricks for photographing their own content. Here are a few tips to capture great photos;

• Keep your backgrounds clean and neutral.
• Always shoot in natural bright, daytime light. Photos taken in
bad lighting typically result in blurry, grainy and/or out of
focus images.
• Wipe off your phone camera lens. You would not believe how
much clearer your photos will be with a clean lens!
• There is also a time and a place to hire a photographer. When you do so; plan, plan, plan. Have several weeks if not months of content planned out that you can shoot for. This makes it possible to get the most for your money.

3. Edit for your Aesthetic
My personal Instagram account @nuttallhomestead is similar to my work account since it is what is appealing to my eye (as I mentioned above). Here I give myself a bit more freedom to bring in darker tones and more contrast. My @nuttallhomestead account still lends to bright whites, clean backgrounds and natural lighting.

My personal account is a mix of images shot on my film, digital, or iPhone camera. A large majority of the photos are iPhone shots that, I grab of my family on the go.  Everything I shoot on my iPhone I edit on my phone.
To help you curate a scroll worthy feed and have it flow naturally, you must have a consistent approach to how you edit your images. The two apps that I recommend are Lightroom and VSCO.

I personally use the Lightroom app since it works best with my style.
VSCO is a great option if you would like to edit your feed more towards the dark & moodier side.
Aside from those two, there are hundreds of photo editing apps out there, so find the one you like best, and then stick to it.

Here are few quick editing tips that I apply to almost every image I post;
• Brightness: I always pump up the brightness to give may images a clean crisp look.
• Contrast: I use sparingly but just enough to give my images a good pop and make my darks dark.
• Warmth: I always bring the warmth down and slightly desaturate the blues and teals in my photos.

4. Curate for your Aesthetic
Look at your feed as a whole, not just individual photos. Your grid should tell a story of you and your brand. The wedding venue I own @clayvenues is consistent with the tips I have given above, but is warmer in its color palette.
A viewers first impression of you and your brand is when they click your name and those first 15 images pop up.

Are you telling them to stay and scroll, or are you scaring them off with a disjointed feed? If your first 15 posts are not appealing to the eye, they will most likely click back and find somewhere less hectic to scroll. I know this is all a tall order, but below are a few tips to help make it more simple.


The hardest part of making your Instagram feed look cohesive is figuring out how to make each individual post look good beside the others. The best way to curate your feed, is to preview it in a grid app before you post to IG. My favorite app for this is called Plann, it allows you to upload images and then move them around to find the most appealing order.

My favorite feeds have blank space, clean backgrounds and they avoid redundancy in their posting. An example of something you would avoid while utilizing Plann, would be posting two selfies in a row or posting two selfies on top of each other. This is the beauty of Plann, you can upload all of your “to be posted images” and move them around until they fit just right.

5. Last but not least, remember to have fun, share what you love, share what brings you joy and share your life in a beautiful way. People will follow along with the story when you are passionate and have a cohesive feed.

About Becky:  I am a fine art film wedding photographer. My husband and I live in Colorado Springs with our one year old son, Clayton, and pup, Stella.
  I had the privilege of attending Brooks Institute of Photography, where I received a bachelors of art in professional photography. I have captured hundreds of weddings over the past 14 yearsWhen I am not shooting weddings, I have been busy with our newest venture of starting Clay Venues, a modern event space in Colorado Springs.
  I love to workout, bike with my family and spend time on our back patio.

I would love to connect with you all and see your beautiful Instagram profiles grow.
www.bschwarzphotography.com
@bschwartz
 @nuttallhomestead
 @clayvenues

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5 Things I’m Doing This Summer to be More Intentional

Now that school is out summertime can be a busy time of the year.  As a working mom, if I’m not intentional with making plans, summer will be over and kids will be back in school before I know it.  I’m entering into a new stage of life, where my kids are becoming ‘tweens’ and I have the joy parenting bad attitudes and arguments with their sibling.

I want to make summer fun, but I also want to use it as an opportunity to grow and learn.

5 Things I’m Doing This Summer to Be More Intentional:

1. Making Day Trip/Weekend Getaway Wish Lists:  This year I’ve asked the kids what are some fun activities you want to do this summer or some local places you want to visit we would normally not do during the year. We have an RV and want to go on weekend camping trips so we’ve made a list of places we want to visit.  We are a military family and never know how long we will be where we live, so we want to visit as many places as we can!

If you live in Colorado, places that have made the list are The Denver Mint, Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, Durango, Estes Park, Aspen, trampoline park, Royal Gorge train, Cave of the Winds, and indoor sky diving.

2.  Making a reading list.  I love to read.  Summer is a great time to catch up on books, I haven’t had time to read.  So the kids and I are making a summer reading list of books we would like to read.  If you have any recommendations for a 12-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy, Please leave in the comments below.

My kids aren’t the most avid readers so we have to be intentional about making time to read.  Their school has a point system where they receive points for reading which goes towards a grade which is a wonderful incentive for them to read more!  And also the fun day trips we planned can be a fun incentive.

Books I want to read this summer Thirst by Scott Harrison, Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors, A Case for Miracles by Lee Stroebel, Dear Wife by collaborative writers and Boys in the Boat.

3.  Making a Chore List.  Boring, right?!?!?  As a parent if I want to help build character in my child, chores are one of the best ways to do it.  Doing chores helps us all be a part of a team that helps contribute towards maintaining the household, it’s not just one person’s job to take care of everything.  We pick age appropriate chores (and they receive an allowance), and make sure they’re done daily/weekly.

Giving them an allowance also helps teach them how to manage money by saving towards something they want to buy themselves (which they always appreciate more than when something is just given to them).

4.  Setting side an intentional time for family games and devotionals.  Do you have any fun favorite family games you like to play together?  Going camping has definitely got us more motivated to play games together.  But at home my favorite game to play is SPOONS.

It’s a card game, where everyone sits in a circle.  One person has the deck of cards.  Each player has four cards in their hands.  The purpose of the game is to get 4 of a kind.  Whoever gets 4 of a kind first takes the first spoon until all the spoons in the center are gone.  Whoever is left without a spoon gets a letter.  Whoever spell the word SPOON first loses.  Sometimes this game does not always end well.  There may be the occasional fighting and tears, but the more we play, the more we learn it’s not always about winning, but just being together.

Setting side a time to do family devotionals is an ever evolving process.  The time that usually works best for us is right before bed.  We’ve picked You Version Bible App   Bible reading plan we can read together as a family and have meaningful conversations that really work on our hearts.  Two Bible reading plans we’ve picked to read together are Compassion: 30 days of heart work and Homegrown: Cultivating Kids in the Fruit of the Spirit.

Does your family read devotionals together or a Bible reading plan?  Which one do you do?

5.  Joining a Bible Study Group.  This summer I’ve opened my home to a group of women from my church to complete the on-line Bible study by Kelly Minter “No Other gods,” by Lifeway.  This summer Lifeway is offering the videos for “No Other gods,” for free when you sign-up to do the on-line study.  It is a great way to connect with other women who I would normally not connect with and we get to complete a Bible Study together!  And if you’re schedule is too busy sign up to do the on-line study! Just click on link above or image below.

No other gods by Kelly Minter

What Bible study are you working on this summer?

I would love to hear what you are doing this summer and what steps you are taking to be more intentional.

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Why We Should Let Go of the Miracle

Have you ever prayed so hard for something, for someone a situation for weeks, months, years and the outcome still hasn’t changed?  What if that miracle, that outcome we’re praying for isn’t what God wants?

Of course we all WANT good health, our families to be SAFE, our kids to make good choices and not fight, our spouses to love us unconditionally even when we mess up.  Lately I’ve been seeing so many families going through so some hard devastating circumstances–their child has cancer, dad has cancer, there’s been an accident or a death.  There is a desperation for God to come through to resurrect our devastating circumstances.

But, what happens when God doesn’t come through and grant us the Miracle we’ve been asking for?

Doesn’t God care?

Why wouldn’t God want to heal a child whose about to die?

Why wouldn’t God want a family to stay together and heal the person with addictions?

Why wouldn’t God want to fix this unbearable, horrendous situation that will only lead to more destruction?

In the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), there is a pattern of a message from Jesus and then a miracle to follow.   Behind every miracle lies a deeper message.  There is nothing wrong in wanting, hoping or praying for the Miracle.  Not to sound depressing, what if the miracle NEVER happens?  Where does that leave us?  

Why We Should Let Go of the Miracle

Here is the point I want to breakdown.

God is capable of anything, any miracle beyond what we could ever ask of him. What part of the miracle are we putting our hope in? The Gift of the miracle or the Giver of the miracle?Click To Tweet

When a Miracle happened in the Bible, they all started one of two ways–without any expectation/anticipation of the miracle or with a believing person or crowd who was seeking the Messiah not the actual miracle.

When Jesus healed the official’s son (John 4:46-54), the official sought out Jesus for a miracle to heal his son.  He traveled a far distance to find him.  The man believed Jesus had to be present to perform the miracle, but in this case his mere spoken words healed his son.  The official sought out the one who was able to heal and Jesus granted the miracle.

In John 5, the handicap man sitting by a pool was not expecting Jesus to approach him and ask, “Do you want to be healed?”  Jesus merely instructed the man, “pick up your mat and walk.”  This man had no expectation to be healed and simply followed his instructions and was healed.

When Jesus fed the crowd of the 5,000+ people in John 6, they were seeking more of the Messiah and what he was able to do.  When they were seeking and following him, they had no expectation he would feed the entire crowd with just two loaves of bread and five fish.  They were seeking what Jesus was able to do, wanted more of Him not the reward of the miracle.

When We Let Go of the Miracle-

Letting go of the Miracle is HARD.  

When we hold onto the Miracle, we put our Hope in WHEN or IF THE MIRACLE happens, we’re then seeking the GIFT.

Letting go of the Miracle, puts our Hope in what God is ABLE to do and TRUST He knows what’s BEST, we’re then seeking the GIVER.  

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves hard questions and sit in the reality of the truth.  What am I putting my Hope in the GIFT or the GIVER?

I’m not saying let go of the miracle and lose your hope.  I’m saying let go of OUR expectation of WHEN the miracle WILL HAPPEN.  We can’t put God in a box and DEMAND, ‘God, I want this miracle to happen, DO IT!’  We can’t EXPECT God ‘to FIX it‘ the way we want it.  When we do, we’re putting a limitation on the miracle of what He’s ABLE to do.

Behind Every Miracle There’s a Deeper Message

Sometimes the deeper message isn’t God changing our outcomes, isn’t ‘fixing it,’  or even the miracle–it’s changing our perspective and changing our hearts.  Sometimes God is waiting for the Breakthrough or the Miracle to Happen within US.  If our hearts aren’t in the right place, we will never be able to receive the greatest miracle God has for us–Peace and Freedom.  Eternal peace and freedom resides in God’s outcome of what He’s holding in His Hands not our circumstances that fall in this world.

There is PEACE and FREEDOM when we stop displacing our hope in things that may never happen and TRUST IN GOD'S OUTCOME, what he has for us is ENOUGH and more than we'll ever need. Click To Tweet

Jesus NEVER  performed Miracles to PROVE Himself or give another sign He was ABLE.  He is ALWAYS Able and CAPABLE of the IMPOSSIBLE.

Are you praying for a Miracle?

Where Do you put your Hope, in the Gift or the Giver?

Is there an unsettling struggle in your life and you can’t put your finger on it?  I challenge you to sit with these hard questions and be truthful and honest with your answers.  We will never regret pursing the truth.  Join me next week when we discuss, “When God’s love is the outcome.”  Your are loved my friend!

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4 Easy Ways To Simplify Your Health

This week is a guest post from Jen Roland, who is owner/blogger of Faith Fueled Fitness.  I love faith and fitness and am excited to have Jen guest post and share her insights of making health simple and easy.  Make sure to check out her recipes and fitness workouts!  Have a great week!

In Him,

Heather


4 Easy Ways To Simplify Your Health

There are two words that every new mom dreads.

Bathing suit.

While not explicitly stated, when my sister-in-law asked me to be a bridesmaid – in Florida and by the beach – those two words were exactly what I heard.  Holding my one-year old on my hip, I envisioned stuffing my post-pregnancy belly into a strapless bridesmaid dress.   The mental image was less than flattering.

I needed a way to simplify my health especially with a baby.

But, I was determined.  I vowed to lose the rest of the baby weight, get in amazing shape, and do whatever it would take to get my pre-pregnancy body back.

For the next five months, some might say I was a little “obsessed.”  I worked out for over an hour a day and followed a strict meal plan.  I cut out all refined sugars, eliminated caffeine, and passed on the pizza at parties.  When her wedding day arrived, I received lots of compliments about how “amazing” I looked.  My husband must have agreed, because I came home from that trip pregnant with baby number three.

Two weeks later, after experiencing heavy bleeding, I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma, deemed a high-risk pregnancy, and directed to halt all physical activity.  At 33 weeks, I went into labor, was hospitalized to stop the contractions, and sent home on strict bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy.

When I was given the green light to exercise three months after my son was born, I was starting from ground zero.  This time, God showed me that I needed to approach taking care of my health differently.  He taught me that if I wanted to change my habits, I would need to start by changing the way I think about them.

It began with renewing my perspective from fitness and nutrition as vehicles to achieve the perfect body to fitness and nutrition as opportunities to glorify God by caring for the body He gifted to me.

As I started to view my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, I began to treat it that way, focusing on life-giving foods that helped me operate at my best without counting every calorie that went into my mouth.

God revealed that in letting my thoughts and actions revolve around when I would work out or what I would eat, I had made my body an idol.  I needed to break free from the obsession so I could focus more on Him.  As I put Christ at the center of my health journey, it became less about perfecting myself and more about living to please Him.  This shift in mindset has had a tremendous impact.

In the words of Beth Moore, “The ultimate goal for most of us, however, is freedom from obsession so that God rather than the body can be glorified.  This goal is most often realized through recapturing the lost art of moderation.  This means learning to do what we need to do (to keep ourselves healthy) and then getting on with living.”1

When we seek our self-worth, personal fulfillment, or happiness in something other than the Lord our God, we’ve allowed that thing to take an inappropriate position of power in our lives that should be reserved for Him. 

1 Corinthians 6:12 tells us “I have the right to do anything,” you say – but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but I will not be mastered by anything.”Click To Tweet

We have the “right” to eat anything we want and we have the “right” to exercise.   However, while something may be permissible, it may not be beneficial.  And while something may be beneficial, it may be unnecessary – even unhealthy – if taken to extremes.

Caring for our health shouldn’t feel like a burden – it should feel “free.”  We can choose to let go of the diet mentality and focus on life-giving choices.  We can choose to let go of obsessing over every bite of food, becoming slaves to a number on a scale, and constantly chasing perfection.  Doing so is an obsession and is actually unhealthy.


4 Easy Ways To Simplify Your Health:

  1. Have a strong WHY for improving your health that is about more than physical appearance. Consider how positive lifestyle habits will allow you to operate at your best so you can give your best to God and others.
  2. Exercise regularly, but not obsessively. Start small with a few minutes a day and build from there (download my FREE GUIDE for short, simple workouts).  Focus on progress, not perfection and consistency over performance.  As you build new habits, focus on what you will do, not what you cando.  Daily wins build momentum and fuel you to keep going!
  3. Focus on consuming nutrient-dense, life-giving foods (not pre-packaged or highly processed).  (Download Living Giving Foods List.)
  4. Adopt an abundance mindset that is focused on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, such as more energy, decreased chance of disease, a closer relationship with God, and improved quality of life.  Shifting our focus to what we are gaining and our health as an opportunity to glorify Him sets a foundation for sustainable change.

As we begin to make small steps toward a healthier lifestyle, we must not neglect the importance of regular quiet time for our emotional and spiritual well-being.  (Check the Resource Guide in my 7-Day Jump Start Plan for some suggestions to get started.)  We can commit our plans to the Lord, asking Him for the strength to keep going when we’re lacking in motivation.  Then we place our eating, exercising, and everything we do before God as an offering, honoring Him through caring for the body He has given each of us.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 Click To Tweet

Properly fueling our body, mind, and spirit is a means to live with purpose to pursue God’s plan for our lives.  When we keep that perspective, we can rest in the fact that our priorities are well-aligned.  We can stop obsessing over things this world says make us happy and focus on the one thing that brings true fulfillment.


Call to Action:   Download 12 Strategies to Simplify Your Health.  Choose one habit that is doable in your current season of life and which would have the greatest impact on your health.  Share it below or in our private Facebook group, along with your WHY.  Why is this habit important to you?  How will it allow you to operate at your best so you can give your best to God and others?

Additional Resources:
FREE 7-Day Jump Start Guide
Life Giving Foods List
FREE Recipes, Meal Plans & Workouts

Related Posts:
Chasing Beauty (Focusing on Where True Beauty is Found)
7 Strategies to Break the Cycle of Emotional Eating
An Ode to Junk Food Cravings (and How to Beat Them)
7 Strategies for Achieving & Maintaining Your Weight Loss Goals
More Energy, Few Cravings (5 Simple Ways to Pack More Nutrients Into Your Meals)
32 Tips to Get Motivated to Workout

To learn more about Jen and her mission of faith and fitness Click Here.

References:

1. Moore, Beth. (1998). Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. Nashville, TN: LifeWay Press.


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MENDED: A Book Review and GIVEAWAY!

Mended: A Book Review and Giveaway!

One of the most important relationships you can have is with your mother.

 

Mother’s Day can be a mixed bag of emotions for many.  Many celebrate Mother’s Day without their mother, or who have a strained relationship with their mom, and some can’t talk to their mothers at all because they’ve passed away.  Whatever the circumstance, Mother’s Day can bring joy and/or pain.

Today I have the opportunity to share with you the new book Mended:  Restoring the hearts of Mothers and Daughters by Blythe Daniels and Helen McIntosh.

A moment of honesty–I was a little afraid to read this book, in fear it would conjure up unwanted emotions and pains of the past.  

As a child I grew up in a divorced home and had the blessing of having two mothers.  My step-mom from the start treated my twin sister and I as her very own.  Of course there are ups and downs in any relationship but the love we had for each other grew over the years into something greater–a mother/daughter relationship.

My relationship with my (biological) mother was different.  I didn’t understand much about mental illness as a child and didn’t understand why my mother acted certain ways.  As I grew into adulthood I had to learn how to separate the person from the mental illness.  When I was hurt by something she did I had to learn how to forgive and love her for for how God made her.

As the years past, I learned how to stay away from silly arguments that only led to quarrels.  I had to learn how to make healthy boundaries.  I learned how to NOT find happiness in met expectations, but in the reality of God’s plans.  We don’t get to choose who our parents are, nor do they get to choose who their children are.  I admit, there were times in my childhood into adulthood my relationship with my mother was strained at best.

Once I learned to embrace her mental illness was a gift from God in how he made her, I was able to be set free in having the loving relationship with her God intended for me.  She wasn’t responsible or in control of my emotions or feelings in how I responded, I was.  I didn’t have to constantly be afraid of being hurt over and over because I focused on God’s kingdom purpose for her–to be loved for who she was not in what she did.  

Mended will help any mother/daughter relationship gain the clarity it needs to take steps towards healing.  Blythe and Helen do a wonderful job in asking the right questions and equipping readers to gain a new perspective.  It’s not about the argument.  It’s not about being right.  And it’s certainly not about meeting YOUR EXPECTATIONS.  

When reality doesn't meet your expectations

Disappointment in our relationships happens when we have high expectations and the reality is no where near them.  Everything in between just becomes disappointment.

No relationship is beyond repair. Our relationships with our mothers are more valuable and important than our own agendas.Click To Tweet

I had to ask myself was my disappointment always going to be the focus and highest priority?  When God’s agenda becomes our agenda we are able to embrace his ways and plans in how to love one another in the most loving way possible and let go of our disappointments.

Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7Click To Tweet

Have you put an expectation on someone they can’t meet?

Maybe instead of expecting them to change, sit with God and ask How can I love this person today in the most loving way possible?  The pursuit of relationships sometimes don’t always turn out the way we want them nor should they cost us our sanity.

Giving God your struggles, trusting Him in guiding your relationships is the best way to start in mending each others hearts.  God will tell you when it’s time to set boundaries.  He will tell you when to speak and not speak.  And He’ll most definitely show you how to love.

God is never going to ask you to fill roles you were never intended to fill.  Your role is not to be the Savior.  It’s not to change the other person.  And it’s definitely not to enable.  Our roles in strained relationships are to let go of what we can’t control by surrendering it to God and trusting in what God is able to do with it.

God didn’t say the pursuit of healing and restoration would be without heartache.  But He does promise to hold our hands to get us through.

Are you willing to pursue mended relationships?

Learning how to love my mother in the way God made her was one of the hardest things I had to do, but the reward of the mended relationship was so worth anything I had to go through to get to the other side.  

God is with you my friend, he might ask us to step out of the boat like Peter to take his hand in the storm.  He might ask us to jump into the fiery furnace like Shadrack, Meschach and Abendago.  He might even ask us to spend the night with a bunch of hungry lions at the bottom of a dark pit.

Giving up on relationships is the easy way out and we miss out on God’s miracles.  When we stand firm in God’s promises, trusting to hold our hands to get us through we will never miss out on his miracles of what He is able to do.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers!  May your day be filled with God’s abundant blessings!

   Blythe Daniel & Helen McIntosh 

Blythe Daniel is a literary agent and marketer with 20 plus years of experience in publishing. She is a speaker at writer’s conferences and is interviewed for podcasts and webinars. She has written for Christian Retailing and Focus on the Family publications, and she links hundreds of bloggers with millions of readers through BlogAbout. Her passion is helping authors share their unique stories. The daughter of Dr. Helen McIntosh, she lives in Colorado with her husband and three children. www.theblythedanielagency.com

Dr. Helen McIntosh (EdD, Counseling Psychology) is a counselor, speaker, educator, and author of Messages to Myself and Eric, Jose & The Peace Rug®. Her work has appeared in Guideposts, ParentLife, and HomeLife magazines. She resides in Georgia with her husband Jim. They have two children and five grandchildren. Learn more at our mended hearts. 

Mended is available now for purchase in all retail book stores.  Get your copy today just in time for Mother’s Day!  Click here to buy your copy today or enter a chance to win a free copy below.

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I would love to hear from you!  Leave Your Comments Below.  I pray we all pursue mended relationships that can only be healed and restored in Jesus.  ​In Him,

Enter the MENDED book GIVEAWAY!  To enter must do 2 out of 4:

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