3 Reasons Why You Should Join A Book Club

Who are my avid readers out there?  What do you like to read?  What is your favorite genre of books?  This year one of my goals is to read 40 books in one year, which means I have to read 3 books a month.  I’ve been reading 1-2 books via audible, 1 book via kindle, and 1-2 hard copy books a month.  If you like to read, I would love to have you join me on the journey to read and discuss some of these books.

That is why I started my first book club, The Healing Book Club! (Click on link to join the FB Group)

We will read faith based books and books written by experts such as doctors on topics such as mental and emotional health, healing from pasts hurts, inspirational stories, and social injustice.  I love to learn and have conversations about books I’ve read and learn where I can grow and do better.  I’m excited to share this upcoming month’s book pick She Writes For Him, “Black Voices of Wisdom,”  written by a couple of my friends Kennita Williams and Carol Chisolm.  This May they will join us for the book club discussion.  We will be able to listen to their stories and ask them questions.  If you’re anyone like me, you’re probably thinking, I don’t have time to read a book and talk about it.  When I set my goal, I knew I needed accountability.

Click image to buy

Here are 3 Reasons Why You Should Join a Book Club:

 1.  To Be Intentional–  Have you ever heard the saying, ‘Nothing Changes, when Nothing Changes?’  When I’m doing the same thing over and over and expect something different to happen, that is the definition of insanity.  We can’t expect to have something new or different in our lives when we’re only viewing life from our own singular perspective.  Reading books from different authors and backgrounds, allows us to view life through the lens and eyes of someone not like us.  It allows us to hear their heart and what concerns them.  James tells us, “my beloved brothers:  let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;  (1:19).  Committing to reading a book a month, helps us to be intentional, and engage in interesting conversations about new topics.  It helps us to step out of our comfort zones and engage in new things.  Something always changes when we try something new.

2.  To learn and grow.  I’m always amazed how inspired I am when I learn something new about a topic.  I always feel so inspired after reading a book, and to make changes from the things I’ve read and learned.  That’s why I like to read the Bible, God’s instructions help keep me straight and identify where I am lacking and need to grow most.  2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”  You will never regret being in a place of humbleness where you are willing to grow and learn.  I love to read books that make an impact and challenge me to do better.

3.  To engage, connect, and make new friendships.  Whenever I join a book club, I meet so many new people, and have engaging conversations I never would have had before.  Connection and togetherness is God’s design for our lives.  Reading books from the perspective of someone else who is different than us, broadens our sight and hearing beyond our own lens.  It allows us to walk across the street and move beyond the four walls of our homes.  “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).  We need each other to grow.  The connections and conversations we have in book clubs are life giving and something we can always take with us.  You never know what a conversation might spark or connection you will make in a book club that God will use for what he has for you next.

If you want to join the conversation and be a part of this next book club click on the link to join!  

Here is a description of the next book from Amazon.

Hear the Voices and Hearts of Your Sisters.

In these turbulent times when the ugly stain of racism is at the forefront of our society bringing rampant division and mistrust, we desperately need ways to come together.

To build bridges of understanding between all in the body of Christ, we bring you twenty-three voices of Black Christian women, authors, ministers, educators, leaders, and mothers. Their powerful life experiences and heartfelt wisdom will shake you, open your eyes, and help you understand your sisters in Christ.

From the ways women of color are treated in our society, to raising Black daughters and sons, how a Black woman can have a white supremacist attitude, to how to respond as Christ would have us, their life experiences will be a link in bridging the gap between us with love.

May this powerful volume be a part of the bridge of love and understanding we need to walk across with our sisters.

 

Other Books we will possibly read:

The Gift of Pain-  Phillip Yancey                                        Permission to Feel-  Dr. Marc Brackett

Be the Bridge-  Latasha Morrison                                     Together-  Dr. Vivek Murthy

Clean Up Your Mental Mess-  Dr. Caroline Leaf              The Power of Vulnerability-  Dr. Brené Brown

Get Out of Your Head-  Jennie Allen                                 Outliers-  Malcolm Gladwell

Oneness Embraced- Tony Evans                                      The Power of Moments-  Chip and Dan Heath

How to Fight Racism- Jemar Tisby                                   Boundaries-  Dr. Henry Cloud


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3 Ways to Meet People In Their Anxiety

Have you ever tried to view and hear the perspective of another person who was different than you?  Someone who had a different background, different beliefs, different upbringing, lived in a different country, different opinion or point of view?  What was your response?  How did the conversation go?  Was there defensiveness? Anxiety?  An argument?  Or were you able to listen to their perspective and validate their experience?

If there is one thing this pandemic brought out in all of us, it was--where is our hope, where are we putting our trust, and revealed anxieties we probably never thought about before. Click To Tweet

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  Hebrews 10:23

Going through this pandemic brought up a lot abnormal circumstances that were thrown at us all at once.  We all had to wear masks, quarantine, home school our kids, shelter in place, worry about our jobs, businesses, our economy, the health and well-being of loved ones, pause life celebrations such as weddings, graduations, and funerals.  There was stress of finances, how will we pay our bills, childcare, not being able to be with loved ones in the hospital, and loss of loved ones.  There was fear of the unknown, how will this all turn out, how many more people will die, and when will this all end?

There was a high level of anxiety and stress from everything we went through.  And we all dealt with the anxieties of the pandemic differently.  Hopefully, we all came out of the pandemic and still are, a little bit stronger and with a new perspective of what’s difficult.  But what about those who were barely surviving before the pandemic hit?  Those who didn’t know where their next meal came from, didn’t have access to computers for education, or access to healthcare if they got sick?  I hope in all this, the pandemic helped us see and hear others and learn how we can meet people in their anxieties.

3 Ways To Meet People In Their Anxiety

 1.  Listen-  If there is one thing the pandemic taught me how to do better is listen. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1:19).  We all have the core need to be seen and heard.  We are missing out when we don’t listen to our brothers and sisters in their hurt and pain.  When Jesus was here on earth he offered a listening ear to hear people in their suffering like the woman at the well, or the paralyzed man.  He didn’t just say I’m sorry and keep on walking.  He didn’t give lectures or provide ways to temporarily fix it.  He stopped, listened and said, ‘Come follow me.’  There is power in listening.  It allows others to know I hear you, and you matter.

2.  Acknowledge-  Learning how to acknowledge others when they are struggling, to be able to come alongside them and say I see you in your hurt, is so powerful.  “He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”  (1 Corinthians 1:4).  To acknowledge someone when they are hopeless offers empathy and is what Jesus does for us.  Acknowledgement allows their struggle to be known, lets them know you see them, and they matter.  An example would be, “I see you are hurting, there are no words, I’m so sorry.”

3.  Validate-   How lonely would it be it we suffered in silence or by ourselves?  Jesus never intended for us to be alone in our anxieties.  He tells us to cast all of our anxieties on him, because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  “God will perfect everything that concerns you.” (Psalm 138:8).  When we tell our concerns and worries to God, they matter to Him.  Why?  Because whatever concerns us and matters to us, concerns and matters to God.  When David wrote in Psalms 56:8, “You have kept count of my tossings;  put my tears in your bottle,”  we know that God cares, he sees, and hears our cries, they matter to Him.  To validate someone, means you support them and value their feelings, it lets them know “I am here for you,”  when you validate them.

'When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.' Matthew 14:14. Click To Tweet

There will always be worry and anxiety in this world.  God tells us in James 5:13-14, if “anyone among you is suffering, let him pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  Let him sing praise.  Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him….” We can model what Jesus does for us by opening our eyes and ears to the hurting and suffering and see what matters to Jesus, should matter to us as well.

Jesus didn’t walk away from the sick and the hurting, he met them in their anxieties by either coming alongside of them or healing them.  Because of Jesus’ compassion and God’s love many have been healed and saved.

Have you considered how you can meet someone in their anxiety?

What can you do to let them know God cares for them, he sees and loves them?

When anxiety gets the best of me, I have to refer back to what God is able to do, stay in prayer and trust He is able.

For the month of April, in honor of our son Bowen’s life we are encouraging others to consider sponsoring a child to not only help honor our son’s life, but to show others who are hurting and living in poverty, they matter.  Sponsoring a child is not only life-giving to them, but to you as well, when you give them an opportunity to an education and food.  It also helps open our eyes to see how someone else lives in another country and see life from their perspective.  It helps us move beyond the boundaries of our anxieties and steps into their world to meet them in theirs.  My anxiety is put into perspective when I see what I am concerned about is nothing compared to what others have to go through everyday.

If you were inspired by our son’s story or this post, Click on the link below and meet your future sponsor child!  You will be blessed!

Want to show more compassion? Consider sponsoring a child to help end poverty.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion


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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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