The Good Thing about Hard Times

In the midst of all that’s going on in this world, it is easy for you to allow fear to grip your hearts.

Fear of the future, fear of sickness and death, fear of lack of resources, fear of the unknown. I know for my personal life, one fear has attempted to break my peace consistantly and that is the fear of suffering in some way.

Whether it’s suffering in finances, in lacking resources needed for my family, in the economy, whatever it is, there’s this uneasiness about my comfort being attacked in some way. My daily “normal” somehow changing. It can definitely be scary.

Obviously I am not the only one who feels this uneasiness, as toilet paper was the first thing we ran for during the scare. Toilet paper. Think about it. Something that is NOT a necessity being bought over food or water. Because of this one word that has imprisoned us for way too long: comfort.

I was reading in Romans today, seeking peace for my soul during this time and stumbled upon a passage I have read many times. But often His Word jumps out at us when we need it, so I figured I would share.

Romans 5:3-5 – “Moreover (let us also be full of joy now!) Let us exult and triumph in our troubles and sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character (of this sort) produces (the habit of) joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.”

Wow! What peace this can give us if we center our hearts on its promises. All too often as Christian’s these days, we pray for things like character, patience, integrity, more faith, more hope, and yet we never seem to pray for suffering or trials (I know, who would?)

But think about it. This scripture shows you the formula to having joy, peace, faith, and character; trials and sufferings which lead to endurance. All too often we pray for miracles in our lives and yet would pray against situations where God would be able to work miracles.

“Lord, please deliver us from bondage of the Pharoah BUT why have You led us to the Red Sea to be killed?!?” Sound familiar? The Israelites wanted the freedom without discomfort. But without discomfort the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea would never have been needed. Without sickness, we wouldn’t see His healings. Without struggle, we wouldn’t see His mighty provision. Without discomfort, we cannot grow.

So I take this time in my personal life to do as His Word tells us and exult in trials and sufferings. During this time where comfort and “normal” seem out of reach, this is a time to buckle down and praise the Lord that we are gaining endurance and patience. That we are learning what it means to rely solely on Him and not ourselves, our social lives, or our government. That during this time of stretching we can be thankful and renew our minds to see everything as He does and not what our flesh wants.

Take this time of isolation and really learn to be dependent on God. This is a time where distraction has been wiped out of most of our lives. Distraction and comfort that all too often keep us from our true Love and our families. Stop complaining, worrying, and fearing, and start praising God and thanking Him for your blessings, your life, and the ability to grow in Him.

Hard times are hard but they always restore my faith a little because it always seems that hard times produce such beautiful fruit in humanity. We see communities come together, servants appear in this individualistic selfish world, and neighborly love everywhere we look. Once again the principles of the Word evident all around us.

I wanted to encourage you in this time to look at things in a different way. Stay in your Word, keep your minds renewed, and walk in thanksgiving. Love you all! Happy homemaking!

Stones of Remembrance: Remembering God’s Faithfulness in the Midst of your Trial

If you have never read Joshua chapters 3 and 4 I urge you to go and read them now. You will read about a miraculous working of God once again in the lives of the Israelites. Essentially, God told Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan, and that when they stepped foot in the water, He would part the waters for them once again as He had done with the Red Sea. What a mighty God we serve.

Although I love to read of His miracles then and hear of them today, that isn’t necessarily the part of the story I want to touch on. As you read in this story, Joshua also tells the Israelites to do something else. As they cross the Jordan (which was by no means a small creek or brook), Joshua tells one man from each tribe to pick up a stone (large enough to carry on their shoulders) from the bottom of the Jordan.

And he explains that the reason for doing so is that when their children, and their children’s children ask why they have kept a stone, that they can then remember God’s faithfulness to them and the miraculous work that He did. These stones became Stones of Remembrance for God’s goodness and faithfulness.

I believe we all make stones of remembrance, but sometimes they are not for God’s goodness or faithfulness to us in the midst of our storms but of the suffering we have. For instance, when I battled anxiety I remember that one of the things I feared was, well, fear itself. At the back of my mind I was always fearing when the next big anxiety attack would hit or fearing if I would live this way forever. It was a dark cycle that was quite exhausting.

One day I was crying out to God regarding this; how am I supposed to ever be free from fear if all I do is fear anxiety?!? I stilled my mind to listen and heard these three words: Stones of Remembrance. I had remembered faintly of this from a teaching at some time, but I could not remember where to find it. So I googled it and read the story of Joshua. What a nice story, I thought to myself, but what does that have to do with what I am dealing with God? (Thank the Lord that He knows how to deal with our sassy attitudes and questionings).

“You have made stones of remembrance to your struggles and not to my faithfulness in the midst of your struggles. When you remember my faithfulness, then you will find yourself free from fear.”

Tears welled up in my eyes and heat filled my cheeks as I realized that I too had made stones of remembrance, but not to my God. I had built stones of remembrance to the onslaught of the enemy, but not to the goodness of God who always delivered me in the midst of those battles. When the darkness of fear gripped my soul, and God would bring peace on my mind, I should have built a stone of remembrance to His goodness to keep His promises. Instead, I remembered the feeling of despair and built a stone of fear’s threats.

Every time I would be going through a somewhat “good” time in my life, my mind would come across those stones made out to fear and fear would have a foothold in my mind. Thus the cycle continued. After God pointed this out to me, I decided to make stones of remembrance to His faithfulness.

Every time fear would raise it’s ugly head and say, “You’re going to have anxiety about this or this will always be a struggle for you,” I would go to my Stone of Remembrance and remind my soul, “Remember the last time you went through this anxiety battle, and God delivered you?” “Remember the last time you thought you would be overtaken, but God strengthened you?” “Remember the last time you didn’t think you could make it through the night, but God was with you until the morning?”

We can replay our sufferings, trials, storms, and traumas over and over again. And when we do we will often find ourselves on the other end of more suffering, trial, and storm. Your mind is a journey and where you allow it to travel, so will your emotions. But when we take control of our thinking and cast down those thoughts and fears and make our thoughts obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), then we can remember God’s goodness and faithfulness, which will give you hope and strength.

Stones of Remembrance were used by the Israelites to remind them and the generations after them of God’s faithfulness and workings of miracles. They would leave the stones in the place where God worked and when they or someone else traveled upon them once again, they could remember what the Lord had done for them. What I found interesting was that Joshua had them pick stones up from the bottom of the Jordan River. These stones would not have been able to be retrieved had God not done something mighty. The stones we pick up in this life our symbols of God’s mighty power and work in our lives. And when the enemy tempts you with a pity party over your sufferings, remind him of the mighty work God has done and will continue to do because He is able to make good out of what is intended for your destruction (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20).

When you go through a trial or storm and come on the other side of it, don’t create a stone of remembrance that will remember and praise the attack, but create a stone of remembrance of God’s faithfulness to you and His goodness to you in that hard time. It’s time we take back control of our thinking and instead of being accused all of the time by our accuser, we can remember the love and goodness of God.

So if you find yourself traveling through the same cycles of fear of the future, fear of the next attack, remembering struggles, sins, and traumas, go ahead and make a stone of remembrance that will help you remember that God gave you the strength to get through it and He will do it again. We do not have to live in fear of the future because we know Who is already there, Who has already prepared the way for us, and Who has already brought victory and deliverance through Christ Jesus.

Clearing the Cobwebs: The Life of a Trail-blazer

You are more Christ-like in the storms, than when the sea is smooth.

Have you ever been hiking before and had the lovely job of being in the front of your group? If you have you understand that often you are the one who gets hit with all of the spiderwebs, branches, and unknowns. I once was the first in line on a trail and felt every single cobweb going across my skin, sticking so fast and hard it was almost impossible to get it off. I quickly learned that lesson and often took the second or third position after that.

It’s quite humorous to watch the first person on a hike because they usually are jumping up and down or swishing their hands in front of their bodies like a ninja attacking an invisible opponent. It’s not as humorous to be the one who is being attacked though.

There was a time in my life I felt like I was getting hit by life’s cobwebs; like I was the person in the front; the trail-blazer. I remember a time when I went from on fire for God to what felt like overnight into a battle with doubt and unbelief. I remember laying on my dorm bed and crying with frustration because I didn’t know why I was battling doubt and how to be rid of it. It was a very difficult spiritual season for me. I remember in the midst of that, I started isolating myself from others (which is a tendency for me in hard times). My best friend made me go out to a movie with her and some of her cousins, so I obliged.

After the movie (which did help distract my mind a little), we ran into an old high school friend in the hallway of the theater. We caught up with him and talked about our lives and what we had been doing for quite some time. I remembered that the last time I had talked with him, he was on fire for God and really passionate about the Lord. But the young man I was speaking to in that movie theater seemed to be a whole different person. He began talking about his struggles with his faith and the doubt that some of his college professors had instilled in his mind. Standing there in that theater the Holy Spirit immediately brought my attention to my struggle with doubt. “This is why,” He said to me.

I was able to empathize with my old friend and in that moment the Lord spoke much wisdom and freedom to him. Things I had been struggling with, the Lord began to preach through me to my friend and I sat back obedient, amazed at His faithfulness. I had bought an apologetics bible to help me with my faith during that struggle, one that helped people defend the Gospel. God told me to give that bible to that young man later that night. When I laid my head down to sleep that night, no doubt or unbelief remained. I was free. It was amazing how quickly it ceased.

I tell this story because that night I realized sometimes we go through struggles in order to help others. Sometimes, quite on purpose, God will let us deal with things in life so that we would be able to serve another in their hard season with empathy and compassion, rather than judgement. I remember that night being amazed at God’s faithfulness to that young man, that He cared so much for Him He would set me up ahead of time to help him.

That is one example of the many times I have gone through things to help someone else. I remember after my miscarriage sitting on the couch with my bestfriend and just talking a lot of my faith struggles out years later. She said something to me, about how I helped ‘pave the way’ for her as she goes through life changes after I have been through them. I remember saying to her in my frustration and flesh, “I’m tired of having to go through every tough battle to help others; I need a break.”

She looked at me and said, “Katie, you’re just clearing the cobwebs for others.” Since then, that saying as changed my outlook completely. When I go through hard times, I think of the “WHO” it may help in the future. When I struggle with something in my mind, my marriage, motherhood, or my walk with God, I don’t see it as an end, but as a beginning of freedom for someone else down the road.

When in a pity party about this trail-blazing anointing, the Holy Spirit spoke so sweetly to my bitter soul as He usually does. “You are more Christ-like in storms than when the seas are smooth.” In that instant I realized that Christ was our trail-blazer. Christ went before us, took our due punishment, and paved the way of salvation so that we could enjoy eternal communion with the Father. He didn’t have to do that, just as we don’t have to let our struggles help others. But He did it because He loved us, and to be like Christ and love others, we also take the struggle for even just one soul.

“For [as a believer] you have been called for this purpose, since Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you may follow in His footsteps. He committed no sin, nor was deceit ever found in His mouth. While being reviled and insulted, He did not revile or insult in return; while suffering, He made no threats [of vengeance], but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross [willingly offering Himself on it, as on an altar of sacrifice], so that we might die to sin [becoming immune from the penalty and power of sin] and live for righteousness; by His wounds you [who believe] have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:21-24

We also can heal through our woundedness if we allow God to take our struggles, sins, and brokenness and use it for His glory. I believe that God would have sent Jesus for just one person because He sees them as worth it. So even if your struggle helps just one, they are worth it.

So, if you are going through some battles and storms in this life, think of it as just clearing the cobwebs for those behind you. See your overcoming that obstacle as the way in which God can set free someone else. When you see your battle as a tool for the salvation of another’s soul, it makes the fight so much more worth it. So keep your chin up, flail your arms through those cobwebs in praise of Him, and keep blazing that trail.

So that one day you too can say, “I have fought the good and worthy and noble fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith [firmly guarding the gospel against error].” 2 Timothy 4:7.

To the one Struggling: Hang on just a Little Bit Longer

One life saying that has gotten me through many hard trials and seasons of suffering is this, “The last catastrophe you thought would end you didn’t.”

In a sense, every time a new hard trial or task would face me, I would remember that the last time I felt the anxiousness, the fear of the unknown, the questions, and the heartache, I got through them. I am a standing testimony of the many trials and tests I have been through; and so are you.

You may be facing something old or something new that is rearing it’s ugly teeth at you, making you want to run as fast as you can away from everything. Whether it’s a sickness, anxiety, depression, a personal loss, a personal tragedy, a broken relationship, whatever it may be, let this encourage you. You’ve made it through hard things before; you were made to face hard things, and you can do it again.

There was a time in my life, in the pit of despair and anxiety, that I was walking outside. It was a beautiful day on the outside, but inside my mind was full of dark clouds of fear and depression. I remember walking and talking with God, and just telling Him, “I can’t do one more day of this. Please Lord, deliver me or take me. I can’t live like this.” Tears streamed down my face. Not hard sobs, no I had done plenty of that. These were just the remnants of what strength I had left, rolling down slowly. Each tear represented one more plea for freedom, one more begging request for ease to my soul.

I remember saying that to God and looking up at a branch above me. There was a bird and if you know me, you know birds are my favorite animal. They fly with such freedom; live with such a peace that God will take care of their needs. If they need food, they know where to find it. If they need shelter, they know where to go. I looked up at the bird and heard a still small voice, “Remember the last time you felt like this? You made it through. Keep going, I will strengthen you. Just like that bird, fly in freedom and know I am the supplier of your needs.”

I walked home, still anxious. I went to bed that night, still heavy. But I had a new way of thinking, I will make it through this too because He is taking me through it. I wanted my life to end that day if it meant carrying that heaviness one more second. Had I had my request granted, I would have missed the fulfillment of all of God’s promises and more in my life. At the time of this story I was single, childless, directionless, and weak. Now I am married to a godly man, have an angel baby in heaven and a baby here with me on earth, I have learned how to renew my mind in the Lord and fight against fear and anxiety, and I walk with hope for the future and joy in my heart. I couldn’t have imagined how much God would do between then and now. But that is my point. In the midst of your despair, don’t make decisions that can be permanent. Hold on a little bit longer.

Remind yourself of the last heartbreak you went through; you made it. Remind yourself of the laughter and joy and peace you have felt since the last time you felt anxious; it’s possible. Remind yourself of the other traumas and pains you have made it through; life continues. Sometimes we believe that the next catastrophe will end us…. then it doesn’t. I am not discounting your pain, your hurt, or your trial; what I am saying is there is hope for a future, so don’t give it up.

My undergraduate and graduate studies are in psychology and counseling. One interesting study I read once has really helped me through many tough times (I love when my faith and education combine; it’s beautiful). The study found that the “high” joyous times in our lives are not as amazing as we would imagine them. For example, you get that raise and you are joyous, but then come back down to a happy medium. But on the flip side of that, the “low” times we dread are not as bad as we imagine they will be. So when asked what you would do in a hard time, you imagine it way worse then it actually will be. Why does this help me?

Because when anxiety tries to make me dread something in the future, I remember that it won’t be as bad as my mind tries to make me believe. I remember that I am not alone to face hard battles; and if you find yourself alone on Earth, you are still not alone, because our God never forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). When that next trial or test or temptation comes against you, fight it with the strength of God instead of your own strength. Align your thinking with the Word instead of your “reality”. Thoughts stuck in a negative cycle? Make yourself think on good things, things of good report, things worthy of praise, things that are pure and true (Philippians 4:8).

One of the lies of the enemy in our lives is that we are stuck. We are stuck anxious, we are stuck depressed, we are stuck struggling, we are just stuck with no hope for change. But darling, let me shine some truth on that lie. You will never be stuck, not as long as you are breathing. 1 John 4:4 says that He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world! That means whatever is coming against you, you can know for a fact that the One on your side is more powerful. Then why isn’t He working on my behalf, you ask?

Sometimes when God is trying to work, we can be working against Him. If you know you struggle with a sin and continually open yourself up to it, that is a matter of self discipline. Pray for wisdom and self discipline and He will give it to you. If you are continually choosing relationships with people who are abusive and in bad lifestyles, don’t continue to choose those relationships. Pray for discernment in people and good, godly relationships. If you know that you tend to be pessimistic and negative in your thought life, don’t be a slave to your thinking, renew your mind and make your thoughts come into alignment with the Word. Surrender every part of your life to God, and let Him do His work while you do yours.

All of this is to let you know, that if you are in the midst of a life storm and struggle, whatever it may be, it is not your last chapter. It is not your end. Life will continue and you will get up from this. And there will be laughter again, and joy will spark your heart once more. Peace will be there waiting for you and love is still alive. What is barren will bear life, what is dry and thirsty will be quenched. What is dead will be brought to life. Don’t lose hope, and don’t be a prisoner of your struggle. Instead, be a prisoner of hope. When life tries to force your hand to succumb to despair, instead choose to remain a prisoner of hope (Zechariah 9:12). Be in a place where you cannot stop hoping for change.

Know that whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever struggle you are enduring, keep enduring and hang on just a little bit longer. I am praying for you in this season and know that what was meant for your ruin, God will use for your good (Genesis 50:20). I love you all and pray for you earnestly!

The Deception of Self Love

Okay, so this is not going to be a popular post. I’m okay with that because I don’t write for popularity but for what God lays on my heart to say to whoever may read it. There is a trend going around that is what I like to call, deliciously deceptive. It’s those topics that come along and are covered in something labeled “good” but are dangerously deceptive underneath. Have you ever heard of the saying, “A wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing?” That’s pretty much the imagery of what I’m talking about.

Now cultural fads come and go. And there’s an easy way to fall into a cultural mindset without weighing whether that mindset lines up with the Word of God. Because it seems good to the eye, then it must be inherently good. One of the things I keep seeing over and over in culture, particularly in women today, is this idea of “self love”. This notion that we as women need to be putting ourselves first, creating a beautiful self image, allowing ourselves to be selfish every now and then because, “Girl, you’re worth it”.

At first you’re like, “That’s right! I should be worrying about myself first.” And you feel really good reading posts that elevate that self esteem and independence and self love. But, if you’re not careful, that’s an easy place to be deceived into becoming self minded or what is really selfish. If I were to say to you, “Girl, you need to do what makes you happy and what makes you feel powerful,” you would probably high five me. But just because something makes you feel good, does not mean it’s biblical or that it should be something we strive for.

Let’s be real with ourselves here for a moment. This world is preaching a lot of messages to us women today, and if we are not careful we can hop on that train into a tunnel of deception. Remember, if you are saved, you are living according to a different culture, the culture of the kingdom of God. Remember, we are not of this world nor are we to think like this world (John 17:16).

“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].” Romans 12:2 AMP

It’s pretty clear in scripture that we are not to be of the world; that we are not to align ourselves with popular ways of thinking, acting, dressing, that is not in line with the Word of God. So why dear sisters are we women of faith being so deceived into what I like to call the deception of self love?

Scripture is blatantly clear on how we are to view ourselves.

“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake, he is the one who will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God].” Luke 9:23,24

“He must increase [in prominence], but I must decrease.” John 3:30

“It teaches us to reject ungodliness and worldly (immoral) desires, and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives [with a purpose that reflect spiritual maturity] in this present age” Titus 2:12

“So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not [carefully consider the cost and then for My sake] give up all his own possessions.” Luke 14:33 AMP

“And he who does not take his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me] is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], and whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity].” Matthew 10:38‭-‬39 AMP

You cannot show me in scripture where my goal in life should be to glory in myself, to put my wants and needs before others, to do what makes me happy, to seek selfish desires. What you do see is scripture telling us over and over is to lay our lives down, to put others first, to serve others, to humble ourselves before God and man, to give God the glory, to seek the will of God and lay our desires down. I am so tired of seeing a generation of women of faith falling into the trap of the self.

Hear me clearly. No, you are not meant to be a doormat. No, you do not have to be abused, used, or treated like garbage. No, God does not want you to view yourself as ugly, fat, or not good enough for love. But its not to make you feel good about yourself in yourself, but to know who you are in Him.

I’ve found that the many times I have let my self be the focus of my every thought, motive, and desire, I am left miserable. Your prayers, thoughts and purposes should not all be about you. Many of us would feel alot better, have more stable mentality, and live in more freedom if we would walk away from the bondage of self and begin to live a life concerned about others.

Get yourself off your mind. Seek God and HIS righteousness. Seek god and HIS purposes for your life. You can do your hair (not bad in itself), fix your makeup just right (I wear makeup too), take that perfect selfie (to show off how strong and happy you are) and still not ever reach happiness. You can have the new clothes, the starbucks coffee, the designer shoes, the promotion at work, the golden globe (you know who you are), and still find absolutely NOTHING at the end of the day. Because sister, joy and peace are not in this world to be found. They are in HIM and Him alone. Stop forfeiting the purposes of God for your own purposes.

When you find yourself in a cycle of self, slap the enemy in the face and serve someone else! Woke up feeling bad about your appearance? Don’t think about YOU all day, instead compliment other women, thank God for your health and being alive, do something good for someone else! Having a bad mental health day? Reach out to someone you know who also struggles and ask them how you can help THEM. You’re not too broken to be used by God to bring light to someone’s life. And you’ll most likely find yourself feeling uplifted and joyful afterwards too.

This culture for too long as promoted self and self interest; independance from others and fulfilling happiness. But if you are a child of God, happiness is not your goal. Hard to hear right? What we think will make us happy, the perfect body, the perfect husband, the perfect children, the perfect house, the perfect job, none of those things will do it in the end. You will get that next thing and feel good for a little bit… and then it doesn’t do the job anymore. You will get the followers and the attention, but find yourself feeling empty.

Because fullness of joy, fulfillment, and peace come only from Him. Because the only path to true self love is the laying down of self in His hands. You want what’s best for you? Try surrendering every dream, desire, life bucket list and relationship to Him and watch Him truly give you the desires of your heart. Trust me, what the enemy doesn’t want you to know is that behind every culutral pep talk and self love blog post is emptiness and a dangerous deception.

It’s not about not taking a night to yourself after a stressful week to unwind and find peace. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is to not get so caught up in this cultural fad that you find that your self is the only thing on your mind. That is not how Jesus lived, and that is not how we are called to live.

Trust me, I feel it. I feel the tension of cultural ideals and the Word of God. It is so much easier to think about myself all the time than put others before me (thats our flesh’s auto set since birth). But there is no joy in it. Love yourself because you were bought with a price and considered worthy in His eyes, not because of anything you do. Love yourself not because you deserve it, but because God thought you were worthy of His love. Love yourself because you were made in His image, not because you have the perfect body, clothes or smile.

I’m waiting for a generation of women of faith who stand up for biblical principles in a world who will call them “out of date”, antiquated, and stupid. I’m not saying hate yourself, just get yourself off your mind. You will be surprised what you find. You don’t have to worry about not being taken care of either… because when you rest in His hands and take care of others, God is faithful to take care of you too. So, be free to not be in yourself. It is freedom indeed.

Finding the Sun in the Winter

Today I walked outside to get the mail and was pleasantly surprised at how great it felt outside. It has been pretty cold the last few days, so feeling the sun hit my face felt like a warm hug to my soul. I stood on the front porch and closed my eyes, soaking in the sun rays. Man, that felt good. Have you ever got a quick glimpse into the springtime in the middle of winter, that it gives you just a serge of energy? You think, just hold on a little longer and then it will be flowers and sunshine and warm rains again.

I soaked in the warmth for a little bit longer and just happened to look down. Next to my front porch I have tons of clover growing (which is one of my favorite things). When I looked down, it looked as though all of my clover were cupped, facing the sun. They were all turned the same way, soaking it all in just like I was a few moments before. And just like that, I heard the Lord say to me, “In the middle of the winter seasons, turn toward the light.”

Lately, I have felt like I have been going through a spiritual winter season along with the physical winter. Things have seemed drab, cold, and tough. It seems like wherever I turn there is something else going wrong, a sickness around the corner, financial struggles, personal struggles, the list goes on and on. It is so tough to keep the faith during these kinds of seasons, when it feels like the fight never stops. But what else is there to do but fight?

We can go through these struggles sometimes, taking each hit from the enemy, and forget that we can do something about it. Like the clover, who have been going through the winter season, in the midst of the cold, drought of winter, they turned toward the light. We can do that too. We can stop in our struggle and simply turn; turn towards the Light of the World. Turn towards His Word and promises. So often we think we are victims of our circumstances around us. We think we have to keep every anxious or depressive thought, we think we have to continue to be abused by the toxic people in our lives, we think we are doomed to the lives people have spoken over us.

One thing I am very stubborn about is letting people know they are not stuck. Even in the middle of the winter, you can find some Son (I know, it’s cheesy but it’s true). So often we wait for Spring to come in order to get some fresh air and light in our lives, when in reality you can find what you need in the middle of your bleak season.

John 1:5 states, “The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the refuge and fortress of my life, whom shall I dread?”

Ephesians 5:14 states, “For this reason He says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine [as dawn] upon you and give you light.”

I give you these scriptures (and there are many more) because although darkness does exist, so does the light exist even more so. So you may be in some dark season; you may feel like nothing is growing, no light is shining, and no hope of change is near. But I come to remind you to be like the clover and turn towards the Light. Turn towards the Son. Turn towards Him Who is able to do more abundantly than you can ask or think according to His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

I want to remind you that you are not a slave to your circumstances as long as you are a Child of God. You belong to the Creator of all things who can make something out of nothing. Don’t lose hope. Don’t hang your head down. Turn your eyes to the Lord and trust Him and watch Him work on your behalf. Align your thinking and speaking with His Word, even if what you see around you doesn’t just yet.

I don’t know, I just felt it heavy on my heart for anyone who may be going through what I am going through to let you know that hope still remains. Light still remains. Growth still remains. What’s been planted will bloom soon, what’s been freed will fly, and those things that have held you down will break. Just turn to Him and soak in His light and love. Be like the clover!

Happy homemaking.

The Key to a Happy New Year

Happy…happy…happy! What a word that is thrown around all the time. Especially this time of the year! A new year! It’s such an amazing and exciting time for the unknown. One tradition I always do around this time every year is just take a moment to breathe and think about where I was this time last year. Did I do the things I wanted to do? Did I chase the passions I wanted to chase? And then I think about the next year; I think about all the things that can happen in one year.

New years are the perfect time to start “anew”. They are the perfect time to gain back hope and get excited for all the things that lie ahead of us. But they can also be a time where it is easy to fall into the fear trap. Many opportunities lie ahead in the new year, but so do many unknowns. That can be a little scary. We worry about the new year. Will it be like last year? Will I go through trials again? Will it be hard again? What if bad things happen? What if I’m not happy?

Last year was an amazing year of ups and downs for me. I had my first baby, bought my first house, graduated with my master’s degree and celebrated two years with my love. But also there were many hard times. Times of anxiousness, depression, doubt, and numbness. Many times last year I struggled with that word: “happiness”. I fell into comparison traps, I blamed everyone around me for not feeling happy (including my husband and baby), I blamed my past hurts for keeping me stuck in a pit of despair. Yes, there were times I felt strong in the Lord, but any time something hard happened and my “Happy” was hurt, I returned back to murmuring, complaining, fault-finding, and even finding myself angry towards God.

Yesterday, I felt a general sense of just unhappiness. As I walked through the day, I tried to find every reason for why I was feeling the way I felt. “Well, nothing new and exciting is happening in my life….” “Well, my husband has been getting on my nerves lately….” “Well, my baby has been very clingy and hard to deal with lately….” “Well, my body still isn’t what I want it to be…” “Well, God still hasn’t healed me…” “Blah, blah, blah”. I was sick of being with myself by the end of the day.

After I got baby into bed and my husband went to sleep, I thought maybe a “self-care” night would help. I soaked my feet, watched I Love Lucy, drank some hot peppermint tea, took a bubble bath, and yet the numb sadness was still there. I put my phone down beside the bath, took a deep sigh, and realized what needed to be done. The key to happiness wasn’t going to be found in more “me” time. It wouldn’t be from drastic romantic dates and notions from my hubby. It wouldn’t come from a constantly happy baby and a fit body. Happiness wouldn’t come when all of my wants were met. It could only come from one thing: humility.

I realized that I had been attempting to find blame in everyone and everything else for why I felt the way I did. I wanted to put the responsibility for my happiness on everyone else, that way I didn’t have to do it myself. I realized that I had been walking in selfishness and pride; thinking that the only person that mattered was “me..me…me”. It will exhaust you as a Christian to walk in pride and selfishness, because Christ’s nature of servanthood lies within you and they cannot coincide together in peace.

When you feel yourself always feeling unhappy, think about WHO has been on your mind lately. Is it you? This world teaches us that it’s all about making ourselves happy; it’s all about doing what makes us happy. Who cares if it hurts someone else or you have to walk over everyone else or you have to leave people behind, as long as your happy, you do it. What’s sad is that this type of thinking can slowly leak into our minds as Christians, if we are not careful and cautiously taking inventory of our thought life and heart attitudes.

Movies tell us that romance is always butterflies and fireworks, so if we are not getting that 24/7 then our spouses need to step up and make us happy. Instagram moms post pictures of their perfect babies, always clean, always happy, always doing what they are supposed to. Then our babies act like humans and we think that we did something wrong or got the short end of the stick. Prosperity gospels tell us that God should always bless us and fulfill our every desire, but when we don’t get every single thing we expect from Him, we get bitter and disappointed at God. But did you notice, we never turn our eyes on ourselves.

It’s time we stop blaming everyone else for our current emotional turmoil. It’s time we stop blaming our families for our stress and our jobs for our unhappiness. It’s time we stop blaming God for our disappointments and let down expectations. It’s time we turn the mirror on our own souls and get to the nitty gritty. It’s time to humble ourselves.

I sat in the bath and I wept. For so long I have been murmuring, complaining, and thinking negatively. For so long I was waiting on everything around me to line up perfectly in order for me to find happiness. When the whole time the problem was me. Wrong attitudes, wrong motives, wrong outlooks. Selfishness, pride, envy.

I asked God to forgive me for not being thankful for His many blessings. For always looking at the bad instead of the good. For wanting Him to do my will instead of His will. For blaming everyone else for my problems, instead of the fact that I was running. I didn’t need more self love or self care. I needed time with Jesus. I needed to hit my knees and humble myself and realize that it was me all along that was responsible for my happiness.

David in the bible was often in the midst of trial and turmoil. But one thing you can find in him, is that he always encouraged himself in the Lord. He didn’t need 15 different small groups, 100 new friends, and social media to make him feel good when he struggled. He took it upon himself to encourage himself in the Lord. Sometimes we don’t need to reach for the phone when we are feeling downtrodden or worried. We need to reach into our spirits and say to our soul, “Why, oh my soul, are you downcast? Why are you so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5).

There is a point when you have to tell yourself, enough is enough! Stop allowing the enemy to walk over you. Stop letting life’s circumstances declare whether you are going to praise God and walk in thankfulness or not. Stop waiting on everyone else to bring you peace and joy, when you can speak to your soul and tell it to rise up!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6). Sometimes, your struggles in life are not because of other people but because you have chosen to continue to walk in defeat. Sometimes you are your own problem. If you speak negatively, think negatively, walk in defeat, murmur, complain, and never count your blessings, then you can bet that you will walk in depression, anxiety, and bitterness.

It’s time to get up! Shake the dirt off, walk in victory, and be who God has called you to be. Stop waiting on others to do the hard work for you. The pastor ain’t gonna do it for you; the people in the alter ain’t gonna do it for you; your friends and spouses aren’t gonna do it for you. If you have struggled with the same sin, the same defeating thoughts, the same fears over and over again, it’s time to humble yourself, surrender to God, and walk in victory. Proclaim His Word instead of your fears. Walk in thanksgiving and praise instead of doubt and complaining.

Stop seeking blog posts to give you the “top 5 mindfulness attitudes” to bring you happiness. Stop buying all of the products that advertise they will complete you. Stop filling your life so full of plans that you cannot find a moment of peace and quiet to hear from God. Make this year the year that you stop relying on others to fill you up, and rely on God instead. Humble yourself, come to Him, and let Him be everything that you need. You will be amazed to find that in the midst of humility (which hurts very bad sometimes), you will find happiness.

Finding Myself Again: The Journey of Learning I am more than a Mother and Wife

Our identity need not lie in the roles we play here on Earth, but in the stance we took when we were adopted into God’s family. I am more than mother and wife, I am first a daughter.

Katie Richards

I finished my master’s degree back in October and since then have been dealing with some identity issues. Before school ended I felt as though I still had something for myself. Yes, I was a wife and mother, but I also had school which helped me to feel like I had a meaningful purpose.

When school ended, my role switched and as I do with most things in life, I found myself pouring all of myself into my husband, son, and household, that there wasn’t much left for “me” anymore. It’s been a slow process but I have felt the burning out. The endless cycles of cleaning, cooking, and serving everyone else, and sometimes feeling like I am forgotten along the way.

My personality is a go-getter personality. Up to this point in my life, I have always had something that I was chasing after; some goal that kept the fire lit in my soul. Today as I poured my heart out to God, I wept as I told Him, “I feel like my fire is gone. I don’t even have a dream or passion for myself anymore. I’m tired of living off the vision of everyone else; I want vision again.”

I type this out with tears in my eyes because it has been the first time that I have allowed myself to feel these feelings and I will tell you why. Every time in the past I almost got to this point, I would feel guilty. If I allow myself to weep over what I feel like I have lost in this season of motherhood and marriage, then I am not being thankful for what a beautiful blessing it is.

But that isn’t true. We are allowed to be so thankful for what God has blessed us with, while also wanting our souls on fire for the things of God again. We are allowed to serve our families while not forgetting what our real passion and purposes are. Yes, God has me in this season of homemaking, but He also has other things in store for me. I am so tired of living in an “either-or” state of mind.

I am writing about this because I am sure that I am not the only young mother, wife, and woman who has felt this way before. But I offer encouragement. Today, as I wept tears of grief, weariness, and just exhaustion, God comforted my soul. “Daughter, your purpose in life is not to be a wife, mother, teacher, author, evangelist, or person in ministry. It is not to master the art of homemaking or be the one everyone comes far and wide to listen to. Your purpose is to be Mine, to seek Me in everything you do. When your heart has the right purpose in it, you will find passion in your home and on the stage.”

As I’ve poured myself into everyone and everything, I have lacked in pouring myself completely into God and the things of God. Had I purposed in my heart to serve Him first, then all the rest would easily follow. You see, exhaustion comes when we try and do everything without Him. We think we are simply doing our part and playing our roles, but God has asked we do all things according to Him.

So when I am cooking dinner, I am not simply feeding my family. I am feeding my husband, who has mighty purpose and anointing on Him. I am feeding my son, who will follow in his father’s footsteps, a prophet to the nations and mighty man of God. And I am feeding myself, a mighty woman of God with a heart for the broken and the Word of God.

When I am cleaning my house, I am making a home that is welcoming the Holy Spirit. Where the hurt and broken can come and be ministered to, through the Word or through baked goods. Where peace is present, and laughter is worship to the Lord.

We all live in seasons. And right now your season may be a stay-at-home mom or a working mom who feels like everything is spent out in serving others. I encourage you to change your mindset. To allow God to rewrite how you think about your daily life. To pray daily that God would show up and order your steps.

I am excited to see what God has in store for the future. I am. But I cannot afford to spend my time always looking ahead and forgetting what is in my today. The chances for ministry here in my own home. The chances to serve God in humility as I lay myself down and put others before me. What we cannot forget is to pour into our spiritual lives by setting aside time with Jesus as a priority.

The One Who loves you more in a second than anyone can in a lifetime longs to spend time with you. And when you set aside daily duties, to-do lists, and distractions, you will find the Well that never runs dry, ready and willing to fill up and overflow every part of you that feels empty.

So, yes I am a mother and a wife. And I love those roles that Jesus has blessed me with. But first, I am a daughter of the Most High. Adopted, created with purpose, and made for communion with my Father. So, I am opting to walk in that role first, and I know the passion and fire for the rest of my roles will come with it.

Seasons come and go, but it is what we do with them that truly matters. Enjoy your season and use it as an act of worship to God. I hope this encourages you, happy homemaking daughter!

Are you Tired? Then Go Running

I love to write. I have always loved to write, since I was little. It’s the perfect way to get my heart across to another. Often in marriage counseling or talking with friends, I tell them to write. Writing helps get our thoughts across in such a way, that often distractions can’t come through. Usually when I write on here, I write from experience, revelations, or fun ideas. Often, however, I simply ask God what He wants me to say. What do they need to hear?

Today, as I was in my time with God I felt the urge to write. And this is what He wanted me to let you know. When you’re tired, weak, exhausted, and weary: run. Physically, this idea doesn’t make much sense. When you are exhausted physically, the last thing you want to do is go running. The last thing you want to do is use what energy you have left in your reserve.

Often when we are struggling spiritually, we feel the same way. We are so exhausted from the battle, emotionally and mentally, we don’t want to use any energy left to run to Him. We would rather numb ourselves in front of the television or with groups of friends, hoping the distraction will somehow create an energy in us to deal with the struggles. But simple physics tells us nothing comes from nothing. If we do not get gas for the car, gas does not simply appear in our tanks. If we do not run to God for refuge in the storm, we won’t have the strength to go forward.

One of the verses I “run” to all too often is Matthew 11:28. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” With my personality, I often am way too focused on doing everything myself without asking for help. I don’t know why I am this way, but I feel like a burden to ask for help. So I just do it myself. This can be one of the worst things a person can do to themselves. God made us as people who need others. We need Him. If you are feeling burnt out and exhausted, it is very possible that you are carrying a burden you were not meant to carry alone. The next part in the scripture explains a truth that set me free. Verse 29 and 30 says, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Not many know what a yoke is because not many are surrounded by farming and harvesting. A yoke is what holds two cattle together as they plow the fields. It is very important that the two remain working together, because if one pulls the yoke too fast, the other can be injured or even killed.

Jesus is telling us here that if we are exhausted and weary, it’s time we lay down our yokes and yoke up with Him. Our yokes, our burdens, our weights, are too heavy for us to carry. But when we come to Him, His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. When you are at your breaking point, feeling like you can’t push forward by yourself any more, it is not the time to run away from God, but to run towards Him. Drop your yoke of the world, and yoke up with Him.

“Cast all of your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). Imagine your child walking alongside you on a hike. They are carrying a backpack they packed themselves before the trip and you are carrying the backpack you packed. As you hike along, the child becomes increasingly exhausted; crying, whimpering, complaining. “I can’t carry it anymore, it’s too heavy.” “Well give it to me then.” You would think the child would hand it over right? No. Instead you hear, “Well, I can carry it myself.” Or, “It’s mine though… I don’t want to hand it over….” “If I hand it over then I may lose something…” “I don’t know how to walk without carrying my backpack… if I give it to you then I don’t know how to go forward.”

Confused, you continue walking with the child. This time they stop, kneel to the ground, huffing at the exhaustion and strength it’s taking to carry the backpack. You kneel down beside them. “Honey, give it to me, I will carry it.” The child lifts their head, crying, and says, “I don’t know how.” “Just hand it me.” Crying heavily, “I don’t know how. If I give it to you, I won’t be carrying anything.” You lift their chin to you and say, “You carry my backpack, and I will carry yours.”

You take your backpack off and help them take off their backpack. As you lift it you realize how heavy it is. “What did you pack in here?” You open it up to find many stones. On the stones are written different things. One reads “fear”, another “anxiety”. There is a huge one, and on it says, “expectations of others”. You keep rummaging through the bag, pulling out the stones one by one. “Sadness”, “loss”, “depression”, “self-hate”, “suicide”, “bitterness”, “anger”, “hurt”, “abuse”, “rejection”, “condemnation”, “shame”, “guilt”. It goes on and on.

“Honey, how have you carried this for so long? Here, take mine.” The child, relieved, drops their shoulders. As they lift your bag on their shoulders, their eyes open in amazement. “It’s so light! What do you carry?” They open the bag and begin pulling out feathers. On the feathers are written many words: “faith”, “trust”, “peace”, “love”, “forgiveness”, “righteousness”, “holiness”, “joy”. The child begins crying, “You mean I could have carried this the whole time?” “Yes, honey, but don’t be sad that you have walked so far with burdens. All you have to do is hand them to me, and continue forward. And if you are tempted to pick up any rocks along the way, just give them to me.”

I know, it may sound corny, but this story is the perfect depiction of how God feels with us. You would feel so frustrated that you offered to carry your child’s burden, yet they continued in exhaustion and weariness. You would want to scream from the mountain tops, that what you had for them instead was so much better. But when we continuously rely on ourselves or others, to meet our needs and fill our emptiness rather than relying on God, we will be that child who continuously decides to carry burdens that are not ours to carry or pick up things along the road of this life, we were meant to cast away.

Enough is enough. Stop carrying the world on your shoulders and cast it onto the One Who is enough for you. Are you heartbroken? Wounded? Rejected? Bitter? Do you not know how to give it all up? Have you been walking so long with the weight that you’re afraid of what it may feel like to finally let it go?

The answer is not complicated, although the enemy wants you to believe that it is. It is simple. If you are weary, RUN. Run to Him with everything you have. Hit your knees, throw your burdens on Him. Trade your sorrows for joy. Trade your mourning for dancing. Trade your tears of grief for tears of laughter. Trade your brokenness for full restoration. Trade your bitterness for forgiveness. Trade your anger for peace. Trade your hate for love. Trade your dirtiness for righteousness. It is so much more simple than it seems.

Humble yourself. You do not have to carry it on your own any longer. You are not a burden to Him, He yearns to give you peace and rest. So, if you have been wounded and exhausted, RUN TO HIM. If you have been trying to numb yourself from reality, RUN TO HIM. If you have been running in the wrong direction, RUN TOWARDS HIM. You will find hope for hopelessness, faith for unbelief, and healing for your souls. Think on this:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Psalm 23

Postpartum Body: Does it get Easier?

I promised I would be vulnerable on here and I just want to talk about something I am struggling with pretty bad. My postpartum body. It’s been almost 9 months since I gave birth to John, and I still haven’t “bounced back”. As I watch so many friends who gave birth around the same time as me post their pictures and somehow look like that lost weight being pregnant, I can’t help but feel so discouraged.

I never thought I would have an enemy. This enemy seems to be everywhere, all the time. It’s a reminder of the things I hate about myself and I can’t stand to look in it. This enemy: the mirror. Y’all I absolutely hate getting undressed in front of the mirror. I hate seeing those stretch marks, the jiggly belly, the extra pudge. I pull the fat around my face back to remember thinner days. I turn sideways and see what looks like a 2 month pregnant belly. I turn around and look at the rolls on my back forming as I turn. I feel utter disgust. Humiliation at my husband seeing me. Tears welling up in my eyes.

Last night my husband weighed the baby by first standing on the scale and then holding John and standing on the scale. I glanced at the weight of them two together and felt a punch to the gut: they weigh less together than I do at the moment. Not by much, but still. The thought that two people weigh less than I do together made me want to throw up. And then yesterday we picked up my wedding set that was resized because I was tired of not wearing my rings. When I went to put them on, they fit, but they still were tight. It felt like punch after punch. I felt sadness and depression looming nearby.

That night after the baby went to sleep, I wanted to relax in the bath. As Tyler got ready for bed he happened to be in there as I undressed. Complete shame filled me and I just wanted to hide. I got in the tub hoping he would just hurry and leave the room. He came by and kneeled by the tub to kiss me goodnight and as our eyes met he asked those words, “What’s wrong?”

Now if you know me, I can hold my tears back as long as you don’t acknowledge me. But as soon as you ask me to talk about what’s wrong, they will flow like Niagara Falls! I start bawling and say something along the lines of, “I hate myself. I hate my body.” Knowing he needed to get up in about 5 hours for work, he still sat down by the tub and held my head in his arms. He kissed my head, my arm, my tear rolling down my cheek, and said, “I love every part of you.” “But I don’t, I hate every part of myself.” “He prayed over me and told me I needed to get alone with God and listen.

As he went to bed, I sat in the tub and decided to listen. “God, I don’t like feeling like this… I’m so tired of hating myself.” “Your worth is much more than what is physical. There are some who would trade a “perfect body” for your stretch marks and weight gain. Those who want a baby so bad, they would immediately take a body they do not “love”. Be grateful for the scars, the jiggly bits, and your womb.”

This hit me hard. It’s not fair to whine about my body. Yes, I have a thyroid problem that makes losing weight extremely hard (if not impossible). Yes, I don’t like my reflection and it feels like whatever I do doesn’t work or help. But, I hold a baby boy everyday who is healthy and happy. This is the body that carried him. This is the body that my husband loves. This is the body that carries me throughout this life, making memories and taking me on adventures. I am so tired of being my own worst enemy. I am so tired of being mean and hateful to the person that God loves. I would never in my life allow someone to talk like this about themselves, but I allow the abuse to myself.

Ladies, I still struggle with my body. But I am choosing to work hard in the ways I can by being healthy, and letting God do the rest. I am choosing to learn to love myself in this season without hating my reflection or pictures of myself. I am so tired of seeing my husband’s smile go away when he shows me a picture he took of me and the baby and all I can do is criticize my image. He saw a memory, the woman he loves and the baby we made, and all I saw was myself.

Hating yourself is selfishness. It’s always thinking about yourself and not of others. It’s okay to work on yourself and be healthy, but when it surrounds your life in a way that your self takes priority over other’s, it’s not godly nor healthy. So if you had a baby and your body bounced right back, I am thankful for you! I am so glad that your body is healthy and you now have a healthy body. If you are struggling with your postpartum body like me, I am with you, but let’s be thankful for the gift of life and the amazing work God created our bodies to do. And if you’re struggling to even have that precious baby you dream of, I am sorry if I have ever hurt you with my criticism and thoughtlessness. I am praying for you and that God would answer every desire of your heart.

Let’s stop letting the enemy win. Let’s stop allowing him to steal the joy of this season. Let’s stop allowing him to take away the praise we should be giving, and replacing it with complaining. Speak well about yourself, for you are a daughter of the Most High! He doesn’t like you talking so badly about the one He loves. Your spouse doesn’t like hearing you talk about the one he loves so much. Your child doesn’t need to hear you talk about their mama, teaching them it’s okay to talk so badly about yourself.

So, I encourage you to take some time to be friends with yourself. Give your worries, pains, and shame to God and enjoy every moment of this time of your life. Happy homemaking and good luck!