Christ in the Midst of Our Mess

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After talking with a friend this morning about the weight and pressures that can come with the holiday season, I spent some time in prayer, for myself and so many of my loved ones. Many of us are hurting and dealing with difficult life situations right now, and Christmas isn’t as bright and shiny as we would hope. What exactly is it about Christmas that makes us want to put on a happy face?

Sometimes we have plans of how we envision our Christmas to be. Everyone happy (or at least playing along!). A clean house. Well-behaved children. House smelling deliciously of dinner and sweets, just the right gift that we asked for…everything flowing smoothly with no hiccups.

These are all good things to want, but sometimes…LIFE, y’all. We are moving, we are sick, or someone close to us is sick. We are broken and grieving multiple losses. We are in a tough time, we are struggling with work, or looking for work, wondering how ends will meet. And that doesn’t even mention dealing with interpersonal relationships. 2016 knocked us on butts and we are just struggling with our faith and trying to hold on to hope. We are waiting, wondering if what we waited for will ever come to pass.  We are DONE.

As I prayed and sought God’s wisdom, I was reminded of the truth. THE MESS is where Christ comes and meets us. He is Immanuel, Christ with us. He is with us when life is flowing, but we often forget that He is with us when life is falling apart at the seams. He came to us in a barn because there was no room at the Inn, which was probably nicer, cleaner, and if it’s anything like The DoubleTree Hotel, offered fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. But that’s not where he came. He came to us in real life situations to let us know that we are not alone. He put on flesh to show us just how much he loves us, friend.

When the shepherds returned home, their problems, families, and messy dogs (sheep?) were still there. Their circumstances may not have changed, but their hearts had. They were so excited to have met their Savior, their Hope had come! He was The Gift they were waiting for! And because their Hope had come, it gave them the strength to continue on. Just like the wise men and shepherds, God came to change our hearts in the midst of the mess. He is indeed our Joy and Hope in our pleasant times and difficult times. And I praise Him that I don’t have to fake fine with Him, on Christmas Day or any other day. Because we know that God is with us through it all, we can draw on His strength to continue on.

Friend, whatever is happening in your world, be reminded that GOD IS WITH YOU through it all. He has never left you, and He never will. Your joy doesn’t depend on those around you, or in your problems being fixed. Your Hope is in Immanuel. I pray that you will lean into him in the difficult moments of this Christmas weekend. You are loved beyond measure! Be encouraged.

Book Review of Gratitude: A Prayer & Praise Coloring Journal

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Book Review of Gratitude: A Prayer & Praise Coloring Journal

Hey Ya’ll! It’s time for another Book Review for Tyndale House Publishing! If you missed last week’s review of 365 Pocket Morning Prayers, you can find it here

This week’s book review is pretty special in that it is a Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal focused on gratitude, published by Tyndale House Publishers. It combines my favorite loves – spaces to journal prayers/thoughts to the Lord, and lots of amazing images to color. Scripture and words of encouragement are shared throughout the journal.In addition to great images to color, there are also pages where you get to draw something yourself based on the prompt. Some pages are already colored in by the publisher – this made it less daunting for me, but might not be desirable for those of you who are coloring pros!

I specifically like that I can skip around throughout the pages – there’s no need to go in order, just do what I feel that day. I love that I can set it down and pick it back up again when I need some refreshing. There is a mix of intricate designs as well as simple designs (see tulips below). I like this because I can never seem to finish coloring the intricate designs in one sitting. I have some travel coming up, so I definitely plan to take this along with me! The size is perfect for travel – and did I mention it has a hardback cover?! LOVE IT!

This prayer and praise coloring journal provides a unique way to connect with God. This is a fairly new process for me, so I was a little hesitant a first. I am still learning to embrace a new way of connecting with God through art, and I love it. If you are looking for something fresh and new for your quiet time to switch it up, I definitely recommend this book – which also makes a great gift!

 

I have included a few pictures in the slide show below. Enjoy! Looking for some ideas? Check out Tyndale’s Inspire Creativity Pinterest Board. You can also go to Tyndale’s Living Expressions Collection for related items such as other coloring journals and journaling Bibles.

I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in order to complete a review.

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Book Review: 365 Pocket Morning Prayers

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Book Review: 365 Pocket Morning Prayers

Hey ya’ll! It’s book review time! You may remember a month back when I received 2 books from Tyndale House Publishing for my reviews. I am excited to share with you the first of two reviews today!

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365 Pocket Morning Prayers: Strength & Joy to Begin Each Day, by David R. Veerman & The Barton-Veerman Co, was released in September 2016. It provides a prayer for each day of the year, along with a scripture. Weekend days have a shorter prayer.

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Weekend prayers on the left side, and a Weekday prayer on the right side. 

First off, I really love the smooth, leather binding. Who doesn’t love the smell of leather? The size of the book is perfect for the nightstand as well as carrying it in your purse for the morning commute or the afternoon break. I am currently on Day 53, and I tend to start my mornings with it. Whenever you decide to read it, it takes about five minutes to read and pray through, and each day comes with a scripture to focus on for that day. This is a great resource for mornings when you don’t have much time, but it shouldn’t be used to replace quiet time altogether. I definitely need days with deeper study of the scriptures.

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The topical index has several pages if you don’t want to read through each day chronologically.

A great feature of 365 Pocket Morning Prayers is that you can choose to read the posts in order, or you can do a topical search in the index to go straight to a prayer that you need in that moment. The topical index is extensive so it has your prayer needs covered. Sometimes the prayers are very specific, and something may not fully resonate with me, but I love starting my morning with the truth of God’s word. I definitely recommend this book to everyone who is looking for something to spark their quiet time and lead to deeper conversation with the Lord.

I look forward to sharing with you about the second book I reviewed – Gratitude: A Prayer & Praise Coloring Journal. 

Bold & Courageous

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img_1553BOLD is my 2016 One Word, and God has taught me so much over nine months. I say nine months because my lessons started long before the shiny crystal ball dropped on New Year’s Eve.

Earlier this year my pastor preached a message about Elijah and being bold that really stuck with me. He admonished us that we can be civil and bold at the same time. Like Elijah, we have to be bold in standing for truth and what we believe, not cowering in the face of lies or the enemy. Like they lyrics of a popular song I like says,  “we were made to be courageous!”

With the challenges I faced this past year, this was an on time word. Standing for what is right is not easy – and it isn’t always popular – but I needed to be reminded that just like Elijah, I can stand for truth. Like Elijah, I can rally others to stand for truth too. In order to do that I must be willing to be bold and speak up.

That same night I went to hear Lisa Bevere speak at an event sponsored by The Rising DC. She encouraged us women to be unrelentingly bold and courageous; for us to write our chapters of the Bible well.What Jesus! The same message I heard just an hour earlier. As my tribe likes to say, COME ON SOMEBODY!

I used to think that being bold would make other people uncomfortable, but really that was just insecurity.–>Click to tweet. The truth is that being bold means you are confident and comfortable in who you are. –> Click to tweet. It also means showing integrity and standing up for what is right, and being who God created each of us to be. He doesn’t want us to shrink ourselves so that we don’t rock the boat. He doesn’t want us to live a life of just playing it safe.

I am slowly growing in boldness. Sometimes I shock myself with my new found boldness. I may shake in my boots at first, then eventually I realize that I stood for truth, or I put up boundaries – and there is nothing harmful about either of those things. Praying that as 2016 continues I will continue to believe boldly, pray boldly, and step out boldly.

How are you writing out your chapter in 2016? Share a highlight from your 2016 One Word/Resolution journey.

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Run with Perseverance

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As a high school college advisor, for the past five years I’ve watched each class of seniors work hard to reach the finish line, and now the time has come for new beginnings. Graduation is such an exciting time, but it can also be bittersweet because you’re leaving the old and walking into the new.

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Woodson SHS Class of 2016

One of the things I love about commencement ceremonies is hearing the graduation speeches. What will be said to encourage the graduates as they are on the cusp of a new chapter in their lives? The good speeches always stick with you. I still remember the speech given at my high school baccalaureate service – “will you take the red pill or the blue pill?” Clearly life was all about the Matrix back then! Even though I haven’t been a graduate for quite a while, I always try to glean something to encourage me on my own journey.

The commencement speech given at the Woodson SHS graduation this year by Mr. Robertson was one of the best I’ve heard in a while. Here are a few pearls of wisdom that he shared with us. He said, “Tomorrow is an adventure. Today is not a resting place, but it is a starting line.”<–Click to tweet. How often do we see the end of a chapter and focus on the finality of what we are leaving behind, when we could take a different perspective and see it as the beginning of a new chapter? Mr. Robertson admonished the graduates to lead using their skills and strengths instead of waiting for others to lead them because they are surrounded by a huge cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1-2).

I love that Jesus used this speaker to speak to my own heart, even using him to quote one of my life verses. I shouted AMEN – and then realized I wasn’t quite in church! GO JESUS GO! God uses this scripture to remind me of where my focus should be. I am surrounded by a huge cloud of witnesses – people cheering me on – therefore I should cast off all that is holding me back so I can run my race with perseverance. My favorite part was when he said “You are called WARRIORS for a reason! Warriors are the first to reach the battle field and the last to leave.<–Click to tweet. They stay in the fight so that one day they can tell their children and grandchildren to finish their own battles.” WOW! One of the cool things is that I work for a Warrior School and I graduated from a Warrior School. I love that God has been telling me my identity from the very beginning – I AM A WARRIOR! This was a great reminder that my purpose in life is so much bigger than myself. I am creating and leaving a spiritual legacy for my children and the generations to come. My life is not my own. I have been bought with a price, and it is for me to share God’s goodness and faithfulness to the next generation of warriors.

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Photo Credit: yasgirlsociety Instagram

Mr. Robertson closed with a challenge: Will you wilt and bend under the weight of the world, or will you accept the command of tomorrow? <–Click to tweet. I remember thinking, is this speech for the graduates or for me? It was definitely an on time love letter to me from Jesus!

With this being such a huge season of transition for graduates, it is fitting that I, too, will be transitioning to something new in my life. After five years of cheering on my students, I am leaving the college access field. I have run this race with perseverance, and now it is time for God to write a new story in my life. I am excited to shift my focus to my God-sized Dream, my business Cherished By Stacy. I feel that God is calling me to invest in building up His Kingdom using what I have in my hands. Though bittersweet as I close one chapter, I am excited to dream BIG with God and to try something new.  It is time to turn the page.

Pray Like You Mean It – Fervent Book Review

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This week I want to share with you one of my recent reads, Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer. If you are looking for a book that will challenge you to grow in your prayer life, then I highly recommend this one.

I loved Priscilla Shirer’s Breathe study, which teaches us about honoring the Sabbath and learning to rest. So when I saw the email introducing this book, I knew this was going to be a great guide to prayer.

 Inspired by the movie War Room, Shirer polled a large cross-section of women asking them which areas of their lives they felt were most under attack by the enemy. She clustered the responses she received into ten general categories. Those categories then became prayer strategies, which focus on the areas of passion, focus, family, identity, and past, just to name a few. Each prayer strategy area spoke directly to my heart, oftentimes to current situations I was experiencing. Each chapter gives encouragement to keep fighting along with Scriptures to pray over each area specifically.

Priscilla Shirer takes on the role of tell-it-like-it-is sister girlfriend. Imagine that you’re sitting across from her in your living room drinking your favorite coffee or tea. She shares personal stories of breakthrough and overcoming obstacles for each prayer strategy. She invites us into her story so that we can be encouraged to fight for our story.

She admonishes us early on in the book to take off the gloves and fight the enemy with precision, rather than “[fling] words and emotions in all directions without any real consideration for the specific ways the enemy is targeting us and the promises of God that apply to us.” She reminds us to focus on the real enemy – not our family, husband, friends, or foes, but the enemy of our souls.<–Click to tweet. She urges us to declare WAR. Simply put, she encourages us to fight fire with fire. The fire of kneeling in prayer. The fire of partnering strategically with the Holy Spirit for what is rightfully ours. Going boldly and confidently before the throne! COME ON SOMEBODY!

Fervent helps women take back their rightful territory through heartfelt prayer. <–Tweet this.

Each chapter includes a list of scriptures to pray over each area of your life. Ephesians 6 is woven through each chapter as a connecting thread. We pray on our full armor of God so that we are able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. As a bonus, the paperback copy offers something not available on the e-reader: perforated notecards in the back of the book that you can pull out and write down your specific prayers for each of the strategy areas. You can post these in your War Room, or anywhere you will see them and be reminded to pray each day.

I encourage this book for every woman who wants to dig her well deeper in the area of her prayer life. You won’t regret it. And while you’re recovering your God-given territory, bring a sister-friend along with you. This book is even better when studied with your tribe.

Lord, I pray that women will be encouraged to humble themselves, fall on on their knees and pray, regardless of what their current season looks like. Lord give us a boldness and a courage to fight fire with fire, to put on our spiritual armor and declare your Word over each area of our lives. Thank you that you hear every prayer and you see every tear. I pray that you will bring comfort, peace and strength to your warrior princesses as we walk each day with you. Give us the strength to fight in strategic prayer for the people and the territory that you have given them. Give us spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear. We give you all the glory and praise even now before the battle is won! In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN!

 

Devotion

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Shortly after Lent last year, I felt God pulling on my heart strings, saying, “Come away, my beloved” (Song of Solomon 8:14). I read an article in a Christian magazine that encouraged readers to “dig our wells deeper” in Him. It reminded me of this scripture:

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:7 NLT

As much as I was drawn to digging my well deeper, I balked at the idea of doing another fast. I had grown weary during my Lent fast, and was eager to be DONE with fasting. God showed me through the course of my fast that although I was obedient in completing the fast I did it begrudgingly – not with a cheerful heart as He would have liked. I felt convicted. My devotion and prayer life had become stagnant and stale, and I was in needed of something new. God confirmed that it was time to “dig my well deeper in Him,” so I decided to fast from social media for 150 days. Yes, you read that correctly.  In place of surfing online, I chose to read and meditate on one Psalm per day. It was an amazing, eye-opening adventure that taught me a lot.

Prior to this fast, most of my quiet time generally incorporated only reading one or more devotions written by others. Great tools for sure! They usually include one or two scriptures followed by the words of a modern day author. I started to feel overwhelmed by the words of others and wanted to hear directly from God. I felt like God wanted me to focus more on his Word than what other people were saying about his Word. <—Click to tweet.

The greatest lesson I learned was that I don’t “need” a specific devotional written by someone else. If I seek Holy Spirit wisdom in prayer before I read, He will highlight passages to me and give me an understanding of the Word. I love that! I would never have grown in this way had I not done this fast, which is pretty cool.

I realized that over time as I read more and more scripture, I was able to recall it in moments of difficulty and use it aso to encourage others. My faith grew stronger & I grew stronger because I was standing on the truth of God’s Word. <—Click to tweet. I was filling my reservoir with the Word so that I could draw upon it on the hard days and in the difficult seasons. And for that I am truly thankful.