“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
During this busy Christmas season, let us be reminded of our purpose. Let’s enjoy it with peace and thanksgiving instead of stress and overcommitting. May we be challenged this holiday season to seek God first in the things we commit ourselves to and to keep our eyes on Him.
Kirby King, a local author and Life In Abundance workshop facilitator, shares her personal experience with saying “yes” to rest and “no” to busyness. Click here to read more.
By Dana Adams
Summer has officially come to an end, which means we say a temporary farewell to the beloved sunny, warmer days. As summer days fade into cooler autumn nights, the season isn’t the only thing changing. We may begin to experience less energy, sadness, fluctuation in weight, lack of motivation and focus, and a longing to stay curled up in bed. Have you noticed this about yourself? Or, maybe the holiday blues seem harder to get over and are getting worse year after year?
This can be alarming, and often frustrating as we question what’s wrong with us and why we can’t just shake it off. You’re not alone, friend. The fall and winter blues are very normal and commonly felt among many. If these symptoms are proving to be more and more difficult to overcome and impacting everyday life, it could be Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
This time of the year can bring up great personal loss, which can make it increasingly difficult to manage symptoms of Seasonal Depression. Add to that the significant life changes due to COVID-19, it’s unimaginable what this season can mean for so many. With the approaching hustle and bustle of the holiday season, my heart inclines a little closer toward the one who is quietly hurting. The one who overbooks during this time to try and forget their loneliness and aching grief that nostalgia now brings. The one who holds back anxiety while carving the Thanksgiving turkey. The one who flawlessly shines in their tacky Christmas sweater holding on to beliefs that they are unseen.
I understand it well, and can find myself most days during this season feeling like the winter months will never end. It was 8 years ago during this time that my journey to soul healing began. I remember feeling beyond hopeless and broken. I, too, spent the holiday season holding in deep sorrow, sadness, and grief as the most wonderful time of the year made its deafening approach.
Loneliness, depression, anxiety, grief, family dysfunction, health crisis, financial strain, addiction, fears, stress, stress and more stress stay wrapped up inside as a haunting heaviness. Whatever your haunting heaviness is that tries to restrict joy and peace, please hear me when I say that you are not alone.
You don’t have to overcome the holiday blues, or Seasonal Depression, alone or without tools. Here are some ideas to help get ahead of the holiday blues this season:
- Enjoy the sun: Take a walk outside or keep the shades open. Pro-tip: Mid-day provides the strongest light!
- Exercise regularly
- Stay connected to others
- Journal: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help sort through the negative to find the positive. Try starting each entry with 1-3 things you’re grateful for.
- Engage in healthy habits: less drinking, stay away from overeating, drink more water, etc.
- Try Light Therapy: This can include exposure to direct sunlight or using Light Therapy Lamps.
- Talk with a Counselor: Counseling provides helpful emotional support that can provide healthy coping strategies to overcome the holiday blues.
- Medication: Talk with your doctor to see if starting antidepressants before the start of winter and continuing until spring would be right for you.
Lastly, pray and seek Jesus. The Lord can handle our hurts. He wants us to bring them to him. He knows exactly what we’re going through. He promises to give rest for our weariness and heavy burdens in our constant fruitless toil of trying to get it right. With so much busyness either on its way or already here, it’ll be important to make time to take care of ourselves. Maybe one thing our weary souls need most right now is to rest in the arms of a loving Savior, the true reason for this amazing season.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I confess….I have an addiction: food. I love food of all kinds. But I love it so much I’ve damaged my God-given shut-off alarm! However, if I’m truly honest, my addiction isn’t necessarily to food. No, my addiction isn’t food, but instead it is an addiction to “me”.
I want what I want. I want what I like. I want what stirs happy feelings and comforts me (however briefly). Yeah, I’m addicted to me, my flesh. I struggle resisting what I think I need and then struggle even worse when I try not to overeat.
Way too often I get in my own head and the hamster wheel of negative thoughts and feelings increases to 100 miles per hour. If I am feeling strong that day, I can use my tools (Bible reading, accountability, gratitude list) and calm the spin, or stop it completely. Well, for a while, that is.
One day, I woke up in a frustrated, defeated funk. My thoughts were sliding down a slippery slope and I prayed during my devotions, “Please Lord, transform my thinking today to positive thoughts!” I knew where my thinking would lead if it kept going in that downward direction. I had certainly been there before.
See, I had made a conscious decision nearly 30 days prior to work on my health by eating healthier and being more active. Did I want to lose weight? SURE! But even more so, I wanted to like myself again and continue to be around as my grandchildren grew up. Unfortunately, my typical pattern has been to go strong for 1 month. I experience victories, but then my addiction to “me” reawakens. Eventually, I give up.
On this particularly “down” day, I was approaching my 1-month mark since starting my commitment again. With my rut pattern of thinking, my brain (and Satan) reminded me and reared it’s ugly head, taking me back to a place of defeat again.
As I drove to work that day, my mind continued to slide into a pit. I tried brushing it off and putting it out of my mind. Thankfully, I work with people who care about me, know me, AND who call me out when I need it. After a grateful time of talking and encouragement, the Lord reminded me of a post I had put on Facebook the previous day. It was the verse found in 1 John 5:4, “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.”
I have to admit, my faith is often less than a mustard seed size, especially that day. But I realized it’s because I’m looking at myself to achieve these hard things. I’m reminded that only God can achieve true victory in and through me. My role is to just keep my eyes on Jesus!!
Today, I confessed my addiction to “me” and my fear of failure (again) to God; and now to you. God answered my prayer that day. I am trusting He will break this cycle of failure and surrender to defeat, because I surely can’t do it in my own strength!
God didn’t transform my thinking immediately, nor did He do it in the way I perceived in my head, but He did do it that day! I will need to pray this promise from Him often as I struggle with negative thinking. For now, I can go back to that day in my mind (and my prayer journal) and remember how He honored my prayer. God loves me and I am forever grateful!
I believe there may be others of you, like me, who have patterns of defeat. You begin strong but ultimately give up. Your addiction or struggle may be very different from mine. As the patterns are repeated, you get frustrated, anxious, depressed, and scared because you believe you know what’s coming. However, I encourage you to stop living according to a faulty belief. Use the lies and truths outlined below to identify what you’re feeling right now. Then look up the Scripture indicated and pray, pray, pray! It is very powerful to insert your name into the Scripture and pray it out loud.
By Karen Grotler
By Mandy Bentley
Olive shells are my favorite seashell. I have collected many through the years and every time I find one I get so excited. Sometimes they are nice sized shells, but most of the time they are small. Either way, I get just as excited no matter the size.
Chosen was my word for 2019, as anyone who know me can tell you. Try as I might to move on to another word for 2020, God has other plans. That word creeps up in practically every facet of my life. My best friend even made me a mug with the word “chosen” printed on it and the scripture 1 Peter 2:9. I have clung to that verse for well over a year now. I could go on forever about how impactful this word and scripture has been in my life.
One day, my son and I were walking on the beach, and as always, I was scoping the sand for one of my treasures. We had been walking a while with no luck. Just as we were nearing the path off the beach, I looked down and saw a tiny white-bleached Olive shell. I just about cried. Seriously. My son was almost as excited as I was. He said, “Mom we never find shells in this part of the sand.” My response was that God wants to please us and He knew how much I wanted to find one of those shells.
The following morning during my sunrise beach walk and talk with the Lord, it was heavy on my heart about that shell. I knew there was something more God was trying to tell me. I asked Him to show me. As I headed back up to the path, I looked down and saw ANOTHER even bigger Olive shell than the one I had found the afternoon before! I cried sweet tears because I knew that was only God showing me how much HE loves me.
Immediately, I was reminded of a scene in a movie where the character says if you don’t want to say “I love you,” you can mouth “Olive Juice” and it looks like you are saying “I love you.” Now I am unhinged. God was telling me I love you using my favorite shell, and He wanted me to know that He wants to give me the things I desire in my heart, both the big and the small ones. He died so He could do just that. He wants the same for you. Pay attention and see if you don’t see him mouthing “Olive Juice” to you right where you are.
“Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
By Pastor Ben Hill (reproduced with permisison)
During my high school years, I attended a Boarding School. I remember one particular day when I was walking in the hallway during class. I was with a young lady that I wanted to impress, so of course I was acting cool. We were singing made-up lyrics to a popular song about our school president, Mr. Hubert Smothers and other office personnel.
I was heartily singing this made up song, “Ms. Scarlett don’t dance, and Hubert don’t rock-n-roll…” As I rounded a corner, I walked headlong into, you guessed it, Mr. Smothers!
I’ll never forget him saying, “Benjie! What do you think you are doing young man?!?” It was certainly a rhetorical question. As a high school student, it seemed as if Hubert Smothers was omnipresent; he had a habit of just “showing up”!
What’s the point? Coram Deo is a Latin term for something that takes place in the presence of God or before the face of God. When we begin to understand the omnipresence of God, it is to recognize that no matter where we are, no matter what we are doing, God is ALWAYS with us. There is nowhere we can go to escape His presence.
As it says in Psalm 139:8, “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”
Come to think of it, why would we ever want to escape His presence? Why not embrace it and learn to live “Coram Deo” – IN His presence?!
Take the time to read the 15th Chapter of John. To “abide” in Him is to be at home there, to be relaxed and comfortable there. It’s when we can make that a natural part of our daily life that we will genuinely experience the full blessing of His presence. To live Coram Deo is to live our entire existence in the presence of, under the authority of, and in the glory of God! There is no better way to live!
Photo by Daniel Reche from Pixabay.
By Karen Baloy
Dr. Caroline Leaf’s ‘Brain Detox Program’ is designed to help you rid your mind of toxic thinking patterns and replace them with healthy thinking patterns. Dr. Leaf explains that the most important thing is to be honest about how you are feeling. Unfortunately, Christians sometimes feel guilty about being honest about negative feelings.
In Philippians 4:6, Paul encourages us to take everything to God in prayer — including complaints, petitions, thanksgiving and praise. In the Psalms, David does all of this.
One of my favorite things about David is his candor with God. He was considered to be a man after God’s heart and was so expressive with his language. I had spent years burying my feelings. It wasn’t until after reading several Psalms and learning about David that I finally felt the freedom to explore all of my personal feelings with God.
Psalm 64 starts with David petitioning, “O God, listen to my complaint. Protect my life from my enemies’ threats.” Most of us can relate to David’s pain of having nasty things said about him. You can hear the fear in his voice when he pleads in verse two, “Hide me from the plots of this evil mob, from this gang of wrongdoers.” That is raw honesty. God encourages us to be honest. (It isn’t as if He doesn’t know our situation anyway.) In fact, He loves honesty. God wants to be engaged in our lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. What freedom!
The other major lesson we can learn by reading about David’s life is he understands the importance of handing his problems over to God. David allows God to handle the situation in Psalm 64 as evidenced in verse seven, “But God himself will shoot them with his arrows, suddenly striking them down.” Lastly and most importantly, David closes most of his psalms by encouraging everyone to praise God.
I’m now trying to apply David’s strategy to my daily life. I do it by acknowledging my feelings, discussing them with God, handing over what I cannot control to Him, and praising Him for His faithfulness. King David is such a great example of how we should engage God!
Photo by Jackson David from Pixabay.