Once, during a period of exasperating insomnia, I watched a nature documentary, hoping it might put me to sleep. I was, at the time, frustrated with myself. It was a demanding era for me, requiring a great deal of personal discipline to complete my studies and carry on doing all the things that I needed to do to pay my bills.

Each day, I had the same relentless routine of studying, working, eating, cleaning, and preparing to do it all again.

My insomnia was merely the final stone in an avalanche of stress tumbling down the hill of my life. That night, I learned all about palm oil trees from the documentary.

Unlike me, apparently palm oil trees are very productive and make a lot of money. To maximize profits, the farmers created the conditions for this productivity by stripping away the many other seemingly useless plants from the jungle and planting endless, orderly lines of palm—and only palm—trees.


However, this process led to the diminishment of the area surrounding the palm oil trees—the same rich natural resources that caused the trees to be so productive in the first place.

As a result, while the farmers’ strict order produced an abundance of one kind of crop, it also started to destroy everything else in its path.

I saw myself as one of the palm oil trees. I was focused on only one purpose: to produce. I had cut and cleared the field of my life of anything that didn’t contribute to the productivity of my work.

And now, the forest of my life yielded less and less fruit. The world we live in has told us to make ourselves like palm oil trees,fit for producing and profiting. And the irony of this, of course, is that we often make ourselves much less “productive” in the process by depriving ourselves of those secret forms of nourishment.

Each day, a tree needs something slightly different: sunlight, shade, water, nutrients in the soil, and much more.

We are the same.

Sometimes it can be frightening when it feels like our effort or prayer hasn’t borne fruit. But remembering that you are like a tree can relieve some of this anxiety.

Even wintery seasons (as long as they feel) may be a time when our roots are growing deep. And our winter seasons precede the beautiful glory of spring. May we pay attention to what season we are in and embrace all that God gives us to grow and flourish.

We were made to do more than just produce.

“They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season” Psalm 1:1a.

*For further reflection, listen to Psalm 1.

  1. Psalm 1

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When I moved to LA, I was starry-eyed with excitement. I saw the mountains in the distance, felt the perfect weather every day, and was excited to be in a new city in an attempt to accomplish my dreams.

From the people to the food, weather, activities, fashion, and lifestyle, it couldn’t have been be more different than my hometown. People loved to dress up every day in their newest outfit, work out in the trendiest classes, and do anything and everything to look and feel good.

Look, I’m not trying to judge anyone, because I quickly noticed I was doing the same. Within the first year of living there, I changed my diet, dyed my hair, got lash extensions, and joined the trendy gym, trying to fit in.

Now, while I don’t think there is anything wrong with any of these choices, it quickly became a self-obsession. It wasn’t until I sought out a counselor and nutritionist that I realized I was draining myself.


I made these choices from a place of hating my body and keeping up with people.I wasn’t genuinely trying to be healthy, working out because I loved it, but I was just doing things for my present self and not for my future self.

Digging into the why behind what we are doing is so important. What is your intention or your motivation?

Perhaps you relate to my story. What I’ve learned is that in pursuing a long, healthy life, bringing people and God into the process helps keep our motives and intentions pure.

Sometimes our desires aren’t wrong, but the reason behind them is.

The more we take care of the internal, the more it positively affects the external.

God wants us to take care of ourselves. He says in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 that our bodies are a temple, which means that our bodies are to be treated with care like a holy place. If God compares our bodies to a holy temple, it must mean that He wants us to treat them as such.

But to care for my body, I also had to attend to my soul. I like to think that your soul is what makes you come alive. It’s what responds to the things that bring you joy, immense exhilaration, and peace. It’s those moments that make me go, “Wow, I feel so alive! I want to do more of that!”


Think of a time when you felt so happy and overwhelmed by God’s goodness. Can you channel that again or—even better—re-create that situation? Was it maybe after you hiked somewhere and got to the top of the mountain and saw the view? Whatever it is, do that more often! As long as the things are God-honoring and good, do them!

Even though life will have its inevitable challenges, rejoice, pray, and give thanks to God through the storms.

I’ve seen my joy and mood improve significantly, and I believe it can be the same for you!

For more insights, watch our conversation with Jeanine and Hannah here.

*For further reflection, listen to 1 Corinthians 6 today.

  1. 1 Corinthians 6

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Adapted from Becoming Happy and Healthy by Jeanine Amapola, Bethany House, a division of Baker Published Group, 2024. Used by Permission.

Fear and discouragement inevitably knock on the door of my future dreams. When I answer, I politely welcome them in, acknowledge their presence, but then escort them out before they invade my refrigerator and linger on my couch.

I tell them that I have God’s business to attend to, and that they don’t have any business tending to me. Instead, I can lean entirely on God’s abilities, which are perfect and never-ending.

To prevent crippling fear from creeping in sometimes, I do an exercise called “Fear Setting:”

1. Write down one goal that you are afraid of in the form of a question.

2. Now, make a list of every fear you can think of as it relates to this goal. These can be realistic, highly irrational, or dramatic. Write down any and every little thing you can think of that could go wrong. This is not a time to be judgmental toward yourself or your fears. The more you write down, the better.

3. Then make a list of ways that you can prevent some of these realistic concerns from occurring. This is a great place to work on your brainstorming abilities and problem-solving skills.

4. Finally, if some of your fears do come true, list ways you can repair your life and recover from them.

Even with this soothing exercise in reach, there are some days when fear can be so paralyzing that moving forward feels more like navigating the forceful hands of quicksand.

On days like those, I refer to the basics: What does God say about fear?

I look in the concordance of my Bible and then read each recommended Scripture.

I read them aloud to myself, pacing around the room, desperate for peace.

Eventually, I’ll be so filled with the Holy Spirit that hearing God’s Word becomes an expression of my excitement rather than something to dread.

Graduating from a fear-based mindset to a faith-based one has been the most liberating and useful thing I’ve done these days. Maybe “graduating” isn’t the best word to use because it’s more like studying.

It’s an ongoing process. But it’s influencing everything—how I listen to God in my prayer life, who I call for help, and how authentically I try to parent, live, and work.

I don’t know anyone who lives without fear, not truly.

But the skill I’m trying to master lately—I’m calling it a skill because it takes practice—is to welcome that fear, sit with it, pray through it, and then do the thing anyway. This skill has the power to change the course of my life if I let it.

It’s entirely challenging, but I’m building childlike faith in the process. I’m gaining spiritual muscle by spending time reading my Bible and praying every day. With this newfound perspective—this shift from fear to faith—my mindset grows stronger with experience and repetition.

Faith wouldn’t be required if I knew all the answers ahead of time.

It’s okay. I’m starting to appreciate that, or at the very least, I’ve become more used to it. Now, when God speaks, I jump with what appears to be a hard landing and no net. Then, like Superman, He catches me at the very last second, easing my anxious mind and glorifying Himself in the process. “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8).

Fear might stop by to say, “Hello,” from time to time, but it no longer stays the night.

*For further reflection, listen to James 4 today.

  1. James 4

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Enjoy our conversation together with Ciara!

Too often, I end up in front of a computer screen, a TV screen, or the screen on my phone.

While waiting for my kids to come out of practice, I scroll.

When the day has sucked my energy and I’m counting the minutes till I can shut my eyes, I scroll. At the dentist’s office, in order to avoid eye contact with other strangers in the room, I scroll.

And after all that scrolling, I am still tired, worn, sapped, and empty.

What if we quit mindless scrolling?

I decided to give it a try recently. Here’s what I started doing:

After the kids get on the bus in the morning, I check my email, respond to messages, and then I quit scrolling, so I am ready for my date with God before heading to work. In a short time, I’ve read through almost half of the New Testament. As I read, I underlined what I think are the main points. I put a box around words that stick out. I pray.

Instead of scrolling while waiting for one of my kids to come out of practice or work, I pray for that particular child. I pray for his or her health. I pray the Lord helps them stand strong in the culture. I pray they walk with God all their days. I pray God molds and fashions that child into an instrument used for His glory.

At the end of the day, instead of scrolling, I go to my room and read. Not only do I get time with good books, but sometimes my husband and teenage children seek me out. In the quietness of zero screens, we talk and laugh.

And when I stopped scrolling, I noticed how many people still were.

We scroll at red lights. We scroll while shopping with our daughter, who is only ten, and ask if this dress is better than this one. We scroll while the old lady in the waiting room, who is alone all day, watches, wishing someone would notice and talk to her.

While we scroll, time passes that we can’t get back.

Conversations that would have encouraged and blessed us don’t happen. Relationships deteriorate. Prayers we haven’t murmured aren’t answered. Spiritual growth that would have helped us navigate what is ahead hasn’t happened.

There’s a better way. It’s totally doable, and the payoff is substantial. Scroll less, and live more starting today.

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3

*For further information, listen to Jeremiah 33.

  1. Jeremiah 33

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In order to reset your life, you need to understand, down to your core, that the pause is the start of the work.

If we really want to make long-lasting changes in our lives, we have to stop before we start.

We’ve got to stop and listen to what God is saying, what He wants to do, and where He wants to take us.

We need to stop make sure we’re in step with Him before we go, because He knows best who we are, how we’re doing, what we need, and what it looks like for us to run this race well.


In short, we’ve got to take the time to hit pause and tune in to Him.

We have to stop so we can start well.

Both psychology and spirituality research testify to the power of the pause: the practice of stopping, of silencing the noise and tuning in to what God is saying and what He wants to do.

Being still gives your body and mind a chance to recalibrate—to literally reset.

Science shows us that when you take the time to pause and rest your brain from all the noise, your brain is doing some much-needed processing work. It’s doing some serious healing that it can’t otherwise accomplish while you’re in active mode.

It’s no wonder God specifically tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10) We often read this verse as a compassionate suggestion from God, such as “Why don’t you take a minute to relax?” But it’s not a suggestion. It’s much stronger, bolder, and more candid than that. The Hebrew word here isn’t a suggestion as much as it is a command.

Take the time to pause.

We can’t start if we’ve never taken the time to stop. So, pause for a moment and listen.

Hear exactly what God wants you to change in the present, understand where you’ve made mistakes in the past, and see what you’re being called to do as you look to the future.

Learn to stop before you start. And give your brain the jump-start it needs to prepare for the process of healing.

*For further reflection, listen to Psalm 46 today.

  1. Psalm 46

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It wasn’t just impossible; it was laughable.

Jesus and his disciples needed to feed a crowd of nearly 5,000 men plus women and children. Jesus asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5) But, of course, Jesus is God, and he didn’t need the answer.

He asked Philip anyway. And Philip dared to sarcastically talk back to the Creator, reminding Jesus that it would take more than half a year’s wages to fund such an endeavor. From there on, Jesus didn’t even attempt to explain himself to Philip. He just showed him instead.

During this season of transitioning from three to four kids, I’ve felt like Philip: annoyed, even angry at God that He would expect me to do something so impossible.

It honestly isn’t even the “being a mom” part. As hard as it is to live in a perpetually cluttered space, I love rising to the parenting challenges in New York City. I love catching those moments where my kids are actually hugging each other or dancing together instead of bickering. However, since my youngest was born, I’ve procrastinated multiple times on writing. Writing takes emotional strength. After spending all day with young kids, I often feel like I have nothing left to give of myself in writing.

God has been revealing that I get frustrated and overwhelmed because I place unrealistic expectations on myself that He never puts on me.

When my inner critic calls me a mediocre homemaker, God tells me I don’t need to cook a different home-cooked meal every night, nor do I need to keep the house clutter-free.

When my inner critic calls me a mediocre blogger, God reminds me that many bloggers whom I compare myself to have teams behind them helping them to post daily.

For the past six months, I’ve been trying to write in my power, not out of an overflow of my relationship with God. And to no surprise, I come up short every time.

When my inner critic calls me a mediocre blogger, God reminds me that many bloggers whom I compare myself to have teams behind them helping them to post daily. For the past six months, I’ve been trying to write in my power, not out of an overflow of my relationship with God. And again, to no surprise, I come up short every time.

After Philip reminds Jesus of the hopelessness of the situation of feeding the crowd, Jesus ignores his comment and essentially asks his other disciples, “Well, what do you have?”  Another disciple, Andrew, replies, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

God reminds me that when it is time to write something, the Holy Spirit will take over and give me what I need. He tells me that He will be faithful to renew my strength and give me the rest I need to deal with another day of dealing with the chaos of raising four young kids. God is faithful to use my “barley loaves and two fish” and, in His power, multiply it into something much more than I could have ever mustered up on my own.

May God do the same with you as you walk forward in his strength!

*For further reflection, listen to John 6.

  1. John 6

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Have you found yourself wishing you could just be better?

If only I could run faster, smarter, and harder. If only I had more access, more training, and more resources.

On this journey called life, I’m tempted to think that my biggest problem is what’s outside of me, rather than what’s inside of me.

If the self-improvement game didn’t produce results, we wouldn’t be so obsessed with it as a culture. We want to be younger, faster, prettier, healthier, more well-liked, more strategic, and more effective. There’s no end to the ways we can try to better ourselves. (We can even attempt to defy the aging of our skin with the use of regenerating night creams.)

We are people obsessed with youth, and we often chase after it at all costs. “Be your best self! Forget your past! Remake yourself!”

But in the quiet corners of our lives, we’re confronted with the reality that no matter how many serums we use, we can’t turn back time.

Regardless of how hard we work to be the best version of ourselves right now, we can’t change the past.

There’s a limitation to self-improvement.

We often wear ourselves out trying to achieve freedom of our body, heart, or mind that we cannot achieve by trying harder.

Our constant efforts to fix what ails us come up short and leave us feeling defeated. We were made for much more than improvement or a little polishing up. Instead, we were made for a complete do-over, a new beginning, and a regeneration.

That is why Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “I tell you the truth: unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus was a religious man, an expert at keeping the Law and perfecting himself. And yet Jesus made it clear to him: All that looks great on the outside can never get us closer to the heart of God. We must be born again.

Long before Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, the prophet Ezekiel foretold how God would restore His people: “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations” (Ezekiel 36:26–27).

These words were for the Jews, God’s people, but because God’s promises extend to all of us through Christ, the hope of a new heart is for us too.

You see, our hearts are unaware of its deadness before the love of God causes us to surrender.  We’re unable to have hearts that beat for God and that are soft to his ways.

A few tweaks here and there won’t break a prisoner’s heart free from the shackles of their guilt, unworthiness, and sin.

It takes the work of the Holy Spirit in you, the Father’s love upon you, and the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus, for you.

Your new heart is straight from the intentional, loving heart of God. And guess what? Your new beginning isn’t temporary.

Remember your new heart, friend…when you’re ready to give up, when you feel like you’re not enough, when shame and regret creep in, when you fear what lies ahead and when it’s tempting to keep trying to fix yourself.

Your new heart is made to carry you for the journey Christ has set before you. It’s stronger than you think because it’s a new heart given by God Himself—not as a result of your attempts at trying harder to make yourself new.

So, weary friend, have you forgotten His promises to make you new from the inside out?

We were never meant to be sustained by anything other than a new spiritual heart—one that pumps God’s new life through our veins because of God’s grace.

If you are in Christ, you are born again. You are renewed.  You are a new creation. God’s divine power has given you everything you need for life and godliness. When we walk in the reality of this gift, we exercise the muscle of faith. Here, there is no looking back or covering up.

Instead, we experience a miracle we couldn’t know otherwise: We grow hearts that beat for God. With our new hearts, we have everything we need for our journey.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Ezekiel 36 today.

  1. Exodus 36

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Adapted from Pilgrim:25 Ways God’s Character Moves Us Onward Pilgrim by Ruth Chou Simons (Harvest House).

I eagerly followed various schools of brightly colored fish as they darted in and out of coral reefs. That morning’s snorkeling adventure in Hawaii would definitely be remembered.

All of a sudden, I realized that I was tired. Incredibly tired. When I lifted my head from the water, I discovered I was much further from shore than I realized.

A second problem quickly emerged. I was all alone. While my friend had advised snorkeling with a buddy, I decided it was unnecessary. Now, I realized there was no one near to help.

As we emerge from the global crises of the past three years, many of us feel the same way. Adjusting to our new normal has left many of us weary and isolated.

Not only that, but when we do reach out to others for help, we often hear many voices all claiming to know how we should move forward.

We now wonder if truth is not accessible as we thought.  We’re  more skeptical, cynical, questioning and guarded.

 

The author of Hebrews writes, “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).

Increasingly, people are caught in the swift current of today’s spiritual drift. Scripture helps us not be carried away.

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Be cautious of the drift toward accepting a promise of salvation whose author is not Jesus.

“Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Be cautious of the drift toward viewing Scripture as untrustworthy—a product of man instead of inspired and written by God.

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Be cautious of the drift toward elevating your ideas about God and drawing a picture of him that matches your likes and preferences.

We have a reliable Source!

Although the pandemic chaos led us to doubt whether we could know the truth, God encourages us to believe him: “And you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).

*For further reflection, listen to John 14.

  1. John 14

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Whether you’re caring for a new baby, a sick child, an aging parent, or you’re nurturing the work you love, some days can feel like the work is never done.

I often find it hard to go to sleep when all my tasks haven’t been checked off my to-do list. It feels like I can only draw my day to a close when I’m able to shut the book on that list. But what is a life when it’s lived chasing after a list?

I hope you’ll take a deep breath and receive this blessing today:

May you give yourself a moment to take a few deep breaths.

May the Lord guide you to the reason you work as hard as you do.

May you acknowledge that God is working and watching out for you, bringing peace to your racing heart.

May you remember that life is more than lists.

Life is moments connected by time and love: a hand slipped slowly into yours on a walk, the joy of a puppy, bedtime prayers recited together.

May you never give yourself so wholeheartedly to your lists that you forget to live your life.

You are more than the sum of your check marks.

Consider tomorrow’s to-dos. What can you rearrange or move to make space for life to happen?

These are the moments that will fuel your energy and passion for the work you must do.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (Proverbs 17:22)

*For deeper reflection, listen to Proverbs 17 today.

  1. Proverbs 17

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Taken from Near in the Night by Emily Ley. Copyright © 2023 by Emily Ley. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.

When I turned 50, I said to myself, “I am not THAT old.” When I turned 60, my friends told me, “Sixty is the new forty.” Finally, when I turned 70, I admitted, “Seventy is THAT old!”

Now I am almost a decade older. I’ve written a book on aging. But I am still surprised by the experience of getting older.

My soul is growing as my body is aging.

To grow means to change. Paul wrote, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” (Ephesians 4:23). As we age, we are invited to allow the Holy Spirit to change the thoughts and attitudes we have held for decades. Some perspectives and spiritual disciplines that helped me when I was younger are no longer life-giving.

As my body ages, I have less energy and fewer opportunities. The Holy Spirit is changing my expectations and priorities.

I need to unlearn some of the things that I used to believe.

I used to feel responsible for many things. Now that I can do less, God is inviting me to think about my days in terms of fruitfulness rather than productivity.

The list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23 reminds me that it is more important to love others than to finish my “to-do” list.

I want to focus on the invitations God gives in my losses.

Jesus said,“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20). When I was younger, I had important jobs to do and places where I found significance. Now I am losing some of that sense of importance. Some days my spirit feels “poor” about all I have lost.

Jesus promises I will experience the Kingdom of God even as I experience this part of aging.

He said God’s Kingdom is like “a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.” (Mark 4:26-27)

What a comfort this is! I can toss seeds on the ground (when I have the energy!) and then go to bed. I don’t understand it, but whether I am asleep or awake, the seeds are growing.

I thank God for the fruit of this season of life.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Ephesians 4 today.

  1. Ephesians 4

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