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!

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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I’ve been a ‘baseball wife’ for over 35 years.

My husband is a professional baseball coach, and I’ve juggled the ups and downs, keeping it all together in this crazy baseball life.

At one point in my life, I fell into a deep spiritual monotony after all of the pressures, because of my negative thoughts. I sat down and began writing about these thoughts.

I saw a disturbing list:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I don’t belong.
  • I’m a failure.
  • I’m unlovable.
  • I’m a horrible person.

Finally, I realized I was my biggest bully. 

No one on earth speaks to me the way I do. I certainly do not speak to anyone the way I speak to myself.

Anxiety, fear, and other toxic emotional barriers left me unsettled. Worry became my crutch. My self-limiting beliefs, or emotional toxins, stem from my mind.

All of this emotional clutter kept me from connecting to Jesus, hearing His voice, and realizing God’s best for me.

I needed to DETOX from emotional toxins in order to connect with God’s voice over me.

Here is how to DETOX your thoughts: 

  • Determine the toxins. Observe what you’re thinking about. What are the toxins that keep you stuck?
  • Evaluate your emotions. Remember that the bonds of deception keep you from all that God desires to do in and through our lives. How do your thoughts make you feel? Do you want to stay there? 
  • Terminate the toxins Once you release the toxin, you can understand the freedom God desires for you. You then replace those deceptions listed with the truth from Scripture. What are your toxic thoughts that oppose God’s Word?
  • Outline a planListen for God’s guidance. Make a plan to stop each negative thought at its source and replace it with the truth immediately. When are you most vulnerable to toxic lies? How can you actively replace them with God’s truth? 
  • eXecute the plan. Take the first step of faith in the direction God is leading, one step at a time and one day at a time. Who can you ask for support on this daily journey?

We can overcome negative thoughts and be all God calls us to be.

“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” Galatians 5:1

*For further reflection, listen to Galatians 5.

  1. Galatians 5

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Growing up, I was very harsh and critical of myself.

When my parents divorced, my relationship with my mom was loving but detached. Even though my mom and I talked throughout my life, it felt more like catching up with someone than a loving connection. In fact, as a teenager, I didn’t really feel that I needed or wanted a mom.

I never seemed to feel comfortable around girls, and even as an adult, I was never the girl with a long list of girlfriends. But as I got older, something in me yearned for close friends. About five years ago, my mom was without a home. Suddenly, I was faced with the real possibility of living with my mom again after being separated for over three decades.

After much contemplation and prayer, I decided that my mom could move into the granny flat we had downstairs. For the first time, I had my mom and things were different.

She started asking me questions I would never think to ask anyone. I started wondering what my life would have been like if I’d come home every day to someone who was as interested in my emotions, my day, and my thoughts as she was now.

I started learning things I didn’t know—like how to move with gentleness and patience toward your child.

I struggled with this with my own children, especially when I was so harsh and critical toward myself.

She was gentle, kind, and nurturing, and to be honest, it made me pretty uncomfortable. Most of the time, it felt like too much. I felt like she gave me too much attention, too much serving, too much love, and too much availability. I wasn’t used to that, however, I slowly let myself be vulnerable before her. It felt like God brought her into my life for a healing purpose.

And now I began to feel what it was like to be truly seen, known, and loved unconditionally, not just by God but within a relationship I didn’t even know I needed deeply.

Time with her allowed me to see her vulnerability as well. Our time together also helped her heal from the shame she felt for not being present in my life. The daughter she believed she had lost could finally see, know, and love her.

Together, we learned how to stand without shame from the past. It didn’t happen in an instant, but it did happen, and it’s still happening today.

“Fear not, you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth.” Isaiah 54:4

Adapted from “She Speaks Fire: Battling Shame, Igniting Faith, and Claiming Purpose” with Nelson Books; Publishing February 13, 2024.

To hear more from Mariela, watch here here!

*For further reflection, listen to Isaiah 54.

  1. Isaiah 54

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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.

I’ll always remember the vivid day when I met a new friend named Becca, who spoke to me about my worth.

Her words left a lasting impact.

After small talk and introductions, Becca took a deep breath and said, “I feel like God has been telling me to share this with you the minute I prayed for you last night. But I was way too shy to say it.”

“But he wants you to know ‘You are already worthy.’”

She flashed a hopeful smile at me, anticipating that it would mean something, but I didn’t really know what to think of it.

“That’s really nice,” I mustered, still confused as to what she meant and why she said it.

She said, “I hope that really sinks in with you! God loves you so much, and he thinks you are already worthy.” Again, I was unsure of how to respond.

I didn’t really know what being worthy meant.

I went back to normal life completely unchanged. I continued to strive to earn my worth in the eyes of others and lived a hypersensitive and hyper-anxious life.

It wasn’t until more than a year later that God reminded me of my encounter with Becca, and I broke down in tears. By then, I had already been in and out of a mental institution, finished my therapy sessions, switched churches, and moved out of my mother’s house.

Since then, I’ve learned God is the perfect and most loving parent. That extraordinary love is at the heart of the gospel and the reason that Jesus lovingly chose to carry our sins on the cross—to give us a restored relationship with him again.

The world wasn’t prepared for such love, and some still try to run away from it.

It turns out that the Lord had a plan for me all along—a grand strategy to affirm my worth as his beloved child.

In his infinite wisdom, God knew what I needed before I even knew it myself, and he sent a sweet messenger like Becca to give me a heads-up for what was to come.

I hope to be that kind of messenger for you.

God says, “You are already worthy. I already love you so much. I have written your name on the palm of my hand. You are mine.”

Open your heart to the idea that you are God’s treasure. No matter how badly people have treated you or how badly you’ve treated yourself, God still sees you as valuable.

You are his beloved.

I speak from experience when I say that the more worthy you allow yourself to feel, the more resilient you will be in the face of adversity.

Receive your infinite worth by accepting God’s love for you.

*For further reflection, listen to Isaiah 49 today.

  1. Isaiah 49

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*Please enjoy our conversation with Anh Lin here

Every morning, our golden retriever, Ben, greets us as if we’ve been away for weeks. If my son does not wake up early enough for Ben’s liking, Ben sits outside his room and whines. And in the evening, when we sit down to watch television, Ben always finds a way to squeeze onto the couch.

Living in such a close relationship with human beings means that domestic animals have become dependent on us, and as a result, vulnerable. We feed and care for them, and they depend on us.

The relationship between animals and humans gives us insight into the presence of the shepherds in the story of Christ’s birth.

So when I read that God sent his angels to shepherds, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Why shepherds?’

One possible answer lies in the message that came to the shepherds. In the night, as they were keeping watch, the angel of the Lord appeared before them. “Don’t be afraid,” he comforts them, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior–yes the Messiah, the Lord, has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-11)

When the Shepherd is finally born, God sends the news to the shepherds.

Who better to understand the significance of a leader who will protect and care for his people than those who are doing the same for their flock?

And suddenly the angels’ words became clear: these were tidings of great joy, which will be for all people.

Jesus will shepherd a flock. His care will extend to the ends of the Earth. And indeed, he is adding to this flock, bringing people from every tribe, tongue, and nation together under his protection.

But he is also a Good Shepherd, the kind of shepherd who stands between his flock and destruction and offers himself as a sacrifice.

And not only does this Good Shepherd protect his sheep, he also does not harm them.

In Jeremiah 23:1-2, the Lord declares: “What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people—the shepherds of my sheep—for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for, says the Lord. Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to these shepherds: “’Instead of caring for my flock and leading them to safety, you have deserted them and driven them to destruction. Now, I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them.’”

Yes, the Good Shepherd lays his life down for his flock, but he also cares for us when we have been harmed, when our trust is broken, and when our vulnerability is exploited.

Just as he himself was raised to new life, he promises to raise us as well.

Hear this truth: the Lord is your Good Shepherd. He leads you beside still waters. He restores your soul. When you walk through the darkest valleys and your fears come pressing in, when the pain and memories surface, he is with you, protecting, defending, and comforting you.

He supplies all you need and guards you when those who hate you come near. He fills your days with goodness and mercy until he brings you safely home to dwell in his house forever. (Psalm 23)

*For deeper reflection, listen to Jeremiah 23 today.

  1. Jeremiah 23

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Excerpted with permission from Heaven and Nature Sing: 25 Advent Reflections to Bring Joy to the World by Hannah Anderson. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing.

I picked up my phone off the nightstand that morning and opened it with dread. I felt anxiety fill my body. On social media, I knew what I would find: other people enjoying their lives while I cried about mine.

Life felt so unfair. Hot tears filled my eyes, and I immediately tried to blink them back while I whispered a desperate prayer, “Lord, am I going to feel like this forever?”

As I poured my coffee, I made a mental list of what I felt like I could no longer handle.

For starters, I battled relentlessly with my mental health. And I also juggled two kids under five, my husband’s unforeseen job loss, the sudden passing of my father-in-law, and ongoing financial pressures, just to name a few.

I saw no relief in sight. It was hard not to feel frustrated, fed-up, and maybe even a little forgotten by God.

My soul was exhausted, and I was tired of trying. It seemed I had prayed every prayer I knew how to pray and read every Scripture I knew that pertained to my circumstances. Yet, nothing seemed to change.

Maybe you know this season all too well. Maybe you’ve been hurting so deeply and for so long. Maybe you expected to handle this better and to be stronger when everything came crashing down.

But it’s okay that you’re feeling weak and unsure. God wants us to let go of trying to figure it all out, and let him do what he does bestsave us.

When God commanded Moses to save his people from their slavery in Egypt, they never expected their journey to freedom to take so long or be so very hard.

But God had not taken them to the wilderness to simply punish them. Instead, he brought them there to both teach them dependence on him and bring them to the good land he had prepared for them.

In Jeremiah 31:2-3, we see the Lord say in reference to that time, “‘This is what the Lord says: ‘Those who survive the coming destruction will find blessings even in the barren land, for I will give rest to the people of Israel…I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.'”

God hears your cries for deliverance, and he has grace for you in your wilderness.

I continued to walk through my own wilderness. I realized God was using those things I thought were breaking me to make me more like Jesus.

I felt exhausted because I believed it was all up to me.

When I chose to trust him to hold my broken heart and receive his grace, he began to reveal the good plans he had all along.

Friend, will you dare to remember the heart of God when it is hard to understand why he is not fixing your most hurtful seasons?

Will you trust that, like the Israelites, you, too will find grace in our wilderness? Will you cling to the truth that he has rest for your worn-out souls and that he will never stop loving you?

Regardless of how you feel, you can stand in confidence that God will continue to be faithful.

Dear Lord, Thank you that you hear my prayers when my life feels like it is too much, and I am desperate for solutions. I pray you would help me to hold onto you in faith. Cause me to stand on the truth of who I know you to be; a good, faithful and loving Father. Thank you that you always have my best in mind. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*For further reflection, listen to Jeremiah 31 today.

  1. Jeremiah 39

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Enjoy further insights with Ashley Morgan Jackson in our interview with her here.

As a hospice nurse, my sister Beth cares for people at the end of their lives, ministering God’s grace as she tends to their bodily needs, shows care and empathy, and manages their pain.

In contrast, I couldn’t enter the nursing profession—for one thing, I don’t have Beth’s patience. Nor would Beth want to speak to groups of people about God’s love, like I enjoy doing.

We may be different, but we love each other. My sister is also my friend.

Probably the best-known sisters in the Bible also exemplify a loving friendship—Martha and Mary. Today they’ve been turned into types: “Are you a Martha or a Mary?” (Luke 10.) 

But as we read their three gospel accounts (also John 11 and 12), we understand that they are fully orbed characters—women who love and grieve and question and serve.

They support each other, and their friendship with Jesus transforms them. For instance, consider how Martha lovingly calls Mary to their friend Jesus after their brother dies, and how Jesus responds.

As background, Jesus delayed coming to the sisters after they sent word that their brother was sick. We know now that he did so to bring glory to God, demonstrating that he is the resurrection and the life by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43). But the sisters, as they wait for Jesus, feel betrayed and unseen by the One who loves them.

Forthright Martha, when she hears that Jesus has arrived outside the village, rushes to meet him. Through conversation he calls her out of her grief, affirming her statement of faith that he is the Messiah.

Martha then returns home to her grieving sister, who seems to have lost all hope. Drawing Mary aside from the other mourners, she gently shares that Jesus asks after her.

She’s deeply concerned for her, longing for her younger sister to enjoy the love that she’s received from Jesus.

Mary goes to him at once, throwing herself at his feet as she releases her deep sorrow over the death of her brother. And Jesus shares her grief in the shortest sentence in the Bible: “Jesus weeps” (John 11:35).

He then moves to the grave, where he raises Lazarus from the dead—an extreme act of love and restoration. In doing so, he fuels the anger of the religious leaders, who want him eliminated.

Jesus loves both the sisters and ministers to them differently in their grief. Just as he loves each of us individually, caring for us in the ways we need most.

I hope you can believe that Jesus will meet you where you are today, whatever your needs. Know that you can come to him with your most heart-wrenching statements, as the sisters did: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).

You can dialog with him as Martha did (John 11:21–27). You can shower him with love like Mary did when she anointed him with pure nard (John 12:3).

In all the moments of your day, Jesus wants to be your friend.

As you consider your friendship with God, you might also want to ponder any sibling relationships you have. How could you pray for your sister or brother—or a beloved cousin or friend?

Jesus, as he pours out his love on you, might also want to love someone through you today. Know that he delights in you and will never leave you.

He will be your best friend.

*For further reflection, listen to John 11.

  1. John 11

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Adapted from Transforming Love: How Friendship with Jesus Changes Us (Our Daily Bread Publishing, 2023).