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.

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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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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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.

People’s experience of you is not who you are.

Many people think comparison causes insecurity, which is why many self-help and self-esteem books try to use positive affirmations to help you stop comparing yourself with others. But affirmations don’t work long-term because they don’t address the root of the problem.

Comparison does not cause insecurity; comparison results from insecurity.

Insecurity causes comparison because when our identity is secured to the unstable, ever-changing opinions of others, we think the only way to increase our value is to become whatever they think we should be.

  • Your mother says, “Your sister always does so well in math. Why are you struggling?” You respond by setting your sister’s performance in math as the benchmark for academic success.
  • Your friend says, “Maybe more squats will make your legs more toned like Barbara’s.” You respond by setting Barbara’s muscular legs as the benchmark for fitness success.
  • Your husband says, “Your mother takes such great care of your father. She irons his clothes and always has a hot meal ready.” You respond by setting your mother as the benchmark for being a good wife.

You begin to secure aspects of your identity based on the good things people say about others and then measure how far you are from their standard.

To please your mother, friend, husband, and manager, you give their voices credibility in your heart. You believe what they say and compare yourself to the ideal person in hopes of being more like them.

God, on the other hand, says this:

  • [You are] fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
  • Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. (Jeremiah 1:5)
  • People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

God says all this without the qualifier of comparison, which raises the question, “Which voice will we believe?”

The voices of other human beings or the voice of God?

Insecurity emerges when we believe the voices that diminish our value in comparison to others. Security and insecurity both begin with the voice we choose to believe.

The voice we believe becomes the voice we obey—whether people’s voice or God’s voice—and the voice to which we ultimately secure our identity.

*For further reflection, listen to Psalm 139 today.

  1. Psalm 139

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Taken from Killing Comparison by Nona Jones. Copyright © September 27, 2022 by Nona Jones. Used by permission of Zondervan.com.

My husband, Steve, had been a daily source of joy for me for more than 50 years.

Daily, he made me coffee, shared that he loved me, praised my cooking, told me I was beautiful, assured me that I could do anything God gave me to do, and always believed in me.

Such a source of joy!

Six months ago, Steve left me. It was not his choice, but God’s. Complications from a cancer treatment ended his earthly life, but he joyfully moved to his new heavenly life.

I miss him terribly, but how can I not rejoice that he is with Jesus and free from the growing troubles his body was facing?

Did I say rejoice? Indeed. As great a loss as this has been for me, my children, and grandchildren, and as often as tears come, I can still rejoice.

And that’s one reason why I believe God can give us joy—abundant joy—even as we navigate the hard journey of loving a prodigal and other difficult challenges.

What gives you joy? For most of us, joy and happiness are synonyms.

The things that make us happy often provide joy in our lives.

What often brings us joy are the loving relationships we have: family, a spouse, children, grandchildren, neighbors, church friends, co-workers. The people in our lives can be the happiest parts of our lives.

Other sources of happiness might be a sense of purpose, meaningful work, a nice home, good health, fun and refreshing activities.

And even when your team wins the championship.

But then there are realities that seem to steal our joy away: loss of a job, financial challenges, a scary diagnosis, betrayal by friends, and interpersonal conflicts.

And—the pain and challenge of a prodigal, of a loved one making destructive life choices or causing chaos for the family or rejecting a relationship with you.

Our God tells us we can have joy in all those bad events I just mentioned, even when my husband dies or your loved one breaks your heart.

Consider it Joy

My theme verse is James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

James calls us to make a choice—to consider, that is, to acknowledge, recognize, and regard the trials of our lives as pure joy.

Seriously? Pure joy? Not just grudging joy?

So James goes on to remind us of gifts we receive from those trials: “…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4).

Most likely, perseverance hasn’t been on your list of desired gifts. Though, we must admit, it helps us get through hard times. I think perseverance has been one of my most important gifts.

Just look at the result of growing in perseverance: to be mature and complete, lacking nothing! We have all we need.

Ask the Questions

Yet, even as God calls us to perseverance—and joy on a hard journey—he also invites us to be honest with him, to express our fears and feelings, to ask challenging questions, to lament.

What is lament? A lament is a prayer expressing sorrow, pain, or confusion. Lament could be the chief way Christians process grief in God’s presence.

Almost a third of the Psalms and the entire book of Lamentations are concerned with lament.

Like he does every other emotion, God wants to hear about our pain. God wants us to lament.

Listen to these words from Psalm 42:

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night,

while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him my Savior and my God.”

As you can see, God welcomes our praise, but also our pain. He receives our gratitude, and also our questions.

Sometimes God Answers Questions

After Steve’s death, I had a lot of questions. Answers included scriptural promises and reminders, and also “trust Me” and “wait” and “persevere.”

But God was also kind to give me almost audible answers to some of my questions. These two have been the most important and helpful:

“How will I live without him?”

God’s response, repeatedly: “I will be with you.”

“Why did he have to leave now?”

This response has been an ongoing source of joy for me: “I wanted to be kind to him.”

How can I argue with that?

God calls us to consider it pure joy when the journey is hard, and as we do, we will find valuable life-giving gifts. But he also invites us to tell him how hard it is, how much it hurts, how confused we are, and to ask our deep and honest questions.

And in the process, he will give us joy!

*For further reflection today, listen to James 1 and Psalm 42.

  1. James 1
  2. Psalm 42

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~This is the first of four devotional studies on “Joy in the Hard Journey.”

***Please enjoy a meaningful and insighfut interview with Judy Douglass here!
***