Thoughts On… {Anxiety}

Do you worry? I do. I’m nearly always worrying about something or other, and I’m not proud of it. During the past few years, as we moved from one farm to another, it felt like I lived in a whirlwind of uncertainties and anxiety about the future.

Moving might sound petty compared to the worries you’re facing right now, and it very well could be. Moving was a small thing, relatively speaking. As complicated and slightly terrifying as it was to move an entire farm… we were just relocating two hours away.

Past worries have a way of shrinking to their proper size as we travel farther down the road and gain perspective. Present or future worries, however, can loom over our heads like tottering sequoias, filling our whole vision and threatening to crush us with their weight.

I hope this post reminds you to take a few steps back from the tree that’s sprouting new branches of worry every moment. I hope it reminds you that you don’t have to (and indeed, can’t) chop down this forest alone, but that you can hand your burden to the Carpenter who is building something beautiful from the wood.

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Bible Journal Tours

Hello, dears!

I started reading through the Bible for the second time a couple of years ago and decided I’d write down my favorite verse from each chapter as I went. I try to read a chapter + journal every night, so thus far I’ve made it to Psalms and filled up nearly six journals! Sometimes I write the verses in beautiful hand lettering and other times… well, I just write them. XD

I’ve really enjoyed this method so far! It helps you slow down and think about the verse or verses, plus it’s fun to look back on the notebooks you’ve filled. Speaking of that, I thought I’d show you guys some of my favorites today. 🙂 Hopefully you enjoy the tour and maybe gain a little inspiration for your own journaling!

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Thoughts On… {Tolerance}

Say you have a friend; let’s call him Robert. He’s a nice enough guy for the most part – good with kids, bad at lying, and a mediocre harmonica player – but there’s this one thing you just can’t tolerate: you’re a Republican and he’s a Democrat.

Annette, on the other hand, is great! You both prefer cats to dogs, you go to the same hair stylist, and she even likes Ken’s Steakhouse Creamy Caesar dressing on her lettuce wedges, just like you! Of course there’s that little detail about her being an atheist while you’re a Christian, but hey, you’ll graciously let that slide since that’s got to be the more loving thing to do, right? Continue reading

Thoughts On… {Adversity}

 

Imagine there were once two small stones who lay near one another in the streambed of a rushing river. As the years went by, dashing water and larger rocks both tumbled over them, and eventually the relentless conditions ground the first into smaller and smaller pieces until it was an unrecognizable heap of sand. But something different happened to the second stone.

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Instead of getting worn down by the surging flood, it simply stood fast and let the water polish it into a smooth, gleaming pebble. Instead of getting crushed by the grinding force of the other rocks, it simply rolled past, moving slowly down the river. One day, it arrived at the sea, and all was gloriously calm.

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Now, dears, you can probably see where I’m going with this, but let me ask you a question: as the river of life passes by, do you let the hardships polish you or shatter you?

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It’s so much easier to shatter, isn’t it? It feels like the constant trials and pressures of life cannot help but grind us into sand. It’s not hard to just give up and give in to self-pity. In fact, it’s far too easy, for me at least. And sometimes it almost feels good, in a miserable way.

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But we’re missing the point – or rather becoming bristling full of points instead of allowing them to be smoothed away. How we react to adversity profoundly influences how others perceive us, and this is especially important for Christians. Since we put our identity in Christ, it influences how others perceive Him. If we act like God’s not strong enough to carry us through everyday life, it begs the question, how in the world could He carry us through death? We’ve got to show the world that trials don’t define us – God does.

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Here’s another way to look at it. The other week in small group, one of the men was talking about how problems can come between us and God, and he compared it to an eclipse. I thought that was a really good analogy. Our worries are like the moon orbiting the earth, until one day they eclipse everything else. Did you guys watch the last eclipse? Do you remember how the moon hid the sun? Its dark circle looked just as big as the light, even though you knew it was really many times smaller. 

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So when it’s dusk in daytime and everything slips sideways and you are falling off the edge of the world, don’t forget, dear, the sun will come out again. It’s still there, shining and shining, and however big and dark the moon’s shadow seems, the sun is infinitely bigger and infinitely brighter, and in its blazing light, all shadows fade away.

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So when hardships surround us and we do not break, when people wonder why we’re still fighting, we tell them, we persevere because we have a hope beyond this world. We tell them, because when we hit rock bottom, the Lord is polishing this rough stone into a diamond of such brilliance that it will reflect his glory far brighter than before. And we tell them, it takes harsh sand to grow a pearl.

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Grow a pearl, dear. Be a diamond. Shine, don’t shatter. And when adversity threatens to eclipse all, hold fast to the Son.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4

***Allison***

Thoughts on… {Beauty}

Imagine I give you a gift. It’s huge and beautifully wrapped in your favorite color of wrapping paper and topped with a perfect bow. It promises to be wonderful, but when you shred the paper and tear open the box, there is nothing inside. The box is empty.

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Beauty is our wrapping paper. It can make a good present even better and add to our enjoyment, but beautiful wrapping paper alone is not worth anything.

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Sadly, our culture seems to focus on our wrapping paper almost to the exclusion of the gift inside. The world whispers that if you are beautiful, everyone will love you, you will feel great, and life will be perfect.

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And that’s certainly a handy way to get people to buy makeup, skin products, hair products, brand name clothes, and all the other things that the world says you simply must have in order to be beautiful.

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But that is a lie. You do not need to have the perfect face or figure or clothes to be happy, hard as that might be to believe. Your Creator made you beautiful from the first, and He is the only one who will bring you ultimate joy.

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My dear, you are beautiful even when you skip your makeup. Each and every one of us, boy or girl, man or woman, is beautiful because we are made in God’s image, and God is Beauty itself.

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Here’s another story. A boy was born blind. Eventually he grew into a man and fell in love with a woman who was always kind to him. Though he could not see her face, he felt her heart, and she was beautiful to him.

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One day, after they were married, the man was given a chance to get his vision back with a surgery. The surgery was successful, and at last the man could see! Everything was so bright and colorful it hurt his eyes. The first person he saw was his wife, who had been waiting for him all throughout the surgery.

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What would he have thought? He wouldn’t mind if she weighed too much or didn’t have makeup on or didn’t have clear skin. He had only known her for her heart and her actions. He would think her beautiful.

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Now I’m not saying beauty is a bad thing. In fact, God gave us a beautiful world to live in for our pleasure and his glory. Neither am I saying that you can only be either beautiful or good, because that’s not true. I’m just saying don’t lose the gift for the box. Don’t put so much store in your outward appearance that you don’t take care of your heart.

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Think about it. What would the world be like if everyone took the time they spent getting the wrapping paper perfect and instead focused it on touching up the gift inside?

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***Allison***

Happy Easter!

It’s Easter! For some people that means it’s time for egg hunts and chocolate candy, for some it means it’s time to devour a huge feast with family and friends, and for some, it is a time to remember the day we were set free. For some, it is a time to remember when Christ was crucified for our sake, how for us he bore the tremendous burden of all sin past, present, and future on himself. And that is no little thing!

If you’ve been a Christian for a while or all your life, truths like this can be far too easy to forget or push to the back of your mind. I know it’s that way for me. But every time I stop and think, really think, about what Easter means, it nearly makes my heart explode.

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First of all, I can tend to brush it off and say, “Oh, Jesus was God, so how bad could it have been? And he knew he wouldn’t stay dead in the end, right? I mean, if I knew all that, I could probably do it.” But… nope. I couldn’t. Because even though Jesus was fully God, he was also fully man, something that our puny human selves just can’t get our minds around. That means that he felt every single thorn in his crown and every single nail in his body, and it hurt him just as much as it would hurt you or me. Death by crucifixion was the most terrible way to die there was. Jesus was beaten, stripped, scorned, mockingly “crowned” with a painful ring of thorns, and nailed to the cross. That’s the part that always gets me. I can’t even imagine how much it would hurt to have nails driven through your palms and feet, and then to have to hang there against the rough wood, hour after hour, barely able to breathe, while your blood and life just drain away… it’s terrible to think about anyone undergoing such treatment.

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And even though Jesus did know that death couldn’t hold him, he still wasn’t looking forward to the ordeal of proving it. He prayed to God his Father and said, ““Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:43) Later it says, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22: 44) Isn’t that a terrible picture? It’s terrible to know what’s coming, and to know it isn’t good. You know when you have to take a test for school or something and you’re just so nervous? Jesus was about to take the hardest, most painful, most terrible test ever, and he wasn’t just nervous. The Bible says he was in agony.

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What makes it even worse is that Jesus didn’t have to do this at all. It would have been perfectly just and good to leave us to our sin and let us die a well-deserved death. But he didn’t! Think about it really hard: Jesus loved his creatures, his people so much that he was willing to go through all of that agony for them – even though they hated him!

At least it would have made a little more sense if the people who crucified Jesus had a reason to call him a criminal, but Jesus was no criminal. Since He was fully God, Jesus was perfect. He never made a mistake. Not even once! That’s another thing that’s almost impossible for us to completely understand. Well certainly he must have made one teeny tiny little mistake, right? Wrong. Jesus was perfect, and that means he didn’t mess up – ever.

Then why was he crucified? Because we are fallen creatures that can’t see our Savior when he stands before our eyes. We look at his face and we are afraid. Afraid and guilty and ashamed of our sin. We don’t want someone to tell us how sinful we are and to rule over us. We want to take care of ourselves and live our own lives how we please. So we kill him.

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Isn’t that terrible? I mean, think about it! It makes no sense at all – we as broken, sinful humans crucified the very one who came to save us from that brokenness and sin. But it’s true.

That just makes it all the more wonderful. If you met people who hated you with every ounce of their strength, who flogged you and beat you and wanted nothing more than to get rid of you in the most torturous way possible, would you want to voluntarily die for them so they wouldn’t have to pay the price of their sin and die a terrible death themselves? I, for one, would never do that. But Jesus did! He died for the worst of sinners, he died for the people who were killing him!

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But, of course, that isn’t the end of the story. Jesus didn’t just die for us, he rose for us too. Jesus is the only one who can conquer death itself. I love the part about the resurrection. When Jesus’ disciples see the stone rolled away and the linen wrappings left by themselves inside the tomb, what a shock that must have been! Had someone stolen their beloved Teacher’s body? But the stone sealing up the tomb was so heavy, and there were two guards in front of it. What were the other options?

And then, when they saw Jesus, how amazing would that have been? If you think about it from their perspective, you can understand why they could hardly believe their eyes at first. I mean, here’s this wonderful man that you love so much, dead. Gone. Sealed inside a tomb. Then one day he appears in front of you, inside a locked room! No wonder the apostles thought they saw a ghost at first. Can you imagine how deliriously happy they must have been when he showed them the nail marks in his hands and feet, and they realize that it wasn’t a ghost but their beloved Teacher, risen from the dead?

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And that is the Easter story. Jesus died for the criminals that hung beside him on their two crosses, and he died for us, his people, and not only that, but he rose again. I know many of you have heard that phrase “He died for us” over and over and over again until all the life has worn out of it. But don’t let that happen! That truth, that fundamental truth of the Christian faith, that is what sets us free. It is what gives us hope. It is the most amazing thing you will ever hear, and I pray that you and I will remember it this Easter. ♄

***Allison***

A Peek Into My Bible Journal

Hello, my friends! 😀

One of my goals or resolutions for this year was to start and keep a Bible journal. So far, so good! I usually read a chapter of the Bible one night and journal my favorite verse from that chapter the next night. Would you like to take a peek inside? Let me say in advance that some of the chapters were harder to journal than others, so some of the verses are a little more abstract. XD But I’m still glad I’m doing a verse from every chapter because it challenges me to look harder at each verse – and it will be really neat to look back on when I’m finished.

I use an erasable black gel pen for journaling. (You can see them on Amazon here.) I got it for a Christmas present and I love it! It’s very useful for things like this. 🙂 And yes, it really does erase! It erases just as good or better than a pencil does, but you do have to apply more pressure than erasing with a pencil.

Anyway, let’s get started. 🙂

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The title page.

 

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What a wonderful way to start the God’s Word, don’t you think? I think it’s one of the most important verses in the Bible.

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This verse might seem kind of weird at first, but it’s really important. Here God promises us that one day Jesus will return to crush the serpent’s (Satan’s) head, and thus crush evil forever.

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Heh heh, this is NOT my favorite page from the journaling perspective. The flower is quite odd and the page is rather cluttered. XD But it’s a really good verse. Man is the only creature made in the image of God, and that’s why it’s wrong to kill a human and not wrong to kill an animal. A very important verse indeed.

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I really like how this page turned out. 🙂 I like how simple and clean-looking it is. And WOW, doesn’t it make you fidgety just to think of staying inside while it rains and rains and rains some more for 40 long days and 40 long nights… Phew!

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A rainbow is beautiful not just because of its colors, but because it is a promise from God. ♄

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Not such a good idea, people… XD

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God’s promise to Abram.

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Another promise to Abram. I wonder how many people have lived and died from Creation until now. I wonder how many more are yet to come…

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I really like this one too. 🙂 God is our shield, a strong and mighty fortress.

 

And that’s it so far! Which verse/page was your favorite? Do YOU have a Bible Journal? If you do, what are your thoughts on it?
***Allison***
P. S. Goodness, I have so many post ideas! Which of these sounds most exciting to you? A room update (we’ve added some pretty new decorations in our bedroom), another writing tips post, or a random/photography post? I have a bunch more ideas too… XD

Happy Easter! + Spring Photos

Happy Easter, everyone! Christ has risen!

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I thought I’d show you a few Easter-y springy pictures too. 🙂 Spring is like the year’s resurrection – the old bare trees and brown grass come to life again. Christ’s resurrection is infinitely more amazing and wondrous than spring is or ever will be, but in the new birth of spring perhaps we have a miniscule, faint taste of the joy which we will experience at Christ’s return!

So with that, enjoy this humongous spring collage. 🙂 (Click on any photo to bring up an enlarged slideshow thingy of all of the photos.)

Once again, HAPPY EASTER!

***Allison***