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Compliments have always been hard for me to accept, no matter the source or the reason. At one point I was getting so many that I found myself regularly venting about them to my husband, then boyfriend. I started going out of my way to try to avoid getting another. Changed my hairstyle. Stopped wearing those earrings. Kept that outfit in the closet. It really was an annoyance for me.

In reality, it was insecurity. I was full of insecurity. Compliments felt like a handout. Someone trying to be nice and make me feel good with false intentions but I did not need their help and could care less what they thought - simply out of my own pride. God has been working on my in this area since then and I welcome them now. If someone takes the time to tell me something sweet, I embrace it. And if it happens to be done out of malice, then it lies on them and not me.

Insecurities can show themselves in the strangest of places, like marital status or job title or number of children or personality traits. They form in conversations or appear in invites or the lack there of and start playing themselves out before we know it. These are the ties that hold us back from freedom to truly live for God and his plans for us. This is where the captive lives.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
In order to be free from insecurity, we must rely on the power of Christ and what scripture tells us. Through his power, we can demolish strongholds - in our thoughts and habits. We have the power to take every thought captive for Christ. Thought of not looking put together and putting yourself down. Thoughts of what someone thinks about you and how others perceive you. Scripture says that you are chosen (John 15:16). You are a child of God (John 1:12). You are victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57). You are more than the mental picture you paint of yourself.

You must believe who you are in Jesus.

Being held back to a calling that God has placed on your life due to insecurities, whether something as small as talking to someone or as big as a change in career, is not a fun place to be. It is there that you find yourself smothered by fear and doubt and lacking trust.

When you focus on who God says you are, insecurities start to melt away. When you become so consumed in who God is and how big he is and his plan for your life, you find strength and take your eyes off of what is wrong with yourself. When your eyes are fixed on Jesus, instead of yourself, your decisions will be based on what he says, not what others say or your own doubts and fears.

Praying you find confidence in who God says he is and who you are because of what Jesus has done. Praying you can embrace the word of God and truly understand how God sees you and live in that freedom. Praying you take each negative thought captive and that your insecurities become small victories through Christ.

Here's to focusing on who God is and less of who you say you are.

Let us be silent, that we may hear the whisper of God. Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I think of being busy, the whole Mary and Martha analogy tends to come to mind. Mary, the one who listens to Jesus and does what is better and Martha, the one who is doing everything else except listen to him (Luke 10:38-42). Martha is frustrated because Mary is not helping her in preparations. I am sure all the household chores were in need of doing - chopping and pouring and folding and sautéing and Mary is just listening. This situation is one of busyness born out of necessitates and duty.

Busyness is defined in my concordance as: engaged in action, being in use; full of activity, full of distracting detail.

Busyness is easy to achieve and being too busy for God is even easier. Being too busy doing the things that God has called you to do. Or even being too busy celebrating the blessings and promises he has given to you, that you miss him whisper, you're welcome. This is another sort of busyness, more like one born out of basking in God's blessings in celebration.

In Joshua 3, the Israelites are in all sorts of excitement. After wandering in the desert for forty years, they are now about to enter into the Promised Land. Forty years of dust and sand and manna and now they are about to welcome the land flowing of milk and honey with open arms. There are still things to take care of but the physical land is near. Excitement is building and anticipation is beyond bursting. With all this energy flowing, Joshua takes time to stop and listen to what God has to say in all of this. God tells Joshua that he will exalt him in the eyes of Israelites, so they will know God is with him as he was with Moses. Joshua is obedient to listen to God and tells the people:

Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God. Joshua 3:9

In all of the enthusiasm of the new path they were journeying on, it could have been easy for Joshua to not be listening for God's guidance. Joshua could have been so happy that he was about to lead the Israelites in to land that he works out his own accord and rushes the land, finding some means to cross over the water ahead, which was at flood level. But this is not how Joshua operates. He takes the time to see what else God has in store for them. He seeks God, listens, and obeys. They cross the water on dry ground, witnessing yet another miracle. Adding another piece to their testimony and God's faithfulness. And Joshua is blessed by it.

A Little Longer by Jenn Johnson, really reinforces the idea of being still for God. Not doing for God, whether in duty or celebration. Just listening and focusing on him. Have a listen.

You don't have to do a thing. Just 
simply be with me and let those things 
go. Cause they can wait another minute.

If you are coming out of a season of trials and celebration is on your horizon, I pray that you would not miss God in the victory. If God has given you the long awaited child or the much dreamed of job has come to fruition or your health status has been cleared or you have the passport to travel the world, whatever your time of celebration is, I pray that God will continue to be the foremost thought in your mind. That you would take time to listen and wait and be still. That in your excitement you would praise God for all that he is doing.

Praying that you would pour out your blessings on others and they would see a glimpse of him in you. That your testimony would grow and that you would draw nearer to him. Praying that you would truly hear from him. He has something to tell you, you need only to be still to hear it.

Here's to open ears and open hearts and quiet hands and quiet feet. 

Over  year and a half ago, as I was reading through 1 Peter 4:10 and God really challenged me with it: 
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
Craftiness runs in my blood. I thoroughly enjoy making almost anything that involves fabric or glue. It is something that has always been easy for me and something God has gifted me with to use for his purposes. I felt him nudging me to do a craft ministry that makes items to give to others in the community. I had no idea what this would look like or what it would entail and leading it seemed daunting. I have hardly any expertise in leading. I prayed about it for a few months before I mentioned it to anyone. This is where Pocket Blessings was born.

It just so happened that God had moved Juli and her husband, Scott, to our area a few years before and we had met in Sunday school. She is the craftiest person I know. Naturally, God directed me to ask her what she thought.  It never ceases to amaze me how God gifts us in certain areas and calls  us to use them for his glory. And how he brings people beside you to help you and show you the ropes.

The neighborhood we live in is referred to as the pocket and our focus is on small things because it is the small things that make up the moments, that turn into years, which form memories - hence the name was born of Juli and her husband, Scott.  

The goal for Pocket Blessings is to make an impact in our community for Christ one handmade blessing at a time. Each item comes with a verse attached and is covered in prayers, both for the person who made it and the one receiving it.

It such a rewarding time for both the people involved and the people crafting. The community comes together and God brings the people he wants to be there and the people he wants to receive them. It is a win - win.  

Praying God will give you guidance and direction if you feel him leading you to participate or put in to action something he has placed in your heart.Praying that you would embrace your gifts and that God would show you how he wants you to use them in your current season of life, whether in big or small ways. Praying that if you find yourself wondering what your gifts are that the Lord would you reveal them to you and you would accept them as the present that they are,

Interested in starting a Pocket Blessings craft night in your community / church / area?

Here are some tips to get you started:

Choose how often: we do once a month on the 3rd Saturday at our church but you can do it whenever works for you.

Who: we like to open it up to not only our church but community, too, so we leave fliers throughout town (i.e. coffee shops, library) but the choice is yours. You can do it by yourself or with a few close friends. Do not let numbers stop you from making a difference or crafting abilities. We do a demonstration for each craft before we start and help through the night.

Craft: varies, we like to incorporate upcoming holidays (we make it the month before, so delivery can be arranged by the month of the holiday). Each month I will post what we will doing, along with any resources (i,e, printable tags) that we are using. 

Who to give to: we pray about which organization / place (i.e. local nursing home, hospital units, rehabilitation homes) God wants us to give to leading up to craft night - he has not let us down yet. So pray and do not be intimated to ask around. Perhaps a friend is the perfect recipient or knows someone who is.

Supplies:  use what you have and/or ask for donations - people love to give and most have some supplies they need to get rid of, especially for a good cause. Freecycle is an awesome resource for free crafting supplies.  

Message: we start out with a prayer and teeny message explaining what we are making and a pull it together with a verse

Share: If you are  interested crafting along, be sure to tag on instagram @ingracealways or #pocketblessings

I will share more about the craft we are doing for November in the coming weeks and how you can prep for it. And of course, if you are in the Sacramento area, we would love to have you attend.

Nothing beats a great church with biblical teaching and awesome community, along with personal bible study, but there are other awesome resources that compliment them well. Thought I would share some of my favorites that I use weekly, if not daily. Think of them as old friends with lots of wisdom to give. Great for encouragement and answering practical issues within marriage, parenting, culture and everywhere in between.

I keep the widget on the front of my phone so there is always scripture to look at when I open it. Not to mention I love having access to the bible wherever I am. And it's a free app.

This site has parenting advice, stories of mamahood and God rolled in to one. If you are a mama, you cannot go wrong checking this out.

Full of practical information on relationships, marriage, parenting and life in general. I LOVE the podcasts. I always learn something from them.

Geared to women in different life stages, it has inspiring posts about life and God. And of course the annual free in(RL) conference is amazing

Music is HUGE influencer for me and since I have started listening to Christian music there is nothing I enjoy listening to more. I highly recommend making the switch for a week and see the difference it makes in your daily routines. 

I am usually not one to recommend things but I think it is important to share some resources that help my walk. Perhaps God will use them to help you, too. This is not a sponsored post, just some recommendations from one friend to another. Hope enjoy them as much as I do.

What are some of your favorites?

In our culture, so often when we hear the word neighbor, we think of the person living next to us that we occasionally wave at as our paths cross when we are pulling out of the drive way or grabbing the mail but we usually do not associate the term with family, rather merely as an acquaintance we hardly know. 

Jesus call us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). The word neighbor in the Greek is is plēsion, which is what the New Testament was written in originally. It is referring to those in our  neighborhood but also those who are nearest to us. 

The Blue Letter Bible gives these definitions for plēsion:
·        a friend
·        any other person, and where two are concerned, the other (thy fellow man, thy neighbour), according to the Jews, any member of the Hebrew nation and commonwealth
·        according to Christ, any other man irrespective of nation or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet

For most, family is near at one point or another, both physically and/or emotionally. Jesus is calling us to love our family members as ourselves. Relationships are messy. Especially when a lot of people are involved. But there is also a commonality that not found anywhere else. The longevity that has been weaved in and out of memories and years forms a beautiful bond.

God calls us to engage in difficult relationships. To be stretched past what we think we can handle to see how big he really is (Matthew 19:26).  Harboring bitterness, envy, anger is easy. It can be so easy to pit sister against sister and brother against father due to the longevity and history of the relationship. There are a lot of opportunities over the years for bitterness to creep in and frustration to form, whether between a husband and wife or the children. Choosing to forgive and rebuild is harder and is worth more in the end.

It is forgiving those God has put closest to you, who have openly hurt you, whether by choice or indirectly. It is loving them. A sister. Aunt. Mom. Friends. Whomever that may be in your personal community. Loving someone who does not deserve it and perhaps does not want it is what love is all about. That is how God has loved us. That is the change that God puts in us. It is the compassion that God gives towards us towards others, as well as understanding for the opposing view. It is new incite and perspective. It is healing. 

This song, Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North conveys this quite well. Have a listen. 

This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken 
within The light meets the dark

God can do anything, even fix a broken family and all its relationships. I know because he has been mending and shaping and restoring mine. He is still at work and I am excited to see where he will lead us next. 

Praying that God will move in your family and relationships and restore what needs to be restored. Praying for healed hearts and new beginnings. Praying that God will be praised throughout the difficult conversations and each warm embrace. Praying for God to show you what steps to take and guide your heart to truly forgive what or who needs to be forgiven. That you would open your heart and make the choice to make an effort and let God piece your lives back together. 

Here's to healing and new beginnings. Here's to seeing God move in your relationships and choosing to take the harder route.
I have found myself loving deep conversations. So much time has been spent in small talk that it just feels empty and void. Really getting past how are you doing. I am not looking to tell my life story or pour out my heart ache or hear you express every minute detail. More like embracing life and real beauty and feelings. Feelings have always been hard for me. Surface level is always so easy and nonchalant. It rolls of the tongue and pairs well with a smile. It fills the space and consumes a five minute window well. But it lacks depth and passion. It skips past emotion and feelings.

So often we go through life guarded and on edge with walls built up to the skies, when what we need is to crumble. To be genuine. To be authentic. To find ourselves in how we really feel, wearing parts of our heart on our  sleeves. It is asking for prayer during trials or wisdom for a new endeavor. It is changing your facade to reveal how you are really doing. It is hard and messy and can be uncomfortable. It may be said over tears or through bursts of laughter. It is life. It is beautiful. It is real.

My sister was in a car accident recently and suffered traumatic brain injury. She is still recovering. She has head aches and delayed speech, which has greatly improved. She has new anxiety and random bursts of crying. As we have talked, she has been apologizing for getting emotional over nothing, to which I responded how in awe I am of her expression - whether willfully exposed or due to measures beyond her control. There is beauty in sharing and exchanging what you are feeling; An openness that cannot otherwise be given.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 2:17

Jesus was real. Jesus did not waste any words. He used them to heal. To save. To give life. To fulfill prophecy. He was passionate and expressed how he was feeling; he openly cried (John 11:35).

Deep conversations allow growth and give God an opportunity to work in others through you. It allows for connections and common ground to be shared. It gives understanding in situations and healing in others. It helps clear your mind and reveals new incite.

Whatever you are lead to say or to share, I pray that you would bring glory to God. That you would see Jesus' example and be able to live through his teaching and love.

Praying that you are able to find the words to speak with whomever the Holy Spirit leads you to. That you would be open and transparent and find encouragement and refreshment. Praying that you would exchange more than a few redundant words as you go about your day but that you would make an effort to listen and intentionally interact with those God has placed around you.

Here's to real conversation and less idle chatter. More expression and depth. 

Some days I cannot focus on any one thing and it seems like I could be diagnosed with ADD. The dishwasher needs to be unloaded. Toys are scattered around the house and need to be relocated. The floor is screaming to be vacuumed and the bathroom, well it just needs help. Then the kiddos verbalize a need, which trumps all. This roller coaster ride that comes with the titles mama and wife constantly changes and surprises me. Rest is something that seems to be hard to find. It is hiding between emails and bath time and squeezed in after errands and grocery shopping or found after work. Rest does not come easily. Perhaps that is just me. How hard is to stop? How hard is it to trust God that everything will be okay if you are not at that function or say no to the invite or just sit down despite everything whirling around you.

Rest: freedom from activity or labor; peace of mind or spirit; to take relief or respite.

Rest is finding freedom from the world racing on around you. It is a peaceful mind and spirit. Rest is not worrying about your to do list or the mess that seems to be filling your mind. It is giving your mind and body a time to recuperate while spending time with the maker of the universe.

For some, this is easy. For others, much like myself, it is difficult. It requires effort and intention. It involves working through the day and letting some things slip to gain restful composure. Rest is not always something we will find until a series of events leads us there.

Sometimes you find rest in ways you have not anticipated, such as health issues or an end of a relationship or layoffs. Your overscheduled agenda comes to a screeching halt and you find yourself with time. Time to think. Time to reflect. Time to stop and ask God what is next. Rest is something that God ordained. He rested on the seventh day after making creation. The creator rested and he enjoyed what he made. Too often it is easy to get involved in what we are making and climbing the ladder without having time to enjoy it because we want results. We want to get to the next thing. We want to do something. We do not have time to stop. We do not have time to be still.

This mindset is so far from God's plan for us. He wants us to pause. We were not made to keep going and doing and making. We need time to be still and quiet ourselves to hear God. 

Scripture assures we will find rest. We will find rest in God.
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1
Jesus will give us rest.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Praying that you will find true rest in Christ alone. That you would stop whatever distractions have so easily taken up your time and that you would allow yourself to rest. Rest in promises. Rest in his word. Rest in his grace and love and mercy. 

Let it fade by Jeremy Camp is a great example of letting our lives fade and resting in Jesus. Have a listen.

You can rest, You will find rest. Let this old life crumble, 
Let it fade, Let this new life offered be your saving grace

Here's to more rest and less doing. More stopping and enjoying.

How do you find rest? What does the term rest convey to you?

You have probably heard of the phrase "you've been booed" referring to the usual Halloween related - treat leaving - door bell ditching shenanigans. I grew up doing it through out my neighborhood. My family would prepare some yummy home baked goodness and one of us would get the honors of running at the speed of light to leave them at the door step of an unsuspecting friend. It was always something to look forward to during the fall. 

This year, I thought it would be fun to add another dimension to it and Jesus. Because everything is funner with Jesus, right? And the "you've been wooed" treat leaving, giveable way born, complete with a poem, verse, and sign to put in the door or window. 

It is a reminder of how God made you (Psalm 139:13). How he loves you (John 3:16). How special you are to him. How Jesus died for your sins and was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-5) and is with you always (Matthew 28:20). You are loved. 

Yesterday the theme night at our Awana club was SOS - Share Our Savior, so I gave each of the girls in my group a print out of this in hopes of them continuing to share the gospel. 

I challenge you to share the gospel or remind someone of the love. 

Praying you find some enjoyment in sharing and giving and anonymously reminding someone of how loved they are by Jesus. Praying the Lord will put someone on your heart to share it will and that you will be obedient and enjoy the process of baking or buying yummy treats. Enjoy it with your children or friend or husband and make it a small event and memory. A small blessing for the day. You never know how big of an impact your little act of kindness will make in the life of a friend or neighbor or loved one.

Here's to finding some time and adding some fun to your fall festivities. Here's to telling someone how awesome they are to Jesus.

Click to download file.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

I had the opportunity to go on the women's retreat for my church this weekend, my first time away since my kiddos entered the world. I had planned on bringing my little guy, since he is still nursing but God had other plans and I am grateful for the time apart and some quality time with my mama and other fabulous ladies and inspiring leaders and speakers. It is amazing how God always has something for everyone and is faithful to start a good work in each of us. The theme this year was fearless, based on Proverbs 31:25. After lots of praying and fasting the past few weeks, God has been renewing my mind in him and drawing my thoughts to him instead of the things that were weighing me down, one of which was fear. Who knew?

I did not think too much about it going in to it but God revealed to me little incites and slivers of fear that had crept in different aspects, one of which is writing. As I have said, allowing others to read the words that God has me sharing is not easy but I know that is what he is calling me to do.

Fear is one of those sneaky things that hides in the middle of something else and masquerades as other things, like doubt and what ifs and worry. It takes away a little bit of you before you knew it even crept in. It takes your joy. It holds you back and keeps you from a fulfilling life.

Fear intertwines with confusion. It coincides with normalcy and screams safety. Fear is hidden in the thoughts of taking chances and sides with not making mistakes.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

This verse from Isaiah is my favorite of the "do not fear verses." One that I go back to and God pops it in my head at the appropriate time. God tells us not to fear. This particular verse is regarding Israel's release from captivity, which had been caused by their disobedience. God is speaking of hope for the captives. They will be set free. He will set you free. He will help you. He will restore you and turn desert in to pools of water (41:18). It is such a beautiful picture of how God makes beauty from the ashes. He uses our fears and takes them to bring glory to him alone.

Perhaps you find yourself in fear because of a decision you made or an event that happened out of your control. Or a choice you do not want anyone to know about. Whatever the cause, I pray that you would allow God to take your fear and give you truth and a sound mind and show you how to give yourself grace.

Over and over again scripture says not to fear. We do not need to fear men (Matthew 10:28). Or what we will eat or drink or about our life (Matthew 6:25). God has it all in the palm of his hand.
I pray that God will reveal to you any fears that are holding you back and that you will be able to stand in front of them with God leading the way. Praying you will be set free from any lies or misconceptions and focus on the truth that God is for you. You are his. And you are beautiful.

And I have to share the theme song for the retreat, You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music. Another awesome Bethel song, one I had not heard before but is amazing. Have a listen.

You make me brave. No fear can hinder now the Love that made a way.
Here's to not being ashamed of your fears but finding power in knowing that God is your strength and will show you how to overcome them. Here's to being brave. 
Peace. Our culture boasts peace with circle trademarks and an easy, two finger hand gesture. It is associated with hippies in bell bottoms and headbands in their sit ins to overcome political issues. World peace is the cliché answer to every question.

My concordance defines it as a state of calm; freedom from strife or discord; harmony in personal relationship.

The peace that this is referring to is not comprehensible by the world. It can only be found in God. He freely offers it and you need only to take it and let it rest upon you like a warm embrace on a cold, snowy day. You can choose to take his peace or let the world fool you with its promises. There is always a choice to be made. The former always looks good on you.

Peace that transcends all understanding comes in the midst of major life decisions and uncertainty. It is wrapped in tests results and deadlines and snuggled close to broken hearts. It is given through hugs and open ears and heard in encouraging words. It is sitting in waiting rooms and in the doctor's office. 
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
Jesus tells us that he is leaving peace with us. He tells us this during his final hours on earth, after celebrating the Passover with the disciples. This is part of his final speech. He is telling his disciples what he wants them to remember and the most important things before the final betrayal, as he knows what is about to happen.

Jesus left us with peace. He freely gave it to the disciples and offers you the same. Peace when you do not make your deadlines or arrive to your appointment on time. Peace when your relationship is failing and your heart is breaking. Peace when your body is not functioning as it is was made to. Peace when your child needs more leading than you have guiding expertise. Peace he offers through it all.

He goes on to say to not let your hearts be troubled. In Proverbs, it states:
A heart of peace gives life to the body. Proverbs 14:30

When you are filled with peace of God, you are able to thrive and be filled with life and breath and movement. You are growing and taking it all in. You are trusting God, who knows you full well. You are trusting him to make a way for you in the desert, as his promises state. You may not see the outcome but that is okay because you take peace for this moment in time and choose to take it for the next .

Praying that you can feel the peace of Christ throughout your day and winding its way in each thought and action. Praying that you can grasp the gentle whisper of peace as the world bellows its voice your way.

Here's to embracing more peace and life.