Release Your Creative Self

Hello and Welcome!

Today I’m starting with a question. What do you create? I certainly hope you didn’t just say to yourself “I can’t create anything” because that would be utterly incorrect. I think you create lots of things but you’re not giving yourself the credit for it. For instance, I create a mess in the kitchen when I attempt to create a meal from nothing to something that ultimately gets fed to the dog. I create frustration for my husband when I spend more than $35 for a cut and color combo. I create peace of mind when I finally get all of the clutter cleared away at home and it stays that way for at least half a day. Get the idea? These are examples of why you can’t say you don’t “create”. We create things, feelings, thoughts, problems, and more. This post is meant to challenge you to consider a broader meaning of the words create and creativity and to help you consider the many ways you can impact those around you with your creative self.

ColorWhen you take the stuff of life and rearrange it so that it matters, so that it does good things, you’re acting creatively. –Vinita Hampton Wright, The Soul Tells the Story (2005)

You are gifted by God to do good works—creative works that bring joy, laughter, calm, peace, beauty, fun, imagination, kindness into the world, your neighborhood, your community, your work, and your family (Ephesians 2:10). Most of the time we don’t think about the reality or the impact of what we create. Whatever we create inevitably has positive and negative effects as well as implications. We get to control when we create and what we create and this is highly influenced by the circumstances and people in our lives. We are at our creative best when (1) we surround ourselves with people who will positively impact our creative self and (2) when we offer our creative self to positively impact another soul.

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best. –Henry Van Dyke

Be Bold, Use It!

So how do we surround ourselves with people who will help our creativity shine? You might be amazed by the fact that you are already surrounded. How so? Take an inventory of your friends. How do their gifts manifest? What do you perceive to be the creative gift of each one? Does it complement your creativity? If you aren’t certain of or aware of their “creativity”, then perhaps you should inquire. You might be surprised at their answer when you ask. Often, we are drawn to people who inspire us or have talents and gifts that complement our own.

Cute sheetRecently, I was in South Carolina having dinner with some lovely ladies. During our pre-dinner conversation, Susan brought out samples of her quilting and then unveiled these gorgeous applique buttons she made for an upcoming conference. There were no two alike. Each specially designed button (for lack of a better word) would go on the name tag of each woman to make her feel very special. When I saw the variety of colors and patterns, I started to envision these buttons as flowers without the stems. I wanted to snatch a few and create a mixed media piece right there on the spot! I felt inspired, not to duplicate her work, but to use it in a different way that she intended to use it.

During that fun evening, I listened to the conversation and compliments of each woman concerning the fabric buttons and I became acutely aware of their creative gifts. All together in that living room I saw each one’s creative contribution: the painter, the photographer, the quilter, the writer. And not just in South Carolina. This holds true for my friends in Ohio: the gardener, the photographer, the encourager, the writer, the teacher, the kindness gifter, the hostess, the cook. Unconsciously, I have surrounded myself with creative friends who inspire and bring out my creative self.

If you don’t mind, let’s get slightly silly for a moment. I have placed a quote below this paragraph and I want you to replace the word kindness with your create endeavor. It doesn’t matter how often you create or your level of expertise, or even if you question whether you think it counts as creativity. Just replace the word “kindness” with your creative act.

MonarchIf you were arrested for kindness, would there be enough evidence to convict you? –Unknown

 

 

Well? Would there be enough evidence? For me, yes to writing; no to mixed media. If there isn’t enough evidence, what’s the issue? No time to create? No quiet to create? No zone or space to create? Maybe it’s perfectionism or fear of looking foolish. I only mention these because those are my roadblocks. Look at me--I’m posting on a blog and ten months ago I didn’t even know how to create a blog like this! There’s no time like today to give your soul the chance to express itself with abandon. Utter abandon!

We are meant to offer our creative self to beautifully impact another soul. You are a creative gift from God to the souls that enter your life. It’s your smile. It’s your kindness. It’s your quiet comfort. It’s your funny self bringing laughter into a heart that needs it more than you know. Perhaps you’ve not considered that you are the creation, beautifully gifted to impact every soul that crosses your path. You are—ask God and He’ll show you.

 

For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

 

We have different gifts according to the grace given us. (Romans 12:6)

 

Crayons

Never forget that God has “laid hands” on your soul gifting you with creativity. God gifts each one of us through the power of the Holy Spirit and these are meant to be shared so share abundantly!

Share this post with your friends and those who need encouragement to not give up on their creative endeavors. Be brave and use your gifts!

Fondly, Terri


Courageous

Hello and Welcome!

I am so thankful for the privilege of sharing encouragement with you through this blog. Today's post presents a focus on the tremendous courage that we display to others as we live through the difficulties and troubles that manifest in our life. And, this post is a tribute to my dear friend, Chris, who is now with the Lord.

In the last few weeks, I have either witnessed or learned of women who have deliberately chosen courage and perseverance over despair and hopelessness.  All too often it seems we are faced with situations that cause us to have to choose one of those paths. As a few of you know, we sent our dear friend, Chris, on her way to be with Jesus. Chris was a warrior and faced the battle with cancer as any warrior would—fiercely steadfast in her faith in God and His sovereign purpose for her life. At Chris’ memorial service, her pink ribbon sister, Colleen, spoke with admiration of Chris. And, Colleen shared she is continuing to fight on behalf of Chris determined to defeat her own cancer. This is a woman who, in all likelihood, knew no one else at the service and determined to courageously share.

Courage 1You know women who are facing overwhelming circumstances or changes in their life and we can’t help but be affected. Too often we may feel inadequate to provide the words, the hope, or any other measure of comfort that we know is so obviously needed. Women are caregivers and it’s in our nature to want to make whole the brokenness, heal the wounded heart, and soothe the discomfort. But deep down we see how inadequate our resources are and we know what we offer isn’t sufficient to mend, let alone heal.

As a nurse, I know I can’t put a band-aid on a physical wound and expect healing to occur if I haven’t addressed the skin infection. In the same way, I know what I have to offer those who are hurting is no better than a band-aid—it touches the surface but it can’t impact the deep sadness and loss. It sounds arrogant and even prideful that I want to be the source of comfort for those hurting but that’s why I became a nurse—to impact, in whatever way I can, the health of those God brings across my path. So, I feel that frustration within, and I ask God, “What can I do?”.

Prayer 1I “do” what God expects me to do. Pray. And pray more. I lay before Him the names of those hearts that on my own and I ask God to provide what only He can. I earnestly believe He sees each one of us and He knows us as no one else does and I believe He is able to comfort, heal, provide a miracle and more for His precious children. While I’m sad that my prayer list grows as I add one more name after another, I’m thankful that not one of those women (and men) are unknown to God. We must never forget prayer is a powerful action fueled by your belief in God’s ability to provide according to His will.

During an incredibly challenging time in my life, the words Paul wrote in Philippians 1:19-20 (NLT) became very dear to me and continue to be a source of strength.

For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance. For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ and dying is even better.

Do you sense the power of this statement and prayer from Paul? Here is the phrase that impacts me the most, “I will never be ashamed”. Paul was referring to his imprisonment but that prison couldn’t contain Paul’s impact as he continued to share and model Christ. Colleen, Deb, Lysa, Kelly, David, Scott—these people, like Paul, live without shame because they live to honor Christ in the face of the challenges. As for Chris, her life continues to bring honor to Christ and she left behind a model of courage. I think Proverbs 31:31 best states the life of Chris, “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” (If you knew her, I’m certain you agree!)

Courage 2I end this post with two power encouragement points:

First, when you feel inadequate to offer what is needed by those we love, your prayer is a powerful act that makes you a co-warrior with those who are courageously facing their challenges.

Second, your faith in God and your trust in His plan for your life models courage to those who watch as you walk through your challenges and difficulty. You don’t have to “do” courageous. It will show as you trust God as your Strength and Jesus as your Savior.

Thank you so much for reading. If you would like to receive the blog posts on a regular basis, please scroll to the top of the page and in the right sidebar you can subscribe. Once you subscribe you'll receive a confirmation notice from Feedblitz. Please post your comments to the blog as I love to hear from you! Or, you can email me at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com.  Fondly, Terri


Sacred Space Within You and Around You

Hello and Welcome!

In my last post on Meditative Gardens I shared the idea of sacred space as a physical space and as an internal state. Today's post shares in depth why sacred space is an important aspect as you spend time with God. Your comments and thoughts are always welcome! 

Sacred space is the term I use to define the three-dimensional realm where God meets with you and me. Sacred is defined as something that is consecrated, holy and the term space refers to that within me and around me. Sacred space can be established as a physical setting, as a state of mind, and within our heart. It’s probably not hard to image establishing a physical setting as a sacred space but what about the creation of sacred space within one’s heart and mind? Think about sacred space within yourself as an act of worship where you center your heart and mind on God for receptivity to His presence and message. You set all other things aside in heart and mind through separation from distraction, centering your focus on the Lord, and humbling yourself as you ask the Lord to meet you. Let’s look at two Biblical examples related to the concept of sacred space—Moses and Jesus.

Desert In the book of Exodus, you will find references to two tents of meeting. The Tent of Meeting, also known as the Tabernacle, was in the middle of camp and contained, among other items, the Ark of the Covenant. The Tabernacle was where God met with His people and within it the priest performed their assigned holy tasks. The second tent of meeting is described in Exodus 33:7-11. Here we find that Moses set up a tent some distance away outside the Israelite camp. Moses would enter this tent to inquire of the Lord and this was the physical space where he met with God separating himself from the buzz and busyness of the camp. While in the tent, Moses would probably assume a posture of humbleness, bowing low or kneeling with his face to the ground to reframe his view of himself. Though he was the leader of the Israelites, he was a servant before God.

The second example of a physical setting established as sacred space is found in Luke 22:39-46. Jesus takes his disciples to the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives, specifically to the garden of Gethsemane. In verse 39 of the NIV, it states that Jesus went, as usual, to the Mount of Olives. The phrase as usual caused me to wonder what drew Jesus to that space. Was it a place of solitude? Did it remind him of the garden, a sacred space, his Father established in Eden? Because of my own love of nature, I can easily grasp how the garden of Gethsemane may have represented a sacred space for Jesus to meet with the Father. In the same way, Moses separated himself from the camp, Jesus removed himself from the disciples so he could establish a sacred space and come before his Father. Both set their focus on God and humbled themselves before Him.  Tulip pathWhile the physical aspect of sacred space is important it can be irrelevant if there has not been adequate preparation of our heart and mind. Why is this preparation significant? It’s because my heart, your heart has replaced the former temple. In 1 Corinthians 3:17, the apostle Paul reminds us that we are the temple of God. As a believer saved by Jesus Christ, your body is now a temple for the Holy Spirit. You have become the Tabernacle—the dwelling place of God. The former Tabernacle of the Old Testament has been replaced and now God meets within your heart and soul. Take a moment and let that truth sink in. Have you ever thought of your heart as a tent of meeting or as the garden—the sacred space within?

Preparing your heart as an internal sacred space requires intentionality and dedication.  Separation, focus, and humbleness are among the key elements. As you come before God, dedicate and consecrate your heart and mind to Him alone, and choose to be fully present without pretense. Next, you should come in authenticity. Come just as you are before God with sin and weaknesses. You are offering yourself to God with an open, surrendered heart along with a thoughtful, curious, and reverent state of mind. You come without an agenda, making your heart and mind, ears and eyes sensitive to perceiving God’s voice. As you develop your practice of entering sacred space, you will find a rhythm and a desire to return to your “tent of meeting”. God delights in you and wants you to experience His presence.

I encourage you to give the following questions serious thought. What if you could live so that you enter each day expecting surprises, refusing to follow the easiest route, letting go of control, and laughing at the future? What if you choose to be receptive to God’s prompts and direction without having all the details or any details? The questions are important. God ordained all the days of your life. He knows every day you will live (Psalm 139:16). Who better to guide you, direct you, give strength in your weakness, and sustain your hope? How will you receive all this and more? It is within sacred space. Personally, I love to think of my heart as a garden. Genesis says God met with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and I call that the very first sacred space! As God met with them so He meets with me in the garden of my heart. God and I together have worked the garden of my heart, removing the thorns, tangles, and dead things. God has and continues to bring healing and His love grows the fruit of the Spirit within me.


Icon Hearts Encouraged

Designating Fixed Sacred Space

Selecting a fixed physical location for sacred space depends on what you want to do in that space. Here are some things to think about as you plan.

  • Is the space just for you or may others in your life use it too?
  • Do you want the space to be readily visible as a reminder or do you want it to be private?
  • Will you bring the items you need to the sacred space each time you go there, or do you want the space set up so you pop in and everything you need is already present?
  • If the space is for prayer and meditation and your house is never quiet, then you may want to consider creating a quiet zone or quiet time. If that’s impossible, then what about a space in your garden, sitting in your car, or a walk-in closet. What about noise-cancelling headphones? Sound crazy? Not when you consider the benefits you will experience by setting yourself apart to be in the presence of God. Don’t stop at the first or second roadblock. This is important.
  • If the space is for worship, do you need space to move around? Do you care if anyone hears you worship?
  • Some Don’ts:  don’t let your sacred space be a distraction; don’t clutter, simplify; don’t forget your focus: God.

Examples of Simple Sacred Spaces Inside and Outside

  Sacred Space 2Meditative garden 6 edit Bench
Creating Flexible Sacred Space

Anywhere, anytime is the key to flexible sacred space.

Maybe there isn’t any one place or any specific time that you can designate as sacred space. The maybes are endless. No problem. Select a container, fill it with the items you need for prayer, worship, or communion with God. Grab and go.

Sacred space can be created within you in spite of not having a dedicated physical space for meeting with God. You are sacred to God and He dwells within you. The act of stopping activity, separating yourself from distraction, and deliberately, authentically presenting yourself to God creates a sacred space. Following are a couple ideas of when or where sacred space can happen. For instance, at work I have to park in a multi-story parking garage. I take a few moments before exiting my car to be with God in that quiet space. Another example is the elevator at work. I have capitalized on alone time in the elevator as a moment to come before God with thanksgiving, gratitude, or requests for help during my day. You might be amazed at those unique moments where you find yourself alone in the busiest of environments. Speak to God aloud or in your mind and intentionally dedicate the moment being fully present to engage with the Lord. Hopefully these example shows you how you can get creative with sacred space! 

Let me know how you create sacred space within and around you! I'm certain you have wonderful ideas and you may inspire another reader. If you're not already a subscriber just click on the "Subscribe" button  in the right sidebar and Feedblitz will send you an confirmation. Make sure you confirm your subscription and then you'll automatically receive the posts. 

Blessings to you!  Terri


What Happens in the Garden?

Hello and Welcome!

I can't wait to share this post because I love nature. I hope you'll discover something new as you read and use it to positively impact your life!

Do you know what happens to you when you sit, work, or play in your garden? Healing. Nature’s effect on your body is being recognized as an important component of the healing process. There is a response by your body to the exposure of fresh air, the sounds of nature, the colors and complexity of plants and trees, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the energy of the earth. How much exposure are you getting?

CyprusDeviation from nature is deviation from happiness –Samuel Johnson

There is a growing body of research that suggests the level of your exposure to nature, being connected to it, is directly related to your attitude, stress recovery, nervous system function, immune response, psychological wellness, and more. Studies have found that hospital patients can better envision the possibility of wellness when they have opportunities to visit a garden within the hospital and see the plants thriving, strong and alive. This powerful visual moves patients to believe that they, whether in part or in whole, are healing and can thrive in spite of the health issue they are experiencing. There is a new understanding that the longer we are separated from nature the more we are negatively impacted in nearly every dimension of health. You and I are connected to nature because we are an essential element of it. You and I are meant to experience nature as a healing gift by the One who created every intricate detail. It’s time to increase your exposure and experience the benefits!

Sacred Space 2Keep close to Nature’s heart. Break clear away, once in awhile, and

climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. 

Wash your spirit clean.  –John Muir

There is something significant about separating ourselves from the noise and the energy of the city, our household, and our work. Busyness encapsulates us. Stress entangles us. Pressures drive us. We allow ourselves to be enslaved to doing and forget to be. Nature doesn’t beckon us to come do—it invites us to be with it, in it, and part of it. I believe we forget that nature is a gift from God to us and for us. Nature is alive, it renews, it feeds us, it shelters us, and it teaches us. For these reasons and more, we begin the grasp the impact of nature on our health—physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.

Consider the artist who creates a piece with the hope that it will reveal the artist’s soul and message. In the same way, God speaks to you and me through the magnificent elements of nature. And when you read the Bible you find example after example of God using nature to communicate a message to His people.

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. –Luke 5:16

When was the last time you withdrew from everything that demanded your attention? When was the last time you separated yourself from the busyness, the noise, and the stress? It's meaningful to me that Jesus chose often to withdraw to pray. Withdrawing had to have been necessary with so many needing him, pressuring him, insulting him, hunting him. There are times when you and I experience such things in varying degrees. Take a moment and think about who needs you, what pressures you, what or who stresses you, and what hurts you endure. It's these things that make it especially necessary to withdraw and be in the presence of Jesus who very much knows what you live through every day. It makes sense that placing yourself in a place of quiet, separated from everything that distracts, is how you will deeply connect with the Holy Spirit. Intentionally seeking a quietness of heart and mind in an environment such as a garden, meditative space, or a place of sacred space is an invitation from your soul to the Lord. When we seek to find God, we will find Him, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, NIV). Where better to find God than in His creative playground—nature!

Garden BenchThe Meditative Garden

Have you ever considered creating a meditative garden? It can be a beautiful way to meet the needs of your soul, mind, and body and create a place of sacred space to meet with God. Your meditative garden is your space so it should reflect your personality and be creatively designed so it will draw you there. There are plenty of resources on the internet to guide you. The garden should impact at least one dominant sense whether its smell, vision, touch, taste, or hearing. By creating the garden around your dominant sense, it will be a place of calm and of peace. For those of us that don’t have the space, the time, the energy to an outdoor garden space, you can create a small indoor garden space in your home. Indoor houseplants, small table gardens, or fairy gardens are great examples of bringing the outdoor inside. By adding candles or essential oils, a meaningful piece of art, poems, scripture cards, photos, music of nature such as bird songs or soothing rhythms, a comfortable chair, or a table fountain you can create a special space to withdraw.

A meditative garden is one way to create a physical sacred space—a place to go, setting all other things aside in heart and mind to center your focus on the Lord. In my next post I will describe how we can create sacred space around us and within us. I hope this post encourages you to set aside time to place yourself in nature. If you have a meditative garden or have ideas for our readers on how to get one started, please share by posting a comment on this blog. You can email me directly at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you! Thanks for reading -- Terri

References:

Health, healing and recovery: Therapeutic landscapes and the everyday lives of breast cancer survivors. Social Science & Medicine (English, Wilson, Keller-Olaman, 2008)

How to Deeply Connect Your Body with Nature. www.spiritualityhealth.com/blog/bess-oconnor/how-deeply-connect-your-body-nature

Does Nature Make Us Happy? Connections with nature are linked to happiness and ecological sustainability. (Price-Mitchell, 2014). www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moment-youth/201403/does-nature-make-us-happy

Patient’s recovery experiences of indoor plants and views of nature in a rehabilitation center. Work. (Raanaas, Patil, Alve, 2016)

Nature is the Best Medicine. The Environmental Magazine: Green Living with the Earth in Mind. (Johnson, 2007)

 


Your Brand of Beauty

Hello! So thankful for your continued support of Hearts Encouarged. I hope this post on beauty is a blessing to you. You are of such importance to God and I pray your trust and hope in Him flourishes as He reveals his unfailing love and enduring faithfulness to you.  Fondly, Terri

What brand do you support? Nike? Michael Kors? Disney? Samsung? Apple? Most of us advertise on behalf of our favorite brand because it’s on our clothes, phones, and accessories. We spend money on a specific brand because something about it causes us to find it reliable, to be of high quality, or it meets the level of excellence we need to support our activities. Now, having brought this to your attention I’d like you to consider that you, too, have a brand. Surprised? I’m serious--you are sharing your brand every day. Your brand is based on your interactions with people, your attitude, your responses, and acts--what you do and how you get things done. People perceive you in a specific way and that’s your brand.

Purple flowerThere is an abundant need in this world for your exact brand of beautiful.

–Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited

When I read this quote from Lysa’s book Uninvited, I loved it. Those words emphasizes that you and I possess a unique brand of beauty that impacts anyone who crosses our life path. These words inspire me, lift my spirit, give me a reminder that I don’t need to assimilate to the pattern of the world. I have a beauty given to me by the One who created me. And, I sustain and enhance that beauty as I apply the beauty regimen God has designed for me. Surprised, again? God has a beauty regimen? Read on my beautiful friend!  “I praise you because I am remarkably and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well....” (Psalm 139:14.) There’s more. You have this undeniable beauty that causes you to shine like a star in the universe when you refrain from arguing and complaining (Phil 2:14). When you choose and use the wisdom of God, a garland of grace adorns your head, a crown of beauty (Proverbs 4:9). When you interact with or respond to another soul from a heart filled with gentleness and a quiet spirit, you display an imperishable quality (1 Peter 3:4). The woman who places her hope in God beautifies herself in this way (1 Peter 3:5). This is your brand. This is my brand. Or, it could be.

Here’s one more verse about beauty and I think it’s hilarious. When I read it I started laughing because the image was so prominent in my mind. A beautiful woman who rejects good sense is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout (Proverbs 11:22). Can you picture it? The outer beauty of a woman is nothing more than a trinket in a pig’s snout when there’s nothing of beauty on the inside of that woman.

Poppy fieldWe hunger for beauty because it is a beautiful God whom we serve.

–Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand

Beauty brings us into places of healing, as well as into God’s presence.

– Jane Rubietta, Between Two Gardens

Yellow flowers

I believe the world is looking for beauty within people because their souls are starving for authentic relationships. Most people don’t know why they feel unsatisfied. And, they try to meet the need of their soul in various ways. God is beauty and we exhibit an aspect of that beauty when we extend the love of Jesus. You and I can bring healing with our words, a look, an act of kindness. The apostle Peter calls you and I to maintain an intense love for each other and to serve each other with the gifts we have received from God. Your gifts make up your brand. You, my friend, are known as a woman who…. Read that last sentence again and finish it in your own words. You get to develop your brand. It forms by following the example of Jesus and the examples of beauty in the bible. What do you think about giving some attention to your brand and considering how people perceive you? Whether you know it or not, people have assigned you a brand. You are known for a brand as it pertains to your work relationships, your leadership, your friendships, your servant attitude, and your display of Christ-like qualities. There’s no time like now to embark on a beautification of your heart! This is an opportunity to do a self-assessment for the purpose of sharing with the world your exact brand of beautiful that brings glory to God. Below are some starter questions to begin the assessment process. After the self-assessment, review the verses I provided above that highlight some of the ways inner beauty can be expressed and positively impact those near to you. Next, identify an area where your beauty can be more fully manifested. Fervently pray for what you need so you may experience the change you would like to occur. Here’s an example from my self-assessment. In my zealousness to advocate for the staff at work to ensure they are treated with respect, I may speak harsh statements about those who are not interacting with the staff respectfully. While my motives seem to be well-intended, those harsh statements show judgment and a lack of grace. My words reflect my perceived brand—harsh and judging. But, that’s not really my brand. I’m an advocate and I have a heart that cares about injustice. However, it doesn’t really matter who I think I am when the perception by others is different. As a result of this assessment, I need to find a better way to communicate to the staff my position of advocacy for them while remaining non-judgmental toward other involved parties.

Here are a few assessment questions to get you started! Ask yourself:

  • What would my closest friends say if I asked them what they would call “my brand of beauty”?
  • What beauty do I reflect from my heart, my personality, or my passions?
  • Do my words reflect the beauty of God within my heart?
  • Do my actions reflect the love of Jesus?
  • Does my attitude reflect a servant attitude much like Jesus during his time on earth?
  • How do I approach problems or issues? Do I currently display my brand of beauty in such moments? If not, what changes can I make?

I hope you found this post encouraging and enlightening. You and I are beautiful to God because Christ makes it so with his righteousness and with his sacrificial cleansing of our sin. The presence of the Holy Spirit within your heart gifts to you an inner beauty that cannot be exhibited without the Spirit. 

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts via the comment link. You can reach me directly at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com. Subscribe to this blog by going to the sidebar and entering your email. You'll get a confirmation from Feedblitz and then you're on the mailing list. Thanks for reading and share with a friend. Fondly, Terri

Rubber-duck-1401225_640

 


A New Day

Don’t you just love a good quote? You know the kind. It’s a quote that inspires the heart, expresses a lived truth, or one with an insightful revelation. It’s a quote that leaves you pondering and wanting to remember it or turn it into an action or attitude. Today’s post contains two quotes that I found inspiring. Dig in, ponder, and take what you need to live each day to the fullest and with a wellness attitude. Share how you approach each new day! We would love to hear your comments. Fondly, Terri   Alarm-clock-1191561_640Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live.

What a precious gift!

We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will

bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.

–Thich Nhat Hanh

I love this quote for its simplicity. Subconsciously, I realize each morning that I have this new day before me. Everything hinges on the attitude within me that rises from my bed. Yet before my toes hit the floor, I seldom contemplate the type of energy and attitude I’m bringing into the gift of a new day. If my life is working well and all things are in order, no hiccups, and no known problems on my plate, then I’m bringing a peace, a joy, a positive energy and attitude into my interactions with others. Those days are my best-lived days and it impacts everybody around me. But… There’s all those other days. The days where I have carried forward the previous days’ troubles and more. I didn’t think about whether I should. I, Terri, let it happen. And, I let it ruin the day. My attitude is stink-o, my energy level is low, and it there’s no doubt it impacts those around me. I’d like to think these types of days are far and few between.

Icon Hearts EncouragedThe truth is there have been times when it felt like difficulties stalked me from one twenty-four hours into the next. What happens to me is a belief settles into my heart and mind causing me to feel like there have been no days without trouble and turmoil. During those periods of difficulty, I have discovered the best way to live is within each hour. It’s about remaining very present so not to feel the burden and overwhelm. It’s enough to wonder how to take the next step. This is when we need a precision focus. We can find strength by narrowing our focus to what is directly before us. In this way, we can take note of any small victories in our situation. With a precision focus, we may see the tiniest detail that is working in our favor. We can take one small step after another and sense there is progress. Living within each hour with a precise focus helps us identify and appreciate what is working and enables us to find reasons to speak prayers of gratitude. We focus on the truth that God’s compassion never, never fails. We seek the peace of Jesus letting it fall like rain refreshing our soul, filling the empty places of our heart with His peace and even joy. Heart spaces known only to God. And in the midst of our circumstances, unaware, we shine the light of Christ as we move through our life hours with a hope and peace that is a mystery to those who know what we endure.

Desert flowerBe surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert,

and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting

forth like springs of fresh water from the depth of our pain.

–Henri J.M. Nouwen

I love that I, Terri, can be a beautiful flower in a barren desert with that desert representing the difficult times in my life. There was a period in my life when I mistakenly thought that I had to be a woman with a strength of character unmatched by anyone else because I’m a Christian. Probably this comes out of the perfectionistic side of my personality. Now, I know I don’t need to act as though my trouble is no trouble at all. That’s not what God wants from me. If I live as a woman who knows, deeply knows, God’s love for me, then this keeps me from being consumed because his compassion never fails me. I become, without effort, an unintentional light. If I live each hour from a place of steadfast hope, quietly waiting on God’s response, action, wisdom, presence, and faithfulness, then I’m presenting a peace of heart and mind that draws attention. Still not intentional, but noticeable. It’s our unintentional examples that capture the attention of the souls who wonder at us. The nature of our very personal relationship with God enables us to face trials and trouble differently. I am seen as that beautiful flower in a barren desert.

Water-lily-1857350_640King Solomon wrote of days of trouble in the following passage and it’s an insightful and encouraging reminder of how we can live.

"I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God."   Lamentations 21-24, The Message

Twenty-four hours, new every morning. God’s love, new every morning. His faithfulness over your life, endless, and it is the same for His love of you. Live encouraged!

Don't forget to share your approach to a new day. 

Comment on this post or email me at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com


Living Encouraged

Hello and Welcome!

Have you ever thought about encouragement as food for your soul? In this post you'll discover how living encouraged can uplift your spirit and your life. As always I look forward to your comments and hope you'll pass this on to those that might benefit from the message. Fondly, Terri

Living encouraged is more than a feel-good idea. It is a two-fold process in that God will provide external sources of encouragement while you provide an internal source of encouragement. As it concerns Jesus, he wants you to live encouraged in spite of the obstacles and hurdles before you. Troubles and difficulties can occur, will occur, or are occurring right now in your life. Even more so, Jesus wants you to live encouraged. How do I know? Romans 8:31-39 tells us. Read the verse below taken from The Message Bible. I have personalized the verse as if Paul were speaking directly to you. Linger over the words letting the depth of the message sink into your heart. “So, what do you think? With God on your side like this, how can you lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for you, embracing your condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for you? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for you—who was raised to life for you!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for you. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between you and Christ’s love for you? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture…. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between you and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced you.”

Those words extend a powerful promise and truth. We should choose to believe it as deeply as we are able and then even deeper still. God’s message to you is that nothing stands between you and Him. He’s telling you there is more to your life than what you’re experiencing in real time. The soul is the essence of who you are, residing in a physical body. God has invested in your soul, your life—through His Son. He sends the Holy Spirit as a personal Counselor, adopts you as a son or daughter, and grants freedom for your soul from anything that attempts to enslave it. All of this represents God’s encouragement and hope to you so your heart will not be discouraged but strengthened and empowered (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). He’s waiting for us to invest in a relationship with Him—an authentic, lasting commitment. In closeness to God our heart opens to receive the truth--God draws upon His unlimited resources to provide to you specific encouragements so you may thrive in heart and soul.  Balance
As God provides the external sources of encouragement, your part is to provide a steady source of internal encouragement for your heart and mind. The primary aspect of producing internal encouragement centers on balance. Balance is about avoiding extremes as it relates to our focus. We should monitor the focus of our thoughts, mindset, emotions, and attitude so we can remain in balance so to avoid falling into discouragement. There are three areas that can be a stumbling block and inhibit self-encouragement. These encompass our reflection on the past and anticipation of the future, self-judgment and self-condemnation, and an unbalanced focus.

Reflection

Reflection and review are of benefit until these become out of balance. The balance is altered when we consistently relive or reflect on past events depriving us of being fully present in the present. In turn, worry, anxiety, or stress on potential future events also prohibits us from being present in this day, this hour, this moment. I discovered I was not living well in the present due to out-of-balance reflection on the past and pre-emptive anxiety about the future. My thoughts and emotions were like a runaway train. My self-reflection of a single event would catapult into events over the last year and, at times, into the prior decade. My unbalanced focus centered on the choices and decisions I regretted, past mistakes, and my weaknesses. The result was a deep sense of discouragement. I didn’t realize how these episodes of self-reflection were devastating my ability to live encouraged in the day at hand. To establish balanced thinking patterns,  I established the “24 hour rule” to set a boundary or limit on my self-reflection focus. The 24 hour rule keeps my reflection on the past or my anticipation of the future within a plus or minus 24 hour window. Here are a few examples of how I use the 24 hour rule.

I reflect on the past 24 hours to acknowledge God’s provision, intervention, blessings, and favor.

I review my attitude, thoughts and conversations as well as actions and attitudes in the last 24 hours that may have wounded others or myself.

I review conversations, actions, attitude, and examples that may have encouraged others.

I confess sin behaviors that occurred within the last 24 hours.

I express gratitude and thanksgiving for what has occurred and in anticipation of God’s involvement in my life.

I seek God’s wisdom for a future need while eagerly anticipating His direction and intervention.

Barley-field-1684052_640The second area requiring balance and mindfulness is judgment and condemnation of self. There is nothing more discouraging to self than a continual streaming of negative internal self-talk. Balance is very critical when evaluating your life, your worth, and your purpose. Here are a couple tips:

Tip #1. Avoid self-depreciation, self-condemnation, and harsh self-judgment. It’s important to acknowledge a weakness, a sinful behavior, or disappointment in self but keep it in perspective. Acknowledge it, learn from it, and let go of it. Use the 24 hour rule to place a limit on any internal self-evaluation. Place your focus on how to prevent what occurred and seek Jesus’ direction and wisdom to resolve or limit future occurrences.

Tip #2. Acknowledge your unique contribution to the lives of those around you. Ask God to show you how you impact the lives that intersect with yours. This is highly encouraging as you recognize that God is using your life to fulfill His purposes. Remain humble thanking God for the opportunity to encourage and love others through your actions, words, and attitude. 

Wood-1246276_640The final area that can inhibit internal encouragement is an unbalanced focus. Where do you place your focus when you encounter difficulties or problems? Who is the primary focus of your life? You? Others? God? When your focus is out of balance, so goes your life. A laser focus on a difficult situation, problem, or person makes it appear much larger and more devastating. Anytime you feel trouble or difficulty is overtaking you, overwhelming you, or consuming your thoughts and emotions, then ask yourself:  

Am I controlling my thoughts? How can I become still in mind and heart? Where is my focus? What do I need to do to keep my focus centered on God? (James 4:8).

Am I using my power tool of prayer? It’s obvious but it needs to be the first thing rather than the last thing we do. Seek the Lord’s wisdom and direction. Be careful not to act or respond based on emotions such as fear or anger (John 14:13).

Do I need assistance from another source to help me readjust my focus? Do you need a professional counselor or psychologist, Christian pastor or minister, or a healthcare provider? It is a sign of wisdom to recognize and acknowledge your need for help. God uses multiple resources to help you to thrive especially when you face difficulties.

Is my focus turned inward? A focus on self can become detrimental if it creates unbalanced thoughts and emotions. When your focus is turned inward, you may miss out on the chance to encourage others and positively impact other lives with your unique gifts and talents. Your life is meant to intersect with other lives.

Do I have a focus on gratitude? Identify at least one positive thing that has occurred in your day no matter how small. There is power in acknowledgment.  Ponder, muse, or re-live any success, kindness, comfort, or laughter that you experienced today. Reflect on and acknowledge God’s presence in the events and conversations of your day.

Your thought life and attitude is a power source for keeping you encouraged. Living encouraged can become a way of life as you inject balance into your emotions, thinking, attitude, speech, and actions. God’s Word is the ultimate power source of encouragement. The Holy Spirit within you encourages your heart and soul. God leads you to receive encouragement through His people as they cross your path. Below are some other ways of thinking or attitudes to help you live encouraged. You might to create your own list of high-powered encouragement statements to say to yourself daily. As you and God encourage your soul, I hope you find your way to living encouraged every day and becoming an encourager to others.

High Power Encouragement Statements

Icon Hearts EncouragedEvery day is an adventure

Expect surprises

Don’t control – let go

You are fully understood by God

No need for pretense

You aren’t rejected by God

God is your firm foundation and you are safe and secure in His arms

Let your inner child-heart feel secure within His presence

Live with joy! Smile! Laugh!

Be open to adventure

Laugh at the future – don’t let a fear of the unknown enslave you

Lean into God

Lay your weakness at the feet of Jesus – let Him fill in the gap

Start the day asking God for an opportunity to encourage a soul

In tragedy or difficulty, live one step at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time

In the darkest hours, God is there – offer Him your faith and anticipate His comfort

Trust God to handle the future—He cannot be taken by surprise

Manage your response to your past – be balanced and seek God who will

give you the ability to forgive and receive forgiveness

Breathe in God—let the peace and love of God flow through your arteries and

veins straight to your heart God is your life—the lover of your soul

 


Be As A Bird

Gray-hawk-2082724_640

As one who is afraid of heights, I envy the birds. They fly so freely without fear trusting in the wind and their wings. I have watched the buzzards soar without a flap of their wings for minutes. They’re just a dot in the height of the sky. Slowly they glide closer and closer to the earth all the while trusting in the presence of the lift of the air. It’s incredible—do you think so, too? Of course, if you’re a sky diver, hang glider, or wearer of one of those wingsuits acting like Rocky, the Flying Squirrel, you probably don’t see it as a big deal. You’re one of those fear-free flying humans! And, I’m happy for you because trust is your middle name. I think it takes a LOT of trust to put oneself in the air like the birds. This kind of trust is the reason I am drawn to the following quote.

American-goldfinch-170602_640Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her,

still she sings all the same, knowing she has wings

– Victor Hugo

I wonder what would come to your thoughts if I asked if there has been a time when you felt like the branch was ready to break beneath you. Or, a time when you thought the ground would give way under you. I’ve lived those times when everything, yes, everything, felt uncertain, unstable, and fragile. Either I felt fragile or I felt the situation around me was fragile, unstable. I’ve never liked those times. I try to avoid deliberately entering those situations. But, health issues, family issues, financial changes, natural disasters, and more are thrust upon us and it can be completely unnerving. That’s when I need to become the bird in the quote. Though days may seem uncertain and fragile circumstances surround me, I’ll continue to sing knowing where my strength and song come from. There is no need of fear because there is strength in my hope in the Lord. The truth is that sometimes I remember this and sometimes I don’t. At least not immediately. I need to remind myself God is for me and my hope is not in vain.

Song…I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.

The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

Exodus 15:1-2

This Exodus verse is from Moses and Miriam’s song after the Israelites witnessed the power of the Lord to save them from the Egyptians. With their very eye they saw the power and strength of God. They saw the power of His love that saved them. You, too, are so loved by God. God is working in your life and knows exactly when you need Him to be your power, your wings lifting you up, out, and through those uncertain, fragile, and unstable times. Your strength of hope and trust becomes even stronger when you remember God’s nearness and knowledge of every detail of your life. Choose hope!

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us. O Lord, even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:20-22.

I believe when we live with a strong hope in God’s active presence in our life, we become a significant encourager to those around. While they may not ask you directly, it may cross their mind to wonder where does your hope come from? What is powering your perseverance, your courage, and your joy? It’s your message without words to those who see you as you live encouraged!

Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear from you either by comment or at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com. 

Blessing to you,

Terri


The Adventure of Journaling

Hello!

How are you? I ask with sincerity because I pray for you each morning. I know God knows who reads this blog and I seek blessings and peace on your behalf. I know I need as much peace and blessings in my life as God’s willing to give me so I figure you do, too!

Today’s post is about the practice of journaling and the creative uses and benefits of the practice. Yes, I know you don’t need one more “thing” to do but you might be surprised at how simple it is to journal. And, the benefits truly out-weigh the cost of your time and effort. It’s a great form of stress management. Journaling can help rewire your brain toward optimism and hope. It’s a fun, creative way to address problems, find solutions, and connect with our inner most self. You benefit physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Whether it’s prayers, praise or anything else you want to share with God—it’s what we’re invited to do. God wants you and I to pour out our hearts to him, bringing hopes and dreams, anxieties and worries, and requests and gratitude (Philippians 4:6, Psalm 62:8, Psalm 66:19-20, 1 Peter 3:12). Journaling is a great format for doing so. Let’s dive into the purpose of journals, the benefits of journaling, and the various types of journals you can create.

Journal pic 1

Purpose of Journaling

  • Journaling is a practice of self-care. You can be authentic and free to express in a safe manner all the feelings and thoughts that you can’t express in other ways.
  • Journaling is an activity where you move the thoughts and emotions held within your heart and mind and place these in an alternative format. The format is determined by you to utilize the best expression of those thoughts and emotions. It can take any form such as a map, a list, as art, as narrative, or freeform streaming of thoughts and emotions.
  • Your journal is a mirror to your mind and soul. You express what is within and this helps you to view your authentic self. Healing, growth, creativity, passion, dreams and more can be experienced and/or revealed.
  • Journaling is a process that frees up your mind. As thoughts and feelings are realized in an alternative format, the process opens pathways that were blocked or clogged with the concern, issue, or emotional turmoil. Your mind is free to take a rest.
  • Your journal is a memoir. As you place your inner most self in a tangible format (released from your heart and mind), you have an opportunity to take the position like that of a third party or observer. Observing yourself, as if from a distance, may help you understand with increased clarity and perspective. New insights may be revealed.
  • Journaling helps you to track habitual thoughts and emotions that may be unproductive or unhealthy. It brings the subconscious to your awareness so you can take charge of what and why of thoughts and feelings.

Benefits of Journaling

  • Did you know that studies on journaling revealed we benefit physically from the practice of journaling? Physical benefits include enhanced immune system, improved memory function, reduced anxiety and stress, decreased blood pressure, increased capacity to cope with distressing issues and concerns, better sleep, increased healing of the body particularly the skin.
  • There are spiritual benefits when you engage in journaling. Spiritual benefits include peace of mind, peace of heart, enhanced awareness of God’s active presence, a deepened belief and trust in the promises of God, and it helps you track God’s faithfulness in your life.
  • Journaling promotes a mindfulness of what we are thinking and feeling. Bringing awareness to your thoughts, thought patterns, emotional responses is one of the ways you can manage stress and your response to the events that happen to you and around you.
  • Journaling brings your focus to the positive aspects of your day and your life.

Journal pic 2

Types of Journals

Below are descriptions of a few types of journals you can create. You can have one journal that has two or three focus sections or two or more separate journals. There are many different templates for journaling available on the internet. Some examples include: Penzu.com/diary-template, Microsoft Word Diary Templates, or Evernote. You can have a writing journal or an art journal like me. The journal is to support you not to burden you. The journal should be part of your of practice of self-care and not an obligation. The purpose of your journal will be unique to what you need and want. I don’t write or draw in my journals every day. My journals are a creative outlet and it helps me connect with God. I have an art journal, a notebook where I write prayers to God, and I have a “word from God” journal. I encourage you to try the practice of journaling by using one of the ideas below.

Gratitude Journal

I love the gratitude journal! There is so much for me to be grateful for. But too often I fail to be in a mode of gratitude. For example, it’s not until I’m sick with a virus or other malaise that I recognize how grateful I am for my overall good physical health. When I write down what I’m grateful for this act keeps me in a mode of thankfulness. It moves me away from a heart and mind that dwells only on what isn’t right, what isn’t happening, and getting stuck in a cycle of criticism and negativity.

Brainstorm Journal (or Mind Map)

The brainstorm journal is great when you have a project or a passion that you are trying to bring to reality. The reason I love this journal is because it can be completely disorganized. I’m organized in every aspect of my life but this allows me to be the opposite. This journal has you place at the center of your Word doc or piece of paper an idea, a passion, a project, or even a problem. With the main concept in the center, you move from the center outward and place the words and/or images that come to mind around the center focus. For example, I brainstormed (mind mapped) my blog. At the center of my Word doc was the word BLOG and a stick figure of me. Then I pasted cloud images all around the word BLOG and filled each cloud with those ideas that would help me realize my project. For another example, go to the navigation bar on the blog site and find “I Get To…” This is an example of a Mind Map but is similar  to a Brainstorm Journal.

Scripture Journal

The Scripture Journal is a wonderful way to imbed impactful verses of the Bible into your heart and mind. I’m such a visual person and there are times when I read a particular verse I get an image in my mind. One day I was reading Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling, and was on day January 19. The writing said, “I am like a supersaturated cloud, showering Peace into the pool of your mind.” Well, immediately I imagined a cloud over my body gently raining drops of peace on my head and body. That image brought such a peace into my heart that I decided I needed to draw it. I didn’t want to lose that image. My scripture journal is an art journal of those verses that evoke an image in my mind that I want to remember because I believe it deepens my unique way of being in relationship with God. (I use high quality stick figures—you don’t have to be an artist is what I’m implying.)

Mindful Awareness Journal (Mindful Journal)

A Mindful Awareness Journal can have several purposes. For the journal to be effective you need to engage in the act of being mindful--being present and experiencing the present with full awareness. Here’s an example of being mindfully aware: I find a place to sit in quiet indoors or outdoors. I am purposefully aware and very present in the moment. I deliberately quiet my mind and body allowing my senses to become fully active. I let my senses have precedence over the movement of mind and body. I slow down to take in the details—sound, sight, smell, touch, taste. I focus on sounds and images present before me. I breathe in deeply the air making note of any scents. This very present awareness places me in a state of being able to receive. Receive what? The rhythm of nature, the peace of God, the presence of those with me. I use the Mindful journal to track whatever I experience or receive during my time in quiet awareness. Later, even weeks or months, I’m able to go back to what I perceived or experienced. Another use for the Mindful Journal is monitoring and document the ebb and flow of your emotions. Acknowledging what you’re feeling and allowing those feelings to surface has important health benefits. Yet another use for the Mindful Journal is related to food and diet. It can help you identify triggers for specific eating habits as you document what you eat, when you eat it, and what you’re thinking about before and during food intake.

Journal pic 3
Well Done Journal

A Well Done Journal is a fantastic way to capture your best self. In this journal, you congratulate yourself for what you have accomplished, goals achieved or achieving, mountains climbed figuratively or literally, or any small or big hurdle you have successfully conquered. You do so much good in your life and it often gets unacknowledged by you. Why do we need to congratulate our self? It’s great for us! Acknowledging what you do well keeps you motivated and encouraged. It’s promotes your confidence and feeds your soul. You are of such great worth to God and you are gifted by Him! When you recognize your unique contributions, it chases away self-condemning thoughts, internal criticism of self, and discouragement.

Faithfulness Journal or Prayer Tracker Journal

A Faithfulness Journal is where you capture God’s history of faithfulness, goodness, or presence in your life. This journal can double as a Prayer Tracker Journal as well. I started a journal documenting all the ways God had provided for me, sustained me in the past. I went all the way back to my birth. It was enlightening to go back through events hand in hand with God asking to be shown how He was there with me. At the time of those events I couldn’t see or understand God’s purpose and presence, but in reflection I saw with incredible clarity what I couldn’t see then—His nearness and His presence with me. I live in greater faith and trust because I invested the time to delve into God’s history of faithfulness to me. It’s that history that enables me to refuse to play with worst case scenario thinking and other non-productive thoughts. The Prayer Tracker also tracks God’s involvement in our lives. This journal involves documenting your prayers and then following up on these prayers with the status, response, or result. Regardless of the status of the prayers, answered or yet to be answered, it is good to track what we have brought before God because it can help to increase your focus on the active presence of God in your life.

If you have a type of journal that you find impactful and helps you live well, please share in Comments. I’d love to hear to from you. As always you can email me directly at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading! Terri

 __________________________

References

Barbara Montgomery Dossey and Lynn Keegan, Holistic Journal of Nursing, Sixth Edition (Sudbury: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013), 254.

Brian Luke Seward, Managing Stress: principles and strategies for health and well-being  (Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishing, 2006), 215.

Cyndie Koopsen and Caroline Young, Spirituality, Health, and Healing and Integrative Health: A Holistic Approach for Health Professionals (Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishing, 2011).

Kate Thompson, Therapeutic Journal Writing: an introduction for professionals (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2011).

www.samuelthomasdavies.com/journaling-template


Experiencing God's Presence

Hello!

It is a great privilege to write to you and I hope this blog post peaks your interest in God’s presence. In the Soul Focus we’ll explore the benefits of having a greater awareness of God’s presence. I hope you’ll be encouraged to believe that He is near you. Beside you. Always close.

Soul Focus

Experiencing God’s Presence

Though it’s a challenging topic, I feel passionate about increasing an awareness of the nearness of God. My main reason for this passion is I don’t want us to miss out on what God has for us. I know the Bible states many things about God’s involvement in our lives and of God’s nearness. I know that each of us experience God’s presence in a unique manner. And, I know I’m missing out on the benefits that come when I don’t acknowledge His presence with me. Let’s explore the possibilities of increasing our awareness.

There are various ways we can envision God. One way is a picture of God as being over all because of His nature as all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful. God is on His throne, majestic, holy, the Master of everything. Another vision we may see in our mind is Jesus on the cross. Perhaps it’s seeing Jesus, when he was on earth, in a home, on a path, in the storm, walking and talking with the disciples. Yet, when I take these views of God it places Him far from me, dwelling in the past, but not near and by my side. It’s easy for me to view God and Jesus in these ways, but it’s not so easy to live believing that He is so very near, here present with me.

Too often, His presence with me is not always at the forefront of my mind. I forget. And believe me, I don’t want to forget that He’s near. I need Him and I’m okay with needing Him. But that’s not all I forget. I forget that He hears my voice among all the voices on this earth. I forget that I’m not lost in the crowd. Too often I let myself be lulled into a false sense of aloneness forgetting that my Heavenly Father truly knows my heart. I forget that He sees the state of my heart with the turmoil, the hurt, the anger, the hopes, and the dreams. I forget that He truly knows me, Terri, more than anyone else. If I believe God is truly by my side, then what am I missing out on by not acknowledging His presence with me?

Aloneness

If my dominate image of God is that of Him distantly monitoring my choices and thoughts and how I’ve followed His ways or not, this sets me up for trouble and my thoughts becoming tangled. Why? Because I jump to assumptions as to God’s attitude toward me. I envision God as a critical reviewer of my heart and mind and our relationship becomes skewed. I step into a frame of mind of self-criticism and judgment. But, everything changes when I choose to view God beside me, near to me. Something changes within me. I am able to see God and I are doing life together—He’s guiding me, leading me, comforting me, teaching me, loving me, correcting me, delighting in me. Believing God is that close to me is the hard part. Sure, I have many days when I’m absolutely certain of His nearness. I’m so amazed and filled with gratitude over His care of me. I can hold onto that for hours and days. But there are other times when I can’t seem to feel, sense or believe God is near. Part of it has to do with forgetting to remember God’s promises within His Word and standing firm in my trust in those promises regardless of what I feel or don't feel.   Come near to God

Come near to God and He will come near to you -- James 4:8

God is near. God is present in my life. God always hears me. God is not affected by my doubts, tentativeness, or forgetfulness. The one that is affected is me. I am immensely affected. In my opinion, I believe the doubt, lack of trust, lack of confidence in His intimate nature gets in the way of my ability to experience the fullness of His presence.

There are so many situations and circumstances that have the capacity to overwhelm me. My desire is to choose to be overwhelmed by the presence of God in those times. My desire is to immediately call, reach, and seek God with such confidence that I can immediately be affected by His presence. Do you know why I want this? Because when I’ve asked God to draw near, He has. And when I’ve asked with an expectation of experiencing of His presence, I received it completely. I have chosen the word completely because, beyond forgetting, I can do other things that block my ability to experience God’s fullness of presence.

BarrierYou and I can set up barriers keeping us from experiencing the closeness of God. Here are a few examples: self-condemnation, self-judgment, comparisons, assumptions as to how God perceives you, experiences of rejection, striving to show your worthiness, doubt in the depth of God’s love, and more. When I started my journey with God, there were set in place plenty of barriers between Him and I. God has and continues to guide me to an awareness of what keeps me from experiencing the fullness of His presence. By giving God full access to my heart, He and I assess for any barriers and I do the work of tearing these down. Even today, I have a couple very stubborn default barriers. God’s word is the power tool of choice when knocking down or removing specific barriers between you and God. Other important tools can include professional counseling and prayer.

God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my life. 

Psalm 54:4 HSB

God has made a promise to us through Jesus. And, Jesus made this promise to His people, “I am always with you” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus proclaimed that he lets nothing comes between us and him and no one snatches us away from God (John 15:4; John 10:28-29). The barriers to experiencing the fullness of God’s presence are often within our control. One barrier that we have substantial control over is related to our capacity to be present in His presence.

I love God’s word and it has the power to encourage us and lead us to truth. Let’s encourage ourselves. Take a moment to read the verses below and let these resonate within your heart. Allow the words to become an image in your mind. Place yourself at the center of the image and experience it as real. Let the image and the words root in the garden of your heart.

Sunrise-165094_640For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.

Psalm 91:11 HSB

…I will turn darkness to light in front of them and rough places into level ground.

This is what I will do for them, and I will not forsake them.

Isaiah 42:16 HSB

Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me, for I take refuge in You. I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings until danger passes. I call to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me. He reaches down from heaven and saves me, challenging the one who tramples me. God sends His faithful love and truth. 

Psalm 57:1-3 HSB

The Lord your God is with you, he is might to save. He will take great delight in you,

he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

I hope your imagination gifted you with an experience of God’s delight and a quietness of heart and mind. I hope you imagined God commanding on your behalf, being your shelter, and battling for you. For me, it took the extra effort of taking God’s words from the page and imagining these as truth. I hope this post encouraged you to discover the increasing depth at which we can experience God’s presence in your life. If you're willing, please comment and share how you experience God's presence. Or, you can always email me directly at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com. Thanks so much for reading! Terri