Spiritual Wellness

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)

 


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


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

 


A Child's Heart - It's In You

Hello and Welcome-

My heart earnestly thanks those of you who have subscribed to the blog. You are my encouragers! Quite a few of you have encouraged me right into creating this blog! When you post a comment, I'm encouraged. When you "Like" a post, I'm encouraged. Just like you, my goal is to honor God and share His message. In turn I hope to encourage you to stay strong in your faith. Now, let's get to the Soul Focus.

Soul Focus:  A Child’s Heart—It’s in You

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Wow! Christmas is here. Family, friends, programs, presents, food, and a lack of rest. How did it go? In all of that busyness I wonder if you stopped to play. You know, play, as a child would. Don’t tell me you’re too old, too grown-up, too inflexible, or too whatever else. It’s good for you to PLAY! Before you were anything else, you were a child. You still are in God’s eyes.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1

One way to get in touch with your inner child is play. Think about your favorite activity as a child. What was your best toy? What did you do as a child that you loved but haven’t done for so many years? What fun activity did you do where time seemed to stand still? Here's an example from my childhood. I remember all the kids on my street playing tag in the late afternoon leading into sunset. We didn’t notice the waning light because we were just doing play and nothing else mattered. Not dinner, not the dim light, not the call of our parents. My plea to my mom was always" just 5 more minutes". 

If you're not yet swayed that play should move to the top of your To Do List, then how about I throw some science your way.

  • Play allows your brain to relax. Your mind needs to wander away from problem-solving tasks. By doing so, you increase your problem-solving potential when you go back at the task.
  • Play stimulates the five senses which is incredibly important for brain efficiency. It’s called neurobics. No kidding! Did you know that the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell) require continual and challenging stimulation? Our senses map to different areas of the brain and the sensory input helps us engage functions such as planning, problem solving and critical thinking.
  • The brain needs to be challenged in different ways. We get into habitual routines such as driving the same route to work, eating the same foods in the same eateries, using the same problem-solving technique over and over, and performing daily tasks in a similar routine. This makes for efficiency but it’s not that great for the brain.

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Clearly, I've established play is important for your brain. But, enough of the science. Here’s the practical reasons:

  • Play builds relationships. You are and always will be your child’s best first toy! Young or old you should be inviting your kids, family, and friends to play with you! Trips, activities, new experiences, games, art, sports, puzzles—play brings you together. It’s about the act of being together. Let go of the striving and competition.
  • Play reduces stress. Play stabilizes emotions. Researchers have found that coloring can reduce anxiety in adults and children.
  • Play is very good for our physical, emotional, and social health. And, it helps us spiritually as well.

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Play is probably one of most direct ways to getting in touch with your inner child. When I was a child I was amazed at the world, asked questions, and was in a continual state of wonder. My heart and mind were open. I received the world through a child’s heart. I met God with that heart.

One of the wonders of a relationship with God is how we can relate to Him. When I come before God as a child, I feel great comfort and security. I'm amazed how this shift in my thinking, in my approach toward Him, has changed the relationship. It has enriched my soul. But, this can happen only with an open heart. As for myself, I closed off my heart for specific reasons and that act has had consequences. It's taken a lot work to re-open my heart as it was when I was a child. With an open heart I'm more fully able to live as the woman God created me to be. How do I engage with the world through an open heart? For me, it starts with attending to the world with a child’s curiosity. I focus on the details of nature. I try to live with joy. I find ways to play. And, I make it a priority to connect with the child that lives within my heart. 

It's your turn. I would love to hear from you! Share your favorite childhood "play" memory. Share what you do today to keep the "play" in your life. Or, share how you relate to God as His child. You could inspire the rest of us to get our "play" on!!!  

Fondly, Terri

I Get To...

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There are plenty of things you get to do. With gratitude, take stock of everything that makes up your life.

What are three things you get to do today. Here's a few ideas: dream, play, create, and on and on. Be specific. Do one of your ideas today. Just for 5 minutes. Get lost in what you get to do!

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Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome. Like this post or share it on Facebook. 

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In 2017, I'll be posting excerpts from my unpublished book, Now That's I've Found You, God: Being in an intentional and authentic relationship with God. Be looking for more information in the next post on January 6th.

Post References

http://www.nifplay.org/science/overview/

Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? Renee van der Vennet. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07421656.2012.680047

Brain games: using neurobics to keep sharp. M. Galea. Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine July 2007 (297): 76-77

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336360521/play-doesn’t-end-with-childhood-why-adults-need-recess-too

http://www.huffingtonpost/com/stevanne-auerbach-phd/playing-adults_b_2338894.html


Soul Focus - When Eyes Meet, Souls Connect

How many people do you see? A strange question but an important one. If you were out and about yesterday, did you see the individuals that passed you? Specifically, did your eyes meet theirs? Did you acknowledge their presence in one small way? I'm thinking about a smile, a turn of your head toward them, a nod, or letting your eyes meet their eyes. Have you thought about the potential impact of a small acknowledgement and how that could be a gift for someone? We can't read hearts or know what's going on in others lives but what if your acknowledgement touched their heart?

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I know small acknowledgements make a difference because I've seen it. As I walk the often crowded hallways of the medical center, I choose to deliberately make eye contact with individuals who are coming toward me and give them a smile. I don't stare down people or scare them with a huge toothy smile. I save that for my friends! Kidding aside, there is a proper way to make eye contact. Eye contact should be brief somewhere around 4 to 5 seconds. If it's not acknowledged, we shouldn't sustain eye contact. Did you know brief eye contact (less than 4 seconds) or a glance in a person's direction to show acknowledgement is acceptable in nearly every culture? It's sustained eye contact or staring that may be interpreted as confrontational or disrespectful.

As individuals pass by me in the medical center, I specifically focus on making eye contact with those who look worried, tense, or lost. When they recognize I'm looking at them, more often than not, the person's face changes (their face softens, their eyes or mouth smiles back), they may nod or speak. They realize that I see them. In some instances, the person determines that my eye contact makes me approachable and they will say, "Can you help me?" or "Do you know...". This is one example of the impact of acknowledging that you see someone. When eyes meet, souls connect.

In our busy-ness during the month of December, we have a tendency to look through people or look past people. Even without the additional activities, when we are in each other's physical presence we may fail to look into one another's eyes because we're looking at phones, computers, or anything but the person directly in front of us. Recently, I registered for an appointment and the individual never looked at me until they handed me my paperwork. Their eyes were on the computer the entire time. For the person who has one experienafter another experience where they aren't seen, it can be disheartening. The soul cries out, "Does anyone see me? Does anyone care to see me and who I am?"

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At this time of year, we should remember that for some individuals the holidays magnify a sense of depression, loneliness, and anxiety. The end of a year and the beginning of a new one doesn't always provide a reason for celebration and hope. For those whose hearts are hurting, this time of year can intensify their pain. For all the reasons above, you and I need to see the people who pass by, sit next to us, work with us, speak with us, or serve us. 

We are all seen--seen by God. Yet, this concept can be difficult to believe by the one who feels they are unseen by the souls who pass through their life. One small act, one soul at a time. You have a chance to be an encourager for the person who is experiencing loneliness, depression, emotional turmoil or a sense of hopelessness. It all starts with being aware of those around you and actually choosing to see someone. It's how we can make a difference.

(Below are links and references for the above content if you want to learn more.)

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Note to Self - Be Encouraged

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strength those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

The greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to one's opportunities, and make the most of one's resources. --Vauvenargues

I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, accounting to what his deeds deserve. Jeremiah 17:10

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Thanks for being a reader!

Please comment and let me know

how this blog can encourage you!

 

References and Information

People at risk: Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that the rate of suicide increased with age for widowed, older men? The reasons for the increased risk for older men included financial insecurity, uncertainty about the future, and depression. Older men who are widowed often do not have a strong support system and this is one of the factors for the increased risk for suicide. Having this information helps us more quickly identify those people who may need additional support and help.

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml#part_145397

http://www.medicinenet.com/holiday_depression_and_stress/page3.htm

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

https://www.thebalance.com/business-and-social-etiquette-how-to-make-eye-contact-3514819

Greenlee, K. and Hyde P.S. (2014). Suicide and depression in older adults: Greater awareness can prevent tragedy. Journal of the American Society on Aging, 38 (3), pp. 23-26.

 


Soul Focus - Spiritual Wellness

Did you know that spiritual wellness aka spiritual health is considered a dimension of health wholeness? The professional health community (hospitals, cancer centers, hospice organizations) recognizes the significance of spirituality in several ways such as providing holistic trained staff and accessible sanctuaries. Health professionals encourage patients to express their spiritual self.

Why does it matter?

You are mind-body-spirit and when any one of these dimensions is out of balance your overall health is affected. When your spiritual-self is nurtured this enables the essence of who you are to be more fully manifested and the real you can shine bright!

Of course, your spiritual-self or spirituality is distinct from religion. If you were to reflect on spirituality, these types of questions might come to mind. How does my life bring meaning to this world? Am I connected to God and to others? Am I acknowledging my need for spirituality? Am I suppressing it? On the other hand, when you reflect on religion the questions have a different focus. How should I practice spirituality? Is there one practice that’s right? Is my soul thriving in my current practice? 1

Assess your daily need for spirituality--it's part of caring for your soul.

Generally, our physical health gets most of the attention because your body speaks to you through fevers, pain, numbness, fatigue, and other symptoms. You become attuned to your body’s language and respond to it to bring it back into balance and optimal wellness. What if you gave the same care to your soul? As your soul calls out for attention, internal and external noise causes interference and your soul’s voice goes unheard. You can tune into your soul through intentional listening, quieting your mind, and being present with yourself. By caring for your soul, you impact others. Nurturing your soul is a pathway to becoming an intentional nurturer of other souls moving through your life.

Here’s something to ask yourself: is my spiritual wellness important to me? If I make spiritual wellness part of my wellness plan, then could I live more well by giving attention to it?

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Cue Journal - Fostering Connectedness

At the heart of spiritual wellness is connectedness. All souls seek connectedness. I think we realize this as our life story unfolds bringing to our awareness the connections present and necessary for us to live well. My desire for connectedness is represented through this narrative—my soul is reaching out to yours.

Journal questions: How are you fostering connectedness to meet the need of your soul? Is it your presence at events that draw large crowds, in collaborations, or with team play? Do you prefer to connect heart to heart--your heart to another? Does your soul sing when you are connecting with your gifts, creativity, or nature? Think about how you connect. Be adventurous and open to experiencing connectedness in a different way.

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Encouragement

God, the one and only—I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, An impregnable castle: I’m set for life. –Psalm 62:1-2 The Message Bible

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. –David Henry Thoreau

Footnotes

1 http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/purpose/spirituality/what-spirituality