In many of my conversations with those who are grieving or feel as if they’re losing hope, I often hear self-condemnation. I hear them place judgment on their feelings and struggle, and this grieves me because I know how contrary this is to Christ’s heart for them. I also know how much harder our journeys become when we view ourselves and our emotions so critically. I’ve heard it said that much of the anxiety we experience stems from unresolved grief, which I take to mean sorrow pushed down, suppressed, and ignored.

Quote pulled from post with decorate background.

Healing doesn’t come from denial or a determination of the will but rather from leaning hard into Jesus and following His lead, however He leads and at whatever pace He deems best.

Walking Through Life’s Hardships by Chaka Heinze

Ever since my son died three years ago, I’ve struggled with some fear of the future. 

The crazy thing is I’m a champion of believing and telling people about God’s goodness. I will shout from the rooftops that I serve a God who loves me more than anyone else ever could and who proved it once and for all time on the cross.  

He has blessed me more than I deserve, surrounded me with incredible people, and held me through the darkest times. 

He is God. My Rock. My Fortress. My Redeemer. 

And yet too often, I live with a palpable fear of the future God has planned for me. 

Not my ultimate future. I know heaven will be glorious. Jesus will right every wrong, and joy will reign. My son, Landen, will greet me with the hugest hug and a smile on those dimpled cheeks. 

My heavenly future is secure. 

It’s my future in the here and now that worries me. Thoughts of what comes next can cause me to recoil within myself and run to safer distractions. 

A valid question might arise in your mind, “If she believes God is who He says He is, why does she struggle with any kind of fear?” 

 The truth is that in the past our very good and gracious God allowed intense pain in my life. I followed Him, and He led me into painful places. I trusted Him, and He allowed me to endure heartrending sorrow. I praised His name, and He still asked me to experience the very worst thing a parent can endure. 

The future brings a possibility of hurt. Even as a follower of Christ, I still live in a broken world, and bad things happen here. 

Chaka Heinze

I’m not going to give you a pat answer. Some hurts are deeper than a simple prayer, a casual scripture, or a kind word can reach. There are wounds that God Himself must tend to in His divine sovereignty and in His own time. Mine have been some of those. 

I don’t have all the answers, but I want to share what I am doing. I have decided to imitate my Jesus.  

Hebrews 12:2b on a graphic with design elements.

The Bible says, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV).” 

What made Jesus leave heaven’s perfection to come down to earth and endure a brutal death He didn’t deserve for crimes He never committed? We were the joy He clung to on that cursed tree. As He hung there your face and mine were among the pictures He saw in His mind’s eye. For Him, rescuing us and getting us safely home was worth sacrificing His everything.  

Chaka Quote pulled from post.

So I have decided in this time of uncertainty—with my future unfolding without my little boy in it—like Jesus, I will fix my eyes on the joy set before me.  

Jesus is that joy. With my far-off gaze on Him, I can see Him beyond my fear, pain, and wounds. 

I could end this by saying, “Fix your eyes on him.” And that would be a good platitude—a healthy goal. But Instead of an answer right now, I want to offer an invitation. I would rather show the things God is teaching me and allow him to use my story to benefit someone else.  

I want to offer you a ringside seat and reveal the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of the last few years adjusting to this new reality without my son.  

If you are facing fear, hardship, or heartache, perhaps we can walk together on a journey toward Jesus. I would love to join you in prayer and hope for whatever God might be doing in your life right now. 

Get to Know Chaka!

Online Engagement: Live Video

Chaka is a gifted author and speaker with Wholly Loved Ministries. She is a wife and mother of five who is intimately familiar with God’s love and faithfulness during times of struggle. The loss of her eleven-year-old son in 2018 served to increase her heart for encouraging and mentoring women facing hardships in their lives. Chaka is active in her local church, serves as a MOPS mentor, and is eager to glorify God with her writing. Find her at https://www.chakaheinze.com/

Listen to her grief journey Faith Over Fear episode 78 titled the Courage to Grieve

The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88 Faith Over Fear

In our dark and hurting world that is often antagonistic to biblical truth, we might feel tempted to surround ourselves with other Christ-followers and to insulate ourselves from the world. But that isn’t the life to which God calls us. Jesus said that you and I are the light of the world. We’re not meant to be hidden. Instead, God wants us to shine brightly for Him, recognizing that our world needs His life and hope now more than ever. Find Kimi: https://kimimiller.com/ http://whollyloved.com/meet-the-team Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Join the Wholly Loved Community Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails HERE. Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. What are some ways you’ve witnessed God’s light shining through others? 3. How did you feel when you were around those individuals? 4. What are some ways you believe God’s light shines through you? 5. When do you find it easiest to shine with the light of Christ? 6. When do you find it most challenging to shine God’s light? 7. What type of behavior would you equate to turning on the “flood lights”? 8. In what ways can such behavior prove counter productive? 9. When have you sensed God asking you to walk beside someone else when they felt as if their circumstances were particularly dark? 10. What are some ways you tried to bring light into their dark season? Episode Image Credit: Getty/drogatnev
  1. The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88
  2. John the Baptist and the Courage to Look Weird – Ep 87
  3. Podcast Recap: The Best of 2021 – Ep. 86
  4. Christmas with Mary and Joseph: Trusting God to Protect You – Ep. 85
  5. Christmas and the Magi: Trusting God to Lead You – Ep. 84

God's Unconquerable Light Shining in Our World's Darkness (John 1:5) Your Daily Bible Verse

Meet Our Hosts:Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comFollow Jennifer:https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/https://www.facebook.com/JenSlattehttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/Grace Fox has published hundreds of articles and authored 10 books including the award-winning devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus. Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and her husband celebrate three grown kids and eleven grandchildren.Subscribe to her weekly devotional blog and monthly update on her website: www.gracefox.comFollow Grace:Facebook: www.fb.com/gracefox.authorInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gracefoxauthor
  1. God's Unconquerable Light Shining in Our World's Darkness (John 1:5)
  2. Reflecting on God in the Night (Psalm 119:55)
  3. Bonus Episode! Introducing: Faith Over Fear
  4. De-escalating Conflict (1 Samuel 25:2-3)
  5. Truths to Remember When Facing Impossible Situations (Exodus 14:4)

planner and pens

*Note: This post first published on January 11, 2018.

Every birthday and New Year, I’m forced to take stock. Have I lived the past year well? Am I moving forward in faith? Can I reasonably recover from all my mess ups and mishaps and perhaps behave differently the next time around? Unfortunately, I fail much more often than I’d care to admit, but despite my mess-ups, mishaps, and downright failings, one thing remains certain and unwavering, as my guest today discovered while doing a little life-check of her own.

God among the bullet-points

By Jessica Brodie

Ever try to sum up your life in a bullet-list? It’s a weird, sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious exercise in self-absorption (if I’m generous, self-healing) that I tried one lonely New Year’s Day 13 years ago.

It went something like this:

  • Born January 19, North Miami, Florida
  • Lived with parents in small house near grandparents
  • Earliest memories: books, brown shag carpet
  • Age two, moved to better house
  • Favorites: banana trees, stripy sneakers, books, spiky grass, swing set, Mom’s typewriter
  • Afraid of everyone and everything

I should mention I was a full-fledged grownup when I did this, well into my career, married…old enough to have achieved some maturity. And at the end, I had a neatly printed six-page document filled with all the dysfunctions and quirks that had comprised my life. Right there, in black and white, I could see exactly how far I’d come.

Take that, Mean Girls of the Sixth Grade. Harrumpf.

Sure, I’d had my share of embarrassing failures and broken hearts, but a few lines later there was the college scholarship, the promotion, the kiss. Life went on. Ups, downs—they littered the page without discernible pattern.

“That’s just life,” I’d concluded—random, messy, beautiful, full of chance and happenstance, with me in the starring role. I saw how time and again I’d navigated a difficult circumstance with a solid, moral decision or confronted a tough issue by standing strong, staying true. I congratulated myself on my perseverance and gumption.

Ah, younger me.

I knew nothing.

See, all that time I thought I was steering myself through the tough times. But it wasn’t. It was God. Now I see the light.

Thirteen years later, I’ve had two children and gained two stepchildren. I’ve become a daily reader of Scripture rather than a casual Bible-thumber. I’ve experienced loss, single-momhood, near-poverty, and wealth. I’ve been to Africa and walked with lions, seen miracles happen before my eyes and within my body.

I’ve lived. And in living, I’ve come to understand how little any of it has to do with me or the choices I made. I’ve also come to see how lucky I am God has allowed me to experience this grand, majestic ride.

Recently, I tried that bullet-list exercise again—but this time, instead of chance and happenstance, I was struck by the master pattern I saw: God’s hand on everything. Every. Thing.

Why had I ever thought my life was random? It was a magical, God-orchestrated symphony. In every moment, big and small, God was there—guiding, maneuvering, until whatever He’d planned had been fulfilled … then leading me onto the next step.

That infertility struggle that seemed to last forever? Now I saw it so clearly pointing me toward humility and submission to God’s will.

That tough job where I felt so utterly alone? God was helping me rely on my internal chops—and Him—to be a better leader.

Today I look at my list and don’t regret any of the mistakes and painful moments I see. My only regret is all the time I wasted from worry.

And I see what I should have been doing all along: resting securely in the knowledge that God has our roadmap already printed out for us in the form of the Holy Bible.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” He tells us, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).*

Try the bullet-list for yourself and see if you, too, can tell all that God has done and is doing in your life.

*Bible verse taken from Biblehub.com

***

Author Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest continuously published newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/.

***

Let’s talk about this! In her book, Victim of Grace, author Robin Jones Gunn talks about taking an annual “Selah” where she hits the pause button and sort of takes stock of her previous year and what God might want to do in the year ahead. This really struck me because I have a tendency to stay so busy doing, I can miss observing all God has done or might want to do. Jessica’s post today encouraged me to hit the pause button this week, to take some time to prayerfully look over past journal entries, to meditate on Scripture, to contemplate all God has done.

What about you? Do you normally take time to remember and contemplate? If so, when and how? If not, how might doing so increase your sense of peace and awe for God? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88 Faith Over Fear

In our dark and hurting world that is often antagonistic to biblical truth, we might feel tempted to surround ourselves with other Christ-followers and to insulate ourselves from the world. But that isn’t the life to which God calls us. Jesus said that you and I are the light of the world. We’re not meant to be hidden. Instead, God wants us to shine brightly for Him, recognizing that our world needs His life and hope now more than ever. Find Kimi: https://kimimiller.com/ http://whollyloved.com/meet-the-team Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Join the Wholly Loved Community Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails HERE. Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. What are some ways you’ve witnessed God’s light shining through others? 3. How did you feel when you were around those individuals? 4. What are some ways you believe God’s light shines through you? 5. When do you find it easiest to shine with the light of Christ? 6. When do you find it most challenging to shine God’s light? 7. What type of behavior would you equate to turning on the “flood lights”? 8. In what ways can such behavior prove counter productive? 9. When have you sensed God asking you to walk beside someone else when they felt as if their circumstances were particularly dark? 10. What are some ways you tried to bring light into their dark season? Episode Image Credit: Getty/drogatnev
  1. The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88
  2. John the Baptist and the Courage to Look Weird – Ep 87
  3. Podcast Recap: The Best of 2021 – Ep. 86
  4. Christmas with Mary and Joseph: Trusting God to Protect You – Ep. 85
  5. Christmas and the Magi: Trusting God to Lead You – Ep. 84

Quote graphic

Most of want to be the type of person who notices those standing on the fringe, welcomes them close, and creates safe places where they can experience Christ. At least in theory. In practice, however, many of us discover how challenging and at times uncomfortable and convicting it can be to build relationships with those from hard places and an abundance of rough edges. 

Life gets messy when we invite others in; when we reach out to the wounded. Simple and seemingly benign conversation can unexpectedly grow tense, our actions, at times, misaligned, and our best intentions viewed with skepticism if not contempt. And this hurts, not just from the sting of rejection. I’m convinced our greatest discomfort stems from the ugliness these interactions reveal within us. 

At least, that’s what I find most difficult. I’d like to say, when others challenge my peace, I immediately turn to Jesus and seek His strength in my weakness. I do that on occasion, but not nearly as often as I’d like. 

And I’m forced to wrestle with the disconnect between all those feel-good slogans about loving one’s neighbor I splatter across social media and my real life behavior. The seeds of sin lurking, otherwise unnoticed, within. In that moment, I have a choice: I can withdraw and surround myself with those who believe and behave as I do, those who are relatively easy to get along with, progressively insulating myself from the very people God calls me to love. I can respond to anger with anger, distrust with distrust, and contempt with contempt, often finding numerous reasons to justify my behavior. 

Or I can courageously lean into grace, yielding to Jesus and trusting Him to grow me through every uncomfortable moment and unfiltered word I regrettably blurt. When I withdraw, I become stagnant and increasingly Pharisaical. I develop an “us-vs-them” mentality that feeds my pride and starves my love and grace. I grieve my Father’s heart and self-protect myself out of the life, the calling, He planned for me. Similarly, when I give in to my sinful reactions, although this might feel momentarily gratifying, guilt and regret always follow. When I choose to yield, however, amazing and life-giving things occur—within me, within others, and within my community. 

I wonder how many of the ancient Israelites grappled with these issues as God led them through the wilderness and toward the land He’d long promised them. Having spent their entire lives enslaved in a pagan country, they couldn’t fathom what true freedom looked like—from their physical bondage, yes, but also from the even more oppressive shackles of sin. They had heard of God. They’d seen Him do miracles in their midst, but they’d never learned to live as His beloved, chosen, and redeemed children. 

They were the epitome of babies in the faith, called by their Creator to a whole new life. That journey alone would’ve been challenging. They were traveling through a desert wilderness, with whining little ones in tow, after all. Therefore, they no experienced all the frustrations that come when imperfect people live, day in and day out, with other imperfect people. Siblings, inlaws … and all the foreigners who, upon seeing God’s power, fled Egypt with them. 

Numbers 11:4-6 state, “Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. ‘Oh, for some meat!’ they exclaimed. ‘We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!’”

If you follow the story, you’ll see the complaining that began with these foreigners and soon infected the entire camp led to unfortunate the consequence. Some of the Hebrews might have thought, then, that these outsiders who tagged along with them through the desert were to blame for the Israelites’ poor behavior and the suffering that followed. They might even have been tempted to distance themselves from the foreigners among them. But that wasn’t what God called them to, nor what He calls us to. 

He doesn’t want us to self-protect. Instead, He invites us to strengthen ourselves through Him so that, like Jesus, we can show love to the grateful and ungrateful, the honorable and dishonorable, the pleasant and at times infuriating, alike. When we do, we learn to live more consistently connected to and dependent on our Savior, grow just a little more like Jesus, and reveal the beauty and transformative power of grace. 

Those blessings come, in abundance, when we willingly embrace discomfort to follow, with a sometimes stumbling and limping gate, the One who invites us to play a part in His redemptive mission. Although the road won’t likely be easy, I guarantee it will never lead to regret.   

God's Unconquerable Light Shining in Our World's Darkness (John 1:5) Your Daily Bible Verse

Meet Our Hosts:Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comFollow Jennifer:https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/https://www.facebook.com/JenSlattehttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/Grace Fox has published hundreds of articles and authored 10 books including the award-winning devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus. Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and her husband celebrate three grown kids and eleven grandchildren.Subscribe to her weekly devotional blog and monthly update on her website: www.gracefox.comFollow Grace:Facebook: www.fb.com/gracefox.authorInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gracefoxauthor
  1. God's Unconquerable Light Shining in Our World's Darkness (John 1:5)
  2. Reflecting on God in the Night (Psalm 119:55)
  3. Bonus Episode! Introducing: Faith Over Fear
  4. De-escalating Conflict (1 Samuel 25:2-3)
  5. Truths to Remember When Facing Impossible Situations (Exodus 14:4)

Grace quote

Most resolutions fail because they focus on cleaning the outside of the cup (Matt. 23:25)—behavior modification—without dealing with the internal factors that fuel our actions. True and lasting change goes much deeper, to that which drives everything else—our good habits and bad, our acts of love and sin, and our fears and our faith. 

God revealed this truth to me decades ago when I was battling what seemed like an unconquerable eating disorder and intense emotions that often felt out of control. I went to church on Sundays and sang about the all-encompassing grace of Christ, determining to love others like He loved me, only to snap at my daughter, gossip about a friend, and get into an ugly fight with my husband once home. I was a mess, as was my marriage and some of my closest friendships. I knew I needed to live differently if I wanted to experience the joy and peace Christ promised, if I wanted to be the “new creation” Scripture proclaimed. (2 Cor. 5:17).

“Lord, help me, please,” I cried, night after night, making all sorts of promises to Him and myself: The next I day would be different. I’d be more loving, kinder. I’d use words that built up rather than tore others down and wouldn’t get so caught up with the bathroom scale or what I consumed. I’d read my Bible and pray more.

I developed quite a list of dos and don’ts, habits I wanted to incorporate and those I wanted to drop, and a strong desire to follow through. And if I tried hard, if I remained focused on my goals, I could reach them … for a few days, a week, sometimes even a month. 

But I never found freedom. 

Then one night, after having broken my vows yet again, I poured my heart out to God. I felt so weak, like such a failure. I remained there for some time, tears streaming down my face as all my flaws replayed through my mind. But then God shined His light deep into my soul, revealing the roots of my behaviors and why I wasn’t living in the victory Christ had already won for me. 

My battle wasn’t over what I did or didn’t eat, say or do. My problem stemmed from my heart: misplaced loves. Idolatry of myself. Turning to food, entertainment, or shopping for comfort instead of pursuing the soul-deep healing that can only come from Christ. 

That was a life-changing moment for me that I’ve never forgotten, one that has radically changed my goals. Because I know, if my heart is right and fully centered on Christ, everything else will follow. (Proverbs 4:23).

Or to phrase it differently: every behavior, the positive and negative, and accidentally blurted word, flows from the heart. 

So, here’s what I plan to focus on in the year ahead: 

  • I will create margin in my day and week to sit quietly with my Savior, knowing anything good in me comes from Him. And I’ll learn to practice “the pause” more consistently—when I sense frustration, pride, or selfishness rising within, when anxious thoughts threaten my peace, or simply when I begin to feel fatigued. With God’s help, I’ll remember to close my eyes, to breathe deeply, and remind myself of His presence, if only for a moment, knowing every minute spent with Him fortifies my soul. 
  • I’ll trust God to fight my battles. My all-powerful Creator handles them much better than I do, anyway. He knows everything I’m facing, all that lies ahead, and how He plans to use it all for my good and His glory. 
  • I will learn to live in my true identity as His beloved and empowered child, because I know how identity impacts behavior. I won’t live as an orphan who must earn God’s love, who must hide from Him when I fail. Instead, I will consistently turn to Him, my tender and attentive Father, to receive mercy, strength and comfort in my time of need. (Hebrews 4:13). And I will listen for His guidance, knowing He is growing and healing me day by day and prayer by prayer. 

I invite you to join me as together, we choose growth over perfection and connecting with Christ over striving, because that is the life to which we’ve been called; the life Christ died to give us.

New Year quote graphic

Consider that habit you’ve long tried to break, that behavior you’ve consistently fought against. What might God want to reveal regarding its root?  

Some resources to help you stand firm in faith and experience increased freedom in the year ahead:

Fighting Fear With Faith: 30 Daily inspirational messages sent directly to your inbox. Subscribe HERE.

Your Daily Bible Verse podcast: Each 6-10 episode discusses one or two verses and how we can apply their truths to our lives. Listen HERE.

Faith Over Fear podcast: Each episode tackles common fears that hinder our freedom and our calling while discussing the truths that expel them. Listen HERE.

Grow closer to Christ through one of Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plans found HERE.

~*~

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook or Instagram

Sometimes in my most stressful moments, especially this season, I sense God asking me, “Why is this thing you’re fretting over so important?”

Have you ever paused to consider that question? When you’re frustrated because your grocery store is out of fresh green beans and you’ll have to buy frozen? Or maybe when you’ve searched ten stores for that item you know your spouse or child wants and still haven’t found it? Or when you’ve been too busy or tired to put up decorations or to perform whatever task you’re certain will make this Christmas perfect?

Maybe this is a sign of my age, but I’m learning to appreciate and prioritize the most important things. Or, perhaps to phrase it differently, I don’t want to forfeit a peaceful home and heart, relaxed time with my family, silliness and laughter, and memory-making moments for a perfectly roasted turkey. In fact, if I had to choose between eating convenient store hot dogs with my family and a perfect holiday meal surrounded by tension and strife, I’d choose the former every time.

I suspect if asked, most of us would say the same. We just need periodic reminders.

Reminders that:

  • Our attitudes will affect our joy, and potentially our loved ones’ as well, this Christmas more than any gift we give or receive.
  • The house we so frantically clean before company comes over, if used well, will soon become cluttered with jackets placed here and there, discarded wrapping paper, dirty dishes in the sink, and plump little handprints on our windows.
  • Many of the presents we spend so much on this year will eventually be long forgotten.
  • Our smiles, our kind words, the atmosphere of peace and joy we help create, and the way others feel when they’re around us–those are the gifts people will remember for a lifetime.

And when we begin to carry the weight of trying to please someone else, to somehow prove, through our cooking or decorating, cleaning or baking, that we’re a good mother or wife or human being, may we pause and ask ourselves, “Is that really what I choose to be defined by?” And, “Is this person I feel compelled to impress worth my joy and peace?” And perhaps most importantly, “Why does this person trigger my fears of rejection so?”

Because here’s the thing. We might think someone else–their critical or judgmental nature–causes our anxiety. In reality, our inner angst reveals wounding within us and places where we aren’t fully anchored in our true identity in Christ.

This means our most uncomfortable interactions are actually personal growth and healing opportunities. May we see them as invitations to slow down and seek God’s heart, allowing Him to search every wounded and insecure crevice within us, so that He can heal and then fill it with His love.

Oh, what a gift that will be! One that will extend far beyond our tinsel, burnt gingerbread cookies, and over-cooked stuffing.

This, my friends, is the message of Christmas: You are loved. You are loved in your dirty house, cookie-fail, dry turkey, imperfect state by the One who entered into our world to show us what true love looks like.

What’s more you are loved to love. Honestly, that’s our only assignment this Christmas, the one way we can create the most precious–and eternally enduring–memories.

Priceless moments, if we prioritize our to-do list above our presence, that we could easily forfeit.

Friends, that’s much too high a price to pay for any four-course meal, no matter how savory.

What are some things you can release this Christmas, be they seemingly necessary but truly inconsequential tasks, a peace-stealing desire for protection or a drive to please someone who perhaps you can never please-to hold tight to magnify the joy of Christ within you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

If you struggle with a fear of rejection, you might find THIS encouragement helpful. I also encourage you to sign up for my 30 Days of Fighting Fear With Faith Campaign. Then you will receive daily truths designed to increase your godly confidence and freedom. You can sign up HERE.

And make sure to listen to the latest Faith Over Fear episode.

The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88 Faith Over Fear

In our dark and hurting world that is often antagonistic to biblical truth, we might feel tempted to surround ourselves with other Christ-followers and to insulate ourselves from the world. But that isn’t the life to which God calls us. Jesus said that you and I are the light of the world. We’re not meant to be hidden. Instead, God wants us to shine brightly for Him, recognizing that our world needs His life and hope now more than ever. Find Kimi: https://kimimiller.com/ http://whollyloved.com/meet-the-team Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Join the Wholly Loved Community Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails HERE. Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. What are some ways you’ve witnessed God’s light shining through others? 3. How did you feel when you were around those individuals? 4. What are some ways you believe God’s light shines through you? 5. When do you find it easiest to shine with the light of Christ? 6. When do you find it most challenging to shine God’s light? 7. What type of behavior would you equate to turning on the “flood lights”? 8. In what ways can such behavior prove counter productive? 9. When have you sensed God asking you to walk beside someone else when they felt as if their circumstances were particularly dark? 10. What are some ways you tried to bring light into their dark season? Episode Image Credit: Getty/drogatnev
  1. The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88
  2. John the Baptist and the Courage to Look Weird – Ep 87
  3. Podcast Recap: The Best of 2021 – Ep. 86
  4. Christmas with Mary and Joseph: Trusting God to Protect You – Ep. 85
  5. Christmas and the Magi: Trusting God to Lead You – Ep. 84

If this Christmas feels hard, you might enjoy Grace Fox’s short Bible discussion on Matthew 1:23 titled Good News For When Christmas Feels Anything But Joyous.

And … if you’re on Facebook, I invite you to join me for a fun book launch party where I’ll be giving away copies of my upcoming release, Her Small Town Refuge.

About the book:

To secure the future she’s been wishing for,

she must earn her boss’s trust.

Escaping to the Texas Hill Country with her daughter for a vet tech internship is Stephanie Thornton’s chance at a safer life. But when medicine goes missing from Caden Stoughton’s struggling vet clinic, all evidence points to Stephanie. With the new life she’s been searching for hanging in the balance, Stephanie must convince Caden to trust her with his business…and his heart.

Find it HERE.

By Jodie Bailey

(This post first published HERE.)

I clearly remember the Christmas when I was broken. When I felt like heaven was closed and there was no way God was thinking of me.

It was the same Christmas that Jesus put me back together again and reminded me that He sees me. He sees you. Always.

I was 21, in college, and working part-time processing foreclosures for a real estate attorney. My aunt–who was more like a mother–was dying. My family had gone through a series of faith-challenging events that had left us rattled. I was lonely, scared and, frankly, exhausted. Honestly, I hardly recognized myself. 

Needless to say, the week before Christmas I was not feeling the spirit. At all! I was seeking joy in lights and tinsel and gifts, but it simply wasn’t there.

The week before Christmas I was not feeling the Christmas spirit. I was seeking joy in lights and tense and gifts, but it simply wasn’t there.

Our office adopted a family for Christmas and purchased a small tree which, it turned out, they didn’t need. I had our office manager put it in my car so I could deliver it to a friend who couldn’t afford one for Christmas, but as I was leaving work, my friend said she didn’t want one because the family had chosen to be content with what they had. On top of my already foul mood, the refusal of that tree felt insulting.

So there I was, in full Grinch mode, with a live Christmas tree in my backseat and nowhere to take it. 

To add insult to injury, when I got in the car, the gas needle read empty, so I stopped at a station where I almost never stopped. Back then, you had to go inside and pre-pay, so off I went. The guy at the next pump looked at my car and, all Christmas smiles, said, “Hey! Are you headed home to decorate your tree?”

I’m sure he didn’t expect my response as I stomped by him. “Nope. I don’t even want the thing. You can have it.”

When I came back outside, a woman was standing by my car. I’ll never forget her. She had long light brown hair and was wearing jeans and a brown sweater. She was maybe ten years older than I was and she looked as tired as I felt. When I walked up, she hesitantly said, “Did I hear you say you were giving away the tree in your car?”

When I offered her my sharp yes, the wildest thing happened.  

God is working graphic

She started to cry.  

Pointing to her car at the next pump over, she said, “I lost my job and just told my kids today that we couldn’t afford a tree for Christmas. And here you are, giving one away.”

I honestly don’t remember if she said anything after that. I was too stunned: literally shocked into silence which, if you know me, rarely happens. I do remember her helping me get the tree out of my backseat and into hers and watching her drive away.  

That feeling still hits me when I think about that cloudy, damp, cold evening. A sense of right. Of purpose. Of God never forgetting us and never turning a blind eye to our lives. After all, He says over and over in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us.

See, I was not my best prayerful self during that time of my life.  I’d prayed and prayed for God to move, but the sickness and death kept coming. I was angry with Him for what I perceived to be His silent indifference. It felt like my family was at the bottom of a pit waiting for someone to bury us. Adding to the pain, I was coming out of a season of personal choices I had never imagined I was capable of making. I felt forsaken, hopeless, and alone: like God had opted to turn away from me.

I often wonder if that lady at the gas station felt the same. Jobless and alone at Christmas, trying to care for her children, possibly with no help in sight. But there, in the fluorescent lights of a suburban gas station, God stopped us both. He made sure we saw one another. He reminded both of us that He is exactly who Hagar proclaimed him to be in Genesis 16:1, “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’” 

God stopped us both. He made sure we saw one another. He reminded both of us that He is exactly who Hagar proclaimed Him to be in Genesis 16:13.

Sometimes it feels like we’re lost in our circumstances or choices, like God has turned His back on us. But He hasn’t. Over and over again, He promises never to leave us or forsake us. He says it in Deuteronomy 31:6 and 8, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5-6… and in so many more verses. My daughter’s childhood favorite, Joshua 1:9, says it clearly: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Christ's light graphic

We might feel alone and unseen, but we never are. Ever! God is always there, always working one step ahead of us, even when we don’t see it.” Because who’d have ever thought a tree bought for one family would make its way into the hands of a Grinch who God would use to bless another family? 

Trust that He sees you and He’s at work, even when circumstances seem dire. And that, as He said in Habakkuk 1:5b, “For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

Have you ever felt lost and unseen?  Looking back, can you see how God revealed that He really did see you?  Maybe it was an unexpected phone call or an exceptionally beautiful sunrise. Take a moment to look at those dark times in a different light, searching for those moments when God said, “Hello, dear one. I am right here with you.”

Get to Know Jodie:

Jodie Bailey is the USA Today Bestselling author of over twenty inspirational romance novels. She is passionate about writing stories that tell the truth about freedom in Christ. As an Army wife, her favorite heroes to write about are naturally soldiers. She believes that chocolate, coffee, and the beach can cure all ills. Jodie lives in North Carolina with her husband, her kiddo, and a yellow lab who is pretty certain she is the center of the universe.

Visit her online.

Check out her latest release, Captured at Christmas:

An undercover investigation

becomes a mission to keep everyone alive

Undercover with an infantry unit to investigate a theft, military investigator Captain Rachel Blake doesn’t expect the holiday assignment to turn into a protection mission. But when Captain Marshall Slater and his little girl are targeted, she blows her cover to help shield them. Can she figure out the assailant’s motives and stop the attacks before someone ends up dead?

Buy it HERE.

Make sure to check out the latest Faith Over Fear episode:

The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88 Faith Over Fear

In our dark and hurting world that is often antagonistic to biblical truth, we might feel tempted to surround ourselves with other Christ-followers and to insulate ourselves from the world. But that isn’t the life to which God calls us. Jesus said that you and I are the light of the world. We’re not meant to be hidden. Instead, God wants us to shine brightly for Him, recognizing that our world needs His life and hope now more than ever. Find Kimi: https://kimimiller.com/ http://whollyloved.com/meet-the-team Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Join the Wholly Loved Community Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/443325386241769 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails HERE. Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. What are some ways you’ve witnessed God’s light shining through others? 3. How did you feel when you were around those individuals? 4. What are some ways you believe God’s light shines through you? 5. When do you find it easiest to shine with the light of Christ? 6. When do you find it most challenging to shine God’s light? 7. What type of behavior would you equate to turning on the “flood lights”? 8. In what ways can such behavior prove counter productive? 9. When have you sensed God asking you to walk beside someone else when they felt as if their circumstances were particularly dark? 10. What are some ways you tried to bring light into their dark season? Episode Image Credit: Getty/drogatnev
  1. The Courage to Shine a Light for Jesus – Ep. 88
  2. John the Baptist and the Courage to Look Weird – Ep 87
  3. Podcast Recap: The Best of 2021 – Ep. 86
  4. Christmas with Mary and Joseph: Trusting God to Protect You – Ep. 85
  5. Christmas and the Magi: Trusting God to Lead You – Ep. 84

And the latest Your Daily Bible Verse podcast episode:

God's Unconquerable Light Shining in Our World's Darkness (John 1:5) Your Daily Bible Verse

Meet Our Hosts:Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comFollow Jennifer:https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/https://www.facebook.com/JenSlattehttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/Grace Fox has published hundreds of articles and authored 10 books including the award-winning devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus. Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and her husband celebrate three grown kids and eleven grandchildren.Subscribe to her weekly devotional blog and monthly update on her website: www.gracefox.comFollow Grace:Facebook: www.fb.com/gracefox.authorInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gracefoxauthor
  1. God's Unconquerable Light Shining in Our World's Darkness (John 1:5)
  2. Reflecting on God in the Night (Psalm 119:55)
  3. Bonus Episode! Introducing: Faith Over Fear
  4. De-escalating Conflict (1 Samuel 25:2-3)
  5. Truths to Remember When Facing Impossible Situations (Exodus 14:4)

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and follow her on Instagram.

Quote on showing Christ's love with Christmas background

(This post first published on December 5, 2019)

Unfortunately, when I most need Christ’s strength is often when I’m least apt to seek it. When I most feel rushed and overwhelmed, somehow I deceive myself into thinking I can handle the situation and my responses. And perhaps, for a while I can, but the more I rely on myself, the weaker and less loving and grace-filled I become.

As the bustle of Christmas approaches, along with the obligations and gatherings frequently attached to it, I’m reminding myself of this long-verified truth: I am hopeless and helpless without my Savior. Whenever I forget this and allow busyness to steal those precious, soul-fortifying moments I know I need, I reveal though I claim He’s the source of everything good and right within me, somewhere deep within I’ve believed a potentially destructive lie: That I’ve got this, whatever this may be. The longer I operate in that falsehood, the weaker I become and the closer I edge toward hurt and regret.

About five years ago, our family learned a local youth would soon be out of a home, so, though our schedules were full, we took this child in. Though we anticipated challenges, the arrangement proved exponentially more difficult than we could’ve imaged. The teen was hostile, rebellious, and prone to angry outbursts. Our once peaceful home soon morphed into one frequently filled with yelling and slamming doors.

I knew every destructive behavior this teen displayed came from a place of deep pain. I knew Jesus was the only One able to heal this child, and I so longed to continually point to the life-transforming power of Christ. I longed to reveal that power within me, through my words and actions. The problem was, I routinely felt overwhelmed, chasing one responsibility from the next, I had little time for anything other than what I call “shout out” prayers—those frantic requests tossed heavenward as one runs from problem or obligation to the next.

Whenever I put off my time with Christ, I quickly regretted this. I’d respond in frustration rather than grace, reflecting back what I’d received from the child rather than the love of my Savior. Yet each time I pulled away to rest in God’s presence, whether for a moment or ten, His peace washed over me, strengthening and refreshing me as He spoke tenderly to my soul. And almost always, He cleared my vision, giving me a depth of understanding, and with this, compassion, I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Jesus put this it this way: “Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me” (John 15:4, NIV).

Christ’s words make me think of Galatians 5:22-23, which says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (NIV).

Notice, the writer didn’t say, “Now the Spirit helps Jennifer produce love and joy and self-control.” No, text pulled from post with an image of woman standingit says the Holy Spirit produces these traits within me. As I yield to Him, His power expands within me, giving me strength in place of weakness, patience in place of frustration, and self-control where tempers once flared.

Christmas will be busy. I’ve long since succumbed to this truth, and likely events, recipes, and relational interactions won’t quite go as I’d hoped. I can’t prevent the oven from breaking, my neighbor from fuming, or great-aunt Janice from throwing a fit when traditions aren’t followed as she desires. But I can always draw near to my Savior and yield to His love and grace, flowing first within and then without, me. I’ll likely regret numerous things this holiday season, but I know with certainty I’ll never regret that.

Let’s talk about this. How do you stay connected to Christ during busy and stressful seasons? What are some ways you plan to prioritize your time with Him this Christmas.

You might find Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace helpful:

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalThis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.

Grab your copy HERE.

Additional resources:

Preparing Our Hearts For Christmas, Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan on YouVersion:

This holiday season, take some time to slow down and reflect on God’s goodness and the precious gift of Christ with us.

Find it HERE.

Isaiah 9:6 on an image with Christmas candles in the dark.

We’ve barely entered December, and I’m already tired. I’m suffering from a bit of the bah humbugs that probably come, at least in part, from the shorter, colder and drearier days. I’m tempted to coax through the holidays, and, honestly, to make them all about me. A time to rest, to watch movies and read books. To maybe go out for coffee with my daughter and friends and out to dinner with my man. 

It doesn’t take much for me to turn my focus inward. But it also doesn’t take much for me to lift my gaze, which inevitably lifts my heart as well. I can determine, well-before I attend my first Christmas party, I drop the turkey on the floor, or burn the pumpkin pie, to worship. 

I’m convinced that is the only way I will truly experience enduring, soul-deep joy. The same joy that filled the wisemen’s souls when they encountered the Christ child.

While Scripture doesn’t specify their country of origin, many scholars suggest they might have traveled from modern day Iran, a distance of 1,600 miles or more, most likely by camel. A potentially sixty-day endeavor, round trip. If you’ve ever driven down a bumpy road in a vehicle with no radio, air conditioning, or heat, you can imagine how uncomfortable their journey must have been. And no doubt they experienced challenges, frustrations, and the occasional quarrel along the way. 

Yet still “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10, ESV). 

Matthew 2:10 on a picture with candles.

They rejoiced.

Exceedingly.

With great joy.

I don’t know if Scripture could say this more emphatically. They experienced deep, deep joy.

Because, before their camels stepped foot on that dusty ancient road leading to Israel, they had already decided to worship. (Matthew 2:2)

This posture enabled them to experience something others, like Herod and his scribes, missed–a personal encounter with the living God. 

Friends, regardless of how tired I might feel today, I refuse to be like Herod and the scribes. I refuse to allow a bah humbug attitude to keep me from experiencing an intimate encounter with Christ. This Christmas, I want to approach every festivity, spilled drink, and potentially uncomfortable conversation with the same expectancy that drove the Magi thousands of miles from their home to the Christ child. 

How are you this holiday season? What is most apt to steal your joy or divert your focus from our only real and abiding source of joy? What might your Christmas look like, should you determine, regardless of how dinner turns out, to worship?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

You might also enjoy the latest Your Daily Bible Verse episode below.

God's Unconquerable Light Shining in Our World's Darkness (John 1:5) Your Daily Bible Verse

Meet Our Hosts:Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comFollow Jennifer:https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/https://www.facebook.com/JenSlattehttps://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/Grace Fox has published hundreds of articles and authored 10 books including the award-winning devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. She’s a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus. Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and her husband celebrate three grown kids and eleven grandchildren.Subscribe to her weekly devotional blog and monthly update on her website: www.gracefox.comFollow Grace:Facebook: www.fb.com/gracefox.authorInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/  Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gracefoxauthor
  1. God's Unconquerable Light Shining in Our World's Darkness (John 1:5)
  2. Reflecting on God in the Night (Psalm 119:55)
  3. Bonus Episode! Introducing: Faith Over Fear
  4. De-escalating Conflict (1 Samuel 25:2-3)
  5. Truths to Remember When Facing Impossible Situations (Exodus 14:4)

May your day be filled with laughter, great conversations, and all the turkey and pie your stomach can hold!

And I’d love to praise God with you! What is one thing you’re most thankful for this year?

If you’re looking to start your day with a nugget of truth, make sure to listen to the latest Your Daily Bible episode to learn how giving thanks safe-guards our joy and fortifies our souls. You can catch the latest episode HERE on LifeAudio.com or wherever you access your favorite podcast content.