It’s that magical time of year when Christmas music echoes from loud speakers in malls, grocery stores, and town squares, creating an atmosphere of joy and cheer or at least reminding rushed shoppers of how soon Christmas will be here and of how little time they have left to check off the Christmas gifts on their list. I love it all—the Christmas tunes, the jingling of the bells that mall Santas carry, the countdown to Christmas day. Every year, I gleefully wrap Christmas gifts as Christmas songs play on my Pandora station, and I excitedly make fudge, yule log cake, Christmas cookies, and apple tart with “White Christmas” and other popular songs on in the background. Yes, Christmas music is an essential part of my holiday traditions. But there’s more to Christmas than presents and baking, because, of course, we celebrate Christmas to commemorate Christ’s first coming—His birth as our Savior.
I love finding new Christmas songs that worship Jesus and bring to mind how He came from a throne in Heaven to live here on earth and die for us so that we don’t have to pay the price for our sins. He already paid it. His decision as our Creator to love us unconditionally and die for us never ceases to amaze me.
We’re unworthy. Undeserving. But He came anyway.
This season is a reminder of the fact that God is love. Jesus loves us more than we could ever fathom, and when we celebrate Christmas and His birth, we’re also celebrating the fact that He will come again someday soon to take us from this dark and sinful world to live with Him forever.
Here are ten of my top Christmas worship songs that I listen to this season to celebrate His birth and unconditional love for us. Whether you’re in your car or wrapping Christmas gifts, add them to your playlist and worship along! If there are any other Christmas worship songs on your favorites list, let me know in the comments below!
This may be the question we ask God the most. Why did “x” have to happen? Why couldn’t I have gotten that job? Why did you let me fail that test when I studied so hard? Why did so-and-so have to die? Why are you letting bad things happen to me? Why, why, why?
We wonder, we fret, we pity ourselves, and we ask “why, God?” until our eyes are swollen, and depression consumes our spirit. We see through a glass darkly, so we sometimes cannot see that there is always a purpose behind our pain. Ah, yes—the statement no one wants to hear when they’re going through something, but we humans often only learn things the hard way, especially young adults, and our struggles exist to make us stronger if for no other reason.
Physical pain can be a good thing. It tells us that something is wrong and that we may need medical attention. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I never felt a literal pain as in aching bones, but I felt a mental pain. I was fatigued and nauseous (among other things), and the very sight of my weary self signaled to others, like the receptionist at urgent care, that something was wrong with me. Miserable is the word I typically use to describe how I felt then, but if I hadn’t felt that way, I might not have known for quite some time that I had diabetes. My pain served a purpose, but it’s often emotional pain that is the hardest to see through and understand.
During and after the spring semester in 2018, I felt an emotional and spiritual exhaustion that threw me out of sorts, and it set me on a path to realign my focus. I had just entered a four-year university to get my bachelor’s degree, and the shift in the atmosphere from a small community college to a very liberal university was palpable. All semester, I was stressed from classwork that involved treating subjective, liberal studies as legitimate, evidence-based coursework, which greatly conflicted with my conservative and Christian beliefs. But I felt an exhaustion deeper than simple stress due to papers and exams, and it escalated that summer.
Never before had I been tired literally every day. It is an understatement to say that I slept a lot. Practically all I wanted to do was sleep, and when I wasn’t sleeping, I was tired and disturbed in my spirit. I loathed college—loathed it—for the atmosphere and for its inefficient system, and I knew I simply couldn’t continue college past a bachelor’s degree to get two master’s degrees (long story there, but that’s where I was headed) in order to teach college English and write professionally. I was done. I was miserable. I was lost. It’s only now after having finally finished college that I have come to truly appreciate the experience for what it taught me and how it helped me grow.
After realizing I didn’t want to continue the path to becoming a full-time English professor in this liberal society, I prayed (a lot), and I looked to different avenues. I made an alternate plan to apply for work at a local publishing company after graduation, but then COVID happened. The company went on a hiring freeze. Great. I scoured the internet for job openings in editing, tutoring, and copywriting, and by the grace of God, I found a company that was hiring part-time tutors. The future is still uncertain, but all of my searching and pain and misery and growth has helped me grasp a simple concept that I hadn’t realized I didn’t truly “get” until I went through something difficult: trust God.
Sometimes, we don’t truly understand a concept or truth until we have no other choice but to embrace it head on. C.S. Lewis once said that “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.” Of course, having grown up in church, I’ve always known we should trust in God to guide us through life, but somehow, I’d formed my own contingency plans for everything to get where I wanted and expected everything to work out as I planned—until it didn’t. I can look back now at all those moments I was worried and miserable and exhausted to my core and understand that God let me go through those things to teach me that no matter what happens in my life, I still need to trust in Him and let Him take the reigns of my life, that I need to believe it’s okay when things don’t go my way, that if something tragic happens, I am going to make it as long as I trust in Him.
I still wonder why things happen sometimes. But now I understand that I am not alone in whatever trial I’m going through. Whatever happens—no matter what happens—I can rest in the assurance I have in Jesus. It’s okay to be not okay. It’s okay to wonder about why things happen, because in those moments, God fills me with His Peace and whispers, “trust me,” and He draws me closer to Him than I’ve been before.
Today is a day of giving—giving to others to support them and build up our communities. That’s what “giving Tuesday” is about. We seek to build a more generous and caring world. Unfortunately, this is in direct conflict with human nature, which seeks to gain material things for the self and neglects the needs of others. Of course, it is the Spirit of God within us that helps us overcome our selfish nature and give to others. You know how when you’re a kid, and you’re really excited about getting things on Christmas morning, but when you get older, somehow that aspect isn’t as important anymore? As we mature, we naturally (hopefully) come to understand and embrace the concept of giving to others rather than getting. Case in point: yours truly.
8-year-old me was obsessed with presents and sneaking a peek before Christmas at the toys my parents bought me that they had hid in the corner of their bedroom closet.
“For shame, Caitlin, had you no self-control?” you might wonder.
And, no, I did not. I was eight, and I remember specifically asking for a basketball for Christmas so I could dribble it on our back patio (why I’ll never know since I’ve never been drawn to sports or even remotely coordinated in that area). 8-year-old me was anxious—nay, ecstatic at the thought of opening up my gift, wondering whether my parents had agreed to meet my request. I was, admittedly, a greedy little child. As I pulled back the paper hiding my special gift in the corner of my parent’s closet, I gazed with glazed over eyes at the bright orange orb with black stripes. I imagine my glee resembled that of the European conquerors when they came to Central America in the 1500s in search of gold.
“Behold! This brass, shiny object is more beautiful than chainmail sparkling in the moonlight! I must have it!”
But alas! My pleasure at the sight of the brand-new basketball in my parents’ closet was short-lived when my sister (the fiend!) stomped into sight and called my name, bringing attention to my clandestine meeting with my gift to our mother’s attention. Though I still unwrapped the basketball on Christmas morning, I never again sneaked a peek at my Christmas gifts. Once, I cared only about what I would get for Christmas. Naturally, the older I became, the more invested in others I became.
You see, my sister and I have a stocking stuffer tradition. While some families have always stuffed stockings and opened them on Christmas morning, this has never been a tradition in my household until my sister and I decided to try it two years ago. It has become a challenge each year to come up with small gifts (some practical, some cutesy) to fill up each stocking, but the real delight isn’t in finding out what each of us received in our stocking—it’s in seeing each other’s delight at what we put in each other’s stocking. In short, it’s about giving, of which I learned the joy with experience as I got older and began to invest in others.
Giving requires us to think about others more than ourselves. What does so-and-so want? What do they need? What would make them happy? And then we give to them whatever fits into those categories, be it quality time or a special gift of sentimental value. Giving trains our naturally selfish minds to think less about ourselves. The more we give, the easier it becomes. The more we give, the more we reflect Christ.
After all, He gave His life so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. But He didn’t die on a cross and rise again so that we could only invest in ourselves and in our life on earth. Christmas is a season of giving to others, yes, but I believe it is also a season to remember why we give and what we must give back to Him.
There’s a popular Christian song that says, “I give myself away.” Our lives are not our own. We give ourselves up to Him—our time, talents, and treasures—so that He can use us to glorify Him and help people come to know Him. For me, this concept solidified in my mind when I learned I must give up my dreams and desires to Him. We want what we want, right? Sometimes, we often think what God wants for us is something we won’t like, and so we stubbornly hold onto our wants. But the Kingdom of God is not full of people who only focus on their own desires and plans, and what God wants for us will give us more joy and fulfillment than we could ever imagine. When we learn to put our focus on what He wants and what others want and need, we become effective workers in the Kingdom of God.
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” ~2 Corinthians 9:7
It’s difficult to feel thankful when your year has been full of disappointments and heartbreak.
COVID isn’t the only thing that has taken people’s lives this year. Many have lost loved ones to violence, cancer, heart disease, and car accidents. Strict lockdowns due to coronavirus restrictions are keeping families apart and have canceled many church services and events. This has been a tumultuous year, but it is especially important to give thanks during times of trouble to remind us that we are still a blessed people.
In November, many churchgoers often recount the things that have happened to them or the people in their lives that they are thankful for. Even though 2020 has been less than stellar, I think it’s fitting that we recount our own blessings in spite of all the devil has thrown at us this year. So, here are five things we can be thankful for in 2020.
1. Quality Time
How many have spent a lot of time with family members or roommates this year because you’re working from home or are going to school online? I certainly have, and it’s been both a blessing and a…well, it’s been memorable to say the least! My family and I are often tired of each other’s presence when we’re the only people each of us ever spend time with these days, but it isn’t something anyone should take for granted. For many people, work, school, and special events have taken their attention away from quality time with family, but 2020 has allowed us to be with our parents, siblings, or roommates more and (hopefully) helped us come to appreciate more time to chat and eat dinner with loved ones.
We’ve also had more quality time to work on our relationship with God. He is the most important One in our lives, but it is easy for our jobs and schoolwork to distract us from spending enough time with Him. I know that since the lockdowns began, I’ve had much more time to plan out time spent studying His Word and more time in the mornings or throughout my day to pray. Prayer is essential to our walk with God, and I’m certainly thankful for more time with Him this year to work on my relationship with Him and grow spiritually.
2. A Slower Pace
Before 2020, things were go-go-go 24/7 for 365 days of the year for many of us. Once lockdowns began in March and school moved online and businesses sent employees home to work and church services went online and church and community leaders canceled events, life really s l o w e d down. I began to miss going places and doing things—well, as often as I used to, which wasn’t very often for this introvert.
When we speak of a time with a slower pace, many minds go to a good fifty years ago and perhaps much further back than that. We think of a time when people weren’t rushing everywhere, whether to work or social events or school, weren’t home late after attending meetings or shopping, weren’t always busy with thinking of the next school event or the next work meeting or the next convention or the next big service to plan. For many of us, and for me especially, 2020 fits that criteria of a slower pace, and it’s given us the ability to appreciate other things in life that we were perhaps too busy to notice before. Things like an extra hour or two in the evenings to relax and read a book. Things like more time on the weekends to clean or plan an activity at home with your children. Things like time to deep clean the house or prepare an intricate meal every evening. Things for which we were often too busy before 2020.
Church is essential, but in 2020, the enemy has targeted the church more specifically this year with lockdowns and orders that claim the church isn’t essential and that congregants must only meet for church virtually. Of course, I am very thankful for the technology we have to meet online and hear our ministers preach a Word from the Lord through our screens. We’re blessed to be able to continue having church and sharing our online services with others even if it isn’t in person. However, we cannot forsake the assembling of ourselves together (see Hebrews 10:25). Thankfully, many churches have been able to meet again in person throughout this year, even if it’s been sporadic, and churches have become very creative with finding ways to meet in person, whether it’s in the church parking lot or in someone’s yard. Online church simply is not the same and is not sufficient for the body of Christ. I am tremendously thankful for the people of God this year and for being able to meet in person to hear from the Lord and worship with fellow believers in Christ. If 2020 has reminded us of anything, it’s that we must never take the church for granted.
4. That God is Our Healer
The COVID epidemic has reminded many people this year of how frail and fragile human life is. Our lives are like a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away (see James 4:14). We can get sick, and we can die, but God can never die. He lives forever and has all power, and amazingly, He loves us enough to use His power to heal our fragile, earthly bodies and extend our lives here on earth so we can spend more time with loved ones and fulfill His Purpose for us. He also loves us enough to free us from our earthly burdens if He chooses and let us go into our rest before the trumpet sounds and we rise again to meet Him in the sky. Our lives are in His hands. This year, I am thankful that He has healed so many from COVID, including myself and my family, and from other diseases and injuries. Our human frailties may be discouraging, but let them instead be a reminder of how great our God is, for He has no frailties!
5. His Promises
The promises of the Lord are yes and amen. Whatever He says He will do, rest assured that He will do it. He has promised that He will never leave nor forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5), that the seasons and day and night would always be while the earth remains (see Genesis 8:22), that He will supply all our needs (see Philippians 4:19), that His grace is sufficient for us (see 2 Corinthians 12:9), that when He sets us free we are free indeed (see 8:36), and that we have eternal life through Christ (Titus 1:2). His promises are forever because His Word is forever, and I am thankful after all the turmoil of this year that we still have hope in Jesus!
No matter what unpleasant surprises 2020 may have brought you, dear reader, I hope you can still find within yourself the ability to thank God for His promises and blessings. God truly has blessed His people, and we are lucky each day to wake up and have another day to live for Him and spend time with the loved ones He has placed in our lives.
Oh, how I could write a sonnet about 2020 and all the many unpleasant surprises it has thrown my way. After all the cancelled events and meetings and social and political pandemonium, I’m not sure a soul exists who now doesn’t relate to the phrase “life doesn’t always go according to plan.” In fact, 2020 wasn’t the first year I learned this lesson.
I first became very well acquainted with life’s curve balls when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2013 during my first semester of college. After that, I thought I was an expert on handling surprises and disappointments. Little did I know then. The seasons of life change more often than, well, the seasons. (Yes, I thought that was rather poetic, too.) I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s looked back this year on the previous “worst years my life” and thought, “Look how sweet and ignorant I was then, getting all bent out of shape over practically nothing. So naïve. So clueless. What I wouldn’t give to have that year back!” I was excited for 2020 until it robbed me of a normal graduation and graduation gift (a week-long vacation in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina) and of all the plans I’d made for this year.
2020 retaught me a lesson I thought I’d learned to its completion, but it turns out I’d only heard half the lesson. Life doesn’t go the way you want it to. I understood that. You’ll have to have contingency plans in place when things fall apart. Okay, got that. You might become depressed and anxious while walking through a barren, dry desert wilderness and may want to be bitter and angry about everything and turn back the clock to before when you were happy and ignorant and unaware and when everything was peachy, but you can’t let yourself be that way or else you’ll be lost in a chasm of doom forever—
—wait, how’s that now?
Seems a little over the top, but alas, I had let disappointments distract me and make me more frustrated with life than I had ever been. Before 2020, I thought I understood how to deal with disappointment and the unexpected, but I had only learned how to bottle up my feelings and fill myself with childish hope of how I might still “get my way” eventually. Such are the notions of a control freak. I still had to learn how to accept disappointments and (here’s the kicker) make the most of my circumstances anyway.
I honestly didn’t even realize I’d learned this lesson this year until the Christmas season arrived. Sigh, the most wonderful time of the year. You see, after all the cancelled church services and special plans and in the face of more altered plans, I resolved not to let 2020 steal my merry Christmas. Things still aren’t going exactly the way I would prefer, but frankly, I’m tired of letting disappointments make me angry and miserable. Christmas is supposed to be a happy and exciting time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior and spend quality time with loved ones. This Christmas will be different, yes, but I’m going to ensure I enjoy every single millisecond of it. This year has been ridiculous for all of us.
So, I encourage you if you’re down about cancelled plans or new disappointments because of COVID or lockdowns, don’t let this year take away any more of your joy or your resolve to enjoy life. God has a plan amidst all of 2020’s disappointments for you to prosper. There’s another common cliché that applies here: let go and let God. Believe me, as someone who’s like a dog with a bone when it comes to control, I know the difficulty that comes with letting go of your frustration over disappointments and wanting to change things yourself. For the sake of ensuring this year ends on a better note for you and your family, I encourage whoever is reading this to trust God, give all your anxiety and frustration to Him, and go all out for the holidays.
Really, be extra with the holiday décor.
Blast the Christmas music.
Soak in every second of chatting with friends and family.
Savor every worship service and message preached.
Rest in His Presence in every prayer and every quiet moment.
2020 is almost over. You will make it, and you know what? You might even be grateful for 2020 for making you cherish the little things you took for granted and for inspiring you to live for God more boldly and joyfully than ever before.
“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 (KJV)
There’s something about staring at a blank page that’s like prayer. I don’t know what words to put on paper, and so I stare at the white space and blinking cursor, practically asking it what I should write. But the more I stare, the more focused on the white space I become, and my mind goes blank. It’s happened to me in prayer before.
“God, what should I do? What’s my next move? What should I do in x situation?”
And then I listen to what seems deafening silence. Pretty soon, that ringing in my ears fills the silence. And then it gets annoying, and I talk some more to cover the sound.
How does one hear the voice of God? I struggled with this a lot in my late teen years and through college. I still struggle with it. When your mind is so busy, it’s hard to tune out all the noise or pay attention to anything other than the blank “white space.” My prayer sessions were a one-way radio. A monologue. There I was at my Shakespearean best, talking to God, asking questions, answering my own questions, getting distracted by my own ramblings, and then my time expired, and it was time to move onto the next scene.
Then, a few years ago, I heard a friend of mine say something so simple and obvious at the right moment that made the concept of talking to God finally click in my mind.
“It’s a relationship.”
Well, duh, Caitie. It was a lightbulb moment that came as I had become burnt out with college and needed direction in my life. In those moments, you need to hear God’s direction for you. My friend continued.
“I talk to God throughout my day, whether it’s in my car or walking down the hall at school or work or wherever. If I get up late and rush around for work, I’ll make sure I talk to God on the way to work.”
As she spoke, I mulled over the concept. It’s not about trying to “fit” God in. It’s a relationship. How did I get so close to my sister or others in my life? Constant communication. A two-way radio. A dialogue. If I could do that with my family and friends, then I could establish a relationship with God.
I’m a scientific person. Processes, research, hypotheses, formulas—they’re how I take in and understand information. Tell me how something’s done, and I’ll review the process and make plans for implementation. So, I applied the concept of taking time to create a real relationship with God. I began to see my time with God as an opportunity to get to know Him. The results of my actions led to an obvious conclusion that I needed to reach in order to fully understand—the more time I spent with God, truly seeking Him, the more I began to understand what His Presence feels like and how to listen for His voice. A novel concept, I know, but sometimes, your mind gets so hectic that it’s difficult to understand concepts that come naturally to others (like clearing your mind to focus on God during prayer).
I still have my bad days—days during which I’ve let my brain scream at me for hours on end that by the time I sit down to pray, all I hear is a bunch of pots and pans banging around in my skull and then white space—but I also have good days. Those are the days when I’ve prioritized my time wisely, let my mind focus on things above, and went to God with a genuine desire to hear from Him and feel His Presence. Those are the days I feel I’m making progress, getting to know Him more, becoming a little more of the person I need to be. Those are the days I try to remember on the bad days to inspire me to make more days like those days. Those are the days when I get done with prayer and realize how much time has passed as I’ve prayed, and I’m amazed.
It’s like looking back at the beginning of the first page when you began writing and seeing how much you filled the white space. You get lost in the moment, and before you know it, you find the exact words to say, and you know exactly what you’re supposed to do. You’ve connected, and suddenly the white space and deafening silence doesn’t seem so intimidating anymore because you know when you begin the next time, you’ll tune in to the right frequency if you persist. After all, “…the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16, KJV).
In the first month of 2020, the world saw panic over a possible World War III in the Middle East, raging wildfires in Australia that endangered the koala bears, political turmoil in the US, and the beginnings of a global pandemic. Then we had the first cases of the new virus COVID-19 popping up in the States in late January/early February. Then came the hand washing and mask wearing suggestions from government and health officials. Then came social distancing guidelines, cancellations of public events, lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and a high unemployment rate. And just when we thought it couldn’t get more chaotic, then came social unrest.
Things this year have been, well, 2020. That is to say, it’s been crazy, and 2020 is now becoming a term for when things go haywire, off the rails, insane beyond all belief, and just when you think it couldn’t get worse, it does. The real disappointment is that everyone seems to have skipped the panic over murder hornets, which could have been delightfully entertaining during quarantine. But of course, despite discouraging news and events, we have access to the same good news that has existed since the beginning of time: there is a God, His Name is Jesus, He is THE God, and He is in control.
“But, Caitlin, it’s so easy to say that until you’re the one who’s feeling overwhelmed,” you might say.
It’s true that there are many things quite easy for us to say, and when the going gets tough, it gets tougher to truly believe those things. Chaotic conditions tend to throw rational thought into disarray until all that’s left is confusion and madness. Chaos is a state of utter confusion and disorder. Rationality is the state of being rational or being based in accordance with reason and logic. A confused and overwhelmed mind cannot sort together rational thoughts and lean on logic, while a rational mind relies on reason and logic during a time of chaos to separate feeling from fact. Though I tend to be a rational individual, even I often struggle with rationality in the midst of chaos.
Any time I feel overwhelmed, I’m like most people. I let my emotions and irrational thoughts run away with me for a minute while I try to sort through what I’m feeling. It’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel when it doesn’t seem that there’s any end to the tunnel at all. That’s when I remove my feelings, set them aside, and separate what I feel from what I know.
Though I may feel worried, overwhelmed, sad, frustrated, and even depressed, I remember what I know as fact. God says in His Word that He will never leave nor forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5). Well, of course, my feelings say it’s hard to believe that when I can’t hear an audible voice of God, and I can’t physically see God, and so it’s hard at times to feel like He’s really there. Then, my reason and what I know kicks in. God speaks to us through His Word. In fact, His Word is alive: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). He is His Word (see John 1:1-14), and any time I want to hear from Him and know He’s right here with me, all I have to do is pick up His Word and start reading.
Psalms 119:105 – “The word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Proverbs 30:5 – “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.”
We’ve heard many a song sing the truth that God knows every circumstance, and nothing catches Him by surprise. He sees all things and is in control in this desperate and trying time. His ways and thoughts are not ours but are higher than ours: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). So, even though I may feel overwhelmed and weary, I know He is right there and is in control of my circumstances and my life. Deuteronomy 31:8 states, “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”
Now, it is a gross understatement to simply say that “life is hard,” but it is perfectly okay and natural to feel sad and frustrated. We’re human, after all. Peter felt overwhelmed by the stormy waves of the sea around him, but God was right there to pull him up even though Peter lost focus for a moment (see Matthew 14:22-31). When Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to threaten his life, he fled into the wilderness and asked God to take his life, for he was “not better than [his] fathers” (see 1 Kings 19:1-8). God instead gave Elijah rest and food to strengthen him. Sometimes, we must allow ourselves time to feel and sort through our emotions, and while doing so, we must rest, study His Word, spend more time in His Presence, and remember that He is omnipresent and omniscient. He’s always there and knows all things.
I may not know everything, but what I know is that God does know it all. So, when everything is 2020 and messed up and seems like it’s falling apart, I can find comfort in knowing that God sees and knows everything that’s going on in my life and the world around me. He’s got the whole wide world in His hands. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches over me.
Psalm 23 (KJV)
“1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Searching for some new worship tunes to listen to in the car or at home or to choose for worship service at church? Look no further. Here’s a list of 12 of my favorite worship songs from various artists all on my best Spotify playlists:
I know, I know. It’s taken me a while to get to this point, but here I am. There are many young Christian women who have personal blogs and Bible study blogs and fashion blogs that I’ve read, which discouraged me for a while from starting one because, well, they’re everywhere. Blogging is popular and hard work—time-consuming work—and with such a crowded pool of spectacular blogs to peruse for inspiration and encouragement, it seemed somewhat pointless to me to spend so much time blogging when I would only be adding to the plethora of Christian blogs. Why does it matter what I have to say? How would my blog be any different from the thousands of Christian blogs out there? Who would even read my blog aside from a kind few?
And after over a year of debating and pushing the idea to the back of my mind, I realized now is a better time than any to start blogging because it isn’t about me or how many voices are out there—it’s about doing everything I can with what God has given me to glorify Him and bless others.
This has been a tumultuous year, but it’s pushed me to do things I never thought I would accomplish. I began this year with hope and optimism, and the pandemic came along and nearly destroyed every ounce of hope and optimism I had left. If this year has helped me understand anything, it’s that nothing is certain and nothing stays the same except for God. Of course, I already knew that, but sometimes it takes a trial to help you grasp truth on a deeper level. During quarantine, I had a LOT of time to examine myself and determine whether I was doing everything I could for His Kingdom. Was I doing everything I could to use the ability God gave me to write for Him in the time we have on earth? The answer was a blunt “not really.” I’m a fiction writer. Most of my creative writing classes focused on fiction, and 99% of everything I’ve ever written or thought of writing is fiction. I’ve probably got more than fifty fiction projects—mostly historical fiction—stuffed in my brain, waiting for me to put them in print, but I never have. The online literary magazine Short Fiction Break published my short story “Outer Darkness” this summer (thank you, Jesus!), I started an author website (prematurely, maybe, but hey, we’ve all got to start somewhere), and well, that’s as far as I’ve gotten as a fiction writer.
My primary goal as a writer used to be to write complex characters that struggled with the human condition in difficult circumstances to show how much we need God and to move readers to evaluate themselves and their own relationships with God. That sounds great, sure, but for me, it didn’t seem like it would be enough. In the back of my mind was a voice that kept saying, “You can do more.” And then there was that other thought I’d pushed back there about starting a blog, and I told God I wasn’t sure about it. But I kept going back to it.
Breathe Pray Repeat (BPR) became the name I chose because it speaks to one of my coping mechanisms when things get tough and emotions become overwhelming. Step back, breathe, pray about it, and repeat the process. In essence, I did just that about this blog, and now that we’re 10 months into 2020, I believe God has finally given me the green light to move forward with it. Maybe a blog isn’t a big deal, and maybe it doesn’t seem that impressive in comparison to writing actual books (which I haven’t given up on, by the way), but a book that glorifies God and delves into complex themes takes years to develop. I knew I shouldn’t wait that long to finally produce something worthwhile when I could be writing something that glorifies Him right now.
So, here it is—the beginning of something I hope draws readers closer to Him and maybe even understand ourselves and others better. BPR will have Bible study articles, discussions of biblical themes and principles, posts about living as a Christian in our crazy world, and explorations of the culture and our identity all with the sole focus of reflecting His Glory. I have a few posts lined up under the theme “comfort,” which is something we all might be needing a little more of this year, including some brief analyses of the word “comfort” in the Old and New Testaments. If you’ve made it this far (may God bless you and your children and your children’s children!), feel free to message me any specific words or biblical concepts you would like me to research and write about and especially any post topics you might like me to write that focus on keeping the faith while going to college. I would LOVE for BPR to be a blessing to young people, particularly, because as a young adult, I know that the high school and college years are an essential period in becoming the kind of person and Christian you want to be.
Thank you for reading this first post on BPR, and I pray the rest of your day and week goes well. If you want to know about all of my future posts, follow my blog by email and stay tuned for what’s coming later this week when we begin the first post in the “comfort” series.
Verse of the Day:
“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” ~Romans 12:12 (KJV)