Dose of Hope: Secure

God's Word tells us we don't have to worry about our own security, because we're secure in Him {praylivecreate.com} #Bible #faith #scripture

As Heshan and I are following Jesus this year – not just being “Jesus followers” but asking how we can actually follow Him – a couple things are becoming pretty obvious. First, we’re not so good at this thing. We move slowly and we ask questions and we doubt and freak out. And second, we can’t do this if we’re worried about our own security.

But you guys – Heshan and I can be big worriers. We don’t worry about the same things, but when our personalities combine, there are all sorts of situations that cause one of us stress. Like where Heshan is going to work (his job changes annually right now while he’s finishing up his PhD), how we’re going to pay the bills, how we’re going to budget our energy in a city that takes everything we have. We’ll worry about our dreams and our fears, and honestly there are entire months when I worry about how obnoxiously loud it is all night long when all I want to do is sleep.

Would it be crazy if I told you that I’m aggressively praying that God would shake up our lives right now? I’m asking Him to come in and take control and bring His best, even if it doesn’t look best to me or Heshan or anyone else around us. And I’m asking that because I don’t know what else to specifically ask for, but I do know we need a change, a renewing of our minds, and a re-setting of our focus like our lives depend on it.

Which brings us to this place where Jesus is challenging us to let go. To give up our thoughts and fears about our own security and recognize it’s always been in His hands. Which is just so like God it’s not even funny. I know this stuff in my head and I even love this stuff in my heart, but I’ve found it’s way harder for me to live this stuff out with my hands, even on the days when I’m ready to run away, move to Idaho, build a yurt, and live off the land.

As we’re walking through the names God has for us, He’s emboldening my heart and asking me to live with truths that I sometimes know but really need to know. I believe that God is calling each of us into deeper relationship with Him and into fuller life, and that it all starts with knowing who we are in Him. He calls us loved, chosen, blessed, gifted, known, forgiven, and He says we belong. And inherent in all that, plus spelled out like crazy throughout His love letter to us, is the promise that we are secure.

All of our worries and our fears can’t hold a candle to what God has in store and to His love for us. So I have no idea what that looks like for Heshan and me, but I know I can pray for His best and I can pray for the strength to let go of whatever I’m holding onto to make me feel secure. And this week I want to think about security together and talk with God about how our security is in Him.

Our Lord, we belong to you. We tell you what worries us, and you won’t let us fall.- Psalms‬ ‭55‬:‭22‬ (CEV)

The LORD replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.” – Exodus‬ ‭33‬:‭14‬ (NLT)

For I hold you by your right hand— I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. – Isaiah‬ ‭41‬:‭13‬ (NLT)

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – ‭Joshua‬ ‭1‬:‭9‬ (NLT)

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety. – Psalm 4:8 (NIV)

#follow - kissing yes-itis and the ways of the world goodbye and following Jesus into fuller life {praylivecreate.com}

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Some Bible Verses About Hearing & Doing

a collection of #Bible verses about hearing & responding to #Scripture

It’s been a little while since we’ve done a connecting the dots post (see generosity and our thoughts). I have a lot of fun typing these up so I hope you guys enjoy them. As usual, I’m basing this one off of a message I heard at my church, this one by Jason VanDorsten.

Jesus’ brother James wrote a lot about not just hearing the word, but applying it to our lives.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. – James 1:22-25

Jesus himself addressed applying  the Word during the Sermon on the Mount.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” – Matthew 7:24-27

James again, getting straight to the point.

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. – James 2:17

The apostle John also wrote about how faith must be lived out and James gives us some tangible examples.

Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him:Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. – 1John 2:4-6

 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

And let’s end with the words of Jesus, the only person to ever walk this Earth and perfectly live a life of faith.

…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:26-28

What verses come to your mind when you think about real, living faith?

Stephanie from praylivecreate.com

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What I Learned About Life on Our Two-Year Anniversary

Heshan and I were married two weeks before my 30th birthday and three months before his 32nd. While I sometimes wish we’d met and married earlier, started a family in our 20s, and gotten a head start, overall I know that the timing was perfect for us. Last weekend we walked over the threshold of our two year anniversary, and I started thinking back to our wedding day. I didn’t have any fairy tale ideas as to what our wedding or our marriage would be like before I walked down the aisle, but it’s safe to say that I also had no idea what was in store (and how much harder but better it would all be than I had imagined). If pulling off a wedding was our first big feat as a unit, then it was also full of a few lessons that have held true for all the days since.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

1) We can’t do it alone. Our wedding day was definitely a labor of love for the people in our life. We knew right away that we wanted to marry on a budget. We also knew that we didn’t want the focus to be on us so much as on our family and friends who would travel to celebrate with us and also God’s love for us as a community. We chose to put a verse from 1 Corinthians 13 on each table as a reminder to ourselves of what love in community looks like. Steph and I painted 5×7 frames from Ikea and she printed off each verse and inserted it over craft paper. We added butterfly stickers from a scrapbooking set from Michael’s.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

My mother-in-law gifted us with all of the flower arrangements on our tables and down the aisle. We ordered in bulk from the floral section of our grocery department, and she glued red ribbon at the top of each vase. I didn’t see these until our wedding day, and they took our breath away.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Heshan and I wrapped peaches in copper tissue paper that we hand stamped with a short quote about love. We wrapped wire leaves around the top, and our friends set them out at each place setting as a gift for all of the guests. Our wedding was literally pieced together with the hard work of people we love, and our marriage looks a lot like that today.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

2) It doesn’t always go according to plan, but it all works out in the end. When Heshan proposed, I was convinced that I could plan our wedding for $3,000 in just a few months. My initial plans involved a big backyard, a pot luck buffet, grocery store flowers, and homemade cupcakes.

In the end, our wedding took place at a gorgeous tree farm in Southern Maryland (complete with bunnies and butterflies), and we couldn’t have asked for a better setting.

Photo by Annabelle Dando
We went far above our $3,000 plans, thanks to the generosity of family and friends. While we did buy flowers in bulk for the centerpieces and aisle markers, Heshan spent up to include special details like the bouquets and a photo booth for family and friends.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando
One of the best decisions we made was to work with Annabelle Dando to capture our day. Looking back at our photos, I’m so grateful for way she documented our big day and captured the moments that flew by so quickly. (Also, she’s an incredible woman through and through and it’s clear everything she does is done with love.)

Photo by Annabelle Dando
3) We’re blessed with a lot of amazing people
.We had a small wedding with only 44 guests, but the people who made the trip to celebrate with us have been the ones who have stood by us every day since. We married at a time of big transitions for both of us, and in the past two years we’ve formed friendships with people who I wish could have celebrated with us on our big day. But the people who were there continue to be huge blessings in our lives. We’ve gone on adventures and international trips (I totally count Canada as international, you guys), we’ve held pot lucks and movie nights (and maybe even a few Fruit Ninja nights too), and even though life seems to be calling some of us in different directions, they’re the family God’s given us and we’re thankful for them everyday. They also climbed up on ladders to string those lanterns you see in the photo below, so we’d like to think they risked life and limb for our big day. (P.S. our friend Erin totally got engaged after catching that bouquet, so I’d like to think our wedding day was kind of a big deal for her, too.)

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando
4) Everyday should be a celebration
. Everyone says it, but it’s true. The wedding day is just a day. At the same time, it taught me a lot about taking time out to celebrate. It’s easy for me to focus on the bills and the jobs and stress of living in NYC and spend my days waiting for that amazing “someday” that I keep praying for. As we’re moving forward in our marriage, God’s teaching me the value of celebrating the everyday and finding that “someday” today. He’s also teaching me to continue splurging on the meaningful things even when I want to be tight-fisted, to make time for community, and to live with less fear and more faith (and a lot more dancing).

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando

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Dose of Hope: Known

God says He loves us and knows us by name {praylivecreate.com} #Bible #scripture #quotes

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. – 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

We already know that Jesus chose us, but I rarely think about the fact that God says He knows us. Yesterday morning I was reading Greg Laurie’s daily devotional, and the verse above stood out to me for that reason. Paul said that God knew him inside and out. He was completely known.

It kind of blows my mind when I think about it. The Bible says God knows us. But how often do we struggle even with knowing ourselves?

When we think about all of the ways God loves us, it can be easy to think He loves us most when we’re at our best. But He’s so emphatically clear that that’s just not the case. He knows us – He knew us before we were born – and He loved us and chose us as we are. The real us. The real version of you and the real version of me.

He knows when we’re scared but pretending to be brave. When we’re tired or anxious or just in need of a long nap and some serious TLC. He knows when we’re hiding dreams way down in our hearts. When we’re thrilled. When we’re feeling alone. When we’re struggling with doubts or depression or whatever burdens we may be carrying.

He knows which of us need rest and which of us need adventure. He knows exactly where we are and who we are.

We’re known by God. Inside and out. He looks deep into the heart of who we are and knows us, and He calls us His own.

When I think about that, it makes me realize how important it is that we’re known. How awesome it is that God can say, “I formed you and I made you and you are completely mine.” We’re known with all our quirks, all our hang ups, all the things we’re afraid to admit to ourselves or show to others, and knowing that in light of the fact that Jesus calls us chosen, loved, forgiven, blessed, gifted, and belonging, gives us a better picture as to who God says we are.

(We’re known and still we were chosen. We’re known and still we belong. We’re known and God calls us gifted. We’re known and He says, “you’re blessed.” He knows everything about us, and we’re forgiven. We’re known through and through and we’re loved.)

God’s ways are way higher than mine, and I can’t comprehend them. But I know that His gospel is true, that Jesus laid down His life for me, and that I’m called to lay down my life and pick up the freedom He has for me. As we walk through the names that God has for us, I’m overwhelmed with how liberating they are. Because we’re known and loved for who we are, we can be truly loved by others. We don’t have to settle for less. And because we’re known and loved as we are, we can forgive others imperfections and love them as they are too. (I know this is complicated. I’m speaking in generalities here.)

We can get to know ourselves, even if the real us is different than the person other people want us to be. And we can lay down at night knowing we’re known and loved. We’re exactly who God picked out when He said, “You, yep, you. You’re mine.” And He’s perfecting us all the time.

And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.  – 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 (NKJV)

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
    Before you were born I set you apart
    and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT)

Here’s to living life to the full and being known…

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Affordable Art: Aerial Beach Views

6 aerial beach view art prints for under $35 (large sizes!!). Love these!

Summer may be quickly coming to a close, but a good aerial beach view never goes out of season. Photographers like Massimo Vitali, Gray Malin and Antoine Rose have demonstrated the allure of white sand, blue water, and bright beach umbrellas for some time now, but the hefty price tags aren’t in the cards for me.Cue these super talented photogs with a great eye for a good beach shot and a price tag that can’t be ignored ($31 and under!). And at 23×17 some of these could fill a large Ikea frame and make a huge statement like this!

1. Beach 17×17 | Maite Pons ($30)  /  2. Beach 23×17 | Ingz ($31)  /  3. Beach 23×17 | Ingz ($31)  /  4. Let’s Go Swimming 17×17 | Maite Pons ($30)  /  5.  The Beach 17×17 | Maite Pons ($30)  /  6. Longing 17×17 | Maite Pons ($31)

p.s. As always, none of these are affiliate links.

Stephanie from praylivecreate.com

For more Affordable Art posts click here.

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5 ocean themed art prints for under $25!    5 gorgeous flamingo art prints for $30 or less!

 

linking up with Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family

What Stay at Home Moms Taught Me About Changing the World

Stay at home moms were the ones who taught me that God doesn’t need our huge and our big to change the world. He just needs small things done with great love and a heart fully surrendered to His.via

When my husband went out of town for a weekend I took all kinds of opportunities to treat myself, and what that basically means is I spent an entire day at home on the couch in my pajamas with books and magazines and a pizza and movie combination on Saturday night, because there are some things you never outgrow and because for better or for worse, we’ve not yet been gifted with children.

As I was reading one of these magazines, I saw a phrase that kind of stopped me in my tracks, The author was talking about famous people who do “big things for Jesus.” And while I promise I didn’t mean to think it, I just couldn’t help but wonder…

Can we do big things for God?

When I was in my 20s I truly believed it was possible for me to do awesome things. In other words, I thought it was possible for my life to be cooler than others. And I did all sorts of things that on the surface looked pretty big. I worked with celebrities and hot “up-and-comers” and I made phone calls that determined who would be the next featured artist on MySpace (I told you this was a long time ago, right?). I saw websites and bloggers write about the things that I told them were cool, I earned a gold record that’s buried in the back of one of my closests today, and I helped launch a big music festival that’s still going all these years later. (Please stick with me, because I promise this isn’t all about me.)

And all the while I was striving for more.

When serious illness hit it brought my world to a halt, all of a sudden I was way less concerned with what I could build with my own two hands and way more concerned with my own inner poverty. I realized nothing was as cool as needing or having a relationship with God. In the years that followed He opened my eyes to new ways of seeing, doing, and being and do you know what rocked my world almost more than anything else?

Stay at home moms.

Stay at home moms were the ones who taught me that God doesn’t need our huge and our big to change the world. He just needs small things done with great love and a heart fully surrendered to His.

I was desperately spinning my wheels trying to build my own life up, while these women modeled what it was to lay down their lives and let God build something beautiful instead.

I am not yet a stay at home mom (though my heart’s still holding onto hope), but when I read this piece about doing big things for God my mind automatically went to the women I know. For a few months I was a moderator of an online group for Christian women with chronic illness, and everyday I spoke with women who pushed through pain and fatigue to serve their families. I spoke with women who battled mental illness while raising three kids. I watched my sister walk away from a career far more successful than mine to teach 2 years olds how to sing “Jesus Loves Me,” and I don’t think any of them is doing less for Jesus. I think Jesus is doing beautiful things through them.

I think we’re all just men and women sitting at the foot of the cross, playing our parts in a much, much bigger story.

One of the things I love about walking through the names that God has for us is that it reminds us that God sees things so much differently than we do. He’s not as concerned with the outward appearance. And whether our acts of obedience, faith, and love are seen by a whole lot of people or just a few, He calls us gifted and chosen and enough in Him.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. – Matthew 6:2 (NIV)

Kim from praylivecreate.comOriginal image by skysthelimit via morguefile. Modified for this blog post by Stephanie Oh.

linking up with Jack of All Trades at A Harvest of Blessing.

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Dose of Hope: Forgiven

One of the many names that God has for us is "forgiven."  He is not mad at you. {praylivecreate.com} #Bible #scripture #faith

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been using our Doses of Hope to talk about the names that God has for us – the things that He says are true about us – so we can let that truth sink in. And while God repeatedly calls us chosen, loved, blessed, and gifted (and that we belong), there’s a huge truth He says about us that can sometimes be hard to fathom: we’re forgiven.

I think most of us know that on an intellectual level. But as easy as it is to know that God says we’re forgiven, how difficult is it sometimes to truly forgive ourselves? I’m talking about loving ourselves as God loves us. Last year I shared that we can’t love our neighbor as ourselves until we learn to love ourselves.

And loving ourselves sometimes starts with forgiving ourselves… of all the things we don’t do perfectly, all the things we fall short at compared to others, all the things we mess up, our limitations and the dreams that haven’t come true yet, and all the things other people have to say about us, too. If God Himself washes us in forgiveness and looks at us with love, then why don’t we forgive ourselves? 

So this week let’s accept the forgiveness we have through Christ and let’s speak forgiveness to ourselves. Let’s not withhold from ourselves the very thing our Creator died for us to have. And let’s continue to let the love of Christ change us from the inside out.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the richesof God’s grace… – Ephesians 1:7 (NIV)

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with youin my Father’s kingdom.” – Matthew 26:27-29 (NIV)

All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”- Acts 10:43 (NIV)

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