Guest Post for Loved+Blessed

This month I had the pleasure and opportunity to guest write for Loved+Blessed and their blog! Loved+Blessed is a Christian women’s ministry that encourages and supports everyday women. One of the special things that Loved+Blessed offers are encouragement subscription boxes! Each month’s box focuses on a different theme and includes some really sweet items. 

The post that I wrote was before this global pandemic, but I think the words are still true for today. The topic that I wrote about is related to self-care, but also about focusing self-care around Jesus. Below is a small excerpt of my post but please feel free to click the link below to read the full post. 

Self Care is not About You, it’s About Jesus

Maybe you’ve had a really bad day today. Maybe you’re coming off of a really difficult year. Maybe you’re going through a difficult season of marriage. Maybe you have an unbelieving spouse. Maybe you’ve chased screaming children around all day. Maybe you have a child who has special needs and requires more care and attention than you have energy to give. Maybe you’re juggling school, work, and a family. Maybe you’re going through depression and anxiety. Maybe you’ve had a disappointment. Maybe you even have ministry-fatigue. Whatever the situation may be or whatever your life looks like right now–my sister in Christ, I pray that you will be encouraged by these words. I pray that your soul would be revived so that, in turn, your self would be revived. Because, after all, self-care isn’t actually about us. Self-care is about being made alive IN Christ so that we may glorify Him in all that we do. Self-care is about Jesus and it begins with Jesus.”

Click this link to read the full blog post

Love From Amy Blog

Finding Your Joy Again | Guest Interview with Stacy Park of Spark Wholeness

At the beginning of the year, I shared that I had been through a really rough previous year but how I also felt like I was finally coming up for air. I also talked about the importance of opening up to others about struggles, so that you can have support from your community and not go through life alone. 

Last weekend I met up with my friend, Stacy, and we talked about similar experiences and offered mutual support to one another regarding finding joy again. It was such an encouraging and refreshing time to be open, honest, and vulnerable about seasons of joyless-ness while also knowing that these seasons don’t last forever. Sometimes it is actually the tough times that produce the most joy. How can you truly identify what joy is unless you haven’t had it for a while? In the Bible, in the book of James, it is explained that those who follow Christ should actually count trials as joy because we will be strengthened and He has promised that we will not be lacking in anything!

James 1:2-6

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

After Stacy and I talked about life and things we were learning, we transitioned into talking about JOY! I had some questions prepared beforehand and below is a summary of what we discussed. I had hoped to type this in a dialogue style, but we had such a great time talking that it just became impossible to write down everything we spoke about. We talked, and talked, and talked. Aren’t friendships great?? I hope that you will be encouraged by our discussion. Also, if you follow my Facebook page or IG, I have videos linked from a live-chat that Stacy and I had for her website. 

What does joy mean to you? And what is the opposite of joy?

“Joy is a choice that needs to be made everyday! It is turning from pain and giving all your pain, worries, and care to the Lord–knowing that He will fight for you and give you joy (Exodus 14:13-14). Pain leads to growth and growth leads to joy! The opposite of joy is pain–and often times they both come hand-in-hand.”

What does joy look like to you on the inside? And what about the outside?

“Internally, joy begins with the mind. You have to focus on what is good and the blessings that God has given to you. Internal joy is being able to practice gratitude, even when your flesh doesn’t want to. When you have the right metal frame of mind to focus on blessings and gratitude, the mind can control other parts of the body which can ultimately lead to experiencing joy! An external display of joy can look like having a quiet confidence. You are anchored in peace and you know that your identity is in Christ. External joy will be genuine, as well. If you have joy in Christ–you will not have to “fake” trying to be happy.” 

Can you recall a time that you felt far from being joyful?

Due to privacy, I am not quoting things that Stacy shared with me but I will summarize this section. Stacy shared with me that she has been through a few years of dealing with surprising hardships, challenges, and testing of her faith. She shared with me that these hardships have not been comfortable for her, she has often felt like wanting to run away from the pain, and maybe even question God. Stacy shared that her family has gone through various challenges in the last few years–and that not many outside people knew. While she was still trying to minister and serve her family, not being able to open up to people outside her family was very isolating. 

Do you have any specific Bible references that encourage you when it comes to having joy? What truths do you speak to yourself? What about any specific worship songs that encourage you? 

“Bible verses that encourage me are Philippians 4:8–fill your minds with things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely— and Psalm 104–enter His courts with thanksgiving in your hearts. And some worship songs I am loving are from Hillsong, especially New Wine. Truths I speak to myself are that God has not given me a spirit of fear but a sound mind ( 2 Timothy 1:7) and also that I am not lacking anything in Christ. I surround myself with things that remind me of God’s word, truth, promises, and signs of hope. Gratitude journaling is very powerful and helps you to remember what God has done.”

What are some practical things to keep in mind when it comes to finding your joy?

“Make a list each week of 10 things that make you feel joyful and schedule time for each of those things to happen in your week–it helps to give you something to look forward to. Be in prayer and worship during your commute each day, it helps to set the tone of your day. Take a sabbath and truly rest! Sabbath can be a powerful time to evaluate stress and identify things that are stealing your joy. Also make an effort to take breaks from social media–it is sometimes a joy-killer and comparison is dangerous! Go to workout classes that are fun and make you happy to exercise (ie yoga, pilates, rock climbing, etc). Community is another important thing to have–even if you feel like shutting yourself off from people, make yourself get out and go see your friends, family, church anyway!”

Just for “funzies”, what are 4 things that bring you joy?

“Some types of music that I am really loving are Selena Gomez’s new album, Tayla Parx, and I love turning on Post Malone and jamming out in my car! I am a Rachel Hollis guru and really like her books Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing. Chuy’s Taco Salad with Jalapeño Ranch also really brings me so much joy!”

How can others connect with you (Stacy) and your ministry, Spark Wholeness?

“Readers can connect with me on my website– sparkwholeness.bigcartel.com— I have some new clothing products, including leggings! Readers can also go to the “Schedule Me” section of the website for fitness classes, workshops, speaking events, etc. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.” 

Stacy, thank you so much for hanging out with me, being vulnerable, talking about joy, and all the other funzies that we had last weekend!! Readers, I hope something about our conversation will help you if you are also dealing with a season of finding your joy again. Which of these questions, that we discussed, stick out to you the most?

Love From Amy Blog

 

Happy 4th Birthday, Blog: Lessons from Last Year

On January 31st, this past weekend, my blog turned 4 years old! Yay!! I know that year 3 was kind of a wash, but I learned many lessons about myself and life during that time. Today I want to celebrate new beginnings, refreshment, a new year, and new goals–which is what I am hoping year 4 will be for this blog.

I would like to share with you 4 lessons that I learned last year during my little hiatus. While I probably learned more than 4 lessons–these are the ones that stick out to me the most.

  1. Material things will not and do not make you happy. I mean, I guess they kind of do–but if you go in with the mindset of “well, if I get this or that then I’ll feel better about myself,” you will be wrong. I think in the first couple years of blogging, I tried to accumulate so much stuff because “that’s what everyone else was doing” so that things could showed off and reviewed. While yes, I know that some bloggers do a really good job of giving reviews, writing about fashion and style, and marketing for other companies–I was doing a really bad job at it. After a while all of the stuff I had was beginning to crowd me and make me feel overwhelmed with the amount of money I was spending and also just how much stuff I had to maintain. I do not mean to offend other bloggers at all, because I know that many have full-time careers through them, but this was a lesson that I learned because of my blogging and social media experience. This lesson made me check my heart and evaluate the motives behind my materialism. I have since adopted a much more minimalist mindset.
  2. Moments with Jesus are powerful and change everything. If you read my last post, you’ll know that I mentioned my battle with anxiety and depression last year. There were many times that I felt so paralyzed by it all that I couldn’t really pray anything other than “Jesus, help me.” My quiet times with Jesus were not as often as I would have liked–but the moments that I would meet with Him and when I felt so desperate–I knew He was with me. I would instantly feel peace and an assurance that He knew exactly what I was going through. The times that I spent in His Word were so powerful because everything was relevant and applicable to what I was dealing with. That’s one of the amazing and powerful things about the Bible and gospel message–it is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12)! I encourage you to, even if you don’t know what to do or what to say, spend time with Jesus! He loves you, He is waiting for you, and He has given us access to Him at all times (Ephesians 2:18).
  3. Life is precious. Life is short and must be valued and celebrated! Last year, my mom went through cancer treatment and throughout the whole process, the reality of mortality was scary. It made me want to make the most out of the time that I had with her and my family each day, to not complain, but to plead with God for more time. As I mentioned in my last post, she is now cancer-free and God was, and is, so gracious to our family. I know that this world is not our home and one day we will be in eternity. I am so thankful for the promises of God and the hope we have of spending eternity with Him. I hope, very much, that you have the same assurance as well. I don’t mean to turn this post into a morbid topic, but that’s just reality.
  4. It’s ok to wear black 99% of the time. I’ve come to the reality that I just really like to wear black. I used to think it was boring, I really should wear more color, or that everything just looked the same. But that’s just me and my style–and I love it. Yes, I do have some color in my wardrobe–but it will most likely be accompanied with black. It’s classy, versatile, appropriate for all-year wear, and it’s great to mask the occasional coffee spill. Ha!

Those are my top 4 lessons of the last year! Some are pretty serious and some are not as much–but I think important, nonetheless. What are some lessons that you learned last year? I would love to know!

Hello Blog: Where Have I Been?

Hello, blog! Hello, readers! Holy cow. It’s been a while. I had no intention to be away from the blog this long (my last post was in MARCH 2019) and I have been wanting to be back as soon as possible. I thought that maybe I could skip over the “where have I been” part and just jump straight into new posts—but this part is important. I have always wanted this blog to be a space of encouragement and joy, in the midst of a crazy and sometimes difficult life, and it would be wrong of me to just pretend like everything’s been fine.

Have you ever had one of those years that, even after it’s ended, is difficult to process? Last year was one for the books, in that respect. My family has been and has come through a really difficult season, but also one that had been full of so many blessings. Last year my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of my siblings took a job far away, and our family had to adjust to a new way of life in specific areas. But we also welcomed another precious nephew, who we had been praying to arrive for a long time. Last year was a difficult one for me in dealing with anxiety, depression, and just an overall inability to emotionally cope with everything. I had felt paralyzed by life’s circumstances and honestly, I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer anyone on this blog. I didn’t feel like I could encourage and uplift others, when I was having such a hard time encouraging and uplifting myself. But then there were also many good things that happened last year such as hitting milestones in my career, spending some extended time in Maine during the summer, going to England in the fall, and enjoying life in my new-ish house. That is life though, an ebb and flow of good times and times that make you want to curl up in a ball.

But, in all of that…and in everything the happened in 2019–I will say that God is good. He has been so faithful through all of these seasons and it has been such a comfort to know that He has walked with me and with my family through all these times. Perhaps some would think that living a Christian life comes without suffering and difficult times–but that is far from the truth. God even says in His word that–“in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” I think one of the biggest blessings about going through tough times is knowing there is hope and peace through Christ for those who are in Christ. My favorite worship song lately has been Goodness of God by Bethel Music and it’s words have been so encouraging! I can definitely say that I have lived in the goodness of God! And praise God, my mother has been declared cancer free!!

I love Your voice

You have led me through the fire

In the darkest night

You are close like no other

I’ve known You as a Father

I’ve known You as a Friend

And I have lived in the goodness of God

And all my life You have been faithful

And all my life You have been so, so good

With every breath that I am able

Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

Goodness of God by Bethel Music

I think this may be a very random and jumbled post, but it’s just a little snippet into the last year and some of my thoughts. I feel like I am finally able to move forward with my plans for this online space, now that I have addressed the elephant in the room. I know that hard times are still going to come, but I want to encourage and support you through whatever you may also be going through. I have plans for travel posts, home posts, cooking posts, etc., so bear with me!

Hello, blog! Hello, reader! I’m excited for 2020 and I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey!

You Are Loved: Encouragement on Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is the international day of love, sentiment, and all things lovey-dovey/mushy. If you are single, married, dating, etc., I hope you’re able to celebrate the day with those you love.

I feel like there is so much pressure associated with Valentine’s Day that sometimes it’s not a day that people enjoy. Some may have experienced pain and heartbreak on this day or might just be longing for love. Regardless, I want to share some encouragement with you, in case you need it today.

First of all, you are incredibly unique, precious, and loved. I hope you never forget that. You have a valuable purpose in life and there is no one else like you. You are fully equipped and have what it takes for life, in Jesus’ name. You are exactly where you are supposed to be.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and of self-discipline”– 1 Timothy 1:7

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”–Numbers 6:24-26

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails…”– 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”–Galatians 5:22-23

God’s love will never be taken away from you. He loves you so much and has given His life for you. In the scope of the universe, humans are just tiny specs. But yet God loves you so much that He came to die for you. God cares for you and you are valuable to Him. He will never leave you or forsake you. You are not alone and are not forgotten.

“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.”– Psalm 36:5-6

“The earth is filled with your love, LORD; teach me your decrees.”– Psalm 119:64

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”–Romans 8:28-29

Because of God’s love, you now have an example of how to love others. You are part of a fellowship of other believers who love Him and you just the same. Because of God’s love, you are part of a community that is different than all the others.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”–Romans 12:9

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”–1 John 3:18

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”–1 John 4:7-8

“We love because He first loved us.”–1 John 4:19

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”–John 15:13

Happy Valentine’s Day my friend!