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“I’m so thankful for the place God has provided for us to live. I could live here comfortably for quite some time.”

Those were my words on a peaceful evening in May as I sat on the couch in our little living room with my husband. The duplex we had been renting for almost two years felt just like home in that moment, and I truly was comfortable. I was a month away from giving birth to our baby boy, and I was looking forward to the perfect postpartum period I had planned in our little home. Everything was as it should be; or so I thought.

Just two days later, sitting on that same couch, we took a phone call from our landlords. They would soon be listing our home for sale. The response of my heart in that moment was anything but spiritually mature. I was angry, not at our sweet Christian landlords, but at God. Why would He allow this? Why now, when we were about to bring a new baby home? Would we even have a home to bring our new baby to?

If I had known in that moment all that God was going to allow us to walk through this summer, I know I couldn’t have handled that knowledge. But God in his mercy handed us one challenge at a time and gave us exactly what we needed to come out victorious on the other side.

I’m not sharing the story of this summer out of a love for sharing personal stories, but out of a deep conviction that God would have me to publicly give Him the glory for what He accomplished in our lives this summer. My desire is to share the areas in which the Lord grew me spiritually so that you will be encouraged in your faith as well. Although this summer felt too painful to bear at times, the strength, security, and sanctification I found in the midst of some of the longest days and nights of my life are priceless treasures that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH

We had been anticipating teen camp with excitement for months, but we left town on that June morning bearing the burden of knowing that our house was listed for sale, and we had no control over whether or not we would be able to continue to live there. It was during one of the sponsor sessions that the Lord used the camp speaker to give us the answer to our burden.

1 Peter 5:7

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Whenever the worry began to surface, we started giving it to the Lord. Little did we know, we would return from camp with more burdens to cast on the Lord than the burden we came with.

If you know my husband, you know he has a reputation for being a pretty strong guy. So it probably comes as no surprise that he was selected to be part of a lumberjack competition. You know; log tossing, axe throwing, etcetera. The event he was selected to participate in was arm wrestling.

I don’t know if you know this, but you can actually snap your arm in half while arm wrestling. I didn’t know. But we found out the hard way. Apparently when you have two very strong and determined men arm wrestling who are evenly matched it becomes a test of bone density rather than muscle strength.

Steven’s humerus did snap in half, and in that moment it seemed as if everything in the world was silenced and we were all alone in a vacuum. A thousand questions ran through my head. How would Steven work at his very physical job? What would we eat? (If you don’t already know, Steven is the chef in our family. I can cook, but I assure you it isn’t great.) How would I take care of our two year old and our new baby that could come at any moment? I was 37 weeks pregnant, and I suddenly felt the weight of the world on my shoulders even as Steven was feeling the intense pain of a broken bone.

As I quickly packed a bag for the hospital (although not the hospital bag I thought I would be needing at 37 weeks pregnant), I wanted to call someone. I needed someone to be strong for me because in that moment I wasn’t strong at all. I lean on my husband’s strength so much, but in an instant his strength was gone both physically and mentally. But it was so late, I knew there was no one I could call. My panicked thought was, “No one is awake!” The Holy Spirit’s gentle reply was, “I’m awake.” And that was His gentle reply many more nights this summer when I felt all alone.

Although the little country emergency room in North Carolina assured us Steven wouldn’t need surgery, a second opinion on our return home assured us that Steven most definitely needed surgery. While Steven was in one emergency room getting a second opinion, I found myself in another emergency room because I had started running a high fever. That’s never a good sign at 38 weeks pregnant. The diagnosis was COVID. That was the last thing I was expecting, but our baby boy was completely healthy, so I returned home relieved.

My case of COVID was mild. I ran a fever for about a day and a half, had a little sinus congestion, and felt very tired. But was I tired because I had COVID or tired because I was 38 weeks pregnant? I guess I’ll never know for sure. Somewhere in the fog of my days with COVID, Steven went in for surgery. He was finally on the road to his long recovery.

Exactly one week after Steven’s surgery, our baby was born. I’m thankful much of my physical strength had returned by that time, and the Lord blessed me with an easy delivery. I believe He did so because He knew I was in for a marathon of baby care for the next few weeks.

Steven couldn’t even hold the baby. With great effort, he was able to take care of our two year old’s needs. People from our church provided food for us. My mom helped with cleaning and meals. She would have done more, but she’s in a season of taking care of her own aging mother. So all of the baby care fell to me. Looking back, I can’t believe I took care of our newborn for an entire month with virtually no help. All the feeding, all the diapers, all the night wakings, no one to even hold the baby while I ate. I don’t say this to say how strong I am; I’m not strong.

But my prayers for God to sustain me were desperate, and He answered.

I have several distinct memories of those early weeks being awake in the middle of the night with the baby. Steven was awake too; he couldn’t sleep through his pain, but he also wasn’t able to hold the baby. But we were both awake. In the times when it felt like it was too much, I prayed out loud. Over the course of the summer, I stopped praying for God to give me strength. That wasn’t enough. I prayed that He would be my strength. It was only in the full strength of Christ in me that I was not only able to survive the hardest nights of my life, but to thrive.

I had joy in those days. When my daughter was born three years ago, I struggled deeply. But the reason I struggled was because I hadn’t yet learned to find my strength in the Lord. It took a time of great weakness to find out just how strong He is. And so I wouldn’t trade that season of weakness and those painful sleepless nights for anything in the world.

2 Corinthians 12:9

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

THE LORD IS MY SECURITY

A couple of hours before we brought our baby boy home from the hospital, my husband said, “I need to tell you something, and there’s not going to be a good time to do it. So I’m telling you now. Our house is under contract.”

I laughed.

After all we had been through, of course our house would go under contract the day we brought our son home.

A little while later, a hospital staff member was getting some last minute information and asked for our home address. I started to give our address, but I couldn’t finish. I broke down sobbing. Steven had to finish it for me.

Putting on our baby’s going home outfit brought more tears. Was the place we were taking our baby even going to be our home within a couple of months? If it wasn’t, where would we go? And how would we get there? I had just given birth, and Steven’s arm was still thoroughly broken. How were we supposed to move?

In those days of uncertainty I felt anything but secure. But I continued to desperately seek the Lord because I didn’t know what else to do. And in Him I found security.

Matthew 6:25-34

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

God was going to take care of us. I believed that. And if I couldn’t have peace in the days of not knowing if we would get to keep our home, I wouldn’t have true peace when we knew for sure where we were going to live for the next year. If I only had peace when I knew where we were going to live, my security was not in the Lord, but in a brick and mortar house.

The first month of our baby’s life was filled with house inspections, appraisals, and last minute repairs. It wasn’t the quiet postpartum period I had envisioned, but God gave mercy and grace there as well. On the day we found out the new landlord wanted to keep us as tenants, I sobbed again. God had provided. It came with a dramatic rent increase, but I knew God would provide for that as well. Day by day, He was giving us our daily bread.

THE LORD DESIRES MY SANCTIFICATION

Our summer was difficult. It would be easy to overlook God’s purpose in all of it. Some of it seemed like senseless suffering, but we know God has a holy purpose for everything He allows into our lives.

People like to quote Romans 8:28 when times are hard. All things work together for good! But where’s the good in broken bones and COVID, sold homes and rent increases? If we don’t read Romans 8:29 as well, we miss the whole point.

Romans 8:28-29

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

The point is not that God is necessarily going to give us the material blessings that we see as good. The ultimate good that God is working in our lives is to conform us to the imagine of His Son. If I can become more like Christ as a result of suffering, I will welcome all the difficulties God chooses to allow into our lives.

My desire for this summer was to become more sanctified, more holy, more like my Savior because I know that is His desire for my life. I’ve learned to ask myself, is this desire a selfish desire or a sanctifying desire? I can assure you that there is a very selfish part of myself that did not want to be helping my husband get dressed when I was 38 weeks pregnant and had COVID. My flesh wanted to sit on the couch and be waited on hand and foot. And the world would tell me I deserved it. But the Lord has been teaching me to lose myself in a life of service to others and find joy in doing it. I can honestly say that I am glad I had the opportunity to die to my flesh and serve because I know that without the events of this summer I would not be anywhere near as close to the Lord as I am today. And that sweet fellowship is absolutely priceless.

 

We’re closing a chapter of our lives in more ways than one. The summer eventually calmed down. Steven’s bone has made a full recovery, and it’s just a matter of taking the time to strengthen his arm muscles again. One way the Lord has chosen to provide for our needs is by allowing my husband to quit his part time job at FedEx and begin working full time at our church as the assistant pastor. We’re ready to serve. After all the Lord has done for us, the very least we can do is offer our lives to Him.

The verse that I carried close to my heart this summer was Psalm 23:6:

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.

The words goodness and mercy rang out in my mind in many of the moments that felt anything but good and merciful. But looking back I can see those words were true. Goodness and mercy were following me. They will continue to follow me all the days of my life. They’ll continue to follow you all the days of your life as well. And the reality is, this world is not our home. For those of us who know Christ, our permanent dwelling place is in heaven. But as long as we’re on this earth, we can find our strength and security in the Lord, even as He continues to sanctify us.

 

I had good intentions of making a tradition of sharing my favorite books with you each year. The end of 2021 got away from me, but a friend encouraged me that it’s not too late to share my favorites. Maybe this will actually work out better since the flood of favorite books has long disappeared from all of our feeds!

I read 25 books last year (other than the Bible), which was right on target with my goal. I read 36 books in 2020, and I felt like that was too many. I wanted to spend more time in 2021 reading the Bible and writing words of my own. I was happy with how I divided my time reading God’s Word, writing, and reading other books in 2021. My Bible study time was fruitful, and I wrote another whole book of my own in five months! (That book will release in March. Subscribe to my newsletter to get updates!)

Out of the 25 books I read last year, there were eight books that I felt led to share with you. Maybe one of these recommendations will find its place on your own bookshelf this year.

Favorite devotional

I don’t read many devotionals; I prefer to spend my Bible reading time actually reading the Bible. However, Encouragement for Women is an incredible devotional that I would highly recommend! I believe there are certain times of our lives when devotionals can be especially beneficial. For a more in depth look at my philosophy on devotionals, check out my blog post, A Guide to Devotionals.

Favorite Book on Bible Study

Women of the Word was one of the first books I read last year, and it was incredibly impactful in my own personal Bible study. Jen Wilkin has a gift for teaching others how to study God’s Word for themselves. If you want to dig deeper into God’s Word this year, this book is for you!

favorite Christian Living Book

Sally Clarkson’s newly released book, Help, I’m Drowning, was an incredible encouragement in my own personal life. We will all face storms in our lives, and the level to which we are prepared will make all the difference in how we make it through. Sally shares the wisdom she has learned over the decades and provides encouragement to anchor our hope in Jesus, the One who can calm the storm and see us through.

Favorite Fiction book

Even if John Suter wasn’t a personal friend, Brett Wilson and Coronado’s Door would be the fiction book I would recommend to you this year. This middle grade adventure novel is a fun read for the whole family laced with vivid descriptions that will be sure to draw you into the story.

Favorite Biographical Book

The Hiding Place is a narrative nonfiction book that tells the story of Corrie Ten Boom and the way in which God used her family during the Holocaust. Reading about her faith in spite of persecution encouraged my heart and strengthened my own faith. I believe it will encourage you in your faith as well.

Favorite Book on Writing

Letters from the Mountain is easily my favorite writing book of all time. This compilation of letters from author Ben Palpant to his daughter felt like personal mentorship in my writing life. This book is a guide to those who not only wish to write well, but to live well. I only wish I had read it sooner. Ben has a gift for encouragement, and I’m sure this book will encourage your heart as it did mine.

Favorite Book on the Home

Welcome Home by Myquillyn Smith has completely changed the way that I decorate. This may seem insignificant, but the reality is her simple approach to decorating and hosting for the seasons has made me love my home more than ever before while spending less time on it than ever before. If you’re craving a simpler approach to home decor, this one is for you.

Favorite Parenting Book

Parenting a toddler has honestly been a terrifying experience. The sense of responsibility for the person my daughter will become has been daunting. Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson has infused me with confidence to direct my daughter on the path God has for her life. I’ll be coming back to this book again and again.

 

Now it’s your turn! What were your favorite books this year? Tell me in the comments!

 

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. I earn a small commission when you make a purchase through these links at no additional cost to you. 

 

Last week we talked about using the Blue Letter Bible app to look up words in the original languages. Today I want to show you another way I have found the Blue Letter Bible app to be useful: studying a specific word in our English Bible. This is helpful in increasing our understanding of passages and concepts in the Word of God. For this example, we’re going to study the word “rest.”

PERFORM A SEARCH FOR THE WORD YOU ARE STUDYING

Open the Blue Letter Bible app and tap the magnifying glass in the top left corner. Then, type in the word you want to study and tap search.

READ THROUGH THE VERSES CONTAINING THE WORD

As you can see, the word “rest” occurs in 265 verses in the Bible. If you’re researching a common word like “rest,” it may take some time to read through all the verses. Plan accordingly!

ADD VERSES OF INTEREST TO YOUR CLIPBOARD

As you find verses that spark your interest, tap them to bring up a menu. Select “Append Clipboard” to add them to your clipboard.

PASTE YOUR CLIPBOARD INTO YOUR NOTES APP

When you’re done reading, go to your notes app, open a new note, and paste your clipboard into your new note. Now you have all your verses of interest in one place, and you’ve likely narrowed down your research.

GO BACK AND LOOK UP THE VERSES TO FURTHER STUDY THE WORD

Go back to the Blue Letter Bible app and look up your verses of interest. From here, you can further study you word by looking it up in the original languages. (If you’re not sure how to do this, check out my blog post from last week.)

 

When we want to develop a deeper understanding of a Bible word, studying the way that word is used in the Bible can be incredibly helpful. I hope this will be a great tool for you as you dig deeper into God’s Word!

 

My favorite app to use when studying my Bible is the Blue Letter Bible app. It’s easy to use, it’s a wealth of knowledge, and it’s free! I’m sure I’m not even using a fraction of the resources on this app, but I want to share with you the ones that I do use and have found to be helpful. One thing that is incredibly helpful in studying the Bible is looking up words in the original languages in which the Bible was written. Gone are the days of bulky lexicons and expensive computer programs! You can easily look up Greek and Hebrew words on your phone. In this post, I will walk you step by step through using the Blue Letter Bible app to look up words in the original languages.

NAVIGATE TO THE PASSAGE YOU ARE STUDYING

By tapping the Scripture reference at the top of your screen, you will be brought to an index of all the books of the Bible. From here, you can easily navigate to the passage you would like to study.

TAP THE VERSE YOU WANT TO STUDY

Once you have brought up the chapter you are studying, tap on the verse for which you want to look up words in the original languages.

TAP INTERLINEAR/CONCORDANCE

At the very top of the menu, you will see “Interlinear/Concordance.” Tap that!

SCROLL DOWN AND TAP THE HEBREW/GREEK WORD YOU WANT TO STUDY

If you’re in the Old Testament you’ll see Hebrew words, and if you’re in the New Testament you’ll see Greek words. Scroll down and tap the Hebrew or Greek word that corresponds with the English word you would like to study.

THAT’S IT!

Scroll through this page to find definitions, how the word is used in the Bible, and other Scripture references where this word is used.

 

I’m so thankful for resources like this that allow me to deepen my understanding of God’s Word even though my knowledge of Greek and Hebrew isn’t as great as I would like for it to be. I pray that this will be a blessing to you. I will be creating more tutorials for the Blue Letter Bible app in the future, so make sure you’re receiving my newsletter so you don’t miss a post! You can sign up by entering your email address below!

 

We live in a culture that is wildly obsessed with success. Having a flourishing career, making money, owning a home, and living up to some ideal of “The American Dream” has become all-consuming for many people. Don’t get me wrong; none of those things are necessarily bad. There is nothing wrong with making money and owning things, but when achieving those things becomes our standard of success, it is likely that we will end up feeling empty in the end.

If we want to live truly satisfying, successful lives, we may need to redefine our definition of success. The Bible tells us clearly what the key to true success is:

Joshua 1:8

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

True success is found in living a life based on God’s Word. This formula that God outlined for Joshua before going into the promised land can also help us find true success in life as well. By redefining success as talking about God’s Word, knowing God’s Word, and doing God’s Word, we will find the satisfaction we are looking for.

TALK ABOUT GOD’S WORD

God told Joshua that the law should not depart out of his mouth. This command to Joshua was likely referring to God’s previous command to his people found in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

The truth of God’s Word should be a constant centerpiece of our conversation. How much of our talking is centered around the Word of God? Even if we’re not talking directly about God’s Word, it should have an influence on all of our conversation. If someone listened to everything I said for a day, would it be obvious that I’m a Christian? Or would they be surprised to find out that I’m a believer? What is in my heart will always come out of my mouth.

KNOW GOD’S WORD

If what is in my heart will always come out of my mouth, I want to make sure I fill my heart with the truth of God’s Word. I can’t talk about God’s Word if I don’t know it. So how can I know God’s Word?

Read God’s Word

I can’t know God’s Word if I don’t read it. A daily Bible reading routine is the very foundation of knowing God’s Word. As I have read God’s Word over and over through the years, its truth has become familiar to me. There’s so much that I still don’t know, but simply reading the Bible over and over again increases my understanding over time.

Meditate on God’s Word

“Meditate” is the word God specifically used in His command to Joshua. This word means to muse or to think about. My mind is constantly turning; what if I brought those wandering thoughts captive and spent my time thinking about Scripture? This allows the truth of God’s Word to sink deeply into our hearts, and eventually it will be sure to come out in our lives.

Memorize God’s Word

I hate to admit it, but this is something I struggle to do. When I was a kid, Scripture memory came easily to me. I still remember many of the verses I memorized in church. The older we get, the harder memorization becomes, but hiding God’s Word in our hearts is still a vital part of building a life based on the Word of God. Memorizing Scripture and meditating on Scripture go hand in hand—as we meditate on a verse, it will become more deeply engrained in our hearts.

DO GOD’S WORD

It’s not enough simply to know God’s Word and talk about God’s Word; I must actually live out the truth of God’s Word in my life. God told Joshua that the whole point of meditating on God’s Word day and night was so that he would be able to do the things it taught. However, no matter how well I know God’s Word, I will be endlessly frustrated if I try to apply it to my life in my own strength. This can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we trust Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. He will give us the strength we need to follow God’s Word if we stay sensitive to His guidance.

 

As I was writing this blog post, I received an email from our landlord with information about renewing our lease for another year. If I defined success like the world defines it, I could easily be frustrated that we haven’t bought a house yet. But when I define success as living a life based on God’s Word, I can have peace in knowing that we’re right on track in God’s eyes. I can be thankful for the amazing place He has provided for us to live. And I can keep serving Him joyfully. After all, this world is not my home. I’m here for a short while to reach others with the gospel. If I can accomplish that, I know I will be successful in God’s eyes. And that’s all that matters.

 

When I first entered the youth group at the age of twelve, I did not have any kind of consistent routine for daily devotions. I knew that God’s Word was important, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to be faithful to reading. Through my time in youth group, God placed multiple people in my life who gave me the tools I needed to have a consistent quiet time. One of those people was my youth pastor, Dwight Martin. He always provided us with recommendations for devotionals and Bible study materials, and he even had copies available at church for us to purchase. When I didn’t know where to start, this helped me develop a Bible reading routine that has become an anchor for my days. I don’t often use devotional books anymore, but you may find one to be helpful in certain seasons of life. I want to share with you a guide to devotionals that will help you know when a devotional might benefit you, what to look for in a devotional, and which devotionals I recommend.

WHEN TO READ A DEVOTIONAL

It’s far more important for us to know what God’s Word says than for us to know what someone else says about God’s Word. For this reason, I would encourage you to keep your devotion time centered around the Bible rather than on devotionals. However, there are three times when I believe that devotionals can be beneficial.

For Developing a Routine

I already mentioned that devotionals were especially helpful for me in developing a routine for reading God’s Word. If you don’t have a consistent Bible reading routine, a devotional may be helpful in developing one. Many devotionals have dates in them, so you’ll know exactly which passage to read on which day. Supposedly it takes twenty-one days to create a habit. A daily devotional might be just the thing that will help you create a habit of reading God’s Word.

To Find Encouragement in Hard Seasons

In the difficult seasons of life, we may just need some extra encouragement. God very well may use the insight and perspective of a devotional to give you the encouragement you need.

To Pause to Refocus on the Lord

In busier seasons, it may be helpful to read God’s Word more than one time per day. This may seem counterintuitive; if we’re busier, how will we have time to pause to read God’s Word more than once? Yet it is in these busy seasons that we often find we need God the most. This was especially true for me in my early days of motherhood. I found that it was helpful to take an extra pause in the day and read a short daily devotional to refocus my attention on the Lord. If you normally have your devotions in the morning, you might try doing this in the afternoon or evening.  Or, if you normally have a quiet time later in the day, you may take a minute in the morning to read a devotional to focus your mind on the Lord for the day.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A DEVOTIONAL

There’s really only one question to ask when you’re choosing a devotional: is it based on Scripture? If a devotional is just someone’s nice thoughts, it isn’t really going to be beneficial. Scripture should always be the central focus of a devotional because God’s Word alone is able to speak hope into our lives.

WHICH DEVOTIONALS I RECOMMEND

Although there are many devotionals I could recommend, I’ll just list three here. If you need further recommendations, check with your pastor or a leader in your church. I’m sure they would love to recommend their favorites as well!

 

MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST

This classic by Oswald Chambers is my all time favorite. I read it for the first time in high school, and I’ve probably read it a total of three times over the years. I’m sure I’ll read it again at some point. It has a devotional reading for every day of the year, it’s Scripture based, and its content remains relevant, even though it was originally published in 1927.

 

A WORD TO THE WISE

This is a devotional I read in my college years. Within its pages, Paul Chappell shares the wisdom found in the book of Proverbs. It has a reading for every day of the year followed by a practical application for your daily life.

 

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR WOMEN

This is a new release that I finished reading recently. It’s a compilation of thirty devotional readings written by women just like you and me. It’s practical, relatable, and, true to its title, encouraging.

 

I hope this guide will give you some ideas for how to practically use daily devotionals as you grow in your walk with the Lord. Is there a devotional that has been a special blessing to you? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

I have a confession: I love donuts. I will never say no to a donut, at any time for any reason. If I had the opportunity to eat donuts every day, I probably would.

It’s no secret that donuts aren’t the most nutritious food. In fact, they could probably be listed among the least nutritious foods. They’re deep fried, full of refined sugar, and oh so delicious.

There’s nothing wrong with eating a donut on occasion, but I know better than to seek out opportunities to eat donuts every day just because I love them. I know that this would damage my physical health in the long run, and I would very quickly start to feel the negative effects of my choices.

We often think about what we are feeding our bodies, but how often do we think about what we are feeding our souls? That innermost part of our being needs to be nourished, but how often are we feeding it a consistent diet of spiritual junk food? We try to find our satisfaction in entertainment, relationships, and possessions, but in the end we just feel empty. In order to be filled, we may need to change what we are hungry for. I want to share with you some practical steps for developing a healthy spiritual diet.

PUT SPIRITUAL JUNK FOOD IN ITS PROPER PLACE

If I told myself I was never allowed to have another donut ever again, I can guarantee you that would not help me to have a healthy relationship with donuts. In fact, it would likely make me crave them more. We’re not talking about sinful behaviors; we’re talking about things that can be completely pure and innocent. The problem comes in when we start trying to satisfy our souls with these things.

For me, it’s scrolling on social media. There’s nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but when I start to reach for my phone in moments of anxiety to soothe my soul, it then becomes a problem. Any form of entertainment can become a problem in this way. With the invention of wireless earbuds came the ability to easily plug into another world and drown out our unpleasant emotions. I enjoy podcasts as much as the next person, but I have to be careful about constant consumption. If I drown out every moment of silence to avoid unpleasant feelings, I’ll miss the opportunity to fellowship with God through prayer and receive the comfort of His still small voice in my moments of need.

So how do we put spiritual junk food in its proper place?

SET DEFINITE BOUNDARIES

How much time each day is reasonable for you to spend consuming spiritual junk food? This boundary is between you and the Lord, but if you pray about it, He will make it clear what the boundary should be.

Maybe you should limit your consumption to a certain time of day. Since I know social media is a problem for me, I limit my time on social media to my daughter’s nap time after I’ve spent time in God’s Word.

FIND ACCOUNTABILITY

As with all life changes, it’s easier to be consistent when you have accountability. The best person to keep you accountable is probably someone you live with. For me, it’s my husband. Do I like it when he asks me if I really need to be on my phone right now? Not at all. Am I thankful that he cares enough about me to help me stay accountable to the boundaries I have set for myself? Absolutely.

START GIVING YOUR SOUL THE NOURISHMENT IT NEEDS

I can reduce my intake of donuts all I want, but if I don’t consume enough nourishing food in their place, I’ll still have uncontrollable cravings. We don’t put spiritual junk food in its proper place just for the sake of consuming less, but for the sake of making more room for the food that will satisfy our soul’s deepest longings.

True satisfaction can be found in God alone. How do we develop a relationship with God? By spending time in the pages of His Word and by talking to Him through prayer. When I have the urge to pick up my phone in moments of anxiety, how much better would I actually feel if I turned to the Lord in prayer? Rather than sitting down with a novel when I have some time to myself, what if I opened the pages of God’s Word and received the hope that He has to offer?

 

These changes won’t take place overnight. Just like changing our diets physically takes time and effort, developing an appetite for God’s Word isn’t an instant change. But if we learn to put spiritual junk food in its proper place and start giving our souls the spiritual nourishment they need one day at a time, we will find the true satisfaction that only God can give.

 

You get to the end of the day, and you realize you haven’t had a quiet time. Sound familiar?

We’ve all been there. Life happens. If you miss your time in God’s Word for the day, there is always grace. But I want to give you the tools you need to be as consistent as possible. Our time in God’s Word makes such a difference in our lives!

One thing that has helped me be consistent in my quiet time is having a backup plan for the days when life just gets in the way. I want to give you some practical tips for having a “Plan B” for your quiet time.

THINK AHEAD

At the beginning of every day, know when you’re going to have your quiet time. Better yet, think through the week ahead of time! Is there a day this week that your schedule will be out of the ordinary? Do you have to wake up earlier certain days? Will you be traveling or out of the house more than usual? If you can think through the day before it starts, you’ll be able to adjust if your normal quiet time isn’t going to work.

BE SPIRIT-LED

You know your day is going to be off, and you honestly don’t know when you’re going to be able to have a quiet time. Ask the Lord to help you to be aware of the earliest possible time when you can pause for a quiet time. This may mean that your time isn’t completely quiet. I’ve had my “quiet time” on the couch while a toddler climbed all over me. But if you ask God to help you be aware of an opportunity to pause for a few minutes, He will make it clear.

READ BEFORE BED

Sometimes life takes us by surprise. Someone gets sick, or there’s some sort of emergency. You weren’t able to plan ahead, and there really was no moment to pause. Before you go to bed, open your Bible, even if it’s just for five minutes. This is the thing that has helped me be most consistent in my Bible reading. If I don’t get to read at my normal time, I know I can always spend a few minutes with the Lord before I go to bed. Besides, those days when life completely overwhelms us are likely the days we need God’s Word the most.

 

If you think ahead through your days and weeks, stay sensitive to the Spirit’s leading to pause, and commit to reading for just a few minutes before bed, you will be far more likely to be consistent with your quiet time.

Do you have a backup plan for your quiet time on the busy days? Tell me in the comments!

 

Have you ever reached the end of your time in God’s Word and wondered what you had just read? Do you wonder if you’ll ever understand certain parts of God’s Word? I just read through Ezekiel for the second time this year, and I can assure you this is how I felt most days after reading. 

Sometimes the Bible seems hard to understand. It can be tempting to give up trying, avoiding the parts that don’t make as much sense to us (hello, 1 Chronicles!). But there is so much reward found in continuing to read and study the Bible, even the difficult parts. I want to share with you three things to help you stay encouraged when the Bible seems hard to understand.

ENGAGE YOUR MIND

I have to be willing to admit that part of the problem with my lack of understanding may be me. I realize that my mind is prone to wandering when I’m trying to read God’s Word. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and our phones and the internet are partially to blame. But we still have a choice. I want to choose to engage my mind. When I notice my mind wandering during my quiet time, I will choose to refocus my attention on God’s Word. This takes work every single day, but it is so worth it.

TRUST THE TEACHER

The truth is, we can’t understand God’s Word on our own. We need a Teacher to help us. Thankfully, God has given us the Holy Spirit for this very purpose.

John 14:26

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

We receive the Holy Spirit at salvation, and He is the one Who will teach us all things and give understanding.

1 Corinthians 2:10-12

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Knowing that I have the Holy Spirit to guide me, I will keep being faithful to my time in God’s Word. If I take the time, God will do the teaching.

DELIGHT IN THE MYSTERY

There are some things we just won’t understand until we get to heaven. Even a lifetime of studying God’s Word will not be enough to know everything God has for us within its pages. But I want to devote my life to getting just a little closer to understanding every day. I want to get to know God in this lifetime so that stepping into eternity with Him feels as natural as taking my next breath.

1 Corinthians 13:12

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

There are things I will not understand this side of eternity. Until then, I will delight in the mystery.

 

If we engage our minds, trust the Teacher, and delight in the mystery, we will find satisfaction in our time in God’s Word, even on the days when we don’t fully understand. The Holy Spirit will teach us little by little, and when we get to heaven, we will know even as also we are known.

I would love to pray for you that God would give you understanding of His Word. If you would like prayer in this area, will you let me know in the comments?

 

I’ve been told many times over the course of my life that the best time to have a quiet time is in the morning. Although that may be true for some people in some seasons, it has rarely been true for me. I remember a period of time as a teenager when I slept with my Bible next to my bed and asked my mom to hand it to me when she woke me up for school so I could have a morning quiet time. Although my intentions were good, this didn’t work out very well in practice. By the time I got to school, I could barely remember what I had read. I knew I had to find a different way because the whole having-a-quiet-time-in-the-morning thing wasn’t working for me. So I started having a quiet time at different times of the day.

Yes, there are passages in the Bible that talk about seeking God in the morning. Yes, Jesus went out to pray a great while before day. But He did that because it was the best time for Him to meet with His Father before His followers started demanding His attention. In college I found that the morning really was the best time for me because the dorm was still quiet. The best time to have a quiet time is the time you’re consistently able to have it. I want to share with you five times to have a quiet time (other than in the morning!) that I hope will help you have a more consistent time with God in His Word.

AT NIGHT

I first experimented with having a quiet time at night before going to bed. As a teenager, that was when my mind was the most alert and ready to read and comprehend God’s Word. If you’re not a morning person or you have to wake up too early in the morning to have a profitable quiet time, this may be a good option for you. My husband wakes up at 3:30 AM most weekdays, and I often see him reading his Bible before going to bed. In this season of life, it’s the best time for him.

ON YOUR LUNCH BREAK

If you have a job that includes a lunch break, try having your quiet time during this time! It’s okay if you eat lunch while having your quiet time. Consider it having lunch with God! This may require you to give up some social time or entertainment during your lunch break, but the refreshment you will receive from God’s Word will be well worth it.

AFTER SCHOOL/WORK

For a period of time I had a quiet time in the afternoon as soon as I got home from school. I was able to go to my room where it was quiet and take some time to read God’s Word and refresh myself after a day at school. If you’re a student, this may be a good option for you. It could also be a good option if you work and can take a little time when you get home.

WHEN THE HOUSE IS EMPTY

As a newly married wife, I enjoyed having a quiet time later in the morning after my husband had left the house. If your family has a bit of a different schedule than you do and you find that you have some time at home by yourself, this is a perfect time to meet with God through reading His Word.

NAP TIME

As a new mom, I ignored the advice to sleep when the baby was sleeping and had my quiet time when the baby was sleeping. Now that my “baby” is almost two, I still do this. This may be the best option for moms: meet with the Lord when the little ones are napping or after their bedtime. But know that it’s okay in this season if your “quiet time” isn’t always quiet. There may be interruptions, but your ministry as a mom is so important! Give God the time you have, and He will bless you for your faithfulness.

 

If having a morning quiet time isn’t working for you, I hope that one of these options will help.

What time do you meet with God by reading His Word? Tell me in the comments!