Who Are You?

Who Are You?

07/11/22

150 characters.

That’s how much space you have to sum yourself up in an Instagram bio. 150 characters – that’s somewhere between 20-40 words, and in it, we each get to decide how we want to present ourselves to the public eye.

Of course, it would be impossible to condense a whole life and a dynamic, complex, human being in that many characters. But regardless – we try.

What am I?

This leaves us with a few options:

  1. Fill the space with something unrelated. A funny quote, a reference to your love for coffee, a Bible verse.
  2. Leave it blank. Keep ’em guessing.
  3. Fill it with whatever seems to be the MOST IMPORTANT.

And here, in option 3, we find ourselves facing the most universally weighty and pressing question that people ask – WHO AM I?

Who are you?

Whose are you?

What would you say?

Forget the Instagram of it all – if you had to sum yourself up, right now – what would you say?

I asked myself this question a few months ago, and in the spirit of full transparency, my first thoughts were not what I wish they’d been. Immediately, my mind went to: writer, author, blogger, girlfriend, friend – and instantly, I felt convicted.

It’s not that those things are bad, or even that they’re unimportant. I am proud of those titles, and while I am always learning, I try to do those things well.

But NONE OF THOSE THINGS MATTER without the source of my identity. And my identity isn’t grounded in what I do for work or based on my relationships with the people I love.

The source of your identity

First and foremost, I am always a Daughter of the Creator God. I am loved by Jesus, known by the Father, and saved by a Grace I don’t deserve.

And if I don’t start there, nothing else makes sense.

It seems to be a universal thing – the craving and desire for identity. In all areas and places and things, we want to know who we are and what we’re here for. Identity is comforting, it’s clarifying, and it gives us a sense of purpose and meaning.

The search for identity is deeply human and not a bad thing.

But finding it in anything other than Jesus leads to disappointment.

A job or career path might bring some satisfaction and provision. It might give you a sense of accomplishment and pride, help you build a successful life, and feel like a contributor.

A relationship can make you feel safe and wanted. It can be healthy and happy, provide love and comfort, and exceed even the most glorious Pinterest boards.

Hobbies, passions, social media followers, sexuality, friends, church, ministry, food, another person.

None of these things are bad, in fact, many of them are good, good gifts that we’ve been given by God himself. But they aren’t HOME. They’re not YOU. They’re not what you belong to.

They can’t save you from your sins, redeem the broken parts of your story, or make you whole.

Who are you, really?

This brings us back to the question: Who are you?

Not your work, not your relationships, not just a list of interests or things about you – who are you, really?

Maybe you have an answer. Maybe not.

As I’m writing this, I know that I can’t possibly know what you’re walking through right now or the details of your situation. I don’t know what you do for work or who you love or how you fill your free time.

But I know you are loved. // John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4-5

I know you were created with purpose. // Ephesians 2:10

That the God who knit you together is the same God who sent his Son to die for you.

The same God who knows every bit of your past and future, and knew it even then.

Instagram bios are, in the grand scheme of things, very unimportant.

But how you define who you are is not.

If you’re feeling far from God or lost in your identity, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s something almost everyone struggles with at some point or another. Everyone connects best to God in a different way, but I have found it immensely helpful during these periods to dive deep into what God says about me. Nothing beats spending time in scripture.

Journaling, reading, and listening to worship music can all help too. Above all, keep showing up. When you are present and eager for God to meet you, He will. Know that you are loved, treasured, and valued deeply by the Father.

Try listening to this song by Hillsong and reflect on what you feel God is speaking to you.

To read more from Anika, visit her website.

10 Things You Need to Hear After a Breakup

10 Things You Need to Hear After a Breakup

05/23/22

No matter what the circumstances, breakups are never fun. Whether it was a blindsided heartbreak or an amicable parting of ways, losing someone who was once a big part of your life leaves your heart at least a little bruised.

And let’s be honest – breakup advice can be a bit all over the place. From “get back out there” to “get him back”, it can be hard to make sense of the aftermath.

I want you to know that you’re not alone. Almost all of us go through this at one point or another, and while it’s hard, it does get easier.

While every situation is different, I’ve learned 10 things that are almost always helpful to hear after a breakup. They might not be easy to hear, but they’re important.

1. It sucks

For everyone telling you “keep your chin up”, and “everything happens for a reason”, hear this — what you’re going through sucks. It just does. Whether it was an amicable breakup, an unexpected betrayal, or the casually cruel loss of someone in your life, it sucks. Your pain is valid, the adjustment period you’re going through is hard, and all of this is uncomfortable.

2. Don’t try to talk yourself out of feeling

Hurt, anger, rejection, betrayal, whatever it is. Your healing is a journey, a process, and denial will only delay it. While it may be worth temporarily putting it out of your head to live your life and avoid drowning in your sorrows, pretending like nothing happened won’t serve you or your future. It’s gonna hurt, but you need to let yourself feel it.

3. You’re incredible

Regardless of what happened or caused the end of this relationship, your worth is the same as it was before it began. You were created with intention, born with a purpose, and are intricately unique. No one’s opinion could ever change or affect that. You are immeasurably valuable.

4. You are loved

As humans, we crave to be fully known and deeply loved. We hate to admit it, but sometimes the ending of a relationship can leave us feeling fully known and entirely unloved. This is not true. In fact, I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of people around you who love you deeply. Seeing it might feel impossible right now. Feeling it is likely even harder, but as best as you can, embrace the truth that you are loved by the people around you, friends, family, and most importantly, by the One who created you in the first place.

5. No one can tell you how to grieve

As established, most breakup advice sucks. And yeah, people are trying to help. There’s a time and a place when you may even want them to. But only you know your mind and heart. Self-care begins when you’re willing to advocate for yourself. Asking for what you need and taking time and space to simply be however you need to is a huge part of post-breakup healing.

6. Every relationship is a mix of good and bad

For the most part, anyway, every relationship is a mix of both wonderful things and hard ones. I don’t know if it’s a girl thing or an everyone thing, but it seems like post-breakup we all just resign to bashing the person you were dating. And hey, maybe it’s cathartic — but focusing on the bad and assuming the worst doesn’t lead to peace. In all likelihood, your journey to healing will be much more effective if you can find a way to honour the good while knowing that you deserve better.

7. Find a way to be thankful for what you’re learning through it

Feeling and processing is key, but be careful not to drown yourself in misery and sorrow. Gratitude is the key to a happy and mindful heart. If you’re having a hard time being thankful for your singleness, be thankful for everything you’re learning through this journey. Everything we go through makes us who we are, and the pain you’re feeling now will leave you stronger on the other side. Choose growth, respect, and self-love for yourself during this process.

8. Try new things

One of the most important steps of healing post-breakup is recreating the parts of your life that used to deeply involve another person. Find some new hobbies, try a new coffee shop, make new friends who won’t trigger painful memories. You don’t need to eliminate the good things that are there, but creating and finding new parts of your life will be a refreshing change.

9. Your past does not dictate your future

Say it louder for the people in the back. No matter what regrets you have, what moments you wish you could undo, people you wish you could’ve fallen out of love with sooner, your past does not dictate your future. Embrace it. Learn from it. But don’t let it hold you down.

10. You haven’t “missed your chance”

I don’t believe in soul mates. I can’t promise you that the perfect person for you is right around the corner. But I can tell you that love has a lot more to do with choice than we give it credit for. If you want to be in a relationship, put yourself out there. Meet people and make yourself available. Don’t make it your goal, purpose, or ideal in life, but it’s okay to explore some options.

Ultimately, while this doesn’t undo the pain you’re going through – nothing surprises God. He knows what you’re feeling, and He knows what’s still coming for you. God doesn’t play games. He’s not messing with you. You are loved so deeply by the Creator, and your story isn’t over.

Relationships are something we were built for. From the very beginning of the Bible, that’s clear. But your worth isn’t affected or determined by your relationship status, and in the end, the only approval that really matters is the Lord’s.

Seek it, crave it, and fall in love with Him. Fulfill the calling He has placed on you, and use this opportunity to draw near to Him, even in the midst of suffering.

You are so loved. The Creator calls you valuable, chosen, and worthy in His sight. There is no one and nothing that can separate you from His love.

To read more from Anika, visit her website.

When We Miss the Point

When We Miss the Point

06/06/22

How would you describe a “good Christian girl”?

When I’ve asked this of myself, I usually come up with a list of the things I think a “good Christian” does. She studies her Bible every day. She spends her time well. She calls sin what it is, and she avoids it with all her might. She is involved in her church. She is kind, patient, and hardworking. And the list goes on.

“This is the type of person I should be,” I think to myself. And then I strive every day to become this person, to do the things I think a “good Christian girl” should do.

I’m sure you have your own list, your own mental picture of what it means to be a good Christian. None of the things on our lists are bad; obviously it’s good to study our Bibles, to be involved in our local churches, and to be kind and patient.

But what if I told you that someone could do all these things and still miss the entire point of Christianity?

The good Christian church

There was a church in the first century that was a lot like the “good Christian girl” in my description. When Jesus dictated a letter to this church in Ephesus, He acknowledged all the good things they were doing:

I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. // Revelation 2:2

The Christians in Ephesus were working hard for the Lord. They were persevering through challenging circumstances. On top of that, they were committed to following the truth of Scripture. They didn’t put up with people doing and teaching evil things; they compared the teaching they were hearing with God’s Word and identified when the teaching was false.

I’m already impressed by this church, but there’s more:

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. // Revelation 2:3

In an age when the persecution against Christians was more intense than we can even imagine, the people in this church were not just enduring suffering, but enduring it patiently for the sake of Jesus’s name. They knew He was the Son of God, and they were willing to suffer rather than deny Him. And on top of that, in spite of all the good things they were doing, the people in this church had not grown weary.

Sometimes I get tired of showing up to my God-given responsibilities day after day after day—but not this church! To be working for the Lord, committed to sound Biblical teaching, and patient in suffering already sounds ideal to me, but to not grow weary? At this point, I’m inclined to label the church in Ephesus as “super-Christians,” the kind of Christian we all wish we were but feel like we can never quite measure up to.

But that’s not what Jesus calls them.

After listing all the wonderful things they were doing—the list of things that makes me assume these people were some kind of Christian superheroes—Jesus says, But I have this against you… // Revelation 2:4

Wait…what? What could He possibly have against this church that was doing everything right?

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. // Revelation 2:4

Missing the point

You can do all the right things and still miss the point.

My description of the “good Christian girl” is full of the things she does. It’s easy to reduce Christianity to a list of behaviours we think we have to check off to be considered “good Christians.” But when we do this, we fall into the exact same trap as the church in Ephesus—the church Jesus criticized for having abandoned their love for Him.

What had the church in Ephesus originally been taught about the Christian life?

In Ephesians 5, Paul had indeed instructed this church to shun immorality and sinful behaviour. He had encouraged them to expose sin and to use their time wisely. He had commanded them to conduct all their relationships in a way that reflected Christ’s nature. When I read Jesus’s description of this church in Revelation 2, I think they were doing the things they had been taught to do, and doing them well.

The problem was that they had forgotten the reason why they were supposed to live in this way. At the beginning of chapter 5, right before Paul describes how Christians ought to live, he sums up the motivation for their conduct like this:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us… // Ephesians 5:1-2

We’re supposed to live lives completely separate from immorality—because we’re called to imitate a God who is holy.

We’re supposed to use our time wisely—but we don’t do it to earn God’s stamp of approval. We do it because God has already adopted us as His own dearly loved children, and all our choices are now filtered through that relationship.

We’re supposed to put others before ourselves—because Christ loved us to the point of sacrificing Himself for us, and we want to be as much like Him as possible.

The Christian life isn’t a checklist of good deeds we have to accomplish; it’s a life whose every step is directed by love. God’s love for me was so great He gave His only Son to redeem me, to adopt me as His own daughter. Faced with such love, how could I not love Him? How could I not want to be as like Him as possible, to please Him in everything I do? How could I not love the other people Christ died for?

But without love for Him—what’s the point of any of it?

If I study my Bible for an hour a day but don’t love the God it tells me about, my study is pointless.

If I am involved in all my church’s activities but don’t love the people I’m supposedly serving, my service means very little.

If I look, speak, and act like a “good Christian girl” but don’t love Christ—I’ve missed the entire point of what it means to be a Christian.

Remember… and repent

Let me be clear: I’m not saying you shouldn’t study your Bible, or obey God’s Word, or serve in your local church. I firmly believe that if we love Jesus Christ, we’ll do all those things.

But if we’re trying to live the Christian life without love for Christ, we’re on a dangerous path.

Jesus’s words for the church at Ephesus are sobering: Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. // Revelation 2:5

It makes me deeply uncomfortable to think that I could be doing all the “right” things and still be in need of repentance.

I like to feel like I’ve got the Christian life figured out. I like feeling confident that I have the answers, that people look up to me as a good example. I like feeling like I’ve arrived, like I’ve moved past the stage where I feel convicted of my sin and need correction from God.

I like to think I’m the perfect Christian girl, and I like to think my efforts got me there.

I see now why Jesus called the church in Ephesus to repent.

Pride can be so subtle, creeping into our hearts where we least expect it. Pride convinces us that our good works are evidence of how great we are rather than evidence of God’s great work in us. It whispers to us that God accepts us because of all we’ve done for Him rather than because of what His Son did for us. And it warps our perspective until we are so occupied with crafting our own image that we forget God wants to mold us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

Pride makes me focus more on living a good Christian life than on loving the Christ who died for me.

Pride makes me like the church at Ephesus: hardworking, biblically knowledgeable, and persevering, but lacking the one thing that matters most: love.

Like the Ephesians, I need to remember that I was saved by grace through faith, not as a result of my own efforts (Ephesians 2:8-9). I need to remember the early days of my faith, when I lived not to prove what a good Christian I was, but simply to be like Jesus. And I need to repent of the pride that keeps my focus on my own achievements rather than on the Lord who saved me.

May we live not to be applauded by others or to feel good about ourselves, but to be like our Saviour.

May we be motivated not by a prideful desire to be “good Christian girls,” but by love for a good, kind Master.

To read more from Amy, visit her website.

4 Ways to Handle Anxiety

4 Ways to Handle Anxiety

03/14/22

The world feels pretty scary right now.

For the last two years, we’ve been bombarded with tragedy after tragedy, bad news upon bad news. From a global pandemic to political division, to war and devastation, sometimes it feels like there is no break from the heartbreaking headlines. In times like these, it’s so easy for anxiety and fear to take root in our hearts, stealing our peace and our joy as we become consumed by the brokenness of the world around us.

I felt this anxiety particularly keenly back in 2018 when I was living in a country in political crisis. I remember not being able to leave the house because the streets were too dangerous. I remember scrolling Twitter for hours each day, trying to figure out what was going on in other regions of the country. I remember waking at dawn every morning and reaching for my phone first thing to see how many had died overnight. I remember trying to write university essays with the sound of machine guns in the background. And I remember having to leave home and return to the States with only two weeks’ notice.

Over the past two years, I’ve been reminded of that time often—from being confined to our homes at the beginning of 2020 to monitoring the crisis in Ukraine via Twitter. I’ll be honest—fear and uncertainty don’t really get any easier to deal with, no matter how many stressful situations you go through. That said, through my own experiences with anxiety and PTSD, I’ve learned a few strategies from the bible that help me cope with anxiety.

Firstly:

It will get better.

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, describes what will happen when Christ returns to earth to claim His kingdom. Death will be destroyed, evil will be punished, and perfect justice will be done. For believers, Revelation describes a future in which God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. // Revelation 21:4

This promise means everything to me when I’m confronted with the reality of sickness, suffering, and injustice. In times like these, I need to be reminded that every painful thing is only temporary and that Christ has promised to make all things new.

So take heart! The end of all sorrow is coming!

Having said that, though—

Don’t expect peace on earth… yet.

I realize this doesn’t sound very comforting, but hear me out.

Jesus told His disciples, In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. // John 16:33
We like to focus on the part where Jesus overcomes the world, and that’s great! But don’t skip over the part where He promises His followers that they will definitely experience hardship while on this earth.

I’ve found that my anxiety gets worse when I expect to see peace on earth—when I expect to never witness or experience hardship. These are unrealistic expectations that come from placing hope for peace in human effort—whether my own or that of a political or social institution—rather than trusting solely in Christ’s ultimate victory over evil.

Make no mistake, Christ is coming to make all things new—but that hasn’t happened yet. And while we’re in this world, we will experience hardship. I know we all long for peace, in our lives, and in the world. But we cannot rely on any hope of peace and safety that contradicts God’s Word. Our hope must be in Christ, and only in Christ. All other ground is sinking sand.

You can experience peace even when things aren’t peaceful.

Although our circumstances on earth may seldom feel peaceful, the peace Christ offers us has nothing to do with our circumstances!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. // Philippians 4:6-7

Did you catch that? The peace of God surpasses all understanding. That means God’s peace doesn’t make sense to our human way of thinking. It means that even when our circumstances are chaotic, stressful, and terrifying, we can still experience peace—beautifully irrational peace—when we bring every anxiety and request to God.

Christ is going to bring peace on earth. No one else can, and no other promise of peace is true. And even though the world may feel like it’s falling apart around us, God is ready and willing to guard our hearts and our minds with His peace in the here and now.

A biblical understanding of peace is important, but it’s just the starting point. What do we actually do in moments where anxiety feels overwhelming? There are no hard and fast rules for how to cope with anxiety, but here are a few things I’ve found helpful:

1. Put your phone down.
Have you heard the phrase “doom scrolling,” when you obsessively check all the news and social media to see how terrible everything is? That habit is definitely not helping your anxiety.

Being informed is great, but you don’t need to know about every awful thing that’s happening in the world as soon as it happens. When you feel your anxiety start to spike, put your phone away and focus instead on things that are true and pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).

2. Take your anxieties to the Lord, not to the Internet.
Look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with social media or Netflix. But it’s way, way too easy to use screens as a drug to numb our anxiety rather than acknowledging our feelings and bringing them to the Lord. Remember, God promises His peace after we lay all our anxieties and requests before Him.

Distraction can be helpful sometimes, but it can never replace the presence of God. Make prayer your first response, not your last resort.

3. Don’t forget to give thanks.
Philippians 4:6 doesn’t just tell us to present our requests before God; it specifically instructs us to couple our prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. Be intentional about looking for examples of God’s goodness, especially when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

If you’re struggling with this, you’re not alone! Start with the smallest good thing you can think of—the first sip of coffee in the morning, a bite of good food, a smile, or a hug from a friend or loved one. Train your brain to notice tiny blessings even in the midst of hard times.

4. Focus on what is right in front of you.
When we worry about all the huge, devastating problems in the world, we feel helpless, like nothing we do has any value. While we shouldn’t place our hope for peace in our own efforts, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take action to reflect Christ’s love, justice, and holiness in the world.

But remember: your community and your home are part of the world too.

Instead of despairing over the chaos that reigns around the globe, look at the opportunities God has put right in front of you. Whether it’s getting coffee with a friend to encourage one another, washing a sink full of dishes, or writing an essay, ordinary things done in Christ’s name and for His glory always further His purpose, even when they seem insignificant to us.

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. // Colossians 3:17

None of these are quick fixes. They won’t make your anxiety vanish overnight, and they won’t guarantee you’ll never feel worried or distressed.

What they will do is help train your mind to seek peace in Christ, not in your surroundings. When you practice placing your hope in Him and Him alone, your peace will no longer depend on your circumstances. Instead, you’ll be able to see God’s goodness, even when the darkness of this world seems overwhelming.

Take heart! He has overcome the world, and His promises will eternally hold true.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” // Revelation 21:5

To read more from Amy, visit her website.

An Intentional Faith

An Intentional Faith

02/15/22

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
// Greg McKeown

A couple of years ago, Apple came out with this new iPhone feature called “Screen Time.” Essentially, it tracks how much time you spend on your device over the week, and at the end of it, sends you a report.

Let me tell you, if you ever need a slap in the face, this is a pretty good way of getting one.

Looking through the amount of time that I spend on different platforms is always convicting. It’s not that these platforms are inherently bad, or that my general use of them is a problem – but I’ll admit that my social media usage is often greater than the time I spend sitting in the presence of God.

The process of prioritizing is something I’ve been learning about a lot in the last couple of years. Between psychological research and lived experience, I can attest to the truth in the words at the top – if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. Thinking about this in the context of a relationship with Jesus – without making time to spend with Him, without intentionally practicing prayer, and without purposely creating rhythms that honour and support that intimacy, building closeness is going to be next to impossible.

Living a life that is IN the world, but not OF it is not something that happens by accident. Following Jesus doesn’t happen without intent. Building a life centered around God takes thought and action. We are saved by grace, through faith, and the work of the cross is finished – but cultivating everyday intimacy with Christ require intentionality.

How to be intentional with your faith

An intentional faith is, simply, the act of putting purpose behind your day-to-day actions and looking for ways to grow closer to God. It’s not about getting everything right, but about keeping Christ at the center in the big picture and the day-to-day. Being purposeful with your time, actions, and words to love God and others in the best way that you can.

Some practical ways to be intentional with your faith are things like:

1. Being intentionally influenced
Investing in relationships, particularly with mentors, with people that you trust to lead you to Jesus is always a good idea. That doesn’t mean living in an all-Christian bubble, but making sure that you have people to lean on who can pray with and for you, give you Biblical advice, and walk with you in all seasons. (The Well Practice is a great place!)

2. Start with Jesus
When it comes to planning your life, routines, and everyday activities, start with what matters most. Instead of waking up and checking if you have time to read your Bible or talk to God, get up early and commit to following through. Give yourself opportunity and resources to learn and grow in your faith. Don’t try and fit God into your life – make your life fit His plan.

3. Ask God to help you
Pray about it. Ask the Lord to move in your heart and life and help you to hold Him at the center of it all no matter what. Seek wisdom on how to best connect with Him and what rhythms will make the most sense for you in this season of life.

Showing up > perfection

In the pursuit of an intentional life, it’s really easy to set incredibly high standards for yourself. And big goals aren’t a bad thing. But we can get caught up in doing things perfectly. In trying to get it all right. Checking off all of the boxes before we come to the cross.

But that’s not the gospel. That’s not the God we serve. And that’s not what Jesus taught.

It doesn’t matter how intentional, purposeful, or consistent we are – we could never earn the grace we’ve been given. The gift that we receive through Jesus’ death on the cross is freedom from the need to achieve or accomplish. Our value and future are not tied to what we can prove.

Intentionality is about cultivating closeness, not earning it. With any habit, there is pressure to get it right and do it properly every time – but all you have to do is show up.

Be present. Talk to God. Be where you’re at, and if you don’t have words, let Him give them to you. The gracious God who gave His own son for us will meet you exactly as you are.

To read more from Anika, visit her website.

What Your Words Say About Your Heart

What Your Words Say
About Your Heart

01/19/22

Recently, I have felt like the Lord has been convicting me to evaluate what I say and whether or not it is a reflection of who He is or of my own sinful nature. Unfortunately, the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s the latter.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. // Luke 6:45

This verse led me to ask myself two very important questions. I implore you to take a minute to yourself, grab your journal, and ask yourself the same two questions.

1. What do my current words say about my heart?

2. What do I want my words to be a reflection of?

Do your words reflect the Word? That is the ultimate question and goal. To live and speak as Christ did. To be a depiction of the love, glory, patience, and kindness of our Father. To have a heart position that is all for Him.

So, how do we do it then? Well, God in His infinite glory and humor presented me with the following verse a single day after convicting me to think about my words.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. // Ephesians 5:18-20

Now, this doesn’t mean we literally have to go around singing, that wouldn’t be loving to anyone if it came from me! But it does mean we have to spend our days in praise. It does mean that we must be filled with the Spirit and speak to each other with the love, joy, and kindness that overflows from within us when we are living for and with Christ. When our lives revolve around Him no matter the struggle or pain we are enduring we will always speak with the love and comfort, the reassurance and kindness, the pure joy we feel because of Him.

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Mary & Martha – A Story that Keeps on Giving

Mary & Martha – A Story that Keeps on Giving

01/04/22

You’ve probably heard the story of Mary and Martha before. Possibly many, many times. You’ve heard the warnings about keeping your priorities straight, not missing the moments that are in front of you. We are told to be Mary and not Martha. We are told not to work so hard, even for the Kingdom, that you lose sight of the real treasure of Jesus.

If you have taken part in The Well Practice then you know this story well. I remember reading it and feeling like I was reading an entirely new story. I had a major “ahhhh” moment and new lessons started to click for me.

At the time, I had a little one at home and was feeling torn between spending time with her playing and getting all the stuff done around the house that had fallen to the wayside since she was born. I had read all the articles and encouragement about soaking in these precious moments because they fly by, but never did they mention the guilt of leaving things undone. Leaving the mess, leaving the dishes, not folding the laundry. I would choose to spend the time being present with my daughter but was often distracted and guilt-ridden about my choice.

When I read the story now, months later, weeks away from having my second baby, I feel like God is trying to remind me of the same lesson. Do you ever feel like He is having to teach you the same thing over and over, because apparently, you didn’t really get it the first or fifth time?

You see, my to-do list to prepare for my second baby is about as long as a lineup at Disneyland. I feel torn between checking things off this list and really soaking in these last moments with my firstborn. I know these days are numbered. These moments of it being just her and me. But what I often forget is that these are the last days with me for HER too, she just doesn’t know it. She doesn’t know how much her world is going to change and I feel like it’s my responsibility to respect that and give her as much of this precious time as I can.

I would much rather make memories these final weeks as a family of 3, sitting on the floor with her, going for adventures, just sitting and watching her explore the world, and really seeing her. Watching her concentration as she tries something new, to watch her fingers pinch together and grasp objects that used to be far too small for her, and her brain race as she tries to solve problems on her own.

BUT

I have to set up the car seat, pack my hospital bag, take out the newborn clothes, get diapers, prep my postpartum kit, fill my freezer, have instructions and a plan ready for my daughter’s care.

AND

AND

AND

When I read the story of Mary and Martha a couple of things stand out to me that may be new to you as well.

Martha is doing everything she should be doing. The other men (and women) around her would have seen her work, not as a distraction, but as her upholding her duty. If she was me, she would be meal prepping, washing, folding, and organizing the baby clothes, cleaning the house, decorating the nursery, writing up a birth plan, and documenting it all with perfectly snapped photos on her Instagram account. Martha was taking care of business, doing what needed to be done according to the expectations and customs of the time.

Martha was probably not the only one who thought Mary needed correcting. The other people in the room probably thought it odd and perhaps even inappropriate that a woman was sitting, listening to what Jesus was saying instead of helping with the duties. Her place was next to Martha, and Martha would not have been the only one to notice that empty space. Society uses a very different measuring stick than God, and it can be really difficult to quiet those voices and expectations in your head. For most of us, we have been raised with these voices and measuring sticks as normal, and it is hard to go against the grain and to make a choice you know is wise but can look foolish to everyone else. In my mind, I imagine Mary got some snarky looks and heard others whispering behind her, but she kept her eyes and ears focused on Jesus.

My favourite part of this story is when Jesus says “Martha, Martha.” He doesn’t just say her name once and carry on. He says her name twice. I picture Jesus saying her name tenderly as he shakes his head ever so slightly in a knowing way. He knows us so intimately, he knows Martha’s heart is well-intentioned to serve, to take care of the guests in her home, to do her duty. He knows she is tired from doing it all on her own. He knows that like a child she just couldn’t quite see what her choices could mean. He says her name twice so she really hears Him, to catch her ear. In her busyness, in her frantic haze, He says her name twice to break through and get her to pause to hear what He has to say because what He is about to say will change everything if she would just take a moment to listen. She comes to Jesus for a quick fix, to get Mary to help and I picture her almost starting to rush away, trusting He will send Mary in after her, but the “Martha, Martha” stops her in her tracks.

I love how God’s word always remains true, whether it feels like coming home to familiar passages or stepping into new territory. I love how you can read the same story over and over again and each time the Spirit meets you there with something new. God’s word never grows tired, it never grows stale and stagnant, because God’s word is alive.

So as I sit here typing, I feel that nudge and hear that whisper, “Alicia, Alicia.” I know I need to take my own advice and turn toward that familiar voice instead of all the “shoulds” that surround me.

May we be women that are free from the pressure and guilt Martha felt, and instead find peace in the presence of that voice and allow things to be undone or messy if that voice is calling us to engage with His bigger better plan. May that voice become more and more familiar and discernable in our noisy lives. May our eyes and ears stay focused on Him as the other voices around us try to distract and discourage us.

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2 Ways to Defeat Fear

2 Ways to Defeat Fear

12/20/21

What is your greatest fear?

When I was a kid, my answer was always heights. I have a long-standing fear of amusement park rides and would never in a million years even consider going bungee jumping.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made little steps towards conquering these fears and can now proudly declare that I have survived a ride on a full-sized rollercoaster. I am in absolutely no rush to do it again, but I’m proud of myself nonetheless!

What I’ve realized is that as we get older we replace those somewhat superficial fears with an array of new fears and worries. When I was 23 I lost my first baby at 30 weeks pregnant and was completely blindsided by the realization that there is so much in life that we simply can’t control.

There were a few women who told me they could never go through another pregnancy after suffering a loss like the one I had. After all, how do you fight the fearful belief that everything will go wrong when that’s the only experience you’ve had?

That same question could be asked of any of us, in any number of situations.

How do we start to date someone new when our last relationship ended so badly?
How do we apply for our dream job when our last interview ended in disaster?
How do we confide in a close friend after being betrayed?

The only way to face our fears, especially legitimate fear after pain, is to realize we are not alone and that the Gospel has all the answers we are looking for.

  1. Get in the Word

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. // 1 John 4:17

It’s important that we understand where fear, all fear, comes from. This verse gives us some insight into that. When John writes that “Fear has to do with punishment”, I think he means that we know the cost of living in a broken world full of sin. We know that the “punishment” for our world of sin is pain, broken relationships, and loss of all kinds. We know that we aren’t entitled to a perfect life, and that struggle and pain is an unavoidable reality of life.

However, just because we feel helpless and often cannot change our circumstances that does not mean we are doomed to live in fear. John points us toward a solution, the ultimate arch-nemesis to our fears: perfect love.

Go back and read John’s full letter leading up to verse 17. It is a beautiful depiction of the perfect love we have available to us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. // 1 John 4:7-8

He goes on to say:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. // 1 John 4:9-10

God loves us. That is an indisputable fact. And the perfect love He freely gives casts out all fear. The Gospel is God’s Word and through His Word, we can find all the reassurance we need to live a life free of fear. The trick is, how do we apply his love to our lives? How do we live fearlessly knowing we are deeply loved?

2. Live Knowing You Are Loved

To apply God’s love we need to understand it. One of my all-time favourite passages on the love of God is in Romans 8:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. // Romans 8:35, 37-39

The promise here is not that God will prevent hard things from happening to us. Instead, God’s love carries us through every hardship we will endure. His love doesn’t shelter us from pain and struggle. It transforms and strengthens us. We become conquers through His love. His love makes us more like our death-defeating Jesus, in whose love we are eternally secure.

Ladies, we need to remind ourselves of this! Weekly. Daily. Hourly.

God’s love is as powerful as it is present. The more we understand and are convinced of His love for us, the less we will have to fear.

Through love, God wages war on our fears.

During later pregnancies when I would find myself going down the mental rabbit-hole of worst-case scenarios, God’s love was there reminding me that even the baby I lost was still in His hands. When I feel the weight of responsibility of caring for my kids, God’s love reminds me that He is even more invested in the future of my kids than I am. When I’m restless in the face of uncertainty, God’s love assures me that He won’t abandon me to my confusion.

The more we understand, believe, and live by the knowledge that God loves us, the more we can rest in the peace of his protection no matter what life throws at us.

Nothing can separate us from His love.

His love casts out every fear.

Pick up your bible and immerse yourself in the Word.
Live each moment knowing you are loved beyond measure.
Watch your fears be washed away by the immeasurable love of God.

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Who Do You Worship?

Who Do You Worship?

12/07/21

Who do you worship?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? As a follower of Jesus, my automatic answer is “the Lord,” of course. But while I like to think that’s the case, there have been more times than I care to admit that my actions speak a different story.

The word “worship” has, in the western church at least, somehow become synonymous with music and singing. Which is an act of worship, but it’s certainly not the entire act. Worship is reverence. To worship something or someone is to recognize its value, authority, and to give it praise. To bow down and demonstrate your loyalty, affection, and obedience.

Worship is such a beautiful thing when we direct it towards God. There are many different types of worship. Worshipping can be surrendering your will and giving up control to God. Tithing is an act of worship. Posting on social media, singing on Sunday, or spending time in the word are all acts of worship. There’s no exact formula to worship. It is a heart posture and a way of interacting with the God who created you.

We were created to worship. Intentionally or not, we are almost always in a state of worship. Our minds, hearts, and focus is fixed on something, and a lot of the time, it’s not what we want it to be.

Work can become an idol just as quickly as a relationship can or even the idea of one. Sometimes it’s not something tangible in our lives, but the desire to have it that is so overpowering and overwhelming. This can quickly get out of control and become an unhealthy pattern of dedication and reverence to things that don’t deserve it.

It’s not that success or love or any other goal you may have is a bad thing. But they need to stay in their lane. Regardless of what it is, any worldly goal that becomes the pinnacle of your happiness, value, or identity is going to lead you away from God.

I’ll be honest with you – I grew up in the church, and I heard this message preached over and over and over again.

Be careful what you worship.

What do you idolize in your life?

Are you putting your relationships ahead of your relationship with God?

It wasn’t something I saw as a significant struggle in my own life until a few years ago. My career was finally taking off, I started seeing myself differently. I found my worth in work, being a writer, and achieving my dreams. It sounds ridiculous now, but it meant so, so very much to me.

And then I realized what was happening.

Writing wasn’t the problem. It wasn’t what I was doing for work, or even the fact that I was successful. The first thing I would do every morning is open my laptop before I’d even had a chance to breathe. I was working 12-15 hour days because I wanted to, falling asleep with my iPad next to me and the cursor still blinking.

Needless to say, my relationship with God was not at the forefront of my mind or schedule. I soon began feeling the effects of my lifestyle. When I figured out that these bad habits were taking me down a negative road, I quickly began to pivot. I recreated routines in my life, this time starting with Jesus and adding in the rest of life instead of the other way around.

It took a long time to reset, start over, and put things back together – and it’s not perfect now, but it’s coming. Since then, I’ve tried to be intentional about regularly checking in with myself to see what my priorities really are and how my life reflects them.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a mindblowing revelation.

See, every talk, book, or article I’ve ever consumed on the topic of idols and worship has encouraged the reader to look for idols in their own life. Social media, people, various achievements, etc. – what things are you worshipping instead of God?

But what I realized was that I wasn’t idolizing those things. I wasn’t worshipping social media, my relationship, or my career. I wasn’t putting those goals ahead of God —

I was putting myself ahead of God.

Every one of those focuses were about making me feel and look good, helping me stand out, making me happy. I didn’t want to succeed at writing because writing was elevated above all else, I wanted it because I wanted to be elevated.

Recognizing this in myself has been a game changer. Identifying the ways in which this has affected my choices and actions, relationships, and habits has allowed me to see that this issue runs much deeper than I thought it did.

Over and over, scripture reinforces the idea of dying to yourself. Bearing your own cross, renouncing what you have, becoming less so that He may become greater.

And I was doing the opposite.

Oof – it’s been a very conviction-filled couple of weeks.

But grace.

God is good. God is forgiving. God is kind. Even more, He’s a redeemer. Something I’ve found to be true in both my spiritual life and personal development is that it is almost impossible to break habits, change patterns, and find freedom from sin without acknowledging it. The recognition is step one, and it’s a pretty big deal.

In some capacity or another, I think we all make the same mistake. We choose us. We choose our strength, our way, and our preference, forgetting that God’s way is always the best way.

It’s a hard lesson to learn. The rhythm of choosing grace and choosing God needs to be a daily one, and without consciously working on it, can get lost in a culture that pushes us to focus on our own wants above all else.

Don’t get me wrong – self care is important, and being in touch with what you need will actually equip you better for Kingdom work. But God has to be first. He doesn’t screw you over, play games, or lead you down a path of destruction. You can trust and feel safe living with God.

In this next season of new beginnings, I invite you to join me in re-evaluating the habits, patterns, and priorities in your life. Examine the areas that might need a refocus, and be honest with yourself about what you dedicate your time and energy to.

God is good, all the time – and keeping Him at the center of your life will never, ever lead you down a bad path. May we as women reclaim our lives. Going into this new year, may we live for the Lord, pursue holiness, righteousness, and grace in all things.

To read more from Anika, visit her website.

Who You Are vs. Whose You Are

Who You Are vs. Whose You Are

11/22/21

I think about myself a little too much. I think about who I want to be, who I was before I had kids, who I don’t want to become (at any cost), and who I am now that I have gone through a global pandemic. I think about the pieces I want to hold onto, I cringe at the parts that I have let go of, I fight for the parts of me I used to love, but need to give up, I grieve for the freedoms that have been lost. But above all, I rejoice in the growth and blessings of the present. I think about what type of mom I want to be, what type of toys to buy my daughters, how to set up her room, her playroom, our home? I think about how I want to use my gifts for the Kingdom, what my place is in the Kingdom as a mom who barely has her life together enough to put the laundry away. The root of all these thoughts is “who am I?” What do I need to do or not do to fill out this silhouette of me?

The world will try to fill that hole with a mosaic of labels and accomplishments until we look like a child’s cut and paste art project. We label ourselves as “vegetarian,” “spiritual,” “activist,” “gay,” “entrepreneur,” “attached parent,” “single,” “bibliophile.” Just read some dating profiles or Instagram profiles and you’ll see the plethora of creative titles we give ourselves.

Now, it is not a bad thing to understand yourself. To know what you like and what you don’t. There is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are and what you believe in, but I think we give these labels too much power.

There is a sweet satisfaction that comes with finding something that just clicks with you. Whether it be bike riding, writing code, baking, or organizing a closet, it feels like a puzzle piece being placed perfectly in your soul. It’s exciting to unearth and understand how God created you, down to the little details, the things that make you cringe, and the things that make you fly. These “click” moments are amazing pointers to the artist of the universe. How amazing that we all “click” with different things, or how our collection of “clicks” come together to create a unique whole person. I may love writing but I suck at music, but someone else may marry those two loves and write an amazing song. I’m more inclined to write an article or blog, clearly. Both are needed and both are beautiful. There is meaning and purpose in each. Each skill has a place and a purpose within the Kingdom.

You may buy into the story that this life, your life, is about you, and about who you are, who you are becoming, and who you want to be, but it’s not. Your life is not about you picking the right collection of labels, or being the right mix of strong-willed and understanding. Your life isn’t about you at all. We place too much importance on the labels we give ourselves. Often in the quest to find ourselves, we forget to whom we belong and whose story we are a part of.

In John 1, John the Baptist demonstrates the heart posture we should have when it comes to identifying ourselves. Religious representatives ask John who he is. An identity question, the question we are all trying to answer.

“So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” // John 1:22

He stands firm in his identity, quoting scripture:

He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” // John 1:23

The representatives ask John if he is the Christ, Elijah, or the prophet. With each question, John answers “No”.

He knew who he was and more importantly, he knew who he wasn’t.

When asked “what do you say about yourself”, he didn’t add any extra flourishes because he knew he didn’t need to. He didn’t need to know all the details or the big picture. He humbly was the “voice in the wilderness;” and that was enough. He knew what he was being asked to do at that moment and he did it.

I have to ask myself, is this true for me? Am I satisfied knowing I am where God wants me to be? Or am I constantly looking ahead, or wondering how this fits into things? Does this present moment that God is asking me to be in feel mundane? Do I wish I was called to something more exciting and significant?

Do I know who I am not? Or like the evil stepsisters, am I trying to make someone else’s shoe fit? I have my own lovely shoes, perfectly crafted for my here and now, but do I trust that when the time comes, God will provide the right shoes for the occasion?

The labels John rejected were good labels, not clearly bad, not insults, not critiques. They were good things, but maybe good things, good hats that we try to wear that just weren’t made to fit are just as harmful as the critiques we accept. My negative self-talk can be just as toxic as my positive self-bolstering talk when that talk is not centered on who I am in Christ.

When we mislabel God’s grace and blessings as self-made earnings we raise ourselves above Him. We take credit for something that is not our doing but His. We misunderstand who He is and whose we are. This story, your story, isn’t about you but it is all about who you belong to. And it is to Him that all credit and praise are due.

Without God’s grace, we try to find meaning and healing in our labels and accomplishments, filling out our silhouettes with shiny glittery things. Things we want to display to the world, things that prove our worth, and our place at the table. But when we face our own depravity we realize on our own we don’t have anything to fill in that silhouette. All we have to show are the things we would rather hide.

May we become women who trade labels for promises, justification for grace, and rags for Christs’s riches. May we take the time to dig deep and discover (maybe for the first time) who we really belong to. May we crack the spine of the actual story we are a part of. May we become women who knock on that door, and are amazed to find Him there waiting for us, with our spots at the table already set.

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