Jumping Back In

apple blossom jumping back in pinterest

Today is my last day of a 10 day vacation I took with my husband – though a couple of the days were work related for him.

I really enjoyed my time off because I had been feeling stressed from work, and I think I was taking on a little of my husband’s stress as well.

Directing More of My Time To My Ministry

sunset beach people sunrise

While away, I was able to come to the conclusion (from talking with my husband and a friend) that I want to jump into my writing more.  I want to start directing more of my time with my ministry, following my dream and what I believe is my calling.

I need to get more serious about it than I have been.

The Need for Focus

That means I need to be more focused, and now that I have had some time away, with my husband, to relax and rejuvenate, I feel encouraged to continue with my writing, and with my direction for Apple Blossom Ministries (come check out what I have so far).

Today’s “focus” involved spending time on my blog post writing, and with creating the first few instalments for my Thankful Thursday series (debating on whether or not that will be featured here on the blog, or on ABM). I also started working on another project I have in mind for ABM.

Please keep me in prayer regarding all of this. I want to serve the Lord and help other women along in their journeys as well.

What do you need to take more seriously and focus on? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Ideas For Creating a Prayer Journal

 

apple blossom prayer journal ideas

I used to keep a prayer journal several years ago. I don’t really know why I stopped; I probably just got lazy or forgetful, and it gradually fell by the wayside. I used a simple, cheap, journal I had purchased at a dollar store to record my prayers in.

I wrote somewhat specific prayers and recorded when they were answered. It was a great way to look back as a reminder of just how often God did answer my prayers.

Recently I decided that I wanted to start another prayer journal, mostly recording an actual prayer. Since I’ve only just started, there is still plenty of room to adjust and change things up. I’m using a smallish, hardcover journal that was gifted to me for my birthday this year.

The War Room

A couple of months ago, I watched “The War Room” on Netflix and was inspired. I’m not actually creating a war room, but I liked the idea of writing down the prayers (like I used to), using them as reminders to pray for the specific person or situation, and recording when it is answered. And, that’s what inspired me to pick up this habit again!

Inspiration

A quick look at Pinterest will reveal a myriad of ways to set up a prayer journal. You can use any type of journal, notebook, or binder, and you can make it as simple or as fancy as you like.

I like the pretty, fancy ones, but I don’t know if I’ll have time to make one of those. For now, I’m just focusing on a more simple journal and sometimes drawing (or attempting to draw, since I’m not overly artistic) a few little pictures (so far flowers) around the page. I have some washi tape as well that I might add to the pages, or at lease some of them, to help decorate it.

In my old journal, all I did was write the current date at the top, recorded the specifics of what I was going to pray – the person, situation, request, etc., and then at the bottom I would write the words “Date Answered:” and draw a line on which to write that date.

I’ve seen some posts that talk about having a page divided into the days of the week where specific people or organizations are written down and will be prayed for on that particular day of each week. For example, on Mondays you might choose to pray for your spouse, children, home, family life; Tuesdays might be for your job and co-workers; Wednesday might be for the government, both provincial and federal; Thursdays might be for your community, neighbours, city, friends; Fridays could be for the persecuted church, missionaries, your own ministry; Saturdays for the other ministries in your church, the congregation; and Sundays could be used to pray for your pastors and their families. You can set it up so it is personalized to what makes sense to you, and include everyone you want to pray for.

I actually like that idea of doing this and I am seriously considering adding a page in my prayer journal (maybe the back page since I’ve already started writing in this journal). I like the idea of praying for specific things/people on specific days, more for organization and helping me to keep focus – and remembering, of course!

Refer to:

Here are just four of the posts I read that all deal with prayer journals/notebooks. They all have great ideas for a prayer journal/notebook:

https://intentionalbygrace.com/how-to-make-a-prayer-notebook/

https://www.themodernmary.com/prayer-journal-tracking/#more-812

http://www.kathrynshirey.com/letters-god-keeping-prayer-journal/

http://thehealthyhappywoman.com/how-to-create-a-personal-prayer-notebook/

Focus

Remember, though, the focus on keeping a prayer journal shouldn’t be about making it pretty and perfect; it’s about focusing on God and communicating with Him.

clear glass jar filled of coloring pens beside of white sketch pad

You can use your prayer journal as a letter to God, writing down your prayer as though you are writing a letter – write to him how you would to a friend; pour out your heart and don’t worry about sounding fancy and using big words or being perfect.

Really, your prayer journal is personal and I encourage you to set yours up in whatever way works for you. If you’re not sure what you might like, try some different ideas and methods, and then choose one – or keep changing it up. It’s totally up to you; it’s your journal, after all!

As I record more prayers, I’ll share ideas I’ve had or different ways I might include in my journal. Keep checking back for updates.

Have you kept a prayer journal in the past, or even now? What are your favourite methods to use? Do you have favourite supplies you use? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on prayer journalling!

How Is Your Cup?

art blur cappuccino close up

We all know Psalm 23. It’s usually quoted at funerals.

I memorized this Psalm from the King James Version when I was younger (that was the only version available to me at the time), and in that version verse 5 states, “My cup runneth over.” I used to think this was a bad thing. I thought that it meant you had too much and you were wasting it.

That’s not what it means, though. It’s talking about how God takes care of us and gives us so much goodness and mercy that our cup overflows.

What It Refers To

One commentary I read (it came with the Blue Letter Bible I downloaded to my android phone for free from the Google Play Store) talks about how Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38, NASB)

boulders cave creek environment

Living Water

Christ is that living water. If we ask Him to be our Saviour, He will give us that water. And, we want to fill our lives with so much of Christ, that He overflows from us. We want that water to spill over so that it is available for others, so that we can freely give to others what Christ has given to us.

Being in daily communion with God – reading the Bible, praying, devotions, etc. – will help to fill our cups.  Fellowship with other Christians will also help fill our cups.

Caution

But, I want to add a word of caution: don’t let your cup run empty. That’s what will happen if we don’t spend time with God. It will also happen if we don’t take care of ourselves, and if we avoid fellowshipping.

I know, from my own experiences, that when I don’t spend needed time with the Lord, when I work too much and don’t get enough rest, not much flows from my cup. It also happens when I give to much of myself and I don’t take needed “me time.” When this has happened, I have had times when my cup has been bone dry!

It’s not a good feeling.

And I’m certainly not able to be productive for the kingdom.

It’s important to take care of all aspects of our lives – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. One really does affect the other.

Encouragement

My friends, let me encourage you to make sure you are taking good care of yourself. Make sure to eat properly, get some exercise (something I know I need to do more of myself), take care of your mental and emotional health. And definitely make sure to spend time with the Lord.

Make sure you are being poured into, so that your cup will overflow for others; so that the streams of Living Water spill over from your life.

The Armour of God – Part 4

16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:16-17, NASB)

brown book page

Shield of Faith

These last three items complete our armour: the shield, the helmet, and the sword.

When I think of shields, I tend to think of something like what is used in the Captain America movies – small round shields. In the case of the Roman soldiers, they were not small and round. They were long enough to hide behind. They were doused in water to help extinguish the firy arrows that would be shot from their enemies. When a row, or group, of soldiers held their shields in front of them, they were blocked from the attacks.

I remember one of my professors in university talking about one type of formation they would use. It seems to me he called it a turtle – or something like that. He said that the soldiers on the outside of the formation would hold their shields so as to protect the group, and those in the middle would hold their shields overhead, adult ancient arena armorproviding shelter from arrows or whatever was being used to attack them.

The shield is protection, and keeps us safe from the enemy’s blows. And, this verse says that you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one – that should be comforting to know, that we can (with our armour) do this! We aren’t doing this using our own power, but with God’s help. He has provided us with what we need for the battle.

Helmet of Salvation

The helmet protected the head, and most of the face. Our head is important because it houses our brain. This piece of protection in the Armour of God is used to protect our thoughts and thinking.

All too often, if we aren’t focused on Jesus, our thoughts can

 be easily led astray and we think about things that we shouldn’t – whether we think bad thoughts of others, improper images, or we conjure up ways to get back at someone else. We need to train our minds to not go there, to not think of such things. Having the helmet on will protect us from when the enemy whispers those bad and negative thoughts to us.

Sword of the Spirit

photo of child reading holy bible

Of course, our sword is the Word of God – the Bible! We use scripture to stand up to the enemy, to lean on, to find strength in, and to reflect on the promises of God.

When Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness, Satan came along to tempt Him. Satan knows scripture too, so it’s not just a matter of being able to quote it, but using it as a weapon. When Satan tried to tempt Jesus, he quoted Scripture, but the thing is, Jesus (obviously) also knew scripture too, and He used that to counteract the enemy.

That’s what we need to do as well.

Don’t just simply memorize verses from the Bible to be able to quote or to appear knowledgeable or smart because you know so many of them. Use them in your battle. Find scripture that can fit with whatever situation you are going through and when the enemy attacks you in your weakness, fire back at him with the Word. Use your sword!

Praying these items

When I am praying on my armour, and I get to these items, I say something like, “Father, I put on my shield of faith. Help me to use it to extinguish the firy arrows and darts the enemy flings at me. I put on my helmet of salvation to help protect my thoughts. Help me to think about Godly things and not to be negative in my thinking. Help me use the helmet to protect me from the listening to the lies of the enemy. Lord, I take up the sword of the Spirit, which is your word. Help me to memorize your word and use it in battle.”

As I’ve said before, there is no magic formula to pray on the armour, but we do need to make sure to put it on daily. If we are doing God’s work, Kingdom work, then we are going to be attacked. Satan wants to keep us down and he’ll stop at nothing to do so.

My friends, I encourage you not to give up if you are going through a spiritual battle. Put on your armour and remember that you have it on (even if it means praying it on several times a day as a reminder). You are protected, you are doing good work. Lean on others through those rough times, but most importantly, lean on God.

See the other posts in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The Armour of God – Part 3

brown book page

14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (NASB)

As previously mentioned in this series, we don’t rush into battle; we stand firm. We’re reminded of that again in verse 14. Because standing firm is mentioned more than once, it must be important; so it’s wise to follow through with it. When we are standing firm, remember that we are standing strong – strong in the Lord and in His might.

Let’s look at the first two pieces of our armour:

Belt of Truth

The version I have quoted from above (New American Standard Bible) says “girding our loins.” But what does that mean? It’s good to check out other versions of the Bible as well, because things can be worded a little differently. Some use more modern language that is easier for us to understand. Some of these versions talk about buckling the belt of truth around our waists. So, girding our loins and putting on the belt of truth is the same thing.

Belts are important – they help keep our pants up! In Bible times, the belt would have been used to tuck in the hem of the outer garments to aid in moving quickly. What I learned, was that a man would grab the back hem of his garment and draw it up between his legs, tucking it into the front of his belt. It would have looked similar to Hammer Pants from the 80s…well, somewhat. By tucking his garment into the belt, he could run or move quickly without fear of tripping or having his feet get caught in the hem of his garment.

For the Christian, the belt of truth is important. We need to speak the truth, but we must do it in love. Truth is important, but we needn’t be harsh or sarcastic with it. Speaking in truth, I believe, takes the other person’s feelings into account. Be gentle, be kind. Don’t try to hurt someone else; but at the same time, we do need to be honest and truthful. And, don’t forget that love is listed first in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Breastplate of Righteousness

The next piece of armour to put on is the breastplate of righteousness. This article wasn’t just covering a soldier’s chest; it went all around his upper body, where the heart and lungs are located, to protect him.

Our organs are vital for living – for breathing and pumping blood to the rest of our body, to keep us alive, so obviously we would want to make sure that part of our body protected!

Praying on the Armour

When I learned about praying on the armour of God, I was taught that when Roman soldiers would have put on their armour, someone else would do it for him, helping him get dressed for battle.girl-praying-hands-eyelashes-41942.jpeg

Likewise, we should pray on the armour of God for our brothers and sisters in Christ in order to help them be protected. I don’t think it means that we shouldn’t pray it on for ourselves, though. We still need to be dressed, and someone else might not know (or remember) to pray it on us.

When I Pray

When praying on these two items, I tend to say something like: “Father, I put on the belt of truth to help me speak the truth in love to others. I put on the breastplate of righteousness to help protect my heart and my feelings.” You don’t have to pray it exactly that way; I say it this way to help me remember what the pieces represent.

My friends, I pray that if you are going through troubling times that you will remember that God is on your side. Turn to Him and trust Him to help get you through to the other side.

Please visit the following links to the first two parts of this series if you haven’t read them yet:

The Armour of God – Part 1
The Armour of God – Part 2

They Don’t Know How To Pray

pexels-photo-267559.jpegPrayer.

I have heard so many people saying they don’t know how to pray. I get it; I’ve been there before.

Prayer is simply talking to God. That’s it – conversation.

Conversation requires you and at least one other person, in this case God, to take part.  And, if you don’t allow the other person (God) to speak, then it really isn’t a conversation; it’s a monologue.

And, like all good conversations, prayer requires active listening. That, to me, is the hard part. I find it relatively easy to tell God what I’m thinking or feeling, make my requests, and lift up others. I find it extremely easy to do all the talking! For me, it’s the listening that is difficult. It requires me to be still, to focus and listen for Him to speak to me.

Now, before I go too far, I don’t actually hear an audible voice when He speaks. Most often it’s a feeling, a thought, or someone else confirming something I have prayed about (especially without knowing what I had prayed).  Other times a verse from the Bible pops into my head as a response to my prayer.

And, sometimes there is dead air.  Sometimes I struggle to hear that still small voice, even when I am quiet and listening.  It’s in those moments that I need to remember to wait on the Lord.  That doesn’t mean that I stop doing anything, but I need to not rush forward with my plans without hearing from Him first.

Prayer isn’t difficult.  But we can make it that way.  We don’t need to use big, flowery words.  Simple, everyday speech is fine.  God isn’t interested in the words we use; He’s interested in us simply speaking to Him.girl-praying-hands-eyelashes-41942.jpeg

If  you struggle with prayer, I encourage you to just go ahead and do it. Make your prayers and petitions known to God, and listen; give Him time to speak as well.  Prayer is one of the easiest things we can do to help further our relationship with the Lord. And it’s something we can do at any time or any place.

 

In A Much Better Place

These past eleven days I have been on vacation. A much-needed vacation. A much welcomed vacation.  A wonderful time spent with my husband (and a day that included my step-son).

Because of my depression and anxiety, working on average of 45-50 hours per week, and being involved in a few ministries at church, I ended up becoming burnt out. As I said, this vacation became a much-needed and welcomed event in my life.

While on vacation, I had to have blood work done. Something I had put off for a couple of weeks since last visiting my doctor and getting a prescription renewal for anti-depressants.  I couldn’t get the time off work until my vacation, so I got up early and went in to see the vampires.  The results came quickly, and the next day I was back at my doctor’s office to get the results.

My doctor told me what I had assumed – my B12 is way down.  No wonder I’ve been feeling so tired!  She also told me that my vitamin D is also way down and I need to start taking supplements to help bring that up, and I also need to start eating more red meat.  I will also have to go in to get B12 shots every couple of weeks (to start, then it should be monthly).

It’s nice to have some answers regarding my health. It also helps to know the steps to take in order to overcome this situation.

It’s the same with the depression and anxiety.  I need a plan in order to overcome that as well.  I’m learning to take steps (sometimes they are only baby steps, but they are steps none the less) in order to help with these illnesses.

Getting on my medication was the first step.  It’s starting to kick in, and now I have more good days than bad. I’m thankful for that.  I’ve also been more honest with others in how I’ve been feeling. I’m slowly letting others in, letting them see the real me, letting them see my pain, and not worrying that they won’t like the “real,” me, the broken me.  And, I’ve also been asking for more prayer. That’s very important, too.

I’ve been more vocal in talking about my anxiety as well. That’s my next step. Giving voice to what is causing my anxiety takes away the power it can hold over me.  Talking about the struggle brings it to the light where the fear can be stripped away and the people I trust can remind me to breathe, can help me remember I’m in a safe place surrounded by safe people, and I’m going to be OK.

Another step is to learn more about anxiety and depression, to become more aware of what triggers these attacks for me, and what I might need to do to avoid the situations (or what I need to do to face them).  Knowledge is a powerful thing.

One of the biggest steps is to learn to turn this all over to God, to give it to Him, to trust that He’s in control of the situation.  He is the only One who can help me recover from these illnesses. He is the only one who can heal me – if He chooses.  And if He doesn’t, that’s OK.  I know He still loves me and will help me through it all.

As well, prayer is playing significant part in this journey.  By talking to others, being honest about how I’ve been feeling, they are able to pray for me – especially when I’ve felt so “weak” and unable to pray for myself.  I’m thankful for these prayers.  I’m thankful for these people in my life who care about me, who love me.

I’m still not completely recovered from this. The depression and anxiety still affect me, still hit without warning. But, I’ve come a long way already. With the help of God, my medication, taking the steps I need to on this journey, prayers from my friends and family, and this much-needed vacation, I am in a much better place than I have been. And I look forward to the bad days becoming fewer and fewer as I start getting better and better.