Finding Peace Amongst the Chaos

I’ve had the opportunity to visit New York City several times and I am amazed each time. The towering buildings, bustling streets and endless nightlife make the city very unique. I love to watch the people who appear to be locals and wonder what it must be like to live or work in such a busy city. I marvel at the beautiful women walking quickly on 5th Avenue in their high  heels and wonder if their feet hurt. I watch the men in business suits hustling from cabs into buildings and wonder how they keep the pace. The noise and lights of Times Square is exhilarating to the senses. Restaurants, shops and entertainment line the streets of this “city that never sleeps.” It’s full of so many distractions, I wonder how anyone gets anything accomplished!

But nothing amazes me as much as Central Park. An oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle, it offers green grass, water, and peace to those who visit. Each time I visit I wonder how often the people who live in the city visit the beautiful refuge. People jog, walk their dogs and relax in the grass and if you didn’t know it, you could easily forget that you are in New York City.

This sense of tranquility among the chaos of the busy city reminds me of the peace and comfort that the Bible can offer us when life gets crazy. We are faced with tough decisions, demanding schedules and families to provide for and life can be very overwhelming. We need to remember to take advantage of the stories and examples that are offered to us. The Bible should be the first place we turn to when we need help or advice. God sent His only son to be an example for generations to follow. We can look at the stories in the Bible for guidance and direction when life gets as noisy and messy as a crowded city.

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. Joshua 1:8 (NLT).

The Bible answers the questions that we all want to know: What is the purpose to life? Where did I come from? Is there life after death? How do I get to heaven? Why is the world full of evil? Why do I struggle with making good choices?

In addition to these “big” questions, the Bible gives much practical advice in areas such as: How can I have a successful marriage? How can I be a good parent? What is success and how do I achieve it? What really matters in life? How can I live so that I do not look back with regret? How can I handle the unfair circumstances and bad events of life?

Christians are so lucky to have this valuable resource to help us navigate the storms and busy pace of life. The question is this:

Will you remember to use it when everything around us presents a distraction?

Redeemed Weekend – May 21, 2016

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A few nights ago, a friend asked me, “So, how do you get all of your ideas?” The truth is that almost every idea I’ve ever gotten has hit me suddenly, manifesting out of nothing. My mind is always running, so it makes sense. The idea for Redeemed Weekend came about in the exact same way – suddenly – and I immediately sent our Head Editor, Kristina, a message about it.

Every Saturday morning, we will prepare a devotional and quiet time playlist for you. Our prayer is that we will bless your weekend and your walk with the Lord. Please enjoy the first Redeemed Weekend.

Nina xo


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Devotional: Anxious For Nothing

Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:6, 7 NKJV (emphasis added)

This passage has become a part of my daily walk in recent months. As someone who has struggled with anxiety in the past, it’s become one of my go-to scriptures when I begin to feel my mind wander into a battlefield of lies from the enemy.

Paul wrote to the Philippians to be anxious for nothing. As Christians, we have nothing to be anxious or worry about. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to worry about anything — what we’ll eat or drink or wear. In Matthew 6:26 He tells us to look at the birds, “Are you not of more value than they?” If God is able to take care of the birds, how much more will He care for us… His children?

When you worry…

Pray. There’s nothing more effective than prayer. James 5:16 says, “… The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” When God’s children pray, something happens in the atmosphere. God hears your every word, spoken and unspoken. Your prayers will not go unanswered. Keep praying. Keep making that special time with Him, for He will bring you out.

Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is defined as expressing gratitude. When you come to God with thanksgiving and praise, you’ll find that it automatically brings joy and peace. Don’t believe me? Try it. There have been so many times when I didn’t feel like praying, let alone expressing my gratitude while I was in the midst of a storm. But when we come to God with a thankful heart, it is then where we come to realize that it’s not about us… but it’s about Him. It is in the moments of thanking Him for the things He’s done, what He’s brought us through, and what He will do that we humble our hearts and truly give everything — every care — to Him.

It is in these moments of prayer and thanksgiving that we find true peace.

A peace that passes all understanding. A peace that guards us. A peace that comforts us.

What are you worrying about today? What thoughts are consuming your mind? What’s weighing heavily on your heart?

I encourage you today to set some time aside and pray… talk with God. Let Him know what’s on your mind. Then write Philippians 4:6–7 down on a piece of paper, a journal, a sticky note… and put it some place where you’ll be able to see it every day. And every time you see it, remind yourself: Be anxious for nothing.

Home is a “Who”, Not a “Where”

“You haven’t held me in ages, but I still know what you feel like,” my conviction stood tall and strong; it was unshakable. He threw back a flirtatious challenge in response, “Oh, really? So tell me. Leave nothing out.” I could imagine his smile through the phone and it made think of those repressed schoolboys. I took a deep breath, “You feel like all of the best things. You’re Rilke poetry, glasses of chilled vodka (the good brand, of course), Etsy candles, and ruby-red borscht simmering away on the stove. You feel like love letters sent through air mail and wooden floorboards that feel familiar to bare feet and the very last slice of my favorite pie,” I paused and then concluded, “You feel like home.”


At the age of eighteen, I stuffed my favorite possessions into bleached-white boxes and started the drive up North to a small women’s college in the suburbs of Philly. I moved into a small dorm room and the light filtered through the window-panes into the diamond-shaped cube of emptiness.

Emptiness. When I attempt to see back into that moment from five years ago, my father helping to bring boxes into the room from the car and my mother moving around the space to help me set everything up, what I see most clearly is that emptiness. I sat at my new desk with a drawer that always got stuck on the way back in and looked around the space.

The feeling of loneliness left a stain on my heart that seemed permanent. It was still there after the first year of school was over, aggravated by a big breakup and weighed down by adding some dating violence into the tangle. “Even when I return ‘home’ after my day is over, I still feel like I’m trying to get home,” I told a friend once while we sat in an empty classroom studying late one night after I blew out a single candle on a cafeteria cupcake in celebration of my 20th birthday.

When she asked me what home was, I recited a list of images that all represented a feeling. A certain kind of poetry. Candles and favorite food and how the floor feels on the soles of my feet. I wondered what it would be like to be able to create such a home for myself and I saw myself weaving a cart amongst the shelves of stores where I could acquire all of the necessary elements.


Three months later, I was on a long-distance phone call with my best friend and one of my great loves. He and I had once taken our separate worlds to try to melt them into one piece before we finally went our separate ways; our love story is a great one that was meant to be temporary. Over the phone, I said I wished I could leap over the Atlantic, overcoming miles and miles of wild and mysterious ocean. I told him that all of the days that passed could never erase what he’d left behind on my heart he’d glued the pieces back together for me, “You haven’t held me in ages, but I still know what you feel like.” He felt like all of my favorite things, I said to him. All of the beautiful things. All of the pure and good and beautiful things.

I’d found a home. My safe haven and my soft-place-to-land. My fort held up by Indie candles and Ed Sheeran music and fairy lights and marked up bibles and a mosaic of jewel-toned colours. Woven among the threads of that moment, I learned one of the most sacred truths of following Jesus: Home is a “who,” not a “where.”

When I gave my life to Jesus in September of 2015,  I wasn’t simply accepting Jesus as my savior. I was also accepting him as my home. The place to exchange my yoke for his lighter one. A place to rest and gain my strength from. He had become my safe-haven and my soft place to land and He sent along people who were just the same.

Jesus doesn’t just want to be the place we go when we’re in trouble. He doesn’t want us to just talk to Him when we need something. He wants to be our all. He wants us to put Him first. He doesn’t want to simply be a part of our lives, He wants to be our lives. He’s our home, the place we live in and act from, the place our lives are planned around and not vice versa.

The day I told the world I accepted Jesus wasn’t just a declaration of my faith in His forgiveness of my sins. I was saying so much more than that. “I’m home,” I declared. I’m home.

The Ultimate Love Story: Having an Intimate Relationship with God

“I have to go now,” I said the words, but my heart broke. The time was nearing. I didn’t want to let her go, but I had to do this… for her. “I love you more than the deepest of the ocean, and higher than the heavens. I’ll always be with you.” Tears fell from her russet eyes down to her chest like drops of spring rain falling from vibrant leaves. I pulled her close and wrapped her into my arms; I felt her sorrow with every beat of her heart. “Please, receive this book of my story. Let each morning bring you a word of my unfailing love.”

She took the book and traced her thumb over the gold bold letters. BIBLE. In this moment, she didn’t understand why I had to leave. But one day, in her pain and sorrow, she will. One day in her brokenness, or when she has made an unforgiving mistake, this day will be enough to pay her debt if she’ll adhere to my word. Most importantly, I hope she will know how much I love her.

In a modern day biblical movie, this would be how I would imagine a scene of God speaking to me precedent of making his poetically beautiful sacrifice.


Nicholas Sparks, author of countless beautiful love stories, portrays an idea of what people would consider the “ultimate love story” in several of his books — love, anger, hurt, betrayal, sacrifice, and everything that goes into making love come alive. I like to presume that God fulfilled the ultimate love story with me. I remember the numerous times that I’ve become angry at God, and the times I’ve had to work with him to overcome hurt and bitterness. Still, he pulls me close to tell me how much he loves me, waits patiently, and continues to fulfill his promises. What love is this, that he would do that for me? For someone so unworthy and undeserving?

But oh so dearly, God’s love is not solely for me. This is a relationship that God wants with you. Not only that, it is essential to our spiritual survival that we have an intimate relationship with the author of our love story. His love for us is so deep and intimate. Naturally, I can imagine that when God was ready to give himself as a sacrifice, his humanity shook. But because He loves us so graciously, He gave himself so that we didn’t have to live by the standard of our sin.

How can we have a close relationship with God?

An eloquent love story written in the 21st century portrays two ordinary people implementing an extraordinary action. The couple must overcome an obstacle that will enhance their love for one another. At times, the couple may stray; but once they overcome, their journey will continue. Similarly, God went through many hardships, pain, and suffering for us. He gave up his life to live a life with us. God’s sacrifice was extraordinary for us — the ordinary. We will fail him. There will be times when we stray. Life may not offer the Nicholas Sparks fairy-tale and you may not have your prince; but God, the author of our love story, will offer so much more.

“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us; and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.” (Ephesians 5:2)

To build a close relationship with God, we need to first make him the priority in our lives. This means to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). In accepting marriage, God wants us to know true love and to learn how to be passionate in loving others. More importantly, He wants to know that we will love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). God wants intimacy with us, and desires a relationship much like our human connections. He wants to know our fears and struggles, our desires, our passions. He wants to know that when we wake up in the morning or go to sleep at night, he is the first and last person in our minds. How can someone be so intentional in their love for someone, who can go a full day without stopping and saying, “I love you, Lord!” Life is busy, but taking time to surround yourself with God is so important in walking in his will.

How can God become the center of your life?

For God to be a priority in your life, it means you must be willing to sacrifice a part of yourself. Various scriptures in the bible associate love with sacrifice (John 15:13; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Romans 5:8). Accordingly, in order for a relationship to stay abode and remain sacred, it costs a great amount of time, energy and putting someone else first — much like God did for us. I’m sure those of you who have been in a relationship know how much energy it takes. Frankly, my non-dating relationships take a great amount of energy, time, and effort. However, God desires that we love him enough that it is not a daily hassle to fantasize being close with him, holding hands, or engage in deep conversations with him. Take some time to develop your relationship with God — a few minutes opening up his word and hearing what he has to say. Study his word. Pray in your mind throughout the day because God is continuously thinking of you. What’s more, the Bible goes to say he is a jealous God. When we show our affection to worldly things, and our minds are faithfully dwelling on them, we are creating ourselves idols put before God (Exodus 20:4–6).

This is not about waiting in singleness or what to do when you are in a relationship. It is having a relationship with God before, during, and after those instances. Relationships will fade. Your time of singleness may come and go, but God will remain. His love for you will be there regardless of your sin or your relationship status. No one will ever be deserving of what God gives, but he loves us so much that he overlooks our imperfections. We need to build the foundation of our lives on God’s love and his promises. We need to be vulnerable with him, pure, and honest. Let him see who you are. Let him get to know you, because the “you” that he created is who he loves so dearly. When we commit to put God first, build a relationship with him, and trust our lives to him, he will guide us into being where he wants us in life; and one day, he may give us over to our human prince charming. But for now, let God be the one.

“The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. And that’s what you’ve given me. That’s what I’d hoped to give you forever.” -Nicholas Sparks

Living From The Inside Out

I have a friend who is a wonderfully talented singer. She leads worship at our church and every time she opens her mouth, it is amazing. I often find myself wishing that I could sing as well as she can. I have another friend who has a high powered job and is very successful in the business world and travels a lot. I think about how great it would be to have a job like hers.

Isn’t that typical? We compare ourselves to others wishing that we had their job, voice, hair, skin or talents. Our culture encourages us to do this, and it leads us to feelings of inadequacy. We find that we feel worthy when others say you are. For example, if you work really hard on a project and no one says that it was well done, you start to wonder if it really was any good; if you’re any good. Also, our culture demands attention. If you measure your worth according to Facebook and Twitter, then attention equals worthiness. But God disagrees. He says that we are worthy because of our faith. We don’t have to try to be the biggest or the best. We don’t have to impress anyone. We only need to be faithful. That takes all the pressure off!

The challenge is learning to live by faith, not by sight. When we look to the outside world for praise and worth, we are left feeling inadequate. The good news is that who you are and what you do already pleases God! He has given each of us unique gifts and abilities and wants us to use these gifts to show our love for Him.

“If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:7–9)

The verses above present the argument that it’s not about us, it’s about Him. But, it’s easy for us to allow the world’s values to impact our life. We focus on material things to make us happy; believing that our self-image comes from the outside, and often think that it’s ok to bend the rules sometimes. God has an opinion about this…

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

In other words, to counter the tendency to let the world’s values direct what we do and how we live, we must intentionally choose to live so that we let God’s callings determine how we use our gifts. Using God’s word as a guide will allow you to stay on the right path and focus on His calling for you. The best way that we can show our love to God is to use the special gifts that He has given us. Remember that we are all designed to have different talents and that is what makes us unique. (After all, the world would be a pretty boring place if we all had the same talents.)

So the next time you find yourself in the trap of comparison or feeling less than adequate, remind yourself that we each have our own special gifts. Do what you do best and do it without comparison, for it brings Him much joy, and will make you feel great as well!

Brothers Speak: What Naomi Teaches Us About Faith

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:14-15 NIV)

Her name meant “pleasant”, yet the Book of Ruth starts out in ruin. When Naomi left Bethlehem for Moab, she had a husband and two sons and now that they were dead, she and her two daughters-in-law were left vulnerable and helpless in a foreign land of idol worship.

Discouragement became her constant companion and her faith in God’s blessings and mercy fell to its lowest. In the first chapter, she said to her daughters-in-law: “the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.” (Ruth 1:13 ESV)

Naomi’s lack of faith was so blatant that we are even tempted to look down on it. After all, did she not know our Lord’s compassion for widows (Exodus 22: 22 – 24; Deut. 10: 17 – 18)? Did she not know His love and the covenant He made with His people (Ex. 15: 1 – 21)?

It’s easy to forget the reason her faith is so shakable:

She does not know the end of the story.

She doesn’t know the part where Jesus triumphs over sin. She doesn’t know the part where Light triumphs over darkness. We have the part in our hands where the savior is born, then dies for our sin, and then rises from the dead. Perhaps remembering that fact is what allows us to feel compassion and empathy for this glitch in her faith. But what TRULY allows me to feel compassion for her is remembering this:

I have been Naomi.

I have wrestled with God in prayer when I felt like He wasn’t listening. I’ve looked upon dark times in my life as if it were all in ruin. I’ve felt as if there was no hope left, nothing good left in the cards for me. I have been Naomi. And I think you’ve been Naomi, too.

I think you’ve had those times when tragedy, despair, and setbacks hit your life one after another like waves. I think you’ve felt like you were walking through the valley of the shadow of death from Psalm 23, except you felt fear and you didn’t feel the comfort of His rod or His staff. You wondered if he even heard your prayers. But really, the glitches and struggles in our faith have the same source as Naomi’s struggles in faith:

We don’t know how the story ends.

Now, while all of you wait for me to be struck by lightning, hear me out. I’m not talking about the big story. We know how THAT story ends. We know that our Jesus will return for His bride. We know that if we’re in relationship with Him, we’ll get to spend all of eternity with our King after death.

But we don’t know how our story here on earth ends. We know that anything that happens to us, good or bad, God will use for good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV)

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)

But we still don’t know whether it’s in His plan for us to get everything our flesh wants. We know He intends everything for good, but we just don’t know whether He will write our story the way WE want Him to.

We are just so concerned with the temporary and the earthly. We know how the eternal story ends, yet our faith waivers because we don’t know how the earthly story ends. We know on an intellectual/theological level that God’s way is perfect.

“This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30 ESV)

Yet, even though we know that His ways are superior to our own, we are not content until our flesh is. We lose faith unless our earthly story is written the way we’d write it ourselves. And sometimes, our flesh is missing out in a big way. Tragedy, loss, heartbreak, sickness.

All of these things challenge our human need for reassurance. Not a reassurance that things will be okay, but a reassurance that they’ll rearrange themselves into how our earthly selves always envisioned our earthly lives turning out.

Naomi lost her faith because God dealt her a hand that she wouldn’t have chosen for herself. Who would? But in his endless grace and loving patience, God blesses Naomi by bringing her out from ruin and returning her joy. He blesses her with renewed faith, family, and security as Boaz redeems Ruth. He used her crisis and desperate trial as a means to showcase His perfect redemptive love, provision, and grace… just as he said He would!

What I take away from Naomi is this…

You don’t need to know the ending of the story to keep faith.

What you need to know is the past. Naomi should have drawn her faith from knowing that God rescued His people from famine (Ruth 1:6), that He blessed foreigners (vv. 8, 9), and that He had made a covenant with His people. She also should have drawn her faith from the blessings through which she could have seen God’s love and provision in her life. Ruth’s pledge to Naomi is boundless.

She also should have drawn her faith from the blessings through which she could have seen God’s love and provision in her life. Ruth’s pledge to Naomi is boundless (vv. 16 – 17). She makes an oath to Naomi, using Yahweh’s name, to stay with her until death. She promises to worship Naomi’s God. She even leaves her homeland, along with most likely marriage opportunities and safety, in order to be with Naomi and the people who worship our God.

Naomi teaches us that to keep faith, we don’t need to know what’s in store for us tomorrow, whether hardship is coming (it is, by the way), or whether God gives us everything our flesh wants. We simply need to know the past. What God’s already done for us, the ways He’s kept His promises, how we can look back on our past trials to see how He’s used them for His glory.

Now, when I move through difficult seasons of my life, I can hold onto faith not because I know what God’s going to do with my trial, but because God and I have a history and He has never let me down.