Anna's Alcove

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What is your niche?

When you want to write for a website or guest blog, or even when you manage a website of your own, you need to have what is called a “niche.”

“What is a ‘niche,’?” you may ask.

The definition in the dictionary is as follows:

1. a shallow recess, especially one in a wall to display a statue or other ornament.
2. place or position (something) in a niche.

Ok, so to put something on display is kind of like showcasing what you know (so to speak). When a person knows a lot about a certain topic and is passionate about it (or at least very interested in learning more about it), they usually try to find a way to share it with the world.

When I started my blog for an editorial college class, I wasn’t sure how or when I would use it in the future. But then I started posting the articles I wrote as they were published in the school newspaper and moved on to writing about whatever came to mind, whether it be biblical, book-based or whatever inspired me to write.

That seemed to work pretty well at the time and helped to boost my readership as posts were published month to month.

Now comes the tricky part. I want to get into freelance writing, but most websites that are looking for guest bloggers/writers want us to declare a particular niche, a certain topic that we’re specialized in.

My husband sent me an article titled “The Surprising Benefits (and Pitfalls) of Being a Jack-of-All-Trades,” which talks about those of us who are interested and knowledgable about a variety of topics.

What was the solution?

“Take your time and pick a couple things to focus on.”

Just because you’re interested in a number of topics and activities doesn’t mean you can become a short-term specialist in that area. Pick a topic and start researching. Make that your hobby for several weeks or a couple months and see what you can learn.

DSCN3678Do you enjoy food? Then cook, take photographs, jot down notes of the things you changed in the recipe and write about it! Are you into photography? Then go out into the world and snap some pictures, research terms like “aperture” and “depth of field” and post it online with a short (or long) explanation about what you did for each picture. Enjoy playing with kids? Then write some tips about what you do to keep them entertained, healthy snacks that they’ll enjoy and educational games that enhance their thinking process.

There’s a world of opportunity out there waiting to be studied! The only thing that will make it stand out from similar posts on the Internet is by making it your own. No one can think like you do, see the world like you do, crack jokes like you do or explain an interest like you do.

I encourage you (and myself) to start becoming a short-term specialist in one of the many areas that catch your interest 🙂 Who knows… you may discover something you just can’t get enough of!

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We have the mind of Christ! (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Whether you’re new to Christianity or believed in Christ at a young age, you’re bound to hear that fact more than once.

But what does it mean?

Granted, it will be different for everyone. I’ve struggled with this verse off and on throughout my walk with Christ and still have yet to come to a full conclusion of what it means for me.

How can we, as humans, have the mind capacity of the Creator? There’s so much about God that we don’t completely understand yet, so how can we understand or comprehend the mysteries and knowledge of Him?

In 2 Peter 1:2-4, it says “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…”

The first part of that verse is easy to grasp. Peter is blessing the people receiving the letter in the knowledge of God and of Jesus (which is kind of like blessing them in the name of God). But then it goes on to say that through the knowledge of Him, we may be partakers of the divine nature.

What all does that encompass? When you think about your “nature,” what comes to mind?

Your soul, thoughts, feelings, personality, creativity… the very essence that makes you you, right?

Take a moment and realize what that means for us as believers.

Mind blowing, I know… and it gets better:

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1)

It is by faith, and faith alone, that we have a part in God’s nature. There’s nothing that we can do to earn it. We were made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), so He pretty much imprinted Himself on our souls and being “partakers of the divine nature” and “having the mind of Christ” is a part of following Jesus.

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Getting access to all that knowledge doesn’t happen automatically when we believe, but we’re given a key. Once we realize that we have the key to the mind and knowledge of God and claim it for ourselves (fully believe it), that’s when things start happening:

Colossians 2:2-3 gives us a glimpse of what we could experience once we start seeking to know to mind of God and take ownership of our right to the divine nature: “… that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Wow…

I mean, as believers, this passage says that we have the right to seek after the mysteries and knowledge of God! Too many of us don’t take advantage of it and miss an entire aspect of our faith. God wants to reveal more of Himself to us, His beloved creation, and He’s waiting for His followers to actively start seeking after the divine nature that is rightfully ours.

Like I said, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this and figure out what it means for me. But I’m working on talking with God more frequently and asking Him direct questions instead of wondering quietly to myself. Diving into His Word and discovering new meanings behind well-known passages has been one of the immediate benefits.

The Holy Spirit will be faithful and will open your mind to more of who God is. Strive toward Him. Claim your divine inheritance. Don’t get stuck in the lie that God won’t reveal things to us because we’re mere human beings.

Remember:

We have the mind of Christ!

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Adding “Home” and “Blog” pages to your WordPress

It’s taken me a little longer to get to this point that I expected, but I finally started working on getting my “Home,” “Hire Me,” “Blog” and “Contact” pages set up for my WordPress site! Yes, there is only the basic information there, but it’s a start and I do plan to embellish it a little more over time.

As I was looking at my site, I realized that I didn’t want my blog posts to be the first thing my visitors saw. I knew that one of the ways to catch a client’s eye is providing them with an idea of what you can offer, but while my posts can be helpful and encouraging at times, they don’t always display my true potential as a freelancer.

What I needed was a “Home” page, but I had no idea how to create one, much less what to feature on it.

So, I started researching and this is what I learned:

Static Home Page

Go to your Dashboard and select Pages. Click “Add New” and type “Home” in the title section of the page. If your template has a default home page template, you’ll find that drop-down menu on the right, under “Page Attributes” (not all templates have this feature). Scroll to the bottom of the page and uncheck “Allow comments” and “Allow trackbacks.” Click “Publish” (you can add information to it now or later).

Blog page

Go to Pages and click “Add New.” Type “Blog” in the title section. Scroll down and uncheck “Allow comments” and “Allow trackbacks.” Click “Publish.”

Set up

Go to Settings and select “Reading.” Under Front Page Display, select “a static page.” You’ll see two drop-down menus: Front Page and Posts Page. Select “Home” for Front Page and “Blog” for Posts Page. Save your changes.

Go to Appearance and select “Menu.” Your two new pages should appear on the left side of the page. Click the empty boxes next to them and click “Add to Menu.” You’ll see them appear on the right side of your screen. Save your work.

What to write?

So, now what? You’ve got your Home and Blog pages all set up, but what should you feature on your home page?

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.44.56 AM

Remember when you wrote an essay or short story for class and you had to come up with a hook that caught your reader’s attention? Think about the audience that you’re trying to reach, what they may need and how you can catch their attention. Why should they keep looking at your home page? What do they need that you have?

Be sure to list some of your areas of expertise, maybe feature some sample photos if you’re into photography and sell yourself (promote your new blog page too)! Don’t be shy about what you can offer to the business world, but don’t make it too wordy either. Too many words can potentially scare people away.

Want more pages?

It’s easy! To create more pages, such as “Contact” or “Hire Me,” go to Pages and “Add New” and fill in the title with whatever you want.

Once those are created and published, go to Appearance and select “Menu.” Be sure to click the empty boxes by your newly created pages, select “Add to Menu” and they will appear in your menu list on the right. You can rearrange the menus by clicking and dragging. Save your changes.

And that’s it!

If you want more information, I suggest you check out wpbeginner.com, as they have several great resource videos on how to get things set up on your website.

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5 ways to hone your writing skills

Freelance writer. Freelance photographer.

Sounds so professional, right?

But how does one go about becoming either one of those?

I did a little poking around the Internet this past week and came across a website called Innovative Ink, created by Elna, another beginner freelance writer, and found a series she wrote called “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies.” There was a number of valuable details about honing your skills as a writer, getting your name out there, landing a client, determining your rates and writing a contract.

Here are some of the points that caught my attention:

1. Portfolio

Many journalism students are strongly encouraged to keep everything they write throughout their college career, no matter how big or small it may be. Why? Because it can be added to their portfolio. Everything you write is a sample of what you can do.

DSCN2538

As a college student, I was a reporter for the school paper and kept PDFs of every piece I wrote. Which was great, but I graduated from college three years ago and haven’t really written an article since then. I had dealt with plenty of online briefs and press releases during my employment at The Morning Call in Allentown, but I have nothing to show for it except for my knowledge and experience.

So how do you keep building your portfolio?

2. Blogging

Why blog? Because it’s a way to determine where you fit in the interwebs. What is your niche? What are you passionate about? What inspires you to write? It took me a while to figure that one out, but soon I would hear a quote or a song or snap a picture of a breathtaking view and suddenly I was inspired to write a 6 paragraph or longer blog post in under an hour. Anything you write can be used in your portfolio, whether it be professional writing or for fun. So, if you’re not in school or don’t write something new every day for work, do it on your down time in the evenings or on the weekends at home.

Which brings me to my next point…

3. Write Daily

This is very important. If writers make it a point to write something every day – a paragraph, their rambling thoughts, a letter – it’s almost guaranteed that their writing will improve and they’ll be able to figure out what their niche is as a writer. Do you have an interest? Write about it. Do you like to cook or bake? Write about it. How about that crazy awesome book series you just finished? Write about it! (just don’t give away the ending)

4. Guest blogging

This is similar to the second point, but the difference is that it’s for another person, not for yourself. I’ve always wondered how to get into writing on another blog. When I started researching how to become a freelance writer, many sites suggested being a guest blogger. Ok, but how do I go about finding blogs that I can write for? That’s where Innovative Ink helped. She listed Google searches to try and a way to sign up for opportunities to guest blog for money (yes, apparently that is a thing at beafreelanceblogger.com). It’s just a matter of getting your name out there and letting the cyber world know what you’re capable of before you fly solo and land your own clients.

5. Social Media

This has already been a major part of getting the word out about my blog. I’ve been working on my blog since 2011 and it contains a wide variety of writing samples – poetry, devotionals, short story, news articles, features and more. By the time I moved my blog over to this website, I was nearly at 7000 views! That’s all from sharing my latests posts on my Facebook, LinkedIn and Google profiles. What I learned from blogging for fun is that social media has to be a big factor in getting the word out about my freelance career, my clients and what I can offer to the world as a writer and photographer.

So there you have it. Be creative! Write! Build that portfolio and have fun with it 🙂

I would highly recommend checking out the “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies” series, as it has helped me to form a game plan for starting my career as a freelance writer.

Thanks for reading!

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And so the adventure begins…

Welcome to my new site!! Here’s the story of how it got started and my plans and dreams for what it could become in the future:

Everything was going fine and dandy. I had just married the man I love, we had a wonderful, relaxing honeymoon in the Poconos and, with both of our full-time jobs, we were well on our way to paying off debt by the end of the year.

But it didn’t last long. The week after the honeymoon, I was back at my desk in the newsroom, trying to make some sense of the hundred or so emails I had received,  when I was called into the conference room. There the head editor and my boss gave me the bad news: the company was downsizing again and they were forced to cut my position.

As any normal person would be, I was bummed that I lost my job and the steady income, but I knew in the back of my mind that God has an ultimate plan in all of this…

.. but it was nice having the extra money.

Anyway, after spending a week getting our house set up and wedding gifts put away, I took the first step of job hunting, applied for unemployment and registered my name, email and resume with two career search sites: JobGateway.com and Monster.com.

In order to get job openings that you may be interested in, the sites recommend setting up “saved searches,” which are ongoing searches according to your pre-set career choice and where you would prefer to work. I set mine to “administrative assistant,” “writer” and “editor” near Doylestown and Quakertown and selected the daily email alerts option.

DSCN2507This was a helpful tool. I get emails every day, letting me know if there are new opportunities to apply for jobs in the area, but there are days where there is nothing new.

It is now week three, I’ve applied to at least 10-12 jobs and have either been told that they’re looking at more qualified candidates or haven’t heard anything back from them.

Then I got to thinking – what if this is my opportunity to get my dream of being a freelance writer, editor and photographer off the ground? I already have a blog that’s been an off-and-on thing since I was a junior in college and my husband created a website for me (ta-da!) to use as a foundation for freelancing and photography.

There’s so much a person can do with a writing major, including editing books and articles for publishing, so I’ll be writing weekly updates on my journey toward a career in freelance, as well as other wonderings and ponderings about life.

As I discover what works, what doesn’t work and how to establish your writing in the world of freelancing, I hope this becomes a helpful resource to those interested in a career in freelance writing.

Thanks for reading!

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The Most Beautiful Poem in the Bible

Last Sunday, our pastor challenged us to take some time to read through Song of Solomon, to get a feel for the passionate love within marriage that depicts God’s love for the church.

OK, that sounds easy enough: read through the passionate love poem written by Solomon for his new bride and see how it parallels the love that our Creator has for those who seek and follow Him.

So I started reading it out loud during my morning devotions… and I was completely caught off guard.

It took a couple minutes to get the feel of the New King James way of talking, but soon I was able to read at an easy, comfortable pace.

Tasting each word as it rolled off my tongue and speculating on the various phrases and stanzas, a wonderful, crazy thing happened: I found myself lost in the beauty of the Word of God.

Song of Solomon is one of the most beautifully written poems in the Bible. Seriously, have you ever read the entirety of the book or heard it read out loud? I’m not talking the PG-rated portions, but the entire thing, beginning to end. Have you ever experienced what it’s like to hear those words of love and passion so boldly proclaimed, without shame?

As a teenager and a young adult, before marriage, whenever I skimmed through this book, it almost always set me daydreaming about the man I would marry. Would he look at me the way this man looks at his bride? Will he tell me over and over again how beautiful I am?

Now, as a married woman, there’s a completely different perspective and a whole new appreciation for the words of love written out in this book. What seemed like overkill or complete nonsense back then now make a little more sense.

Love – true love – can be that passionate.

It can get to a point where you just have to keep repeating the same phrases over and over again because you’re too giddy to think of anything new to say that describes your love for the other person, the longing for your husband the minute he leaves the house is a real thing (yes, I enjoy having the house to myself at times, but it’s always nice to have him near by) and the way his eyes light up when I walk into the room makes me feel like a princess.

And then I came across these verses:

Set me as a seal upon your heart, 
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.
 
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
 
(8:6-7a)

Wow…

Just take a moment and read that again.

“Set me as a seal…”

When I think of a seal, I think of something permanent, of claiming ownership and saying, “This is mine, no one else can have it.” While that may sound very possessive, I like knowing that my husband has chosen me to be his and his alone. He wouldn’t like it if I started checking out other guys or if other guys started hitting on me whenever we’re out somewhere… and the same goes for me. He’s my man and that’s the way it’s supposed to be in a committed relationship 🙂

“For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave…
 
Many waters cannot quench love…”

It’s very hard to break up true love. Especially when it’s a cord of three strands (with God as the third strand).. then nothing will be able to touch it!

This all reminds me of the song “Oh, How He Loves Us” by the David Crowder Band, where it says:

“He is jealous for me, 
Love like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy,
When all of a sudden, 
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful you are
And how great Your affections are for me.
 
Oh, how He loves us!”
If you asked me what I got from all this, I would tell you that God is love. He is the definition of love and the passion He has for His creation to draw near to him and to have a lasting, eternal relationship with us is more than our mere words can express.

It makes me want to soar through the air, bask in the sun, dance in the fields, sing at the top of my lungs, feel the rain on my face and just celebrate being alive and loved by my amazing, wonderful Savior.

So, my question for you is… what are you waiting for?

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On the brink of adventure!

All my life I have been dreaming of my prince charming – that dashing young man who, when our eyes meet across the room, falls madly in love with me, sweeps me off my feet and carries me off to his castle where we live happily ever after.

Crazy right?

But seriously, what girl doesn’t wonder what her future husband looks like, what he did that day, what he’s thinking about? Will he be handsome? Will his eyes be blue, brown or hazel? What will we do? How the heck will we find enough things to talk about?

And now, in just a few days, on Dec. 28, 2014, I’ll be walking down the aisle toward the man of my dreams. I still almost can’t quite believe it. He matches everything on my “Mr. Right” list and is so much more than I could ever imagine or ask for.

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Photo courtesy of Gina Meyers Photography

He’s a strong believer in Christ and is actively growing in his relationship with our heavenly Father, he is kind, caring, fun, has a sense of humor, puts my needs in front of his own, does whatever he can to make me smile, enjoys spending time with my family and friends, welcomed me into his entire life (work, friends, family – there isn’t an area in his life that I’m not privy to) and the list goes on!

You know all those Bible study books (such as “Every Young Woman’s Battle,” “Captivated” and “Lady in Waiting”) that have that chapter about waiting for Mr. Right? How we, as maturing women of God, shouldn’t have to go out and find ourselves a man, that he will come into our lives at the right time. No need to worry, right?

It took me until age 23 to figure out what that means.

At first, I thought it meant that if I lived each day in expectation that I might meet my future husband, putting a little extra work into my appearance and greeting everyone with a smile, the right guy would find me irresistible and ask me out on the spot.

Right?

Nope!

While that was all well and good, the joy wasn’t real.

Living in expectation of something that wasn’t fully guaranteed took a toll on my emotions, leaving me exhausted and grumpy. I started thinking I wasn’t pretty enough or that I wasn’t a good enough Christian to deserve “the right guy.” Thoughts were running through my head every day as I watched my friends enter into relationship, get married and start families of their own.

Why didn’t I have that special someone in my life? All I’ve ever wanted was to be married to a great Christian guy, grow in Christ and raise a family together. What’s so wrong with that and why the heck was it taking so long to find my future husband?

In reality, if we want to become all that God has planned for us to be, to live our lives as the women of God that we are, we can’t live each day wondering when and if we will ever meet our future husband. Like I said before, it gets tiring and disappointing.

To be naturally filled with the joy of the Lord each day, we have to shift our focus from us to God and actively invest in a relationship with our heavenly Father.

When you start focusing on Christ, your whole perspective changes. You start seeing people through Christ’s eyes and your heart begins to overflow with love for others. Your smile will be genuine and your life will begin to fill with joy.

Not the joy that comes from having a super cute guy glance your way, but the joy that comes from an awesome love relationship with the Lord of all!

The kind of joy that makes the little things (a cup of coffee, sunlight, the chirping of birds in the trees, a smile, a chocolate bar, etc.) seem like big things…

… that makes the fact that you’re single fade to the background…

… that makes the sun shine just a little brighter…

… because if you think about it, you’re in an amazing love relationship with the Creator of the universe! And He loves to shower you with blessings that bring a smile to your face…

… and that is more than enough to make your joy complete without too much effort or wear and tear on your emotions 🙂

Trust me – lay down your worry about never marrying and becoming a nun at the throne of grace and leave it there! Walk away from it with your head held high, a smile on your face and the joy of the Lord in your heart….

… and start running full speed toward Jesus Christ. He’ll welcome you with open arms!

And who knows? Your prince charming may be just waiting around the corner…

… mine was 😉

So, dear friends, this will be the last time that I sign off as Ms. Anna Tielmann… because the next time I post, I”ll be known as…

… Mrs. Charles Crossan!!!!!

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Angels watching over me

After spending a lovely evening of cooking dinner, writing thank-you notes, going for a walk and watching a movie with my fiance, something completely unexpected happened.”

I had been driving on I-78 for about 10 minutes, singing along to Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted,” when I rounded a corner and an unusual movement caught my eye. Next thing I know, my little Suzuki is right on top of the big momma deer that happened to be in my lane..

THUD

… my hood crumples and she goes flying straight up into the air, right over my car and the car behind me, smacking onto the pavement on the side of the road. I manage to steer off to the side of the highway, smoke swirling out of my now-exposed engine and windshield wipers going like crazy (in my shock, I smacked everything around the steering wheel trying to find the turn signal so I could safely exit my lane, thus turning on the wipers full blast).

20141111_081131The girl who was driving behind me didn’t have a scratch on her car and she stopped to make sure I was ok. She left and the realization of what had just happened began to set in, triggering a mini freakout. I called my fiance and he dropped what he was doing to meet me (did I mention how awesome he is?). The necessary calls were then made to the police, AAA and my Dad and we had my car towed away while my wonderful fiance gave me a ride home.

In hindsight, I believe that my car was surrounded by angels that night.

I mean, what else could’ve kept that deer from coming through the windshield (causing even more damage or even critically injuring me)? It had started to roll up my car’s hood and then suddenly shot high in the air; high enough to get over 2 cars and land way off on the side of the road (out of the way of oncoming traffic).

The only explanation I have is God’s angels! The Bible states:

“Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” 
Heb. 1:14
 
” For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.  
In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” 
Psalm 91:11-12
 
“The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” 
Psalm 34:7

While I haven’t personally seen a healing happen before my eyes or had one of those incredible visions from God, I have had angelic experiences throughout my entire life (angels kept me quiet and occupied while Mom dealt with a fish tank disaster – I was just under a year old; there have been car crashes that could’ve ended really badly; hiding my keys on me so I would be a couple minutes late, missing the multi-vehicle accident; and more).

All I can say is that God must have something big planned for my life, someone He wants me to impact personally, something He wants me to do to further His kingdom. It’s the same for all of us! He is faithful in His promises and will never leave us nor forsake us. When he says that He will send His angels to guard us, it’s not a lie. We are surrounded by His protection day in and day out.

Trust Him. He won’t let you down.

I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 
Matthew 28: 20
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God-Dependent

“To become a [true] servant is to become radically strong spiritually”<
[Be] God-dependent rather than spouse-dependent”

During one of my mornings with God last week, reading from a book called “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas, these phrases popped out at me and got me thinking…

What does it mean to be “God-dependent”? How does that come through in every day life?

I know that most of us, growing up in Christian homes and churches, have been taught at a young age to put our trust in Christ, to have our happiness depend on God rather than our family or friends. To a young girl, that seems easier said than done.

My happiness depends on a God I can’t even see? How does that work? He can’t make silly faces that get me to laugh, He can’t tell me a joke or take me somewhere fun or sit for hours to just talk and catch up.

But as I got older, I began to realize what being “God-dependent” really means.

Throughout high school I got excited whenever one of the older guys happened to smile at me or when one of my friends invited me out to a girls’ night. Then college came, I got a boyfriend and felt like I was on cloud nine because I finally had someone who seemed to value me for who I was and who I enjoyed spending time with.

And what happened?

I broke my heart multiple times because those high school boys were just being nice and had no interest in me whatsoever. Most of those girls’ nights ended up being gossip-fests that I couldn’t share in because I was homeschooled and didn’t know anyone outside of church. Half of the guys in college, including my then-boyfriend, weren’t interested in a long-term relationship and eventually started to push me away.

The bottom line is that people will let you down, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It’s just the way we are with the sin nature in our lives… and that’s why we’re encouraged to allow God to become the source of our joy and happiness.

David realized this when he wrote Psalm 28:7:

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him and I am helped;
therefore my heart greatly rejoices and with my song I will praise Him.”

What does he do in this verse?

David owns the truth by saying “my strength” and “my shield.”DSCN7730

By claiming that truth as his own and striving each day to place his dependence on God alone, David was able to “greatly rejoice” and “praise” the God of joy and peace!

So, how would that apply in real life?

The verse that popped in my head was Ephesians 5:21, which says:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

As we start to turn our focus toward Christ and work to base our joy off of our relationship with Him, everything else will fall into place.

It’s just like Thomas says:

“If [you] are faithfully serving [your spouse] when [they’re] in a surely mood and [they’re] not exactly falling over [themselves] to show [their] appreciation, [you] still receive an inner affirmation and sense of fulfillment from God. [You] have that inner witness that tells [you] that [your] Creator is pleased with [you]…”

When we place our identity in the One who is the source of joy and happiness, it won’t matter so much what other people do to us, as long as we’re faithfully striving to serve our heavenly Father and do His will by loving on those He created…

… because He will be pleased with us.

“There is true joy when true service is offered up with a true heart”

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Happily Ever After

There comes a point in every girls’ life where she suddenly realizes that boys don’t have cooties, that it seems like the kid in her class may just be flirting with her or that her best friend that she’s grew up with is actually kind of good looking.

Most of us have watched all the Disney princess movies, can belt out “A Whole New World” with the best of them and sigh dreamily every time the prince rescues the princess, captures her heart and they ride off to his castle together, to live happily ever after.

Yes, I pretty much described myself and I was that hopeless romantic at a very young age. My first crush lasted a good 13 years (it started at age 4 or 5) and I started “planning” my wedding when I was about 16. I’ve always been a sucker for Christian romance novels and romantic comedies. Being married to a godly man and becoming a stay-at-home mom is really all I’ve ever wanted from life.

I’ve been praying for my future husband for several years now and for my happily ever after. God has been faithful and pretty much landed me a fairy tale of my own!

Some of my Bible study friends convinced my sister and me to go swing dancing one night, we got hooked and came back the next week. The minute I walked through the door, this guy across the room caught my eye. I can’t really explain it, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop glancing his way during the hour-long lesson and when the social dance came around, he asked me to dance, taught me a couple dances and we talked and danced the night away.

I’m not kidding 🙂

The next day, he asked me out on a date, we went biking along the river, talked some more over ice cream, he asked to meet my Dad (which was one of my “Hey, God, could you give me a sign if he’s the one?” things) and the rest is history.

Fast forward about 10 months.

We get back from a week at the beach with my family and everyone has finally unpacked and gone to bed. Charles and I are just hanging out and talking, when he suggests we take a walk outside to see the stars (there are some big corn fields near where I live, so it’s perfect for star-gazing). As we’re walking, we both catch sight of one of the brightest and longest shooting stars I’ve ever seen. We get to the field and, as we’re looking at the stars, he asks if I figured out why he hasn’t been able to stop smiling all day. I said that I thought he had enjoyed himself at the beach and was enjoying the moment.

Next thing I know, he’s down on one knee in front of me, holding out a box with a sparkly ring inside it and I hear him ask, “Will you marry me?”

Needless to say, I said yes!DSCN7439

But now with being engaged and the wedding date set for Dec. 28, 2014, I’m finding it hard to pull back on the reins on my wedding planning. I just wanna go, go, go and get every last detail figured out now instead of spacing it out over the next 5 months. But, in reality, that’s crazy.

My loving fiance has amazing patience for putting up with my random texts, messages and constant talking about the little details as they pop up in my head. When I started to get worried that a certain detail may not work out the way I think it should or that we wouldn’t get the venue we wanted, he will gently remind me of how much God has already provided for us and that He has everything taken care of. All we have to do is take a deep breath and trust him.

And it’s true. I mean, one of my favorite verses is Psalm 37:4,

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”

I know this verse can be confusing to many people. Some take it to mean that when you follow after God wholeheartedly, He will bless you with everything you ever wanted. Others take it to mean that when you follow after God, He will bless you with the things He thinks are best for you, whether you desire it or not.

To me, it means that when you fully commit to following after God, diligently seeking Him in His Word and prayer, your desires begin to align with His. That part of you that was all about making yourself happy and getting what you want just falls away and is replaced by a heart after God’s own heart.

Yes, that original longing for love and happily ever afters will still be there, but it won’t be about you anymore. As you’re delighting in the Lord and chasing after Him for all your worth, your focus will shift. It will be more about how you can help another person to feel and experience the love of Christ through you.

Now, I’m not saying that the minute you start pursuing God, your Prince Charming will show up. It doesn’t happen that way. It takes time.

We may feel like we’re ready – and maybe we are – but what if God is still working on the other person? What if they’re not isn’t at the point where they can genuinely demonstrate the love of Christ to you?

I know I felt like I was ready for a committed relationship the last year and a half before I met my fiance, but a part of me hadn’t fully become content in Christ. I was still occasionally moaning to God, asking Him why I was still single at 23, why there seemed to be no husband-material on the horizon…

… then something changed.

I don’t know what it was exactly, but during a prayer, I was all of a sudden filled with peace and contentment. The days after that, I woke up each morning with joy in my heart and a genuine smile on my face. Life was good!

The whole time I was halfheartedly pursuing God in His Word and prayer, the Holy Spirit was working on me. As I got deeper and more committed in my pursuit of getting closer with God, praying that He would strengthen my faith and reveal Himself to me day after day, He was faithful in His promise and helped me to become fully content in Him.

And shortly after that was when I walked through the doors at Fearless Firehall and met my future.

God’s timing is perfect… trust me 🙂

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