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Choosing to See God’s Blessings

Hello Friend!

Today’s vlog concerns finding a way out of the dark places we sometimes find ourselves in. When things aren’t going well, what is it that helps us crawl out of the ditch of despair we sometimes live in and start viewing life with a positive outlook?

Good question…I knew we were friends for a reason!

To try and answer that question, I want to dig a little deeper into the subject of my previous blog, in which I discuss how our outlook is dictated by choice. Well, after making that claim, I think it’s only fair that I give you one personal example of how I know this to be true.

What kind of choices am I talking about?

Well, my change in perspective [to a more positive outlook] happened when I made two choices: (1) To trust God in all circumstances, and (2) to appreciate every blessing along the way. No matter how small.

Why?

Because sometimes our smallest blessings help us overcome our biggest afflictions.

So maybe a positive outlook is easier than we think. Maybe it just takes trusting God’s plan for our new path [actually trusting, not just saying we do – *insert head tilt and “don’t lie to me” look*], accepting that we won’t always know what that plan is, and then choosing to take the time to appreciate the blessings along the way.

Hoping my vlog can speak to you today! And I pray that in the week ahead we can both choose to see God’s blessings…no matter how small.

Love in Christ,

Helen Elizabeth

[“Redeemed” Shirt: “Written” by Elysian Boutique, http://www.shopwritten.com; Photo: Lydiah Christine, http://www.lydichristine.com]

Grief and Positivity: An Anniversary Day Post

Hello Friends,

Sorry to keep you waiting as far as my blogging is concerned! I’ve been so excited to be working on a book project that has taken a lot of my time. But again, I am now focusing on speaking and my blog once more.

So what prompted my writing today? Well, today would have been Craig’s and my 3rd wedding anniversary. It was such a joyful day. So beautiful and perfect in every way I could imagine. I don’t know if you have ever felt this way, but on the day of my wedding I couldn’t help but think I didn’t deserve this wonderful gift of a wedding. Not because I was a bad person, but because so many people would never receive something so beautiful, and my empathetic heart sometimes hurts when I think that I would experience something that so many people deserve. However, 3 years later, I now see that God gave me that beautiful wedding as a blessing. A cherished memory I would have forever. I know on the post side of a wedding, we sometimes wonder why we spent so much money, or why we worried so much about the color of our flowers. I know Craig and I sometimes thought, “Why didn’t we just take the check our parents offered us instead?” (That would have been a terrible idea, however, because honestly, we probably would have blown that money within a year. Then we would have had no money and no wedding!) Well, while those are valid questions, I’ve come to realize God has a purpose behind everything. He knew Craig would be leaving me much to early in this life, and therefore, God showed His love for me by giving me an amazing blessing of a wedding.

That being said, sometimes those memories can still hurt, right? I know when I first watched videos of Craig and me, it hurt more than I could imagine, but today, I have a different perspective. It’s important that we don’t get lost in the hurt that we feel, and miss the gifts God blessed us with. In other words, we shouldn’t get lost in our desires to have whatever it is we no longer have; instead, we should be thankful for having such a wonderful blessing for a period of time.

Anyway, throughout Thanksgiving, I wanted to focus on lessons God might have for me that could help lift the heaviness of missing my late husband…and furthermore, lessons I could share that can help other people who have their own pain they’re dealing with. And after sitting still and listening for a while, I came back to a constant realization I’ve had over the last year. Everything in life [and within our relationship with God] involves choice. Loving God is a choice. A positive perspective is a choice. Holding on to pain is a choice.

You see, when we experience pain, we sometimes choose to stay there, wallowing in it. We choose to stay in the ditch of our unhappiness because we don’t want to have to accept a different life than what we had before. We don’t want to accept whatever ways we have to live differently because there’s no way this new way of life could ever make us happy. Living with this mindset is a choice that can suffocate our hearts, and bury us in negativity. You are more than the devastating situation you’re dealing with. It may not seem like it, but happiness is a choice…on many levels. It begins with loving God, which then leads us to trust Him; which then leads us to want to live for Him and His plan rather than our own; which then leads us to live selflessly; which then moves our perspective from ourselves to others. And when we live a life for God and others, we can then be filled with abounding hope, joy, and peace…no matter our situation.

Whatever our struggle, God loves us. He hasn’t abandoned us and He never will. If you’re struggling to believe these words, just look back over the course of your life and see how he has connected the pieces during other difficult moments. And whether we want to believe it or not, He’s brought you to where we are today for a reason. Wherever you are, it’s for a purpose. Whatever you’ve experienced, it is purposeful. We must only look to God for direction as to how we can make a terrible situation beautiful again. Yes. We can make the choice to see the beauty in every day. We can see the blessings in the little things. We can count our blessings every day, not just on Thanksgiving, and trust that there is beauty in God’s plan. I promise dear friend, if we can just take the time to do that, we will be reminded of all the reasons we can praise God…and we will see all the reasons to step out of the ditch that we’ve sat in for far too long.

After almost two years of widowhood, I can tell you one more important piece of advice…whatever it is that you might be turning to in the hopes that it will make you happy, I can promise you it will never suffice. The only way we can find true joy in this life is choosing to love God through every single experience we face. If He strips us of everything or gives us all our worldly desires, it is our choice to trust Him and love Him more than anything. It’s amazing all the positive things that can come from choosing to take this outlook on life. I can write to you today as a woman stepping out of my ditch of grief, and choosing a new path. The path that God intended for my life, and that He wants for yours – To know Him and make Him known. There is no greater purpose.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray for my friend reading these words. I pray that whatever they’re experiencing, whether that be a loss of hope, or just experiencing apathy towards the life they’ve been given, I pray You would give them a glimpse of Your joy today. I pray they would feel You’re loving presence, and that they would choose to see the beauty of every day. We are so blessed in so many ways and yet we hardly see it. Thank you for loving us, even when we struggle to love you in our current situations. I love You and praise Your name, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Thank you, friend, for spending time with me today. I hope you will enjoy this beautiful video of Craig’s and my weddin. What a blessing indeed to have such a wonderful video to cherish. {Video by Dave and a Camera}.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fdaveandacamera%2Fvideos%2F866048903436947%2F&show_text=0&width=560

 

Live with Purpose

Hi Friend!

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about a question that many of us ask ourselves every day…

“What is God’s Purpose for my life?”

This thought has crossed my mind many times. What is God’s purpose for my life? Maybe a better way to frame this question would be, “How can I live more purposefully for God?”

I’ve started wondering if waiting to figure out God’s purpose for my life may not be the way God actually wants me live. No. I think instead, He wants us to live with purpose every day.

So how do I live with purpose?

Whether you a are a follower of Christ or not, God still created you. Therefore, your life has a purpose. I sometimes remind myself of this when I feel like I’m not doing good enough. I don’t know about you, but I often feel “less than” when it comes to being the person I want to be for God. I look at my friends and I see all the things they’re great at. My closest friends are extremely hard workers, and I deeply respect that quality in them. In fact, that’s one reason why I think I befriended them in the first place…because I saw an outstanding quality in them that I wanted to emulate. Unfortunately, my personality is the type that wants to do anything but what I should be doing, and the term “hard-working” is not necessarily the first personality trait I’d put in my bio. [Outgoing, yes. Hard working…eh.] Luckily, I have commitments that force me to get up and work. If my body got to choose, it would lay in bed and watch “Murder She Wrote”, “Diagnosis Murder” “Sherlock Holmes”, or some other murder mystery show I used to watch with my mom when I was younger. But even though my body wants to lay in bed watching old mysteries, deep down I know my heart and mind want to do more.

I believe God created us to crave having a purpose, and consequently, he created us to need to work towards something. If we want to be used for God’s purpose, we also have to be willing to work for that purpose. But this is where I’m going to flip the script a little.

I’m not saying work harder. Be better. Etc. If I were, I would need to put a mirror in front of my computer screen and say, “Right back at you Helen.” No, neither one of us needs another person telling us to be better. We already know that deep down.

Instead, I want to encourage you to take baby steps every day towards living with purpose. Let me share with you what I tell myself when I start feeling like I’m not good enough and start going down the dark tunnel of questioning “my purpose”.

Have an intent for your day.

Yes, that simple. In order to start living with purpose, we have to start living each day with intention. Now don’t get crazy. It doesn’t mean you have to change 10 different things about yourself and achieve perfection by next Sunday. I’m the worst about that. While I’m at church I start thinking of all the ways I want to be better for Christ, and so I make a huge to-do list for the week that looks something like this:

  1. Wake up at 5 am for an hour quiet time – [never happens]
  2. Run at 6 am for an hour – [also never happens]
  3. Eat healthy lunches – [typically ends by Wednesday]

Yep. Never happens.

You may have the same list written somewhere. A list that often ends by the next day because we’re trying to change everything in one sitting. I finally realized going about things this way wasn’t working. I was just getting down on myself because I could never live up to my list. And that’s because I was setting myself up for failure.

So instead of getting down on yourself this week, try this…Define one intention for your relationship with God for the week. And love yourself enough to be ok with slowly improving your relationship with God. What I’ve found is as my relationship with God improves, so do all the other areas of my life. By growing closer to God you’ll start seeing the changes within yourself that you’ve been wanting to see. You’ll start wanting to eat better, not for looks, but to take care of the body God blessed you with. You’ll start desiring to spend more time with Him in order to find your purpose within His words.

Start seeing your life as a project.

Maybe try to see life as a growing and learning process that won’t be perfected until we’re with the only perfect One in existence. Therefore, we can rest easy knowing that we’re never going to be perfect. So instead of living with the expectation that you, your marriage, your dating life, your kids, your career – or whatever – has to be perfect right now…Start living in the knowledge that we can let go of the overbearing expectations we hold for ourselves, and instead find peace in knowing God uses imperfect people for His purpose.

So while we may not know God’s exact purpose for our lives in the present moment, we can live with purpose by bettering ourselves every day for God.

So live purposefully and with intent. Accept taking baby steps. And eventually, you’ll look back and see how far God’s actually brought you. And you’ll be proud of the person you’ve become. I believe it’s important for us to remember so we never forget how far God’s brought us. So whether you’ve been going down your walk with Christ for a while, or you’ve just started your walk today, praise God for where you’re at! I suggest writing down your prayers, and all the amazing things you’re going to learn. Be so excited for the journey ahead! It’s truly a journey.

Praying for you as always.

Love in Christ,

Helen Elizabeth

God Can Make Anything Beautiful

Hello again friends,

It’s been a while! But I’m so thankful that you stopped by to read the words I found on my heart this week. They’re pretty simple. But that hold so much truth…

“God can make anything beautiful.”

Do you believe that?

So often we find ourselves looking at a tragic event/situation in our lives and making the decision that it can never get better.

“God can’t fix this. It’s too awful.” – Or – “I’m too sad. This isn’t what I wanted for my life.”

Yes, I know how that feels. January 11, 2016, I remember looking at my childhood best friend the night before I buried my late husband and saying, “Holly, I don’t want this to be my life.” To which she responded, “Helen, I’m so sorry.” That’s all she could say. Why? Because there’s nothing we can do on our own to make devastating situations better. If we only depend on ourselves then, from where we sit, life may never be beautiful again…or at best, it will take a very long time for it to be so.

However! With God, all things can be beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3). And the best part is, He uses us – His children – to help make this life beautiful again for ourselves and others!

I could leave it at that because the Word of God speaks for itself…but to help give some perspective, I wanted to tell you about a story that touched my heart and reminded me that God is a Good Father, and He can make any devastating situation beautiful.

While living in Ethiopia, a woman named Dyan began to create relationships with the women living in her area. These women and their families seemed destined for poverty their entire lives. Dyan’s heart broke for the lifestyle these women had to live. However, rather than allow the vast amount of poverty cause her to doubt that things could ever change, she chose to believe that God could use loving people to make a difference. Instead of turning her eyes and asking God why could He allow this to happen to such good people, she saw the beauty in the dedication and hard work of the women around her. Instead of getting angry that people in America weren’t doing anything to help, she chose to see how a beautiful partnership could be made between the artisans in front of her and American people who might want to do something but didn’t know how. This is how Karama was born. An organization that helps artisans use their creativity and natural entrepreneurship to make and sell beautiful items of true value. Karama believes in “dignity for everyone…and that much of that dignity comes through creative, purposeful work. Karama is all about creativity and dignity and purpose and women and JOY, but it began with heartache.” (About, karamacollection.com) Dyan, and her organization, Karama, became partners with “African artisans who create beautiful, quality products and volunteers who sell those products and share the stories of the artisans.” (About, karamacollection.com)

Now, due to this organization, there are women [such as Haimanot, Yeshi, Rute, and Andinet – read their stories in the Artisans section of the Karama website] and men who have the knowledge, tools, and ability to provide for their families with dignity. And it all came from a decision to not focus on the sadness of a situation, but a choice to trust that God can provide hope in tragedy. Because Karama believes in the abilities of these people and the God they serve, beauty is truly coming out of what could have stayed a devastating situation.

One lesson I learned from the story of Karama, is that while God can make everything beautiful, it is still our job to use the hands God gave us to help. God can do anything, but I believe He uses us to get things done. And if you’ve ever struggled with a sense of purpose, there’s nothing more purposeful than helping make the world a better place for others. Not just for ourselves.

Shifting our perspective from our sorrows, to seeing the life of people who could use our helping hands, is one way we can begin to pull yourself out of the ditch the enemy wants to keep us in. Whatever you’re facing, know that God can help you if you choose to believe that He can make any tragedy into something good. When you begin to doubt that. Remember the story of Karama and the beautiful picture of renewed hope and purpose God has created through people wanting to help others.

God can make your path beautiful again my friend, even if it’s not the path you wanted…He will take care of you. Loving God is a choice. Trusting Him is a choice. But as someone who has faced and walked through her worst fear of losing her husband, believe me when I say, “Choose to trust Him and His plan for you.”

Love you all friends. Prayers are being sent your way today and always.

Love in Christ,
Helen Elizabeth

{:: >>—P.S.—>> My friend Sarah Scott Paps and I found out about Karama at the She Speaks Conference this past July. After finding out more about the organization, we fell in love with their story and desired to do whatever we could to help! Therefore, after some discussion as to the best way to do this, we decided to do a giveaway starting Oct. 1, 2017 [today] and ending on Oct. 6, 2017 [Friday]! We will be giving away one handmade genuine leather bag and wristlet as a set! Check out Sarah Scott Pape’s and my Instagram to figure out how to enter! – AND – go to karamacollection.com to read about the artisans from Ethiopia and Haiti who make the bags you’ll receive. Karama is so amazing because they are a fair trade organization, meaning that the women and men creating the products receive full payment, and the individuals helping to get the artisans’ handmade products into your hands are volunteers. Read more about the artisans creating Karama’s amazing products on Karama’s “Artisans” page. Believe me, once you do, you’ll want to help this organization as much as we do. ::}

Embracing God’s Perfect Plan

“If the nightmare ever does unfold, perspective is a lovely hand to hold.”   Part of It, Relient K

Hi Friends,

I’ve missed you all! Thanks for letting me take a brief break to recoup this summer! I’m so excited to get to share a new Vlog with all of you!

Learning how to embrace God’s plan for our life over our own expectations can help us find peace in the face of life’s most difficult circumstances. It seems simple, but it’s incredibly hard to let go of expectations for your own life…so often we hold on to disappointment, or anger because aspects of our life may not seem fair. But holding on to disappointment and regret associated with the life we drew up for ourselves, only holds our spirits down.  When we can find the strength to say “Jesus over Everything” we can find true joy and hope in all circumstances.

Throughout this vlog I will be discussing 2 important components to changing our perspective from looking inward at our own desires for our life, to turning our focus towards trusting God’s perfect plan. Towards the end, I also ask one more perspective changing question that I hope you’ll take away and apply to your prayer life this week…Try replacing the question, “God what is Your plan for my life”, with a this even more meaningful question, “God, how would You like to use my life for Your plan?” I promise however He directs you, your path will be incredibly more meaningful than anything you could desire for yourself!

I’m excited for you to find the joy of Christ through embracing whatever role He has for you within His plan! Know that I am praying for you, and all those who read/watch this post/vlog this week. I’d love to read any comments you have! Feel free to share your thoughts after watching!

***SHIRT: “Jesus over Everything” T-Shirt, Written. clothing brand by Elysian Boutique (Instagram: @shopwritten, @shopelysian | Website: shopwritten.com, shopelysian.com); And they have tons of other encouraging shirts to choose from! Go check them out! This company is run by outstanding women who love Christ. Their Written. brand connects faith to fashion – which I LOVE – and is growing tremendously!***

[P.S. Homework: Listen to “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson first thing in the morning one day this week and try to tell me your day doesn’t start a little better! I’d believe it if someone told me crime rates decreased and non prophet prophets went up the day that song came out! Ha! Hint: This may be a foreshadow for next week’s post!]

Have a wonderful week friends!

Love you all!

Helen Elizabeth Wisner Strickland

Learning to Love God

Hello Friends!

Thank you so much for taking time to stop by! Today I have a vlog prepared for you in which I discuss learning how to “Love God” more than anything else in your life. I believe it is so vital for each and every one of us to not just say we love God, but to take the time to learn how to actively love Him like the man we know as Jesus loved Him. Matthew 22:37-38 tells us the greatest commandment of all. To love our God with all our heart, soul and mind. This seems like such an easy task…but throughout my walk with God, I’ve come to find that what seems like the simplest of concepts, often turns out to be the most difficult of actions.

So. In order to love God the way Matthew 22:37-38 describes, I believe we have to examine what it means to love. In this vlog I discuss 3 characteristics of love…and one vital chapter in the New Testament we can turn to for help. Whether life is currently great, just okay, or the worst it’s ever been, it’s important to learn to truly love God in order to deepen our relationship with Him. Not just so you can get through the tough times, but also so you can experience the true joy and hope that can be found in a true, genuine, and in-depth relationship with our Father. And before you tell yourself this will be an impossible task; or before you feel guilty about not truly feeling this way about God, listen to these words: It’s a Process. I’m still learning and growing in this way on a daily basis. In fact, just 2 hours ago, I prayed that God would help me love Him more than my own desires for my life. It’s a struggle, right? Yes. It’s a struggle to keep your priorities in line. And something tells me this is going to be a life-long struggle. Why? Because we’ll never be perfect.

But that’s the beauty of it! We never peak. As long as we live, we have the opportunity to learn to love God and grow in our relationship with him. From this point forward you can only get better at fulfilling the greatest commandment of all time.

Love you sweet friends! I hope this vlog can bless you on Mother’s Day. And please know that whatever this day means to you, I am praying your day will be blessed. If you’ve lost your mother, or your relationship with her is less than perfect…or if you’re struggling to become a mother, or you never knew your mother, my prayer for blessings on this day are for you too. God sees, hears, and loves you. And He isn’t letting your feelings go unnoticed today. Prayers your way sister. Love you tons.

Love in Christ,

Helen Elizabeth Wisner Strickland

[Side Note: Please excuse my puffy eyes and stuffy nose! Allergy season in Arkansas is in full force!]

Finding Purpose in God’s Blessings

Hi Friends!!

Finally got this posted! Sorry to be so late posting this one! Even though it’s a bit late, I hope vlog finds you at just the right time this week. I pray my words may help you find strength and peace in whatever situation you may be experiencing!

[The video quality is a little poor because I tried to upload a video from my phone rather than the computer to see if it would be quicker! Needless to say, 2.5 hours later…I won’t be taking that option again!]

Love you dearly friend,

Helen E. W. Strickland

The Importance of Articulating Your Beliefs

Being able to articulate why you believe what you believe is of utmost importance. Not just for your sake, but for the sake of the nonbeliever.

For a long time I was terrified of being confronted about my beliefs. Not just because I didn’t like getting into arguments, but because if/when I couldn’t explain what I believed – and the other person could – then I would get a sickening feeling of doubt in the pit of my stomach. What if they were right, and I was wrong? What if I didn’t really know what I was talking about?

Have you ever felt that way? Oh no, of course you haven’t. But just in case, I’ll keep going.

Over the last few years, I’ve considered a few thoughts concerning my [our] Christian walk, which I believe have helped me through the most difficult experiences of my life. They may not seem that important, especially when faced with losing a spouse, family member, job, or life as you’ve come to know it. But I would argue quite the opposite. I believe reflecting on these thoughts prior to the tragedy of losing my husband, helped me walk through my situation with my relationship with Christ still intact, if not stronger; as well as, helped me be able to thoughtfully discuss my beliefs with others along the way.

Consider this:

If we don’t know why we actually believe what we say we believe, then we honestly have no real foundation to keep our faith the moment it’s tested. Furthermore, why would anyone else come to believe the same as we do if we don’t even know why we believe it ourselves? Continue reading “The Importance of Articulating Your Beliefs”

Vlog 3: An Answer to the Unanswered Questions

Hi Friends!

Well that title made it sound way cooler than it is! But hey, it got you here right! Today’s vlog answers two seemingly simple questions I needed to take some time to think on after my Instagram Live last Monday. As you will soon see, what seemed like two simple “get to know you” questions, ended up turning into 25 minutes of thoughtful discussion! Thank you so much to the people who asked these questions! If you were wanting an non-descriptive, short-but-sweet answer…well…let’s just say, I’ve never been one to leave out a detail. So grab some coffee [because somehow, all us Christians are avid coffee drinkers] and let’s discuss one of my favorite Christian books (other than “Mere Christianity”) and Bible verses for this season of life!

Love you Friends!

Helen Elizabeth Wisner Strickland

[**Later Note: So…I just realized I uploaded the unedited 27 minute version! (Insert crying face emoji) Sorry about that! Enjoy my awkwardly long smile at the end! Ha!]

[**Later Later Note: Fun Fact! Upon further research, I found out that there are 31, 373 verses in the Bible! If you decide to double check that number and it isn’t legit, let me know!]

Hope > Fear…Always.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

Hope is greater than fear…always. Yes, indeed. I know so because the Bible tells me so. But isn’t knowing often very different from feeling? And when knowledge and feeling don’t add up, we tend go with our feelings. Even when that means forgetting “what we know”.

“Sometimes when your trying to sleep; and all your doubts and your faith don’t agree, it’s ’cause…sometimes the hardest thing to believe is the truth.” (Relient K, “Truth”)

The other day I posted on my various social media forums asking followers what they would like this post to be about. Well if you’re one of those followers, thank you SO much for all your comments and wonderful ideas you suggested! I will definitely write about many of the topics mentioned in the upcoming weeks! But if you haven’t already figured it out by the title…today, I’m going to discuss overcoming fear in a way you might not expect – by not overcoming it. Continue reading “Hope > Fear…Always.”