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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

Sincerely,

 

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 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.”

The Positives of Waiting Periods: Vlog #2

Good Evening Friends!

I hope I find you all doing well! Thank you to everyone who tuned into my instagram live last week! Your questions were great, and your comments so encouraging! Today I wanted to briefly discuss a life experience that we must all face throughout the course of our lives…and that is, of course, waiting periods.

Waiting periods are never fun because they can often cause us to question, worry, and sometimes feel very alone. However, I believe with a slight change in our perspective, the waiting periods we face can actually be a positive part of our lives!

In this vlog I discuss the idea that waiting periods are never actually waiting periods…but rather they are moments to rest in God, grow in our faith, and prepare to be used by Him in the future! We see this in the biblical life of David (if you’re not who that is, no worries friend, I got you – he’s the one that killed Goliath, wrote lots of Psalms, messed up with Bathsheba, etc. If you haven’t read his complete story, you should – it’s a great one! Check out 1 & 2 Samuel).

Anyway, I hope you can get something out of my application of the lessons from David’s waiting periods, to our lives! Know that wherever you are [or whatever you’re experiencing], if you’re walking through a waiting period you can have faith that God knows and has a plan for it. And as my Pastor, Nick Floyd, once said, “There’s nothing in your life worth worrying over.” So don’t worry if you’re in the right place, or doing the right thing during your waiting periods. Just use this time to grow in your relationship with God and develop the talents He’s already placed within you!

          “Be Glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful.”                  – Romans 12:12

With all my love,

Helen Elizabeth Wisner Strickland

The Sickness Called Loneliness: A Secondary Feeling

Have you ever felt lonely? Ha, that was a loaded question. At some point in our lives, we’ve all felt lonely in one way or another.

At the beginning of this academic school year, I bought a Bible study group discussion set called “Univited” by Lysa Terkeurst. My reasoning for buying this entire set [complete with book, DVD and discussion guide] was due to the newest development in my on-going identity crisis: “What small group does a young widow join after losing a spouse?” If you’re wondering what the answer is, there’s not one…yet. [I may try to work on that in the future.] Anyway, I went through the Bible study for the first time with one of my close friends and her daughter, and per usual with Lysa Terkeurst books, we absolutely loved it! I loved it so much, in fact, I ended up going through it again with my 9th/10th grade cheerleaders (whom I adore), and then again with my family group (basically small groups within our school connecting an individual teacher to small number of students – in my case, an equally amazing group of 11th grade girls).

At the end of our first family group lunch meeting I asked my girls about their thoughts on session 1 of the “Uninvited” DVD, and if any of the main points played a role in their lives. One girl spoke up and began to discuss the points made about loneliness. She disclosed that a major problem consuming her generation was the feeling of being alone often leading to depression. She then went on to say what I’d wager a lot of us think, but may not verbalize. Now, I’m paraphrasing here, but she said something along the lines of: “I know God is around us all the time, and we’re not supposed to feel alone because of that. But sometimes it just feels like He’s not really there, and so it’s sometimes hard to want to spend time with Him because you can’t really have an audible conversation, ya know? And so then it’s even harder to help people overcome these feelings by just saying, ‘well just know that you’re not alone, and God loves you even though you don’t really feel it.'” Well. I have to admit, I was a little less than prepared for that “real talk”, and therefore scored [I’d say] a solid 9.5 on the “I have no idea what I’m talking about” scale. Luckily the lunch bell rang about halfway through my answer, and I was able to quit talking before I revealed I actually don’t know all the answers.

As the girls left the room I couldn’t help but feel a little less than motivational; and while I watched my next class take their seats, I visualized myself unpinning my metaphorical “teacher of the year” badge from my chest and dropping it in the trash. [Yes, I do actually imagine things like this. I blame it on being an only child and being forced to play a childhood of solitary pretend games.] I then began to think back on my last blog post in which I discussed changing our perspectives to see how loneliness and solitude are not the same by definition or connotation; as well as believing God’s promise to work for our good, and thereby justifying a means to an end. But after letting this consume my mind for the rest of the school day, I realized where my missing answer could be found. While the statements listed above are true, they don’t really give direction as to how one begins to both think this way, and also believe it to the point their heart honestly desires it as well. I believe that’s what that sweet 11th grader was really asking, wasn’t it? She wanted to know what it took to make a person’s heart and mind agree to believe they’re not alone. And furthermore, to believe it so much they’re able overcome the heart-griping feelings of loneliness.

I know, right? Those are some pretty heavy questions for just one blog post…You took the words right out of my mouth. Don’t worry. I’m not going to attempt to answer these questions in full detail. I mean really, there have been millions of sermons preached on just a fraction of the topics arising from this conversation. Instead, I’ll do my best to present maybe a stepping stone along this confusing path called life. Continue reading “The Sickness Called Loneliness: A Secondary Feeling”

From Newly Wed to Widow: The Search for Craig (Part II)

“Let it all out. Get it all out. Rip it out, Remove it. Don’t be alarmed, when the wound begins to bleed.

‘Cause we’re so scared to find out, what this life’s all about. So scared we’re going to lose it. Not knowing all along, that’s exactly what we need…”

As I walked down the cracked and crooked sidewalk, dodging low-hanging branches along the way, I couldn’t help but visualize myself in the Tim Burton version of “Alice in Wonderland.”  The path looked like it was once kept up with, but over time the ground beneath it must’ve begun to shift causing the concrete to split and shoot up in uneven ridges. The tree limbs around me were black with dark thorns, reminding me of the trees in an old children’s book [You might know it. It repetitively states, “in a dark dark forest, there was a dark, dark house..”, and so on. It was kind of creepy now that I think about it?] As I continued on, I started to see this cracked and decaying sidewalk as a metaphor for our lives on earth. During this winter season, the trees looked so cold, lonely and depressing. It was hard to imagine that this pathway could ever look beautiful again. Even the ground seem to gain metaphoric qualities as I constantly stumbled along the uneven pavement. A few times when the thorny branches caught hold of me, a part of me felt like giving up my efforts because the open platform ahead was just too impossible to reach. Several times I thought about turning back, but this walk seemed so parallel to what I was currently experiencing.  Continuing on felt like I was telling the lake around me that I wasn’t giving up.

When I finally did reach that landing at the end, I knew my excursion did not happen by chance.  It was there that I had the conversation with God I described in my former Part I. As I mentioned before, the revelations He placed within me that day changed my perspective forever. Continue reading “From Newly Wed to Widow: The Search for Craig (Part II)”

From Newly Wed to Widow: The Search for Craig (Part I)

“I believe in night. I believe in day. I believe there’s a light coming back around again. I believe Your right ’cause I believe there’s a way. And I believe I might have some catching up to do. The voices are growing strong. The rumbling of thunder a rolling drum. Let Your Kingdom Come.

I believe in God. I believe in God…I believe that I, I believe enough. So help me God. I believe in love and I believe in us. And I believe the Sky, is made for me to touch…”

Looking out at the snow and ice on the interstate, I tried to ignore the thoughts and emotions battling in my brain. I didn’t want to jinx what might happen by letting my gut feel one way or another. While the optimist within me said, “Don’t worry! We’ll find Craig aggravated that his dad, step-mom and wife came all the way out to Oklahoma to find him when he simply forgotten to call!”; my common sense rolled it’s eyes and said, “Give it a rest. He would’ve found a way to call by now.” Not wanting to give in to either Positive Patty or Negative Nancy, I continued to lean on the cold window and stare at the winter storm-covered pastures…and occasional car in the ditch. Lovely. Continue reading “From Newly Wed to Widow: The Search for Craig (Part I)”

Get to know Helen – Video Blog

Hello Again!

First and foremost, THANK YOU everyone who viewed my site, read my post and/or followed my blog over the last week! It was an incredible encouragement for me as I move forward with this new chapter in my life. I was absolutely thrilled to see all the different countries that were represented in the visitors/views statistics shown by wordpress.com for my first post. Wow. All I can say is thank you. I pray I can be a continuous source of encouragement for you now, and in the future.

So, I tried to get real “techie” for you all today and create a video blog! I may have underestimated that undertaking, and bit off more than I could chew. But as the saying goes, “What doesn’t make you throw your computer across the room, makes you stronger.” Right? Yes, I think that’s how it goes.

All joking aside, this really was a fun learning project for me that I’m so excited to get to share with you tonight! The vlog is about 34 minutes long and includes a brief overview of my life and testimony, as well as a little piece of encouragement for the week ahead. I hope this post will allow you and I to connect on a more personal level than writing alone! Enjoy!

Love in Christ,

Helen E. W. Strickland

Get to know Helen – Video Blog from Helen Strickland on Vimeo.

{Included Music (Listed in Playlist Order): Sarah Reeves – “Good Good Father (Acoustic Piano Version)”; Relient K – “Empty House”, “Let It All Out”; Hillsong UNITED – “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”; Relient K – “Heartache”, “God”, “When I Go Down”; NEEDTOBREATHE – “Washed by the Water”}

Getting Started

Hello Dear Friends…

Hello dear friends…

I want to start this blog by thank every individual who followed Craig’s and my story and encouraged me along the way. Thank you for every encouraging word, prayer said on my and/or Craig’s family’s behalf, and for every gift and letter thoughtfully sent to comfort me over the last few months. I will never be able to fully show my gratitude for what those actions did for my heart and spirit over the last year. The love you poured out has consumed and comforted me, and I only wish that I could gave back even just a fraction of what you did for me.

As you can imagine, this has been [for lack of better words] an utterly confusing and heartbreaking year. I’ve had to grow and change in ways I never thought I would, but that change has produced spiritual growth causing me to cling ever so tightly to our Heavenly Father. And if you happened to read the “about me” section on the home page, you’ll know that I decided to create this blog to publish the glimpses of spiritual knowledge I’ve absorbed during my moments with God in order to help others. To help everyone hurting from heartbreaking situations; and to encourage those who are desperately searching to find God’s unexplainable peace in the midst of their storm. And while I don’t [and won’t ever] have all the answers for you, I pray this blog can help you either (1) put your hope in Christ for the first time, or (2) decide to once again find your hope in Him, or (3) help you further establish the relationship you already have with Him. Because to be quite honest, the only way I’ve made it through the horrific event of searching for my late husband, Craig Strickland, to being able to lovingly write this post, is my relationship with Jesus Christ and the trust I have in God’s plan. Without having decisive faith, there would’ve been no way I could’ve made it without being a broken and angry individual.

I’m so thankful I never experienced that anger. You know, that kind of anger that causes you to block out God from your life, and write Him off as unloving – or at least unloving of you. That’s a burdensome place to be friend. So if that’s where you’re at, I pray you’ll take a moment to set your burden down for a moment and soften your heart to the possibility that God just might love you more than you ever realized. You can also find comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in feeling that way – [maybe that doesn’t really help you, but me being an only child, it always helped me to know I wasn’t alone in whatever I was experiencing]. And I know this because, over the course of the last year, I’ve had people of all demographics and all stages of life asking me how I’ve gone through this trial without being angry at God. Well to answer that question, I’ll be totally transparent and tell you most people don’t really like my anticlimactic answer. But here it is: I believe with all my heart that God loves you and I tremendously, and EVERYTHING He does is only for our good…so for that reason alone, I could never be angry at Him for the momentary trials that I must face in this life. Instead, my faith in him allows my heart to “…rejoice in [my] sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put [me] to shame, because God’s love has been poured into [my] heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to [me].” (Romans 5:3-5, ESV; verse slightly altered for individualization)

Now I know that sounds like a big gulp of cherry cough syrup with no sugar to help the medicine go down. Well like I said, I knew you weren’t going to like my unoriginal nugget of knowledge. But if we’re both being honest, understanding this concept is easy, it’s the choice to actively put this perspective into practice that gets us. Which brings me to the questions at the basis of all my writings: “How do we put this perspective into practice when times get tough, when the world tells us we should cry out to God in anger for what he’s done to us. How do we instead patiently listen to the voice telling us to be still and know that He is God? (Psalm 46:10)” — Those are some pretty big questions, huh? No one can ever say I like to set my goals as high as possible when it comes to spiritual awareness. But why not…I guess I’d rather go big than go home with no answers. So here it goes, my first feeble attempt at dropping some enlightenment on the dilemma at hand.

In my opinion, it all has to do with preparing our hearts and learning to shift our desires from our own selfish wants, to lining up with the desires God has for us. We already know this doesn’t start out easy; however, we can be encouraged by this fabulous news: If we will just make some kind of effort, God will meet us at our starting point and help carry us through – every. single. day. If we’ll just throw regard to the wind and present even a mustard seed of faith – He will do miraculous things. AND…It will get easier. I promise. That’s coming from a woman who, at 27, buried the husband she was “supposed” to have a full life with – Yes, I can honestly say, if will just try to trust – even just slightly – in God’s plan, then it does get easier; because He will faithfully walk beside us. Looking back over the course of the last year, I can see how much God’s hand has been with me. And I know that no matter what you’ve faced, if you stop for a moment and pay attention to the little things, you’ll be able to see how His hand has has been with you all along – showing His is love through simple blessings every day. Simple blessings such as: the beautiful sunset He painted for you on your drive home; or the coincidental bump in with a dear friend who acts SO happy to see you. Yes, you could say those are just daily occurrences… or maybe you could shift your outlook and see these moments might actually be little hugs from God saying, “I love you, and I’m thinking about you today.”  At least that’s the way I’ve chosen to look at it…and so far, I’ve been much happier because of it.

So, in conclusion, I want to [slightly] establish how I plan to run this blog. My plan is to always be as real and open with you as possible, which in turn, I hope will allow you to be honest with yourself about where you are right now in the difficult situations you’re facing. As far as I’m concerned, we’re friends now; which means we’ll grow and struggle with our emotions and doubts together. And while I may not be able to know what’s going on with each of you individually, please know that I do TRULY care about what your going through – if for not other reason than because my empathetic heart wants everyone to find real joy in this life. A joy not through temporary pleasures, but rather through finding freedom in letting all your anger go and deciding to trust God’s plan. I want us both to decide right now to have a positive outlook when it seems too difficult to do so, and to take baby steps in our faith every day. It’s just like working out…it may be hard to get started, but once you do, you feel SO much better. I promise.

Now that we’ve kicked things off, I think it’s only right to write my next post starting at the beginning of a very public news story – the day country singer, Craig Strickland, went missing. In my next blog post, I will share in detail my thoughts and experiences from December 26th, 2015, to Craig’s memorial on January 12th, 2016. I believe it’s important to start at the point when many people encountered our tragic story, because it’s honestly what gave me the platform I have today. However, I also want to disclose that Craig’s and my story will not be the only story I plan to speak on. Overall, my primary focus for this site is to share any wisdom God blesses me with, and that I feel could be beneficial in helping my readers overcome their circumstances. Sound good? Yes, I thought so too.

I believe that’s all I have for you on this quiet Sunday afternoon. I hope that through my written words, you have been encouraged and your heart lightened. And if you feeling alone and swallowed up by your circumstances, think on this final quote: “Loneliness and solitude are two things not to get confused, because in my solitude I spend my time with You.”(Relient K, Therapy)

No, my friend, you are most definitely never alone.

“Dear Heavenly Father, I praise Your name and thank You with all my heart for all the blessings You continuously give us even when we sometimes don’t recognize them. Thank you for loving us and caring about each of our lives individually. I pray that You would give me the wisdom and specific words needed for each person who comes across this site. I pray that you would use this blog to help others, make a positive difference, but most importantly to allow Your will to be done. Thank you, Lord, for giving me the opportunity and courage to begin this project. For a while now I’ve allowed my insecurities to hold me back from being used by You through the sharing of my story and life experiences. Lord, I pray that both my friend reading this prayer and I would let go of any insecurities we’re holding onto that might hold us back from being used by you in wonderful ways. Help grow our faith so that no matter what happens in our lives, we will choose to love and trust in You. We love You, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Love in Christ,

Helen Elizabeth Wisner Strickland