april book review

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i have to admit something. i’m a bibliophile. ever since i could sneak my mom’s harlequin romance novels (haha), i’ve always had my nose in a book. Gilmore Girls is my all time favvvvorite TV show simply because of all the book and movie references. i could totally see myself being BFF’s with Rory Gilmore.

i don’t think i’ve ever related more to Rory then when in her graduation speech she said, “I live in two worlds. One is a world of books.” anyways, i digress from the topic of Gilmore Girls, because let’s be honest I could discuss that for hours.

i was really inspired by Giselle at HopelessBookLover to start sharing and talking about the books I’m reading. so i decided a fun way to that is with a monthly book review! yay!

this month i’ve read much more than the four books I’m going to share, but these books made the most impact. i simply can’t get them out of my head. kind of like I have a little book hangover.

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  1. MISS MATCH by Erynn Mangnum 

it should be noted that this is book 1 of the Lauren Holbrook series. Y’ALL i relate to Lauren (the main character) SO much in this book, of course minus the matchmaking ;). Lauren loves chocolate and coffee and rom-coms, and is set on staying single. she puts herself in comical situations, and i spent majority of my time smiling and/or laughing at her antics. i loved that while this is technically a “christian” book, it also portrays REAL LIFE. people can i say how hard that is to find in a christian romance novel?! as a twenty something this book felt like a glimpse into a close friend’s (and sometimes my own) life. i have a feeling Lauren and I would be good friends in real life. great job ms. mangnum!

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2.   KEEP IT SHUT by Karen Ehman

let me be transparent and honest when i say i bought this book as a sort of joke. my mom has always said that i have a sassy mouth, but i never saw this as a “real issue” in my life until recently. i started realizing words have real power. in this book Ehman gives not only practical, but biblical advice when dealing with matters of the tongue. one phrase that really stuck with me was to pause before you pounce. i recommend EVERYONE to read this book!

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3.   DEAR MR. KNIGHTLEY by Katherine Reay

if you are a fan of the classics, then my friends, this delightful book is for you. so many references from Austen, Shakespeare, and Dickens to make any literature lover swoon. while reading this book i experienced a myriad of emotions, but all impacted my heart. laced with humor, love, and sorrow this book is best enjoyed with a hot cup of tea & a cozy blanket (also perhaps some tissues too, if you are sensitive like me).

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4.    ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING by Max Lucado 

i mentioned here, that i have struggled with anxiety for the last few years. from pinning stress-less lists to trying herbal supplements, i have searched for a way to help alleviate that impending and crippling fear that anxiety brings to my life. while yes, essential oils 100% help with this, the power and peace of God is how i continue to face the fears in my life. this book was a reminder that His peace is everlasting and surpasses all understanding. Lucado reminds readers to peer through the scope of God’s sovereignty with prayer in order to face fears. if you or someone you know is struggling with maintaining an outlook of calm over his/her life, please go get them this book. like NOW!

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hopefully you enjoyed my short reviews! even if you decide that these books are not for you to read, I hope it inspires you to take a look at your bookshelf (digital or physical—i see all ya kindle readers out there)! maybe it’s been awhile since you lost your self in reading a good book, or you simply just need a good recommendation, whatever it is, GET READING FRIENDS. reading makes you happy, 100!!

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xoxo

melrose plantation//

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“History is a kind of introduction to more interesting people than we can possibly meet in our restricted lives; let us not neglect the opportunity.” -Dexter Perkins

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exploring the beautiful Melrose Plantation.

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this weekend my mama and I traveled to the beautiful Melrose Plantation located in Melrose, Louisiana (just about 10-15 miles away from Natchitoches). they hold an annual weekend Arts & Crafts Festival where different vendors from around the state can sell their goods. this year for the festival the weather was sunny and breezy, and I got to wander the grounds with a refreshing glass of homemade sweet tea from Sweet Tea Y’all. 

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the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHC), gave wonderful tours of not just the Big House, but about other buildings such as the African House, Bindery, Yucca House, and Weaving Cabin. i loved and appreciated their passion for preserving the history and spirit of Melrose.

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the Big House tour was probably my favorite because you felt like you stepped back into time. the creaky flours, quilted bedding, and ornate furniture brought each tourer a sense of nostalgia and reverence for what used to be. the most spectacular thing that occurred on our tour was that we got to hear a lot of our tour from Miss Cammie’s great grandson who made a surprise visit to Melrose that day. (how cool!!)

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i mean who wouldn’t want a library like that?! most of the books on display in the library of the Big House were actually written by authors who stayed at Melrose. Among the writers who visited Melrose were Erskine Caldwell, Alexander Woollcott, Alberta Kinsey, Caroline Dormon, Rose Franken, William Spratling, Gwen Bristow, Ross Phares, and Ruth Cross. Francois Mignon was also a famous writer who came to Melrose for what was a planned six week visit that then turned into a thirty-two year stay!

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the history of Melrose is simply fascinating. From the Metoyer Era to the Henry Era, the walls of Melrose have certainly witnessed incredible sights. The person I was most enraptured with hearing about, was the famous artist Clementine Hunter. Clementine started out as a 12 year old field hand at Melrose, who later became the employed cook of Mrs. Carmelite Garrett Henry. Now you have to know Miss Cammie, as she was affectionally known,  was a lover of the arts, and she invited artists and writers around the country to stay at Melrose. This was not a vacation for them, for Miss Cammie had great desire to be intricately involved in their creative processes. One day, as Clementine Hunter was set about doing her cleaning and cooking tasks she stumbled upon a set of paints left behind from a previous artists’ stay. These paints led her to create what is now called “insider art” which depicts the perspective of African-American plantation life. Her work is considered primitive, as she had no formal education and could not read or write.

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we got to actually view Clementine Hunter’s most famous work, The African House Murals. her work was real and touching, there was no fluff. One of my favorite quotes from Clementine Hunter says, “Painting is a lot harder than pickin’ cotton. Cotton’s right there for you to pull off the stalk, but to paint, you got to sweat your mind.” one of the things that made me smile while learning about Clementine was that she would paint on anything. on snuff cans, bottles, and even rocks. her artwork is an extension and expression of who she was and what she experienced.

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the above photo is the view of the back of the Yucca House. this was one of the housing areas for writers and artists alike as they came to stay at Melrose. peering inside we viewed an old typewriter, a bed, a fireplace, and various other essential items.

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I found that the seafoam green color of the doors and shutters of the Yucca House was really beautiful. it is a color reminiscent of its former glory.

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the oak trees at Melrose are astoundingly beautiful. wandering around the property viewing them, makes you realize they are just another stitch in the deep rooted historical fabric of the plantation.

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of course my trip to Melrose would not have been complete without a sweet tea & meat pie. The meat pies were sold by members of the St. Augustine, Isle Brevelle Catholic Church. This church is a marker in the lineage of the Cane River gens de couleur or free people of color, and pin points the settlement of their European ancestors in the French colony of Louisiana.

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dear Melrose:

you have enchanted me and inspired me. you have made feel deeply. thank you for giving me the chance to appreciate where we came from and where we are now.

xoxo                                                                                                                                                         Riah Brooke

sources:

Melrose Plantation

Melrose Plantation History

St. Augustine, Isle Brevelle Catholic Church

Clementine Hunter 

good enough//

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for most of my life i can always remember moments where i was striving for perfection. i have a vivid memory from when i was about 8 years old. i was at a dance recital, and i had my hair fixed into the perfect ballerina bun waiting to go on stage to perform. i remember even then, feeling knots in my stomach. i did not want to mess up the steps. in practice all the other girls would pick up the dance moves a lot faster then me. this caused my teacher to naturally push me to do the same. i kept striving to be as good as the other girls. striving to be good enough to dance along side them. looking back this was the beginning of the end of my dancing. this constant feeling of not being good enough took the fun out something i had once enjoyed. (on a lighter note it should also be known that i’m not a very good dancer, i just have fun doing it)

 

 

(these pictures are from when i loved dancing!!)

i put immense pressure on myself (and sometimes still do) to be good enough. to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good christian, a good student. i judged my success in each of these different parts of my life on a fictional “good enough” scale i created in my mind. 

let me tell you it was exhausting. trying to do things in your own strength and power generally just doesn’t work out too well, friends. in the end i always found myself overstretched and ultimately failing in each area. what i didn’t get at the time was that i was attempting to pour too much of myself into different areas of my life (externally) that i wanted to improve, before I was filling my soul internally. now what does this mean? simply that i was not allowing Jesus to fill and satisfy me, so i was looking for something else, in my case perfection, to fill that void. 

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the voice inside your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough, it’s a liar. look at what Ephesians 1:19 says. the author is telling us that the power we have inside of us as Christians is great and immense. he even says “I pray you understand.” each time i have read this verse this part just keeps standing out to me. i think mainly because it is so applicable. many of us don’t understand that the same power that Jesus possesses lives in us. take a moment to really rest in that truth. how can you not be good enough? you have the mighty power of God inside of you.

now to be completely vulnerable and honest, lately i have began to feel like i am not good enough or qualified enough in certain areas in my life. for example, when asked to lead a Wednesday night small group at my church a few months ago i was slightly terrified. even though it was something i had a great desire and a pressing on my heart to do, i still had thoughts of doubt. immediately questioning myself on how i was to teach women who were 1. older (wiser) than me and 2. way more “spiritually mature” than me. but then, recently in this same small group (haha @ God) i discovered the verse of Hebrews 13:20-21:

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 

did you grasp onto the part where it says He equips us with everything good for doing His will?!?! he prepares us. he makes us good enough to handle whatever situation he has called us into. how powerful! (also in case you were curious, God has allowed our small group to flourish into a setting where women can not only fellowship, but help share the burdens of this world together!!)

this verse really has nestled down deep in my soul. especially as i embrace God’s call on my life for international missions, but also as I am beginning to experience His call for me to be involved in women’s ministry. friends, both of these things scare me. but, and here is a BIG but, God has equipped me. I am good enough. I am qualified enough. I am equipped enough. I am all of these things through His power. 

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so what is the purpose of us being equipped? well verse 21 in Hebrews 13 tells us. it is to bring glory to Jesus. so in the end, i feel it is important for us to remember that we aren’t ultimately here for ourselves, but here to do what Jesus calls us to do. friends, i encourage you to shrug the lie off that you aren’t good enough, and embrace the truth of God’s goodness for us. 

we serve not only a faithful God, but a sovereign God as well. remind yourself of that when you feel unqualified and not good enough for a task He has called you for.

xoxo

 

nourishing words//

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“If the words you spoke appeared on your skin would you still be beautiful?” -unknown

words. i’m a bit obsessed with them. they can be kind, beautiful, hateful, ugly, positive, negative. these adjectives can certainly describe the people who use them too. words have profound affects on our human souls. 

if you do not believe in the power of the words you speak, take a moment to remember how God formed creation. Genesis 1 is full of “God said, and there it was. light, water, sky, sun, moon, stars, creatures, plants. all made when God spoke.

if you are a christian, this same power lives in you by the presence of the Holy Spirit. your words matter. your words hold power. so use your words wisely. use your words to speak life.

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let’s dive deep into a passage of scripture that more closely reveals the sacredness of the words we speak. proverbs 10 unveils the 7 aspects of the lips of the righteous.

  1. Well of life: The mouth of the righteous is a well of life,
    But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.” -proverbs 10:11
  2. Discernment: “Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding,
    But a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.” -proverbs 10:13
  3. Self Control:In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
    But he who restrains his lips is wise.” -proverbs 10:19
  4. Valuable:The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
    The heart of the wicked is worth little.” -proverbs 10:20
  5. Nourishing:“The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.” -proverbs 10:21
  6. Wisdom:The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
    But the perverse tongue will be cut out.” -proverbs 10:31
  7. Acceptable: “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
    But the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.” -proverbs 10:32

do what you canwith all you have, wherever you are.

out of all the above verses, proverbs 10:21 stood out to me the most. it made me think about how i speak to not only others, but to myself as well. are my words full of grace and love, which are the essential nutrients to nourish a soul; or are they full of hate and loathing, that are damaging to a soul? are you damaging or nourishing?

think back to the times of the city of Jericho. for six days the people of God marched around the city in complete silence. (first of all, can you imagine not speaking for that long?!? girl i sure can’t!!) on the 7th day the walls immediately fell when the people shouted. the people of God waited for His direction before engaging in the power of their tongues. here we see because their tongues were guarded, they received a great reward. [reference Joshua 6:20]

speaking negatively can take a toll on your spirit, but guarding our speech can bring about spiritual bounty. 

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proverbs 18:21 tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. it would make sense that since the words we speak so carelessly have power, that the words of our prayers have power as well. as christians we should have “reverent submission” to God in our prayers (like Jesus did in Hebrews 5:7), that will lead us to living a holy life.

you see, our words aren’t really a mouth issue, they are a heart issue. so dear friends, let God mend your heart. He is the only one who truly can. once your heart is aligned, your words will follow.

xoxo

content in singleness//

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when i was a little girl i loved dressing up (and forcing my brother to too). from princesses to pirates we made our childhood fantasies come to life. you see, i grew up watching cinderella on repeat. i especially loved the part where the fairy godmother came and transformed her and brought her to her prince. from the age of 6 i remember dreaming of my own prince one day. he would be strong, but gentle; he would be handsome, but humble. don’t you know the dreams of little girls are the secrets to our hearts?

fastforward to present day. i’m 21. i’m a college graduate. i’m single. naturally, my relationship status gets a lot of attention from “concerned” family members & fellow church go-ers. when asked the question of why i don’t have a boyfriend, it takes literal physical restraint to not roll my eyes. the lyrics of ella mae singing i’m holding out for a hero also tend to filter through my head.

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in today’s (christian) world i often feel like people treat my singleness like a disease that they need to cure with set-ups, advice, etc. they act like my singleness is some type of punishment from God that i’m forced to endure until “the right one comes along.” Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 7: 32 [MSG], that “I want you to live as free of complications as possible. When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master.” NEWSFLASH PEOPLE, Paul is telling us that our singleness is a gift. It provides us freedom to completely worship the Lord without any complications or distractions. God is not punishing us, He is giving us a sacred opportunity or a season to have complete focus on him without the pressure of trying to please and love a spouse. 

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yes i think marriage is a beautiful thing. i desire to one day be able to experience it. however, as a church we have got to stop acting like marriage is a final destination in life. God doesn’t say to himself ok she’s married, I’m done with her. think about in your own church. how much time is spent on ministry to married couples vs singles? while sure strengthening godly marriages is important, i often find ministry to christian singles is lacking.

now let’s talk about contentment. if you read my blog post about waiting, then you know that i think our task in waiting (on whatever your desire) is to follow the instruction given in Romans 12:12. this same principle applies in our singleness. while waiting on a spouse (if that’s what you desire) you should be at all times joyful, patient, and faithful. thumbnail_file14

i also think we find contentment in our singleness when we fully surrender our future (marriage, babies, job, and all) to Christ. realizing that nothing but Jesus can satisfy your soul, is a reminder to all us single people that marriage does not and CAN NOT complete us. only Jesus can do that. christian women let’s please stop seeking marriage or a “godly” relationship with the intention that these things will fix the condition of our damaged and worldly hearts.

so, let’s make the most of our singleness. stop waiting to live until you’re married. live now. be content with the person God created you to be. pursue your passions. spread kindness. show love. seek Christ with your whole heart, and one day my friends we may find the one God set us apart for.

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dear future husband. i am content in my waiting for you. no rush, i believe in the plan God has for us.

“The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him.”
Lamentations 3:25

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You ain’t gotta rush love, girl, slow down,
When you meet him you gon’ know, wanna know how?
He’s gonna treat you right,
Make you the queen of life,
If he don’t then I’m a take ‘em out,
Psyche, all kidding aside God has the perfect,
One that was made for you, designed to worship,
God and He sees your beauty and true purpose,
So baby sis, trust the process, it’s worth it. ——- Jamie Grace, Just a Friend

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also p.s. flowers make my heart happy.

be blessed sweet friends.

xoxo

essential oils 101

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you might be asking what the heck are essential oils? i feel you. that was me, up until about 2 and a half years ago. i had just gotten into holistic health and came across one of my favorite blogs recommending them for anxiety (which hi, my name is Riah and I struggle with anxiety). so after some research and encouragement from my cousin Becca (who i mentioned here), I jumped on the essential oil express train. then BAM, now i’m an oil freak. or witch doctor. or hippie. or whatever the cool word on the block is these days.

definition: essential oils are distilled from botanicals such as trees, flowers, shrubs, or seeds.

you, like even my own mom (love you mom), are probably shaking your head and asking how do you even know those work? to answer this question, i encourage you to check out this study here. the results from this study give us a clearer insight on the fact that fragrance inhalation affects the adrenal system through the sympathetic nervous system. how cool that one scent, like essential oil of pepper can stimulate the adrenals causing an increase in adrenal response, but rose oil relaxed the adrenal system?! my mind is blown y’all. #witchdoctorpower (Christian friends, don’t freak out, I’m just kidding)

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speaking of christian friends (see what i did there), i love the fact that essential oils have a biblical and spiritual connection. Randi Minetor, author of Essential Oils of the Bible: Connecting God’s Word to Natural Healing, says “In biblical times, essential oils were used for everything from the holiest ceremonies to everyday needs. Today, we too can harness the all-natural power of essential oils to soothe, heal, and sanctify our bodies and homes.” like WOW friends, i love love love that. also this book is full of super simple remedies and discusses the 30 types of essential oils mentioned in the Bible. just saying, i had no idea how essential (haha) essential oils were back then until i read this book.

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my main caution about essential oils for the newbies out there: not all brands are created equal. you need to decide which brand is best for you and your family. this means please do your research people! do not waste the twenty bucks on the bottle of “frankincense” that you found while randomly scrolling on amazon. not a good idea, as it is probably a fake fragrance sold in order to appear and smell like frankincense. you won’t reap all the benefits of real frankincense essential oil (and it may be harmful!!). i personally use and love doterra essential oils. to read more about them, you can click here.

on another note, if you have pets or children, be extra cautious in how and what you are using. some essential oils that can be great for YOU, might not be so good for your new puppy or infant. my advice: RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH

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now you’re sitting there thinking okay girl i have all the facts, now what? how do i use them? well there are three main ways to use essential oils!

  1. aromatically: inhale the scent of the oil by diffusing or smelling directly from the bottle
  2. topically: this is applying the oil to the skin (important to use a carrier oil here)
  3. internally: ingest with a liquid or in capsule form

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essential oils link together both our bodies and our minds. as a believer in holistic health i believe that our emotional and physical wellbeing are interconnected. essential oils can help balance that connection. for example, frankincense has anti-inflammatory properties and helps physically treat things such as arthritis, asthma, skin inflammation, while emotionally frankincense invites us to become more focused & conscious and our spirits to be more courageous. Fun fact: Frankincense was used by Egyptians to address both spiritual and physical weaknesses. They believed frankincense was powerful for both strength and protection.

“Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.” -EZEKIEL 47:12 

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Luke 10 describes to us the story of the good Samaritan. it describes how he bound up his wounds, poured oil and wine on him, and then took him to the inn to be taken care of. (see verses 30-34). I like how Minetor says that oil begins the healing process in her book Essential Oils of the Bible: Connecting God’s Word to Natural Healing. she also refers to the passage in Luke 10, declaring “when essential oils are combined with loving care, they can be part of the greater good we bring to others.” I find this fascinating as it further proves that God designed our minds and bodies to be interconnected. the physical, mental, and spiritual working in unison.

i so encourage you to dive into the wonderful world of essential oils. here are some helpful links if you are interested in learning more:

-What are essential oils

-Safety

-Essential Oils of the Bible

-Use essential oils effectively 

The aromatherapy bible

Doterra products 

The Science/Research behind Doterra

be blessed & stay oily my friends.

xoxoxo

*books featured in pics above: Gracelaced (this a great devo if you are in need of one), The Home Reference to Holistic Health and Healing (a good resource), and Essential Oils of the Bible. you can find all these on amazon!

rooted in the waiting//

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(photo credit: victoria hardy)

the topic of waiting is an ever present subject in my life. for as long as i can remember i have always been waiting for the next thing. waiting to graduate high school so i could go to college. waiting to graduate college so i could get my masters. waiting to fall in love. waiting to get the perfect job. always, always waiting. in the midst of all my waiting i failed to see the true purpose for actually waiting. the waiting grows us. 

psalm 126:5 says, “Those who cry while they plant will joyfully sing when they harvest.

this psalm is historically referring to the freedom of the israelites from babylon. this verse gazes forward to the mercies that had yet to come. the conception of mercy soon encourages us to pray for the completion of that mercy.  we are promised that in the midst of sorrow, in the midst of our “wait” the end will be joyful.

as i was reading this verse, God gave me this analogy: When seeds are planted in the soil, in order for them to grow rain must first come. Sometimes the gardner has to sow the seeds in the wet, just as the believer has to sometimes sow his/her tears in order for growth to occur. 

tears of sorrow for our sinful hearts, yet in the end Jesus will redeem us.

tears of tender gentleness in prayer, yet in the end Jesus will give us peace.

tears of compassion for a burdened church, yet in the end Jesus will take the church as his bride.

these tears, these precious tears, sown with sorrow and sweat during the waiting will bring a harvest of joy in the end.

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(photo credit: victoria hardy)

the seed now watered must now withstand the harsh environment of the world. dry wind, wet rain, cold snow, scorching heat. it doesn’t mean we don’t feel the harshness, it simply means that when we do, we bury our roots deeper in the life giving soil of the word. 

“Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord, his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

take note of the language used here. he will and is sure, both leave no room for doubt. even in our waiting we can be assured that God will be there. he hears our groans of pain, just like he heard the cries of the israelites.

these groans, what are they? they are our growing pains. and isn’t waiting just that though? growing pains. the waiting can hurt, but in the end there will be a joyful harvest. no doubt, it will be. 

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“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

this verse is not only our instruction for the waiting, but also our encouragement. we are told to STAND FIRM; we are to stay rooted in the soil my friends. but the best part?! get this sisters, our waiting is not in vain. our struggles though they may feel fruitless, are yet not. we friends, are promised a joyful harvest.

i encourage you to harness the power of Romans 12:12 and to use this verse as your battle cry during the waiting. use it in those times when pruning the roots or watering the soil feels like just too much of a burden to face. you are not alone. God is with you and he hears you.

“Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.” Romans 12:12

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(photo credit: victoria hardy)

on another note, i shared this with my wednesday night women’s small group, BLOOM, tonight. we are having a break before we move onto a different study, so i had to prepare something. when praying about what i was to share, God placed this topic on my heart. i felt like i needed to share it here too.

be blessed.

xoxo