Creative Ways to Spend Time with God

We’re hearing messages to draw close to the Lord during this time of isolation at home, but what does that look like practically, and how can you maintain it during this time? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Set aside a special place to spend with God at a specific time of day: This may motivate you further and get you more excited about having quiet time with God. In the morning after I eat breakfast, I make tea, light a candle, and then sit at my desk as I start my day with God.
  2. Journal: There are so many ways to utilize a journal as you spend time with God. You could use it to write your thoughts and prayers to God and record what He says to you. You can use it with a Bible study or to take notes on a sermon you are listening to you – that will help you stay focused more.
  3. Worship: God once told me during a difficult time in my life to “praise or plummet.” I think a key way to keep our eyes on God during this time and to stay encouraged is to praise Him. Use CDs or streaming services like YouTube or Spotify. Standing up, dancing, or pacing may help you stay more engaged.
  4. Soaking prayer: YouTube “soaking prayer” and you will find many artists who have created music in this manner. Julie True is one of my favorites. This prayer is a form of resting in God in quiet place and simply listening to and receiving from Him. This place is one where you may hear God’s voice more clearly and find peace from the stresses of life. You can sit in a comfortable chair or even lie down. Expect to feel His peace and perhaps for Him to show you something!
  5. Prayer walk around your neighborhood: Get outside to get some fresh air and pray for your local community for protection, healing, and to encounter God in a fresh way. There are many that don’t yet know God, and you can be an instrument of drawing them closer.
  6. Listen to sermons or podcasts while exercising, cleaning, or doing another activity: Go on a run or do a workout in the house while listening to podcasts or sermons. Or perhaps, listen to them while you are doing the dishes or folding the laundry.
  7.   Do art while listening to soft worship music: This is a creative way to connect with God. You could also pray and listen for His voice as you do these things.
  8. If you’re having a hard time connecting with God: Talk to Him about it; ask Him to speak to you. Do your part through prayer, worship, and reading the Word, and trust that He hears you even if you don’t sense His presence. Sometimes, it’s as simple as letting those things go and simply sitting still to meditate on Him.

Happy connecting with God, and remember He is WITH you through this time!

Copyright 2020 Marie Lorah

Praise or Plummet

Are you praising or complaining through this time of crisis? Now, I totally understand if you’re struggling – this is an unprecedented time, and God is oh so gracious and gentle with us. Might I then gently encourage you though to press into praise right now?

In a previous difficult season, the Lord told me that I needed to “praise or plummet.” It wasn’t meant to be a discouraging thing, but rather an invitation of obedience to Him. He always gives us a choice. And in this case, He was showing me the cost of not praising Him. If I didn’t take time to worship and praise Him, I knew He was telling me that my mental health would deteriorate over time. I have held on to this word and have felt it extremely purposeful in this current crisis. Praise is the antidote to worry, fear, depression, stress, etc. Worship changes your focus and mindset. It has had to be, at times, a radical choice I make in spite of my feelings. What would it take to make that radical choice today?

Philippians 4:4 says: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Paul reminds us to always rejoice in the Lord. Not when we feel like it, but always. I’m not saying every day you’ll feel goosebumps as you worship, but this obedient act glorifies God and helps you shift perspective, even if for a little bit. So give it a try today, and see if it doesn’t change things!

Copyright 2020 Marie Lorah

Focus On What Really Matters

God is calling us to a deeper intimacy and focus on Him than we’ve ever known before. Here is an excerpt from my journal where the Lord spoke to my heart in this area:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

“Focus on the things that matter, my child, like staying close to Me. Do not worry what may come your way, for I am bigger than anything that may oppose you. But remember, those attacks are really just building blocks for your future. Anything that isn’t set right on this side of eternity will be set right on the other side. So there’s no need to worry. This is a season to rise up and walk in your authority – to praise, dance, sing, declare, and decree. Remember, focus on what really matters. Yoke yourself to Me. Seek Me first. Lay down your idols, and you will find true intimacy and freedom, which is the true desire of your heart, though sometimes buried and unaware. So let Me feed and nourish your soul today, let the rest go. It can wait.”

May we take time today to lay aside the distractions and focus on Jesus Himself. He is the answer to all our problems, all our fears, all our unknowns. Focus on Him who is certain and secure. Rise up in your identity and authority in Christ and press into Him – only He will satisfy.

Copyright 2020 Marie Lorah

How to Take Care of Yourself During COVID-19

Here we are in the Philadelphia suburbs, ordered to stay in our homes for an unnamed amount of time. Well, this change has inspired me to write more. Today I want to encourage you in different ways you may want to care for yourself during this time, especially if you are stuck at home. Let me cover 5 areas:

Physically: We can still go outside during this time. I strongly encourage you to go outside at least once a day for a walk or at least for a little fresh air. If you can’t go outside, try some YouTube workouts to get you moving – or you could always have a dance/worship party!

Mentally: Try to do things that keep your mind busy and sharp. I recently bought a word search puzzle to do to pass the time. You can also find Sudoko, dot to dot puzzles, and crossword puzzles as well, whether in paper or on your phone apps (try your local dollar store or Amazon). You may be able to find free courses or Bible studies online during this time as well.

For example, check out this link for a free online Bible study with Max Lucado about anxiety: https://www.faithgateway.com/anxious-for-nothing-obs-registration/.

Also, a more involved course related to happiness and mental health through Yale University is also offered for free right now:https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being?action=enroll&utm_campaign=opencourse.welcome.the-science-of-well-being.~opencourse.welcome.rUHfSakHEeeQ3gpuC4Fs_g.&utm_medium=email&utm_source=other

Emotionally: Try a meditation app. There are so many, including Calm, Headspace, Simple Habit, and Soultime. I specifically like Soultime because it is Christian-based and includes scripture readings as well. It might be helpful if you’re having a bout of anxiety or if you need help falling asleep. Also, creativity is proven to help your mental health. Try coloring (I just got an adult coloring book at the Dollar Tree – and as far as I know, they are still open!), painting, drawing, or simply doodling.

Socially: Keep in touch with friends and family over the Internet or phone. Make sure to check in with the most isolated family members. Perhaps give them a word of encouragement you found recently in a book, or offer to pray for them. Also, be sure to reach out for help and connection if you need support. Try to be proactive and plan to make at least one contact a day. You can use free programs like Skype, Face Time, Google Hangouts, and also Free Conference Calls for groups.

Spiritually: Probably most importantly, use this time to draw closer to the Lord. It’s a good time to listen to podcasts and sermons on YouTube to stay encouraged and focused on God. Personally, I enjoy journaling a lot. I write my prayers to God, and I listen for and record His response. I recently heard a great way to spend quiet time with God – pick a short passage from Scripture and read it. Ask God what He wants you to know about it, and then write a response back to Him. The next day, you can go back to that Scripture and ask God if He has anything else to tell you. Then, go on to the next part of that Scripture or pick a new one.

Things to Avoid:

Numbing out on social media and TV: I know it’s so easy to distract yourself and pass time these ways, but in longer amounts of times, they wear on your mental health and you end up numbing yourself instead of being in the present. Instead, use social media and TV in moderation and stay present with other people and things around you (physically or virtually).

Staying in bed all day: This is a sure fire way to get depressed. If you’re still tired when you wake up, try at least to move yourself to your couch to read or listen to music.

Catastrophizing about the future: This one is hard, I know, with all the uncertainty about how long you may be staying home or perhaps your finances. Remember, each day has enough worry of it’s own (Matthew 6:34), and it’s best to take it one day at time.

Releasing Control

I must admit my fear of losing control causes me to strive and micromanage my time, activities, and even my emotions, at times. Honestly, it’s quite exhausting. So why do I still do it?
When I take an honest look at this tendency, it exposes my simple lack of trust in God – in His ability to handle everything that comes my way. It’s not my ability that matters, but His. If I am fully trusting God, I am not relying on my own strength. I’m letting Him take the reins over my heart, life, and mind. Can you relate?
Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
God calls us to trust Him and to not lean on our own strength. Then, when we acknowledge Him in all our ways, he makes our paths straight. Perhaps this concept seems easier when things are going well. But what about when things get tough?
But, slowly, I am moving toward letting go and trusting. It’s a journey, though, isn’t it, my friend? I’d sometimes like life to hurry up and my struggles go away. But part of the beauty of life is this tension we live in here on Earth until we go to our final home. God promises that we will have struggles on this side of heaven. So, I have a choice. I can let it be miserable, or I can let it be a beautiful unfolding – a beautiful unfolding of events and emotions. I can choose to accept and embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly. Through acceptance, I am learning to trust God more fully and embrace the ups and downs of life more willingly. In regards to my mental health, I am trusting His process of healing instead of trying to figure it out on my own. How freeing! To let go of the striving and rest in His love. Someone once told me rest is trust – I believe that is true because you can rest when you are trusting Someone bigger than yourself to take care of you.
Today, I choose trust over worry and control. Today, I chose Jesus rather than myself. Today, I am ready and willing to trust.
Copyright 2020 Marie Lorah

Hello, New Year – A Little Late!

A New Year. A fresh start. A deep breath, exhaling all that is past and breathing in what is new. New beginnings. New life. A reset. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Hello, New Year. I welcome you. I welcome the goodness of God to chase me down in this New Year. I welcome healing. I welcome wholeness. I welcome the process – the joys, the hurts, the tears. I welcome God’s journey for me. And I choose to go all the way through with Jesus this year. Lord, have Your Way in all things. I promise to trust You, let You take me by the hand, and go all the way through with this journey in You!

Instead of being overwhelmed by New Year Resolutions, may you be overwhelmed by the love of God. You are accepted by God, just as you are now. May that acceptance draw you toward change, instead of forced, pressured goals. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. Let your instinct guide you. Instead of piling a whole list of goals on yourself, set one or two simple goals. Start slow, and let the change build and grow.

Happy New Year!

Marie

P.S. It’s been a hard year for me, mental health wise and otherwise. I moved home to live with my parents for extra support, and soon after, my father suddenly died in June. I am still grieving and recovering, yet I have found a newfound strength and stability since his passing. I look forward to using this new strength and stability to write and encourage others through my blog once again – I’m back!

Life is a Trust Walk

Life is a trust walk.

Sometimes it is through the dark.

Life is a trust walk.

And we must trust in how He walks.

Life is a trust walk.

We cannot see the road ahead.

So we nestle ourselves against His chest.

We want easy answers, quick fixes.

But we rarely get these requests.

God wants us to walk this walk

And learn to talk the talk-

That is the talk of trust.

And the heart position of surrender.

We may not know where we are going.

But we know the One who is leading us.

So we can trust this One, knowing He will hold and shepherd our hearts,

Leading us to the right destination.

The final result is in His hands.

So let’s trust in His plans.

Life is a trust walk.

 

Copyright 2019 Marie Lorah

 

Being Real About Your Feelings for the New Year

At this time of year, we often are focusing on our goals and New Year’s resolutions. Many have new hope, excitement, and motivation for the coming year. That is all well and good, but what if you are facing deep fears about the coming year? What if all you can see is darkness and have no hope?

Maybe you are facing a looming diagnosis or a strained relationship. Perhaps there are just some circumstances that you don’t know will ever get better (at least that’s how it feels). You’re feeling doubt and worry, and then, on top of that, guilt for feeling doubt and worry.

Well, friend, take heart. You are not the only one going through this. I think through all the glimmer and glammer of the holidays, we place this expectation on ourselves that we should be happy, excited, and hopeful for our New Year. But, what if it’s been a really hard year and there’s not one single piece of hope in your heart? What if depression is heavy upon you, and you are just out of steam?

I want to encourage you, whatever you may be facing, that God is still good, and God is still with you. He’s not mad at you that you aren’t feeling all the good things that others around you may feel. He’s not looking at you as a failure for having some doubts and fears about the coming New Year. If nothing else, you can hold on to who God is no matter what you are feeling or experiencing. Don’t give up on the One who does truly hold it all together, even when it doesn’t make sense. Perhaps find a song that brings you some hope or solace. Practice gratitude – I know gratitude is a hard one when you’re overwhelmed by circumstances, but even just the act of trying to think of some good things is helpful for your mental health.

No New Year’s resolutions? That’s okay. But maybe one might be to trust God with the unknown and the hurting places of your heart this year. Remember to keep Him in the center of it all, no matter how difficult the circumstance. Don’t give up on Your God – He will not give up on you. May God lift any burdens on your heart and give you eyes to see from His perspective.

Copyright 2019 Marie Lorah

Thankfulness in the Midst of Pain

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Artwork Copyright 2018 Marie Lorah

It’s that time of year. The holidays. Thanksgiving. Christmas. We are bombarded with messages of happiness and that it is “the most wonderful time of the year.” But what if you are experiencing heartbreak, discouragement, or illness? What if you can’t even look in your partner’s eyes with love this season? What if life just doesn’t make sense right now?

First, I want to validate the pain you may be feeling at this time of the year with whatever you may be facing. Trials are difficult themselves, let alone dealing with them during the holiday season. So be gentle with yourself. When I need to encourage myself of certain truths or reminders, I break out my index cards and write those truths and reminders on them. One truth I have as a painting is: “Be gentle with your heart.” Isn’t is so easy to be down on ourselves and literally beat ourselves up emotionally over the troubles we are already facing? So take heart, lift up your head. There are things to be thankful for. Remember that. Just take a moment to think of even the simplest things you are grateful for. It might not feel like a lot, but I pray this simple exercise will bring at least some relief. You see, when we are in pain, it is hard to get our focus off of ourselves. We can spiral into negativity, which breeds more negatively. Thanksgiving is a way to help you get back on track. And remember, you don’t have to be thankful for everything, but in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). In other words, God is saying He wants us to always choose thankfulness, even if it doesn’t all make sense or seem good. So we can thank Him in our distress, as opposed to for our distress. He isn’t the one who sends distress (that is from Satan), but He will use it for our good (Romans 8:28).

Can you trust God with your pain today? Take a step toward Him, be gentle with your heart, and find a little something to be thankful for. Praise God that we have Him as our hope, an anchor for our soul.

Copyright 2018 Marie Lorah

Progress, Not Perfection

Are you seeking progress or perfection in your life? For me, I was humbled by our loving Father that I was striving for perfection recently.

This week I had a colossal meltdown, one of those public, overwhelming volcano of emotions. I felt overcome with shame and more anxiety than I had in a long time. “Here we go again,” I thought. “I fell apart, yet again. I am a failure because of these struggles. I’m never going to get better.” Crazy how easily we can fall into these lies and automatic negative reactions, yet we do as fragile human beings. 

I reached out to a friend, and we did dinner. She reminded me there was no shame in having a tough time and reaching out. I spoke with another friend the following day, who totally re-framed what happened – she said that instead of looking at this meltdown as a failure, look at it as progress, as I had not had a meltdown like this in a while. Having that connection with another person helped me see the truth about my situation and break me free from the shame and condemnation – which is NOT from God.

As I began journaling and talking to God about what happened, I felt He reminded me life is about progress, not perfection. And the truth is, I did make progress. As frail human beings, we can tend to go straight to the negative when processing things. We can think things will never change and believe we are failures. But what is God’s truth? How does He see us in the middle of our messes? Really. Ask yourself. How does God see you in your worst moment? Friend, I can tell you He isn’t look away in disgrace; He is looking toward you with compassion, wanting you to come to Him. 

So today, meditate on what is good. Meditate on how well you are doing – because there are things you are doing well, and things you are still learning. Look for progress, not perfection. Stand tall, confident in God’s love for you through it all.

Copyright 2018 Marie Lorah