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Finding peace in letting go – Alison Craig

Last Autumn my husband and I were taking a morning walk along a path filled with beautiful Fall colors and textures. The morning was crisp, and the air was fresh. There were countless dandelions dotting the edge of the pathway, floating above the remaining foliage like fluffy cotton balls. I leaned over to take a picture of one. Much to my initial dismay, it was completely falling apart. The seeds that would normally make up the beautiful airy sphere were letting go, in what at first glance appeared to be a complete mess. But as I looked closer, I saw unique details and textures. The dandelion letting go of all its seeds actually had a beautiful gracefulness to it. The dandelion was letting go of what it to needed to in that season.

Allison Craig

Letting go can be hard

Letting go can be one of the hardest things we have to do in our lifetimes. Just like the dandelion let go of its seeds in order to create new plants the following season, sometimes we need to let go in order to give ourselves space to grow. Letting go can be scary because whether it be in a big or small way, letting go can also mean change. But giving ourselves room to grow can result in the most beautiful transformations.

Some of my earliest memories from my childhood include hearing my father play songs on our family’s baby grand piano during the evenings. Some years later, I learned how to turn pushing randomly on those same keys into beautiful music. When my husband and I got married, we were given the piano I had spent so much time playing as a child and teenager.

But the reality was, we really didn’t have room for a baby grand piano, and I was too busy to play it. It was very large for the space we had— it metaphorically ate up all the adjacent space in the room next to our kitchen. After a couple years, the writing was on the wall. It was time to let go the baby grand piano that I had so many fond childhood memories with. I found a friend who was looking for a piano and the problem was solved. I knew it was going to a good home where it would be used and appreciated.

While we may not want to admit it, material possessions are sometimes hard to let go of. Especially if it is something we have worked hard for, paid good money for, or have an emotional attachment to. But letting go of excess materialistic possessions can free up space literally and figuratively for us to focus on other areas of our lives that are worth developing and growing into, rather than managing an overload of belongings. 

Letting go of dreams

But letting go isn’t always materialistic. Perhaps there is a dream or idea you’ve had to let go of. Maybe it is just temporarily, or maybe it is permanent. If letting go of a dream is temporary, perhaps the timing just wasn’t quite right, so letting go just means for now. Or perhaps the idea you had is being revised for an even better plan for your future. Or maybe there is a particular picture in your mind of how your life in general was supposed to look, but things just aren’t turning out that way.

I know personally there have been times where I became so focused on how I thought my life should unfold, I didn’t realize things were coming together for the better. I had to let go of my preconceived ideas of how I thought my life should look, before I could fully see the beautiful life right in front of me.

Letting go to grow

While letting go is often associated with loss and change, it can also be associated with gain. There are countless facets of our lives where we may need to let go in order to grow. I don’t know what area in life this may or may not be for you, but I know it can be scary. Will we regret letting go? Will we not like the change? Will things ever be the same again? So many questions come along with letting go, and sometimes there are things we should hold on to as long as we can.

My thoughts go back to that crisp Autumn morning walk and I remind myself of the dandelion letting go of its seeds. It was done in such a light and airy way, it gets me to wondering—are we putting too much weight on letting go in certain areas of our lives? Perhaps we should shift some of the focus from what is in our lives, to how we live our lives.

Reflective questions

Have you ever felt like there was an area of your life where you needed
to let go in order to grow?

Do you have trouble letting go of material possessions? If so, why do you think this is?

If you feel you have an excess of material possessions, is there a way you can prioritize keeping the most significant or memorable items, while letting go of the not-so-important ones?

Has there been a time in your life where things just didn’t pan out the way you thought they would?

Was there some good that came out of this experience?

Is there an area in your life where you might be focusing too much
on the what, rather than how you are living your life?

Allison Craig is a photographer, designer, and writer inspired by nature and the plants she grows in her garden. Her hope is to inspire others to see beauty in their everyday lives. Her first book, Finding Peace in the Everyday, is available on Amazon.

autumnsoul.net
IG: @autumn.soul

Finding peace in the everyday book cover
Finding Peace in the Everyday
Allison Craig

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Morphing into & with the changes of motherhood – Laura Thomas

Morphing with the changes

After saying yet another heart-wrenching goodbye to a University-bound child at the airport, I head home to the empty nest once more. For me, it’s the reminder that no matter the age of my three grown kids, I’ll always be Mother. Mum. Mommy. Depending on the child. And part of motherhood is morphing with the changes, rolling with the punches, and giving it all to God!

morphing into motherhood

Motherhood is a million little moments that God weaves together with grace, redemption, laughter, tears, and most of all, love.

Lysa TerKeurst

No matter the age of our children, those “million little moments” keep us on our toes as the kids change and grow. It also requires change and growth on our part—sometimes we get it right and other times, not so much. Who among us does not have major regrets when it comes to parenting? We wish we spent more time listening and less time nagging. More down-time and being less uptight. More laughs and less tears. More hugs and less shrugs. 

We are learning beside our children

Hindsight is a gem but, in the moment of mothering, we throw our hands in the air—either in supplication to God or in utter frustration with ourselves—and we do our best. Much of the time we are learning right beside our children, growing emotionally, mentally, spiritually just as we watch them grow physically. And then in a flash, they are packing for college and we realize our time is up and we hope to goodness we have done enough…

What you really want, desperately, wildly, in spite of everything—is for them to remember the good…What every mother wants, her most unspoken need—is a truckload of grace.

Ann Voskamp

A truckload of grace

So much grace. For our mothering, for our kids, and for ourselves. Somewhere along the way we can forget that grace is a gift from God. 

He sees and knows and loves us right where we are. Whether in the trenches of hands-on parenting kids in the home or desperately missing a grown child and wondering what role motherhood is morphing into, we are not in this alone. Not only are we mothers, we are daughters, too. Daughters of the King. He loves us and He loves our kids more than we can ever comprehend: 

Look with wonder at the depth of the Father’s marvellous love that he has lavished on us! He has called us and made us his very own beloved children.

1 John 3:1a (TPT)

As His beloved children, we can come to Him always with our concerns, cares, and worries. He promises to give His perfect peace—and that is exactly what we need in our parenting. He knows that we will always be mom to our kids, just as He is always our Heavenly Father. That role remains even if the rest of our lives are barely recognizable as the family scatters and the nest empties. This is undeniably comforting for our children and for us, too. Mom is who we are…

Motherhood is a gift

We will always have these God-given mother hearts that constrict when our children are hurting and hold an extraordinary amount of love for them—whatever their age. That doesn’t change as the years go by, it merely morphs with our adult kids’ needs and circumstances. We have the privilege of watching them blossom, learn from mistakes, fall in love, follow their passions, and make their faith their own. It’s breathtaking. 

And if we can put into practice continued growth and grace in the journey, we will remember that motherhood is a gift. It’s precious. It has excruciating seasons and brings unimaginable joy. 

It’s constantly changing, unique, exhausting… and the very best of everything.

Even when the nest is empty. 

adult child motherhood

A published Christian author, Laura writes heartwarming encouragement for your soul. She has three Christian romantic suspense novels published, as well as a Christian teen fiction trilogy, marriage book, and middle-grade novel. She is published in several anthologies and writes devotionals, articles, and stories for magazines and online, and shares musings on her blog. Laura is a chocoholic mom of three, married to her high school sweetheart. Originally from the UK, they live in Kelowna, British Columbia as audacious empty-nesters.

Find her at laurathomasauthor.com

The orphan Beach by Laura Thomas book cover
THE ORPHAN BEACH
A Christian romantic suspense novel by Laura Thomas
(Published February, 2020 by Anaiah Press)

Read about The Orphan Beach on Laura’s website.

The Orphan Beach on Amazon.com

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What can we find on the other side of change? – Noreen Sevret

I listen to the crackle of the campfire in front of me as my husband and I sit and watch the logs slowly burn and sparks fly high into the sky. Fall evenings by the river are ones to slow down in and appreciate together. The nostalgia of past memories are caught inside me as I think back to years when the feet of a little boy sat next to me watching the campfire and roasting marshmallows, anxious to put the toasted marshmallow and Hershey’s chocolate on the Graham cracker, top it off with another Graham, and then take that first bite. That oh-so delicious taste I can taste as the sun descends in the sky across the river from where I sit on this evening. There is always something beautiful that can be found on the other side of change.

campfire change

Many years later the same feet of the little boy, but all grown now, were taking him off in a different direction as I sat by the warmth of the fire. I reminisced about the campfires of long ago and enjoyed the memories as they tugged quietly within my heart. I sit on my camp chair, look down at the grass and see one small, yellow leaf near my feet, resting from its journey from a nearby tree. I pick it up and hold it in my hand. I think to myself how this is simply the beginning of a new season of vibrancy. It has always felt too soon for me; the change of seasons, that is. I always find myself unready for the season that comes with the falling of the leaves, yet I knew I had to adjust to the redesign in how it colored my world.  

change yellow leaf

Lingering beside the campfire for a few minutes longer, I found myself lost again in the nostalgia of the days when picnics with my 5-year old son were often held by the river and when he would say, “Come swing with me, Mama”, running out the back door for the swing set and wanting me to follow him. Those precious days of carefree life, picnics, and walks by the river to explore and see what we could find are now a distant memory. My walks by the river this year did not include a little boy anymore, but they did include the grown up boy’s dog, Cookie, and his childhood Australian Shepherd dog, Sophie, as they wandered through the edges of their home here and found places to explore. In walking with them I found beauty tucked along the edges of the woods where the wildflowers grew tall by the river’s edge. 

I know I am not in control of the seasons as they come and go and realize I am not always ready for, or even want, the eventuality that comes when the leaves begin their falling from the trees in my yard or from the places in my heart. The one small yellow leaf I found is but a reminder of the fall season that is here, bringing with it much more change than just the coloring and falling of the leaves. It has brought with it a different world with the impact of COVID-19 and the reshaping of my life within its reality. The colors of life became different within its realm, and my attitude has had to shift with every day, every news report I read, every uncertain moment, as well as every place of beauty I have intentionally walked toward to fight against a pull of discouragement.

I know there is beauty to be found in every season, even this one. I have experienced three incredible things on the other side of change ~ hope, a heart closer to God, and healing: 

Hope on the other side of change

In looking at the beauty of a flower or a sunset and knowing the creation of God was evident in what I set my eyes upon, because God could create this beauty, I knew He would also walk with me through uncertain seasons. I have found the way I walk through the stretching and ever changing times makes a big difference in how I find and hold on to hope. 

In the last six years, I have found hope while learning how to live as an empty nester and pray continuously for my son who grew up and left home early. Hope was found in the time of selling the business my husband and I owned for 21 years without knowing all the next steps ahead, including new career changes for both of us. I held on to hope as I sat in a hospital room from time to time in the past year and a half while I watched my husband suffer physical pain and continued to ask God for his healing. I have found hope while living life in the middle of the ongoing pandemic where I have experienced God’s provision for my family. When my husband got sick, our son returned home to live, the unexpected gift of his being here for another season or more is one of the blessings I’m grateful for. I’m also grateful for the good days my husband has and the decrease in his daily pain level throughout this year. Oh, how I have fought against the seasons that came when the leaves would fall and also against the falling pieces left inside my heart! Each time, however, I felt God was saying to me, “I will get you through. Just trust Me. Put your hope in who I am and not in your circumstances.” I did, even when it was hard. I put my hope in Him. “Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” Hebrews 10:23 NLT

Heart drawn closer to God

A heart drawn closer to God ~ What made the difference for me was choosing to embrace a closer walk with God in the middle of each season. No matter what the situation, when I sat myself down in the middle of His love for me, I drew closer to Him and adjusted my attitude to look to Him for my strength and my hope. “Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you…” James 4:8 NLT

Healing on the other side of change

I began to find healing in seasons where change was rampant and I felt like I was blowing away like the one small yellow leaf held in my hand by the campfire. I started looking for God in something beautiful each day. My heart began to heal as I depended on the Word of God, which says, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord is the one who goes before you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:8 NLT.

I let the one small yellow leaf fall to the ground and bring my heart’s attention back to my warm place by the fire. On this side of change, yes, life is different, but I walk with hope, a heart drawn closer to God, and healing inside where God has met me as I wrestle with difficult things. As the transformation of color happens again on the New York hills I set my eyes on, I trust God, knowing there is always something beautiful that can be found on the other side of change. 

Noreen Sevret

Noreen Sevret lives on a picturesque river in Upstate New York with her husband and their son. She has a passion for finding beauty in unexpected places from behind the lens of her camera and writing about how God speaks to her heart through that picture. She facilitates journaling classes at her church. Noreen enjoys spending time with family, writing worship songs, playing the piano, reading, participating on book launch teams, going out for coffee with friends, and going to beautiful places in NYS and beaches in NJ with her husband. She also works as an office manager for a local funeral home. www.noreensevret.com IG: @writerbytheriver.

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There is no short cut to maturity – Jenny Sanders

“In the economy of God, however, there is no short cut to maturity,”

As a child, one of the highlights of primary school was the Easter term, when art classes turned their attention to spring. That inevitably meant creating slightly wonky and surreal ‘trees’, full of pink ‘blossom’, to be displayed on the classroom wall. We painted sturdy brown trunks on what was then called ‘sugar paper’, before indulging in a mad glue and tissue-paper fest, scrunching up the delicate sheets into pleasing blobs and sticking them all over the page with merry abandon and copious amounts of gloopy school glue. While catkins stood drunkenly on the nature table and shattered birds eggs were admired by saucer-eyed children, we moved on to other spring stalwarts. The life cycle from tadpole to frog was laboriously illustrated on many a blackboard, and we were captivated by slimy, wobbly frogspawn in jam jars, watching it develop over a few short weeks into wriggling tadpoles that sprouted legs and subsequently became adult frogs. How magical it seemed, to press our noses against the cool glass of an old aquarium and observe hungry caterpillars munch through a mini forest before weaving a silken chrysalis and disappearing from view, only to emerge sometime later from their cosy cocoons as glorious butterflies. We’d watch them as their damp wings dried out and they patiently flexed their remodelled bodies before being released to fly away into the English countryside. 

no shortcut to maturity

Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis: the transformation in form or nature of one living organism into a mature adult through two or more distinct changes. What a wonder! 

I’ve been reflecting on the attractive idea of metamorphosis, for those of us who are daughters of the King. There’s a real appeal in the idea of becoming like Jesus overnight isn’t there? How brilliant would it be if, once we’ve surrendered our life to God, accepted His amazing gift of salvation and become part of his Kingdom family, we were instantly little Jesuses in our homes and communities? Wouldn’t it be amazing if our old habits fell away as naturally as the butterfly’s withered chrysalis? The quick temper, the poor self- esteem, the simmering resentment when we feel hard done by, the destructive habits and painful comparison traps. Who wouldn’t want to shed their less presentable character traits with the ease of taking off a coat? No more thoughtless words, an end to harbouring grievances, falling prey to enemy lies, sliding into gossip, nursing bitterness, stingy attitudes and ingratitude. Surely metamorphosis would be a short cut to freedom and contentment. 

No short cut to maturity

In the economy of God, however, there is no short cut to maturity, no instant transformation in character. Just as the butterfly needs to strengthen its wings during the process of breaking out of that cocoon, or the tadpole/froglet needs to learn how to use its legs, we learn to walk the Kingdom path, to grow spiritual muscle and become warriors. 

In the economy of God, however, there is no short cut to maturity, no instant transformation in character.

Jenny Sanders

New Christians and toddlers have some things in common: they fall over a lot, regularly make a mess and take time to develop skills and gain the expertise required to feed, clean and clothe themselves, to handle disappointment, to stand up again having tumbled and to keep going in the face of obstacles, challenges and loss. We learn how to forgive, how to resist temptation, how to press on, how to respond to the voice of our loving parent. There is a natural curve in our progress as we discard the old ways of life and put on the new ones.1 We learn to ‘take captive every thought2 so that we’re not bullied or ambushed by enemy schemes that seek to drag us away from the Father’s house. 

I’ve been feasting at God’s good, lavish table for over 45 years but perfection still eludes me! I carry a living history of the mercy, grace and provision of God through good times and bad, abundance and lack, buoyancy and bereavement, which I treasure, champion and share; but I still know that my tongue is all too quick with a cutting reply. I find it easier to see the down-side of any situation than the good; I am wired for task and achievement more than relationship and, clearly, God hasn’t finished with me yet. I have come through a season of breast cancer with blooming health and a renewed conviction of the faithfulness of God to walk with me through any valley or any sunlit meadow, and I’m sure there will be more twists and turns before my journey is done. 

Pace of change

While I am often frustrated with myself regarding the apparently glacial pace of change in some areas of my life, I am grateful beyond measure that the extraordinary love and grace of God continues to carry me onwards through every changing season. I know there is nothing I can do that will put me beyond His reach and that, as a good Father, He rejoices in me regardless of all this. 

For those who also look wistfully at the process of metamorphosis and long for more godly characteristics to grow (preferably much more quickly) in their lives, then let me finish with two important words of encouragement: 

  • Progress, not perfection, is what every parent wants to see in their child. Are you moving on, growing and being shaped like the clay in the hands of the potter?3 Even if the clay didn’t respond immediately under the craftsman’s hands, Jeremiah noted that he didn’t just throw it away and pick another piece. The artisan can remould the most recalcitrant clay into something beautiful; that keeps God – the divine potter – busy in my life every day. I pray that the water of the Holy Spirit will keep me malleable, sensitive and available for His skilled hands. 
  • While growing in character and Christlikeness is an ongoing journey, salvation is actually described in the Bible in terms of metamorphosis; a dramatic change of ownership and direction. Paul says that those who are ‘in Christ4 have moved from darkness to light,5 from death to life5; you can’t get much more transformed than that!  

Change is the only constant in life

The old Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: ‘Change is the only constant in life’. Whether you love or loathe it, change is an inevitable part of life as we pass through our allotted time here. Physically, the ageing process starts at birth, and we’re forcefully reminded of that every day when we look in the mirror. Spiritually, change is to be welcomed as evidence of God at work in us and through us as we embrace His abundant life and become the people we were designed and called to be. 

The spring blossom still reminds me of both the tissue paper artworks and the annual delight of observing metamorphosis in frogs and butterflies, which I enjoyed as a child. As an adult with a living relationship with their designer and creator, who shows His hand so powerfully in nature, I am content to trust Him to change me by increments as I choose to walk with Him, submit my will to Him, and keep my eyes fixed on Him each day. 

One of the advantages of getting older is that I enjoy a longer history of intimacy with Him; I have more stories to tell as I reflect on the path behind me. Sometimes it’s only by looking back that we can see how far we’ve come; try it. 

1 Ephesians 4:22-24
2 2 Corinthians 10:5
3Jeremiah 18:4  
4Romans 8:1 amongst others; it’s well worth doing a Bible study on this phrase in the New Testament.
5Ephesians 5:8
6Ephesians 2:5

Jenny Sanders no shortcut to maturity

Jenny Sanders is an international speaker, prophetic teacher and writer who has been involved in discipling and training Jesus-lovers across streams and denominations for over thirty years. Her passion is ‘to see the lights come on’ for people when they grasp the magnificence of God’s grace and the excitement of living life with Him at the helm. She is the author of Spiritual Feasting (Instant Apostle, May 2020). Jenny is married to Bernard with whom she adventures around the world. They have four fantastic grown & flown children.

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Heartbreaking changes can be the catapult – Katherine Smith

The aches of our most heartbreaking changes can be the catapult to our greatest epiphanies and relationships”. Changes can be the catapult – Katherine Smith in iola the change issue

Lying on the living room couch with my eyes closed, the once-forgotten sound of passing trucks teases traces of distant memories to the front of my mind. Thoughts of Saturday morning toast with fried eggs and honeycomb cereal start flowing. Has it been fifteen years since I last stayed the night here? Somehow, the sounds and smells make it feel like childhood was yesterday. My sister and I would pull out the box of toys and somehow, the noisemakers we loved so dearly would disappear as we played “I Spy” in this very room.

changes can be the catapult
Photo: Harriet Calfo

Differences stand out the most

While some things are the same, the differences stand out to me the most. There is now one recliner where there had been two. One bedroom has been unoccupied for six years. The piano looks as though it hasn’t made music in at least that long. The kitchen has new carpet, but the tablecloth with matching placemats is still around, tucked away in the hall’s linen closet. 

Walking back into the hall, I step into the room I occasionally slept in as a child. The scent reminds me of the nights my older sister and I would share the room. We’d argue over who got to sleep where on the bunk bed and were always wanting to get up long before we were supposed to. Deciding the clock was wrong, we’d sneak out to the kitchen to look at the clock in the corner over the cabinets. We must have been right once that our time was wrong, and we never trusted the clock again, causing us to get fussed at “go back to bed” by a voice I hear only in echoes as I recall those days.

Despite everything that has changed

The echoes grow louder as I carefully tread down the stairs. Despite everything that has changed, the calendar in his study stays the same, like a plaque commemorating the month and year the change occurred. The pile of Bibles with notes scrawled within them has a dust layer that grows thicker as time passes. A timepiece lies there, reminding us we ran out of time. It feels irreverent to move them; they’re a memorial to every-day holiness. 

Sometimes, you learn more about a person after they pass than you did before. The minuscule becomes essential as you realize people and relationships are more complex than you thought. Those wrinkled hands I knew as a child were once strong as they farmed the ground. They were steady as they gripped the steering wheel while transporting coal, gentle yet firm as they raised children and grandchildren, and delicate as they turned the pages of a Bible. 

I looked at him once and exclaimed, “You’re old!” not recognizing then that the lines on his face carried not only his age but also his wisdom. I prayed one day I’d find someone just like him. Someone with an ornery glimmer in his eye who could rework a tractor so the front was the back and leave a legacy of devotion to his Savior that makes others want that, too. 

Changes can be the catapult

Some change is uncomfortable; it is bittersweet. It can leave you wishing you could go back in time and play the piano once more for individual ears to hear and enjoy. Turn another somersault across the living room floor while you can and see the joy on a face you now see only in pictures and memories.

“The aches of our most heartbreaking changes can be the catapult to our greatest epiphanies and relationships.”

Katherine Smith

Physical things will pass away, but may we always remember that truth will not. “Hope = divine certainty” – words written in his Bible and spoken at his funeral. I learned I couldn’t know how many people he influenced and changed during his life. He changed my life. I mark the words in my Bible and build my outlook on them. The aches of our most heartbreaking changes can be the catapult to our greatest epiphanies and relationships. The best is yet to come.

Katherine Smith -Changes can be the catapult

Katherine Nadene is an old soul contained in a small body. She started writing after she realized her calling to encourage others who are also chronically ill and found healing herself through the words she writes. Her heart lives in the mountains, but her body lives in a small town in Pennsylvania with her husband, her twelve-year-old puppy, and never enough books. A worship leader and youth worker at one church and the administrative assistant at another, she enjoys writing, reading, and knitting in her spare time. www.purelyhoping.com  IG @purely_hoping

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Heartbreaking changes can be the catapult” is just one from iola the change issue. Get your copy here.

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“Circumstances of life she couldn’t change” – Linda Berkery

The circumstances of her life she could not change, but she took them to the Lord, and handed them over into His management…and the result was that although the circumstances remained unchanged, her soul was kept in perfect peace in the midst of them. Mrs. H. W. S. pub.1875

What changed?

She changed her life insurance policy and her address when she changed her name.
She changed diapers, bed sheets, and TV channels.
She changed the color of polish on her toes as often as the seasons changed —
Just for a change of pace.
And every year she looked for a change for the better.

changed

She changed her mind and exchanged the blue party dress.
She changed socks, clocks (spring forward/fall back), locks on the bathroom door.
The size of her family changed, but she kept her rituals.
She changed towels, oil in her car, the furnace filter.
She raised couch cushions, to find small change — she always needed small change.
But the circumstances of her life she couldn’t change, so she took them to the Lord.

Her heart never changed, but her prayers changed when her husband’s heart had trouble.
The surgery made a lasting change. A good change.
It changed his life.
He exchanged the leaky valve. His heart ticks with unchangeable rhythm.
She wouldn’t change a thing.

They both changed doctors, but never bothered to change the dentist.
She changed jobs, and parishes, and the title of her book.
On Epiphany, to honor the Wise Men, she returned home by a different route —
It was a nice change of scenery.

Her weight changed, her height changed.
Her bedtime changed. Did her memory change?
She seemed to have changed places with her mother.
And she was tired of changes unfolding from her body.
She experienced the change. And changed the subject.
(But always remembered to bring a change of clothes.)

Wedding bells rang. She saw children grow and change.
The old crib welcomed grandbaby guests — more diapers to change.
Some things never change.
Her daughter gave her a makeover-changeover for a 50th reunion.
Yet her classmates exclaimed, You haven’t changed a bit!
That was not true.
Her hair color shifted to grey and more than once she changed her attitude.

2020 — The Decade Changed.

In March, the weather and the world changed. It was unexpected.
It wasn’t a nice change or a welcome change, or even the proper time for a change.
In the exchange of air and the shake of hands, was an unseen change.
A changeup pitch coming right at us.

Her days changed and didn’t seem to change at all.
She walked after breakfast and after supper — the path unchanged.
She still changed sheets, towels, passwords.
As if that could change reality.
She ordered groceries and carefully changed the roll of paper.
Scarves changed to masks.
Grandson’s voice began to change.

Some habits had to change. And they were hard to change.
Grandchildren couldn’t or wouldn’t come to visit.
Facetime replaced hugs and infant snuggles. Such a terrible change.
Easter came and left, so did an empty Mother’s Day, and the months of summer.
June, July, August. No change. Not with the heat.
The virus didn’t change.

But she was not alone. A collective we began to change.
She sang again like she did in the sixties.
For the times they are a-changin;…
Although the virus didn’t change, we changed.
And became a force for change.

She remains in hope, but lives with questions —
When autumn comes and the trees change colors, what else will change?
And if the circumstances remain unchanged, will we have peace in the midst of them?
Will we remember to bring the circumstances of our lives to the Lord?
For — this — changes — everything.

Linda Berkery

Linda Styles Berkery grew up in the family funeral home in upstate NY. Linda loves to practice contemplative photography as part of her prayer. Her writings on faith/life have been published in various magazines, and blogs. Her faith memoir, Reflections: A Wardrobe of Life Lessons, was well received in 2019. She has been married to Jack for over fifty years. Linda loves dark chocolate, makes cinnamon bread when it snows, and still mails handwritten letters to family and friends. Reach Linda on Facebook at Reflections: A Wardrobe of Life Lessons or email Lindastylesberkery@nycap.rr.com.

iola bookazine change issue

This article is from the change issue of iola. You can get your own high-quality bookazine for a moment of peace here.

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Embracing change with the help of seasons – Daniela Perez

When I moved to Minnesota in 2010, I was not sure what to expect. I decided to move on a whim when I found a job in my field of Spanish Immersion education. Discovering new places has always been fascinating to me; at that time, I had already lived in four states and three countries, so moving to a new city was embraced with optimism and a high level of adventure. 

embracing change

Fall

Months later, after a gorgeous colorful fall, the orangey pumpkin and delicious apple season was over. Brutal winter told me that my love for Minnesota was also over. For this Chilean girl, the first snowstorm was beautiful, but the constant 10°F/-12°C temperatures were not welcome. I keep telling myself that I was not born to live in this weather. I kept asking God to take me away from here. 

Winter

During that long, unpleasant winter, I concentrated my energy and time on my students’ learning and my professional growth as a language teacher. Through his Word, my connection with God became deeper as I realized that I needed him more than ever to adapt to this inhumane weather. Eventually, I learned to have the confidence to drive in the snow and recognize black ice; this second one, I am still pretending to know how to do. 

As icicles and snow started to melt, spring began to give me hope. Days started to get more light, and five o’clock was not dark anymore. The sun was shining again and bringing with him colorful flowers telling me that everything was going to be ok. People started to be friendly again, and we all welcomed the chance to be outside enjoying nature once more. 

Summer

Summer taught me not to take things for granted, and to enjoy God’s creation to the maximum by enjoying lake season and the delicious seasonal products. I also discovered beautiful hiking trails and cascades around the state. The back of my mind reminded me that brutal winter would come back again, and I would need good memories of better days to keep me going.

Spring

Learning to embrace change in our lives is not an easy task. However, I have learned to face it graciously, knowing that spring will eventually show up. It gives me joy to know that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) I know my Father is with me through every season, through every change in my life.

Just in case you wonder, eleven years later, I still call Minneapolis, Minnesota, my home. Winter still does make me think of moving. Only now each time around, I have enough memories of spring, summer, and fall to remind me that better days will come. I have to keep pressing on. 

Daniela was born and raised in Chile, studied in the United States, and considers herself a global citizen. An avid traveller who has visited fascinating people and places in 32 countries, she writes about them for diverse travel publications and blogs. She enjoys reading and shares her passion for travelling and books with her fourth-grade Spanish immersion class and with Instagram at @danielatravels. Her home is by the gorgeous Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can discover more about her latest projects and travels at www.danielatravels.com or www.exploramag.com, where she writes for Spanish speaking kids. 

This article is just one from the collection in iola the change issue. The beautiful print bookazine is soul food for your moment of peace. Get your issue here.

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Hiding under all that is charred – Shelby Hughes

Smoke fills my lungs as I near a fire that towers seven feet above me. I watch in terror as the wind shifts, and that fire takes on its own embodiment, turning itself toward our cabin. Mom springs into action, grabbing a nearby towel and wild with rage and fierceness, she beats the fire in front of her. She yells for my brother and sister to do the same and for me to get more water and towels.

Throwing the remaining water on the fire, I race back inside to fill the buckets. I heave oxygen into my lungs in the pause of impatience. Oxygen I desperately need. Pause I desperately need. But I can only think about getting back outside to put out the fire.

charred trees

I don’t see the benefit of waiting. I feel useless. 

Buckets filled, I race back outside, eager. But the fire can’t be extinguished by me and my family alone. Mom races inside and calls 911. She rushes back out and continues where she left off. 

My body moves despite its exhaustion and my thoughts race, questions taking over, scared prayers whispered while looking beyond flame and smoke to deep blue sky where great grandma had told me Jesus was. But he feels much further away. 

I race inside, and it is there while waiting for buckets to fill with water that I yell angry, despair-filled, pleading prayers to him somewhere way beyond the blue. 

The phone rings, hushing my frustration. I answer in case it’s Dad who’s speeding home from work. But it isn’t him. It’s someone from our church. I fumble over words, speaking in fragments.

“hello…yes…it’s us…out of control…I gotta go…”

I grab the buckets that finally finished filling and run back outside.

The cycle continues. I rush outside with water. Race inside, filling buckets. I answer a ringing phone or yell at God to answer me.

The fire moves away from the house and deep into the woods. Dad arrives. Firetrucks come. Everyone disperses into the woods to find and fight the flame. 

Mom instructs me to stay at the house, so I answer phone calls. Neighbors call. Folks from church call. They each ask how they can help. I am near 12. Uncertain.

“However you can, like, now” I answer.

It’s an invitation to show up, to be present. And each arrive, some go into the woods to help put out the fire, and others stand in a circle of prayer and concern. One woman brings towels. I don’t recall mentioning towels, but she brings fresh, clean towels that aren’t tattered and filthy.

Hours later, my parents come out of the woods soaked in sweat and soot, and upon seeing nearly half the church waiting to help, tears of gratitude wash away grime from their cheeks. 

The fire is over. 

But the months that follow yield still smoldering trees that sizzle at the touch of rain. The months that follow are bleak—no beauty in charred land. Summer feels dead. The fall and winter cold and dark. Lifeless.

It’s hard to wait for newness, for normalcy. And in the waiting, we sometimes forget to forge on with faith. We look at charred, empty land and cast our eyes downward. And they stay down for so long that we almost miss it. And we must navigate the heartache of it all, our senses attune to the black, the soot, the brokenness.

After months of smoldering darkness, Dad takes me into the woods, kneels, and pushes away soot with calloused, work-worn hands. He’s lived through more—seen more. And I kneel with him, uncertain yet again, but hopeful. 

And there, sprigs of life. Gentle. Tender. Bright green, tiny buds.

I take my smaller hands and search the ground, my eyes wide with wonder. Hiding under all this is something brand new and beautiful.

I push away the soot, revealing the bright green buds, and see beauty and life. But beauty and life couldn’t be seen right away, because we had to wait for spring. 

We stand back up, and my Daddy speaks words that I speak now into present, metaphorical darkness. “This will all be green again. Slowly. But you’ll see it. Gradual, ‘til one day any remnant of what happened here will be hard to find.”

Hiding under all that’s charred

So, I keep searching, hopeful. Still waiting, because spring is not yet here. It’s not quite time. But the days are growing warmer, and I know I’ll see those sprigs of life. My Father promises a new thing. And though this land will never look the same, I will take the newness in with wide-eyed, child-wonder. Because hiding under all that’s charred is something brand new and beautiful.

hiding under charred

Shelby L. Hughes is wife to Youtuber, @TheAmp4Life, mom of three beautiful daughters, and author of Every Little Life: process your grief at your pace and in one place set to release in November of this year. Every Little Life is an interactive book for women who’ve experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility. She also has a 7-day devotional called Conquering Change and is the host of Making The Time podcast. Shelby encourages women, wives and moms to focus on what’s right in front of them over at shelbylhughes.com. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook @shelbyhughesauthor.

This article is one from the Change issue of iola. Read more and buy your copy here.

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Through the changes that crescendo – Kristin Vanderlip

Changes that crescendo

We long for the lasting, the known, the constant.
So we paint life as we please, 
With familiarity and predictability surrounding us
To give us an effortless ease.
We find flow and freedom
In the routines and rhythms we arrange and expect.

But change crashes in and crescendos
Into a reverberating noise that ricochets within us.
It rips us from the idols we’ve made, pulling us out to sea,
Where we find ourselves chained to our comforts.
We are stretched, exhausted, and disoriented…
Until we realize the chains shackling us are our choices. 

We have manufactured our own safety. 
We have settled for a facade of freedom.
We let go and set sail through new, uncharted territory.
Our reluctant trust is tested on the waters.
We discover a peace that perseveres through the changes,
As we anchor in on the One who doesn’t.

We don’t drown or dismiss our fears and longings,
But we find them leading us to the Lord—
To the One who is lasting, known, and constant—
The One who is everything we long for.
Tethered, bound, abiding,
We rise in courage, filled with peace, destined for hope,

Through the changes that crescendo. 

Kristin Vanderlip

Kristin has written for the Change, Rest, Even in the Deep & Bloom issues of iola
Changes that crescendo author Kristin Vanderlip

Kristin Vanderlip is an army wife, bereaved mom to her little girl in heaven, and mom to her two rainbow boys. A decade ago you could find Kristin teaching English in a middle school classroom, and now she is a freelance editor and writer. Kristin writes to help women seek the Lord and hold on to hope, especially when life is hard. She is the author of Life Worth Living: A Daily Growth Journal and Living Life Well: A Daily Growth Journal for Kids. You can find Kristin at www.kristinvanderlip.com.
https://kristinvanderlip.com/journal/

This poem is from iola the Change issue. Click here to get your copy, and read more from women like you writing about changes in life.

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Rest in the middle of stress – Charlotte Osborn

The word stress is much used in our 21st century vocabulary. It was first used by Dr. Walter B. Cannon who studied and taught in the Department of Physiology at Harvard University, USA. In 1915 he became interested in the physical reactions of his laboratory animals when they felt they were in danger.  While studying digestion in his animals, Dr. Cannon noticed that physical changes in the function of the stomach would occur when the animal was frightened or scared. The ‘fight-or-flight’ response, also called the ‘acute stress response’, is an automatic reaction to a potentially dangerous situation. Our brains react quickly to keep us safe by preparing the body for action. The result of these natural reactions produce symptoms, which can negatively affect our bodies and minds.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes one of the definitions of stress as;  ‘A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.’ Whilst the word: ‘stress’, is relatively recent, the realities of its meaning have been part of everyday life since almost the beginning of time. There are many factors  that contribute to the stress of human life; 

  • Painful and difficult physical and mental health conditions, 
  • Loss and pain caused through
  • Traumatic events which shake our world,
  • And at the time of writing: an unexpected global pandemic – Covid-19.

A UK-wide survey in 2018, found that almost three quarters of adults (74%) have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.* Whilst doctors might not have had as much physiological and psychological understanding before 1915, they used different words to describe it. ‘Stress’ isn’t a word that appears in the bible, but we read plenty about its companion – ‘troubles’. 

Jesus said to His followers in John’s gospel, 
“In this world you will have troubles. 
But take heart! 
I have overcome the world.

God’s answer to overcoming human troubles and stress was to send His son Jesus as the Saviour of the world. God promises His Rest that affects our heart, mind and body in our daily lives. Knowing and experiencing God’s REST is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Over recent months we have faced some serious stress and trouble through the Coronavirus. I have found myself crying out to God for His help in the challenges we face both personally and globally. Although we may have found that our daily lives have changed pace during this time, I have realised that physical rest doesn’t always equal rest in my heart or mind. 

The REST that the psalmist writes about in Psalm 62 is different from our human understanding of the word. 
I find rest in God; only he can save me.

The key to finding genuine, and lasting REST, has nothing to do with relaxing on holidays (although they are excellent and important!) True REST is found in God, regardless of what our circumstances may look like at any given moment. 
It is interesting to note that in both the words stress and troubles, we can find letters which spell out the word REST. They are hidden in the middle of S-TRES-S and surrounding our TR-OUBL-ES.

I’ve had to do some ‘de constructing’ of the stress and troubles and let God re-order ’His truth in my heart, mind and body. Like working out an anagram, I needed to see the letters from a different perspective. I had to lose two big ‘S’s’ from my stress mindset! He’s turning my S-tres-S into His Rest

The ‘S’s’ I had to lose from STRESS were my Self and my Striving. I had to surrender my Selfto God again, release my Striving and trust that even in the difficulties and challenges, He was working out His plans and purposes for me. 
This is a daily choice to surrender my ‘Self and Striving’ and receive God’s gift of REST in His grace and love.

The last spoken words that Jesus said to His disciples were that:
He will be with us always, until the very end of the age. Matthew 28;18

Whatever stress or trouble we are facing, He is there with us and His promise of REST can be found. 

*https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/stressed-nation-74-uk-overwhelmed-or-unable-cope-some-point-past-year

Charlotte Osborn is an evangelist at heart and she’s passionate about sharing the good news of God’s love & hope with the world. She is a speaker & event facilitator who seeks to encourage others to find creative ways to share their own stories.
As a qualified nurse, she runs her own home care business, supporting people through the many changing seasons of their lives. She has 3 fantastic grown up children who she counts as friends and she lives in the beautiful Cotswolds UK with her equally fantastic husband! www.livemovebe.org.uk

This is just one of the articles from the rest issue. Get your copy here.