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The joy of expectation – Shay S Mason

For many children, the Christmas season is filled with excitement and a sense of joy filled anticipation. It was no different for me. I loved everything about Christmas. My family was a church on Christmas and Easter kind of family, and I didn’t really know Jesus until I was 19, but I loved the beauty of the Christmas Eve service. It was special to be allowed to stay up late and wear a new dress. I remember stepping outside on a clear, cold Christmas Eve in Illinois and thinking the stars seemed especially bright. A thin layer of ice blanketed the driveway, and I was careful not to let my new patent leather shoes slip, even as my eyes were drawn toward the night sky. In that moment, my heart wanted to believe there was something magical about Christmas.

hands holding a wrapped gift with red ribbon, star confetti on white background.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Joy of surprise!

Each Christmas morning, I padded into the living room, taking in the glow of our colorful Christmas lights while inhaling the scent of fresh pine. Even the memory feels magical. What would be under the tree? There would surely be the gifts I had hinted to my parents I would like. But there would also be surprises I never anticipated. I especially relished the small wonders tucked inside my stocking. Perhaps some fancifully-shaped marzipan or mind-bending puzzle. What joy to be surprised!

The December I turned eleven I couldn’t contain my excitement in the days leading up to Christmas. I decided I had to know what joys awaited. I stealthily searched every conceivable hiding place in our home. I found books and clothing, crafts and trinkets, games and gadgets. It was all delightful, and my anticipation grew. What other surprises would I discover on Christmas morning?

That year, I entered the living room with my usual anticipation. As an only child, the moment was all mine. In the early morning silence, I was free to unwrap everything under the tree. One by one, I unwrapped the gifts I had already seen hidden throughout the house. Surely there must be more? But there were no surprises to be found, not even in my stocking. As the reality hit me, I was overcome by a profound mixture of disappointment and shame. I knew the only person responsible for ruining my Christmas morning was me. My own impatience had stolen my joy.

Joy and time

Like many of life’s disappointments, this was a lesson. Never again would I attempt to experience the wonder of Christmas morning before its proper time. I would learn to savor the wonder of expectation instead. And this lesson can be applied to every season of our lives. Like Mary, anticipating the birth of Jesus, our part is to trust that God will fulfill all things in their proper time. I wish I could so easily say, “Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

But how often do we find ourselves trying to unwrap life’s surprises before the proper time? We want to know what good things are headed our way. And sometimes our prayers reflect this restlessness. We ask God to reveal things we aren’t yet ready to receive. We become impatient with God. Why? Perhaps we don’t truly trust in his goodness. We aren’t sure that what he has for us is what we really want. We want some assurance that life is headed in the direction we desire. 

There’s no doubt life can be difficult to navigate at times. No one goes through life free from pain and struggle. People mistreat us. Tragedies happen. Our own human failings cause disappointment. In the midst of challenges, it is natural to want assurance that something better is around the corner. But the danger in rushing ahead is discovering we are no longer in tandem with God.

We have a Father who delights to “give good gifts” to his children (Matthew 7:11), but we often don’t want to wait for his good gifts and attempt to take matters into our own hands. Just think of Sarah trying to fulfill God’s promise of an heir by sending her servant Hagar to have a child with Abraham. God still blessed Sarah and Abraham with their own child, but Sarah’s impatience had terrible consequences—especially for Hagar. (Genesis 16)

The world often whispers to us, Why wait? Get what you want now. Make your dream a reality. But how sweet it is to savor what God has for us in the moment, while still anticipating the good he has for us in the future. There is joy in the waiting, joy that we miss when we take matters into our own hands and ignore God’s perfect timing. 

The joy of expectation

In the last four years, my husband and I have heard at least five completely unrelated people say to us “God has something special right around the corner.” The first time you hear it, you think “That’s nice.” The second time becomes, “That’s interesting.” By the third time you hear the same words, you begin to think, “God, what are you up to?” The last time someone said those words to us as she prayed, I actually bust out laughing. Not a cynical laugh, but a laugh filled with the joy of knowing her words were true.

This is the place where I continue to wait. I’m not going to try to charge around the metaphorical corner to see what’s there. I have learned to trust more and more in his perfect timing. The joy of Christmas morning can’t be rushed. In the meantime, I am savoring the wonder of expectation. That in itself is a gift.

Shay Mason profile photo

Shay Mason is a Chicago-area native living in North Carolina. An auto-immune disease and OCD/anxiety overcomer, she is a firm believer in God’s healing love. Her particular passion is helping people go deeper into God’s heart. In addition to writing, Shay loves travel, music, coffee, quirky indie films, and hiking. Shay and her husband Bruce are the founders of Love Inside Out, Inc. in Raleigh and have spent extensive time ministering in Madagascar. They have two college-aged kids and a spoiled Goldendoodle. Shay is a contributor at She Found Joy and a member of Hope*Writers. Her blog The Spacious Place can be found at

Rest for the Weary is an invitation to give up the battle and surrender to the perfect love that casts out fear. Available on Amazon.

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Meditation – a moment of contemplation – Harriet Calfo

You may want to start by first sitting under the loving gaze of God, eyes closed and allowing His love to flow over you.

Take a moment to sit and look at the picture of the door overleaf.

What do you notice? What do you see?

Allow yourself to enter into the picture using all your senses and see what emerges for you.

Do you see an old door needing a coat of paint or do you see something beautiful, full of character with a story to tell?

How has change affected the door?

How has change affected you?

What does God want to show you through this picture?

Don’t rush.

Allow His presence to wash over you.

Spend some time talking with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Harriet Calfo

Harriet Calfo is an artist at heart and loves capturing God’s creativity through photography, art, textiles and poetry. She loves anything turquoise, especially the sea.
She is a Spiritual Director and runs art retreats where she loves to see people discover and flourish in their God-given gift of creativity that she believes everyone has. Her mantra is, ‘it’s not about the product, it’s about the process.’ She is on a life journey of learning to be her trueself through God’s tender care.
Her other passion is to see modern day slavery eradicated and loves being an ambassador for the amazing charity Unseen. She is blessed to live in the beautiful and inspiring Cotswolds with her family and dog.
IG: @harrietcalfodesigns

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Changed by his loving hand – Shay S. Mason

Standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, I tried to imagine the forces of nature that carved this gaping marvel. I could barely make out the emerald green of the Colorado River snaking through the bottom of the canyon 6,000 feet below. How had that tiny green thread created this 277-mile-long wonder? It was hard to grasp the magnitude of it all.

Gradual change

The Grand Canyon wasn’t formed overnight. The process took many thousands of years. Rising and falling waters eroding layers of rock year after year. Some of the changes were relatively abrupt as large segments of softer rock gave way to raging flood waters; but changes to harder rock were more gradual, barely perceivable from season to season.

The process reminds me of the way we experience change in our own lives. In some seasons, change happens so rapidly we beg for things to slow down. Abrupt change can be jarring, making us feel as though we’ve lost our footing. Help me, Lord. I can’t hold on any longer.

Other times, the change is so slow we wonder if anything is happening at all. Lord, I’ve been asking you for years. When will something happen? But just as it takes ages for a river to carve a canyon, we don’t always perceive the beginnings of change in our lives or the lives of our loved ones. This slower process can fuel doubt and frustration.

But both types of change are necessary. God knows the condition of our hearts. He knows where we have grown hard, just as He knows the areas in our lives where we are soft and malleable. His Holy Spirit is the river that carves through our very hearts creating a unique masterpiece.

Upending moment

I look back over the years and recognize the times when He gently smoothed away the rough surfaces with a cool, steady stream and also the times when the flood waters roared, upending everything in their path. Do you know the feeling?

Becoming a mother was one of those upending moments for me. I had decided to leave my job on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to be a stay-at-home mom. I liked my job, and I loved the people in my office; but I’d had a difficult time imagining how I would balance the demands of a political career with being a mom. I know many women who do it well, but I didn’t think that lifestyle would suit our family. Financially, we could make it work; so, after prayerful consideration, my husband and I agreed it was the best choice for us. 

I read all the popular parenting books and sought advice from near and far, but nothing could have prepared me for those first months of motherhood. In many ways, my experience was not unlike multitudes of other women — a difficult delivery, my newborn needing to spend a few extra days in the hospital, postpartum depression, sleepless nights, showerless days, exploding diapers…

But the real problem was something else. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

I had based so much of my identity on my career that when it was gone, I believed I had nothing left. In a city where it often seems that who you work for is everything, I sometimes even felt ignored at church. I had become used to the attention I was given for my high-level connections. Now, upon sharing that I had become a stay-at-home mom — crickets. Nobody cared. Or at least that’s how it felt. I believed I had suddenly become the most boring human alive.

On reflection, I can see how God used the overwhelming change that came with motherhood to upend unhealthy beliefs and wear down a false identity. Day by day He was showing me I was more than a title or fancy office. But I can’t sugar-coat this process. It was painful. There were countless days when I could only cry out to God as the ground below me shifted and the walls of the canyon gave way around me. Those days of struggle took me deeper, sometimes kicking and screaming, but the Lord was patient with me. It took time for me to realize I was just as valuable to God at home changing diapers as I was in a press conference under the dome of the U.S. Capitol. I began to see a fruitful future, it just looked different than I imagined.

Qualities revealed

The canyon reminds me of distinctive qualities that have been revealed in my life as the flood waters rose and the winds roared. God used this time to carve out a solid foundation, one where my identity would be firm in Him. He cleared out the rubble from a crumbling identity that wasn’t grounded in Him. He smoothed my rough edges and brought new qualities to the surface. I now see glorious colors and rich textures that have been unearthed through relentless pressure and uncomfortable friction. And I know God’s loving hand was in it all. 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV)

Shay Mason profile photo

Shay Mason is a Chicago-area native living in North Carolina. An autoimmune disease and OCD/anxiety overcomer, she is a firm believer in God’s healing love. Her particular passion is helping people go deeper into God’s heart. In addition to writing, Shay loves travel, music, coffee, quirky indie films, and hiking. Shay and her husband Bruce are the founders of Love Inside Out, Inc. in Raleigh and have spent extensive time ministering in Madagascar. They have two college-aged kids and a spoiled Goldendoodle. Shay is a contributor at She Found Joy and a member of Hope*Writers. Her blog The Spacious Place can be found at

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Our constancy in change – Nicole Byrum

A year ago my kids were 8 and 10. My son’s first love was baseball and my daughter was a few inches shorter. A year ago I had not yet published any of my writings, and social distancing was not in my vocabulary. A year ago I still had my granda Haller. A year ago I had no idea I would leave my 11 year place of employment.  

A lot happens in the span of a year. If I multiply this truth by the number of years I have been living, I come up with a mountain of adjustments, trials, and growth experienced. Indeed, my life and this world have changed greatly over the last 38 years.  

The last few months have brought a good amount of change in and of themselves. Unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to join a faith- based private practice. I have been a therapist for 14 years, but only in the realm of community mental health. This employment change has brought about a mix of excitement along with every other emotion imaginable!  

It was probably my way of coping with this chosen change, but suddenly it seemed as though I needed “new” in other aspects of my life. I bought a new bag, new make-up, new shoes, and some other new clothes. (Let’s just say my husband is thankful I’m a bargain shopper.) Although I frequently color my hair, I had my stylist throw in some fun, bright red highlights. I started painting my nails. I even abandoned my regular grocery in favor of a different store.  

I can see how it looks- a little like a mid-life crisis! Perhaps. It also makes me wonder what changes will occur over the next twelve months.      

A year from now I’ll have been actively speaking about my faith during counseling sessions. A year from now I’ll have had one year of experience parenting a middle schooler. A year from now my perspectives and opinions may be different than they are right now. I pray that a year from now I will have more wisdom as well as more knowledge and love for my Savior. The truth is, only God knows what changes are in store for the year ahead. Nonetheless, it’s impossible for me to think about change without thinking about the unchanging nature of God. It’s such a comfort to my soul to know that no matter what changes I endure in this life, God is consistently who He is. No exceptions. He doesn’t need to shift and grow because He is within His eternal nature perfectly holy, perfectly just, and perfectly love. He is ‘I AM.’   

I love that God first revealed His name to a shepherd guilty of murder-to a man who had re-built his life by herding sheep in the desert. If anyone had experienced change in his life, it was Moses.  As a baby he was removed from his familiar surroundings for the sake of surviving Pharaoh’s cruel death edict. He grew up in Pharaoh’s palace after becoming the adopted son of the princess. However, his heritage as a Hebrew man was never far from his mind.  Upon witnessing an Egyptian guard mistreating a Hebrew slave, Moses’ anger led him to kill the man. When Moses discovered his murder had been witnessed, he ran. Palace life to shepherd life.  

In the hot, dry desert God met Moses and through a shrub of all things! An ordinary desert bush used by the God of the universe to grab the attention and heart

of the man who would set His enslaved people free. The blazing yet unconsumed bush beckoned Moses to investigate. Then he was instructed to remove his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground.  Who but God could have written this scene? When God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and command him to let His people go, Moses asked, “Who should I say sent me?”  God replied, “I Am  Who I AM.  Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you,” (Exodus 3:14).  

What a comfort it is to know that the God we love and the God who loves us is immutable! He is perfectly consistent within Himself and is incapable of changing. Who He is today is the same from all of eternity. This also applies to God the Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ; “he is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3). The author of Hebrews says again in chapter 13 verse 8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  

This truth is a constant source of comfort in our ever-changing lives. The externals come and go: hairstyles, clothes, shoes, and bags. Jobs and relationships may change. Opinions and perspectives can shift. But the triune God and His Word are forever the same. Praise God that in the midst of change we can rest in His unchanging goodness, faithfulness, and love.  

Nicole Byrum

Nicole is a licensed marriage and family therapist with 14 years of experience in community mental health. She is the author of Remade: Living Free, a book written for women in recovery from substance abuse and unhealthy relationships. Nicole also maintains a blog at as well as a podcast,
5 Minute Word. Both focus on topics related to faith, relationships, and recovery. She lives in Northwest Ohio with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, running, or cooking. You can also find her at 

Remade Living Free. Nicole Byrum

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Continue to the route – Krista Hewlett

Life sometimes comes in huge crashing waves: circumstances and burdens that ebb and flow, pounding at our hearts, eroding our strength, our joy, and even our confidence in the Lord.

I am reminded of a weekend some time ago. It was common to have a full schedule for both the Saturday and the Sunday. That particular weekend, though, seemed to have detour after detour written in all the margins and between every line.

continue to the route

Stay the course 

On Saturday, I awoke completely overwhelmed. I felt the full weight of burdens I had been carrying for some time; family illnesses, a friend’s unanswered prayer, chronic pain, ministry weight, the regular demands of life. The whole morning, I moved ever so slowly and delayed leaving for an all-day conference. It was an event I had been excited to attend for months. 

I missed the first two sessions.

Instead?! I ironed a new blouse to discover it had a stain, repeated the same scenario with another blouse, and even mended a jacket; all of which I didn’t wear, by the way. Then, when I finally left the house, I set my GPS and continued on my way, still uncertain if I would attend. On route, my spirit felt especially heavy. So much so that I pulled into a parking lot and began to weep. I did this a few times that morning. I even began to avoid the conference by running errands. “I’ll just jot into the corner store for a sec to grab a pack of breath mints.” 

Every part of me was yelling, “No, I don’t want to go like this”. I was a crying, weepy mess. Thankfully, in my spirit, I recognized I needed to be there; I needed a recalibration. My inner GPS was screaming out, “recalculating”, “recalculating”, “continue to the route”. – Okay, I now realize that the GPS was literally saying these words. With all the stops and detours it is a wonder it didn’t yell, “Just get to where you’re going already!”

I’m grateful that I eventually continued on to my destination. I was able to spend time with friends that I rarely see. It was relaxing and fun, and I received much needed, valuable advice. 

Our spirit will always know what is good for us. Sometimes, I need to self-check, “Is my spirit in line with His Holy Spirit right now?” 

He is the compass   

What is the point of having a compass if we don’t use it to guide our comings and our goings? Why keep my GPS running when I was going everywhere but where it was directing me to go?

We pray, “Thy will be done”. We sing, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here”. We recite Luke 11:10, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” It continues in verse 13, that He gives the Holy Spirit to us who ask. Yet, when He does, are we willing to accept what is revealed? Maybe, instead, we continue to carry silent burdens. Do we keep pausing and detouring from our purpose? 

Is it that we ask, seek, and pound on the door of heaven, while in fear of the answer, of what we will see, or what opportunity He is inviting us into?

We can be sure of one thing; whatever His will, whatever His way, it is good.

It’s okay to start over 

The next day, Sunday, I had a coffee meeting scheduled with a ministry partner who is also a close friend. Somehow, we got to talking about an old dream that I had, a personal and meaningful project I had yet to begin. She asked, “What are you afraid of?” 

Many would say I am a perfectionist; I put the weight of a job well done into how perfectly matched the end product appears in my mind. Being a perfectionist can also mean that you need to know all the steps, and have this and this and this, in order to proceed. Yes, being analytical has many benefits. However, much time is often spent over-thinking and overdoing — sometimes meaning delay or even failure to begin. This can leave others with the short end of the stick. It can also mean missed opportunities. So, I answered her question — “I fear failure.”

She replied, “If it doesn’t work out, just start over.” This may sound silly, but it was almost like those three simple words, in that order, were a new revelation to me:

Just. Start. Over.  

You see, failure, for me, meant shame and the constant rehearsing, “If only I had done this”. “I should have done that”. Her tone clearly said — “There is no shame in starting over”. Confiding in my friend allowed me to see from her perspective. It encouraged me that I could embrace the imperfections and allow God the room to do the work.

Delayed dream? Failed business? Broken relationship? Feeling ‘stuck’? Avoiding change? Remember my screaming GPS from earlier, “Proceed to the route!” “Recalibrate!” “Get going to where you’re going!”

If you are able to stay the course, know that there is no shame in starting over — allow the experience gained to propel you. Just start over and watch God do the work. Rely on His help. He promises that if we fall, He will guide us with His light and we will rise again. 

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me… Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” Micah 7:7-8 (NIV)

Press on

While my friend continued to encourage me, she added these two words — “Press on”. Press on indicates something has already begun. I began thinking, “What are you waiting for? You should have already begun this project … like yesterday”.

We often hear the scripture recited from Philippians 3, “Press on toward the mark…” When I got home that night, I studied it deeper. 

Philippians 3:12-21 outlines five points that help propel us through whatever changes we face in life, this side of eternity. I pray these words encourage you and offer a means of focus for your tired mind and weary soul:

  • • Look forward and take joy in the progress. 
  • • Follow an example and live as an example. 
  • • Lift your chin; You are a citizen of heaven. 
  • • Work now, as you eagerly await His return. 
  • • He will bring everything under His control. 

I press on … I have not achieved perfection but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us… we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction… they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”  Philippians 3:12-21 NLT

 Stay the course, start over if you must, and press on! For the King and His Kingdom!

Krista Hewlett is a writer, speaker, and former Regional Women’s Ministries Director in the Greater North Houston Area. She moves and empowers women through transparent stories and valuable insights. Through the word, Krista unmasks the darkness by revealing the light and truth of what God is saying to the women of this time. Her desire is that their gifts and voices would be amplified for His purpose, for kingdom impact – as daughters of the king. Krista holds an Honors Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and with 15 years of ministering to women across various platforms, you will often hear her say that ministry thrives through nurturing one-on-one relationships. She loves to hear your story and says mentoring young women is one of her greatest joys. Krista and her husband are Canadian-Americans who enjoy the country life in Texas, and spending time with their Son and Daughter-in-law, and newborn Grandson. She enjoys sailing, frequent trips to the UK, and visiting family in Canada. For more thoughts and encouragement, visit: IG: @kristahewlett FB: @krista.hewlett.1

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Strangeness & Changing – Meghan DeWalt

There’s a group of five women who’ve been meeting since June every Wednesday morning. It’s somewhat of a strange little group, five women writers gathering to celebrate, confess where we’re stuck, set goals for the next week, hold each other in accountability—and pray.

This current strangeness. COVID-19 reality. My friends’ daughters’ school and social lives in limbo, always changing. Our writing words, changing. Even this context of our little hope-full circle is a result of changes we all desired to make. To take our callings to minister with words seriously. Investing finances and time to it—obeying our God.

I jotted the words down, this current strangeness, this one morning. Isn’t growth a process of change? Doesn’t change bring about growth? Whether it’s a chosen change—like a new commitment to work with words, that new workout plan, choosing to put down the phone and pick up a book. Or there are changes more often than not we don’t choose. Like living in a pandemic-riddled world. Or when a new diagnosis crops up. Or your location has to change due to a job. Or how church has changed.

If we’re not changing, we’re not growing. But oh the grace and worship there is to be found amidst the “labor pains” of change and growth. Because God our Father never changes. And this is a fact we can stake our lives on, praising Him through all the changes. 

Except these words aren’t so melodically easy to put into practice when the rubber hits the road. But, it is a surefire soul-soothing way for us to practice remembrance of God.

It could look something like this.

Choosing to praise God in the strangeness by borrowing prayers from the Psalms, and letting the words take you to the throne room with brutal honesty and emotion. It may look like doing the next right thing after a pause, and deep breath—whether that be changing a diaper, helping with homework for the millionth time, or pouring a cup of coffee slow, and taking the time to taste it.

Praising God in the strangeness, in your unique pain of these ever-changing times, could simply be taking more time to to kiss your child’s head, sling an arm around the waist of your spouse, calling your mom and really listening and asking questions beyond small-talk. This praising God in the strangeness is a defiant, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, exercise of faith.

To praise Him in the strangeness is to praise Him in everything. The tension. The waiting. The breath-held, lip-bit decision-making for the near and far future.

Praising Him in the strangeness can look like asking God honest questions. Crying real tears. Saying I don’t know for the thousandth time to your kids or spouse or parent when they ask, “What are we going to do about ______?” Admitting decision fatigue, perhaps decision defeat, because how can any of us know what is the wisest, safest thing to do in the time of COVID?

One of the wisest, and best uses of our time, soul-space, and voices, is to praise God. By using melodies, verses, and choruses to shift our hearts to remember who God is. Unchanging. Our rock-solid foundation. Remembering how all-seeing and all-good and loving He is, even when our circumstances tease us with so many doubts One of the wisest, and best uses of our time, soul-space, and voices, is to praise God. By using melodies, verses, and choruses to shift our hearts to remember who God is. Unchanging. Our rock-solid foundation. Remembering how all-seeing and all-good and loving He is, even when our circumstances tease us with so many doubts as all the questions are raised. Praising God in the strangeness is a powerful weapon, a lifting lullaby to our anxious souls—and a tender offering of our whole hearts to the God who has named every star and knows every hair on our head.

Meghan DeWalt

Meghan DeWalt is an author of stories about remembrance and redemption. A full-time writer, she is passionate about theology and discipleship, encouraging othersto know and love God wholeheartedly in order to live according to their Gospel calling. Meghan lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, Jeff, where they cook, practise hospitality, and adventure together.

You can keep up with Meghan on Instagram, Facebook, and her website:

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The Birthday Locket – Laura Thomas

“Happy Birthday to me.” Amy whispered the words in the direction of her sorrowful reflection in the bedroom mirror. Where was energetic, vivacious, animated Amy—and when had those crow’s feet found purchase around her eyes? 

Another year older. But it wasn’t merely her age. Dressed from head to toe in black, Amy’s heart was heavy with grief. She reached up and touched the gold locket around her neck. Warm, smooth, full of memories. Had she ever seen Grandma without it? “No one should have to bury their grandma on their birthday.” Amy turned at the sound of her mother’s voice. “I know. It couldn’t be helped. Besides, turning forty-five isn’t much to celebrate.” She raised an eyebrow. “My daughter is always worth celebrating.” Amy’s mom managed a smile. “Anyway, the last of the lingering funeral guests have finally gone if you want to come downstairs.

I will. I’m just getting used to Grandma not being here.”

I know. Change is never easy. And you were her favorite granddaughter.”

Her only granddaughter.” Amy’s eyes pooled. “I miss her.

Come and sit with me?” Amy followed her mom across Grandma’s excessively floral bedroom and they perched on the end of the queen-sized bed. How many times had she sat here with Grandma through the decades and attempted to solve all the problems involving boys, studies, faith, marriage, parenting, and her new empty nest life? She swallowed a sob.

Amy, I’ve vacillated whether or not to give this to you today but your grandmother made me promise.” Her mom reached into the top drawer of the ancient dresser in front of them and pulled out a letter tied with a scarlet ribbon. “Grandma wanted you to have it.

Amy took the envelope and recognized the immaculate script right away. “For me? Do you know what it’s about?

Her mom wrapped her in a side hug. “You’ve had a rough year. Both your kids are away in college now, you’re finding a new rhythm to your life, things with Ben aren’t the greatest, and I know you haven’t been to church in forever.”

Amy shoulders sank. “Mom—

I’m sorry. I’m not judging you, honey. I’m worried about you. You might be in your mid-forties but you’re still my girl. You have a lot going on and Grandma had a way of making us all see sense and she thought this letter might help. That’s all.”

Amy nodded. “Have you read it?

No.” Her mom squeezed her hand and stood. “This is a birthday gift for you.

I thought the gold locket was her final gift to me?” She fingered the treasure as it rested on her breastbone.

She was very mysterious but I think you’ll find it’s all connected. You might want to get some fresh air and read the letter in her favorite place, too.”

I think I will. Thanks.” Amy gripped the precious letter to her chest as her mother retreated downstairs. 

She stood and headed out through the bedroom French doors to Grandma’s balcony, blinking as her eyes adjusted to the late afternoon sunshine. Grandma’s house was a beautiful plantation style home but its elaborate interior was dark—probably why she spent so much time on the balcony overlooking a park full of trees. 

Amy rearranged a plethora of pink cushions and settled into the wicker sofa. She smoothed her pencil skirt, kicked off her heels, and made herself comfortable. Before embarking upon a session with Grandma’s words of wisdom, she took a deep breath and allowed her eyes to roam the springtime vista of lemony yellow magnolias mingled with pale pink flowering dogwoods. So much new life everywhere. Ironic as we just buried Grandma…

Focus. The letter. She tugged at one end of the satin red ribbon and let it fall to her lap. She turned the envelope over, slit it open, and unfolded the paper. Papers—there were three sheets. Words especially for her.

My darling Amy,

How I wish I could be face-to-face with you to wish you a Happy Birthday but my time is drawing near and I have a feeling this letter may find you in a less than jubilant frame of mind. Please don’t feel sad for me—God granted me almost ninety years of life and it’s finally my time to be in glory and I’ve been looking forward to meeting my Lord and to reuniting with my Henry, your grandpa, for some years now. However, I am concerned about you, child…

Amy blinked back the blur of tears and allowed a chuckle to escape her lips. “Child.” She had once complained to Grandma for calling her “child” when she was a teenager—and had suffered the lecture on them all being children of God and how precious that identity was. And now I have children of my own—who have flown the nest and don’t really need me so much anymore… Amy sighed as she found her place on the page:

Amy dear, you might be a woman with grown children of your own, but you will always be a child of God. Your role might be changing—as it always does in this life—but one thing never changes: God’s love for His children. I know how much you miss having your babies under your roof but they have to make their own way and now you need to find yours.

We haven’t talked too much lately about your dear husband, but I fear that perhaps things are not as they might be between you and Ben. Am I right?

Amy’s face heated. How on earth did Grandma know? She didn’t miss a trick—she was sharp as a tack to her very last day. But Amy had been so careful to make excuses when Ben wasn’t around for recent family dinners and had almost managed to fool herself into thinking things were relatively okay. Not great. But not horrendous. It was weird and new, this navigating the nest without any chicks to buffer the awkwardness. Her faith was stale, her marriage in a rut, and she had no clue what to do about any of it. She gulped and read on.

What you have to remember, child, is that you are not alone in this predicament. Every one of us has to learn how to embrace the new when the next season rolls around. Can I let you into a little secret? Your grandpa and I had a horrible time of it when your mother and her siblings all left our nest. We fought and ignored one another and held onto our marriage by the skin of our teeth.”

What? Grandma and Grandpa celebrated their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary before he passed. They were the model of love Amy always looked up to. Her heart sank. Was every relationship doomed to dissatisfaction and disaster?

I’m sorry if that’s a shock to you. It was to me, too. There we were, a good Christian couple, both active at church and following the Lord. Yet the love between us faltered and that, in turn, rocked our relationships with God. It was awful. I was miserable. And then one afternoon, Grandpa came home from work with a tear in his eye and a gift in his hand. He never cried and it wasn’t my birthday. But that was the most memorable evening of my life.” 

Fascinated, Amy tucked her hair behind her ears and turned to the next page.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.Lamentations 3:22-23

You see, your grandpa knew we had lost our way very badly—in our marriage and even in our faith. It was a gradual decline but we needed help out of the pit. So he sat me down at the kitchen table, lay the gift in my lap, and told me to open it. 

As I unwrapped the box, this verse was written on a slip of paper. And as I pulled out the most beautiful gold locket I had ever seen, Grandpa explained that the Lord had woken him early that morning with this verse on his mind. He said the words “love, mercy, and faithfulness” echoed in his heart all day at work—he couldn’t shake them. And through that verse, God whispered that Grandpa and I needed to find our first love again. Not only between the two of us—but our love for Him, too. We’d allowed both loves to stagnate, the flames flickering to almost nothing when God intended us to be burning bright in our marriage and our faith. 

Love, mercy, faithfulness—that is what we both craved from one another and from the Lord. And I think maybe you crave it, too.”

A stirring welled in Amy’s heart. She was tired of treading water, merely surviving and going through the motions of living. She faked joy and put on a brave face for everyone and it was exhausting. She ached for connection—with Ben and with God. How long had it been since she’d cracked open her Bible? There was one last page of the letter…

So you’re probably curious about the locket. I know you always liked to try it on when you were a little girl but I never went a day without wearing it since that one evening with Grandpa. You see, Grandpa told me he had our special verse inscribed on the inside of the locket before he set a tiny photograph of the two of us inside—and then had the jeweler weld it shut. He said we were sealed together by God’s love and in His mercy, we would be together all our days. And we were.

Amy, I had that locket opened up a month ago when I knew my time was running short. Take a look inside and know that God will give you the love, mercy, and faithfulness you need to make your life beautiful again in Him. 

Know you are seen, heard, and loved—in every season of life, my darling. 

With much love,


Amy put her hand to her face and found it was drenched with tears. Dear Grandma. Dear Lord…

She set the letter down on the sofa and unclasped the locket. Holding it gingerly between her fingers, she unlatched the delicate clasp and pulled back both sides. 

A gasp escaped her lips. On one side was a tiny photo of her and Ben on their wedding day. How had Grandma orchestrated this surprise? And sure enough, the inscription “Lamentations 3:22-23” was on the opposite side. 

Amy rose to her bare feet and padded to the edge of the balcony. Clutching the railings with one hand, she breathed in the smell of spring. The season of making all things new. Even in the sorrow of death, God had given her hope and promise.

God, it’s not too late for Ben and me. I know it. But I need You—we need You.” 

Yes, God’s mercies were new every single morning and surely, He longed for them to live their best life together. As friends, lovers, parents to their adult children, and as servants of the Almighty. She had the sudden urge to run downstairs and speak with her husband before it was too late.

Amy gazed down at the locket in her hand and closed her fingers around the beautiful reminder. 

Thank you, Grandma.

This bizarre birthday might be a day of grieving and goodbyes—but it would also mark a change in her heart with the start of a fresh, new season… with love, mercy, and faithfulness.

A published Christian author, Laura writes heart-warming 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

The orphan Beach by Laura Thomas book cover


A Christian romantic suspense novel
by Laura Thomas
(Published February, 2020 by Anaiah Press) link

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Transforming your home with colour – Sherri Smith

After studying and working with clients in her interior design studio Sherri discovered some interesting and helpful colour psychology tips. Did you know colour has a direct effect on our physical and emotional responses? Sherri shows us how transforming your home with a little understanding can affect our emotions and responses.

Over to Sherri:

Have you ever walked into a well-kept room and instantly felt relaxed or completely unsettled and unsure as to why you reacted this way? Chances are you have experienced the effects of colour psychology. Once you become aware of how colour affects you, you will be in awe as to just how sensitive our mind and emotions are to colour.  Do you have a favourite colour? Something you love to wear or are naturally drawn to? Often this favourite colour represents a psychological need we have.  

transforming your home

Transforming your home with knowledge

At times I lack confidence and find myself needing to wear a strong colour like red in new or challenging situations. I find red and bright pinks energising and confidence boosting. In more recent years after studying and working with clients in my interior design studio I’ve discovered some interesting and helpful colour psychology tips. Did you know colour has a direct effect on our physical and emotional responses? We can intentionally choose colours for our home depending on the responses we desire from our loved ones, guests and ourselves. 

It takes wisdom to build a house, and understanding to set it on a firm foundation; it takes knowledge to furnish its rooms with fine furniture and beautiful draperies.”
Proverbs 24:3-4 The Message. 

I love this beautiful verse from Proverbs; it’s a great reminder that we can be mindful and intentional when it comes to how we create our homes, including how we choose the colour palettes. Our family can be quite lively at times and one of the most desired emotional responses from my family while we are spending time together in the living room is peace and tranquillity, where everyone feels relaxed.  

Can you guess what colours I’ve chosen to use? In the living room peaceful and nurturing blues; in the form of a denim blue sofa styled with natural linen scatter cushions, soft off-white knit throw and a natural jute floor rug. I’ve extended the blue theme to our re-vamped sideboard cabinet, along with artwork featuring beautiful calming colours in shades of blues and greens and neutral tones.  

transforming your home
Calming blue living room

In addition to our calming blue hues we’ve added several air-cleaning indoor pot plants to the room. Plants not only look great and clean the air, they also help sooth our senses by connecting us to nature, offering us a sense of grounding and belonging. Family and guests visibly relax when they enter our living room, have happy conversations; an outcome due to understanding and using colour psychology. 

Transforming your home with Colour Psychology

Here is a short list of a few popular colours and their effect on our mind and emotions: 

  • Blue – tranquillity, loyalty, security and trust 
  • Green – growth, calming and freshness 
  • Purple – luxury, ambition, spirituality 
  • Pink – health, love, compassion and nurturing 
  • Red – love, energy, strength 
  • Orange – courage, confidence and friendliness 
  • Yellow – happy, energy and creativity 
  • White – purity, goodness, clean and fresh 
  • Black – dramatic, protective and grounding 

Next time you have the opportunity to decorate in your home, take a moment to consider what mood or atmosphere you would like to create in the space. A good rule of thumb is the cool colours (blue, green, turquoise – think of the ocean and grassy fields) evoke calmer emotions and are great for living spaces, bedrooms and bathrooms. Warm colours (red, coral, orange and yellow – think of the sun) evoke lively conversation, energy and activity, perfect for children’s playrooms, dining areas where you enjoy lively entertaining and entryways ready to welcome family and friends with a warm hug. 

A final note

When you have chosen your new colour for decorating, you may like to indulge in using it to create a bold statement with feature walls, large pieces of furniture, rugs and oversized artwork. Or, if you prefer a more subtle approach, start with a neutral palette (think whites, soft greys and natural timbers) and add your new colour with decorating items such as a piece of furniture, window treatments (curtains and blinds) art work, cushions, throws and flowers etc.. 

When the room “feels right from the heart” you know you will have your very own room filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

Sherri Smith lives in Queensland, Australia with her husband and three teenage and adult children living a passionate life; loving God, her family and embracing her mission to help as many people as possible to embrace a sustainable, healthy and beautiful home life. Inspiring people to swap out the nasties in the home for healthier alternatives, to embrace quality over quantity and love the “back to basics, simple slow life”. You can follow Sherri on Instagram – her fav place to hang out on IG @sherrismith.interiors/ or check our her website at

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The kindness of God – Sarah E Frazer

He just made a face at me.
Well, he called me a name!” 

Try to be kind, please.” I asked. “If someone does something you don’t like, respond in kindness.” 

The month of April we talked to the children about being kind. There had been harsh words, fighting, and snide remarks. Instead of learning to be friends, the siblings were turning against each other. No one was happy. Everyone was miserable. The only time they weren’t arguing was while they sat alone in their rooms. 

Photo: Katie Gamble

Being kind is more than just loving someone. It is love in action. How often have I loved in words but not in deeds? And how often have I let my kindness only come out to the ones who “deserve it”? Too many to count. So I look to God and found His kindness inspires me. When I read Psalm 136, the refrain “His mercy endures forever” echoed in my heart. The word for “mercy” is also translated “loving-kindness,” which is the Hebrew word “checed.” It actually means God’s “covenant-keeping love” for us. Covenant means promise. God’s love is directly connected to His promises. The promises of God are the reason we can wait on God, seek His face, and feel Him close, even in suffering. 

Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy – (covenant-keeping love) be upon us, just as we hope in You.
Psalm 33:20-22

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For his mercy (covenant-keeping love) endures forever.
Psalm 136:1

People aren’t kind.

Even the well-intentioned people can be unkind. But God is kind. It is all He can be. Even in suffering, we find the kindness of God. In suffering, pain, heartache, questions, doubts, and even in our deepest darkest pits I’ve seen the kindness of God.

No one ever has never suffered. If you have lived you understand suffering. So when I say we see the kindness of God in our suffering, I don’t mean we feel it. I don’t mean we even believe it totally. I’m saying the kindness of God means we can choose to see His love in the dark. In the mercy on the cross, see the kindness of a Father who continues to bear our burdens with us. I’m sure Jesus didn’t feel the kindness of God while hanging in agony with the sun darkened in the sky.  Yet here we are. Saved because of this amazing kindness of God. 

Suffering can show us the kindness of God.

When I say this, I don’t mean this circumstance feels good. I’m saying the kindness of God means we see His love in the lonely nights with tear-stained pillows. I’m saying the kindness of God means I feel His comfort as I read His words on the days I don’t want to read my Bible. The kindness of God shows up in the peace that passes understanding when all we want to do is hide. 

The kindness of God is found in the small and the big ways; the small moments when I’m with Him in the mornings, quiet with my coffee, the little moments laughing with my children over something silly, the ordinary date nights with my husband, just holding his hand. More and more kindness is given to me and I miss it. I miss seeing the beauty because I’m wrapped up in myself and focused on my own feelings of being lonely. 

One of the biggest ways to remember God’s kindness is to keep a list. A kindness list is similar to a gratitude list. How can you see God’s kindness, even today? 

There is so much unseen, unknown, and frustrating about life. Right now we are trying to sell a house from miles away and there is a ton of stuff to do. There are people we are going to have to rely on because we are physically not there. But there are people who are there. And that is the kindness of God. We have to do school at home, but we have children who laugh at silly things and that is the kindness of God. It is hot, but we have fans and that is the kindness of God. Our laundry dryer doesn’t work very well, but I have a clothes line and that is the kindness of God. I’m so unfaithful with my Bible reading, but God is always faithful and that is His kindness. I am shamed by my lack of faith, but God says there is no shame; lean into the faith He brings. And that is the kindness of God. 

We might feel forgotten, we are not, that is the kindness of God. We might feel unseen, we are not, that, too, is the kindness of God. We see God’s kindness in our suffering when we remember His truth and promises. Here are just a few:

  • God’s love endures forever. (Psalm 136; Isaiah 54:10)
  • Mercy is available to everyone who repents. (I John 1:9; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 86:5)
  • God never leaves. (Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:9, Hebrews 13:5)
  • God provides strength for the weary. (Isaiah 40:31; 41:10)
  • God is our rescue and protection. (Psalm 9:9-10; Psalm 107:13-16)
  • God’s salvation is for the entire world. (John 3:16, 3:36)
  • God will meet our needs. (Philippians 4:19)
  • God is always comforting us. (Psalm 23:4, Psalm 27:1)
  • God hears our prayers. (Psalm 34:17; Psalm 50:15)
  • All things will work out for our good. (Romans 8:28; Psalm 31:19)

What if we woke up today and suffering remains? We can carve a path through the desert and find water when we see God’s kindness in suffering. 

Sarah E. Frazer is a writer and Bible study mentor at Sarah is the wife of Jason and mother of five. She and her family serve as full-time missionaries in Honduras. Her passion is to encourage women to start today with a Bible reading and prayer habit. Sarah is the author of several self-published Bible study resources for women. She shares tools and encouragement for Bible and prayer study at Follow her on Instagram @sarah_e_frazer and download her 12-Day Bible Reading plan here. 

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Abrasive grit to fine polish – Brooke Giles

Rough around the edges

I have always loved rocks. Smooth, beautiful, colorful stones or big broken open geodes with crystals formed inside. As a kid, I would dig through the bins at the souvenir shop for as long as my parents would allow. I would fill my little cinch bag as full as I could with as many colors as I could find. The sense of rubbing my fingertips over the polished surface was soothing, unlike the natural texture of life.

I loved them so much, I asked for a rock tumbler to make my very own. I thought you could go from rugged to gemstone in no time at all. I was wrong. In a child’s mind, it took forever. As an adult, it takes 4-8 weeks, changing the abrasive grit to fine polish eventually. It felt like an eternity to allow the proper change to happen.

grit to polish change is hard

The grit of character development feels harsh

I imagine we have all felt rough around the edges a time or two. Thrown into the tumbler with life grinding away at us. The grit of character development feels harsh. The pressure to look like you have everything under control is almost unbearable and the progress we want to see isn’t anywhere in sight. But if we could take a moment to remember: We all go through the same process and we are all leading others by the changes we allow God to make daily and the forgiveness and grace we accept.

The allowance of this change in our human nature feeds the goodness God has instilled inside each of us. Counter that, if we don’t allow Him to change us, we encourage what is evil. He gave us the ability to choose. I wish I could say that goodness is always easiest. With family, work, friendships, and our own dreams, life can be a hard balance. Some people push us to be better. Some bring out our worst.

God knows each rigid edge and every rough point of view. He knows every jagged lie you believe and every pit of anger you fall in. He knows every veiled perspective and the harm each holds against you and the damage it causes others in the process. Our actions can show love or cut like a sharp sword. Words, being the sharpest of all, pierce our thoughts and linger for what seems without end. And unjust words, crushing, tumble like a boulder.

Change is always difficult

Until God gives us the mirror to see His work in action, change is always going to be difficult.

I went to a park recently that had a shallow creek. My kids jumped straight in and started skipping rocks across the water. As I watched them sort through and select the perfect rocks to skip, I thought about the amount of water and tumbling it took to get those stones to the shape they were. I imagined God sorting through His people, looking for just the right one to use for His purposes, some begging to be chosen, some hiding in the muck. It was then I realized, that the water changed the shape of those stones and freed the one who is stuck, just like His Spirit frees and changes us.

A rock has no choice but to separate from its weakest edges, but we do.

I imagine Jesus bending down, His eyes on the brokenhearted. When He reaches out, I hear one cry out, “I’m no good. Choose someone else.” But His response is always perfect. “You are mine and you are beloved. Treasured.” As He lays His hand upon us, we become perfected for His purpose through His power and are able to let go of the fragmented thoughts and iniquities because He has prepared us and spoken over us. Lifted up, we see our reflection below. Not as we see ourselves, but as He has made us in His image.

Perfection is relative and our time is His river that delivers us in the end, raw and broken – or polished and beautiful, overflowing with His peace. How many times have we been tossed about? How long did we remain stuck? Will we recognize the changes we have made or the rough places we refuse to acknowledge? What am I sacrificing for my pride?

Questions to consider

While we tumble through life and feel like we are being thrown against what only wants to swallow us, a place where our fears lie and wait for our return, question yourself.

  • Has my character been changed enough in Him?
  • Has my attitude been adjusted toward others?
  • Has my mouth been tamed?

Whether we sink again or keep our head above the water depends on the reflection we choose to view. The Spirit of God within you reveals everything He has made good.

Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

When He launches you into His work, remember where you began and recognize what has been made new. The best part…

You are always chosen.


Brooke Giles is a military spouse and work-at-home mom currently living in the suburbs right outside Atlanta, GA, with her husband and two children. She is passionate about living creatively through writing and encouraging others to do the same. Even though she is not a photographer, she loves to pretend and you will often find her making her children recreate silly moments or taking photos that tell a story. She appreciates charming scenery that inspires her and, of course, where she can do all her over-thinking and coffee sipping. She currently writes children’s books and Christian fiction/ non-fiction  in hope to publish one day. IG: @holdingontogood and

Abrasive grit to fine polish is one of the articles from the change issue of iola. Buy your copy here for more articles, creative prompts, and beautiful photography.