March: Birthday Celebrations and Giveaways

 

 

NOVI logo

The month of March is a very special month for me. Two years ago, I made a profession of faith and my life has drastically changed!  Each year, my family and I pick a day in March to celebrate my “spiritual birthday” which I have affectionately name He Got You Month.

For my spiritual birthday, in which I am now the Big 2, I wanted to celebrate with some cake and a giveaway from Novi Creations. Shauna Stockstill, the founder of Novi Creations and also a dear sweet friend, has so graciously offered to provide the March giveaway to one lucky subscriber.  You won’t want to miss this celebration!! Details will be coming to your inbox and social media pages very soon.  (Hey, did you really think I’d make it that easy on you!) Until then, take a moment and meet our sponsor!

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Shauna Stockstill Founder of NOVI Creations novicreations@gmail.com

Shauna Stockstill
Founder of NOVI Creations
novicreations@gmail.com

I love second looks and second chances. I believe with proper care and nurture there is hope for everyone and everything. Too often life quietly passes by, waiting for someone to discover it’s potential.

Whether it is discarded materials or discarded people, we all need someone who is willing to look beyond the obvious and dare to see what could be. Someone who lingers when everyone else has walked away.

In my art and jewelry I am constantly trying to capture this vision. Whether repurposed or recycled, I try hard to capture and celebrates the uniqueness of each piece.

True value comes when we understand what it was once like to be discarded…

I was dead and of no value. But God, rich in mercy made me alive, new, full of life in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-9

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When I read the story of  Novi Creations, I cannot help but think how it relates to all of our lives. So many of us are just looking for a second chance, waiting for someone to discover our potential.  When everyone else sees a discarded soul, the Designer sees beauty. Once we accept the free gift of salvation, our lives are repurposed for His calling. I am thankful my God lingered when everyone else walked away. Aren’t you?

What Are You Reading?

 

cat reading a book

My name is Sarah and I am a plant killer. You can give me the easiest plant in the world to maintain and I will find a way to murder it. # R.I.P Leafy.  Plants need sunlight and apparently they don’t do so well without this stuff called water. Simply put, plants need  sustenance.

People are the same way. We were not created to go long periods without having spiritual nourishment. Yet, with our busy schedules, we rarely find time to meditate on God’s word.  The lack of spiritual sustenance is causing spiritual malnutrition. Without God’s living word to pour out on our lives, we will slowly wither and will no longer bear the fruit we were intended to bear. After my most recent post, I realized there are a lot of believers that have substituted God’s living word for the world’s garbage. They are empty and their lives are reflecting that emptiness. They need to be “watered.”

Here’s  a few devotions that I have really enjoyed over the last few months. I wanted to share a few of them with you!

The Bible: This is a free app but the devotions have been spot on. I also like that you can set up a reminder on your phone. The studies will show your progress and you can share what you are reading with your friends. Currently, I am reading:

On Marriage: “Happily Ever After“: Devotions from Time of Grace

hearts

 

On Family: “Parenting” by Design Daily Devotional

 

Also, you might want to check out this app:

SheReadsTruth:  I downloaded the app on my cell phone for convenience but you can go directly to their website. Some of the plans are free while other devo plans may cost. They have some beautiful graphics on the site and occasionally will provide free downloads for screen savers. It’s worth the look!

Books I am currently reading:

pulling back the shades I picked up Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery’s “Pulling Back the Shades.” I am thinking of using the book as a study guide for a lady’s small group. Maybe even an online book discussion on Facebook?

What are you reading?  I would love to hear what  helps you in your daily walk.

Shades of Grey: Why Erotica Books like Fifty Shades of Grey Aren’t the Real Issue

 

50 shades of hay

 

Since the big debut of Fifty Shades of Grey, I have tried to wait it out in the background, wishing and hoping the moral debate and boycott of such books and films would just go away. I didn’t want to even talk about it or write about it because that would make me have to examine where I stand on the topic. I did not want to be branded as a hypocrite because so  many of my friends and I read romance novels; maybe not Fifty Shades, but I’ve been known to read some pretty spicy reading material.

My decision to write about this heated topic had little to do with the actual book, but an incident at my home the other day with my young preteen daughter. She got my kindle and was scrolling through my downloaded books. I was re-reading (like for the fourth time) one of the young adult romance novels I had purchased and it just so happened to be on the page of some heated sexual scene. From the kitchen, I heard my daughter ask, “Why are you reading this stuff? It’s gross!”  I was so embarrassed that she had read it and if I can admit, I was ashamed that she had “caught me.”

My husband and I try so hard to teach our children about staying pure, both in mind and body. Yet, if you look on my kindle, you would find novels that were based closely on the story line of Fifty Shades. I am drawn to books where the lead characters are troubled beautiful souls that need to be saved by a strong female figure. Sprinkle some drama to the story line and a whole lot of passionate love-making, and you have hooked me. How is that pure of mind?

So before I even get started, please let me start off by confessing something. I have never read Fifty Shades of Grey and I have justified that decision based on some loose moral perimeter I created to excuse my other reading choices.

In fact, if I had to guess, many of you have to do the same thing. [This] book or movie is “bad” but [this] book or movie is “okay.” For whatever reason, like many other women, I have excused my choice of books and movies because I don’t see them as the porn it is, but as innocent fantasy that allows me to escape what can be a very mundane life.

Fifty Shades of Grey is not the issue but the indicator of a bigger problem. The numbers don’t lie. When there are millions of women reading erotica books, it is proof that there is a blatant need women are not having fulfilled. Instead of demonizing the book and their authors and even the men in our lives, maybe we need to look within and see what’s missing.

To the Stay-at-home mom, it is time to look within and figure out why you feel the need to pull the escape latch from reality.

To the Single lady, it is time to look at what you are replacing in your life until the next chapter begins.

To the woman who has been married over two decades and is longing for a renewed sense of passion, it’s time to look at what‘s missing in your marriage.

To the Christian woman, it is time to look at what has become a potential stumbling block in your spiritual walk.

It is time, ladies, for ALL of us to look at the desire of our hearts. Eventually, Fifty Shades of Grey will be just another book that will collect dust on the shelf. In its place, another dozen or so books and movies will be published and advertised to women everywhere that desire passion, love and escape in their lives.

Demonizing Fifty Shades of Grey won’t change the real issue, but it will distract from the main problem, your heart.

I looked deep down on this and have come up with three reasons women (myself included) use romance novels to spice up their lives.  Have you struggled with any of these? I’d like to hear from you.

The 3 Shades of a Women’s heart:

  1. We all want to be desired and pursued.

Rather you are single, dating or married, all of us want to know that someone desires us. In the books or movies we are helplessly glued to, we usually see a character that is so consumed with the heroine that it is intoxicating. Who wouldn’t want that? Where we go wrong is that we don’t understand that being desired does not always constitute love. But if physical desire is all there is, it will eventually fade and you will be left trying to refill your emotional fuel tank. It took me a long time to realize that there is only one Man in my life that pursues me daily because He desires a relationship with me. In fact, He pursued me to the cross and died so that we could be together for eternity. That, ladies, is true love.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

2.  We all want to be needed.

Romance novels have capitalized on this particular desire of women. There is a reason good girls go for the bad boys. I use to tell people that if there was a loser in a 50 mile radius of me, I was attracted to them. I felt that it was my “duty” to save them from themselves. What usually started as a passionate relationship, turned to drama and heartache. Ladies, you can’t be their  one and all. It just doesn’t work that way. True change takes place from within a person’s heart with the help of a Savior, everything else up until that is just behavior modification.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.

3.  We all want to escape.

Sometimes, our fantasies seem much better than our realities. My life is not full of romance and impromptu trips to exotic lands. I wish it were, but my husband and I have responsibilities and they come in the mail like clockwork! To say that romance can get dull when you have young children or a busy work schedule is an understatement. So when life isn’t making beautiful music, we tend to hit the escape latch and go into the world of fantasy. If it can help you rekindle some of your passion in the bedroom, is it really that bad? I’ll answer the question with another question. How would you like it if you found your husband looking at porn and his reasoning was because it helped him get out of his head? #1 on the list is probably flashing like the neon sign at Krispy Crème right about now! Do you feel desired?  When he is with you intimately, will you wonder who he is fantasying about?

Harvard (yes, the Harvard) did a study on the three reasons couples stay together and avoid divorce. Only 1 of 1,246 couples got a divorce if they did just three simple things together. I am extending the list to any woman, in any stage of life because honestly, regardless of what season we are in, what we seek in our heart is what we will seek in our everyday. The Harvard study concluded that praying together, discussing the Bible together and attending church together were the three essentials of all healthy relationships. Reading Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t make Harvard’s list. Sorry

Next time, when you are looking to feel desired, needed or to remember what is important, talk to God, seek fellowship with His people or open His word and read the sweetest love letters you will ever read.

You don’t need to feel ashamed about your struggle because it’s a real struggle that real women face. Let’s start talking about it and stop pointing the finger.

 

Thanks for Following

 

typewrite text thank you

I have not said this lately but  THANK YOU to all the readers to the blog!  God has been so good and blessed me with some great opportunities to spread my wings in the writing world. I promise to get some updates and links to a few of the featured articles  I’ve had the chance to write for other publications. But please bear with me during the long bouts of silence. I’m working, just not so quick to update!

Please feel free to share how I can make Heartskeeper more “user-friendly” and a resource you can actually put in use! A few new pages will be added soon so keep your eyes open.

I’m thinking a new giveaway is needed!

Who’s interested?

The Cost of Discipleship

 

praying handsIt has become more common for Christians in the western world to experience some form of discrimination. Private business owners are being sued for refusing to provide services to same-sex couples. Preventative birth control measures are now being demanded at the expense of Christian companies, regardless if it goes against their beliefs. Restaurants that uphold traditional marriage views and actually speak out for it are being targeted and boycotted.

To this day, I have not experience any major persecution. I don’t have to sneak around for corporate worship. I am still able to read my bible and pray openly. Threats on my life have not come after I have shared my faith. I don’t know anyone, personally, that was imprisoned or killed for their faith in God.  Yes, I have been left out of group activities because I was viewed as different. The Christian walk has been lonely at times and my fellow believers have disappointed me.

I am sure many of you know what it means to be left out, to be labeled as different, weird or even marked as the infamous Jesus freak. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion because you can’t put in those Sundays hours that are required because of your commitment to family and faith. In a world where Christians are expected to be tolerant of everyone, yet no one is tolerate of our beliefs, it’s easy wonder if it’s worth it at times.

As believers, we are feeling the pressure to conform to a world that says we are our own gods, free to do what feels good to us, and everyone else should be responsible for our happiness. If that said happiness is questioned or refused, it is not uncommon for those that have opposing beliefs to feel the backlash. But please understand that these mere inconveniences, even though not just, are not persecution. This is endurance training for the persecution promised to come.

This drastic shift in our belief system has left many Christians dumbfounded and possibly even afraid at how this will turn out. Let me go ahead and tell you the ending of this story: Christians will be persecuted and ostracized even in this great nation. The cost of discipleship is great and Jesus never told His people who it would be an easy road.

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.

If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you

are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,

therefore the world hates you…..If they persecuted Me,

they will also persecute you.” John 15:18-20

Here are four ways to be prepared to stand when hard times come:

1.  Work on your relationship with Jesus. Stay in God’s word. Know what you believe so you can avoid falling victim to false teaching. The strength of your faith can be compared to someone who is preparing to run a marathon. It requires dedication and conditioning. If a runner doesn’t prepare, he or she will never be able to finish the race. Our Christian walk should be approach the same.

2.  Accept this hard truth: It is a privilege to suffer for Jesus. 1 Peter 4:14 states, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” It is an honor for someone to look at you and see that you are different! My family recently moved to Georgia and my husband’s work environment is very diverse. Needless-to-say, he stuck out like a sore thumb when he walked in! His mannerisms were different and the men around him noticed the difference. They were very curious as to why he seemed so different. My husband now has a great opportunity to introduce many of them to the Man that changed his life. But my husband also understands he might face some opposition for his faith.

3.  Start or continue sharing your faith. Sharing God’s love and favor with others should be as natural as breathing. If you don’t practice, it can be hard to speak up in times when you have to. It might make you uncomfortable at first, but there is freedom in knowing you don’t have to be bound by fear because we serve a great God.

4.  Burn your bridges. That might sound a little backwards. I thought you weren’t supposed to burn your bridges? In times of hardship, it is very easy to go back to a place in your life that is safe and comfortable. If the bridge is burned, you can’t return. You are more likely to push forward in your Christian walk.

How we rise up to the challenges we face will be up to each of us. The cost of discipleship can be great, but our reward is far greater.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

Staying Faithful In An Unfaithful Culture

church pew

 

We are a society based on convenience. If it works for our schedules and satisfies our desires, we do it. If there is no benefit, we simple walk away.

Many of us have had the privilege of growing up in a time that every modern convenience was at the push of an app; where life was virtually lived out and commitments change as quickly as the next fad.

So should we really be that surprised that our commitments to things that sometimes aren’t so convenient waver?

I tell people all the time I was part of that transitional church generation, when young adults no longer found what the church had to offer useful or worth their time. Church was stale and many of the church leaders watched helplessly as young adult after young adult jumped ship for greener pastures. I was one of the jumpers.

The commitment phobias have not change, even though the church has undergone some serious transformations over the past decade. The youth and college programs are phenomenal. And though young adults don’t appear to be jumping ship, they are jumping program to program. In order to bring in the students, many churches have changed its appearance, even diluting the Word, to make it more appealing to the masses.

I am in total support of making church “user friendly.” I am in complete support for great programs for students. I am just concerned that we are replacing quality teaching opportunity for the sake of making faith more appealing to the masses.

We are not developing faithful believers that will stand at all cost, but a commitment phobic generation of church-goers that will walk away when they aren’t being entertained.

 So how does a person stay committed in a commitment phobic world?

Here are four ways to start.

  1. Keep your relationship with Christ personal. Where your heart is, your actions and time will follow. If you are focused on Jesus, you will crave God’s word and seek out a church that has sound quality teaching. The great programs and activities will be an added bonus but if and when they change, you won’t.
  2. Keep your nose in the Book. In the era of church entertainment, there are people that aren’t teaching God’s truth. They are inspirational speakers, not preachers of truth. Be careful who you lend your ears to. If you know what God’s word says, you will be on guard when you hear something that contradicts it.
  3. Understand you need fellowship with like-minded people. Over the years, the one thing I have learned about my spiritual growth is this: I need people in my life that speak hard truth. A great way to connect is by these great church programs, but seeks out those that are there for growth, not just something to pass time.
  4. Remember that being committed sometime means you are alone. It is easy to commit when everyone else is, but what happens when the sheep stray? Will you follow or stand your ground? Even when it seems you are the only one staying in the fight, know you are never actually alone.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

 2 Timothy 4:7

 

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There’s Been A Misunderstanding About Your Virginity……

 

couple kissing on their wedding day

I read an article on Facebook the other day about a girl that saved her virginity for her wedding night and regretted it. My heart ache for her but I did appreciate her candor. When it comes to sex, it’s a topic many of us want to play down, hush or avoid all together.

My caveat: I have no right to claim that she was not told by her church family that sex was dirty and if she had sex before marriage she’d go to hell. I simply hope she misunderstood the message that is so difficult to properly convey. And at the young age of ten, when boys are still icky and we still play make-believe, it’s very well possible that the message came across distorted.

My post is not directed to the author of the original article. But because the author’s article mentioned that her beliefs played a large role in her decision to remain a virgin until her wedding night, I want to make this clear. I am talking to the ones that are calling themselves Christians, that have been called to a particular lifestyle.

Somewhere, in our true love wait talks and purity commitment cards, we have missed the point. So it should not be that much of a surprise that 70% of teens claiming to be professing believers are sexually active. There is a disconnect, and I am afraid that we as educators, parents and spiritual leaders have created some misunderstandings. (I’m also not here to argue who is responsible for such discussions…another post)

From my personal perspective, here are some misunderstandings to the whole virginity thing.

Misunderstanding #1: Your virginity will ensure a blissful marriage.

Girls, myself included, have been inundated with this idea that if you remain a virgin until your wedding night, God will bless your marriage with MIND-BLOWING sex and a blissful marriage. Great idea, but in my opinion, misleading.

We look at our virginity like a trade-off. God, I will do [abstain] if you give me [a great marriage].

He’s God, not a genie.

Sex isn’t what it’s cracked up to be sometimes. Sex can be awkward with someone and it takes time to perfect. Practice makes perfect right?! And when you are married, you have all the time in the world! Practice away, but don’t think that your virginity is some magic pill that will prevent or protect your marriage from growing pains.

An imperfect person, that’s you, is in a relationship with an imperfect person, that’s them. Sex is important, but it doesn’t make a marriage by itself. My prayer is that your relationship isn’t founded just on physical closeness, but spiritual oneness.

Misunderstanding #2: The only reason to save our virginity is because one day we will be rewarded for our long-suffering through marriage…..oh and you’ll miss out on that pesky STI and the unplanned pregnancy.

Some of you might be scratching your head. That’s it, right?

What about someone who doesn’t get married? Is that command from God to flee from sexual immorality null and void because they decide not to pursue life with a partner? Are they free to do as they please? Scripture tells us that our bodies do not belong to us. The body is a temple, bought at a price by God. The price was the blood of God’s only Son, Jesus.

Yes, God designed sex for the marriage bed but it’s much deeper . Refraining from the carnal desires of our flesh outside of God’s design signifies our OBEDIENCE. We do or don’t do certain things not because of what we may or may not get in return, but because we are called to be obedient to the one that our body belongs to.

And you miss out on those pesky STI’s and unplanned pregnancies.

Misunderstanding #3:  Successfully holding on to your virginity makes you a better Christian.

The writer of the original article wrote: 

I stood in the hotel bathroom beforehand, wearing my white lingerie, thinking, “I made it. I’m a good Christian.”  There was no chorus of angels, no shining light from Heaven. It was just me and my husband in a dark room, fumbling with a condom and a bottle of lube for the first time.

I know a lot of girls that were virgins when they got married and it had nothing to do with their faith. I know lots of girls that are Christians that didn’t wait. Do we really want to gauge our Christian walk on just our virginity? When it comes down to it, this has very little to do with your virginity on your marriage night….ultimately, your heart reveals where your faith lies. So ask yourself: What does your heart crave because where it is, so you will follow.

I understand that it’s easy to see our religious progress by what we are doing or not doing. But people mess up and I’m afraid it’s because of this mentality that those that did miss the mark are so timid to come back to the herd.

Sister, wherever you are in the journey of purity, it’s never too late to start over.

Why I Write Even When I’m Not Sure

 

computer and pencil

 

I’ve got this nagging notification on my dashboard that stands as a constant reminder that I have seven days before my blog expires and goes wherever forgotten blogs go to die.

I’ve seriously thought about letting it go to “virtual heaven” more than once.

Here are some reasons, selfish as they may be, that I’ve seriously contemplated pulling my blog’s life support:

1. I’m busy.

2. Does anyone even read my blog?

3. I’m not sure I know what I’m doing.

4. I’m not as popular as [fill in the blank] blog.

5. Did I mention I’m busy?

Hey, I did not say they were good reasons, but they are reasons.

I think my ego gets in the way of my writing. I’m too busy comparing my site stats to remember why I’m even doing this blogging thing in the first place. 

 I love writing and the opportunity it affords me to ministry to the hearts of young adults.

I have gotten side tracked somehow. I forgot WHO I am writing for.

This isn’t about a writer’s platform or how many likes or shares I get on social media. In fact, many times, I don’t get any but I don’t write for that. 

1. I write for the one that IS reading my blog.

2. I write for the one that is seeking truth.

3. I write for the one that needs to be reminded that they are loved, cherished and desired by the King of Kings.

4. I write for you.

So thank you for reading. 

I guess I’ll be renewing my blog :)