The Importance of Winter

In the U.S.A. we are currently in our winter season. I know some of you reading this are in summertime. But winter doesn’t necessarily have to mean literal timeframes. Sometimes in our lives we feel like we are in a winter season, no matter what the temperature is outside. I was recently reflecting on the value in winter and wanted to share some thoughts with you.

As you might know, winter is good for nature for several reasons. Plants actually benefit from shorter daylight hours and lower temperatures as they become dormant. This helps the plants to store up energy for new growth. And strong winters also help get rid of bugs, as the severe cold kills them off. (1)

But this made me ponder how our spiritual growth can also benefit from a winter season, whether literal or figurative. We need time to rest and recuperate, especially after a busy season. This helps us to flourish and create new growth in our lives. If we always kept moving at a fast pace, our bodies would eventually burn out. And winter can also be a good time for us to use as a reflection period. If we slow down for a bit, we have the ability to evaluate our lives. What “bugs” need to go? And what do we want to “plant” in the coming months?

This ties in to last week’s post in which I talked about Learning to Let Go. A little over a week ago, my area had a couple of days that were filled with gusty winds. After the windy days were over, I saw many large tree limbs lying on the ground. The weather helped the trees to shake free dead branches that had become a hindrance.

Similarly, in our lives we too can take this time to reflect on the “buried” areas of our lives, and let them go. Or maybe we even might want to resurrect something. It is not just about letting go. During this time, you might also need to rest and restore your soul. Or perhaps you might want to set goals and prepare for new growth in the coming months.

The answers will look different for all of us. And the answers might change for each of us from season to season. But perhaps you’ll want to prayerfully consider these things in your own life.

During this season do you need to take time to rest and remove unnecessary tasks from your plate?

During this season do you need to remove any old habits from your life that are hindering your growth?

During this season do you need to plant new growth in your spiritual life by spending more time with the Lord?

During this season do you need to pull an old dream out of the grave and make it come to life?

These are just a few generic questions you might reflect on. Ask the Lord to guide you and to open your heart to anything He might be asking you to do (or not do) during this season.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him… – Psalm 37:7

Rest in God’s arms
Let your body replenish
Soak up His love
The fruit will flourish

Let go of the past
Don’t be afraid to be bold
The broken pieces float away
As you release the old

New things are coming
Good can be found in change
Hold tightly to the Lord
Open your eyes to all you gain

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© 2022 Bridget A. Thomas

Learning to Let Go

Entering into a new year fills us with hope. We think about the things we want to accomplish in our lives, dreams that are in our hearts, or goals we want to work towards. Often times we look at what we can add to our lives, such as exercising more or learning something new. But we can also approach it from another aspect by analyzing what we might let go of.

A few weeks ago I was reading from If We Could Have Coffee which is a devotional by Holley Gerth. I highlighted something that spoke to me. She said, “…life is not meant to be so full of burdens that you can’t enjoy what your heavenly Father wants to give you. When your arms and heart and life are so full, how can you receive from him? Let some of it go. Just lay it down.” (I love this devotional, by the way. Each entry is short, yet full of meaning. It has helped me to draw closer to God and remember how much He loves His children.)

The next day I read a blog post by Caralyn Collar, over at Beauty Beyond Bones. She said something that also jumped out at me. In her post The Liberation of Less, Caralyn talked about one weekend when her mom was visiting her and they tackled the daunting task of cleaning closets. (As a wannabe minimalist, this post immediately pulled me in!) But the line that really jumped out at me was this, “If we’re clenching our fists around things of the past, either out of fear or another unhealthy attachment, it prevents us from living with hands open to receiving what God has to give us.” (And by the way, this blog is one that I always get insight out of. Caralyn has a true gift with words, as she discusses an array of meaningful topics. Best of all, she stands up for TRUTH in our wayward world.)

This was one of those times when I felt that the Lord was nudging me. These two quotes spoke to me and reminded me that we need to let things go in order to receive what God has in store for us.

Letting go will look differently for each of us. And in the changing seasons of our own lives, letting go will have different facets as well. So it’s important to approach this prayerfully. Ask God to reveal to you what you might need to let go of.

Are you clinging too tightly to having control over certain things?
Are you holding onto pride or perfectionism?
Are there any idols in your heart that need to go?
Is your past a roadblock in your life?
Do you hang onto worries instead of handing them to God?

These are just some examples. There are so many things that we might hold onto a bit too tightly. But as noted in the two quotes above, if our hands are wrapped around the wrong things, we can’t grab hold of the things that God wants to hand us. He always has the best in store for us. I hope you will join me and prayerfully seek God’s guidance on anything that you might need to let go of in your life.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

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© 2022 Bridget A. Thomas

My One Word for 2022

Many of you have heard me talk about this before. But for anyone who is not familiar with this, picking a word for the year is a way to anchor yourself through the days ahead. The word you pick could be something you want to focus on or something you want to keep in mind, as you step into each new day. Just to give you an example, my words from the past three years were: seek, grace, and cultivate.

And in 2022 my one word for the year is … ABIDE!

Some years the word is easy to pick. You just get a feeling inside that this is the word. And that’s how it was for me when I picked Abide. As a matter of fact, I knew in mid-November that my word for this year would be Abide.

According to Merriam-Webster, Abide can mean to remain stable or fixed in a state; to continue in a place. Specifically in 2022, I want to learn to Abide in Jesus. I want to remain stable and fixed in Jesus. I want to continue in the Lord. I want to abide in Him and He in me.

If possible, I also like to have a Bible verse for the year that coincides with my word. And this year my verses will come from John 15:4-5, where Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

In 2019 and in 2021 I loved having the words seek and cultivate, respectively. To me, these two verbs feel very active. And while Abide is also a verb, it feels a bit more passive or peaceful.

One night I was laying in bed thinking about the fact that I have been working for Jesus, learning about Him, writing about Him, seeking Him, cultivating for Him, etc. Yet I feel that I still don’t have the deep connection with Jesus that I should have. I want to know deep down that He loves me and I want to extend a lasting love in return.

I know there is more of Him that I can have in my life. But if I am being honest, then I also know that I am the one who gets in the way. He is always there, waiting for me.

Honestly, I stumble daily. I am far from perfect. There are many things in my life I would like to improve and many things I would like to change. And I feel that if I can truly learn to Abide in Jesus, this could change everything.

What will abiding look like? In January, I never know for sure how the next 12 months will play out. But from here, I plan to lay aside things that distract me from the Lord. And I want choose Him as often as possible. Each moment of each day we are making decisions, whether we realize it or not. When we are turning on the television, we are choosing not to pray. When we are scrolling on our phones, we are choosing not to read our Bibles. Therefore, in an effort to abide, I am going to try to lay aside many of the things that keep me from Jesus.

I also plan to read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) repeatedly throughout the year. When I am done, I will start over. (This doesn’t mean I won’t read any other parts of the Bible in 2022. But the gospels will be my main focus.) I have a new journaling Bible that contains only these four books. I am currently reading a devotional by Andrew Murray called Abide in Christ. And I am also reading Sarah Young’s latest devotional, Jesus Listens. I am excited to see what 2022 holds as I learn to Abide in Jesus.

And if you have a word for 2022, I would love to hear what it is.

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© 2022 Bridget A. Thomas

Cultivating My Way Through 2021

As you might recall, my one word for 2021 was cultivate. I loved this word and feel that it really helped me to focus on the right things.

Here on the blog we cultivated prayer, gratitude, time with our Savior, reverence towards God, forgiveness, and so much more.

In my own life, I also cultivated trust in God, a deeper faith, praise, fasting, and walking with God. But on the other hand, I also cultivated a slower pace, time for the little things, and embracing contentment.

There is one habit that I started this year, in relation to my one word. Each time the month changed, I had a “check-in.” Basically I would look at the month that just ended to see how I did. I wrote down the things that went well and what I focused on. But I also wrote down areas where I wanted to improve. This helped keep my one word in mind all year, and it gave me 12 opportunities to make adjustments. I got value out of these check-ins, so I plan to keep it up.

As is often the case in my life – I did not do a perfect job, but God stepped in and helped me out. There were many changes in my life in 2021, and clinging to God was my lifeline.

We had a lizard living in our house for several weeks. He mainly stayed in one particular bedroom, but sometimes ventured out to two other rooms. We don’t know how he lived for weeks without food or water. My husband tried to catch him a couple of times, but the little guy was fast. One day the lizard was just hanging out in the hallway. I spotted him and alerted my husband. My husband slowly made his way to the lizard. The lizard didn’t try to escape this time, so my husband was able to grab him and set him outside. (Ironically, this was Thanksgiving Day. Imagine how thankful the lizard must have been and what a feast he had when he got outdoors!) On the first few attempts to catch the lizard, he didn’t recognize that we were trying to help him. He saw us as a threat. Finally, either he realized we were safe, or perhaps he was just too weak to move. But either way, in the end, we were able to set him free. And perhaps our little friend was able to recognize the blessing.

This incident with the lizard reminds me of my 2021. Many changes in my life seemed like a threat. But as I clung to God and trusted Him, I could see that He was there. God always has a plan and a purpose. Nothing comes into our lives by mistake. We just have to learn to hold tightly to Him through it all. And He will work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

And cultivating my way through the year helped me to stay intentional in my life. This was a strong word and one that has taught me a lot. If you had a word for 2021, I would love to hear how it played a role in your year.

Next week I will reveal my word for 2022!

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19

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© 2022 Bridget A. Thomas

Conclusion of the 2021 Gratitude Challenge

Hello, Friends! As you might know, I normally post on Tuesdays. But today is a special day, so I am interrupting the regular schedule. On Tuesday, September 21 we started a 100 day gratitude challenge. And that makes today day 100 of that challenge. Congratulations! You did it! You made it though!

Now what? Should we dismiss gratitude and go on with our lives? Personally, I plan to keep gratitude in my heart, and I hope you do too.

Every day is a gift from God. And gratitude is a decision that we can make every day, as a way of extending our thanks to the Lord. We will always have ups and downs in life, but we can choose how we face them.

I love the quote below by Charles Swindoll. While he talks about our attitude in general, I think we can also apply it to gratitude. After all, as we have learned over the past 100 days, having an attitude of gratitude impacts our overall mood and outlook.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church….a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.” – Charles Swindoll

I hope that we all continue to embrace gratitude. I hope we see ourselves being more optimistic and joyful. And I hope that gratitude helps us to praise God for His goodness. If you participated in the challenge, please let me know how it went. Even if you missed some days, that’s okay! It’s all about the heart.

And I pray you all have a Happy New Year and a blessed 2022!

Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me. – Psalm 103:2 NLT

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© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas

Luke 24

Read Luke 24 in your Bible. Or you can also read it here. I can’t believe we have reached the end of the book of Luke! I sure hope you have enjoyed going through this journey with me!

A few days after Jesus’ death, some of His friends had the privilege of seeing Him again. Jesus is alive!! While Jesus’ death is important, His resurrection is even more significant. If we do not believe He was raised from the dead, then we do not believe the Gospel.

Why is it so important? For one thing, it proves that Jesus really was the Son of God. If He hadn’t been raised from the dead, then He would have been merely a man who died a cruel death. That happens to others, doesn’t it? Being raised from the dead, Jesus has been set apart.

Also, in His resurrection, Jesus defeated death. And not only did He defeat death for Himself, but He defeated death for you and me and anyone who chooses to believe.

I know this is a lot to wrap your head around. Even the disciples were confused. It says in Luke 24:11 that it seemed like nonsense. They didn’t have any context because what occurred was not normal. But when they saw Him for themselves, everything changed. Their minds were opened (v. 45), they had great joy (v. 52), and they praised God (v. 53).

Jesus couldn’t stay with them forever. But after He left, the disciples were like new creatures. They had a renewed sense of passion and purpose. They preached the Gospel and brought thousands to Christ. And generation after generation, here we are. Children of God. Thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I am sorry to say that sometimes we forget the magnitude of this. We might take it for granted. But this truly is something that should fill us with joy, every day. I know we all face trials on earth, but this life is so very temporary. And what we have to look forward to is nothing short of paradise.

I pray that as you celebrate Christmas, you are filled with hope, love, joy, and peace, as you remember the gift that Jesus brought to us. And I pray you and your loved ones have a very Merry CHRISTmas!

If you are also participating in the Gratitude Challenge, today is day 95 of 100. I pray that the Gratitude Challenge and the Luke Bible study have been a blessing to you! Keep going with your gratitude list. Only 5 more days to go!

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© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas

Luke 23

Read Luke 23 in your Bible. Or you can also read it here.

There are a couple of things in this chapter that reveal how magnificent God’s grace is. What Jesus did on the cross means we have access to the unmerited favor of God. Although we deserve the worst, we can have the best, if we accept Jesus. The grace of God is the most amazing and precious gift we will ever receive. And in this chapter there are a couple of incidents that show us how big His grace is.

One example is in verse 34 where Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus’ mercy is so great. These men had no idea that they were crucifying the Messiah. And we too have done things that we don’t realize how awful they are in the moment. Especially before we gave our lives to the Lord, when we didn’t have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Now the Holy Spirit helps us to discern right from wrong. But that wasn’t the case before we were saved. We might have followed along and done worldly things, thinking it was okay because that is what everyone else was doing. But now that we have fully committed our lives to Jesus, we can see more clearly the difference between right and wrong. And Jesus willingly erases all of our mistakes in one instant.

And the second example is seen in verses 39-43. There are two criminals being crucified, and they hung on each side of Jesus. One mocks Jesus, but the other says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

This man was a thief and didn’t deserve grace. But we don’t deserve grace either. Yet all we need to do is ask for forgiveness, and that’s it. Jesus paid our debt in full. We owe nothing else. And we instantly become a child of God and an heir to the Kingdom.

This gift of Grace is truly … The… Best… News… Ever!

It doesn’t get any better than this. This is bigger than anything we can imagine. We should live each day on cloud nine, knowing that our sins were forgiven and our slate was wiped clean.

Today take some time to thank the Lord for what Jesus did on the cross and for the unparalleled gift of grace.

Dear Lord, words cannot express how glorious Your gift of Grace is. I deserve nothing. I deserve the worst. Yet thanks to Jesus, I have so much. I have eternity in Heaven to look forward to. My sins have been erased. I have been adopted into Your family. This is the best news ever. The magnitude of it is overwhelming. In one instant You turned me into Your beloved child. I thank you for this priceless gift. In Jesus’ holy name, Amen.

If you are also participating in the Gratitude Challenge, today is day 94 of 100. We are so close!

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© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas

Luke 22

Read Luke 22 in your Bible. Or you can also read it here.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. – Luke 22:42-44

In this part of the story, Jesus’ death is approaching. I can only imagine the torment that He went through, knowing what He was facing. Yet, for several reasons, I am also inspired by the verses above.

1 – Jesus knew full well that He was up against terrible pain and torture. However, He still was able to say in essence, “Thy will be done.” Seeing Jesus’ attitude in this moment can help us to face life’s difficulties differently. Many of us tend to gripe over much smaller matters, myself included. But no matter what we are facing, we too can say, “Thy will be done.” When we have a close relationship with Almighty God, we know there is no safer place to be, and we can trust Him. As it says in Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” And even in the midst of difficult circumstances, when we have this attitude, we can even embrace the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:6).

2 – I appreciate the fact that Jesus prayed when He was facing an unbearable situation. When we are dealing with painful circumstances, turning to God in prayer is vital. We are not merely praying to seek His help, but we are seeking His presence and His comfort. When we pray, and place our troubles in the Lord’s hands, we are acknowledging that our God is bigger than the mountain in front of us.

3 – I also want to point out that it says, “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” When we turn to the Lord, He will be faithful to comfort us and strengthen us.

No matter what trials you are facing in your life, I encourage you to seek God. He will be your safe place. He will comfort you and strengthen you. He will bring you peace.

If you are also participating in the Gratitude Challenge, today is day 93 of 100. Continue to write down ten things you are grateful for today!

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© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas

Luke 21

Read Luke 21 in your Bible. Or you can also read it here.

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” – Luke 21:1-4

Christmastime is about giving. People seem to be more generous around this holiday than any other time throughout the year. We give our loved ones gifts. We support charities and slip some bills in The Salvation Army’s red kettle. We make sacrifices for things that we might not normally consider during the rest of the year. We freely give, just as Christ freely gave His life for us.

I pray we can keep this Christmas spirit in our hearts all year. But giving is not just about money or gifts. We can give of our time, our help, a listening ear, and our attention. The miraculous thing about giving is that it not only blesses the recipient, but it also blesses us as well. We feel so good about helping someone.

I love this story in Luke 21 about the widow’s offering. Jesus saw her heart in what she gave, and that’s what it’s all about. The heart.

In 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, Paul wrote, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

What an encouraging word to help us remember to give generously! Throughout the coming year, let’s look for unique ways we can give. You can give to your spouse by cooking their favorite meal. You can give to your child by taking time to play a board game together. You can give to a coworker by helping them with a difficult project. Call someone on the phone and just listen. Buy a stranger a cup of coffee. Surprise a friend with a small gift. The possibilities are endless. When we give out of love, whether it’s money or time or anything else, we are reflecting the love of Jesus to those around us. And giving will also bring joy to our own hearts.

If you are also participating in the Gratitude Challenge, today is day 92 of 100. Keep going! The finish line is in view!

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© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas

Luke 20

Read Luke 20 in your Bible. Or you can also read it here.

In Luke 20 we see different instances where the people tried to trick Jesus into saying something wrong. These people were from an influential group during that time, yet they often disagreed with Jesus and His views. They should have been a group that was respected, but Jesus warns us against them.

In verse 20 it says, “Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere.”

And in verses 46-47, Jesus said, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

Although we are living over two thousand years later, we too have to be careful. Some people who appear to be highly religious and influential might not be sincere. Some people throw around Bible verses and they think this makes them appear like a devout Christian. But we must remember that even satan quoted Scripture. See Luke 4:1-13. (And this is also something to keep in mind in spiritual battles as well, because satan will distort scripture at times and try to get us to see things from the wrong angle.)

This might make us fearful when we realize that we have to stay on guard and keep our eyes open for wolves in sheep’s clothing. How do you know who to trust and who to believe? Honestly, there are so many things in this world that can make us fearful, and we might worry that we cannot navigate our way around the unknowns.

But as Christians, we don’t have to fear. Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, and He helps us to have discernment. In John 14:16-17 (AMP), Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever— the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you.” Look at all the ways the Holy Spirit is described here – Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, Standby, the Spirit of Truth. What joy this brings our hearts to know that God has planted this very same Holy Spirit inside you and me and all of His children.

What a precious gift we have. We have an amazing Friend who is with us every single day. He can help us in every area of our lives. And when we have a strong relationship with the Lord, we will know His voice well. We will be able to recognize a certain feeling in our core when He speaks to us and directs us. How comforting it is to know that we have this loving Friend with us at all times.

If you are also participating in the Gratitude Challenge, today is day 91 of 100. Have you felt happier over that last couple of months?

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© 2021 Bridget A. Thomas