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Pictures of Freedom

“Mama, watch me twirl!” my daughter often calls out. “Oh, listen to the music! Can I dance?”

The truth is, she can’t help but dance. Even before she was born, Anne twirled and kicked and danced within me, and she hasn’t stopped in eight years. On stage or off, whether she’s practicing in the ballet studio or just telling me a story, Anne dances.

I love it. I love the beauty, the joy, the lightness that comes to her heart and the “at home” expression on her face when the music starts and the dance begins. I admire my daughter’s gift. It brings tears to my eyes. When I picture Anne dancing, twirling, arms out, eyes closed, face pointed to the sky as she spins, one word comes to mind: freedom. Anne dances because she is free.

I also picture freedom when I imagine, not my little girl, but a tall statesman—President Abraham Lincoln. What better symbol of freedom than a man who set thousands of slaves free? Nearly 150 years ago, on January 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring, “all persons held as slaves … shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

Forever free. Such life-changing, life-giving words to the slaves. Forever free to choose, to speak, to own possessions because they were no longer possessions themselves. All at once, with the stroke of a pen, men, women, boys, and girls moved from bondage to liberty.

I picture a young slave girl, around the age of my daughter. She had only ever known fear and labor and hardship, but on that Emancipation day, hope blossomed within her. She traded despair for joy, and a lightness came over her heart. I imagine that there were tears in her mama’s eyes when she explained, “Mr. Lincoln says we’re free.” Maybe the little girl even twirled. She danced because she was free.

I wish I could dance—that I could sway and leap and twirl. The truth is, I’m as awkward as my daughter is graceful. These two left feet of mine will never dance lightly across the stage, and there isn’t even the slightest hint of freedom of movement in my body. But what about in my spirit? Spiritually speaking, does my soul dance because it is free?

It should. Paul wrote, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). As a follower of Jesus, then, my soul should freely dance because God’s Spirit lives within me. And after all, isn’t freedom the very reason that Jesus came? “It is for freedom,” Paul also said, “that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). Jesus Christ freed me from sin and death, to live abundantly and eternally with Him.

Free from Death

“I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross,” I sing in church. How true. I don’t understand what a gift freedom from sin really is. I simply can’t comprehend the enormous chasm Jesus closed to bring me to God. But I’m so grateful! I’m grateful that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy when He said:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)

What great news Jesus proclaimed—that I’m forever free! Freedom from sin doesn’t just mean freedom from sin’s guilt. It also means that I can be free from the hold that sin and temptation have on me. Sin shouldn’t control or characterize me anymore. Things like fear, doubt, and anger, which normally weigh me down, may no longer oppress the heart that Jesus sets free.

And what peace is mine, knowing that death itself has been defeated!

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?… Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

Gray hair, illness, even death itself are powerless over the believer. When I am in Christ, death isn’t about defeat. It’s about victory. Death ends in triumph. My soul can dance into eternity, because I’m forever free.

Free to Live

The freedom that Christ came to give goes beyond freedom from death. Not only does He set me free from sin, but He also makes me free to live. He has freed me to live abundantly right now, on earth, even before I reach the promises of heaven. “I have come that they may have life,” Jesus said, “and have it to the full” (John 10:10). To live fully—abundantly—is to live richly, with peace and joy and above all, freedom.

Jesus also set me free to live in friendship with my Creator—to enjoy an intimate relationship with the God of the universe! What a privilege to speak with Him through prayer and His Word. What an honor to know Him, and be known by Him. My closest friends will fail me, and even my devoted family members can’t completely satisfy the deepest parts of my soul. Only intimacy with my Savior reaches there, and I’m free to live life closely united with Him.

Finally, in Christ, I’m free to live in obedience. “Freedom” and “obedience” don’t seem to go together, but in a surprising paradox, freedom in Jesus motivates me to obey Him. When Jesus sets me free, I no longer live for myself. I live for God. Paul wrote, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). Obeying God isn’t a restrictive prison; it’s an adventurous journey. The psalmist wrote spoke of obedience this way, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32).

A Final Picture

My daughter twirls on her toes because she is free, and a young slave girl danced in freedom when Abraham Lincoln set her forever free. A final picture reminds me of freedom: the image of a bride and her groom. In joyful anticipation, the bride has made herself ready for the adoring groom. The music begins, and she approaches him with beauty and lightness of heart. The couple sees no one but each other, and they thrill when their hands finally touch. They endure the wedding ceremony, ready to spend a lifetime dancing together. They want nothing more than to love deeply, and trust completely, and live freely.

And so it is with Jesus. I, the Bride, make myself ready for Him (Revelation 19:7), and He is enthralled by my beauty (Psalm 45:11). He has set me free from sin and death. I am free to belong to Him, love Him, and dance freely with Him. I dance because He has set me forever free.

Amy Storms is a wife, mom, and writer in Joplin, Missouri. An Oklahoma girl at heart, she lives with her pastor-husband Andy, their kids Nathan, Anne, and Molly, and about a hundred other "sons" in a dorm at her beloved alma mater, Ozark Christian College. Along with guacamole and Dr. Pepper, words are some of her very favorite things. She loves to read words, craft them on the page, and, of course, say them. Too many of them.

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How To Change Your Life In 10 Minutes

Here’s how you can change your life with a simple 10 minutes a day.

High expectations and low ability almost always lead to failure. When you let those go, here’s how you can really change your life in 10 minutes.

————-

There are two things I know to be true. One, there are things that need to happen in my life and, two, I never seem to have enough time.

I need to read more. I need to clean the house. I need to work. I need to play with my kids. I need to cook dinner. I need to pack lunches. I need to build my relationship with my husband. I need to exercise.

There are so many things that need to happen in our lives yet I never seem to have enough time. I find myself at the end of the day regretting the things that I never made happen during the day and committing to making them happen the next day.

Here is something I think is true when it comes to the tension between our time and the things that need to happen. I’ve found that high expectations and low ability almost always leads to failure.

Your jeans are tight so you think if you cut out sugar for one day, then they will fit again. Or maybe you see something on Pinterest, give it a shot and expect it look like something Martha Stewart whipped up. Or maybe you want a clean house, but with a toddler who takes out what you just put up, you are left feeling paralyzed.

This can even happen in our relationships. There’s distance and the gap seems too large to bridge so we just don’t make a move. We choose to stay silent. We want great things to happen—quickly—and we also don’t have superstar ability. I set out to exercise every day for 30 minutes, yet after the first time, I am clearly not in shape like I used to be so I stop.

High expectations + low ability = failure.

What the Time We Use Says About Us

And there are just some things that I honestly don’t want to do. I don’t like exercising. I don’t want to put away the dishes. I definitely don’t want to clean bathrooms. And because I don’t want to do these things, it’s easy to feel like I just don’t have time for it. “It just didn’t happen today. I simply ran out of time.” Have you ever said that?

But the reality is that we make time for things we want to do.

I want to drink coffee ALONE in the morning so I wake up a few minutes early before my people wake. I want to look at Instagram so I opt to not read that book that’s been sitting by my bed for months.

So when it comes to the things we really don’t want to do, we make excuses. I find a million other things to do in place of it that somehow seemed more important at the moment.

But here is what I’m discovering: Doing something for 10 minutes a day can change my life and my perspective.

In fact, time is one of your most prized possessions and we get to choose where we spend it. I’ve learned in life that doing some things over time brings the result I wanted. As a child, I wanted to learn how to play the piano, so I practiced for one hour every day for years and I learned to play beautifully. I wanted to drop the baby weight after my child was born. It didn’t happen overnight, but with making consistent moderate choices, over time the weight came off.

How Making Time Can Change Your Life

We have to learn to manage the tension between what we want to do and what we need to do but don’t really want to do. And I believe that if you can give those things 10 minutes a day, you will see change.

You may not change your life in simply 10 minutes, but you will start a change reaction. Doing something over time will eventually bring change. You change your mind and that will ultimately change your life.

Ten minutes of burst training won1t give me a six-pack in my abs but 10 minutes of burst training over time will create a healthier me. And in the meantime, my thoughts towards myself change. Knowing that I’m giving a little bit of my busy day towards my health helps me to not judge myself harshly.

I want you to try it. Set a timer for 10 minutes and …

  • choose one space to pick up
  • put away the clean dishes
  • put the dirty dishes in sink
  • clean out one cluttered drawer
  • read your bible or a devotional or pray
  • choose to pack lunches
  • sit down and play Legos with your child
  • sit outside and enjoy creation

There is power in doing something for 10 minutes every day. And giving something time consistently will eventually bring change. What can you do for 10 minutes today that over time could change your life?

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5 Strategies for Developing Lasting Love

These practical and biblical strategies can help you develop lasting love.

Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels

Unrealistic expectations in marriage can affect your satisfaction. Here are five biblical strategies to help you define expectations and develop lasting love.

————-

As a writer, words are important to me. I try to weigh how I use each one, what they are conveying, and to whom they are speaking.

So it’s no surprise that with each selection of a card expressing love for my husband, the greeting’s words go through a biblical filter, somewhat like this.

The card proclaims, “You make my life complete.” Well, no, Colossians 2:10 says that “in Him you have been made complete.”

Another one states, “Didn’t know love before you.” Not exactly. 1 John 4:19 tells me, “We love because He first loved us.”

Still another, “You fulfill my every need.” Ah, will pass. After all, Matthew 6:8 states, “…your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.”

Why Expectations in Love Matter

Eventually, my endless rummaging through cards results in my finding a sentiment that more fits my understanding and experience of holy matrimony.

“We’ve had our ups and downs.” More like it.

“I’m glad we’re on this adventure together.” Adventure, that’s one way to describe it. Smile.

When I finally find one of these heartfelt cards, it reinforces what marriage has been teaching me through the years. Such as:

  • My husband can’t and isn’t equipped to meet my every need, as I’m not able to meet his every need
  • He is going to disappoint me at times, as I will him
  • Love is not a feeling, it’s a moment-by-moment, daily choice

More and more, I’m realizing that my expectations for marriage can affect my satisfaction. Unrealistic ones will cause me to feel disappointed because being married hasn’t meant that I’ve never felt lonely, grieved, unappreciated, or fearful.

5 Strategies for Developing Lasting Love

Below are five biblical strategies to help define expectations and develop lasting love.

1. Use the Buddy System

Long-term matrimony can bring numerous unexpected turns in life and Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 states that, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will life up his companion.”

It reminds me of times when my husband and I are both employed and able to enjoy the extras that come with the two incomes. As well as, the times when my husband was in school full-time or unemployed and I helped to provide needed finances. Or, where I’ve been at home full-time and he’s been employed with sometimes two or more jobs to provide for us. It also brings to mind the times when we’ve experienced losses, disappointment, caring for aging parents, and more and how we have supported each other through the challenges.

2. Look Ahead

When looking beyond my present marital situation is needed, Philippians 3:13-15 offers straightforward words about pressing on, reaching forward, not looking back but looking forward to what lies ahead.

This passage is especially helpful when hurts from the past try to paralyze and prevent me from forgiving and moving forward in my marriage. This strategy is especially helpful during these types of struggles by directing my thoughts to the future, to enjoying our growing family together, and what our staying together means to us and them.

3. Lean on Christ

At times, daily challenges can wear a couple down. Philippians 4:13 encourages me that, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” and staying married does take strength, more than I’m capable on my own, especially when I’m feeling lonely, forgotten, tired, angry, unhappy, or disappointed. This strategy aims to refocus my source of strength so that I look beyond my own capabilities.

4. Know Your Source

Philippians 4:19 assures me that God will supply all my needs according to His riches. So no matter what our current employment or financial situation is, it’s not dependent on only our own efforts or situation. As well, this verse also speaks to emotional and spiritual needs like companionship, comfort, joy, contentment, encouragement, and peace. Over the years, I’ve been learning that God does often work through my husband to meet needs in my life but he isn’t the source. God is my source for all my needs in life.

5. Be A Help Mate

Commonly referred to at the “Proverbs Wife” passage, Proverbs 31:10-31 provides me with practical insight as to what my participation in marriage might look like on a day-to-day basis. It addresses my willingness to be a help to my husband in meeting everyday, hands-on needs in our life together.

Just like running card sentiments through a biblical filter, I’ve found it’s vital to base strategies for developing lasting love on scriptural principles, ones that help keep me on track towards a lifelong marriage. These strategies include fine-tuning my expectations with biblical insights and godly guidelines.

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Articles

The Messy Beauty of Big Change {And How We Can Better Help Each Other Through It}

Even big change of the traumatic sort produces a kind of messy beauty.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Big change comes with big emotion. We could do one another a favor by allowing each other the room to express all the messy beauty of big change.

————-

The air smelled like stinky feet, and I cried.

Infamously dubbed “Tacoma Aroma,” the rotten-egg-ish odor sometimes wafted from the Tideflats up through our windows. On this particular day, it brought me to tears.

As a new mom and just one month into a new city thousands of miles from familiarity, I sat rocking our newborn back and forth, wishing the stench away. The irrationality birthed from sleep deprivation coupled with insecurity had me convinced that the breathing in of Tacoma’s aroma would bring inevitable demise on our child.

Actually, I lived in constant anxiety thinking that just about everything would bring demise to our child. Losing weight and described as “failing to thrive,” our daughter was prescribed formula to supplement her breastfeeding diet. I was unreasonably sad, thinking that I was polluting her body with chemicals that would slowly kill her.

I cried when the doctor prescribed nystatin to combat thrush and simple infant’s Tylenol for teething because medication seemed (ridiculously) like poison to her pure form. I cried because I didn’t want to sleep, thinking that in my slumber, our daughter might take her last breath. I cried because I so very much needed to sleep, but couldn’t. And, I cried because when she cried, I couldn’t figure out why she was crying.

I was a crazy-haired, dark-circle-eyed, wrinkly-clothe-cladded shadow of my former self. And worse, I was embarrassed to share my disheveled new-mom reality with anyone.

Why Big Change Is Often Both/And

Long past are my days of new-mom malaise (thank you, Jesus!). And I’ve learned that most big change will be delightfully harrowing, frighteningly joyful, and exhilaratingly terrifying.

Because becoming a mom? It’s not either delightful or harrowing—it’s both.

Getting married? Both frightening and joyful.

Changing careers? Both exhilarating and terrifying.

Even a big change of the traumatic sort produces a kind of messy beauty. (I’m actually convinced this is God’s specialty!)

I look back on my brother’s tragic death, for example, with a bittersweetness as I recall not only the terrible circumstances but also the renewed faith (for many!) born out of it.

I’m learning to expect that even the happiest big change will have pockets of sorrow and that even the most wretched of life turns will have moments of redemptive joy. It’s why there can be laughter seconds after a brother is buried or sadness weeks after a baby is born.

How to Be There For Each Other in the Messy Beauty of Big Change

I think we could do one another a favor by allowing each other the room to express all the things—the harrow and the delight, the fright and the joy, the terror and the exhilaration—no matter what life change we’re facing.

Christ’s brother James tells us that “whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father” (James 1:17). May we be the kind of people who cry at a funeral, but who also point out (and join in with) the gift of laughter lilting over the fresh grave. May we be the kind of friends who love on and draw attention to the gift of a beautiful baby, but who also hold the hand of one anxiously stumbling through a new life stage.

Because no one should be embarrassed to share her disheveled reality in the midst of big change—especially with fellow believers. Amen?

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Pictures of Freedom

by Amy Storms time to read: 5 min
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