• Articles

    3 Prayers to Refresh Your Weary Soul Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    When news of the global spread of the COVID-19 virus broke at the beginning of this year, l was concerned. Though human civilization has been subjected to numerous epidemics and pandemics throughout history, it still came as a shock to me that we would experience the spread of a virus in such vast proportions in our lifetime. I’m sure you can all relate with me.


    2020 has been the year that has taught us how to act and react. It started with living the lockdown life and progressed into the summer months, with travel restrictions, mandatory testing, and increased infection rates as a consequence of summer tourism.


    Now, for those like me who live in the northern hemisphere, the winter season is approaching and with it, a growing trepidation of the effects of the Coronavirus on the population during the colder months.


    After ten months of living the COVID-19 life, l for one, have become weary. I’m tired of feeling anxious for my health and that of my loved ones, l’m desperate for church fellowship, and l yearn for some semblance of normalcy again.


    I need a refresher, a pick-me-up. I need to know that l can lay down my weary soul and find rest and comfort. And the only One l know, who can provide me with all of that is God.


    Spending time with Him in His word, talking to Him through prayer and supplication is the Balm of Gilead that l need to feel strengthened and renewed.


    If your soul too, is weary and down-trodden from the effects and consequences of the COVID-19 virus, l hope that the following three prayers inspired by the Bible verses Matthew 11:28 (NRSV), Psalm 23:1-3, and Isaiah 40:31 ease your tired soul and refresh you with renewed energy and strength.

    God offers rest to the weary

    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give
    you rest.”
    Matthew 11:28


    This Bible verse gives me so much comfort. It means that when l tense up about COVID regulations and worn down by anxiety about the future, l can take my burdens to God and He will give me rest.


    If you, like me, are in dire need of rest, l hope that the following prayer encourages you to cast your burdens on God and rest in His presence:



    God refreshes our souls

    “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    He leads me beside quiet waters,
    He refreshes my soul.
    He guides me along the right paths
    for His name’s sake.”
    Psalm 23:1-3

    In this psalm, King David draws a parallel from his own experience of tending his father’s flock, to describe how God is his personal shepherd, who provides for him, establishes his path, and offers his soul rest and refreshment.


    God is indeed the good shepherd who will always prioritize the well-being of us, His sheep.


    If you too, like me, need God to guide you to rest in His presence and refresh your soul, l hope that the following prayer encourages you:




    God renews our strength

    “But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
    They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.”
    Isaiah 40:31

    I don’t know why the world has been afflicted by the COVID-19 virus, but l do know that my hope lies in God to heal those infected, and to provide a vaccine and even a cure against future Coronavirus pandemics.


    How God will do this, l don’t know, but just having hope in Him and believing in His goodness and mercy renews my strength to keep dealing with restrictions, social distancing, and regular testing, because l know that God is working in our current global situation.


    I hope that the following prayer fills you with hope and that you experience a renewal of God’s strength:




    God sees the toll that this current pandemic is having upon us. Therefore, while He sorts out this global situation with His perfect timing, let us answer His call to comfort us; let us rest our weary souls in His loving embrace and be refreshed and restored by His mercy and spiritual power.

    Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband, Solomon.

    Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.

  • Devotionals

    A Second Chance through Forgiveness

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
    Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

    Thought of the Day:

    Forgiveness and understanding forms a bridge that promotes peace with our fellow man and undoes the damage caused by adversity.

    A few months ago, l had a memorable encounter with a lady, who taught me the value of second chances through her act of forgiveness.


    I had just left a doctor’s appointment and decided to pop into a shop, which was adjacent to the doctor’s office. When l am in public places, l always have headphones on, as l suffer from social anxiety and am particularly sensitive to noise. However, as l had removed my headphones for my doctor’s appointment, l didn’t think it was worth donning them to make a quick purchase.


    I was perusing some items on a shelf, when an unexpectedly loud cry made me literally jump in the air. I clutched my chest and felt my heart beating a staccato rhythm underneath my ribcage.


    l turned around slowly to uncover the source of the noise: A mother was standing near me with a 3-year old girl in a stroller. The toddler was upset, which was evident through her loud cries and failing limbs, complete with tightly clenched fists.


    I felt sorry for the girl, as well as for her mother, the latter who was visibly at a loss as to how to soothe her child. l fervently hoped that the lady hadn’t noticed my involuntary reflex towards her child’s outburst. Unfortunately, she had.


    “You don’t need to behave so distastefully towards us!” she barked at me. “My goodness, she is only a child!”


    I was so embarrassed. I turned to the lady and tried to explain my predicament and how I felt no animosity towards her baby.


    Oh, why didn’t l just put on my headphones? l lamented to myself.


    Still offended, the lady stormed out of the shop. l felt just awful. I was about to look for the lady outside, when she suddenly reappeared.


    “I apologize,” she said gently. “I’ve had a hard day with my girl. I heard you when you said you had health problems, and l felt sorry for you. I had to come back and tell you that.”


    “No, it is me, who should apologize!” l exclaimed with relief. “Raising a child is hard, and l so admire you! I wanted to find you and tell you that!”


    We spent the next 30 minutes talking, and I was grateful for the second chance this lady gave me to make amends by forgiving me.


    This experience was an important reminder for me that God forgave us for our sins through the blood sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ; His gift of Salvation is our second chance at eternal righteousness with our heavenly Father. Thank You, Lord!

    Prayer:

    Thank You for forgiving us for our sins and offering us a second chance at eternal life through Your gift of Salvation. Help us to forgive others like You forgave us. Amen.

    This devotional was published on PresbyCan Devotionals on the 3rd of September 2020.

    Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband, Solomon. Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.

  • Personal testimonies

    Black and White Notes – A Poem About Interracial Friendships

    “If you want to play beautiful music, you must play the black and white notes together.”

    Richard Nixon

    This quote from Richard Nixon inspired me to write a poem about my three closest friends, who happen to be Caucasian.

    Black and White Notes

    By Madeline Kalu

    The first hesitant notes of a new composition,

    Fingers running over scales, wrists relaxing,

    Our individual melodies harmonize with each other,

    Humoresque comments synchronized by chords of mirth and laughter,

    Royal excitement of sharing adventures in a foreign land.

    A song is created, a rhythm is established,

    Tapas evenings and girly chats,

    You perform your Friday dance with allegro,

    A weekend salute with a Bombay orignal.

    We attend the Queen Bee’s court and deeply dig the groove,

    And spend lazy summer evenings enjoying Hạ Long Bay.

    I share makeup tricks with you in Antwerp,

    We honor the fallen soldiers at the Menin Gate,

    You teach me new songs in Brussels, Berlin, Liverpool, and Dover.

    As l waltz barefoot on moonlit cobbled stones across the Grand-Place,

    You hold my shoes,

    And compose melodies that make me laugh and inspire me to create.

    We bear the brunt of life’s elegies together:

    The pain of losing loved ones to cancer,

    The fear of missing out on life’s opportunities,

    The fight to be free of our demons,

    The yearning of what it would be like to be happy.

    You make up the major chords and l the minor ones,

    You are the white notes – l am the black,

    Together, we create a symphony that has been playing for many years.

    Our arrangement does not see skin color,

    It does not judge or remember past mistakes.

    Instead, our music is an expression of our respect and acceptance,

    We live our friendship with rubato – with freedom.

  • Devotionals

    A love reaction to racism

    Thought of the Day:

    When faced with persecution, l will remember the love of Christ and bless those who seek to mistreat me.  

    “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”

    Romans 12:14 (NRSV)

    My husband Solomon and I have been living in Germany for many years as expatriates. I am British and Solomon is Nigerian. We are well integrated with the traditions and social intricacies of the German culture, and we speak the language fluently.

    In the past few years, I have become increasingly concerned about the growing presence of xenophobia in Germany. A few months ago, my husband was personally confronted with racial prejudice.

    Solomon was entering a train, when a young man stepped forward and barred his progress. He looked angry, and his hands were balled into tight fists.

    “Hey, you, foreigner,” the young man said gruffly. “Go back to your own country, and stop taking our jobs!”

    Solomon was sorely tempted just to ignore the man. He was very tired and just wanted to get home. However, he saw that his persecutor was pale, gaunt, and poorly dressed. This individual had clearly gone through some hard times. Solomon felt sorry for him.

    Smiling at the man, Solomon replied, “I can see that you’re angry. But I am not your enemy.”

    Taking advantage of the man’s shocked silence, Solomon continued, “Anger and resentment are costing you your health. Turn those negative emotions into positive thoughts that can change your mindset and ultimately your life.”  My husband is a great admirer of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and his ministry of preaching God’s Word in combination with the principles of positive thinking.  

    Suddenly, the man’s mask of bravado evaporated. He admitted to Solomon that he was unemployed and living below the existence minimum. Out of frustration, he had joined a right-wing political party that cultivated animosity towards foreigners by targeting them as the cause for Germany’s socio-economic problems.

    Later, when they both disembarked from the train, Solomon wrote down the title of Dr. Peale’s bestseller The Power of Positive Thinking and offered it to the young man. Solomon told him about how a relationship with God and an application of thinking positively had changed his own life around – it could change his life, too.

    The young man took the piece of paper from Solomon eagerly, promising to read the book. As he walked away, gone were the former anger and bitterness that had been etched on his features; instead, the young man’s face was now full of hope and encouragement.

    Prayer:

    Wonderful Father,

    You tell us in 1 Peter 4:12, that we are not to be surprised when faced with persecution. Help us to react with love to those who mistreat us, for You opened out Your arms to give us Your redeeming love when our transgressions had made us Your enemy.

    In Jesus’ name, we pray.

    Amen.

    Delve Deeper:

    What if my husband had perceived this act of persecution as a threat and not as an opportunity to share God’s love and to set someone on the path towards a relationship with Jesus?

    Paul writes in Romans 12:14 that we should bless those who persecute us. The next time someone mistreats us, let us try to react to them as Christ would — with love and forgiveness. From personal experience, I know that it’s not always easy, but it is worth striving for, in order to further God’s kingdom on earth.

    Watch the video to “A Love Reaction to Racism”

    We have also made a short video about this devotional for you to watch!

  • Articles

    10 Tips on Looking After your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    At Jacob’s Ladder, we believe that having good mental health is important for everyone, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

    Statistics show that more people are suffering from depression, fear, and anxiety as a result of a change in their financial situation, the risk of infection, and the drastic change to their everyday existence as a result of self-quarantine and lockdown procedures.

    For that reason, we have made a list of 10 tips to help you look after your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    1.ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN A ROUTINE

    Work out a daily routine with set times for getting up, doing sport, meal times, and going to bed.

    Build up your daily routine my making a routine for the entire week.

    As part of your weekly routine, factor in chores like grocery shopping and even date nights and family evenings.

    2. BE ACTIVE

    Regular physical activity improves your mood and concentration, it reduces stress and depression, and improves the quality of your sleep.

    Do some form of exercise at least 3 times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes.

    To hold yourself accountable, work out with a member of your family, or if lockdown procedures allow it, meet up with a friend for a walk, jog, or even a bike ride in the park.

    3. HAPPY GUT, HAPPY LIFE

    Your gut produces 95% of your body’s serotonin, the happy hormone.

    Therefore, eat healthy foods like grains, fruits, vegetables, and proteins to help keep you emotionally stable.

    Replace sugary drinks with water, and reduce your alcohol consumption.

    4. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS

    It’s ok to feel anxious, fearful, and even angry about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects.

    However, try and not let your emotions dictate your mood.

    If emotional turmoil is shredding your nerves and stealing your joy, tell God about it, and ask Him to give you the strength to deal with what is bothering you.

    Also, confiding in your spouse, a member of your family, or even a close friend will help release some of the emotional tension you’re feeling.

    Too many times we keep our emotions bottled in,which can lead not only to mental disorders, but it can also result in physical ailments such as headaches, back pain, ulcers, and poor sleep quality.

    5. LIMIT YOUR NEWS CONSUMPTION

    Scouring the news for every latest update regarding the COVID-19 virus is not only going to increase your anxiety, it will also waste your time and prevent you from living your life.

    It is definitely sensible to be informed, but don’t overdo it!

    6. SPEND TIME WITH GOD

    If worry, anxiety, and fears regarding your welfare and the future of you and your family are affecting your peace of mind, turn to God and cast your mental burdens on Him.

    His promises of love, grace, protection, and provision will comfort you and give you hope.

    Make it a part of your daily routine to spend time with God. Treat that time as “you” time and don’t let anyone disrupt you.

    This could mean that you may need to get up slightly earlier than usual or wait until your family goes to bed in order to have your quiet time with God.

    7. AVOID “WHAT IF?” IF QUESTIONS

    Try to avoid postulating and procrastinating about the future: It’s only going to increase your stress levels and rob you of today’s joy.

    8. DO SOMETHING KIND FOR OTHERS

    Doing something kind for others will distract you from your own problems and enrich someone in need.

    It will also help you to appreciate what you may take for granted e.g. mobility, family.

    You can help others by offering to do grocery shopping for a neighbor, who is elderly or sick. Arrange to drop your purchases at the door to maintain social distancing.

    You can also offer to donate blood, help out in a soup kitchen, a food bank, a kindergarten, an animal rescue station, or ask your local hospital if they need volunteers.

    Financial donations are always welcome during this period of economic uncertainty.

    Some countries also offer initiatives to train people online to become digital counselors.

    In our free EBook “More than Conquerors through Christ”, we offer an extensive list of ways you can help others during the COVID-19 pandemic. To obtain a free copy of our EBook, click here.

    9. CONNECT

    The current pandemic has left many feeling cut-off from the rest of the world.

    If lockdown measures prevent you from meeting up with family and friends, give them a call, or organize a Skype or Zoom meeting.

    Otherwise, arrange to meet a friend in the park and go for a walk together. If restaurants are opening up again in your area, organize a coffee date or go out for a meal.

    10. BE GRATEFUL

    Show God gratitude by thanking Him for all the wonder things he does for you – no matter how small.

    Practicing gratitude will replace negative thoughts, boost your morale, and give you revelation of how much God blesses your life.

    Our family keeps a “Miracle Book”, where we write down all the miraculous and wonderful things that God does in our lives. When l find myself getting anxious, or having depressive thoughts, l read over some of our prior entries and feel comforted and reassured of God’s love, faithfulness, and provision.


    Maybe you could try keeping a “Miracle Book” as well. You could also use a “Miracle Jar” and record your writings on strips of paper.

    Also, try writing down three great things every day that God has done for you that day.

    We hope you found our 10 tips on how you can look after your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic useful, and that you enjoyed our video as well!

    Happy mental health, everyone!

    Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband, Solomon. Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.

  • Jacob's Ladder Artist's Page

    Allie Crummy Releases Her Debut Album and Has Peace Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

    Christian singer/songwriter, Allie Crummy, is releasing her debut album I Have Peace on April 10, 2020.

    Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Allie is a deep thinker, who processes life through writing songs that reflect the tension between what she believes to be true about God, contrasted with what she sees happening in the world around her. Her musical style draws from blues, folk, and soul influences, often utilizing three-part harmonies, and always delivering a melody that’s fun to sing through vocals that are brimming with emotion. 

    Allie brings a refreshing sound to the Christian contemporary music scene and provides honest lyrics with which many Christians are likely to identify.

    The inspiration behind the album

    When Allie set out to write, record, and release the album I Have Peace, she did not have a worldwide health crisis in mind.

    The songs on the album were written in response to what she has experienced over the course of the last five years – including a health crisis of her own, which was her inspiration for “I Have Peace”, the eponymous title track of the album.

    Additionally, “What He Gives Me” and “Out of My Head were written in response to watching friends walk through grief or major difficulties with mental health. Learning to be a better mother lead Allie to write “Our God is Compassionate”, and dealing with a divisive and calloused political atmosphere resulted in “How Long” and “Free Me Up”.

    How the themes in I Have Peace reflect our current global situation

    The themes presented in this album have a providentially pertinent voice for this moment in history.

    For example:

    Feeling uncertain about your health if you were to contract the Coronavirus?

    I don’t know what tomorrow will bring,

    But I know that trials will come,

    And I don’t know when the end will be for me

    But I have peace, I have peace, I have peace with God.”

    From “I Have Peace”

    Worried about your portfolio?

    “Out of my head and into Your hands,

    My anxious thoughts and my heavy burdens.”

    From “Out of My Head”

    Bogged down by the political discourse around the crisis?

    “I have competing voices in my head,

    They come from the left and from the right,

    I listen to them too much, but also not enough,

    I can’t tell what’s gray from black and white.”

    From “Free Me Up”

    Hope in the midst of confusion

    If there is a single unifying thread throughout the whole album, it is this: Hope can be found in the midst of confusion.

    The initial success of I have Peace

    Allie Crummy’s debut album I Have Peace has already enjoyed initial success. “How Long” has had radio play, “I Have Peace” has 30k streams on Spotify, and Allie has released music videos for two songs on the album – “I Have Peace” and “Our God is Compassionate” – which are both available on YouTube.

    Interested in listening to I Have Peace from Allie Crummy?

    You can listen to Allie Crummy’s debut album I Have Peace on Spotify. Just click here.

    Connect Further

    For further information, feel free to contact Allie per email: alliecrummymusic@gmail.com.

    You can also follow Allie on Instagram:  @alliecrummymusic

    Allie also has a Facebook page: @alliecrummymusic.

    Visit Allie’s Artist Page on Spotify.

    Allie Crummy is someone who has a lot to say, and it’s clear that she has more up her sleeve. Make sure you check out this fantastic debut album!

  • Jacob's Ladder Artist's Page

    Marianne Paluso – Life’s Bridges, God’s Timing, and the Puddin’ Pie Girls

    Jacob’s Ladder Blog is thrilled to welcome the artist Marianne Paluso to our Artist’s Page!

    When l first discovered Marianne’s artistic creativity, I could immediately see her love for children through the sweet and whimsical characters she painted; they evoked memories of the toys l had played with as a child, and the fun l had in dreaming and creating my own artwork. I was also drawn to Marianne’s attention to detail and the combination of soft and vibrant hues she uses, as well as her application of varying mediums such as watercolors, acrylics, and pastels.

    Upon increasing my acquaintance with her, l was moved by Marianne’s gentle, humble nature and her incredible heart to help others. It is Marianne’s fervent desire to bring clarity to those who question their purpose in life and to make them aware that God has a good plan for them. Life is full of seasons, Marianne states, and what doesn’t make sense to you in this season, God will use for your good in the next with His perfect timing. You are gifted, blessed, and His precious child, and His grace will always be with you.

    We hope you enjoy viewing Marianne’s artwork and listening to her songs, and that her story touches your heart as it did mine!

    “Just Breathe”

    Blog banner: “Showers of Blessings”

    Who l am

    My name is Marianne Paluso. I live in East Tennessee very near the Smoky Mountain National Park. I am a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. I am a retired nurse of 42 years; however, presently, I work as a stay-at-home artist.

    Marianne Paluso

    A life bridge and the truths l learned from walking across it

    I am so honored to be asked to participate in the Artist’s Page for Jacob’s Ladder Blog.

    I want to share some of my story that built a bridge between what I had hoped to become and what I eventually became.

    I have learned 2 valuable truths while walking across this life bridge:
    Truth No. 1
    – God’s timing is perfect.
    Truth No. 2 – I believe that we have different gifts for different seasons of our lives.

    An encouragement for those of you who are asking themselves, “What am l doing here?”

    I do hope that the life lessons l share with you in this space will speak to someone who may be reading this and asking themselves, “What am I doing here?”

    My childhood and how l discovered my love for the arts

    Let me start my story with my childhood.

    I had a wonderful time growing up on a farm in Ohio where I could wander about, enjoy nature, reach out and touch a dog, a pony, or a lamb. However, something was missing – other kids! I was very lonely and somewhat introspective. Out of this grew a great imagination. From early on, I was drawn to the arts.

    Music and painting were my love and my friend. In fact, l first colored and painted with my grandmother. Therefore, when I graduated from high school, l enrolled in college to study art.

    “Happy Farm Girl “

    A career change

    However, during this time my dad became critically ill and died. My mother decided to pull me from art school and enroll me in a nursing program. She reasoned that an artist “would starve in a ditch”.

    I was a nurse for 42 years. I did not resent the career change, because I learned to look at nursing as a healing art. The recipe for nursing includes skill, perseverance, much compassion, and sometimes even a pinch of humor.

    Additionally, I learned great empathy, which I have drawn upon many times in my writing and art.

    Music and incorporating God’s Word

    While working as a nurse, I needed a creative outlet. Therefore, I began writing and performing as a singer-songwriter, which I did for about 10 years.

    At that time, I wrote folk music from a Christian perspective. All of my songs are stories full of truth and symbolism, which point back to the gospel of Christ.

    My husband and I produced 2 albums. The first, Greener Grass, was very direct in its Christian message, and most of the songs were straight from Scripture. I will be re-releasing Greener Grass on my website Little House Treasures in the near future.

    The following is an audio recording of one of the songs on the Greener Grass album, “Tiny Baby’s Majesty”:

    “Tiny Baby’s Majesty” from the album Greener Grass


    The second album, Miss Lucy’s House, was more indirect in its scriptural nature; however, the symbolism is heavy between home and heaven. This album can be purchased on my website Little House Treasures.

    Album cover and CD of Miss Lucy’s House

    The following is an audio recording of “Miss Lucy’s House”, which is the lead track from the eponymous album Miss Lucy’s House:

    “Miss Lucy’s House” from the eponymous album Miss Lucy’s House

    I also had a small music ministry in surrounding states visiting colleges, festivals, and churches. I always felt that I wanted my music to reach everyone but especially those who did not know anything about Jesus.

    One time, I was doing a Passion Play pre-performance, where a group of high school students were attending. I overheard one of them ask, “Who was Jesus?”

    I couldn’t even imagine it at first, but yes – there are folks who don’t know who Jesus is!

    It became my mission to reach these people: I wanted to teach them about Jesus through my story songs.

    What happened to the music?

    At this point, I lost my brother. This affected me deeply, and I lost my way. As a result, I locked up my music studio and never went back.

    It took my heart a very long time to begin to heal. I battled anger and depression. I couldn’t listen to music, because it was too beautiful, yet too painful.

    My spirit was crushed but God knew me. He had plans for me. He was holding me up, as I walked across life’s bridge.

    What healed me?

    There were many tears after my brother passed away. However, what healed my heart was God’s continual quiet voice whispering, “Keep going, you are worth it.”

    I also was blessed by a godly husband, who stood by my side even when it was rough waters. When I was sinking, my husband was my comfort, my confidante, and my support.

    Further down the road, the birth of my first grandchild also healed my heart. Now l have a second grandchild! All are blessings and promises of God’s love.

    I want to say this: Never underestimate the prayers of your grandparents and the effect of those prayers on your life. Paul addresses this to Timothy in 2 Timothy1:5 (KJV). I know I was prayed for by my grandmother, and I pray for my children and their children. Those prayers live on.

    If your heart is broken today, go ahead and release your tears, for they are precious to God. In Psalm 56:8, King David says, “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book?”
    Your tears are so precious to the Lord.

    “Something About Her” from the album Greener Grass. Marianne wrote this song about her grandmother, who introduced her to art as a child.

    Why did I start painting?

    After I retired from nursing, I had to do something as a creative outlet. It is hard leaving a highly regimented job and to then move forward in life “allowing my whimsy to run free”. I felt like I was being frivolous and naughty!

    And yet, I was acutely aware that I was venturing into a new season.

    I started doodling and painting and found that my granddaughter loved what I was doing. She and I had so much fun painting together!

    “Miss Lily’s Dream Dance”

    However, I struggled with the idea that to be godly meant l shouldn’t be having fun, which isn’t true. If you are struggling with such thoughts as an artist, please knock it off! God loves you and has called you with a holy calling (James 1:17)! You can enjoy your life while you exercise the gifts He has given you!

    So, that is what l did. As a result, I have built a cottage industry of designing patterns for my simple paintings that allow others to recreate them. My desire is for grandmothers, mothers, dads – in fact, anyone who wants to create – to find joy in painting, especially with the children in their lives.

    Living in God’s perfect timing

    The full circle of life is not lost on me. God knew the desires of my heart, which was the arts. He knew the perfect time and the perfect seasons to grant me these desires. It took many years, but He allowed me the privilege of experiencing both music and painting and to help others enjoy them too. Such an act of God’s grace causes me to weep with joy and gratitude. What a mighty God we serve!

    If you feel you are wandering in the desert and are crying out, “What am I doing here?”, God hears you! He’s protecting you as He waits for the perfect time and the perfect season to bless you.


    Trust in Him!

    “Showers of Blessings”


    My most endearing art project – The Puddin’ Pie Girls

    As a child, I played with paper dolls. I loved them. I particularly loved the sets which were the Lennon Sisters. I know most of you are asking, “What??? Who????”

    Inspired by my childhood toys, I had in my mind a design for wooden dolls that could be painted and played with. Hence, in 2017, I designed the “Puddin’ Pie Girls” series. This started as a fun project with my granddaughter.

    Three of the “Puddin’ Pie Girls”

    For some reason, I submitted my first Puddin’ Pie Girl to Painting Ezine, an online digital download painting magazine. And lo and behold, it was on the cover of their October issue in 2018!

    Meanwhile, I have 5 Puddin’ Pie Girl designs and am just completing my 6th.

    “Lily Plum Pluett Puddin’ Pie” that was chosen for the cover of the October 2018 issue of Painting Ezine

    The painting patterns and step-by-step instructions for painting the Puddin’ Pie Girls, as well as my other pictures, are available for purchase on my website Little House Treasures. I also offer completed works for purchase and wooden painting surfaces.

    All my products can be viewed in the gallery on my website.

    Biblical inspiration and advice

    Matthew 18:3-4 is very compelling to me. Jesus tells us to become as little children and to humble ourselves.

    This is my goal as an artist. I try to look at things through a child’s eyes. Whatever is wholesome and pure, innocent and playful, whimsical and fun – this is my outlook on the things around me.

    I believe the Holy Spirit whispers an idea and the child in me takes it and runs with it! Just when I think my work is complete, He whispers, “Go a little further.”

    I never go with my initial finished work, because I know more will come. A word of advice is to sleep on it!

    If you are inspired to start writing or painting, I would advise you to always write down any and all ideas, no matter how big or small: snippets of songs, sketches, things you have seen, ideas that you may want to refer back to – whatever comes to you. Keep them always! You will return to them again and again.

    Why do that, you ask?

    At times, my creative cup bubbles over; other times, it waits to be filled. That’s when I am thankful for the things I have jotted down along the way!

    “Family Blessings”

    Challenges as a Christian Artist

    Having done both music and painting, the pressure is great to go the way of the mainstream industry.

    You will have well-meaning friends, publishers, and others giving you advice to change a lyric, shorten a song, create a new hook, or make your art more appealing to a wider audience by compromising on your original concept. I gave in to some of these things in the past, and it left me feeling sad and regretful.

    I encourage you to stay the course. Some advice is instructional, but some is going to take you off your path. Pray for discernment always.

    “Stand Firm” from the album Greener Grass

    Stir up the gifts of God

    2 Timothy 1:6 says to “stir up the Gift of God which is in you.”


    God knew you before time began and laid out a plan for your life, bestowing special gifts upon you.

    Keep your focus on the gifts God has given you. They are special, precious, and unique, and the world needs them.

    Summary

    I hope that in some small way, my words have encouraged you to keep your eyes on the course that was set before you by the One who created you.

    When you find yourself asking, “Lord, what am I doing here?”, be assured that there will come a day when it will all come full circle and be made known.

    God wants the best for you, His child. He is eternally patient with you and has good things in store for you. His timing is perfect and just because you are doing plumbing today, in the next season you may be doing electrical wiring! Not to worry, because you are still building a house for Him!

    Life is not static but remains fluid until the end. Go with God’s flow!

    God bless,
    Marianne Paluso

    P.S. Dear Mom, I am not starving in a ditch!

    Special words of thanks

    I thank God for the gifts He has laid upon me, special gifts for different seasons of my life.

    I thank God for my husband, who has always supported me and stood by me during rough sailing on choppy waters.

    I thank God for my children and grandchildren, who are bright stars in the sky and influence me daily.

    Connecting Further

    If you are interested in obtaining my painting instructions, you can download them from the following websites:
    www.etsy.com/shop/MariannesStudioArt
    www.littlehousetreasures.com

    You can also purchase my CD Miss Lucy’s House from my website, Little House Treasures:
    www.littlehousetreasures.com

    Feel free to write me an email!
    Email address: mapkap@hotmail.com

    About Marianne Paluso:

    Marianne Paluso is a retired nurse who now lives her childhood dream of being an artist. She is also a Christian folk musician who has produced two albums, Greener Grass and Miss Lucy’s House, with her husband.

    Marianne was first introduced to art by her grandmother; she, in turn, passed her love of artistic creativity down to her first granddaughter. These shared hours of joy inspired Marianne to create the Puddin’ Pie Girls, a serious of painting patterns aimed to provide adults and their children with the same enjoyment for painting.

    The Puddin’ Pie Girls are available for purchase on Marianne’s website Little House Treasures, as well as her music, original paintings, and other products.

  • Articles

    How a vision board can help you realize your goals for 2020

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    I first discovered vision boards through a series of YouTube videos from Terri Savelle Foy on the subject. For those of you who may not know her, Terri Savelle Foy is a Christian motivational speaker and life coach.

    Listening to Terri’s testimonies on how she used vision boards to realize her goals, motivated me to find out how vision boards could help me achieve mine.

    Therefore, l went up to my attic early last year and found an old corkboard that was standing forgotten in the corner. I cut out the letters “Vision” and pasted photos of the dreams and goals l wanted to achieve for that year; accompanied by each photo l wrote a declaration of achievement such as “I will have an article published by Crosswalk.com this year”.

    Did it work?

    It did.

    Not only did Crosswalk.com publish an article l wrote, but l was also approached by Christianity.com to write an article for them. Consequently, I have been writing for both online magazines for about nine months now. Additionally, l was asked this month to become part of the writing team for YMI Magazine.

    Vision boards work, and l am not the only one who thinks so: Christian Celebrities such as  Steve Harvey and Adrienne Houghton claim that using vision boards helped them achieve their dreams and goals.

    What is a vision board?

    So, what is a vision board?

    A vision board, otherwise known as a dream board, is a visualization tool that uses selected collages and verbal incentives on a board that act to clarify your dreams and goals, as well as keep you motivated and focused to achieve them.  

    Photo credit:  Emily Morter on Unsplash

    Why do vision boards work?

    Vision boards work as they:

    • help you identify and specify the dreams and goals you want to achieve
    • keep you motivated to make these dreams and goals a reality
    • are a constant visual reminder of your intentions to improve your life

    Photo credit:  S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

    Do l need to use a board to visualize my dreams and goals?

    Having a vision board hung in a prominent position in your home or your office is an effective way to self-motivate and keep your attention on your intentions.

    However, a vision board doesn’t have to be made out of corkboard for it to be effective.

    You can also create your own unique digital vision boards. Online tools such as PicMonkey and Canva enable you to create beautiful vision boards that you can store on your desktop or device, or download onto your phone.

    You can also use Pinterest to create a board and “pin” photos, images, scriptures, and inspirational quotes on it.

    The advantage of a digital vision board is that you can motivate yourself whenever and wherever you want to: at work, at the gym, or in the doctor’s waiting room. You can even re-focus on your life goals by referring to your vision board while you wait in the supermarket queue!

    Whatever way you choose to design your board, the main thing to consider is that it should be kept in a place where you have constant visual access to it.

    Photo credit: Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash

    Are vision boards biblical?

    It is a common assumption that vision boards work on the principle of the law of attraction, that is, that your mind works like a magnet to attract positive or negative things into your life, according to your mindset.

    However, the Bible states that we attract what we think:

    “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

    Proverbs 23:7 (AMP)

    God advocates the necessity of having a vision – a revelation over our lives. Look at Proverbs 29:18:

    “Where there is no vision [no revelation of God and His word], the people are unrestrained.”

    Proverbs 29:18

    The key point to note here is that vision and revelation should come from God and His Word.

    Furthermore, in Habakkuk 2:2, it states that we should write down our visions and revelations:

    ‘“Then the LORD answered me and said, “Write the vision and engrave it plainly on (clay) tablets so that the ones who reads it will run.”’

    Habakkuk 2:2

    Though some argue that vision boards center around the self through the pursuit of one’s own interests, a vision board can actually be an effective tool to visualize the dreams and goals that God has put in your heart, if the fulfilment of His will is our incentive, and not our self-interest.

    In order to achieve this, we need to seek God’s presence through supplication and prayer and keep Him as our first priority.

    Photo credit:  Rod Long on Unsplash

    Is it superficial or materialistic of me, if l want to improve the quality of my life?

    A desire to increase one’s personal wealth and acquire material possessions is a common association that is made when we approach the topic of making goals and achieving our dreams. And that is understandable, as we live in a broken world, whose value system is based on self-interest, materialism, and superficiality.

    God is not at the center of such pursuits.

    However, what if you had an ardent wish to be healed of a terminal illness? Or to heal a deep rift in your family? What if your biggest dream was to have a baby?

    You may also be very unhappy with your current job situation, or you would love to start your own Christian ministry.

    Would you seek God in prayer and ask Him to help make such matters of the heart a reality?

    Yes, you would.

    Dreams and goals do not have to be necessarily financially or materialistically orientated.

    That being said, that doesn’t mean that we can’t ask God to help make our financial ambitions a reality.

    Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross of Calvary was not only to pay the bond price for our sins and thereby secure us an eternal position at His side in Heaven. Jesus also came that we may have a fruitful life during our time on earth:

    “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”

    John 10:10

    What remains important is that our dreams and goals are in keeping with God’s will for our lives. Therefore, staying in constant communication with God through seeking His presence in prayer and in our quiet time with Him should be our first priority, not only as goal makers, but as Christians too.

    Photo credit:  Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

    What is the difference between a dream and a goal?

    Good question!

    A dream is an aspiration that has set itself in your heart. It is a vision you have of your future self – a healthier, happier, fulfilled self. You yearn for it and think about it on a regular basis; you hope and even believe it will happen, but you’re not sure when.

    And that’s good, because we can turn our dreams into goals.

    How?

    By attaching a deadline to them.

    A goal is a dream with a projected timeline. Goals are something you act upon. It requires a plan to make them a reality.

    Photo by Peter Fogden on Unsplash

    What are the most common dreams and goals that people aspire to?

    The following is a chart that depicts the most common dreams and goals that people want to achieve:

    What you will need to create your own vision board for 2020

    So, now that you know what a vision board is and how it can help you manifest your dreams and goals, you’ve decided that you would like to take the plunge and create your own vision board.

    First of all, spend some time in prayer and ask God for revelation of the dreams and goals He has put in your heart. Have a notebook with you in order that you can write down your thoughts and dreams as God reveals them to you.

    After you have determined your dreams and goals, it’s time to put them onto your board!

    Here’s what you need to get started:

    A board: A corkboard is ideal to use as a vision board, because you can pin your dreams and goals on them and then take them off easily and replace them with new ones. However, you can also use a whiteboard, a poster board, or a flip chart if you prefer.

    Pictures: Use pictures that graphically describe the dream or goal you want to achieve. Pin or glue your pictures next to the dreams and goals you write on your board. For example, if you are believing God for a baby, find pictures of baby clothing, a nursery, and a crib and paste it next to your goal.

    You can find pictures online, in magazines, or in brochures. You can even use postcards and pamphlets. Alternatively, you can create your own pictures digitally or draw them freehand.

    Adhesive: Use map pins, drawing pins, sellotape, double-sided tape, or glue to adhere everything onto your vision board.

    Writing implements: Write your goals on your board with permanent markers, whiteboard pens, or other pens of your choice. You can even cut out letters from magazines or use letter stencils.

    What else you will need:

    • scissors
    • paper or card to write your goals on

    If you would like a step-by-step tutorial on how to create your own vision board, click here to watch Terri Savelle Foy’s YouTube video on how she sets up her own vision board.

    Customize your vision board:

    The beauty of a vision board is that you can customize it to suit your tastes and preferences.

    The following are some ideas on how you can customize your vision board:

    Additionally, you can decorate your vision board according to your tastes with the following:

    • Washi tape
    • Glitter
    • Stickers
    • Ribbons and colorful bands

    I know that this feels like a kickback to your childhood, when you made your own poster presentations, but you’ll be amazed at how your visionary mindset is ignited once you get your creative juices flowing.

    You can also purchase vision board kits that provide you with printables such as scriptures, quotations, and affirmations with which you can customize your vision board.

    However you decide to design you board is up to you. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect; you’re creating a visualization tool, you’re not trying to be the next Picasso. Just have fun being creative!

    Photo by Carissa Weiser on Unsplash

    Make the most out of your 2020 vision board

    The following are some tips to help you make the most of your 2020 vision board:

    Make specific goals

    If you make unspecific goals, you are going to achieve unspecific results. Therefore, instead of writing on your vision board “I want to lose weight this year”, write down, “I will lose 10 pounds by July 1st”. Instead of writing, “I want to spend more time with God”, you can write, “I will get up 20 minutes earlier every morning and pray and have fellowship with God”.

    Additionally, another way you can set specific goals is to do some research and find out exactly what you need to do to achieve your goals.

    For example, if your goal is to come of out debt in 2020, ring your bank and find out how much you actually owe. Then write that number on your vision board. If your dream is to save up for a holiday, research how much the plane fares, hire car etc. are going to cost you so that you can have that number in front of you every time you look at your vision board.

    Don’t set more than 10 goals

    Setting too many goals can cause us to lose focus and it can also overwhelm us. Therefore, choose 10 goals to place on your vision board and concentrate on achieving them. Every time you reach one of those ten goals, you can always replace it with a new one.

    Set deadlines

    As we established earlier, the difference between a dream and turning it into a goal that you intend to achieve, is by setting a deadline.

    A good tip is not to set all your deadlines for December 31st, as the time span between now and then is so long, that you won’t be motivated to start achieving your goals until the end of this year, thereby putting yourself under unnecessary pressure. Making different deadlines will help you manage your goal setting and give you a sense of accomplishment as you tick each goal off as you progress through the year.

    If you don’t achieve your goal by the set deadline, don’t worry – just make a new deadline and keep striving towards making your goals a reality. The main thing is to complete the race and claim the prize; it doesn’t matter how long it takes to cross over the finish line.

    Make your deadlines realistic

    An acquaintance of mine has a goal to read 52 motivational books by the end of this year. That is certainly an admirable intention, but that means he has to read an average of 1 book a week, which puts a lot of pressure on him.

    However, what if he was to make a goal of reading 12 books a year? It’s a lot less than 52, but it means that he can read one book a month. And to have read 12 books in one year is still an achievement, isn’t it?

    Additionally, break down your goals into smaller, doable increments. Having a goal to read 12 books in one year still sounds like a lot of discipline is required. However, when you see that it means that you only need to read one book a month, then that reading goal suddenly seems more feasible to achieve.

    Another good tip, if you are making a vision board for the first time, is to make goals that you can see yourself achieving within 12-18 months; that way you can achieve a sense of accomplishment within a shorter period of time that will motivate you to pin further dreams and goals onto your vision board.

    Keep your vision board visible

    Now that you have made your vision board, you want to keep the goals and dreams that you intend to achieve at the forefront of your mind. Looking at your vision board daily will constantly remind you of how you want to change your life for the better; if your vision board is out of your direct sight, the desire for change will lose importance for you.

    Hence, hang your board in a place that you have daily access to, such as your kitchen, or next to your bathroom sink.

    If you have a digital vision board, save it onto your computer desktop or use it as your phone’s screensaver.

    Pray over your vision board

    On a daily basis, stand in front of your board and pray for God’s will, favor, and guidance for each of your dreams and goals.

    We may have great plans for our life, but God always knows what is best for us; therefore, we should lean on Him and trust Him to guide our steps for the outcomes He believes will best serve us.

    “A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life],
    But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.”

    Proverbs 16:9

    Speak positive declarations over your dreams and visions

    In Joshua 6:20, the Israelites shouted in victory before they saw the walls of the city of Jericho fall down. In Acts 16:22-26,  Paul and Silas praised God whilst fettered in prison chains before He freed them. In 2 Chronicles 20:20-24, King Jehoshaphat and the Israelites danced and praised the Lord in victory, as they saw a triune of enemy forces approach them.

    There is tremendous spiritual power that is released when you declare your dreams and goals to be achieved before you have even seen them manifest. You are also showing God that you trust Him to fulfil the plans and promises He has spoken over you.

     ‘ Say to them, “As I live,” says the Lord, “just what you have spoken in My hearing I will most certainly do to you.”

    Numbers 14:28

    Therefore, declare your dreams and visions aloud in the present tense e.g. “My dream start-up is up and running”, “I am a mother”, “I am healed of anxiety and depression”, “My ministry reaches millions and gives them hope in Christ”. By speaking in the present tense, you are declaring that you see your intentions becoming a reality now, and not sometime in the vague distance future.

    To assist you in speaking positive declarations over your God-inspired dreams and goals, you can pin positive Christian affirmations on your vision board and read them aloud.

    Update your vision board yearly

    Even if you have not reached your goals by the year’s end, make a new vision board at the start of every year.

    You can always carry over your unfinished goals onto your new board; however, add some fresh dreams and goals as well, in order to motivate and encourage you to live the best life that God wants you to live.

    Photo credit:  Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

    Spread the vision

    Encourage your family and loved ones to make their own vision boards and thereby bring the dreams and goals that God has put on their hearts to fulfilment.

    You and a friend could also sit down with a cup of coffee and some baked treats and make an afternoon of it creating your own vision boards.

    Better still, invite your family, neighbors, and even your colleagues over for a vision board party! If you would like ideas on how to host your own vision board party, click here.

    Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    Teach your children how to set their own goals through vision boards

    A vision board is also a great tool to teach kids and adolescents goal setting; additionally, reaching their goals will give kids such a sense of accomplishment and improve their self-confidence.

    If you would like to learn more about how you can teach your children about vision boards this article from Kiddie Matters provides great tips, worksheets, and templates you can download.

    There are also great vision board kits for children that provide colorful and fun materials that will engage your child and motivate them to create their own vision board.

    Vision boards are a great tool to help you achieve the dreams and goals that God has placed on your heart.

    We hope you enjoy creating your own vision board with the information you learned from this article. Feel free to share your designs and achievements with us in the comment section below!

    With many blessings,

    Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband Solomon. Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.

  • Personal testimonies

    How fellowship at a German Christmas market helped me fight depression

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    If you live in Germany, or have ever visited Europe during the Christmas period, you have most likely paid a visit to one of the traditional institutions on the German holiday calendar – the Christmas market.

    Open from the 24th November – 23rd December, the Christmas markets take place in multiple locations in every major city, town, and village in Germany. An attraction for both locals and overseas tourists, the markets draw an attendance of 85 million visitors every year.

    Despite living in Germany as an English ex-pat for the past 18 years, the whimsical atmosphere of the Christmas markets, with its fir-trimmed booths, Christmas music, and mouth-watering food aromas, still enthralls me every year.

    However, since being diagnosed with burnout and chronic depression three years ago, l have made an effort to keep my distance from the Christmas markets during the holiday season. Pressing myself through throngs of crowds easily overwhelms me; that coupled with loud noises and an over-stimulation of my senses, can lead to me experiencing a panic attack in public.

    That’s why it came as a great surprise to my husband Solomon last Sunday, when l accepted an invitation from Eddie and Joan, two acquaintances of ours from our church, to visit the Christmas markets in the city of Bochum, where we live.

    Since my husband and l moved from Cologne to Bochum last summer, l have tried to form friendships with people from our church. However irregular attendance due to ill health has made it difficult for me to connect to others thus far.

    For that reason, l was determined to accept Eddie and Joan’s kind offer to enjoy the festivities in the city’s bustling center, even if it meant braving the crowds on a weekend.

    As we approached the first of the wooden market booths, the gentle croonings of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” was playing over the speakers. Fairy lights festooned every vertical space and lit up the market area like a yuletide fantasy wonderland. I felt a tremor of anxiety about entering the market grounds, yet at the same time, l felt a tingle of anticipation for the delights that awaited us. I was going in.

    The festive ambience of the Christmas market had also clearly infected newcomers and seasoned visitors alike. Families and friends were gathered in groups, enjoying each other’s company over steaming cups of mulled wine. As people passed me by, l caught happy snippets of conversations in German, English and Dutch.

    Upon discovering the food booths, tantalizing wafts of food and spices offered my nose an olfactory bouquet of different delights: sizzling sausages, chocolate drizzled churros, and sugary roasted almonds mingled with the smoky scents of incense, anis fragrant black licorice, and sweet cinnamon. With rumbling stomachs, we ordered spicy hot sausages, deep-fried mushrooms, and sweet potato fries sprinkled with sea salt. The proprietor of a crepe stand exchanged an easy banter with us as she served us hot fluffy crepes filled with gooey marzipan.  

    Bellies finally full, we ambled past vendors offering handmade soap, colorful glassware and dainty silver jewellery. As l was looking at some star-shaped paper lanterns, l was surprised to find myself having fun: I had even managed to forget that l had health problems. Though the market was full of people, l didn’t feel crushed or penned in; I was too busy enjoying our new friend’s company that l hardly noticed the other visitors around me.

    With a new found enthusiasm, l joined Joan in buying some honey scented beeswax candles and thick woolen scarves for Christmas gifts. Afterwards, we all watched a children’s pantomime on the main stage. It felt good to laugh and share an enjoyable experience as part of an audience.

    Upon agreeing to come to the Christmas markets, l had internally steeled myself for any mental fallout. I had been prepared to endure psychological and physical discomfort, as well as unaccustomed social rituals for the sake of making much needed friends.

    What l didn’t expect to feel was a sense of belonging, joy, and an insight into what if felt to be normal.   

     I began to understand more clearly what Paul meant, when he wrote about the importance of fellowship in Thessalonians:

    “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”               

    1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

    Eddie and Joan’s kindness certainly uplifted me.  It made me thankful that God heard my pleading and prayers to give me the fulfilment of life as He promises in John 10:10. It gave me hope that He was going to heal me permanently from depression and burnout.    

    With the arrival of early evening, the four of us took a selfie to commemorate our special time together under a clear, inky black sky, with a canopy of fairy lights twinkling above us like hundreds of stars.

    As Solomon and l prepared to go home, I thanked God for blessing me with this beautiful day and for bringing him and our new friends into my life. It was a further confirmation for me that with God, all things are possible, especially healing.

    Note:

    The Christmas period can be a particularly challenging time for those struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues. Our inability to join in the festive cheer, coping with disrupted schedules, and over-stimulation from pre-holiday stress can increase our anxiety and stress levels and leave us feeling more socially isolated and alone than ever.

    If you have family members or friends who are struggling with these health issues, make extra time for them and let them know how much you value them. Your kindness can help shine a much-needed light into their darkness and give them hope of living a fulfilled, healthy life – free of pain, of mental distress, and of fear.

    Merry Christmas and God bless!

    Madeline Twooney

    Co-Founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog

  • Articles

    6 ways you can prepare your heart this season

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I can’t believe that the holiday season is already upon us. It felt like just a few short months ago that l pulled down the mistletoe, swept up the last remaining pine needles, and boxed up my Christmas decorations. 

    And yet, overnight, the world has set its alarm clock for the holiday countdown. In response, l find myself getting caught up in the frantic pace of getting the house holiday ready, planning festive meals, and buying and wrapping presents. 

    Years of experience have made us adept at preparing ourselves physically for the Yuletide period, but how much attention have we paid to preparing our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ? 

    If you too are getting swept up in the madness of the holiday countdown, the following are 6 ways that will help you to take a step back and prepare your heart this season.

    1. Remember what Christmas is really about

    It’s easy to get tunnel vision from the commercial enticement and the societal expectations of the holiday season. Every wreath-festooned street and festively dressed shop window is an ongoing reminder for us to participate in a global enterprise of consumerism and culinary indulgence. It is a sharp comparison to the humble entry of Jesus, who was born in a stable and placed in a straw-filled manger.

    However, as Christians, we know that greater is He who is in us than He that is in the world (1 John 4:4). So, although it’s lovely to participate in holiday traditions, we need to remember that this season is about more than a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, expensive presents, and a sumptuous Christmas Day banquet. It is a time where we can commemorate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. For without His Ministry on earth and consequent sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, we would still be held in eternal bondage by sin. 

    Although the build-up to Christmas may last weeks, Christmas Day is just that – a day. However, the relationship we have with God through the death and resurrection of His precious Son is eternal. Jesus is Immanuel – God with us (Matthew 1:23).

    Photo credit:  Walter Chávez on Unsplash

    2. Focus on your Provider instead of only providing for others 

    At the beginning of every holiday season, l  start formulating to-do lists of all the things l need to prepare for the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. It’s important to me to provide my family with a wonderful holiday experience, and l want to make sure that l haven’t forgotten anything.

    However, in the process of making endless preparations, l can easily lose sight of the One, who provides me with life, peace, and all my needs – not just during the holidays, but every day.

    At such times, l need to take a breath and re-set my mind to what should be my most important priority – honoring and worshipping God. 

    Therefore, if you also tend to get swept up in the frenzy of holiday preparations, switch your focus to God by making Him a priority. By doing that, you’ll see that He will provide you with peace, energy, and joy for the season. 

    Photo credit:  Raychan on Unsplash

    3. Have an attitude of gratitude

    The holiday season is a time for many of us to enjoy the fruits of what we have achieved during the year. We have our homes and our families, we have a bulging fridge full of food to eat on Christmas Day, and we have financial resources to buy presents for our loved ones. 

    However, there are people around the world who experience the holidays differently. Many spend Christmas alone feeling abandoned and neglected. Families who have hit hard financial times are having difficulty providing their children with a happy Christmas experience. Too many people are living on the streets without the opportunity to enjoy a hot Christmas meal and a stable roof under their heads.

    Therefore, as you enter the holiday season, take a moment to thank God for all the ways He has blessed you and your family this year and say a prayer for those who are struggling during this period.

    Photo credit:  Freshh Connection on Unsplash

     4. Spend time with God and the Word

    Regular routines go out the window during the holiday season, including spending regular time with God. However, seeking God’s presence is exactly the thing that can bring us peace, charge our batteries, and keep our eyes on Him amidst the flurry of social engagements and holiday planning.

    For that reason, make it a priority to allocate time every day for God. During that time, spend time in prayer, worship, and thanksgiving for the upcoming season. You can even sing some Christmas songs!

    In your quiet time, also delve into God’s Word by reading scriptures that will encourage you to have peace (John 14:27), feel joy (Proverbs 17:22), and inspire you to love others (Romans 12:10).

    Additionally, scriptures that herald the coming of Jesus (Matthew 1:23), declare His glory (John 1:14), and speak of God’s promise of Salvation through Jesus (John 3:16) will keep you focused on what Christmas is essentially about – the birth of Jesus and His gift of eternal righteousness with God that He gave us. 

    I also like to follow an Advent reading plan from YouVersion, the creators of the BibleApp. Additionally, l read Advent devotionals, such as the ones offered at Crosswalk.com.

    Photo credit:  Joel Muniz on Unsplash

    5. Enjoy the whimsy of the season

    The holiday period brings with it an infectious atmosphere of fun, gaiety, and anticipation. It is the home stretch to a celebratory ending of an old year and the anticipation of a promising and eventful new year.

    Children can be our best teachers in embracing the frivolity of the season. When experiencing the abandoned delight with which children embrace holiday experiences, it is easy to see why Jesus says that we should become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).

    So, take a leaf out of your child’s book and wear a cheeky Christmas tie to work or don a pair of Christmas bauble earrings (mine are pink). Crank up your favorite Christmas song and prance around the house like Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen. After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly!

    Photo credit:  Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

    6. Bring the Good News to others

    Our priority during the holiday season is to look after our families and provide them with the ultimate holiday experience. 

    In the Kingdom, we are all God’s children, yet many people are unaware of the Good News of the Bible and that Salvation through the grace of Jesus is available to them. 

    In Luke 17.21, it states that the Kingdom of God is within you. Therefore, reach out to someone, who needs to know about the message of hope, love, and Salvation that Jesus came to share with us. 

    Ask your neighbor over for a holiday cup of candy cane coffee and Christmas cookies, or ring up a friend whom you haven’t heard from in a while and ask them how they’re doing. Invite someone, who is alone, to spend Christmas Day dinner with you and your family. 

    Sharing the Gospel is not only done through biblical instruction, it is also conveyed when we share with others the love of Jesus that resides in us. It is the ultimate form of worship, especially during the holiday season.

    The holiday period is a season to be enjoyed with all that it has to offer. It’s a time of love, laughter, and joy. All the more reason that we need to prepare our hearts by remembering the ultimate expression of love from God – His gift of Salvation through the death and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ.

    Photo credit:  Jon Tyson on Unsplash