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About Jolene Underwood

Jolene Underwood is a writer, blogger, coach, and emotional health warrior. As a result of living through various trials, she writes from a place of compassion for wounded believers. She draws upon her personal journey towards emotional health, her psychology background, and a passion for Christian counseling to help others cultivate a life well-lived and a soul well-nourished. Jolene writes regularly at JoleneUnderwood.com. She also leads a community of writers called Rise Up Writers. Her new tool, Unleash : Heart and Soul Care Sheets, has helped hundreds experience greater freedom. Chat with her online via Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest at @theJoleneU or via the Cultivated Life Newsletter.

Jolene Underwood

Jolene Underwood
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Jolene Underwood is a writer, blogger, coach, and emotional health warrior. As a result of living through various trials, she writes from a place of compassion for wounded believers. She draws upon her personal journey towards emotional health, her psychology background, and a passion for Christian counseling to help others cultivate a life well-lived and a soul well-nourished. Jolene writes regularly at JoleneUnderwood.com. She also leads a community of writers called Rise Up Writers. Her new tool, Unleash : Heart and Soul Care Sheets, has helped hundreds experience greater freedom. Chat with her online via Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest at @theJoleneU or via the Cultivated Life Newsletter.

A Moment to Breathe: 365 Devotions That Meet You in Your Everyday Mess {Book Review}

#devotions #devotional #

One day, in the middle of heavy tears and feeling like a piece of my heart was collapsing, I got an email.

That email invited me to contribute to an upcoming book by a community of encouraging and hope-filled writers. 80 authors altogether, and every one of them beautiful with hearts I adore. Some are close friends. Their words inspire me. Their view of God encourages me.

I didn’t feel encouraging myself that day, more like my hope ran out. How could I contribute when I was in the midst of something pretty darn messy myself?

All the ups and downs of dreams collided in a mix of emotion. One seemed to be dying and another coming true. A conundrum of feelings played out concurrently and sometimes that’s overwhelming. Isn’t it?

Life is never linear, clean, or free of hard. Whether our unpleasant circumstances are crazy tough or momentarily frustrating, we all have them.

Everyday messes.

a-moment-to-breathe

What if we paused a moment in the middle of them?

If we did, would we see Jesus as our source of hope, because He is Hope with us?

What if we knew that joy didn’t have to be forced in hard circumstances? We can feel the feelings, grieve our losses, and find comfort in the one who knows suffering well. Jesus.

The more I’ve experienced the power of Jesus’ presence with me, the more I’ve come to know what joy is like. Not a forced facade, but something rooted in love and adoration for my Savior. I don’t make it happen. It’s the result of going to Him when times are dang rough. It’s the fruit of faith that grows because of Him.

In faith, I remember…

Everyday messes are never outside the love and grace of Jesus.

knowing-joy-a-moment-to-breathe

 

God’s been hard at work in my life for some time, but these last few years have been exceptional. Both for the duration of challenging things and the freedom God brings. As I’ve despaired and persevered, felt stuck and walked free, I’ve come to be OK with the way life isn’t perfect.

I am comforted, strengthened, and loved by the One who is perfect. His perfection covers all my failings.

I’m a recovering perfectionist for sure. Dang. It catches up with me. I look back at things I say and do and cringe because I later realize a “better” way to do it. It stops me short at times. I’m tempted to quit and stop doing the work I know God’s called me to do.

But, God.

He keeps pressing in and nudging my heart. When all I can do is ugly cry, He still listens.

want-to-want-a-moment-to-breathe

When I got the email invitation to join these amazing writers, I felt unworthy, unwelcome, and unable.

Lies. All of them.

When the lies come, they must be fought. Lies come from the enemy of our souls and take us away from the healing, empowering love of our Father.

To win the battle of lies, we must find God’s truth present in our lives.

Nothing compares to digging into His Word directly. His Word is alive and penetrates our hearts in ways we cannot understand. It helps us know God more.

Even so, we are blessed to have devotional books that help us see a portion of scripture applied to real life. When we hear stories and insights from other people, we are given the gift of their perspective. That’s one of the things I love about this book by (in)Courage, A Moment to Breathe: 365 Devotions That Meet You in Your Everyday Mess. 

80 authors. 80 beautiful voices sharing different stories, different kinds of hard, and different messes. All of them pointing to Jesus.

One thing I remembered as I battled my own lies; we all have messes. It’s OK to admit we have them, and it’s a good, good thing to look for hope in the midst of them.

In the middle of my mess, I said yes.

Did you get your FREE 10 Day Sampler? Find out more about this fabulous devotional and all 80 authors here. Then watch the video in the link below for my review. I’d love to say Hi. 

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY FOR TWO COPIES


A MOMENT TO BREATHE: 365 Devotions That Meet You in Your Everyday Mess
1 for you, 1 for a friend

 

Ever find yourself struggling through life’s challenges? Maybe you’re tired and weary. Maybe fears and doubts threaten your ability to live well as a Christian.

I believe God has more peace, joy, and freedom than many of us come to know. I want this for us.

I also believe God is bigger and better than any of us can ever know. I want us to see more of Him daily.

Here we’ll journey through areas of emotional health, soul care, and spiritual growth in order to cultivate a life-well lived and a soul well-nourished. Not a perfect life, but a life reliant on the One who is perfect.

While it may not be easy, it’s worth it.

You in?

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When You Feel Helpess in Your Circumstances

#faith #faith, encouragement, healing, fears #faith crisis #recovery #growth #fear #spiritual growth #faith-based solution #christian living #change #anxiety #healing #following Christ #discouragement #confidence #faithfulness of God # #Christian faith #bravery

I heard a woman on a call-in radio show the other day. She began to share her story before asking a question, as most callers do. One claim after another stated how everything was happening to her. How people wouldn’t call her back. How the church wouldn’t acquiesce to her expectations and do Bible studies when she wanted them. How when she needed help, people wouldn’t reach out to her and she didn’t think it was right for her to have to call them.

She sounded stuck. Helpless. A victim of circumstances and her world.

While her statements may seem extreme to some of us, could it be we have had similar thoughts running through our minds too?

“If only they…”
“Well, she/he should have…”
“I can’t because of this, that, and the other thing.”
“There’s nothing I can do.”

Choose Activation

YOU CAN BEGIN

It’s hard to know where to begin when we’re feeling stuck, because we often believe we can’t begin at all. We don’t believe we have anything within us to begin again. What we do have, which makes it possible for us to take action, comes from God. With God we are more than conquerors.

Christ followers are not victims of life but victors with His life indwelt in us.

Christ followers are not victims of life but victors with His life indwelt in us.

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When we try to use up our resources without God, we will wear out, wear down, and dry out.

When we seek His ways, His plan, and His timing, we get what we need from the source. Living water flows freely and it never runs empty.

Maybe the first step to getting unstuck is to be reminded that we can. We can begin. Somewhere. Even the smallest of steps helps to get the gears of momentum moving so real change can take place.

Too often we hear the enemy telling us that the step we want to take is too small, insignificant, and not worth it. Telling us we shouldn’t bother and maybe our idea is ridiculous. This woman sounded like someone who had replayed these lies over and over for decades. Maybe you have too?

When we feel resistance to do the things which are healthy, and that resistance is accompanied by thoughts which make us feel shame, condemnation, and guilt, it’s likely coming from the enemy.

We need to stand up and oppose the tactics of the enemy and his lies about what we can and can’t do.

Face the one who feeds your fears with the God who sustains your faith. Faith which comes from hearing his word and believing it to be true.

Face the one who feeds your fears with the God who sustains your faith.

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Face the one who feeds fears

CHOOSE TO ACTIVATE YOUR FAITH

When I’ve spent days, weeks, and even years crying over the things which had happened in my life, I prayed for rescue. I knew God was my protector. I knew he could deliver and defend. I knew he was capable of saving me from the pain.

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. ~ Psalm 18:1-2

What I didn’t know was that God’s way of helping would look far different than what I expected.

Any time we place our expectations for change based on what we presume God should do, rather than waiting, watching, and trusting what He intends to do, we become disappointed. This disappointment fuels discouragement, which fuels our stuckness.

What I wanted most was for God to make things stop happening to me because I thought I couldn’t handle anymore. I was falling apart internally which eventually exhibited itself externally. At various points in my life the evidence was seen through self-harm, an eating disorder, anxiety, and depression.

I’d cry out, “God, can’t you please just make this stop? Make the pain go away? Make this situation change? Just stop!”

In my desperation I found myself waiting on God to act when God had other plans. He was asking me to act based on what he’d already given me. When I leaned in close enough to hear what the Spirit was speaking to my heart, I heard this, “I’ve already given you what you need.”

Bit by bit, I’ve taken steps which required trusting in what God had empowered in me already.

Some of these steps sounded like speaking up when I needed to, being quiet when I longed to be anything but, and trying new things which exposed more vulnerability while requiring greater trust.

What do you believe about what God can do? What do you believe about the power of God to equip you? About the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you?

What we believe impacts how we live. We might think we believe something, but our actions tell a different story. Our lives may not bear the fruit of these beliefs because we haven’t taken active steps of faith.

Activating our faith happens when God’s word speaks to our hearts, we choose to believe it, then we act in ways which line up with what we say we believe. Not in a way that coerces God to act on our behalf, but in a way that says we trust what God is doing no matter what.

God’s way of rescue and deliverance is often completely different than what we want or expect. Rather than plucking us out of trials and hard circumstances, we are often allowed to walk through them so that our faith can be tested, activated, and grown.

Even when those steps are so small they feel unimportant, they are incremental movements towards the heart of God. As faith activates, those who think they were helpless learn where their help comes from and how powerful His help is.

Activated faith says, “Even when I can’t, God can. I’m going to live like I believe it.”

Activated faith says, “Even when I can’t, God can. I’m going to live like I believe it.”

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For more of the 31 Choices We Can Make to Live Well, click here.  Share your favorite posts with a friend or two and invite them to join us. I'd love to connect with you further via the Cultivated Life Newsletter & subscriber only community. 

 

Activated Faith


What to Do First When the Going Gets Tough

#Believing God #trust #resilience #following Christ #follow Christ #trusting God #perseverance

They say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

I don’t really know who they are and sometimes, I’m not so sure I agree with what they say. On the one hand I do. I totally get it. On the other hand, somewhere in this phrase and how it gets used, is something like a motivational pill which many of us swallow.

I wonder if we know what we’re swallowing.

What I see is that when the going gets tough, the tough often get stuck. Those who, like me, keep trying to do better, try harder, and believe more, but just find themselves unable to go very far. Sometimes, they can’t move forward at all.

So, how do we get going when the going gets tough?

Choose God

We tell ourselves we can. And we can. There’s a lot we can do and it’s often more than we think we can. It’s important to remember there are is so much we can do.

Even so, what we can do and how we can do it, well, there’s a world of difference between two primary means.

We have choices to make. We can choose the way of man or the way of God. We choose our way or His.

When things are hard, our human inclination is to follow the proverbial protocol of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We muster up the strength. We look in the mirror and remind ourselves of all the things we want to hear and we choose to put on courage so we might forge a way through.

Who’s courage is it? Where does it come from? How are we brave in the face of hard circumstances?

Perhaps we do everything it takes to make our own way and it surprises ourselves and others around us. We might carry on in this manner for years, even decades, or a lifetime of weariness.

We’ve become so accustomed to the axes and shovels we carry to forge our own clearings that we often don’t notice the mess we’ve left behind.

We don’t see the way already paved for us. The way through has been made possible because the Son of God went ahead of us.

Eventually, when things get really, really hard, we realize that our strength only goes so far. What we’ve mustered up internally starts to putter out externally. Our ways of courage are found wanting when they lack the fiery renewal made possible by the Holy Spirit.

We forget that we don’t have to do this on our own strength. We can’t. Not for the long haul anyway. Not if we’re desirous of following Jesus way and receiving all He offers.

Have you felt the weight of the tools you’ve carried and collected over the years? Are you tired of fighting to make it on your own?

It’s time to start doing something different. It’s time to start making choices that help cultivate a life well-lived.

Eventually, many of us find ourselves realizing human limitations met by supernatural affections. We may not recognize it when it’s there, but God is always working for our full reconciliation and so we, as ones who belong to the kingdom of heaven, are caught in the throes of eternal longing and fallible human striving.

What will we do when we awaken to this kind of tension, the one between our will and God’s?

Will we realize that we’ve been choosing our way and not His? Will we let our hearts shake and shudder so that in this we find the sweet kind of surrender which changes everything?

What will we choose?

How Do the Tough Get Going?

As I’ve looked back at numerous times of struggle in my own life, I’ve noticed how we are given the gift of choosing. We have choices which allow us the opportunity to get up again and again. They help us get going when things are tough because truly, in Christ, we can.

If we want to stop feeling that heavy weight. If we want to see the way already made for us so we can walk in it. If we want to stop living stuck and start living well, we need to start making choices.

The first choice we need to make is that we need to Choose God.

His ways. His plan. His timing. Choose God over your own agenda, over the ways and means of your self and others.

We need to turn our minds and thoughts to God so we can start seeing where he’s taking us and what he’s doing. {Note: if you don’t have a relationship with Christ already and are curious to know more, please email me.}

When we choose God, we choose the one who created us, who gave us life, who redeemed our lives with the cost of His own son’s so we could live free. We choose the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Choose all of Him.

Today, you can start making choices towards living well by choosing God above all else.

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. ~ Joshua 24:15

I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. ~ Psalm 119:30

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:25

with love,
Jolene

NOTE: This article is the first in a series of 31 Choices We Can Make to Live Well. If you're weary of trying to get it right and want to experience greater peace, joy, and freedom in Christ, consider cultivating a life well-lived and a soul-well-nourished. You can follow along with all 31 Choices here.
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