Stress-Free Living

Today I’m happy to share some words by Donna Gaines and the post could not be more timely. Who couldn’t stand to hear more about stress-free living? I hope you are blessed by her words! I’m looking forward to reading her new study, Leaving Ordinary!

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What keeps you awake at night?  What puts a knot deep down in your stomach? What is it that you have allowed to steal your joy?  Regardless of what it might be, God wants to set you free from all anxiety.  You may think that is impossible.  But God has commanded us to not be anxious (Phil. 4:6-7). I have described this “stress-free” living in my new book Leaving Ordinary: Encounter God Through Extraordinary Prayer.


The Bible tells us, we are not to live as “mere men” (1 Cor. 3:3 NASB). We leave “ordinary” behind when we meet Christ and begin to live the Spirit life that only He can provide.  This extraordinary relationship leads to a stress-free life. In Philippians 4:6–7, we are commanded to be anxious for nothing (nkjv). But how are we to do this? By trusting the One who has called us and is preparing us for heaven. I did not say that you would have a “pain-free” or “trouble-free” life. Jesus said just the opposite. He said, “In the world you have tribulation,” then added, “but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 nasb).

If He has overcome, we can overcome through Him! The Spirit of God has the ability to lift you above the circumstances of your life so you begin to see them from an eternal vantage point. That means taking the intrusive thoughts of anxiety and worry that seem to bombard your mind at times and refuse them entrance. Second Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (nasb).

Instead of worrying, turn those anxious thoughts into prayer requests. Jesus has told us to “cast all [our] anxiety upon Him, because He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7 niv). As we do this, we can claim His peace that will literally build a fortress around our hearts and minds. Then Isaiah 26:3 will become a reality: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (NLT)

(Leaving Ordinary, p. xiii)

Faith and worry cannot coexist in our hearts.  We either trust the Lord, or we lean on our own finite, human reasoning, vainly seeking to solve our own problems.  Sadly, our “problems” are often the proverbial “what ifs” that never actually materialize.  Our adversary, the devil, is always ready and willing to provide his annoying “fiery darts” of anxiety, that send our minds into tailspins of speculations and vain imaginations. With these he keeps us distracted and spiritually disengaged while simultaneously robbing us of the peace that Christ died to purchase. Fortunately for us, there is a better way!

Choose to believe – trust Christ to carry your burden as you roll it over onto Him through prayer.  Then His peace will be yours and you will feel that all too familiar knot in your stomach relax as Christ takes over.  This, my friend, is the stress-free zone Christ has provided for all who believe.

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Donna Gaines –  In addition to InScribed’s Leaving Ordinary: Encounter God Through Extraordinary Prayer Donna is the author of two other books, There’s Gotta Be More and Seated: Living from Our Position in Christ. Donna is also the editor of A Daily Women’s Devotional. She is married to Dr. Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church. Known as “Mom” to her son and three daughters and “Nonna” to her six grandchildren, Donna enjoys Memphis bar-b-que, Alabama football, and anything that you can douse with salsa. Leaving Ordinary is available now.

Hopes and Dreams



During my summers in college, I worked as a camp counselor. I spent three months each year ministering to junior high students and added all sorts of skills to my resume: I taught sailing, basketball, drama, and high ropes. I fought off bees, ate my share of corn dogs, and made countless friendship bracelets. I loved almost every second. But some of my favorite moments were spent in the home of my camp director. Each week his wife would host some of the women on the staff for a small group. We sat in the air-conditioned living room, eating popcorn and maturing through the study of God’s Word.

I remember one conversation in particular. We were discussing the dreams we had for our lives when she issued us a challenge …

That’s the start of my post that I’m sharing over at Trochia. I am beyond blessed to be guest posting on their blog and hope you’ll click on the link below and keep reading. Here’s an incentive for you: they are giving away TEN free copies of my book this week. Who doesn’t like free books?

Click here -> Life Starts Now: Trusting God with our Hopes and Dreams 

Hope you win!



College Redo

Today I’m guest posting for an old friend while he is on Sabbatical. He wrote in December and asked if I would respond to the question:

“Based upon what you know now, what are a few things you would do differently if you went back to college?”

It was a fun exercise to sit back and daydream about that time in my life. If you want to read the post and my 7 tips, follow this link: College Redo

I also recommend that you poke around Shawn’s blog for some great reading about life, leadership, and ministry.
Happy Thursday!

Learning to Say “No Thank You”

I’m honored to be guest-posting over at Single Roots Blog today!


How to graciously say “no thank you” to another date.

I moved to Arizona from my beloved state of Texas in the fall of 2006. I came alone, not knowing anyone. Eventually I did what any single and adventurous young woman might do; I signed up for online dating.

I actually met my husband through online dating in 2010, but my first go-around wasn’t quite as successful. My first date was with a very nice man who loved God and others. He just also happened to be… clingy? Yes. Clingy. I received a laminated poem on our second date. When I broke things off after the third date there were tears. His. Not mine.

To keep reading follow this link over to Single Roots to read the rest of this post!




Kevin East

Today I have the honor to be guest blogging over at Kevin East’s blog, Following to Lead. Kevin is the Executive Director of Ministries at Pine Cove, a place that is near and dear to my heart.  I have referenced Kevin’s words and blogs in the past as someone I very much admire and respect as a leader. When he offered the chance for me to contribute I jumped at the chance.


Here’s a snippet from the post:

Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27, NIV).  I am one of God’s sheep and I have been for a long time.  That familiarity can lend itself to assuming that I know what God wants.  The years I’ve spent as a follower of Jesus often lead me to believe that I can somehow follow without listening.

I hope you’ll follow THIS LINK to read the post in its entirety and then continue to follow Kevin’s blog!


Listening and Following,

Dear Shannon.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 30-year-old Shannon,

I know that you have a hard time letting things go.  You always remember the offenses against you.  You justify it saying you have a great memory, where in reality you are harboring bitterness and pent up anger.  I know that many have wronged you, and you believe that they deserve to pay for the injustice heaped upon your life.  How dare they do these things to you?

You know that the Bible says we must forgive others as we have been forgiven.  Yet you can’t seem to live out that principle.  You can sit still as your mind starts racing about this friend, that family member, and the laundry list that goes with each one.  You have a critical, fault finding spirit and are quick to blame others.  You are PROUD.  You have a hard time fighting the spiritual battle in your head as the enemy seeps discontent into your thoughts.

You don’t know how to truly forgive.

Forgiveness means that you fully release the offender from his debt.  It means fully cleaning his record.  You need to quit being everyone’s jailor!  You have kept your loved ones in bondage for too long.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as god in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

As Christ forgave you. You were once dead in your transgressions and now, through His grace, you have been extended life in Him.  Because of God’s mercy, God has forgiven everything in me so that I can look more like Christ.  And I deserve nothing, yet I have been promised paradise.  So who am I to not extend that same grace to others around me, much less believers in Christ?

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.  Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, ‘Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’  We are offered forgiveness on no other terms.  To refuse it means to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.” – C.S. Lewis

Let go of the laundry list.  You want God’s mercy, so in turn you need to extend it to others.  Be freed from bondage of holding others captive in your thoughts.  Show a lost world how to truly love one another in Christ.  You are sending the wrong message to people who are watching you.

“Right relationships – especially within the family of God – are one of the most powerful means of communicating the gospel to a lost world.  Our God is a reconciling God, and when believers cannot get along with each other or fail to resolve conflicts biblically, we actually discredit the gospel.  When God’s people are reconciled to each other, we demonstrate the power of the gospel and make it believable.”  From Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh Demoss.

I know you didn’t realize you were discrediting the gospel by your actions, but now that you are extending grace to others as you have been given, you can now exhibit the gospel more accurately.  Jesus came to save out of love, not because he wanted to keep a checklist of everyone’s right and wrongs.

“If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Psalm 130:3-4

The Lord doesn’t keep a record of my wrongs, so I shouldn’t keep a list of others.  So relax, let go, and take a deep breath.  Remember the grace that you have received daily, and you just might surprise someone, even yourself, at how easy it is to get over things.

Grace and peace,

Some call me ‘Shannon’, others ‘Shani’, and sometimes the occasional ‘babe’.  But the word I hear the most everyday is ‘Mommy’.  I have been married to one of the tallest men I know for 11 years and have been dappling in motherhood for the last 5 years.  We are currently chartering into the world of adoption and praying for God’s Will in expanding our family.  I am one of 12 Americans that have never been on Facebook, though I do update my blog on a random whim.  I love yoga, greek yogurt, 6:30am hugs from my son, date night with the hubby, and asking complete strangers how I can pray for them.  In the meantime, I am just trying to live life to the fullest for His Glory.

Dear Izehi.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 28-year-old Izehi,

You are fresh off the plane from getting to live the life of a single twenty something overseas.  Living in a foreign country helped grow you up big time & a part of your heart will always belong to T-land.

But it’s time for a new adventure girl.  :)

Remember that prayer you prayed about not wanting to live an ordinary life with a regular 9-5 job?  Well guess what? God answered it with a yes. :)  You, young lady are going to be a business owner.  You’ve got a casual lunch date scheduled.  You think you’ll get reacquainted with an old friend and chat about the possibility of maybe working as a photographer someday.

That lunch is going to change your life.

You are about to eat, breathe, and live photography.  It’s going to be flipping unreal.  As you lay in your bed night after night staring at the edge of this huge cliff, fear will want to imprison you in its iron grip.  But I’ve got one word for you: JUMP!

Baby girl, entrepreneurship is not for the fainthearted.  Taking the leap to start your own business is the only the first of many many risks you will take.   But YOU. CAN. DO. THIS.  Adrenaline highs like you’ve never known will confirm that photography is what you were born to do.  You’ll be at a wedding photographing for 12 hours and still feel like dancing on the dance floor when that song comes on.  That’s how you’ll know you’re doing what you love.

But it won’t all be roses.

You think all you need is a “nice camera” and a laptop to run your business.  Um, you’re going to laugh at yourself later for ever thinking this!

You will hit rock bottom lows that will leave you questioning your sanity and decision…many times.  But don’t worry; God is placing the most incredible people in your life.  Amazing mentors you’ve never met will soon be on your speed dial.  And your family; oh girl your family will become even dearer to you than ever.

I know that right now you are scared and excited.  News flash, those feelings aren’t going anywhere.  The good news is neither is God.  You learned to rely on Him alone “on the far side of the sea” and you’ll learn to rely on Him alone in this new adventure.  God will speak to you through His word, and He will confirm to you over and over that He is leading you. Trust Him.  He’s good.  I won’t lie, it’s going to be much harder than you think, but He’ll be with you.

And one more thing, please enjoy the last of your twenties.  Don’t let photography or running your business consume you.  Enjoy your family & your friends. Have fun and don’t feel guilty about it either! Take care of yourself, because at the end of the day while it’s awesome to have a job you love; it’s still just a job.  It doesn’t define you. You are a daughter of the King and that’s where your identity is.

Love you much,
Your Thirty-Year-Old self.

P.S. All that stuff about your life being over at thirty is some bull!  Honey, this is only the beginning!

Photo by Ashley Swallow of Live.Laugh.Photograph.

Izehi is a Wedding and Portrait Photographer in Texas.  She loves telling stories with her camera.



Dear Jordan.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 22-year-old Jordan,

Well, you did it. You moved across the country and you’re scared to death because it’s pretty much permanent. Until the next thing comes up, that is. I know you’re thinking that you will do this for a few years and then you can get up and leave, but I encourage you to stick around. Good things are going to happen, once you get past all the rough patches.

You are smart and independent and have such an empathetic heart, but it’s that soft heart that has gotten the best of you recently. It is going to ache more than ever this year.

You have recently come out of a very messy relationship, if you can even call it that. You have just jumped into one that you think is better and is rooted in God. But Jordan, it’s not. I know you think it is but you are trying to hold onto anything that feels right at this moment. It is just not worth it.

I am reading back on your journals and you are hurting so bad. You are being treated so badly and you don’t even recognize it. You’re a tried and true “fixer”. When someone who is less fortunate than you comes along, and usually it is in the form of some guy, you want to take them in and fix them. They are hurtful, conniving, deceitful, malicious and do not see you for who you really are. They come from broken pasts that they have yet to come to terms with and they look at you, who seemingly has it all together, to take care of them. I want you so bad to realize how much time you are wasting. You just can’t fix them at the cost of yourself.

So this new guy? Do not ditch your girlfriends to spend time with him. Do not answer every phone call or text message for the attention. And do not think that he’s as good as it gets. Because he’s not. Please trust that God has someone great for you, because He does. I am living it. I encourage you to write out a list of what you want in the man you’ll marry. This list will be transforming in more ways than one and you’ll see just how wrong this guy is for you.

Sometimes I get really sad for you. You are trying to that void of loneliness that was emptied when you moved to a new place. You do deserve better, but it’s going to take you another year to realize it. I wish it would happen sooner, but it will just have to come in time. You are going to look back on this time in your life and be so thankful for where you’ll end up.

If I can ask you anything, Jordan, will you please live the life you were born to deserve?

Hang out with your girlfriends every time they call.

Move into a different apartment because the one you’re in has very shady management. Once you do, spend more alone time in that place and soak it all in.

Go to that church you went to last Christmas and call it home.

The next few years are going to be some of the hardest in your life, but it will all turn out great. I promise. Hold onto that truth.

I love who you are going to become,
Your almost-26-year-old self

Jordan is a born ‘n raised Texan writing her way through a life out West. A God-loving newlywed, Jordan writes about her journey on her blog, Wide Open Spaces.

Dear Sarah.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 21-year-old Sarah,

Well, it’s almost time for the next step.  And, being the linear thinker that you are, let me lay it out for you:

High school  —>  College  —>  __?__

I can see why you want to put “graduate school” in that “next step” slot.

  • It’s a respectable, broadly acceptable step.
  • You’re a good student – you know how to succeed as a student.
  • It will help you get a better first job (Ha – already thinking about the next step, are you?)
  • You want to keep learning.

This all makes a lot of sense.  But, as much as you struggle and reckon with the need to be successful, to be accepted, and with maintaining your identity as a good student, you also struggle with how to define success for yourself and not just adopt other people’s definitions.

So, while I like your plan – I really do – I want to give you the opportunity to be a little braver.  I know you’veapplied to a few internships, hoping to squeeze in some dream time and exploration time in the few months before graduate school would begin.  Consider giving yourself a little more breathing room, a little more time to explore.  I know it’s so hard and scary not to plan and execute that “next step” – not to be prepared with the perfect response to the question: “so, what do you want to do with your life?” But, it might be worth it to take some time to explore and practice your dreams even if that means diverting from a timeline you prefer or taking a short-term job that might not be your first choice but might offer you the time or stability to explore other ideas (through reading, volunteering, travel, etc.).

With the current graduate school plan, you will learn a lot and you will set yourself up for a good job.  But you will also suffer from a lack of passion and a weak internal compass.  You come to realize that the continuing on your path into the “real world” requires passion, creativity and vision.  And you don’t quite know how to practice those things.  Over time, you will start giving weight and thought to an idea that has been on your heart for years.  And, as you consider some big life decisions, you will face the familiar challenge of security versus boldness, and then you will read this:

Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on your altar and watch for fire to descend. (Psalm 5:3, The Message)

The clarity of this message will ring in your ears.  As you are examining the many pieces of your life – pieces you have planned for and worked for – you know that they all belong to God, and when you offer them to Him, it is his righteous fire that will separate the wheat from the chaff.  Part of the lesson for you is simply to remember that your life is not your own.  You are called to lay down your life daily in response to God’s will and everything is on the offering table.  In some ways this is a huge relief – that important job you’ve been so stressed about?  It goes up on the table just the same as your free time.

Another lesson is to learn to love the fire – learn to love the power that renews your spirit by breaking things down to what is essential.  Be brave enough to offer God everything you have carefully planned, and when you let go you will find the space to meet God within the unique experiences that He has prepared for you.

So, my advice to you is, take your time.  Ask yourself whether you are clinging to a plan because it has been placed on your heart or because it is “safe.”  Let God’s word be a “lamp to your feet and a light to your path” (Psalm 119:105), revealing His beautiful, non-linear will for your life one step at a time starting from exactly where you are.  And know that time spent envisioning, exploring and practicing is just as important as time spent actually executing a plan.

As I write you this letter, I have moved many steps beyond college, and I still struggle with the challenge of security versus boldness.  But I try to remember to offer the pieces of my life to God so that even though I may experience a little less security, I trust I will find rest for my soul.

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16)

Still learning, step-by-step,

Sarah Darley is now living and learning in Fort Worth, Texas after several years spent outside of her home state as a student, a young professional and even as a farmer.  She is passionate about learning from nature, building community, growing (and eating!) good food, and loving her sweet niece and nephews.  Her professional path has taken her to REAL School Gardens, a non-profit that partners with elementary schools to create outdoor classrooms to engage children and teachers.  Sarah knows Ginger from high school, and she treasures this friendship that has continued across so many of the steps on her path, from high school crushes to navigating success as a grown-up.


Dear Abby.

two week series on learning from the past and looking to the future…

Dear 20-year-old Abby,

I know you don’t think you have done anything wrong, but usually when you feel that way it means you probably have. If you are worried about a friend or your friendship do something about it before it’s too late. Now, you have a friend standing in front of you and you have two choices. Fight back with hurtful words and actions or take a step back. Think. Why is she really acting this way? Try to find some perspective and understanding in all this. Try to somehow (even in the heat of the moment) set aside your own feelings for someone else’s.

In Peter’s first letter he wrote:

“Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. For whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it.” (1 Peter: 8-11)

When I read this I think I can and am trying to 100% live my life this way. Then I think back of a time when I didn’t. My junior year of college I had a falling out with not one, but two close friends. It was two separate instances and the girls didn’t know one another. It was really hard for me to work through the why’s and what-if’s of all that happened that year. I tend to attribute my thought process at that time as naïve, but really I think most of the problem was that I was being self-centered. I didn’t care enough about my friends’ feelings. I tried to talk to them and work it out, but when you are only hoping to fix problems on your own terms things aren’t going to work out.  Before I knew it some of the meanest things anyone has ever said to me were coming my way. I didn’t do as Jesus would have. I returned the insults. I didn’t turn and do good. I really wish I had.

There are two more things I wish I had done. I wish I had realized sooner there were as serious of problems as there were. With one friend, I found out several months later there was so much more going on in her personal life than I knew about. She didn’t tell me or ask for my support. As a friend, I feel like I should have known anyway, but she was shutting me out. One of the main reasons God gave us friends was so we could support and lift each other up. Sometimes we can fall a bit short. Just because a friend doesn’t realize something is wrong does not mean you can’t still reach out to them.

I wish I had realized then more of the type of friend I was being. It was not my intention in any way to not be as good of a friend as I should have. One thing that some of my closest friends and I remind each other of is that we all have the same best friend. We can call on him anywhere at any time of day. You know who I am talking about! God always listens and he always provides guidance in his written words. He is the best example of a true friend. Forgiving, loving, caring, fair, kind, gentle… and the list could go on for days. We’re asked to be his disciples and by being a good friend, I feel closer to him. I feel I am doing something he has put me here on earth to do. To act as he would and provide support and love like he does is what my goal is. I now know how much of a blessing friends truly are. I am so thankful for my friends and I ask God to continue to help me to be as good of a friend to them as he is to me.


Hey there! I’m Abby Ingle. I’m so happy to get to share a little something with you today. I currently live in Phoenix with my husband and two super cute beagles. I met Ginger from playing bunco together, yes- Bunco. [It’s not just for old ladies :)] She is such an inspiring person and I love this website. I check in and read her posts all the time. It reminds me of my spiritual path and helps me tremendously to know I’m not the only one who falters. My purpose today is to just give a little insight into what friendship means to me and how it plays a role in our spiritual paths. Follow my journey over at The Newlywed Way of Life.