Facing the Unknown

Life is weird. I continually face this. The idea of the unknown is such a scary thing to me. Part of me thought these feelings of fear would go away once I finished college. Like, ah yes, there is the exact path I was meant to take! Unfortunately, life really doesn’t work like that. It’s simply a series of events that shape us, mold us into who we are. That scares me. I like to have a plan, a clear direction about what to do and where to go, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s funny to see older posts where I’ve written about the same idea. Each one was at a different crossroad of my life, and it seemed as if that one decision would be the only choice that would define me. I think that’s the reason why many of us fear big decisions, we worry that this one choice will shape our lives forever. The truth is, these choices aren’t a make or break, they’re small steps of trust in our creator.

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Piñatas, Star Wars, and Jesus; Stories of Hope

Can you believe it? In exactly one week, Christmas will be here. Wow, that’s kinda frightening, especially if you have to finish gift shopping and gearing up for the family travels, there are many working parts that happen during this time of year. Not to mention the high levels of depressing that this season can bring, losing lost ones, thinking about fears you have of the future, wondering if what you do actually means anything; the struggle hurts in a very real way. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. The stress and the sadness that surrounds Christmas can seem overwhelming, but the truth is, we can have hope during this Christmas season.

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Calm Through the Storm

Well it’s finally here. Today is the Monday before Halloween (Unless of course you are reading this early here!). The kids will walk around your neighborhood in the costumes they are proud of, candy will be consumed in vast quantities, and many laughs after frights will be had. My family loved Halloween, at my old church the kids had a fall festival my mom put on and I would work hard on a costume with my dad. Things like, a guy in a shower, a laundry basket, or garbage bag (all were real, and all were epic). The past week has been kinda crazy. My life has started going a million miles an hour, and stress has started to build. I’m stepping into new roles, and balancing several things on my plate. On a Tuesday I had a rough day. I struggle with anxiety, fears put in my head that tell me I’m not doing enough or that I’m not good enough. On Tuesday I had a pretty rough anxiety attack, the whole day my mind was constantly racing, worrying about my role and place in the world, I was afraid that I wasn’t doing all that I should, I was worried that people hated me, and I was afraid of countless scenarios that aren’t even possible. It didn’t make sense, but it makes sense now. I had fear in my heart, doing all it could to convince me I wasn’t who God made me to be.

But fear is from the devil, and the devil is a stupid liar.

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Altered State of Mind

Last week I talked about making a very important choice, a choice that will affect the rest of your life, but what happens afterwards? How do I go about living my life? So often we are able to make the choice, but we continue to live our lives as they were. This isn’t me saying we should all become hermit people only reading the bible every moment of the day, not a bad thing just basically impossible if you have to drive and interact with people, what I am saying is that we become changed people. A relationship with God isn’t some checklist to complete, that isn’t a relationship. We are in relationship with so many people, friends, family, co-workers; but the most important relationship we have is with our creator. When we spend time with these people in our life, we make an effort to connect with them, that’s what God wants for us. When we make the effort to connect with him, our outlook is altered.

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Why We Matter

One of the biggest questions I think everyone has asked themselves at some point is, do I even matter? It’s kind of a frightening question to ask oneself. Do we actually matter to the landscape of the world we find ourselves in? The answer, in our own eyes, varies all over the place. Success is subjective in the eyes of the person trying to obtain it. Success in the world may be fame, fortune, and glory; but if this is the standard for if we matter, most of us will fail. I know for me I’m a broke college student who is trying to figure out how I get to the place God has called me to. I don’t exactly meet the fame, fortune, and glory type of success. There has to be something more, right? I believe that God’s idea of success is so much more powerful than we could ever imagine, and it is so much greater than our worldly desires. Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither- whatever they do prospers.” This verse I believe answers that question of why we matter.

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Persevering for Restoration

Life gets hard. If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that fact. Sometimes it happens in unforeseen ways, giving a sucker punch to our gut. Other times, our own dumb mistakes can bring on heartache and pain. I know for me, both are true. I’ve faced storms throughout the past year and this year has been a fight as well. I’ve made mistakes, let my anger take over in moments of weakness. It’s a challenge I’ve always had, anger. Anger against those who hurt me, anger towards those who hurt others, and anger towards myself. I hate that part of me. I seek peace and a laidback nature, but when I don’t let God have control, I lose it. I’ll say things I can’t take back, whether true or not, the words will hurt. I share this because I struggle. I’m not a perfect person and neither are you. Maybe you struggle with anger like me, or maybe your thorn is of another kind. Addiction, holding on to grudges, pride, judgement, abuse; all of these many of us struggle with on a daily basis. All of these can cause a fracture in our relationships, hurting our families, friends, or our overall persona that people perceive of us. The funny thing is, we expect everyone around us to be the perfect person we are not. The dichotomy becomes our expectation of others perfection to counter our imperfection, thus creating the fracture. The only thing that can counter our imperfection is God’s complete perfection.

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I’m Terrified, and That’s Okay

This week begins another phase in my life. My classes at the university start back, and that marks the beginning of a new semester in my life. Life will start to be more chaotic and my time will be filled with more work and studies, which isn’t always a bad thing. The girl I’m dating heads back to school herself which is hard, but will make the time together even more meaningful when we do see each other. My close friends start a new phase in their lives as well, so getting together is more of a challenge to stay in touch. I will take on new responsibilities within my serving at the church, I’m taking on the task of what it looks like to write a book, and I’m having to make the most with the time I’m given. All of this is good, and I’m excited for what the future will bring, but I’m terrified. This always seems to happen when big things are coming. The fear starts to creep in, I start hearing the whispers telling me I will fail, or that I’m not skilled enough to chase my dreams. I’m so scared that all the things God has made me for, I’ll screw it up or miss my chance to achieve it. I think a lot of you might feel the same. You may feel like your dream is so big, that there’s no way you could make it happen. Maybe you feel scared like me, and you know what? It’s okay.

Whenever these feelings creep in, I’m reminded of Joshua. No, that’s not a humble brag about me thinking about myself and being totally cool (Cue the sweet putting on of sunglasses). I’m talking about Joshua in the bible. I think many of us feel like Joshua. He was a slave that followed Moses out of bondage, because he had true faith in the one true God. He was eager, he was young, and he had a desire to be close to God. I know for me I feel this way, and many of you do as well. We have a drive to be all that we can be, we are young in our faith, and we want nothing but what God has for us. Joshua was so devoted, he was right by Moses to help him in any way that he could. There was one instance where Moses had a tent and told the Israelites that the spirit was in it for any to come be in his presence. No one went in, except for Joshua, and not only that, but when Moses left the tent, Joshua stayed and kept worshiping. So, when Moses passed away, the Lord appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. No big deal right? Actually yes, it was probably the biggest thing any of us could face. Joshua reacted like me, he was terrified. He didn’t run away from the challenge, but he was scared. I mean think about it, this was hundreds of people, people that would wander away like sheep without a leader. But God is way more awesome and bigger than we often make him out to be. You see, God isn’t a get out-of-jail free card or a nice guy, he is an all-powerful and all-knowing savior. He is on your side. When you look at chapter 1 of the book of Joshua, God reassures Joshua by simply saying, be strong and courageous. Today I want to encourage you, because this has encouraged me. I am terrified, but I have a God who is bigger than my fears, a God that simply says to be strong and courageous because he has a plan for you. When we look at Joshua, we see simple truths that each of us can hold onto, three little ideas that combat our fear, because we get scared, and that’s okay because God is with you.

God has designed you with purpose.

Sometimes it feels like I say this over and over, but it will always be true. One of my biggest fears that has come at me over my life, is the fear that I have no purpose. I know this is a fear for you, it’s one of the biggest questions people ask; why am I here? Many of us spend our lives seeking purpose in things that don’t last, maybe you’re seeking the perfect career, looking for a relationship to fill the void, or turning to the consumeristic pleasures to fulfill you. God made us for so much more. Yes, it’s nice to find a job that you love, a spouse to share life with, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life; but they are so small in comparison to what God has designed you for. God designed Joshua to be a leader, his purpose was to lead the lost into freedom, literally and figuratively. Your purpose isn’t a test grade that defines you, or being in the best job that fits all that you want, your purpose is what God calls you to. What is God asking of you? Maybe you are a leader who has a passion for small groups and helping people find true life. Maybe you have a desire to help those whom are less fortunate than you. Maybe you desire to lead the next generation to be the best they can be, and not see the world put them down as a lazy generation. Your purpose doesn’t have a set path, you have to try things and figure it out on the way. In high school, one of my small group leaders who we called, “Mike D,” taught me this. He was a real estate agent by career, but that wasn’t his purpose. He used his influence and the opportunities to be around people to lead them into the kingdom. He showed love, listened to their problems, and cared for them. He did the type of things you see Jesus do in the bible, and he was just a simple real estate agent. That’s a picture of living into your calling, and that’s what God has designed us to do.

God will be with you, no matter what.

This is the most comforting part about being strong and courageous, God never just simply leaves you. It may feel like he isn’t as close, or feel like he is letting bad things happen in your life, but he never leaves you. Once you make a choice to have that relationship with him, he is always with you. The Holy Spirit is the third part of the trinity that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he is vital. He is the one that is in you, the voice that helps guide your choices, and the one that convicts you in your wrong doing. The Holy Spirit walks with you in the good and the bad, he is there to listen and wants to be with you. The choice is, will we seek after him or not? Like any relationship, the only way we grow closer is by communicating. God tells Joshua to not let the word of the Lord depart from his mouth, what he is saying to Joshua, is that he needs to actively seek the Lord and be in the scripture to truly grow. The same is true for us. In the moments when we are terrified of what happens next, or when we are given more responsibility, we need to seek out the Lord. God is with us no matter what, but in order to hear him, we must pursue him. When you love someone, you pursue them, you understand that you have a deep connection and you will do anything to grow closer and care for that person. The same is true of our God. We need to pursue him in the calm and in the fear, we need to actively grow closer to him, so that when the fear comes, he will speak to us.

God wants us to obey.

Whenever I think of the word “obey,” I think of a parent and their child. Working in next gen ministry has shown me this. You have the kids who run around like crazy people, and their parent walks up, says their name sternly (and if it’s really bad, you hear the middle name), and they tell their child to stop and listen to them. I think that is a picture of how God feels with us. We are like crazy children running around with scissors trying to live the way we want to, and God just needs us to stop and listen. The parent is always right, even though the child may think jumping off the playground is good or that eating off the floor is totally fine, the parent knows what is best for their child. God knows what’s best for us. We need to stop and listen to what God is showing us. It may not be easy, it may mean giving up something you want. You may need to give up work and spend time with your family. It may mean to live authentically, rather than wearing a mask. It may mean putting boundaries in place for your relationship. And it may mean making choices to living in Christ rather than your own desire. Simply put, when we are scared, God wants us to stop and listen to his voice; “be strong and courageous.”

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I don’t know what your life looks like, and I don’t know what you are going through. All I know is that it’s okay that you’re terrified, because I am too, but I will not live that way. God tells us to be strong and courageous. So when I go to class today, or when I sit and write my book, and even when I miss the people whom I love; I will be strong and courageous. It’s like I am a ship on the sea. The storms will come, I may have to navigate rocky waters, but I will trust the wind to guide where I’m headed. I choose to be strong and courageous with everything, I will trust my God because he has designed me with purpose, he is with me, and I will obey his wise guidance. I choose to be like Joshua, to desire God and follow him no matter what. This year will be unknown and exciting, and I am terrified, but it’s okay. God is bigger and I will trust him.

Be strong and courageous.

-Joshua Thomas

The Heart behind Everything

This past weekend I was able to be a part of Daystar Kids’ FX (Family Experience). I love getting to be a part of this event, getting to have fun and see kids and families come together is such an awesome thing to see and be involved in. Each time this event comes up and I have been asked to play a part in it, I get excited. Memorizing lines, helping put together the really cool set, and being able to be around other people that are just as passionate about the next generation as I am. It’s the best, even when technical difficulties happen, the quick speed memorizing of lines before, and any other unexpected issues that happen, I love doing it. The coolest thing to see is everyone else apart of it, people that aren’t doing it for attention or being in front of a crowd, but people who have their hearts in the right place. As I was thinking about this over the weekend it really stuck with me, this idea of where my heart is in all that I do. I know I don’t always put my heart in the right place, pride can creep in, we can start to judge others, and lose sight of the true purpose. This applies to everything we do, whether that’s something you do at your church, how you act in your job, or how you treat the people you call family. Your heart determines the result of everything you do.

In Matthew 6:21 it says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This verse speaks to the point of why our heart behind everything is so important. Whatever it is that you truly treasure, the thing that you need on a daily basis, the thing that you put trust in that is what your heart will be focused on. That could be a career, a relationship, or yourself. I struggle with that last one. It’s so easy for me to want to depend on my own strength and thinking only about what I want. The same is true for many of us. Maybe you are so obsessed with your career that you miss out on time with your family, or that unhealthy relationship you keep going back to. All these things are weak and will only bring pain into our lives. There is hope. Redirecting what you value back to Christ, will allow your heart to be in the best place during all circumstances. So what exactly mean to make Christ the place where I put my value in? Well I’m so glad you asked, faithful reader! I want to share what I have found and what God has taught me on how to have my heart in the right place. My hope is that you leave this blog post with a new desire to have your heart in the right place, no matter what the situation you find yourself in.

Trust in the Lord with your heart.

This is a tough one, saying I give my complete trust to God is not an easy thing to do. So often I find myself trying to fix everything on my own, I try to solve the problems around me that are impossible for me to carry. It causes me to get angry and lose sight of what is important; my heart ends up in the wrong place. Luckily, God knows that I do this and that you do this, Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” What a powerful verse! Not only are we to give complete trust in Christ, but when we do he will direct our every move. When our heart is focused on the one who knows all things and is a sovereign creator, we can walk in confidence knowing that God directs our path.

Guard your heart.

After we begin to put trust in God, the battle isn’t over. This is where pride will start to creep in, we are following what God has for us, but the enemy wants us to fall. We start to get more opportunities to have influence over others as they look to us, and that’s when we need to be careful that we don’t say to ourselves, “Oh yes, hello little peasants, bow before me.” Wait you don’t say that? You get the point that I’m making though, we need to remember that humility speaks louder than your actions. We also have to be careful of the words we say, both verbally and your internet speak (That’s probably the right terminology). Words can cut like a sword, so when you speak to others do it in a way that builds them up, even though you may be judging them for how they act. Online presence is a more recent thing that I have noticed, before sharing that article or composing that tweet, think about how it will make others look at you. This isn’t just a rant, it’s in scripture. Proverbs 4:23-24 says, “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth from perversity, keep corrupt talk from your lips.” Guard your heart, don’t let pride or foolish talk destroy your ministry.

Even when we screw up, take heart!

You are going to fail, encouraging I know, but we are all humans who suffer from not being perfect. Life will throw storms yours way, trust me I know what that feels like, but the thing we must remember is that our great God doesn’t leave us. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Everything around us will fail, things will happen that we wish could erase, but even in all of this, God is constant. This part is up to you, will you choose to press into Christ, or will you turn away when struggles arise. Know that no matter how bad it gets and no matter how you screw up, you can be made new again. We just need to rely on the strength of Christ.

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Everything we do has an origin, and that origin is from the heart. When we feed our heart with the frail things of this world, we begin to miss out on what life has to offer. God designed each of us with a specific purpose in mind, he gave us gifts and talents to be used for so much more than our personal gain. We don’t have time for pride to get in the way, nor rely on our own strength in life. Trust in Christ, guard your heart, and take heart as we go forward in our lives. When we do this, our ministries, our jobs, and our relationships will be striving after Christ first. No matter what happens, the opportunities that are big or small, everything will be done with a higher purpose. You and I don’t have time to waste our lives on foolish things. Put your heart in Christ and he will drive your walk.

Pursue Christ, and live with his purpose in your life.

-Joshua Thomas

Finishing the Fight

It never ceases to amaze me on how fast life changes and moves all around me. People are in your life and then go separate ways, a career can change in an instant, and what was once unknown has now become a reality. In my own life it feels like I’m moving towards one direction with everything I’ve got, yet now has been shifted dramatically. This seems to be the story everyone has faced since the beginning of time, it’s what life is filled with. Many times these changes and shifts in our path are for the better, and sometimes they are things we wish we never would have to face. In both situations, we have fear that influences us about how we react and what decisions we make. It would be much simpler if we had the ability to delete the hard and always accept the good things, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Weather you and I like it, we have been placed in front of a decision. We can either let the fear of the hardship or possible failure control us or we can finish the fight.

It sounds daunting, and to be honest, it is daunting. Unless you are someone who knows what to do when the unexpected hits you or changes your direction, it is intimidating. The thing is, is that we don’t have to be blind, meaning that while the answers and secrets to life may not always be spelled out for us, we do have a guide to how we approach this fight. This fight is simply the opposition that tries to stop us from moving forward and growing into the people that God designed us to be. So this fight, is something that we may face daily, or it may be an event or drastic life change that tries to hold us back from becoming who we are meant to be. These are a few things that I have learned and have clung to during moments in life that try to stop me, from the hardship and the sucker punches that happen all the time.

Running away accomplishes nothing.

The first thing we need to know when life throws trials at us is that running away accomplishes nothing. Our problems will only catch up with us, kind of like a kid hiding from their parent after breaking something, it will always catch up. Once it does, the problem only becomes that much bigger! The book of James describes how we should first react when we first run into the struggle. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Instead of running away, we must address it head on, and know that through this trial, good will come. It will never be easy, but when we look at our problems and struggles from the perspective that perseverance will bring wisdom, we can take on anything.

Peace will come when we endure.

Once we choose to face the issue, we undertake the hard part. Maybe this means having a tough conversation with someone, it may mean having to distance yourself from a group or situation, or it may be something we cannot tangibly address. Dealing with loss, watching someone close to you while they hurt, or the feeling that what you once thought was your purpose, now has shifted. We don’t know how we can continue, but we are given the power to overcome all struggle and all trials that we face, big or small. As we endure the hardship and trust God during the things we cannot control, we become unstoppable. We step into the true design that we were created to do. James 1 continues with verse twelve that says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” As we place trust in the creator of all things, we are able to make it through the other side of the fight with blessings that will stay with us for the rest of time. We can endure, because God is bigger than our struggles. When we face our struggles and relying on the strength that comes from the Lord, we receive a peace unlike anything else.

No matter what happens, approach it with love.

This may be the most difficult aspect to wrap my own head around, how can I not let fear or anger control my actions when life gets difficult. So often in my times of hurting and fearing the unknown, I want to lash out at some of the smallest things. I feel like the Hulk ready to rage and go destroy anything in my path, but we can’t do that. I can’t do that. We would only cause more hurt towards those around us that may actually care about you deeply. Romans 12:17-19 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” And then ends with verse 21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The biggest weapon in our arsenal is love, an action that diffuses the rage we feel we deserve to access. So in every situation, and every fight you end up in, choose love and you will be victorious.

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I think we all are facing challenges and struggles. We have dreams and visions for our futures, we want life to be simple. Yet we are in the midst of a chaotic world, some want to hide, some once had a desire to be more, and some have become tired of fighting. Many of us have a warrior spirit within us, I know I do, but it becomes hard when we keep having to fight and carry on. Often times what I forget is that I am not alone, Christ is with me, I just have to put trust in him. When I rely on my own strength I will fall, but when I abide in him, I become invincible. It’s like the movie, The Sword in the Stone, a boy who everyone sees as weak and is treated like an outcast, is able to take the sword because he is worthy. He takes his place, one he was destined to be in. You are like Arthur, you are worthy. I am worthy. We just have to have the courage to take hold of the sword and receive the power that it gives. So in you struggle and trials that you may be going through, take hold of the only thing that can give you true strength. Trust in Christ and you will be able to finish the fight.

-Joshua Thomas

Peace in the Chaos

Life is all over the place. One moment we can be swamped with trouble and doubt, and the next, feeling like you need more action in your life. Stress is the infection that everyone feels at some time or another. It consumes our thoughts and distracts us from the joys in our life. Today I want to share a little thought that has been running through my mind of this idea of stress and the times when we feel chaos all around us. It’s something that I deal with on a daily basis, my brain constantly thinking about the next thing I have to do, or reflecting on some issue that is so small in the grand scheme. Since I know my brain works like this, the chances are very high that yours does as well. I want to do a few things today, I want you to know that you don’t have to worry about your problems, I want you to know that you have the ability to be peaceful in stress, and I want you to discover how to find joy each day.

Philippians 4:6-9 is my lifeline when it comes to life berating me with all its’ got. It says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” This verse holds the key to overcoming the chaos in your life.

God is bigger than your problems.

If there is one thing I can tell you from experience and know for a fact, it’s that when I try to solve every problem in my life, I fail. God is all powerful and all knowing, so why would I even try to do things by myself? Seems silly for me to try and do that right, but we all do this. Most of us several times during our day. God wants us to come to him with everything, all our problems and struggles, even our happy memories in life. He loves us and is willing to help us in everything we do. We just need to take the first step, we need to start the conversation. Realize that God can do all things, and that he loves you. Put the two together and he will guide you in the chaos.

Dwell on the blessings.

The middle part of the verse tells us to think about things that are life-giving, this is the key to having peace. I rarely think about the possibility of a silver lining when faced with a problem. My mind thinks about every horrible outcome that could possibly come from it, rather than seeing how that situation might be a learning opportunity, or an opportunity to show Christ to another person. When we redirect our focus on the positives in whatever situation we are in, we begin to look at the world the way Christ wants us to. Will we still have disappointment and experience hurt? Sadly, yes, but there is always hope. That whole part about God being bigger than your problems stays true all throughout your life, but again, we have to take hold of it. Remember the things that God has already done in your life and focus on how he will use every situation you are in, even when you are in darkness.

Choose joy.

The final sentiment of the verse shows us that when we think about Christ’s teaching and the blessings he has shown us, we have to choose to put it into practice. So often we want to abide in our misery while surrounding ourselves with others in the same position. Stop that! Stand up for what you know is true, and that truth is that God has given us so much to enjoy! We have to actively choose to be joyful, it is an action that must be done in all situations. When we actively choose joy, we find peace in our chaos.

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When writing this, my thoughts were drawn to the painter Jackson Pollock. He is the man who is known for his modern art that is splatter painted. He encompasses this thought, because in his work it always seems to be chaotic, yet he understands that he has created something beautiful. Now we aren’t here to discuss art, I love this theme that runs through many modern artists. Beauty in the abstract, they find peace in the chaos. So, no matter where you are in life or what circumstance you are going through, remember that the ultimate creator of life is making a masterpiece out of you. Step into your life, and choose joy when life gets tough.

I hope you enjoyed todays post, I am so thankful for the response that I have been getting. Thanks for reading! Feel free to check out other posts and share some that you have enjoyed. You all rock.

-Joshua Thomas