Poetry: Caterpillar

Poem by Ruth Long

Image by  Krysten Merriman on Unsplash

I am a caterpillar 

Perched upon God’s hand.

The more I learn His fingerprints,

The more I trust His plans.

Though I am small and not full grown,

His steady hold will stay. 

And let me walk along His hand,

And carry me all the way.

About Ruth Long

Long is a home-educated student born in Cheshire, UK. Her current abode is a large Québécois brick house. Her hobby is writing whimsical and thought-provoking literary works. She studies apologetics and loves talking with neighbours from everywhere. Long penned “Caterpillar” while on a walk and hopes it encourages anyone who reads it. 

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Interview with Wendy L. Cunningham Barnes

Welcome to today’s interview! When I learned that the intrepid and multi-talented Wendy L. Cunningham Barnes was also an advocate for the special needs community, I was more excited than ever to interview her. As a social worker who has spent the last 10 years working with this community, her story resonated with me. So, I invite you to settle in and meet a dynamic and driven woman of God.

Hi Wendy! I’m thrilled to have you with us today. Can you start things off by telling us a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in Chicago, just outside of Englewood, the oldest of two girls. I am a wife, mom of three children, entrepreneur in a direct sales cosmetics company, talk show host of The Wendy Lyfe, and cohost of JW/Fuzion radio show with my husband, James.

What is your educational and spiritual background?

I have some college where majored in biology. I have always had a love for God and His presence. Growing up Catholic, my fondest memories from childhood was just being able to sit in the church and talk to the Lord. What I loved about the Catholic Church is that it was always open, no matter when you went there. I loved that feeling of being close to God in His house. While I’m still learning about the bible, I’ve always felt that the Lord was with me; guiding, supporting me. Going through a difficult childhood and early adulthood, I have always trusted that He was going to bring me the through. Having two special needs children, and saying goodbye to one too soon, really tested of my faith. My faith never wavered, knowing God’s plan was that I come out stronger.

How did you choose your method of communicating your message?

I actually did not choose my method of communicating. Originally, I started out doing YouTube videos with a desire to create a community of people who have special needs, or special needs caregivers. I was blessed to have met the family that owns Road 2 Eternity production company. They saw something in me that made them pursue wanting me to have my own talk show dedicated to the special needs community. Then, my husband was given the opportunity to have a radio show and wanted me to be a part of that experience. James and I work very well together, so I jumped at that opportunity! I am enjoying what God is revealing to us and allowing us to do with these platforms.

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There remains a lot of work to do to educate people about the special needs community. What do you think about that, and what message would you share with readers?

Wow, that’s a big one! I believe that there is so much work to do because that is not a part of your average person’s experience. Myself included, if you don’t have a family member with a special-needs, or someone who is close to you who has a special need, then that’s not something that you really think about. My prayer is that with the television show, it becomes more of a day-to-day conversation with people, whether they have experience with a special-needs person or not. The more we talk about it openly, the more it’s not so alien to those who don’t have that experience. The more we expose and bring light to different people in the special needs community, the more accepted we are. People don’t often know how to act, or what to say when around someone with a special need. My hope is that with the show, our community becomes more accepted into the general community.

I notice that churches aren’t always equipped to receive families with special needs children and adults. Have you noticed this, and what would you say to the Church to help address this?

Again, churches are full of people, for the most part that don’t have a day-to-day experience with those in the special-needs community. It would never occur to someone in opening a church to address the needs of someone who is disabled. My prayer is that the show will expose people from all walks of life, including the church to understand the special needs community and their needs. Also, as a community, we need to have our voices heard about what our needs actually are. If we don’t speak for ourselves, how can we expect the general community at large to respond? We need to understand the reality that anyone of us, at any point in our lives can become disabled. Once we understand this, treating our community with compassion and respect becomes easier.

What purpose do you think God has for your work?

My experience as a mom of three children, 2 with special-needs, I have a perspective that will not only help those with a disability, but will help those who are caring for someone. I’ve also lost a child. So many people are quietly grieving. I hope to give them a strength and a voice to continue their story by talking about their child. My prayer is that by hearing my story, parents and caregivers will feel empowered to stay strong in their work, and not feel so alone.

Who/what are your biggest influences?

My children are my biggest influences. Having special needs children taught me an appreciation for life’s little wins. My daughter, Paige, wasn’t expected to live past the age of two but exceeded that by 13 years. Even in her death, I had to find a strength to press on as mom to my boys. It was necessary for me to teach my boys that you have to keep living. My youngest son, Christian, wasn’t expected to even be born. Once born, they didn’t expect him to be able to lift his head. Now 15, he easily lifts his head, rolls, pivots and has the most beautiful laugh I’ve ever heard. My oldest son, Matthew, had taught me grit, patience and endurance. Being sandwiched between two disabled siblings, I had to parent him in a way that made him feel special. I had to be creative in giving him the best childhood I could in our unusual, and often trying, family dynamic. I had the task of teaching him, by example, that we need to keep our heads up and continue to rock out this life in honor of our angel Paige.

Through taping The Wendy Lyfe, I get so much inspiration from the special needs community, as a whole. I am blessed to meet some incredible special-needs people who are doing amazing things despite their disability. Spending time with them takes away all of your complaining and excuses of why you aren’t accomplishing the goals that you have set for yourself.

Do you have another job? Other hobbies or interests?

I have been a consultant in a direct sales company for 23 years. Being a mom of three children, two of them being special-needs, took a lot of my time. I was a single mom for 13 years. Having this business has allowed me the freedom and flexibility to be a mom, but also have a vehicle that allowed me to meet my family’s financial needs. When I am not working, I enjoy reading, movies, walking, hanging out with my husband and my boys, and spending time with friends.

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Can you tell us about your future goals?

First and foremost, I will continue to trust God’s guidance on my Lyfe and follow where he leads me. I endeavor to bring more awareness to the general community about the special-needs community and their needs. In doing this, I hope to also bring the special needs community closer together to share resources and ideas that will help one another. I plan to use my talk show, The Wendy Lyfe and our annual Paige Awards program to further this awareness. My husband, James and I are working to build a strong audience for our radio show, JW/Fuzion. When we started our show, it was to be broadcast twice a month. We just were asked to make it a weekly program. That’s very exciting! The Wendy Lyfe is set to stream in February on Ultimate Faith Television Network which streams via Roku. The 2nd annual Paige Awards will be this year in November. We will begin planning and discussing award recipients.

Where can readers find you?

 You can find me on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat as TheWendyLyfe, and my website.

You can find our radio show, JW/Fuzion, on www.artistfirst.com and YouTube. We are also on all social media as JW/Fuzion. Check us out!

Wendy, I am so happy you shared your story with us today. I pray for God’s continued blessing on you, your family, and the projects He’s placed in your hands. Readers, please leave Wendy a message below or contact her on her social media platforms. 

Blessings to you all!

-Delia

CONTENTED or COMPLACENT? 

CONTENTED or COMPLACENT?

by Mary Akinwa 

Dear One, it’s good to have you with us today. Before I share what’s on my heart, I want to take time to appreciate you, yes YOU, for being a part of this story. Thank you. 

Today’s take is on contentment and complacence. My desire is that by the time you are done reading this piece, your understanding of both concepts will be broadened and you can take action, where necessary.

Contentment is defined by The Oxford Dictionary of English as a feeling of happiness or satisfaction; this feeling could be directed at something or someone. Often, we hear people say: ‘I am contented with this or that.’ Basically, contentment is a state of mind which influences our actions and behaviours. For someone who is contented, he or she would not want to put in any extra effort or seek to make the state of something better.

Now, the Bible encourages contentment, for godliness with contentment is great gain. This explains that a man should be content, satisfied and happy with that which the Lord has given unto him. The human nature, however, wants the best for itself, hence there is always the struggle for something, even when that something is achieved there comes the struggle for another thing. It often looks as if the struggle continues.

To understand this piece better let us look at what complacence is.

Complacence is a situation wherein you become too satisfied with yourself or with a situation so that you do not feel that any change is necessary. Complacency is a very dangerous game and it should not be played by anyone who desires to be successful. Whatever is approached with complacency never succeeds. Complacency is devoid of zeal for the best.

This is where contention lies. We might be tempted to say: ‘Oh, I don’t want to come off as being too ambitious, I just want to be contented with where I am and what I have.’ Or you might think: ‘I’m okay at this point in my life and I can survive with what I have.’

Before you decide on being contented with any position or situation, be sure that you have received the best of that situation. Be sure that it is at that point that God desires you to stay. Be sure that the level you are is where God has proposed for you. Don’t hide under the guise of being contented when in fact what you really are is complacent. A thin line exists between contentment and complacence and if you cannot differentiate between when to move forward and when to rest, you might be caught up in between not achieving to the fullest God’s desire for you and being overly ambitious.

You’re probably wondering: ‘How do I know when I’m being complacent or contented?’ The word of God says, ‘…for I know the thoughts I have towards you, thoughts of good and not of evil to bring you to an EXPECTED END!’

Has God taken you to that expected end in your career, relationship, academics, business etc? If so, then please be contented. If not, do not fold your hands; don’t be complacent. Press on! Push forward! ‘Til you are convinced that you have arrived at God’s designated stop.

Also, contentment is not an excuse for mediocrity. Erase any mentality of mediocrity and trust God to give you the best regarding the task at hand.

Remember always that you deserve only the best! Anything short of the best is not God’s ideal for you.

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About Mary Akinwa :

Mary is a christian writer and speaker currently based in Nigeria. She has a vision to share God’s message through writing and speaking, this she does on her social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram as well as her christian lifestyle blog.

 

 

Contact her at: 

Facebook- The Tennybrainy Blog

Instagram- @thetennybrainyblog

Website- www.tennybrainy.blogspot.com

E-mail- thetennybrainyblog@gmail.com

Follow the Spirit: A Testimony by Author Anne Perreault

My name is Anne Perreault. I write Christian fiction in order to encourage and strengthen each other. 

Stories! 

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To me there is something magical that happens when I allow myself to enter into one. I know exactly what I’ll find. It is a world of order, where I know the outcome is going to be happy. Books mean calm when everything around me can explode into chaos. I found that so true as a young child, when I would rather have my nose in a book than play outside with my friends. I even began to let my imagination roam during the night, a time usually filled with fear.

 Stories kept my nightmares at bay. 

God touched my heart when I was young, but it took a long time to really understand what He had done for me. 

As I grew older, tales occupied my mind most of the time. They became the refuge I needed. I was never going to be a writer. I discovered that early on in my life. I recall one specific time, when our assignment was to reproduce the story of Macbeth in modern times. I was so proud when I set it to the tone of Dallas, a TV show my family and I enjoyed watching. Apparently my teacher wasn’t too impressed. I didn’t mourn the passing of ‘my’ plan. After all, I knew that something better waited for me. 

With the passage of time, the stories in my head became my constant companion. During my second year at boarding school I experienced what probably was the darkest moments in my life. I missed my family, missed my adventures, and found myself lonely and alone. God came into my life again, this time talking to me in a more mature, grown up manner. But another story began to form in my mind that satisfied me more than God could at the time. When I visited my characters, I was able to forget the troubles of my present situation. 

I was no longer empty or lonely. 

This particular story stayed with me into adulthood, as I met and married my college boyfriend. It was my constant companion during the difficult times of raising a family, learning to be a wife and mother, and dealing with life. I also began to understand what Jesus had done on the cross and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. 

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As my relationship with my Lord grew, He began to nudge me into an uncomfortable situation. He wanted me to stop visiting my secret hiding place. At the time I was not aware that I used it as an escape, a crutch. We had several words about it, and it was too difficult for me to leave my imaginary world behind. I went through a period when all I could do was stay in that world of make believe, where everything turned out just fine and I knew what would happen next. Once I came out of this dark period, God sat me down again and demanded I leave my imagination where it belonged. At the altar. 

Little did I know that He had a reason. The two years that followed were even harder than the period of darkness, and I had to manage it without the help of my husband, who was called into the desert (literally) to deal with his own baggage. During this time, I managed to cling onto the Lord, who truly became my everything. I no longer had a need for imagination. I could no longer go into the world of make believe to shut myself away from my family because I was needed more than ever. I could no longer hide but had to face the reality of life. 

I later on came to understand how good God is. Once my husband returned to our family, we made plans to move, to build a house. There was no need for my imaginary crutch, because I had something much more substantial keeping me going. I had God! His guidance was so strong, I felt it in my heart every moment of the day. It was an amazing time.

 I had started to write a story for my daughter years before. Being a homeschooling mom, I was disgusted at the choices of reading material I had available for a young, Christian girl. I wanted something that encouraged my daughter in her walk. I recalled my ability to spin a pretty good yarn and started writing. It took me twelve years to finish it – I lost it, the computer broke, I erased it because I was disgusted with it, and so on. You get the picture. When I was done, I remember closing my laptop and feeling kind of sad. I also asked the Lord, “Now what, God?” 

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Let me tell you: unless you expect an answer don’t ask. To say I was surprised when He answered back would be the understatement of the year. I almost fell out of my seat. I remember my heart racing so fast when I realized what was happening. His answer was, “Write the story.”

 Thus began a time of fierce battle going back and forth. It started with me going, “Nanananana, not listening,” in a very mature manner, to finally explaining my position to God. I couldn’t go back to this story He was urging me to revisit. He had asked me to stop and I felt that going back would open me up to using my imagination as a crutch again. I had come so far in twelve years.

 I finally had to leave it in His hands. I agreed that I would write only if God put a neon sign in front of me, affirming that it was from Him. When ya ask for a neon sign be prepared to find one. I was at a woman’s retreat when it just stood out at me. The theme of the guest speaker was ‘Write your story’. I surrendered myself to writing, and God hasn’t stopped giving me stories yet. 

I found a different kind of refuge in writing. When I finally agreed, the Lord met me on every page I was pouring myself out on. I often compared myself to others in terms of… everything really. But mostly I didn’t think I had a creative bone in my body. He showed me that He is the Creator. I’m His created, thus my creativity is different from everyone else. I’m unique in it. I thought that was pretty neat. We delved in much deeper than that. I had some major issues of mistrust and we addressed it. I love my characters. God showed me through this writing process, that He loves me ten thousand times more. Me!!!! He has a very particular place in His heart for ME, a wonderful plan for my life. And just like I knew the outcome of the story, He knows the outcome of mine. And it’s going to be okay. He’s got it all under control.

 When my character was in a terrible storm that threatened to sink the boat, I kept on thinking, Just hang in there. Two more pages and it’ll be all done. God whispered the same words into my heart. The storms in our lives are temporary. And He’s with us, weathering them side by side with us. That gave me a moment to pause and linger. After I wiped a tear or two, I forged on. 

God has showed me His character when I sit down to write. In turn, I’d like to present it to my readers. I don’t want them to go through life thinking that all is lost, that they are alone. Because they aren’t. The Lord has sent me down some pretty tough stories to write. At the heart is always that He’s there. No matter what.

 I was moved by something a friend told me. She’s not a Christian… yet. She bought my book out of love for me and found herself super surprised when she was finished. She said that she can believe in the God I presented in my story. It’s not about doing the right thing. It’s always about the heart.

 As Christians, or even writers, we don’t know how we influence someone. I hope that I can encourage everyone to keep writing, keep being creative. God has made us that way.

 Let that be your inspiration.

Anne

About Anne Perreault: Anne was born and raised in Germany. She moved to Dubai by the time she was 14. After meeting her husband, she settled in Connecticut, where they raised a family. Anne was a therapeutic riding instructor and has her Masters in education. God used her love of stories and inspired her to write to encourage others. She and her husband now reside in Vermont, where they are building their house. Visit her at Into the Light Fiction.

Part 1: What’s God Got To Do With It? Finding the Purpose of our Gifts

Why do we create?

Do we create because we are inspired by an inherent urge to make something? Is it to scratch a creative itch that won’t go away until we put pen to paper or our fingers on a guitar’s strings?

Why do we jerk awake in the middle of the night, wiping sleep from our eyes, to frantically jot down lyrics we struggled to put together during the day?

Why do we fantastize about worlds, peoples, and languages that only exhist in our minds until we transcribe them on paper or produce them into a film?

We do this because we were built to create.

 

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Creating isn’t just one thing. A builder creates when he puts form and structure to an architect’s plans. A chef creates, using smell, taste, and skill to whip up incredible and unique dishes. Gardeners create when they sow and tend seeds until they become an array of fragrant, colourful plants and trees. We all create to some extent—I think it’s important to recognize that ‘creating’ comes in many, often unrecognized and undervalued, forms.

On this blog, we usually use the term to refer to artists; people who take their passion, skills, and talents to create some form of art, perfecting our abilities and creations because we feel that it is something we must do—even if we don’t gain recognition or rewards for our efforts.    

The act of creating causes us to feel free, happy, and fuilfilled. There’s a sort of high that comes over us after struggling to bring an idea to life and then holding the result in our hands.

We create because we love it.

And we create because it gives us a sense of purpose.

Think about that for a minute. How do you feel after you complete a story, a book, an article, or a song? How do you express it?

I think God felt similarly at the end of a busy 6 days. He probably felt a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and joy. He looked at the universe, the earth, and everything in it and concluded, ‘it was good’. (Genesis 1:31)

 

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We shouldn’t be surprised by this incredible connection to Him. He made us in His image, after all, and He is the Ultimate and Orginal Creator.

So, if He created us to create, what is the purpose for our creations?

Identity 

In this crazy, busy, noisy world, it’s easy to forget that we were created by God for God.

Colossians 1:16 (NLT)

‘for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see–such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him’.

Not only that, but the world’s mentality caters to pleasing and satisfying the individual and our ego: ‘Do what what feels right to you and to heck with everybody else’. When our world view is focused on the Self, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the world revolves around us, our, wants, our needs, or our purpose.

The truth is the opposite : the world revolves around God. And, guess what? If we claim to be children of God, followers of Christ, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, then our lives and everything we have belong to Him. Stop there and think about that a moment. Maybe repeat it to yourself a few times. Sometimes the truth needs some time to sink in. Then follow it up with this :

Galatians 2:20 (KJV)

20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

 

Our Lives (and Gifts) Find Purpose in God’s Plan

This is a truth I feel the Lord drilling into my head at the moment, so I share it with all humility and the full knowledge that I haven’t mastered it but am working it out with ‘fear and trembling’ (Phil 2 :12). Just this morning, I was feeling down about my writing career and wondering what good I thought I could do with it, and wondering if it’s all a waste of time. You know, the usual mental attacks that bring us down. But God is faithful. When I decided to turn from my emotions and negative thinking to do what I felt He wanted me to (write this post), I felt my faith being restored, my focus shifting back into place, and joy returning. I guess it’s worth noting that there are times we are called to create even when we don’t want to. But as we will see below, ultimately, we don’t create for ourselves.

Matthew 16:24-26  (ESV) 

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

 

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This is the key verse for this series, so I hope you hold on to it. It’s easy to feel special and excited when God puts the desire to create in our hearts. And we should feel special! God has chosen us to do something incredible! But that’s the point where Self can trick us into believing that the vision/project/venture has anything to do with us.  

Once we choose to follow Jesus, we are His and the Holy Spirit works out the Father’s master plan in our individual lives to accomplish a goal that has global reach. God loves the world and, though the world rejects Him, He still desires to save it. We can take pleasure in the gifts He has given us but we can’t hold on to them. We must submit them to Him so that He can use them. But guess what? By doing that, He is inviting us to participate in His work—his master plan—with Him!

Ephesians 1 :11-12 

11 In Him also we have received an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will, 12 that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, should live for the praise of His glory. 

Ephesians 2:10 

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do

 

Thanks for reading. I hope you stick with me as I go through this process. I intend to keep posting as I work through these complex issues of purpose and identity.

Can you relate? Have you had ups and downs in the pursuit of your creative calling? What has helped get you through? Please comment below.

Please see Part 2 here.

–Delia

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