In times like these, it is difficult to not feel anxious or uncertain of the future. Not only are we facing daily challenges with Covid-19, we are tackling the trickle-down effects of various losses, fear of the unknown, and constant political and social issues competing for our attention and participation. As if this isn’t enough, we also are required to make daily decisions to navigate the realities we face with work, school, marriage, relationships, family, health, and dozens of other complex situations that affect us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Considering these real and present storms of life, we can feel disheartened, anxious, and overwhelmed. This is when God’s Word can encourage us. When I read Acts 27 in the Bible, I am reminded through the story that though we may see the shipwreck clearly—and can do nothing to stop it—we can be confident that God is with us in the surrender and will bring us safely through. When it’s all said and done, we will land where we belong.
Let’s look at the quick facts (Acts 27).
Paul is setting out on a voyage for Rome, as one among other prisoners. His crime—believing and sharing the gospel of Jesus. The story is filled with danger, doubt, fear, loss, opinions, decisions, and multiple attempts to stop the storm, even though the shipwreck is inevitable.
Paul knows the situation will end in turmoil and tries to warn them of the danger, however, the majority would rather listen to the ship owner and pilot (which seems logical). They know all about the boat and how to sail, but in this situation, Paul knows God and has a spiritual perspective and directive.
True to the nature of a storm, the waters rage and the winds grow stronger, turning the storm into hurricane proportions with great force. And as is true to our nature, the men begin to react. Days go by as they fight the external elements and feel the internal fears and uncertainty.
In response, they frantically do all they know to do. They make great efforts to fix the ongoing crisis themselves. They try to stop the violent battering of the ship by bringing the lifeboat aboard, putting ropes under the ship to keep it together, and throwing over the much-needed cargo, tackle, and food. They think, make the load lighter, then maybe we can control where we are going. We can stop the wreckage.
Sometimes life can feel this way, particularly in these uncertain times. We hear the warnings on all sides, we think we know what to do, we trust the leaders and experts to guide us, and we do our best to contain the storm. But like Paul, God is whispering something completely different to our hearts than what we see. What we are being told. What the specialists declare. What we think is best. Our way versus His way.
We continue fighting the storms while each challenge appears to demand more of us. Give up this. Relinquish that. Throw that overboard. It’s still too heavy.
Impulsively, we try harder.
We struggle to believe everything will be okay.
We fret, all while longing to survive.
And despite our best efforts, we remain discouraged, fearful, exhausted, and reactive amid the inevitable shipwreck.
While God whispers to remain calm.
I can relate to those on board the ship. At times, I can feel like I am being called to give up more and more, after already feeling I’ve lost so much.
And God reassures me I’ve gained abundantly what’s important, His heavenly treasures. The opportunity to show love, grace, and mercy.
Nevertheless, like these men, tiredness, exhaustion and uncertainty of where we are going remains. Our Rome. Our Caesar. The place where we may be called to testify of God and our faith, simply by weathering the storm and believing what God says, instead of what the world screams.
Like Paul, in a last-ditch effort, we try to share with others. To warn of impending danger out of concern and care or out of our own opinions. We encourage them to be courageous, that God is with us, that our lives will be safe. And we hope that no one will be lost as we attempt to manage the situation, and others, while God says, believe, trust, and surrender your illusive control.
I am here with you.
You will make it safely to where I’m taking you.
Be still. Have peace.
In closing, Paul and the men appeared to lose everything.
The ship was going to break.
Their courage was going to be challenged.
And they would either trust and follow or disbelieve and bring further loss to themselves and others.
Today, we can listen for the voice of God amid the storms we are fighting through.
His direction, wisdom, and strength are available to us no matter what the situation is or appears to be.
All is not lost.
There is always hope.
We can make it to shore and continue the journey, and until our breakthrough, we can trust the One who calms the storms and knows how to rescue us from the shipwrecks of life.
So, everyone escaped safely to shore. Acts 27:44 (All 276 of those aboard)
Here are a few Scripture references from Acts 27 that we can live out daily:
Love and Hugs! Rikah Thomas
Stay close to God through His Word, prayer, and daily connection with Him.
Taken from page 5 of Be at War: Battle for Love. I hope you enjoy the next glimpse into Emma's life. (See previous post for Emma's Beginnings). :)
Years pass quickly.
At the local fair the little white, freckled-faced girl stands with a gentle soul and a tender heart. She waits patiently in line for her turn on the old-fashioned horse and carriage ride, wondering what excitement waits for her. She is glad that no one from home ever inquires about where she is going. The sign above the tent communicates words that make her heart joyful. All are welcome, and something magical lies ahead. She stands on tiptoes, her excitement on display for all to see, anticipating the unknown. Something magical!
Finally, the gravel crunches underneath the weight of wooden rims. The ride stops and she jumps inside the four-wheel wooden carriage. It's covered with her favorite colors as if it was designed and painted just for her. Unbeknownst to her young mind, there is an inscription engraved into the teal and orange bench. It declares, This one is Mine. She is special. I will favor her and she will know My Spirit well. She will possess My heart of love for others.
The tan colored conductor (who take the tickets and drives the ride) with thick, black, curly hair smiles and winks, telling her to buckle up. With gentleness, he snaps the reins to get the white and chestnut horses moving. Expectation fills her. Somehow, she is aware that this moment will reveal an important nugget of knowledge for her future.
He prepares her for the journey, impressing upon her how essential it is for her to view this time of reflection through his eyes. He promises to be gentle, but warns her of the impending truth that this will hurt her heart. A jolt of fear rises up, and her heart beats faster.
"Let go. Trust. Believe." He breathes out the simple, yet seemingly impossible words.
As the clear blue sky begins to darken, clouds swirl in their grayness like an angry eel twisting and turning. The reels of an imaginary movie clip begin to roll against the backdrop of the moody stratosphere. The redheaded beauty is fascinated.
His ability to show the past, present, and future transcends her childish human experience, but she hangs on anyway. Something compels her to keep watching the sky as her fearful heart craves to see more.......
This is a glimpse into my new book, Be at War: Battle for Love. The opening chapters introduce us to Emma and Jacob,
Chapter 1 - Baby Girl
A cold day in early December, Minnesota breezes are blowing with the assurance of snow. The promise of a white Christmas looming.
The labor pains start, and the womb that carried this little life these past months moans in discomfort. Clenching her teeth, face askew with the deep agony of a contraction, the young mother fights against her body. It wants desperately to force this little human out of the cocoon, forever exposing it to the elements of life-the good, bad, and in-betweens.
Push. Breathe. Groan. Push some more.
Effectively, the final strain sends the bundle of flesh through the canal and into the light.
Taking the first breath, her newborn lungs eject a curdling scream. Blood pulsates through the cord, clothing her lily-white flesh with bright red liquid. The twine of existence, so wonderfully knit together by a loving God, declares life wins this day.
The day of her birth. Divine. Appointed. Celebrated.
Emma is her name.
From the corner of the room, hidden behind the spiritual veil, evil makes a note to keep an eye on this small, unassuming, and unimportant infant.
Chapter 2-Baby Boy
Another day in the Caribbean welcomes tropical rain, drenching the small island. It pours down on galvanized roofing, sounding like horses thundering down the road in the bright early morning. The birds cry out from within the coconut trees as the animals awaken to the screaming of his small newborn voice.
His chocolate brown skin flaunts a beautiful glow under the humid sunshine, radiantly sneaking through the flower curtains and slatted glass panels that create the window. He, too, is wonderfully knit together by a loving God, who declares this day that his life wins.
His mother frowns. Her concern consumes her, wondering whether he will be strong enough to make it through the day. The roosters and piglets bask in the joy of the fresh air, and her worry grows. She sends out his sibling to get the goat's milk she hopes will soothe his hunger. He cries for fullness and comfort.
The day of his birth. Divine. Appointed. Celebrated.
Jacob is his name.
From the corner of the humid and sunny room, hidden behind the spiritual veil, evil commands his watchmen to keep an eye on this small, struggling infant.
Back Cover: Be at War- Battle for Love
Emma, a young woman who dreams of her future, ponders her life and the choices she makes. Each decision declares, I will do anything for love. Jacob, her soul mate, declares defensively, I will not let anyone in, especially for love.
Brought together by destiny, Jacob and Emma discover the true value of marriage. Willing to stand strong in their lifelong pursuit of love, they learn of God, themselves, and the divine purpose of an earthly union.
As they build a life together, their unwavering faith and steadfast love cultivate into an unstoppable force. They wrestle through the hardships and challenges. A house divided. A marriage in danger. A man drifting. A woman in distress.
Who will have the final say?
Available at amazon.com
In the past, I normally would have had my tree up and my house looking like Christmas threw up in it. From the moment you enter, you would have been inundated with reindeer, multiple Christmas Snoopys, music boxes, Santas, baby Jesus scenes and a colorful mish-mash of Christmas fun in every nook and cranny - and before Thanksgiving!
This year, I'm behind my own game. But the internal celebration is deep, joyful, and gearing up for the external manifestation of what my heart knows it's all about. That Jesus is Lord. I'm incredibly thankful for the reason for the season. I love telling people Merry Christmas as I'm focused on the Christ part of Christmas. And I pray daily to shine bright in the midst of life's very real challenges and opportunities as I smile and choose joy, because of who He is in my life.
I am also aware that I am faced with choices - like every year - on whether I focus on the pain of past Decembers or on the joy that Christmas is meant to be.
Do I focus on spreading cheer, giving a hug, and sharing an encouraging word?
Or do I think of my mom's journey with cancer and her death?
Do I celebrate my birthday because I LOVE LOVE LOVE birthdays?
Or do I focus on my nephew's too soon passing and memorial?
Do I celebrate my daughter's birthday and decorate her personal party table as I've always done?
Or, do I get lost in the sadness over the Christmas of 2012 that went horribly wrong from a family conflict, leaving me celebrating Christmas, again, without my family being together?
How do I choose the joy that the Christmas story brings- to us a Savior is born - and share the space with grief at remembering loved ones that are gone? Can I truly feel happy, while hurting over moments that changed a season from togetherness to ones of separation?
That is my choice.
One I'm blessed and at peace to make, once again.
So I celebrate my birthday with gratitude, thanking God for another year I get to be here and enjoy my one life. And love my husband, children, and friends well. Or write books. Or paint pictures. Or mentor those who desire to grow personally and spiritually.
I surprise my grown daughter with another table full of her favorite things, celebrating another year of her life.
And I excitedly choose the joy of Christmas.
C H R I S T mas... praising God, reflecting on Jesus, putting up my tree, decorating the house, cooking, baking, exchanging gifts, and looking forward to opening all the colorful presents on Christmas day!
I also remember my mom. I remember fondly my nephew. I pray for those I know that are hurting and going through their own loss and struggle, and I find joy running parallel with grief as I embrace both.
I pray for you and yours a beautiful Christmas as you too may have to dance with joy and pain, and choose for yourself what this holiday season will be. Sending you hugs!! Merry Christmas!
Love and Blessings,
Do you remember a life dream you had from a long time ago?
Has it been forgotten or filed into the “never-gonna-happen vault?”
Is it a dream you thought was supposed to be for your younger self?
Have you diligently been laboring after it or have you let it go?
Do you believe it can still come to pass?
I hope you are inspired as you read, More Than a Book.
My book, Heavenly Ink, was finally published on November 7, 2017. What a glorious moment! It felt so good holding that little gem and realizing that the past sixteen months of hard work and focus had paid off. This book baby was born and I was deeply relieved. Not excited yet, but exhaustively relieved.
As I tried to rest both mind and body from the heavy demands of an assumed-sprint-gone-marathon, I knew I needed to take some time to think about what really just happened…
It was more than a book being written and published.
It was more than achieving a great success that I wanted to be proud of.
I knew it wasn’t merely about me.
As I sat in the solitude of created space, I started to remember…
Sitting under the darkened sky, I noticed how shiny the stars were in the brisk gray air. The quietness was gold – no one to distract me from this time of intentional aloneness. A giant tree sheltered me, its limbs hovering over the grassy rug as I nestled into my blanket. Prayers poured out to the One who loves me.
Quietly, the whisper claimed my ear to listen… “One day you will be published.”
No fireworks. No ah ha moments. Simply, one day you will publish your book.
One day …
Time stopped and I felt sealed into a path of clarity and promise — a Divine declaration. It didn’t make sense to me. I wasn’t a writer, not a real one. Not a competent one. Certainly not a published-worthy one. I was simply a vomit-or of words: a sloppy-on-paper processor of emotions which kept me sane in the midst of life’s circumstances.
In awestruck wonder I hid that resilient and momentous promise within my heart – praying back, “O Lord, let it be so… one day.”
That night was a very long time ago. I’ve gotten older —definitely wiser —and my hair a tad more gray underneath the glorious hair color that keeps it looking vibrant and young. Many seasons have come and gone; marriage, motherhood, careers, and various ever-changing relationships. I’ve experienced deep loss and pain alongside mountain top jubilation since that fleeting moment under the tree, and I am wise enough to realize how little I know.
And I remember…
I remember that the publishing of Heavenly Ink is so much more than I published a book. It is the fulfillment of a whispered promise from God that was pronounced over 30 years ago. A word spoken in the quiet night to a young girl whose only desire was to get closer to Him. And now, in His sovereign timing, He has chosen to set the dream loose —a writer with arsenals of paper and pen to share His love and hope to others.
It’s not about me, this promise realized.
And it’s all about me —the joy now experienced because of it.
May your heart be encouraged that it is not too late for you either! Happy dreaming!
Connect with me on www.facebook/artistofinkandpaint
(If you want to get your own copy of Heavenly Ink, you can get it HERE).
Today, I walked into a Verizon store, a woman-on-a-mission. To the stunned amazement of the salesperson who greeted me, I proceeded with my customer request, “So what-da-ya-got that’s not smart? You know those flip phones, do you have those?”
This was not as he initially presumed when he first asked, “Are you looking to upgrade your I-Phone 6 plus?”
Giving him a moment to recover, I explained that because I am a writer and an artist, I want the dumbphone to eliminate distractions on days I need to focus. I didn’t think it was important to go into the other hard facts, like: when I am dating my husband, I would like to focus on his face without trying to take selfies - so I can post us having a date. Or when I’m bored, or tired, or relaxing, or waiting in line, I would like to be more aware of the life going on around me than I am on the feeds scrolling before me. I would like to be present enough to know it’s my turn, before someone has to honk, saying “Hey!”, or prompt me forward - the way I have had to do for so many others.
He actually thought that was a great idea and set to work to find my cheap, dumbing-down device. I believe his exact words were, “Wow, I get it! I admire you wanting to have control over that.”
For a brief moment I was so tempted to post his comment! Look at me, I’m getting a real live “like” here! Thankfully, I resisted and pressed on to acquire the means to choose when I disconnect - to be connected. Amputate to thrive. Let go to take hold. Anonymity to be known.
Several times I had to ask myself, “So what’s my end-game here? After a full year of downloading all my favorite apps, learning how to master them with all their latest and greatest capabilities and guaranteed entertainment and guidance, won’t I miss the thrill of convenience, connection, and instant access - to everything!?”
How will I handle not being in the continuous information loop on the days I opt to leave my smart phone at home? What if I’m invited to something spectacular and I miss it!?
How about the endless hours of cute animal videos, amazing recipes I intend to make, or inspiring quotes to pass on? And for a learner like me, what about the blog posts, articles to read, and how-tos of all the things I appreciate. The never-ending moments that can be viewed, liked, disliked, loved, chimed-in-with, shared, encouraged, or that makes me feel like a miniscule part of people’s lives.
I’m intensely drawn, (dare I say, addicted), to the overflow of fun that is on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and all of my interactive apps: Fitbit, My Fitness Pal, poetry reads, art lessons, meet-ups, Groupon, and the boundless others that promise to make my life a little easier, or better yet - improved!
Then, there’s the camera. Okay, don’t get me started on the joys of snapping multiple pictures so that one day I can paint a beautiful painting from this captured moment. 14,335 pictures later, I am still waiting for the paint to pop onto the canvas so it can one day inspire another.
I detect a potential problem here.
This is why I must make a change that sets me up for success. Rather than watching, I need to be doing - for I have dreams to conquer and life goals to manage on a daily basis. This is my end-game.
My sales hero returns, “Okay, we do have a flip phone, and it’s $49.00. You can get it today for only $2.00 a month (what a deal!). So for the sake of my technological sanity and ushering balance into my real world, I say yes to only $2.00 a month. How can I pass that up?
His fingers fly across the IPad screen, creating my new account and number. I’m fully committed to my need for space - to think, feel, create, and engage with my surroundings in real time. And with my transaction complete, I have purchased the freedom to choose my level of connection with the world around me. I have decided that I will not be the one on the cell phone when I am with someone, enjoying somewhere, or writing a book, or painting a picture. I will not be the one distracted while reading, taking a walk, meeting a friend, dating my husband, or playing at the beach. The pull to post it – in the middle of the activity - and solidify its validity by shares and likes has now been contained.
On the other hand, I will also be thankful for times I choose to surf the web, post a picture, or share my day with others - as I count this a blessing too – along with celebrating their thoughts and adventures.
What I accomplished with this simple decision was giving myself options. I now have the ability to say no to distractions and hindrances when I need to, and say yes to the moments and dreams I desire most.
Happily, I am now the proud owner of a dumb phone. Let-freedom-ring!
I love using words to paint pictures. I love using paint to speak words of art. - Rikah