January 2023 Flourish Newsletter

Happy New Year! 365 days to fill with lots to do. This month’s newsletter reminds us that in all the busyness to be still. May 2023 be the year where we make stillness a regular part of our routine with God.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

Download this month’s issue:

Need previous issues of the FLOURISH Newsletter? https://usw-womensministries.org/december-2022-flourish-newsletter

Previous issues of the Inspire Newsletter are still available on our website: https://usw-womensministries.org/september-2022-inspire-newsletter/

Flourishing Story: Flourishing in the Pause

By Captain Sandra Solis
Location – Cascade Division

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word “flourish” as, “to grow luxuriantly: Thrive.” Although the word is defined as a verb, an action is to be taken, I have to admit that for some time I did not feel like I was flourishing in my life. 2021 was a particularly difficult year for me. This year was a year of heartbreak, loss and discouragement. In some moments, things just felt stagnant and out of sync and staying still for even a moment felt like a very difficult thing to do. I found myself in a place where I was not certain I would be able to get out of, and I questioned where God was in my life. In a time where staying still was difficult, flourishing just did not feel like it was happening.

How did I find time to grow and flourish and remember who God is? It began by doing the exact thing I always have trouble with. It began by pausing. Pausing whatever I was doing and taking a deep breath -yes, just taking a deep breath and stopping whatever I was doing at that moment, even if it was hard for me to do. By concentrating on my breathing I was able to ground myself and focus on what my next steps were, and what I needed at that specific moment. Sometimes it was just a time of stopping and getting a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee place. These moments became part of my routine to try and figure out or make sense of all that was happening.

The beautiful thing about these pauses was that I did not have to do this on my own, and even more beautiful was the fact that God provided what I needed at that moment. These pauses came in the forms of praying, reaching out to family and friends, encouraging words, prayers that sustained me, a dessert here and there, and taking my dog Oliver out for afternoon walks. So why the deep breaths and taking the time to pause? Because it helped me to calm down, it helps me to refocus on things, and it also helped me gain clarity on the situations.

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) reads, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” The Lord is with us -this verse is a command and a promise! Although fear can be paralyzing at times, we have the God who loves us and has chosen each one of us and tells us to do not be afraid for He is with us. Fear, worry and doubt are somethings that have come across my mind a lot during this season of my life, and perhaps these are feelings that have crossed your mind too.

In the words of Isaiah, we are reminded that the Lord is with us -strengthening and upholding us. Friends, the Lord that loves us and has chosen us is with us every day and every moment. “Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” He is our God, He is with us, and we are not alone. “Strengthen, help, uphold,” these are verbs that mean the Lord is active in our lives. He is for us, He helps us and gives us the strength to overcome the valleys in our lives -He is our God, and we are His children.

Flourishing in a season where things did not always feel synchronous was difficult for me. I love when things are in order and things make sense, but this was also a life changing, life transforming time. In the stillness, in the quiet moments, in the moments where deep breaths took more effort than they should, encountering God made those moments more and more peaceful and it became more and more evident that He was with me every step of the way.

Friends, He is with us in every moment of our lives, through the “asynchronous” moments, down in the valleys and atop the mountains. Psalm 46:10 reads, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” I find it difficult to be still for long periods of time. My inability to be still causes me to miss the growth in my life, my ministry and my friendships. There have been moments in my life when I could not see evidence of growth, but God did a work in me, and He showed me luxurious growth done by His righteous right hand and like a flower I flourished.

Flourishing, may not always look like what we had hoped for, planned for, or envisioned at this time in our lives. In some seasons we flourish and in some seasons we feel like we are not. This is when we pray, we grow, we adapt, and we overcome -and sometimes we eat a slice of cake! (or your favorite dessert). Then we continue to walk and trust in the Lord who is with us every step of the way.

I pray, whatever season you may be in now, you find moments to take a deep breath, take a pause, and know that He is God and be reminded in the stillness of life you are flourishing, and the Lord is with you -strengthening you and upholding you with His righteous right hand.

January 2023 Bible Study: Flourishing in the Stillness

By Captain Jan Pemberton
Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretary – Cascade Division

When we have periods of stillness in our lives, we can get complacent. This is when we need the Lord the most. This Bible Study will discuss how to remain connected to our Savior in times of stillness and peacefulness. We all know it is easier to stay connected with the Lord when times are tough, but in peaceful times, we can sometimes become lazy and disconnected.

This is a four-week Bible Study on Being Still. It is designed to be done in a small group. Group studies are essential to our church mission, to grow saints, and have a better understanding of the Bible.

Why Small group Bible Studies? Why is it important to be in a group setting?

How to Have Discussions on Flourishing During the Stillness of Life

Discussion Guidelines:

Have easy questions that everyone in the group can answer. We will dig deeper throughout the study, but this is a good starting point. Have fun with it, and laughter is encouraged.

Read the passages of scripture together. Have the group discuss the passage read and give feedback. Encourage several members of the group to share.

Relate the passage of scripture to what is happening in the world today. Unpack it to see how it affects those worldwide and our communities. What do others, both believers and non-believers, think or believe?

What is going on in your world and the world around you? How can the group apply the scripture to their current lives? Be honest and be real. Give examples if our group feels comfortable enough.

Prayer is the best way to end a conversation during our study together. Also, give praise reports as well.

Small-Group Guidelines:

How to stay connected to God during the still periods of our lives. Connect, grow closer to the Lord, and learn more about the Bible. These are essential to grow spiritually and transform lives.

Regularly attend meetings to increase trust within the group.

Safe Environment to share:
It provides a safe place to share deep feelings and ask questions a person may not feel they can invite others. It provides a safe space to avoid judgment.

Like providing a safe space, no judgments, do not share the struggles or worries with others outside the group.

Spiritual Health:
We are encouraging one another to live a God-honoring life.

Participation and Encouragement:
Find the value for everyone’s unique contribution. Help one another by encouraging everyone to find a way to participate.

Build Relationships:
Find ways to pray, serve the Lord, and enjoy each other’s company.

Week 1: Keeping our Souls Recharged

We do not do well when we run on empty. This week is about keeping the flame of our faith going in the quiet periods of our life.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation; I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10 NLT

  1. Take a turn to answer: What are the top 3 things we need to keep our momentum going?
  2. Read aloud Exodus 14:14, Psalm 37:7, and Isaiah 32:17. What theme is present in all of these verses?
  3. What do people in the world do in their peaceful times or stillness? Is this any different than what we as Christians do? If so, why?
  4. What one thing could we change in our life this week to help us keep our souls at peace? Please explain.
  5. How do you flourish in the still times of your life?
  6. How do we pray for each person this week?

Week 2: Relying on Others to Help Sustain our Flourishing Life in this Still Period.

How can we help others in our Corps stay grounded and dedicated to relying on God?

Let all I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. Psalm 62:5

  1. Share about a time when you were going through a peaceful period of your life, and someone came alongside you to offer guidance?
  2. Read aloud 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Psalm 5:3; Psalm 62:1; Psalm 62:5; Zephaniah 3:17. Why is being still and hearing the Lord’s voice so important?
  3. 1 Samuel 12:7 Now, stand still that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous deeds of the LORD that he performed for you and your fathers. How can we help others flourish in their lives? How can we flourish while being still?
  4. How do friendships help our Corps flourish?
  5. Is there anyone you would like to reach out to and thank for their support and encouragement?
  6. Does anyone have any answered prayers since our last meeting? How do we pray for each person this week?

Week 3: Retaining Balance When Faced With Adversity. How to Remain Still.

We need to help the people in our Corps focus on the things that matter most. Those who are stressed and overwhelmed may feel that all is lost, and their peacefulness could be jeopardized.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

  1. If we had extra time this week, what would we do with it?
  2. Read aloud Isaiah 26:3; John 14:27; and John 16:33. What is the way you kept your peacefulness this past week?
  3. Why is it important for Christians to obey the 3rd Commandment?
  4. Out of all the things we have on our plates daily—work, family, health, friends, and spirit— which one is the most likely to intrude on our peace? Why?
  5. Which one is most likely to be dropped by us if we are in turmoil and not at peace?
  6. Have you ever reached your limit of any of the following: physical, emotional, mental, space, or time? Why is it essential to examine the priorities in your life?
  7. How can practice one of the tools of your faith– prayer, journaling, worship, reading and studying the Bible, participating in a Bible study discussion group—help us with the limits and juggling?
  8. What are 1 or 2 things you can do this week to maintain the stillness or peacefulness in your life?
  9. How do we pray for each person this week?

Week 4: Holding on to our Peacefulness

When discouragement enters, we may feel our peace is lost. This session is designed to help everyone in your Corps let go of the things causing the loss of peace.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. Put on God’s full armor so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10-11

  1. What things, when they enter our lives, cause us to lose focus on peaceful living?
  2. Read Psalm 37:7; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 11:28; and 1 Peter 5:7. How do these verses tie together? Which one speaks the most to you?
  3. Reviewing this four-week study. What was each individual’s favorite week, and why? Can it be put into practice?
  4. What prayer does each of us want to be lifted by the group for our future?

Download a printable version of this Bible Study:

January 2023 Devotional: Flourishing During the Peaceful Seasons of Life

By Captain Sandra Solis
Salem, OR KROC Hispanic Ministries – Cascade Division

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. Psalm 1:1-2 NLT

Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation; I will be honored throughout the world. Psalm 46:10 NLT

Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7 NLT

Peace be with you; Shalom in Hebrew was a typical goodbye in the times of Christ. This simple phrase was not only a way to say goodbye but to wish their fellow man a peaceful rest of their day or journey, almost like a prayer or blessing upon the traveler, no matter if they were a loved one, friend, or stranger. Peace be with you, four simple words that some may not have thought about most of the time, but if we, as Christians, were to take up this practice of saying, peace be with you, as our fellow man leaves. To be able to wish someone Shalom, we must have peace in our souls as well.

We can look at our flourishing life as like a garden. If our garden is not tended to regularly, we can lose the peace and rest that the Lord gives us. We learn throughout the bible that we need to tend to the garden of our soul. This takes work, and it takes support. You cannot grow to an actual garden, but just planting the seed and walking away, you need to water it, supply nourishment, and pull the weeds. We need to do this; sometimes, we must remove the weeds that affect our peacefulness and joy. Remember, friends, when pulling out the weeds of life, we might run into painful moments, but they are necessary. These moments make us stronger and healthier and allow us to grow into the person God has intended us to be.

We must remember that we need the Lord with us, maybe even more during our times of tending the garden of our soul, because when we let the weeds come in, our peace and stillness are affected. These are the times when we honestly need Him the most. This is because we don’t reach out to our master gardener when we feel like everything is going well. We feel like we can handle things ourselves. However, we need to stay connected to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit at all times by reading the word, staying in intentional prayer, attending Bible studies, and fellowshipping with our church family. We must remember that when we flourish, we do so by studying God’s Word.

Lord God, we pray that your Holy Spirit brings those into the lives that can help us tend the garden of our soul. Please give us the right mindset to hear what you have for us. Let our hearts discern the counsel that your Holy Spirit is giving us. When we seek your will in our lives, let us follow you and not get complaisant or get in your way by saying, not now, Lord. Let us be willing to accept the path you have walked before us with a generous spirit. In Christ’s name, Amen!

January 2023 Craft: Finding Your Peace Painting

By Captain Jan Pemberton
Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretary – Cascade Division

When we are looking for peace or a break from the ordinary in our lives, we often gravitate to a hobby that gives us peace and lets us disconnect from the stresses of the world in which we live in. Some of us love the great outdoors, enjoying activities such as hiking, biking, and fishing, and some of us enjoy the outdoors in other ways, such as watching nature from the comfort of our homes or campsites. However, not everyone is cut out for the great outdoors, some due to mobility, health, and such. When those of us who are not outdoorsy look for something to give us peace, we turn to other activities such as playing an instrument, coin and stamp collecting, sewing, embordering, and painting.

Today we are going to explore the world of painting. Remember, we don’t have to be Rembrandt, Van Gogh, or any other famous painter to enjoy our hobby. All we need are some simple tools, inspiration, and time.

Below are instructions to paint a simple background with your favorite memory verse or inspirational quote.

Supplies needed:

  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Primed Canvas
  • Pencils
  • Paint Markers, if desired
  • Ruler or stencil
  • Paint remover for brushes
  • Table covering


  1. Paint the entire canvas with desired background color

2. Draw the intended image for the background and paint the image with desired colors.

3. Add your favorite scripture verse or inspirational quote.

4. Have fun with this craft. Make it your own and put your personal spin on this project. Remember, no matter your interests, allow God to use them for His glory and use the talents He has given you.

Download printable craft directions

Flourishing Story: My Testimony

By Major Erica Yang
Federal Way, WA – Northwest Division

Note: Recently Major Rutendo Masango interviewed Major Erica Yang. This is her testimony.

When do you become a Christian?

I was born into a Christian family. My parents were Salvation Army officers in South Korea. I was dedicated to the Lord as a baby at The Salvation Army corps in Seoul. I accepted Jesus in my heart as a little child from Sunday school. At the age of 18, I committed my heart to the Lord. I was ordained and commissioned as a Salvation Army officer in the Western Territory on June 18, 2002.

Tell about your family.

My parents are the best examples of faithfulness. As active officers, they did their best to serve others in God’s name. Growing up, we had family worship time at 9 pm in the evening. We sang hymns, read the Scriptures, prayed and my father shared the Bible message. Even in her retirement, my mother continues to be a prayer warrior. People always ask her to pray for them.

How are you growing in the Lord?

I am growing in the Lord through many prayers by our church members, family members, and fellow Salvation Army officers. Prayer is powerful in my life.
I also take time to read the Bible, study God’s word, pray, and take a quiet time for daily devotional time. I also take time to rest and enjoy the Lord’s presence.

What does the word “flourish” mean to you?

I googled the Christian meaning for the word, flourish and it says, “Flourishing life gives peace, blessings, maturity that reveal God’s loving purpose for people to experience the very best form of life.” Hallelujah!

The word flourish to me means that God is working in my life and helping me grow. It also means growing together as the church family. The Federal Way Corps members are very faithful and dedicated to the Lord. It gives synergy for each other to grow and spiritually flourish as the church family.

How are you currently flourishing in your life?

I am currently flourishing in my life through the help of the Holy Spirit. My mind and heart are closer to God. My life has become simpler and easier because I know God is in control. When I empty myself and trust the Lord, God helps me to flourish.

Share about what God is currently teaching you.

God is teaching me to “Be still.” This means I do not have to worry about anything. I do not have any struggles in my heart. God is also teaching me that He is the “same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” He never changes.

Share about the Federal Way Youth

The Federal Way youth are a blessing to me. They are hungry for God’s Word, they are attentive, they want to be involved in the corps, they volunteer, they want to work at Camp. They are truly a blessing from the Lord.

The Youth recently received the leadership training by Captains Pavlakis from the Youth Department, here in the Northwest Division.  I noticed that it helped with their spiritual maturity. The leadership training helped them to take more ownership of the corps.  I recommend every Corps provide leadership training for both youth and adults. 

 Our youth Praise and Worship team recently participated in the Territorial Encore Final Competition during Commissioning at The Salvation Army Tustin Ranch Corps. 

They showed commitment and dedication as they practiced their songs.  Even though they did not win, to them that did not matter. They were blessed to be able to take part in the competition.

 The youth are mature enough to enjoy the real purpose of participating and praising God with fellow God’s young people.  Some of them are interested in joining the mission work of The Salvation Army, working at the Camp, and becoming Salvation Army officers in the future.

 I truly appreciate all our spiritually mature adults at the church who continually support and pray for our young people. The corps is also blessed to have fantastic youth workers, Jesse Hodges, Farnaz Nisha, and Debra Doty who pour daily into these kids.   

Share about the Federal Way Women’s and Men’s Ministries

Our women’s and men’s groups are serving God in many ways. Our Corps members are a multi-cultural group. It started as a Laotian ministry, and now we have people from various multi-cultural backgrounds.
One would think the corps would have trouble communicating, but not the Federal Way Corps. Even though we have many different languages and cultures represented, we have not had trouble understanding each other. This is truly a blessing.

Some of our church members have vegetable gardens at home. They always share the vegetables with the Corps members. They also bring the vegetables to our Corps food pantry to give to the needy people in the community.

Prayer is huge part of the Federal Way Corps. We operate a 24-hour prayer line. We are connected to the 24-hour prayer group via on Facebook messenger. We also take prayer requests from Social Services, or through telephone calls. We share the prayer requests, and actively pray for everyone who asks to pray.
Both women’s and men’s groups meet once a week to study the words of God. The women’s ministries puts together a quarterly food auction to raise money for the World Services.

Men’s ministries is also busy. They take care of the Corps building needs, and do small projects, to keep the corps building in good shape. The men also do Community Care Ministries which includes visitations and phone calls. They also volunteer for kettles during our busy time of the year at Christmas.

Our women’s and men’s group members come every Tuesday and Thursday for the sewing club to make shopping bags and aprons. These are auctioned quarterly at the World Services Auction. Our bags and aprons have become very popular, as people from various places ask to purchase our shopping bags and aprons. We have already mailed shopping bags to Alaska and Los Angeles and received donations. We even have people from New Zealand asking to purchase the aprons! The sewing group also make blankets to give to the homeless through Social Service.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

Yes, I have many Bible verses I love, including Psalm 62: 6 which says: “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

God is my only rock, my salvation, and my fortress. I will not be shaken by this world.
As a young person, before maturing spiritually, I was shaken easily. Now, I know that God is my Father, who is in control. God is the creator of this entire universe, and He created us to be His children. There’s nothing to be afraid of and be shaken by in this world.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about doing everything I do in God’s name. I love people and want to share the love of God with anyone I meet in any place.

At present, I love our church members at the Federal Way Corps. They are all God’s beautiful people, and I feel blessed to serve at this amazing corps.

I am also passionate about the homeless ministry, social justice, and helping those dealing with depression and mental illness. There are many homeless people and mentally challenged people in our society. I pray for them and provide necessary items for them (for example, clothing, food) and share the message of God.

December 2022 Flourish Newsletter

December is a busy month and it is easy to get so busy doing all the activities of Christmas that we miss out on the reason we celebrate in the first place. This month’s issue will help you slow down and flourish even when life is busy.

May we make time to slow down, and to savor our Savior during this busy season.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Galatians 4:4-5

Download this month’s issue:

Need previous issues of the FLOURISH Newsletter? https://usw-womensministries.org/november-2022-flourish-newsletter/

Previous issues of the Inspire Newsletter are still available on our website: https://usw-womensministries.org/september-2022-inspire-newsletter/

The Christmas Story – Better Than Any Hallmark Movie

By Major Beth Desplancke

In the middle of October one of my yearly holiday tradition begins. Before Halloween even hits the calendar, the Hallmark channel starts its “Countdown to Christmas” airing romantic holiday movies 24/7 until the New Year. Despite the busyness of the season, I make sure to fit lots of Hallmark Christmas movie viewing into the schedule. I note the new Christmas movie air dates and try to fit in one “live” Christmas viewing a week; yes, that means sitting still for 2 hours at a time. I set my DVR to record those movies I can’t watch at the time they air (and yes, I might be still viewing Christmas movies until almost March).

Perhaps I love a good Christmas romance because my husband and I started dating in December over 25 years ago. Perhaps I love them because they are fun, whimsical and simply help me relax. I think the real reason I enjoy them is because they all basically boil down to the search for hope. In case you aren’t familiar with the Hallmark Christmas movie genre, let me share with you the basic premise (and yes, once you’ve seen one or two, you really have seen them all). The main character is usually unhappy, unsatisfied or unfulfilled in their life. During Christmas, something causes them to step away from their ordinary life, to leave the big city to go to a small town, to set aside their daily schedule and experience Christmas fun, and in the process, they find the love of their life. And yes, they always end with a kiss.

Well, the real Christmas story is so much better than any Hallmark movie!

In the beginning when God created the world, everything was perfect. He created man and woman and they lived in a garden, naked and unashamed. They walked and talked with God. In this garden of perfection there was one and only one rule – one tree out of all the trees in this garden that they weren’t to eat from, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The enemy, the devil, tempted them and twisted God’s word, and then woman ate from the tree and then gave the fruit to her husband, and he also ate. Immediately they were aware of their nakedness, ashamed, afraid and hid. Instead of walking with God and conversing with Him, they were hiding from Him.

At that moment, sin entered the world and has caused separation between God and us ever since. God said there would be pain and suffering due to their sin, but at the same time He gave the first promise of Savior in Genesis 3:15. He told the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” From that point on, God’s people have been waiting for the promised One who would crush the enemy’s head.

In Genesis 12 God calls Abram out to be His people. God promises that Abram (later renamed Abraham) Abraham would be a great nation and his nation will be a blessing, and declares, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (v. 3b). Abraham’s descendants become the nation of Israel, and throughout the Old Testament God promised the Messiah would come from Abraham’s line.

The Old Testament ends with the word curse or destruction (depending on what translation you are using; Malachi 4:6). Throughout the Old Testament, prophets spoke of the coming Promised Messiah. And then, between the Old and New Testaments there are 400 years of silence – God sends no new messenger or prophet. God’s people are still under the curse and waiting for the Promised Messiah.

Talk about a hopeless situation. It appears that things will never get better. And then the Gospel of Matthew begins the New Testament with the words telling of the birth of the promised messiah. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him that Mary is pregnant, and what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. The angel gives this message: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:22). Into a hopeless world, hope is born. God’s people are still under the curse of sin, but finally the Savior has come.

Jesus, our Savior came to bring the hope of salvation. When sin entered the world back in the garden of Eden, it created a distance between us and God. In the garden, innocent animals paid the price for Adam and Eve’s sin – an animal died so that God could clothe Adam and Eve with garments of skin. Centuries later, God sent His Son, Jesus, with the sole purpose of being the Savior of the world. He came to earth as a baby, a grew up to be a man, lived a sinless life, and gave Himself willingly to die on the cross for our sins. Why? John 3:16-17 tells us: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

The Christmas story is a love story. The Christmas story is a story of hope – there is a possibility for a better life. The Christmas story is a story for everyone. In Luke chapter 2, angels appeared to shepherds heralding the announcement of Christ’s birth: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).

My prayer is that you will know the hope that comes at Christmas through Jesus, our Savior.

December 2022 Devotional: Grace in the Grinding Season

By Angelina Koenig
Northwest Division

“But he answered, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds it full expression through your weakness. So, I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have three best friends with whom I text almost daily or chat with every couple of weeks. One of the things that I find with my best friends is that I text them about life. It could be when I am having a good day, not-so-great day, downward spiral of thoughts kind of day. What I appreciate about my friends is that each one will respond. The responses I receive are anything from encouragement, accountability, Scriptures, and sometimes memes that make me laugh.

I recently texted my friends about a not-so-good day I was having. Things were stressful and I didn’t have a clear mindset that could help improve my situation. My friend texted a picture of her devotional book and there was the verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he answered, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness. So, I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.”

“I sense more deeply the power of Christ living in me” part of the Scripture hit me to the core. It made me pause and think, what if I lived this verse out each day, conscientiously, in my life? Would there be a difference in how I operate and interact with others?

In the grinding season of December, we find ourselves in various beautiful geographic locations throughout the Western United States. Yet, we find ourselves in one season at the same time—Christmas. The time where we are grabbing a Starbucks, Dutch Bro’s, or a favorite drink from our local coffee shop not just one time a day, but maybe two times. It is the season where we “need” the extra to help us through the daily grind of serving others and forsaking ourselves. We all understand this. Yet, during the grinding season of Christmas, there is something important for each of us to strive.

It is a time where we want to strive for grace. Grace in the grinding season. Grace for ourselves. Grace for those we love. Grace for those we serve. When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me and loving me throughout each moment of the day. Christ is loving me through His promises of walking with me and speaking to me. When I recognize the grace of Christ in me, I am more apt to show grace to those I love.

When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I love my family better. When I take a moment to pause and breath in Christ’s grace and exhale His peace in tiring moments. I take a moment to pause and breathe in Christ’s grace and exhale His peace when the schedule is crammed and another thing comes up that might make me explode with words on a loved on.

When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I serve others without forsaking myself and my spirit. We have all been called to serve God and serve others in love. Yet, I cannot serve others when I forsake my spirit. My spirit, your spirit, cannot be what is getting grinded in the busy season of Christmas, or any season for that matter.

I feel more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I accept the grace, He has for me. It is more than the grace of salvation that Christ has for each one of us. It is the grace of love, of peace, of healthy thoughts, and physical well-being.

To help myself flourish in the grinding season of Christmas, my promise to Christ and myself, is this: I will pause in the morning to ask for help in accepting the grace Christ has offered me. I will ask for help in showing grace to myself and others. I will pause as often as possible to ask for grace in situations that arise and are difficult to handle. I will pause to give thanks for the ability to walk in the power of his grace and therefore, continually strengthen my spirit.

I have designed a small breath prayer that may be helpful to you if you find yourself in need of grace.

Dear God,
I breathe in your grace and exhale your peace over my life.
I breathe in your grace and exhale your peace over all situations I encounter today.
I breathe in your grace in my weakness to exhale your mighty power available to me.
I breathe in your grace in my weakness to exhale your mighty power in the life of my family.
I breathe in your grace because it is more than enough for me and I exhale your mighty power because your grace is perfect for me, for others, and for all situations.

Sisters, may you know the deep and mighty power of the grace of Christ in your life during this grinding season. May you experience the grace that Christ has for you. May you know you are loved graciously and lavishly by Christ, Himself.

December 2022 Craft: The Victorian Top Hat

By Captain Gin Pack
Centralia, WA Corps – Northwest Division

There are so many things I love about the Christmas season. For me, it feels like an all-senses adventure; there are beautiful sights to see, smells to breathe in, special treats that bring us back to special memories. Nearly everywhere you go, little whispers of Christmas carols play in the background, and there is certainly no shortage of things to do during the grinding season of Christmas in The Salvation Army.

Merriam Webster defines flourishing as to “grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment”. Sometimes during what we longingly call the “busy season” may feel like we are just grinding along, surviving and not flourishing.

However, I have often found that even if the season feels like we could not jam one more thing into the schedule, the one thing that is like a balm to a tired, existing, toy sorting, kettle counting, bell ringing soul, is the gift of time with a friend or two. If you have a regular group that meets through all seasons, this is a fantastic opportunity to find a place to flourish even in the busiest of seasons.

The wonderful thing about this project, is not only is it budget minded, but it allows for a time of fellowship and creative freedom, it also is wonderful display piece as a center of a table or even just around to add a little décor to your space. This project is also an excellent opportunity to gather supplies and spend intentional time with one another and all it requires is a little preplanning.

The supplies you will need are:

  • #10 can
  • A lager ceramic plate or a plate charger, or any other item such as foam board or wood cut into a circle that is about 50% greater than the mouth of the can
  • Black matte spray paint
  • Inexpensive embellishments such as Christmas tree picks, pinecones, sparkly snowflakes, I often find the perfect ones at dollar tree or other similar stores.
  • Wide ribbon
  • Hot glue
  • An additional item I really love, and I think it brings a beautiful element to it is a product called “SnowTex”. I purchase mine from Amazon, but it can be found it local stores as well. It adds a snow texture to any medium you’re working with.

My husband and I have been blessed to serve in our community where we serve a hot meal a few times a week. Because of this, we often find ourselves with those large #10 cans. If you do not have access to these cans, feel free to check in with local restaurants, places who do serve community meals or head to your local stores. Many of them carry certain items in those big cans. You will want to collect as many cans as you have people or as many as you need for festive decorations and centerpieces.

Once you have collected the cans, make sure they are clean, the label is off, and any excess adhesive or buildup has been removed. Once they are dry, take your plate, making sure it is clean and free of debris. Then glue the can to the plate using hot glue or something like E6000 and then spray paint. Once the paint is dry, it’s time to decorate!

I prefer the look of the Victorian top hat with a large ribbon at the base of the hat, felt or other textured material is a nice touch. After the ribbon is glued into place, the rest is really up to you how you want to decorate it. I tend to prefer a “theme.” Some really easy but beautiful ones are:

  • woodland (use berries, twigs, pinecones, and a little bit of the snow-tex),
  • frosty (use a little glitter either in white or blue and attach glittery snowflakes),
  • or even something like a pre-purchased little church ornament can make it look spectacular. It really is that easy and your hat can be as unique as you!

Corrie ten Boom said: “If the devil can’t make us bad, he will make us busy.” If that quote does not cut a little too deep and meet me toe to toe. I, myself am so guilty of waking up, a day full ahead of me and before I know it, I am headed back to bed having only checked off half of my list and offering my meager offering to the Lord of a whispered prayer before I drift off to sleep only to lather, rinse, repeat.

My sweet sisters, the Lord delights in you! Psalm 149:4 says, “For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” Take this very sacred time when the whole world is grinding along. God calls us to flourish and delight in Him, to be intentional and mostly bask in the gift of creation as you too, create something masterful. I have always found that some of the most beautiful moments have been when I have planned ahead, and then let creativity develop. I pray that in this season, you do not just get swept away with all that there needs to be done but that God calls to you flourish.

Download the printable version of the craft