February 2023 Bible Study: Flourishing in the Valley

By Lt. Amy Lewis
Caldwell, ID Corps – Cascade Division

In our Christian walk I have heard the path we travel as we navigate life described as having mountain tops and valleys. Mountain tops are when everything is going well – we have that “top of the world” feeling. Our valleys are seen as our low points in life, when things are hard, and we feel separated from God. I can relate to these feelings as I look back over my life, but I am not quite sure that we look at them with the right perspective.

Let’s Pray

When I think of hills and valleys in nature, a couple of things come to mind. In the ocean, the hill tops are warmer safer places nearer to the surface, but valleys are often dark and cold, where the large dangerous creatures live. Contrary to this when I think of mountain tops and valleys when it comes to hiking, they take on a completely different meaning. Mountain tops are usually barren. Trees and vegetation become more and more sparse the higher you go, and you can often find yourself exposed to the elements on a mountaintop. Valleys, on the other hand, are an area where thriving vegetation and wildlife can be found. Streams and rivers flow through the valley, and trees provide shade and protection. Often, abundant growth is found in the valley.

Mountain tops are usually barren.

Scripture is a funny thing. The words never change, but our application of a scripture can change over time. For example, Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my Rock and Redeemer.” Originally, this scripture is what I used to clean up the language I spoke and to help me turn my heart to line up with God’s heart. Now, its meaning has taken on a new depth of aligning my heart with God so the words I say are pleasing to Him.

Early on I was drawn to Romans 5:3-5, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” I could relate to this scripture because of my struggles with alcoholism and addiction, and all that a life such as that entails. I felt that this scripture gave validity to the struggles that I experienced that eventually drew me to the place of complete surrender, and it then pointed me to the hope that comes from that surrender.

  • Take a moment to think about your walk of faith
  • Can you see your high points and low points?
  • Where do you see the most growth as you look back?

In our culture we seem to believe that growth is a straight line traveling in an upward direction on a graph. But if we look at our lives, isn’t it really just more of a trail of twists and turns, ups and downs, steps forwards and backwards, moving in a general direction of growth?

In studying the passage, Romans 5:3-5, it is important to start at the beginning of the chapter with verses 1 – 2, which build the foundation for verses 3-5.

Read Romans 5:1-2

  • What is Paul revealing these verses about the believer’s relationship with God?

The nature of justification comes through faith, and He is assuming that the reader has responded in faith to the good news. This isn’t a call to believe and be saved.

  • What does “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” mean from Romans 5:1?

We are either God’s child or God’s enemy, it is through our Lord Jesus Christ that we are no longer at war with God. We are at peace with God, no longer living in fear of judgement. God is no longer behind the veil; we have access to Him.

  • Do you live your life knowing that you are at peace with God?
  • Do you realize the free access that you have?
  • Do you use it?
  • Are you living your life based on the hope that is the promise of our future in glory?
  • I challenge you to examine your life, where are you at this point? Do you know these things more than just to read them on the page? Do you live it out in your life? Are you living in a way that shows you truly know, accept, and believe these to be true?

Read Romans 5:3-5

The audience Paul was writing this letter to would certainly understand suffering. During this time, as people became believers there was an almost immediate backlash from those around them and Paul understood what it meant to suffer for the faith. In this country today we do not face the same suffering or threats for our faith, but in many parts of the world this is still true.

  • What does this passage challenge us to do?

As God’s children we begin to recognize that the path of our trials, when traveled with perseverance, improves our character. The beauty of this suffering, and where the rejoicing comes in, is that it draws us closer to Christ. There is not any suffering that can separate us from Christ, and in our suffering, we become more like Him. Our suffering helps us to remove that which we don’t need from our lives, to draw closer to Christ.

We do need to be careful when we are going through trials, tribulations or suffering, not to question if God’s love for us is real. None of these negate the power and completeness of His love for us, His children through Christ. God is using these times to strengthen our character and deepen our trust in God, giving us greater confidence of the future with Him. Another caution is not to mope about, bragging about our suffering. We are to draw closer to God, rejoicing in Him and thanking Him for the opportunity to grow each day through the annoyances and frustrations that come our way. God is good, and He is the source of the strength we need to face each struggle.

We are to rely on God to guide us through our times of struggle. We are to accept His love and guidance for us, knowing that He loves us. How we live out our struggles will also be a witness to others of the power that Christ has in our lives. Our ability to respond differently, allowing dead growth to be pruned gives new growth an opportunity to occur. Our challenges, struggles, difficulties, or sufferings and the way in which we manage them, will show others that we belong to Christ. This is the biggest challenge for all Christians. We need to take steps to make sure that our words, actions, and characteristics draw others to Christ, and we don’t become a deterrent or a stumbling block for someone else.

  • Looking back over your life, can you see the valleys?
  • Can you see how God has used them to prune the dead growth from your life?
  • What are ways that you can live this out in your life?
  • What is a way you can commit to living this out in your life this week?

Download a printable version of this Bible study:

February 2023 Craft: Easy Macrame Rainbow

By Major Nancy Ball
Divisional Secretary for Program – Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division

Tools & Supplies:

  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutters
  • cotton rope – inside (smallest) row cut 12 strands to 14″
  • Yarn in various colors (medium weight)
  • Glue sticks
  • Floral wire – 22 gauge (doubled for each color of the rainbow – smallest one 11″)
  • Painters tape


  • Lay doubled wire onto 12 strands of cotton string. Secure ends with painter’s tape. (See picture below)
  • Begin wrapping desired color of yarn around the string and wire until the desired length is covered with yarn. (See picture below)
  • Cut off exposed ends of wire. Glue all 4 rows together in the shape of a rainbow. Trim ends of cotton string about 2 inches below rainbow. Brush out the strands of string. Hot glue a length of string to the back as a hanger.

Download printable craft directions:

February 2023 Devotional: Flourishing in the Valley

By Major Nancy Ball
Divisional Secretary for Program – Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division

Walking through challenging seasons is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes “flourishing” means getting out of bed to face another hard day. It might mean doing a load of laundry before going back to a hospital bedside or facing a painful task with the support of others. The Bible has a lot to say about travelling through the valley and Psalm 23 is one of the best:

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalm 23: 4 (NLT)

Since the early 1900’s, rocks – even large boulders weighing up to 700 pounds – have been discovered in Death Valley National Park leaving evidence of movement with no apparent cause. These large rocks leave proof in the hard ground tracing their movement as much as 1500 feet along the valley floor to leave tracks in the hard packed soil. Researchers and scientists have been unable to determine the cause for this phenomenon until recently. Once every decade or so, perfect weather conditions leave thin sheets of ice across the valley floor. Light winds begin to blow the breaking ice which pushes against the rocks, causing them to move while leaving ruts in the muddy ground.

In the same way, there are forces working beneath the surface when we are in the valley of our own lives. We can’t see the change in real time, but over time we will be able to see God’s faithfulness at work in the struggle. Find encouragement in the journey. The reason for our suffering is rarely obvious. Faith is what we cling to when nothing else makes sense. Look to Jesus and flourish in the valley.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

February 2023 Flourish Newsletter

Although we would love for all our life to be “mountaintop experiences,” we know that is not true.  Flourishing while in the valley is what this month’s newsletter is all about.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

Download this month’s issue:

Need previous issues of the FLOURISH Newsletter? https://usw-womensministries.org/january-2023-flourish-newsletter/

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

Flourishing in the Valley Season

By Colonel Genevera Vincent

We often equate positive experiences, feelings of elation, and times of being in a “good space” in our lives as mountain top experiences. Conversely, we have equated the valley experiences with those times of pain, grief, dryness…the opposite of the mountain top experience. I am here to say that the valley seasons in our lives can be some of the most rewarding and spiritually enriching when we sit back, take a breath, and have very honest conversations with God about what he wants us to learn in this time.

If you’ve ever hiked to the top of a mountain, you may find little growth, depending on how wind swept the top of that mountain is. However, in the valley below, there are often wildflowers and luscious green grass that is flourishing. So, I wonder why we speak of the joyful times of our lives as being on the mountain top and the painful experiences like being in the valley? I guess it really depends on our perspective. I think I get it though. Real growth doesn’t usually just happen. If you are a gardener, you will know that to enjoy a beautiful garden there is a lot of weeding and tilling the ground and pruning. I must admit, these are the aspects of gardening I least enjoy. I don’t know about you, but it seems that in my garden, the weeds always grow much faster than the flowers! But the pruning and the weeding are necessary if we want to get to the real beauty. There is a beautiful spiritual lesson tied to gardening, weeding, and pruning.

When I look back over my life at the mountain top and the valley experiences I have had, I can honestly say that the times of deepest growth in my life have been borne out of the difficulties, the hard places. I remember an especially difficult season as an officer. If mountain top experiences are joyful and exuberant, this was not a mountain top experience. We struggled to work through some difficult situations, uncovering some deep-seated problems that resulted in people taking sides and making life and ministry very difficult. I remember feeling very helpless at times and literally crying out to God for help. This was my “valley.” Years later as I look back on that experience, I am grateful for the lessons God taught me in that valley season. Lessons like…doing what’s right and honorable are not always easy; when you stand up for what is right, God will have the final word; before a seed is planted, hard ground must be tilled.

God said to me then, and says to me now, that I’m never in the valley alone. He is there with me – guiding me, teaching me, loving me.

Colonel Genevera Vincent

It was this last lesson that I have gone back to many times, these many years hence! In ministry we all talk about planting seeds of faith and watering those seeds with our prayers and our relationship with people. The Bible talks about that after all, in I Corinthians 3:6, Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” Before a seed is planted though, it is necessary to disturb the ground, to dig up, if that seed is to germinate and produce growth. As the Scriptures remind us again, a seed thrown on hard ground will be eaten by birds and will not produce anything. We are often okay with planting the seeds and the occasional watering but not everyone enjoys preparing the hard ground before planting. We love the result, the beautiful flowers, but we often want to bypass the hard and difficult task of tilling the ground. The life lesson I learned was very valuable to me. God said to me then, and says to me now, that I’m never in the valley alone. He is there with me-guiding me, teaching me, loving me. We sang a chorus back in my home province of Newfoundland that speaks of the work of God in our lives in the valley. It goes like this,

He leads me beside still waters,
Somewhere in the valley below.
He draws me aside to be tested and tried,
But in the valley, He restoreth my soul.

And that really sums it up. Being tested and tried in the valley doesn’t always feel good, but it is there that God restores us and renews us and causes us to flourish.

So, if you are in a valley season right now, ask yourself, “What is God wanting me to learn during this time? And then, position yourself to listen and learn and flourish as a result!

Flourishing Story: Flourishing in the Valley Season

By Liane Vierra
Kroc Center, Kapolei HI – Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

This is the scripture that my youngest daughter, McKenna, used in her first testimony at our church when she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Large B-Cell Lymphoma cancer in July of 2020. She shared in her testimony that she sat in disbelief for a moment and asked God, “Why me?” But then she heard Him say, “Why not you?” As a 26-year-old flight attendant and licensed private pilot, God was calling McKenna to have confidence that He was faithful to His promise in Romans 8:28 and requiring that she would trust Him completely with the six rounds of 120-hour chemo treatments that she would soon endure.

Liane’s Ohana (Family)

The treatments began in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic when health care facilities were implementing “no visitor” policies. McKenna would need to remain in the hospital for five days at a time, just her and God. She expressed that some days were literally so difficult that she had to close her eyes and imagine Jesus sitting at the edge of her hospital bed or rubbing her back when she needed it most. She acknowledged that it was God who got her through every single day, one day at a time. McKenna also shared a quote in her testimony that stated, “Maybe you were assigned this mountain to show others that it can be moved.” And it couldn’t be any truer she said, because after all, faith can move mountains.

God healed McKenna halfway through her treatment in October of 2020. The softball sized cancer that was located near her heart had vanished. Simultaneously, in His strength, McKenna also obtained her instrument pilot’s license. And in her second testimony at our church she humbly declared, “God did that.” Her prayer was that her life would be used as a living testimony for His glory.

McKenna was advised to complete the second half of her chemo treatments and was now working on her commercial pilot license. It was on July 26, 2021, that my whole world literally changed in an instant. McKenna went on an exploratory flight while on a trip to Alaska. She was a passenger on a single-engine Cessna that tragically crashed in a steep mountainous area of upper Eagle River Valley. We were informed that her journey soaring the skies disconcertingly came to an end, McKenna had been promoted to glory. My heart broke and shattered into a million pieces. How could God allow this to happen?

The Coronavirus disease struck my family shortly after McKenna’s passing which caused my oldest daughter, Taurie, to be admitted in the hospital. As if Covid wasn’t enough to conquer, Taurie was also diagnosed with pneumonia. I found myself once again, in the middle of a pandemic, with another daughter in the hospital. For seven days Taurie fought to get better, while I wrestled with God, begging Him not to take her from my family. She was a wife, and a mother to three young boys. In all the 20 years I served God, there had always been weapons thrown at my family. None quite as sharp as death, and now sickness. How do I flourish in a dark season such as this?

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. Isaiah 43:2

God knew beforehand that these afflictions were heading my way, and in His kindness, guided me to places and people where I would be supported and loved, and able to thrive amidst adversity. The Salvation Army was one of those places. He surrounded me with an army of prayer warriors who prayed fervently, gave generously, and loved extravagantly.

By God’s grace, He sustained me. I eventually realized that lovers of God are not excluded from tragedy and even though I did not comprehend everything I was going through, I needed to trust the teacher. God instructed me to seek His perspective and revealed to me that His purpose was greater than my pain. He educated me about how He could use storms to sift my faith so that particles of unbelief would fall out. God conveyed to me that what I cultivated in tears would give rise to an abundant harvest. That He would use my suffering for His glory, and that He would come through.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

Taurie recovered from Covid and pneumonia and returned safely home to her family. My God is good indeed.

He is life. Although I faced the devastation of losing McKenna, I have grasped that this earth was not her final destination.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” John 11:25

There is an eternal hope because Christ’s resurrection power has the final say. In eternity, death doesn’t win, Jesus does. McKenna is alive in Heaven, and her testimony will live for His glory. Is she a world changer? God knows.

When I focus my life from the standpoint of Truth, it is only then that I can flourish. I have learned that Jesus doesn’t want to be explained away, He just wants to be invited in. He doesn’t ask me to be perfect, just perfectly surrendered to Him. In this valley, and complementary to McKenna’s prayer, God has been providing me the opportunity to display His glory. When I am weak HE IS STRONG. In Truth I can be set free and remain unwavering in my faith.

Behold I have refined you, but not with silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 48:10

There are days that I wake up and wish that this season was all a bad dream, and there are days that I sit to pray and have no words. In the stillness, nothing but anguish. Then God breaks through the silence and whispers that He has not dropped the pen that He is using to write my testimony. He advises me that when the pen remains in HIs hand, my testimony remains perfect.

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

Heaven knows that I would rather have my circumstances be changed, but I know that right now, God wants to focus on changing me.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Liane leading worship

Be Still With the Savior

By Commissioner Colleen Riley

2023 has begun and we are starting another year. What is on your mind? Is it the busyness of your ministry or your life? Is it the calendar that is already filling up or the looming items on your to-do list?

January 1st always brings fireworks and cheering, toasting of glasses and promises of resolutions to be kept. This year, even before the new year begins, I have made the decision to not make resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier, or to be more organized, although these are all good things in themselves. The pressure to be better to do more and to make our mark on the world, is real and can be overwhelming.

Instead, I am challenging myself to be still with my Savior more than ever before. Every day as I sit in my quiet place and focus on my relationship with Jesus, I find myself falling deeper and deeper in love with Him. I find myself with more and more of a sense of peace in my life. I want more of this! To find time in the busy, to find time in the chaos, to find time in the stillness, I can sense, I KNOW that I can FLOURISH because of Christ!

Looking forward into this new year I desire to have not only a sense of peace, but to be truly at peace with the Lord and in the circumstances of my life. While it is busy, I know that God is in control of even my busy life. He in the tiniest of details of yours and my life. I don’t have to fret, He has me just where He wants me, He knows my deepest needs and He cares for every single moment.

God simply wants you and I to dwell in the still of His presence, to listen to His voice and to trust in His plan for us in 2023.

Commissioner Colleen Riley

If you are reading this, I hope that you know this to be true of your life as well. God simply wants you and I to dwell in the still of His presence, to listen to His voice and to trust in His plan for us in 2023. Let’s you and I, be attuned to the voice of God, to really hear what He is asking of us in these next twelve months. I am guessing that it is not to put more on our busy schedules, or to work even harder than we are, but rather to find peace in Christ and to know Him more deeply.

Will you, with me, say to Him – Jesus do all you have in mind, I am with you heart and soul. Whatever you have in store for me, I am here and I am all in. I want to know you, to serve you, to trust you with my whole life.

I pray that in this new year, you will embrace a season of stillness and peace in Christ. In Psalm 4:8 it says “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Each evening as you rest your head, be reminded of His care for you. And each day, as you begin your day with Jesus, know that in this time of peace and still, flourish for the Lord. He is with you!