Thankfulness: A Lesson From Samwise Gamgee

Thankfulness title
was a Wise Man

Once, there was a ring. A ring which caused pain and hurt and death. A ring which led a few scruffy hobbits to a long path of orcs, elves, fire, darkness, death and a whole lot of other things which I’m sure nobody wishes for me to recount. Then after all that, these hobbits won out. After all the pain, they reached the end. As Sam put it,”It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do underst
and, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.” Sam was a wise man. He knew more then anybody that you can’t have light unless the darkness comes first. Without Frodo’s journey, the ring never would have been destroyed. Without the danger, victory was impossible. We can be thankful for the good because we understand how much it cost. That is what we hold on to.

thankfulness turkey
“Be Thankful.”

That’s one of the most over-asked and least understood subjects in the English language. Sam would know. Every little kid has their own go-to answer. What are you thankful for?…my family…church…Jesus dying on the cross. Always the same answer. Largely the same indifference. We know the right answer like the back of our hand. It’s only the ones who’ve gotten pushed around by life and perhaps glimpsed the dusky cloak of death around the next corner that understand its meaning. Thankfulness, that attribute advertised on every street window around this time of year, is far bigger then much of the world can ever know. To most, thankfulness is just a form of gratitude for the stuff that is wrapped in pretty bows and some nice gestures. We live by a mantra which calls us to ‘be thankful at all times…or at least when things go right.’ When asked the question, we answer things like raspberries, Christmas, snow, and falling leaves. I would instead call you to answer with paper cuts, crying children, a rusty nail, or even maybe the dried tears on your pillow. I Thessalonians 5:18 calls us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We have been put in a world which is certainly full of snowflakes, cocoa, and books, but we also live in a world of bruised knees, flat tires, and death. When we thank Christ for our redemption, we cannot simply be thankful for the resurrection and Easter for before that joy came his necessary death. I would say God demands us to be thankful not only for the stone rolled away from the grave but also that spear in Christ’s side, the tears on his face, the sour wine dripping from his lips, and the cold nails biting into his raw skin. Without that suffering, no salvation could have ever happened. Only the people who understand that can truly be thankful for sunrise the next morning.

So the next time the question is popped or perhaps when the scent of turkey passes by, remember all the good things in your life, all the blessings in your life, but also look back to your trials, your tears, and your pain. For they are the things which make beauty and joy even more beautiful. They are the things that cause hope. Without sin, we would never have known God’s grace. Without the cross, there could never have been an empty grave.

-Kiale P.

What are you thankful for? Let us know down in the comments or tweet us @shineforhimsite


Drifting Apart in Friendships: How to Deal

“How do I deal with me and my friend drifting apart and not having the same interests as we did when we were really good friends?”

drifting apartUnfortunately, drifting apart is probably one of the worst things in a friendship. I’ve had this happen to me many, many times, and it’s not fun at all, but I think it’s a pretty normal thing to go through. As you grow, you change, your interests change, and your ideas of a fun time may be different from what it was two years ago. Sometimes you just have to accept that people change, and move on, but here are some tips to continue your friendship, even though you may not be as close as you were before.

Hang Out

One of the main reasons you drift apart (Aside from changing, of course) is that you stop making the effort to talk and hang out. Invite them out to eat lunch and go shopping with you one day. If they live far away, set up a time to Skype and catch up on each other’s lives! Make sure you do things that each other likes, and make an effort to explore their new interests as well. What about starting a bible study together? Maybe even set a time once a week or two to get together regularly! While having to actually schedule in time to spend with a friend may not seem that great, it’ll get you back into the routine of talking to them, and will hopefully strengthen your friendship overtime!

Re-Introduce Yourselves

Drifting apart doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. While they may have changed and made new friends, it isn’t the end of the world. Instead of giving up, try “re-introducing” yourselves. Look at it from the positive side. Learn more about their new hobbies and passions. Introduce them to things you’ve enjoyed recently. Maybe introduce them to your new friends, and vice versa. Chances are, you’ll be able to bond over something new! And remember, you may have changed, but you haven’t changed completely. Deep down, you’re still the same; try re-discovering some of that common ground that brought you two together in the first place!

Let Go

Sometimes change is inevitable, and there’s nothing you can do about drifting apart. While it sucks and we all hate losing good friends, sometimes it’s better to leave with good memories instead of trying to force a friendship that just won’t work anymore. Everybody goes through different changes, and this is unfortunately part of it, Treasure the memories you two have created together, and move on.

How do you deal with drifting apart? Let us know in the comments below!

-Anika H.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

crossToday I’d like to talk to you about one of my favorite hymns of all time. It’s called “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” This hymn has always stuck out to me as one of the most beautiful and well-stated songs ever written. Let’s look through some of the lyrics together.

“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” This first verse is saying that Jesus is our friend and He is there to carry our sins and our troubles. He is there to help. It is so special to have a God who loves us, and who we can talk to about anything, any time, at any place. There are so many times that we have such worry and grief, that we forget that we have a God who wants to hear about it, and who wants to help you. We have to remember that He is there, and when we take it to Him, He will relieve us of the pain and suffering; we simply have to take it to Him, and trust that He will take care of it.

I’ll leave you with the last two verses of the song. If you’ve never heard this song before, I’d encourage you to look it up online. “Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer! Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness. Take it to the Lord in prayer! Are we weak and heavy-laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior still our refuge. Take it to the Lord in prayer! Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In His arms he’ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.”

-Michaela W.

What is your favorite hymn or worship song, and why? Let us know in the comments down below!

Cardinals and Fireflies Album Review

Cardinals and Fireflies by Bill Stutzman

Bill Stutzman is a little-known musician who also teaches at my school. His newest album, Cardinals and Fireflies, is artfully arranged with 12 songs, one for each month of the year. Each of the songs is not only very catchy and pleasing to the ear, but well thought out and thought provoking. The words of the songs never cease to encourage me. The chorus of Work To Do says, “There’s more work still to be done, there’s more art to make still and more battles to be won, and it may all be just for an audience of one, God blessed that too, Oh we’ve got work to do.” He also emphasizes the importance of failing (which I do plenty) because it means that you at least tried. My favorite song on the album though is Waiting Lullaby. It is so soothing! It begins “Softly sleep now, let fears subside. In God’s love be still and abide.” The words along with the tune, cradle the listener, coaxing you to be calm and rest in God’s promises. You can purchase Cardinals and Fireflies on iTunes, amazon, CD Baby, and many other websites. Trust me, it’s worth the investment.

-Anna T.

Buy Cardinals and Fireflies on iTunes

What is your favorite track on this album? Leave a comment down below!

Patience, Prayer, and Paris

patience prayer parisI woke up this morning to see alerts all over social media about how Paris had been attacked, tens of people had already been confirmed dead, and how other large cities were on alert for possible threats. I see people posting hotlines and messages telling residents of Paris to stay inside and to stay safe. My first thought after being informed of the tragedy was ‘not again.’ News alerts of innocent lives being taken occur much too often, and it’s hard to see something like this happen over and over.

My second thought was helplessness. What do I have that can help these people? I have no power or influence to change this situation, and I don’t even know anybody in Paris that I could check up on. I come to the conclusion that all I could do was pray.

Confession time: I hate when I am unable to do something about a situation. I’m not a ‘control freak’ for sure, I’m actually extremely go-with-the-flow and flexible – maybe even too much. But when there’s a situation like this or even something like an upset friend, I absolutely hate not being able to make a change. I want to do something tangible, something that will have an immediate effect on the people who need help. Of course, this is the real word, I’m not super(wo)man, and a reality check is necessary sometimes. I can’t do everything, that’s for sure. And that’s okay.

This is where I come back to my conclusion that ‘all I could do was pray.’ It’s easy to forget just how powerful prayer can be. It’s not a last resort, a thing we do because we can’t do anything else. Prayer IS tangible. Prayer CAN and DOES have an immediate effect on people who need help. Prayer DOES make a change. Prayer protects. Prayer saves. When you’re antsy about a situation like me, it can be hard to be patient and let God work, but when we do, He does amazing things.

In Jeremiah 29:12, God says “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” God is listening to our prayers, we just need to have faith. It’s so important to keep the people of Paris in our prayers. Keep in mind the families and friends of those who lost their lives, and ask that they will somehow come to know Him and find peace amidst this tragedy. Remember just how powerful our God is, and be reminded that he is in control of everything – even the situations that may seem hopeless.

-Anika H.

Bible Study Tips

bible study tips“Sometimes I have trouble staying focused when I am reading the Bible. What are some ways I can stay focused more easily?”

I’m pretty sure everyone struggles with this at times, I know I do!  One thing that I like to do is to take notes. Write down how you feel about certain things, sections that you like, things you want to remember, etc. Even write down the things you don’t understand. Get a multi-colored pen or some highlighters to make it fun! I find that this really helps me stay focused on what I’m reading.  Another thing to try is to start reading little bits of the Bible at a time, going over it several times to understand the meaning better, instead of reading long sections! Even if you only read a verse or two, it’s a lot better than reading a long section and not understanding it!  Remember to pray before you start, and ask Him to help you focus and to understand what you’re reading.

What are some of your bible study tips? Let us know down in the comments below! Also, if you have any questions you want our team to answer, let us know by submitting a question here!

-Anika H.

Muddy Fingers and Frightening Adventures

girl flowersI was twelve at the time. It was nerve-wracking, standing there in the hospital room, the monitor tracking my mom’s pulse in little blue lights. Dad brought my small hand to her belly, and I felt the heat, and then, the small kick. I smiled and sat at her side. Nurses came and went, as frequently as the minutes did. It’s all very blurry now. I remember only my mother’s face, pale, eyes shut, and my father’s hand in hers. I remember the nurse standing at the base of the bed, inviting me to see the small head of my sister and her mop of damp hair. I remember coming, slowly, hesitantly, my soul dancing. I remember my sister’s tiny body, naked and warm, lying on the scale, crying. I remember the feeling of ink on my skin as the nurse stamped the baby’s footprint on my arm.

It’s been five years since those memories. Five years since I held the bottle to her mouth or smelled baby’s breath on her lips. Now, I watch her count pennies and scrawl my name on napkins. I see her shape mud into pies and I help her lay flowers in small fairy gardens. When I go off to a new adventure, a new school, I will miss most of all her laugh in the morning, her whispered I love you’s, her tiny hand clutching my own. I will miss her muddy fingers, her careless smile, the songs she sings in my ear. My father once told me that those five years are all I’ve got. Those years are mine to create the memories she will have forever. When I first heard those words, I despaired. Five years is hardly enough time to leave your impact on a young heart. Going off to college is a frightening adventure, one which will take me away from my dearest loves. So perhaps it is not dear little Ellie who has shaped my character the most. Perhaps it is the thought of leaving her. As St. Augustine wrote, “Our character is usually judged not from what we know, but from what we love.” The five years I have with her taught me to make memories, to play in the mud, and to hear her happy laugh as many times as I could.

-Kiale P.

10 Ways to Stay Sane During the School Year

School has begun for most of us, and with school comes the stress of homework, assignments, and tests. It can be easy to get overwhelmed with all we have to do, so here are ten ways you can stay sane during the school year.

girl-865304_12801. Take a deep breath
While school can be stressful, it’s so important to have fun and get away from the deadlines. I don’t know about you, but if I’m consumed with schoolwork all the time, I lose my productivity and focus. Chill out, have some coffee or tea, hang out with your friends, and get away from the stress for a while.



knit-869221_12802. Explore an interest
As I mentioned, taking a break and getting away from the stress is important. Instead of stressing over algebra, learn to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Explore some of your hobbies. Do something you normally wouldn’t, and enjoy the break!




popcorn-166831_19203. Watch a movie or TV show
This is a great way to relax and wind down, and you don’t need to think too hard to do it! Again, enjoy the break!





crossfit-534615_19204. Exercise
Ugh, does anyone actually LIKE to exercise?? I’m only kidding, but seriously please tell me how to make exercising more fun. I’m usually too lazy to bother getting out and going for a run or a swim, and I probably make too many excuses about the weather not being quite right, but when I actually do it, I feel so much more focused later. I feel better about myself, and feel healthier, too!


watermelon-869207_19205. Eat Healthier
This goes right along with the previous point, and it’s so hard to control my unhealthy habits (chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate!) when I’m studying. Despite that, I feel so much better when I eat more veggies and fruits, and avoid unhealthier meals.



art-820276_19206. Buy new school supplies
Buying new school supplies such as pencils, notebooks, or planners can be another way to motivate you to work more diligently. If my school supplies are organized and put together, it makes me work better!



desk-605497_19207. Organize
I have a love-hate relationship with organization. When I’m in the mood, I could reorganize my room all day. Anytime else, though, I’m a horrible, disorganized mess. Having that said, I am so much more productive when things are organized and orderly. It puts me into the right mood to get things done, and my work is so much more efficient.



female-865110_19208. Motivate yourself
If I’m not motivated to do something or get something done, it can be hard for me to work efficiently. You could reward yourself for doing a certain amount of work, getting a certain grade on a test, or finishing a project.



woman-872122_19209. Spend time with God
I suppose this may be the obvious one, but it’s the most important one, in my opinion. It’s so important to spend time in the Word, and to talk to God. When I’m not connected to God, it’s so much easier to get stressed out, and lose focus on what I need to be doing. I suggest taking at least five minutes either in the morning or the night to read a passage of the Bible, pray, and to focus on Him and what He wants you to do.


holding-hands-752878_192010. Small group/bible study
Another thing that helps me so much when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed is to be a part of a small group or a bible study. This can be through your church, your school, or just with some friends. It helps to be able to share what you’re going through, to read the bible together, and to have people pray for you and what you’re going through. They can also make sure you’re doing alright and that you’re sticking to reading your bible each day.


That concludes my list, but please let me know what your tips are for surviving the school year!

-Anika H.

Being a Woman of God

woman of godWhat exactly does being a woman of God mean? Well, I believe that a woman of God is a woman who has God as the first interest in her life. She lives to serve Him, and does everything to bring glory to Him. Let’s take a look at a few verses in the Bible to see what God has to say about being a woman of God.

Let’s start with Proverbs 31:25-26: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” A woman of God is a woman who is strong. That doesn’t necessarily mean that she has physical strength, but she has spiritual strength. She has dignity, a seriousness, or a self-control. Dignity means that she is worthy of honor and respect. She has this dignity because she is right with God. She is someone who is mature in her relationship with Him, and people can look up to her because of this. What Proverbs means by “she can laugh at the days to come”, is that she doesn’t have to worry about the future, because she knows that God will protect her and her family, and when she trusts in Him, there is nothing to be afraid of. A woman of God has wisdom. Because she is mature in her relationship with God, she is able to understand and discern things that may be hard for someone who isn’t in a right relationship with God to understand. She is able to teach others and help guide them on their path in life.

Skipping ahead to Proverbs 31:30b – “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” When she is honoring the Lord and has a reverent fear of Him, people will look up to her. They see that her relationship with God is something desirable and worth trying to attain.

I recommend looking at 1 Peter 3:1-6 as well as reading the whole of Proverbs 31. They are both excellent examples of what a woman of God should be. These pieces of Scripture are such an encouragement to me when I am having trouble knowing what to do or how to act in certain situations. These are some of my favorite verses in the Bible, because they give me an outline of how to live. Always remember to have God first in your life, and everything else will fall into place.


What passages in the Bible are important to you? How do you think God is telling you to live out your life? Let us know in the comments below!

-Michaela W.

Kiale’s Quotes

writingHere are some of Kiale P.’s favorite quotes!

“Beauty will save the world.” -Dostoyevsky

“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go.”
― Mary Oliver

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
― Mary Oliver

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.”
-Emily Dickinson

“Beauty will save the world.” -Dostoyevsky

Do you have a favorite quote or poem? Leave a comment telling us about it!