7 Days of Hope Tour: Day One

Special Events

Hope.

What is the meaning of the word hope? If you look in your dictionary, it most likely stated that hope is an expectation for an object or event to occur. And if you look in your Bible, Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV, Emphasis added).

We can place our hope in many things such as our career stability, possessions, family, friends, and ourselves. This hope, however, is fruitless because all of what is on earth is temporary and fallible. But as saved people, we have Someone whom we have hope in:

Jesus Christ.

We have hope in Him even though we can’t see Him. He is our true hope. The whole world will perish but not Him. People will fail us but not Him because He is infallible.

And as we live in the world, we have tribulations, illnesses, and death because of sin. However, for those who love God, He turns difficulties into something good (Roman 8:28). And as we Christians trudge through our valleys, we find that darkness shrouds our paths and threatens to extinguish our hope.

Famous godly men and women from the past are susceptible to that too. One example is Charles H. Spurgeon. He had multiple depression periods throughout his life due to a traumatic event and other circumstances. Because of his sufferings, having hope in Jesus was precious to him. He said,


When the night gets darker, the light shines brighter. When our trials worsened, our hope in Jesus glows much more.

But what if the valley never seems to end? And what if our path seemed to be getting smoother only for it to drop into a pit? That is when our Shepherd wants us to wait. Waiting is hard. I understand how difficult it can be because I’ve been going through it. Waiting means that we have to persevere, continue to stay close by His side, and accept the situation and outcome we’re in.

From the book Found Faithful, Elizabeth Skoglund knew a lady who suffered with depression for years yet she still kept her hope in God even though He hasn’t healed her yet. He told her wait. Thus, she waits and continues to be close to Him. And, quoting from the book, “[f]ar from sinning, she has chosen to find meaning in her depression and to allow it to draw her closer to God.”


During our periods of waiting, the Bible will spur us on. When it seems that nobody can encourage us with their words, His Word will be the one that lifts us.

Furthermore, waiting is the best time to keep praising our Shepherd from our hearts. A Czech friend once told me that the best place to be when we’re down is to worship Him. I admit, it is an unnatural action for us to do when we’re going through hard times. But when we worship our Shepherd, we’re fulfilling our purpose on earth – to glorify Him. Because despite our circumstances, He is still God.

I know another Czech friend, who sings special presentations at my church in the Czech Republic. God had brought her through breast cancer before. She appeared to be out of the danger zone until a health check-up revealed that cancer was in her brain. Treatment got rid of that particular tumour; however, another check-up showed that she had more tumours inside.

And do you know what she did? She continued to sing specials at church until she physically could not. Her hope in Jesus did not die, God was glorified through her, and people around her could see Jesus in her.


Months after the aforementioned Czech friend passed on to heaven, I listened to her songs occasionally. Initially, they sounded sad because I was sad, then … over time, I realised that they were overflowing with hope.

Thinking back, I wonder how she could still sing when she was suffering so much physically? The answer lies in her Shepherd. He is her God of hope, just as how He is my God of hope and your God of hope.

If we continue to stay by our Shepherd’s side, we’ll have blessings in our valleys. For examples, being moulded and refined, growing closer to Him, and claiming His promises. Most importantly, the greatest blessing of all is having Him as our God.

He is our Shepherd who’ll never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He had prepared a place for us to be forever with Him (John 14:3), a place of everlasting joy (Isaiah 41:11), a place where “… God shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, KJV). How comforting that is!

My mentioning of the Shepherd and valleys probably reminds you of Psalm 23. I know that it’s a passage that most of us have memorised but go to your Bible and read it now. After you finished reading it, return to this post.

Welcome back! Did you find that the passage emanated hope? Now read it again, and listen to this song while you do so:


Friend, no matter how steep the path in front of you gets and how dark the valley can be, please don’t give up your hope in Jesus Christ. Because in Him, you can live victoriously through your challenges and claim His promises and blessings. And in Him, you will one day live without valleys for eternity.

May His grace, mercy, strength, joy, and hope be with you.

Amen.


Reference

Skoglund, Elizabeth R., Found Faithful: The Timeless Stories of Charles Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael, C. S. Lewis, Ruth Bell Graham and Others, 2004, Discovery House Publishers.

Hold on, the Seven Days of Hope Tour is not over yet!

The blog tour has two giveaways!
You can find out more here.

The tour continues in other blogs:


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Clarissa Choo is a vessel used for Christ’s glory. Although she has lived in four countries, Heaven is her only Home. She desires to sow His seeds and to serve third culture kids, teens, and writers. Besides writing, she loves to wash dishes, chop ingredients into smithereens, and record hymns on her piano. Peek into her Christian TCK Email Ministry or read more posts.

When We Compare

Journal, TCK's Articles, Writer's Articles

Dear Friend,

Comparing myself to others is so easy. It’s a struggle I’ve faced many times. I know I shouldn’t do that when the Bible clearly says, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12, KJV). What the Bible tells me to be wary of, is for my good.

So, why is it not wise to compare myself with others? Well, when I see that the other person’s path or what they have is “better” than mine, I want to have what they have or want to be on the path they’re on. And that shows I’m discontented and ungrateful.

On the other hand, when I see that what I have and/or what I’ve accomplished is “better” than what others have, I will elevate myself, thinking I’m “better” than them. And that shows I’m prideful.

Does the above sound familiar?

All of us have fallen into these traps one way or another. In both, we focused on ourselves and what others are doing.


How do we get out of it?   

Shift our focus to Jesus. We must be thankful, content, and praise God for where He has placed us and the blessings He has given us.


“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

1 Timothy 6:6-7, KJV



And quoting from Anneliese Louise, “When God blesses another, do not internalize it as though it were an attack on you. Rather, thank Him out loud for being such an overwhelmingly generous God.” Did a friend achieve something good? Praise God that He brought them there.  

As for pride, we need to humble ourselves. Acknowledge that all that we accomplished and have is because of Him. He is the One who blessed us and He is the One who brought us to where we are.


“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

Romans 12:3, KJV



It’s Not A Competition

The truth is, our paths are different, just like my journey in God’s will is different from yours in His. “It’s a personal race, not a competition,” a close friend once told me.

About a year ago, I told my mom I’m reaching my mid-twenties and started writing seriously not too long before that and additionally, I’m an unemployed graduate who needs a salary, how could I catch up? She said, “So? Your dad started “late” in his career and look where God brought Him now … Anyone can learn a skill no matter where they are in life.” What’s important is where God places me right now, no matter “where” I am in life as compared to other writers.

Currently, I’m 24. I am not published and am still looking for a job amid the pandemic. When I compare myself with others, it feels like I’m lagging. However, in God’s eyes, if I follow according to his plans and timing, I’m not falling behind. And being where God wants me to be, close by His side, is more than good enough. After all, He is the one writing my story. Who am I to say that I know it best? 

Thus, every time, I compare myself with other people, I try to remind myself this: 

Focus on Jesus, not on others nor myself. 


“Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.”

Psalm 105:4, KJV



Very Sincerely Yours,
Clarissa Choo-Choo Train

P.S. I’ll be participating in the 7 Days of Hope Blog Tour! Hosted by Sawyer Marie and Abby Elissa. To follow the tour, go to either blogsite, Sundrop Girls or Abby Elissa from April 5 – 11.



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Clarissa Choo is a vessel used for Christ’s glory. Although she has lived in four countries, Heaven is her only Home. She desires to sow His seeds and to serve third culture kids, teens, and writers. Besides writing, she loves to wash dishes, chop ingredients into smithereens, and record hymns on her piano. Peek into her Christian TCK Email Ministry or read more posts.

A CIDP Poem: She laughs.

Poetry

Dear Friend,

My dad has a rare chronic illness called CIDP.

What is CIDP?


It’s a chronic auto-immune disease: the body’s immune system attacks the nerves which deteriorates the muscles.

There is no cure.


To maintain his muscles, my dad has been receiving a treatment called IVIG, a transfusion of antibodies to suppress his immunity. To have this treatment, he has been going to the hospital once every month for more than a decade. On top of that, he takes medications including steroids to boost his muscles. If you know about Guillain-Barre syndrome, CIDP is the chronic version of it. You can read more about CIDP here.

Actually, my main character from Book B has this disease too. She suffers from not only CIDP, but also depression and grief. Last year, God led me to set the project aside as it was not the right time to work on its third draft. And guess what? That time may be coming soon.

As you may noticed in my Projects page, I’ve used the image of a sea turtle for Book B. A sea turtle actually represents people with CIDP. The disease slows down their limbs which liken one as a sea turtle swimming and pressing on.


So, getting to the purpose of the title of this post. Recently, I saw a writing prompt from this website and crafted this poem, using my main character with CIDP:


She laughs.

She laughs with her lips and pain in her limbs.
She laughs with her throat and pain in her gums.
She laughs with her chest and pain in her face.
She laughs with sorrow and pain in her heart.

She lost health.
She lost passion.
She lost friends.
She lost herself.

Why does she laugh?

She laughs because in her pain, she found healing.
She laughs because in her grief, she found joy.
She laughs because in darkness, she found hope.
She laughs because in her emptiness,
she found Christ overflowing.



Copyright © Clarissa Choo, 2021.



Very Sincerely Yours,
Clarissa Choo-Choo Train



~

Clarissa Choo is a vessel used for Christ’s glory. Although she has lived in four countries, Heaven is her only Home. She desires to sow His seeds and to serve third culture kids, teens, and writers. Besides writing, she loves to wash dishes, chop ingredients into smithereens, and record hymns on her piano. Peek into her Christian TCK Email Ministry or read more posts.

Diamonds 2021 Guest Post: How God Helped Me Balance Caregiving and My Author Career

Guest Posts, Special Events

Dear Friend,

We have a special post written by Angela R. Watts, a speaker at Diamonds 2021 and the bestselling author of The Infidel Books. She shares how God was with her in her writing journey while being a caregiver of her chronically ill mother.



How God Helped Me Balance Caregiving
and My Author Career


I’ve written stories since I was six years old, and after my mother became chronically ill, my passion for writing didn’t stop when I was a young teen. It didn’t slow down. It burned brighter.

Most authors I know grew up with their parents reading books aloud for them. I was the kiddo showing my mom the books, getting her permission that they were safe, and reading them by myself as a kid. Mom homeschooled us kiddos, encouraging me in my creative writing. I wrote short stories, drabbles, poetry, and fanfiction, and at twelve, I completed my first novella. I was fourteen (or fifteen, I’ve forgotten) when I completed my first novel. I was sixteen when I self-published my first book.

During these years, I juggled caregiving for my mom, school (straight A student, by the way, for those thinking I slacked. Except math. That was probably a fail. Or a B), housework, babysitting my nieces, farm life, karate, and more. Though I struggled, I focused on fiction as a means to cope and find comfort and hope. However, my dream of being a published author was not one I allowed to reach the surface until I was about fifteen. This is when I discovered the world of self-publishing and realized I could publish my novel.


It was tough, I won’t lie.



My author career has been trial after trial, some large, some small, but they all add up to one wild ride. God has been with me, every step of the way. When all I could do for months was handle life and helping my mom, He assured me that more was to come. When I finished a novel only to have it rejected by friends, God kept whispering, “Keep going, I’m not done yet.” I struggled with balancing my life and my writing, and on top of this. So, how have I learned to handle it all?


First, I’m constantly focusing on my reasons why.



Am I writing and working to serve God or serve myself? When I help my mom get meals, housekeep, shop, etc, am I doing so out of love, or am I having a stressful day and allowing my attitude to be abrasive? Am I reminding my family how much I love them, or am I so focused on work that everything else is drowned out? I’m the sort of person who gets on a mission and doesn’t stop till the mission is finished–but as a caregiver, that trait was bashed with a stick many times.

My mom, however, is a graceful woman and she constantly reminds me that I need to balance it all. So, my first step to balance my life is to refocus on my whys. If they’re off track or turning selfish or muddled, I snap my sights back on God’s will and find comfort in this above all else.


Second, I’m a pretty hard-working individual,
and don’t mind long hours.



I work for myself as an author and editor, so scheduling my workload is very important! I set myself deadlines for my work and I stick to them as closely as possible. Then I have my clients, and I schedule my editing jobs similarly! I enjoy having a list of things to do each day and it helps me track my time better.


Third, I listen to my mother!



She constantly reminds me to eat, drink water, exercise, play with my pup when I’m stressed, and rest when I need it. I overwork myself because I find immense joy in my work and accomplishments, but that doesn’t mean burn out is okay. The past year or so, I’ve strived to balance my work and rest, as well. Despite my expectations, it didn’t slow me down. I was able to rest and take care of myself and still write a few novels, publish a novel, pitch and sign a contract for a novel, publish a short story, and take on brand new epic clients!

I’m constantly learning something new in my life and career. I like finding better ways to do things. I love working with clients. I love seeing my readers scream over my novels.


However, I wouldn’t be where I am without God’s goodness.



God pushed me through every bad day, every tough week, every stressful month. He showed me the beauty in pain. He constantly reminds me to look back at how far I have come. Middle-school me would have never dreamed of putting myself out there and pitching to a publisher, but in 2020, I signed with my dream press.

I refuse to allow my circumstances to weigh me down. I refuse to allow my trials to do anything but make me focus on God more than myself. I refuse to view my life as nothing but a struggle. I spent years surviving, years begging God to spare my mom, with fiction being my only escape. I’ve grown a lot since then. My mom is with me, I’m focusing on living, and I’m a bestselling author.

None of this would be possible if I had not heeded God’s will for my life and took it all step by step. If you have a dream or a goal, and life is keeping you down, hold on. God is not done yet. Give yourself grace, give yourself small baby steps, and keep fighting on.

If you’d like to read more posts like this, or you want to check out my novels or editorial services, you can find me online or on my website, angelarwatts.com!

God bless,

Angela R. Watts



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Image by Angela R. Watts

 Angela is the bestselling author of The Infidel Books. She writes bold fiction that glorifies Christ and has published over seven books. She lives at Step By Step Sanctuary, Tennessee, though with Gypsy and Norwegian in her blood, she loves traveling. She’s been writing stories since she was little, but when she’s not writing, she’s probably raising animals, painting, or working with her amazing clients.



P.S. What is Diamonds 2021? Diamonds is a conference for chronically ill Christians. If you miss my previous post, click here to find out more.

Diamonds 2021 for Chronically Ill Christians

Special Events

What is Diamonds 2021?

Diamonds is an annual online conference for chronically ill Christians. Millions of chronically ill people battle impossible trials every single day. But so many of them feel so alone. The speakers of Diamonds 2021 want them to know they aren’t — not by a long shot. The theme for Diamonds 2021 is Purpose in Affliction — all about our identity and worth in God, and how our illness can strengthen our relationship with Him.


When is Diamonds 2021?

Diamonds 2021 occurs the second to last weekend in January — from Friday the 22nd through Sunday the 24th. You can join live for free, and if you miss anything you will still be able to view the recorded version by purchasing the all-access pass.


Who is speaking at Diamonds 2021?

This year, we have twenty speakers from around the world, and each of these amazing people has a special message of hope and compassion to share with you out of their own experiences with long-term illness.


What does Diamonds 2021 cost?

Because we know that many chronically ill warriors face burdensome medical bills, and because our goal is to uplift instead of adding just one more thing, Diamonds 2021 is 100% free while it’s live. 

After that, you can purchase the all-access pass to gain lifetime access to the conference content along with some exclusive bonuses. 


Where is Diamonds 2021?

Diamonds 2021 is completely online. We know that traveling with an illness is difficult, so we want to bring this right to you — even if you’re in a hospital bed or are housebound. You can register for Diamonds 2020 for free here.

Stay tuned this week for a special guest post by a Diamonds speaker and best-selling author Angela R. Watts!


Very Sincerely Yours,
Clarissa Choo-Choo Train

P.S. Why am I supporting this conference when I don’t have chronic illness? Actually, my dad has a rare chronic illness called CIDP, an auto-immune disease. The body’s immune system attacks the nerves which deteriorates the muscles.

To maintain his muscles, my dad is receiving treatment IVIG, a transfusion of antibodies to suppress his immunity, every month on top of medications including steroids to boost his muscles. If you know about Guillain-Barre syndrome, CIDP is the chronic version of it. You can read more about CIDP here.



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Clarissa Choo is a vessel used for Christ’s glory. Although she has lived in four countries, Heaven is her only Home. She desires to sow His seeds and to serve third culture kids, teens, and writers. Besides writing, she loves to wash dishes, chop ingredients into smithereens, and record hymns on her piano. Peek into her Christian TCK Email Ministry or read more posts.