Repost: Giving Thanks in Everything

Thanksgiving is here, and, to most of us Americans, that means turkey dinners, a couple I’m-thankful-for statements, the Macy’s Day parade, and football. It’s easy to be thankful when there’s a giant turkey on the table with all the trimmings, family and friends gathered around in a jolly mood, and your favorite team is winning on the big screen. But what about when there’s no pumpkin pie, fuzzy feelings, or smiling faces? What happens then?

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he gives his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ some final instructions before closing. He says this in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Did you see that? Give thanks in all circumstances.

But wait a second there, Paul, you may say. Are you sure about that? Giving thanks in ALL circumstances? What about when my grandma dies or I have to move to another state? What about when my grades are low and my best friend just starts hating on me for no reason? You want me to be thankful when everything is, well falling apart and going downhill?

Yes, actually. That is what Paul is saying.

More Than A Hiding Place by Emily S. Smith chronicles the story of a woman who lived during World War II in Haarlem, the Netherlands. This woman’s name was Corrie ten Boom. The daughter of a watchmaker, Corrie loved Jesus with all of her heart. When WWII came to her country, she and her family helped many Jews escape the clutches of the Nazis (I actually got to visit Corrie’s house and saw where they hid the Jews!). Sadly, the ten Boom family was caught by the Nazis. Corrie and her sister Betsie punished by being sent to a concentration camp, Ravensbrück.

The barracks where the women in the camp slept were filthy and crowded. Lice was a big problem amongst the prisoners. One day, Corrie complained to Betsie about their living conditions. And do you want to know what Betsie said?

“You must thank God for everything, even for the lice.”

And guess what? Those lice are the one thing that kept the German guards from searching the barracks. Therefore, Betsie and Corrie could hide a tiny Bible that they used to hold Bible studies twice a week in the barracks, even though the Bible was forbidden. The women of Ravensbrück found hope in the Word and studied it eagerly. It was then that Corrie learned to be thankful for even the lice.

Give thanks for everything. Isn’t it beautiful that a woman who’s been through so much can give thanks for a thing such as lice in the filthy barracks of a concentration camp?

Give thanks for everything. Give thanks in all circumstances. Two radical challenges in today’s world.

This Thanksgiving, I want to challenge all of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to give thanks for everything no matter the circumstances. To adopt an attitude of thanksgiving for all we’ve been richly blessed with, though it may not seem like it at the time. Turkey or no turkey, great circumstances or not-so-great ones, let us all take Paul’s instruction and follow Corrie’s lead.

It’s God’s will for us in Christ Jesus, after all.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21

Be sure to check back next week for some more of my thoughts on thankfulness and for practical tips on cultivating a life full of gratitude, even after Thanksgiving! In the meantime, I want to know… What are you thankful for?

The Truth About Chocolate

The Truth About Chocolate

Everyone knows that chocolate comes at a price.

A Hershey bar can cost a couple dollars, a container of cocoa powder five dollars, and a bag of candy six dollars. No matter what kind of chocolate you want, you’re going to be handing over some money in payment for it. Sadly, in most cases, there’s another cost for the sweet taste of chocolate. The chocolate that we eat costs more than money, but most of the people supplying us with our favorite treat don’t like to tell us about this. 

More than 60% of the world’s cocoa comes from Africa’s west coast, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where many cocoa farmers live in poverty. They aren’t paid fairly for the cocoa that they produce, usually occurring in the supply chains of mass-producing companies such as Hershey. This poverty, as all poverty can, leads to human trafficking and child labor. 

The bottom line is this: The chocolate we normally consume comes to us at the cost of child labor and slavery. 

There are about 2.3 million children working on cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast (Tulane University, 2015). Harvesting chocolate is no easy task, and 90% of these kids are being forced to work under illegal and dangerous conditions, such as using large machetes, lifting heavy loads, and being exposed to harmful chemicals. These children can’t go to school and are robbed of a future, further trapping them in the cycle of poverty and exploitation. In an interview with Dutch journalist Teun van de Keuken, four former child slaves describe being forced to work without being paid, not being allowed to see their families, and being threatened with beatings or death. 

Chocolate doesn’t seem quite so sweet anymore, now does it? 

Mass chocolate-producing companies such as Mars and Hershey are trying to responsibly source their cocoa. Hershey and Mars both aim to use 100% certified and sustainable cocoa by 2020. Nestlé is also trying to source its chocolate more ethically. Godiva, while not fair trade certified, does support industry and government efforts to identify and eliminate child slavery in the Ivory Coast, as well as requires their suppliers to follow labor laws and regulations. Ghirardelli, another big chocolate producer, did not respond to inquiries regarding child labor and human trafficking in their supply chain.

It’s good that these companies are trying, but in the meantime, something must be done.

Knowing the true price of a chocolate bar isn’t enough. We need to come together and change the chocolate industry by changing our demand. When the demand for a product changes, so will the supply. Commit to only eating Fair Trade certified, UTZ certified, Rainforest Alliance certified, or direct trade chocolate. These certifications and ways of sourcing cocoa do their best to ensure that farmers get paid fairly and no human trafficking or child labor is going on behind the scenes.

The second most important thing to be done, besides supporting ethically sourced chocolate, is to spread the word.

Many people don’t know the true price of the chocolate they enjoy. Telling others about the truth of the chocolate industry, about the human trafficking and child labor that occurs behind the scenes, and encouraging them to be responsible consumers can help change the chocolate industry, and therefore the lives of many people caught in slavery and forced labor.

Together, we can make the chocolate industry even sweeter for all of the right reasons.

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RAAKA // https://www.raakachocolate.com

TONY’S CHOCOLONELY // https://tonyschocolonely.com/us/en//

GREEN & BLACK’S // https://us.greenandblacks.com

NEWMAN’S OWN // https://www.newmansown.com/

CHOCOLOVE // https://www.chocolove.com

TCHO // https://tcho.com

GUITTARD // https://www.guittard.com

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N O T E :
This is a list of all of the sources I used while writing this post, including some correspondence with a few chocolate companies. I invite you to do your own investigation on this issue. And please do share what you find!

Black, Karen, Nestlé Brand Ambassador. “Regarding your Nestle Contact.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 16 January 2019.

Boyer, Chantal. “Inquiry to Guittard Chocolate.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 22 January 2019.

Harris, Alex and Brett. Start Here. Multnomah Books, 2010.

Maria, Hershey Consumer Representative. “A Message From the Hershey Company.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 16 January 2019.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery. “MARS Chocolate.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 17 January 2019.

Spencer, Godiva Customer Care Department. “[EXTERNAL]Inquiries on Fair Trade and Child Labor.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 15 January 2019.

“Buy Certified.” Stop the Traffik, https://www.stopthetraffik.org/campaign/chocolate/buy-certified/ Accessed 25 January 2019.

“Traffik-Free Chocolate.” Stop the Traffik, https://www.stopthetraffik.org/campaign/chocolate/ Accessed 25 January 2019.

“Former child slaves witnessing for Teun.” YouTube, uploaded by Tony’s Chocolonely, 6 April 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PD7ePlz0awE

“Our Timeline.” Tony’s Chocolonely, https://tonyschocolonely.com/us/en/our-story/our-timeline Accessed 25 January 2019.

“Our Mission.” Tony’s Chocolonely. https://tonyschocolonely.com/us/en/our-story
Accessed 25 January 2019.

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Giving Thanks in Everything

Thanksgiving is here, and, to the average American, that means turkey dinners, a couple I’m-thankful-for statements, the Macy’s Day parade, and football. It’s easy to be thankful when there’s a giant turkey on the table with all the trimmings, family and friends gathered around in a jolly mood, and your favorite team is winning on the big screen. But what about when there’s no pumpkin pie, fuzzy feelings, or smiling faces? What happens then?

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he gives his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ some final instructions before closing. He says this in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Did you see that? Give thanks in all circumstances.

But wait a second there, Paul, you may say. Are you sure about that? Giving thanks in ALL circumstances? What about when my grandma dies or I have to move to another state? What about when my grades are low and my best friend just starts hating on me for no reason? You want me to be thankful when everything is, well falling apart and going downhill?

Yes, actually. That is what Paul is saying.

More Than A Hiding Place by Emily S. Smith chronicles the story of a woman who lived during World War II in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Her name was Corrie ten Boom. The daughter of a watchmaker, Corrie loved Jesus with all of her heart. When WWII came to her country, she and her family helped many Jews escape the clutches of the Nazis (I actually got to visit her house and saw where they hid the Jews!). Sadly, the ten Boom family was caught.  Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to a concentration camp, Ravensbrück.

The barracks where the women in the camp slept were filthy and crowded. Lice was a big problem amongst the prisoners. One day, Corrie complained to Betsie about their living conditions. And do you want to know what Betsie said?

“You must thank God for everything, even for the lice.”

And guess what? Those lice are the one thing that kept the German guards from searching the barracks. Therefore, Betsie and Corrie could hide a tiny Bible that they used to hold Bible studies twice a week in the barracks, even though the Bible was forbidden. The women of Ravensbrück found hope in the Word and studied it eagerly. It was then that Corrie learned to be thankful for even the lice.

Give thanks for everything. Isn’t it beautiful that a woman who’s been through so much can give thanks in the filthy barracks of a concentration camp?

Give thanks for everything. Give thanks in all circumstances. Two radical challenges in today’s world.

This Thanksgiving, I want to challenge all of my fellow teens to give thanks for everything no matter the circumstances. To adopt an attitude of thanksgiving for all we’ve been richly blessed with, though it may not seem like it at the time. Turkey or no turkey, great circumstances or not-so-great ones, let us all take Paul’s instruction and follow Corrie’s lead.

It’s God’s will for us in Christ Jesus, after all.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21

What are five unlikely things that you are thankful for?

THREE ROMANCE CLICHÉS THAT I LOVE

THREE ROMANCE CLICHÉS THAT I LOVE
In one of my recent posts, I ranted talked about three romance clichés that drive me crazy (click here to read it!). But, to be honest, I LOVE some clichés. Clichés can be bad, but they can also be like a mug of cocoa–nice, comforting, predictable, and exactly what you need. Now, without further ado, here are three romance clichés that I LOVE. 
The Damsel in Distress ❤ 
I LOVE THIS CLICHÉ SO MUCH. I blame it on the Disney princess movies that I will never get enough of. Just ask my siblings. 
But honestly, what can be more romantic than a prince saving his princess from a fire-breathing dragon, a poison-apple induced sleep, a sea-witch, or an evil stepmother? I’M KIDDING I’M BEING SARCASTIC. Or am I? One can never tell. 😉 I really like this cliché because it totally goes against the “strong” women cliché (check out this post to see my rant thoughts). Also, it’s romantic. Just watch the Disney princess movies. Thank you very much. 

Romeo and Juliet ❤

What I mean by Romeo and Juliet is FORBIDDEN LLLLLOOOOOVVVVVEEEE. But this cliché does need to meet some conditions for me to love it. Like I actually have to LIKE the characters okay? Conditions such as their love shouldn’t be forbidden for good reasons. For example, a family feud is not a good reason to not fall in love. Just saying. Another condition is that I would like for it to have a happy ending (I’m looking at you, Shakesepeare). Please. Happily ever afters make me VERY happy. 

Hate to Love ❤

Don’t you love it when two characters start out hating each others’ guts and then end up falling madly in love? I know that I do! Not only is it slightly humorous, but it is also so stinking adorable when it does happen. ESPECIALLY if a good dose of sarcasm is thrown in the mix. For example, Darcy and Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my favorite hate-to-love relationship. Another book that had a great hate-to-love relationship was Unblemished by Sara Ella (read my review by clicking here). Read it and then we can fangirl together, okay? =)

What are some romance clichés that YOU love? 

What Am I? ~ A Shakespearean Sonnet

What Am I? ~ A Shakespearean Sonnet
Sometimes when I am left to ponder,
The roll of the clouds, the glow of the moon, the soar of an eagle, the height of the sky, 
I, like a child, can’t help but wonder, 
In all of this, what am I? 

The roar of the storm, the ocean wide,
Spirals of rock, evergreens, ethereal flowers and mountain kings, 
A bow of color in the sky, the ebb and flow of the passing tide,
What am I, amidst all of this creation that sings

The yawn of a canyon, the crescendo of light, 
Scampering does, skittering leaves, fluttering birds, towering trees,
The dance of stars in a dark blue night,
What am I, amidst all of these? 
Perhaps it is not what I am that I should dwell on, nor on all of this majesty,
But rather, on the hands that made all of this, and me

Guest Post By Tessa Emily Hall: Can Our “Imperfections” Further Our God-Given Calling?

Guest Post By Tessa Emily Hall: Can Our “Imperfections” Further Our God-Given Calling?
I’m super excited to be hosting Tessa Emily Hall of Christ Is Write here on Notebooks and Novels today! Her next first devotional for teens, Coffee Shop Devos, releases next month, and I cannot WAIT to get my hands on a copy! =D 
About Coffee Shop Devos

There’s something special about spending time at a coffee shop with a friend–engaging in a meaningful conversation, then leaving refueled and ready to tackle the rest of the day. What if your quiet times with God energized you the same way?

Coffee Shop Devos offers a warm atmosphere that will inspire you to discover your God-given purpose and live to your greatest potential. Choose your devo flavor in the Menu of Contents based on your current need. Then lean into deeper intimacy with Christ through reflection and prayer. Along the way, you’ll pick up tips and recipes for making your own coffee-shop beverage–regular or decaf–to enjoy while you read. And don’t forget to share your journey with your friends! #CoffeeShopDevos

Each of the 180 challenging and motivational devotions will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated–almost as though you’ve shared a steaming pot of brew at a coffee shop with your Creator.

Click here to pre-order Coffee Shop Devos on Amazon.
Click here to mark Coffee Shop Devos as “to read” on Goodreads.

Doesn’t it look fantastic? I’m excited to get to read it! =D But for now, I’m happy to get to read this lovely guest post that Tessa wrote. It’s not only encouraging, but it is also a challenge for us to discover who God made us to be and what He put us on this earth to do. I’m excited to get to share this with you all! =) Happy reading! 

Have you ever felt different from others your age? Maybe you’re not into the same hobbies your friends are into. Perhaps you’re not as social, don’t have as many followers on social media, or don’t care about shopping.

This is how I felt in middle and high school. Like I stood out. Like I was the only introverted girl my age—the only one who preferred to stay at home on the weekends and write rather than hang out with friends.

I felt like something was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I fit in?

The thing is–I didn’t want to fit in. I didn’t want to become someone that I wasn’t just so I could receive acceptance. Yet even this made me feel as though I needed to be “fixed”.

It wasn’t until I grew closer in my relationship with Christ that my desire to receive approval from man began to fade. It wasn’t until then that the truth laid out in Psalms 139:13-16–which says that every detail of myself was selected with a purpose–that I began to accept who I am. And during this time, I had a realization:

My “imperfections”–what I once thought were flaws–are actually the very traits God will use to further my calling. 
You see, the enemy doesn’t want me to love who I am. Instead, he wants me to resent the very aspects about myself that God views as beautiful. Why? Because he wants me to refrain from embracing my potential and pursuing my calling. A calling that could result in the furthering of God’s Kingdom. 
But now that I’ve learned this tactic, I can allow God to transform these “flaws” into strengths. Just as He originally intended. No, not even so I can gain human acceptance–but so I can play my role in building the Body of Christ. So I can tap into my fullest potential and pursue my calling.
Does this mean perhaps God created each of us in a way that could aid us in pursuing our unique path? Does this mean He gave us our personality, strengths, gifts, desires—and, yes, quirks—for a reason?
I believe so. I believe He purposely crafted each us differently so we could contribute to the work of His Body (The Church) in various ways. He wants to send His message throughout the ends of the earth, and we are His hands and His feet (1 Corin. 12:12). The way He formed us is directly correlated with how He wants us to further His ministry on earth.
What I once viewed as a weakness — being introverted — was actually a God-given strength to help me fulfill my calling: writing. If I wasn’t an introvert then I wouldn’t have the ability to stay quiet and observe in a social setting. I would also probably go crazy if I had to stay at home and write for hours on end!
What is it God has called you to pursue? You might not know the entire picture, but perhaps you have an understanding how you’re different. You’re familiar with your personality type. You understand your various strengths and interests. What if these unique facets that make up you are arrows pointing you toward your unique calling—or at least hints that could give you a glimpse into what He might want you to accomplish on this earth?
My challenge to youSpend time with God today. Ask Him to help you accept every part of who you are–yes, even the “flaws”. Then, see if He reveals ways you can begin to tap into your potential and pursue your unique path.

About Tessa

Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic books to show teens they’re not alone. Her first teen devotional, COFFEE SHOP DEVOS, will release with Bethany House September 2018. Tessa’s passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent for Cyle Young at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PURSUE Magazine. She’s guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating art journals, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website: www.tessaemilyhall.com.

Visit Tessa on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook and subscribe to her mailing list

What is one of your “imperfections” that could be pointing to your God-given calling? What’s your favorite coffee shop drink? 

THREE ROMANCE CLICHES THAT DRIVE ME CRAZY

Ah, romance in YA. I’ve got a serious love-hate relationship with it. On one hand, all of the cute moments in YA romance that send me squealing into a pillow have me hungry for more. But on the other hand, one of the things that drives me crazy about YA romance is the sheer number of clichés I’ve read. Some of the clichés drive me crazier than others, and yet some I find myself asking for more of.*
Without further ado, here are three romance clichés that drive me crazy.

*I would like to note that I have seen instances in which these clichés were “freshened up” rather beautifully, but these cases are very rare for me personally. 
Insta-Love ❤

“And then their eyes met from across the room and they just knew that they were meant for each other…” It wouldn’t be entirely untruthful to nickname the cliché of “insta-love” as “Disney-love.” After all, nearly every Disney princess movie has moments of insta-love (although in Frozen, this cliché is flipped beautifully). 

Yes, attraction happens, but falling in love with someone in a matter of minutes is utterly ridiculous. 

This idea of “love at first sight” is not only unrealistic, but it also is super shallow (and not the smartest thing in real life, if you know what I mean). Who falls in love with someone after a glance from across a coffee shop or a quick conversation about the book you’re reading? How can you know it’s really love if all you know about the guy is that he has icy blue eyes and a baseball cap? 
Love Triangles ❤

Newsflash: LOVE TRIANGLES ARE KINDA DONE. If I have to pick up another book with a love triangle in it, I might cry. Yes, love triangles can be done well (it’s possible!), but honestly, we’ve seen it a thousand times before. Nothing seems to have changed. It’s so easy to figure out which guy the girl is going to pick! 
Not only are love triangles super predictable, but they add weak (unneeded!) tension to the plot. 
There have been books I’ve read that have love triangles in them just to have love triangles. The love triangle adds nothing substantial to the plot. In some cases, all of that unneeded baggage about which boy the main character is going to the dance with can take away from the story. I don’t want to know about Suzy’s inner turmoil about Eddie and Bob. I want to care about something more than the love triangle in a book and see something more original, something more real. 
Insecure Girl Meets Gorgeous Boy ❤

This cliché is so common it’s not even funny. We go from a main character thinking that nobody loves them to suddenly meeting their “true love” and then suddenly having extremely high self-esteem levels. In this cliché, characters feel worthless without their love interest. But when Prince Charming comes along, the mirror is no longer as harsh. The critics’ voices become muted. They’re happier. They’re content. They feel worth something, now that someone so wonderful loves them. 
This is cute, but isn’t this cliché teaching readers to find their worth in what others think of them? 

Instead of encouraging readers to find their worth in what the Lord thinks of them and the beautiful people He made them to be, this cliché teaches readers that their worth comes from having a Prince Charming to tell them how lovely they are. Truthfully, our worth comes from the God who created us and loves us more than we can imagine, not a tall, dark and handsome guy. 

What do you think? Do any of these clichés drive YOU crazy? Have you seen any examples of these three clichés that you liked?