Joy in the dark.

Dark Autumn mornings beg me to smack the snooze button. At my dimly lit desk, coffee steaming into the quiet, I felt a pang of jealousy of as I read Acts 8: “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:39 NIV) I would like the Holy Spirit to physically relocate me, I thought to myself, which is exactly what happened to Phillip. (Zondervan)

There are many pandemic days burned into the permanent section of my memory. Days full of shock, tears, heartache and loss. Normalcy has fallen by the wayside, and it’s been hard to cope. We miss hugs from friends, seeing smiles in person, and sharing live laughter. 2020 has been a very hard year.

The generation currently navigating junior high has a skyrocketing suicide rate, and they now pile on the anxiety of quarantine. My daughters are in 7th and 5th grade.

The patch of sunflowers I planted in late September had a slim chance of surviving long enough to bloom. Yet today, I cut the first batch and brought them into the warm house. Miracles do happen, and life can bloom despite of the odds stacked against it. In the midst of heartbreak over what they haven’t been able to do this year, my daughters have chosen to remember where their strength comes from. My oldest will clunk up the stairs from the basement in her pointe shoes to show me what she has been working on. Her grades, even though she had been zoomed in for much of the first quarter, were straight A’s. Today, a photo gift she made for a friend arrived in the mail, and she wore a new outfit she bought with her allowance to zoom into school. As I write, I hear her laughing with friends on a group chat.

When I told my husband the buns were on the stove next to the crock pot this morning, my youngest daughter laughed at no less than ten of her own “bun” jokes. Everyday, she has us rolling in laughter, despite of these dark times. This girl, who tends not to communicate with the same word count her older sister does, shared with me on our ride to school today about her nightly conversations with God.

God could physically pick me up and move me. He could change our circumstances …make it easier …ease the pain of isolation… Jesus wept and prayed for God to change His circumstances, too. He was isolated and deserted as He was crucified, unjustly. He endured all of the pain of this world voluntarily because He trusted God’s will. So in moments of isolation …I choose to remember the source of my strength.

Jesus gives me the perspective to see my situation through the filter of hope, and the blessings He’s sweetly and faithfully embraced us with in 2020. The laughter, long boating days in the warm sun, lunch dates during the school day, late night talks, and time with my girls who will disappear back into their busy lives as soon as they resume. I’m not glad its happening, but I know where my strength comes from. Acknowledging personal hardship is important. Tears are healing and some anger is righteous! But I know beyond what I can see, feel, and plan for …God is always on the move …and He is always good.

Remember the verse at the top of this post, and the man who went away, rejoicing? Phillip shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him, and he was baptized! His joy was a sign of new life, and evidence of the Holy Spirit. (Zondervan) 2020 has taught us not to hang our hope on our plans, routines, and goals. All of those things are good, but His plans are more than we can ask for or imagine. It may get worse before it gets better. We were never promised life would be easy. But, if we unplug from the manic media and choose to tap into our real source of strength, we can live joyfully even in crazy hard times. Dark times. Jesus links arms with us through it all.

(Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the New Testament. Copyright 2002.)

Picture Day

The windshield wipers squeaked and scraped across the windshield. Misting gray skies muted brilliant colors of the changing season. Wet blacktop swished in traffic, and dreariness attempted frame the day before it had barely begun. Slumped over, choppy breaths evidence of watery eyes, my passenger clutched a cuddly elephant. School picture day meant we would eventually frame 2020 and place it on the fireplace mantel. 

“What’s the matter?” I asked her. She simply shrugged and could not say. The cumulative effect of this year’s anxieties have worn her to the core. She feels beyond my reach, at times, a helpless feeling for a mom. This has been a year full of infinitely more things I cannot explain to her, definitively. Her eyes waver back and forth to me and we both wonder what tomorrow will bring and how we can possibly brace for what it will be like. I want so badly to tell her when this will all be over, that tomorrow won’t be worse, and we’ll all get through it …together. 

Under normal circumstances, parenthood illustrates our daily need for God. The author of Hebrews wrote, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he said down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”(Hebrews 1:3 NIV) The Greek Word for exact defines the instrument used for engraving or carving. 

Numbers, facts, and circumstances change daily in our lives. The author of Hebrews assures us exactly where Jesus is. Our Savior sits at the right hand of the Father. 

Unchanging truth comes from God alone. He knows the number of our days. Nothing changes it. God is the only One who can peer beyond what we see and experience in the present moment. His Truth, alone, is trustworthy and dependable. He is good, and makes good of all things. 

God is personal. Reframe the truth as such. His greatest expression of love for me was Jesus, who came to earth and died on the cross to save me from my sins …and through salvation in the Him the Holy Spirit lives in me and my soul lives eternally with Him. When our lives are built upon this Rock of truth and our faith is rooted in God’s love, we wade through the really hard things with Him.  

Why, then, is it still so hard for God’s Truth to make it past the lump in my throat today? I know Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, fighting for me. Why do I feel so powerless, my prayers seemingly ignored? Because the truth about the world we live in can be pretty grim.

The world’s unfairness isn’t just a fleeting feeling, it’s a magnified fact of life on this sin-soaked earth. There is real evil in the world, intended upon stealing, killing, and destroying us. Our enemy lies. When we feel we are surrounded by unfairness and evil, lies and manipulation …it’s because we are! It’s really hard, and it can make us feel hopeless and helpless to stop it or make things right. Especially when our kids are hurting and there’s nothing we can do to fix or ease the pain. 

Perspective is our rescue. Knowing what is true allows us to see through a different perspective. One of wisdom, peace, hope and love. Jesus is the way we keep moving …because when we can stand anymore …He carries us. 

Letting go is the hardest task in parenting. We ache to see our kids go through pain we wish we could prevent and steer them around. Imagine how God feels about us, when we are in pain, mistreated, hurt, manipulated, and taken advantage of? We have limited power on this earth to set things right, but He is limitless. God, though we don’t understand His purposes or His timing, is in control. We may be manipulated by media, but God is in control. We may be taken advantage of by corrupt leaders, but God is in control. We may not get answers to our prayers in the way and timing we want …but He does hear us …and He will answer. 

The reality of my 2020 is- I don’t know what time I’ll pick my daughter up from school today. But, no matter if it’s normal pick up time and I have her favorite snack and cuddly source of comfort waiting for her in the passenger seat, or a hug and spirit that will share in her heartache and tears, we will turn on the wipers …drive through the cold misty rain …and go home together. And I’m thankful for that …for together.

Christmas Dinner Prayers

Christmas dinner is a wonderful time to gather with family and friends and to reflect on the joy and gratitude of the giving season. You can use this time to share the Gospel story of Jesus Christ and to guide the hearts of those gathered toward the real reason for the season. If you are hosting the Christmas dinner, you have been given an incredible opportunity to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to tell your family and friends about the gift of eternal salvation. As you pause to give thanks, use one of these beautiful Christmas dinner prayers before sharing a delicious meal together.

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10 Old-Fashioned Tips and Tricks to Make Your Home Feel LIke Christmas

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Making our homes feel like Christmas goes beyond decorations and gifts, and old fashioned catches up to us quick as we age! Christmas isn’t as commercial as cyber sales would have us believe. It’s personal. Christ came to earth as a babe, setting in motion a chain of events that forever affected our eternity. God came down to earth to save us. As we recall the many ways we have grown to love celebrating Christmas and think up new traditions to add, it’s important to keep the babe in the manger center-scene. When we live life within the love of Christ, Christmas comes alive in our hearts, families, and homes.

Here are some of the things that make my home feel like Christmas each year. I hope and pray they will inspire others to continue old traditions and create new ones which reflect  the true wonder of the season.

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A christmas MEditation to Welcome Wonder Back to Your Season

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” — Luke 19:10

The Advent season anticipates the coming of Christ. Jesus came for thelost. This year has been a challenge for many around the globe, but the one change we can all make to bring the wonder back to the entire Christmas season isn’t in the shopping, the cooking, or the merrymaking, but rather something in the way Jesus came to earth and lived—something we so easily forget how to do each day. In this Christmas meditation, remember whose Jesus is, who you are, and marvel at the miracle of God’s plan in action for your eternal joy.

Do You Know Who You Were Meant to Be?

We seek and search for confidence in this world. Society clamors self-care and self-help. Slogans abound to love ourselves and be ourselves. Love has nothing to do with self. Love is self-less. Love crashed into this atmosphere and gave up every comfort readily available for other people. For His people. Confidence is rooted in Christ Jesus, in His sacrifice and in who He is, and Whose we are. The one change we can make this Christmas to bring back wonder is selflessness. Not only in charitable donations and lending a helping hand in our communities and around the world, but in knowing who we are. Do we know who we are? We are not random beings on a discovery mission to find out who we are. We are intentional, created in the very image of God. And everything we need to know about ourselves flies off the pages of Scripture, and the notes of nature.

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7 Beautiful Hymns to Sing During Advent

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” 

Advent is a traditional season celebrated the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, in recognition and anticipation of the coming of Jesus. The Latin word for Advent means coming. Jesus came to earth, born as a babe to Mary and Joseph on earth. He also comes to us presently, as we accept salvation through Christ and receive the Holy Spirit. Advent also reminds us of Jesus’ future coming, when He will return to earth once again to establish God’s Kingdom. God’s plan always included our rescue and redemption through Christ. “We have a message of spectacular rescue:” John Piper reflects, “the love of God has rescued us from the wrath of God.”

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Beautiful Prayers to Pray around the Advent Wreath

The Advent season celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. With God in the beginning, the Son of God was born on earth amidst humble circumstances, in order to serve and save mankind. The Advent wreath is a symbol of the season, with a candle lit each of the four Sundays leading up to, and on Christmas Day. The light of the flickering candle flames reminds us who Jesus is: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5).

Why You Should Celebrate Advent (even if your church is virtual)

The Advent wreath is traditionally lit during a church service but can be equally as impactful virtually. Minimal supplies are needed to make an Advent wreath at home, and no wreath is necessary to recognize the light and peace Christ brought to earth! We celebrate Advent, not only in anticipation of the first Christmas but of each new life in Christ. He presently comes to us, and He will come again!

This year, as we reconcile the reliability of human traditions and plans, the church of God is still moving, helping, and loving others around the world in the name of Christ Jesus. Celebrating Christ’s coming is important. Preparing our hearts renews our hope and reminds us of our mission.

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