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.

A Mother’s Day Prayer of Encouragement and Blessing

Every life begins and ends under the sovereign hand of God. There is no greater honor than leading freshly born hearts to His feet. It’s possible mothers learn more about themselves, their purpose, of life, and love, and God through the eyes of the children He puts in their care. Every precious life belongs to Him. Every note of talent and nuance of personality are the products of His compassionate care and love.

We are created in His image, and perhaps nothing solidifies that reality more than welcoming a new life into the world. Being a mother is a privilege packed with purpose we can’t handle apart from His strong and guiding hand. We pray for every mom this Mothers’s Day. We pray for strength to sustain the hard parts, patience to embrace the days as they fly by, and courage to let go and love our children for who they already are right now, just as He does.

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10 of the Best Ways to Love on Your Mom this Mother’s Day

(Originally posted in May 2020)

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty if fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

This Mother’s Day, many of us will still be reeling from the corona virus pandemic. Many moms have added “homeschooling,” and “coach,” to their resumes amidst the normal laundry lists of tasks, and for many of us, careers and jobs. Every mom I checked in on the first week of mandatory quarantine had shed tears of fear, worry, and feelings of overwhelm. Moms don’t default to the “put the oxygen mask on yourself first” even though we undoubtably should.

One blessing God offers us has the ability to carry us through the challenges with enough life to share with the people God has placed in our lives to serve, raise, employ, work for, and befriend: the very breath of God. When we breathe it in each morning, He is faithful to sustain us. One day at a time. One breath at a time, “a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” There are so many things we can do for our moms on Mother’s Day, and every day, from the comfort of our own homes and communities. Make time for mom to sit with He who loves her the most.

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2 Simple Ways to Start Your Day When Life is Overwhelming

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

The alarm rings in a new set of circumstances each day. When life is overwhelming, fear and anxiety threaten to move in and camp out in the corners of our minds. But John wrote, “There is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18). Paul wrote to Timothy, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-disciple” (2 Timothy 1:7). The prophet Isaiah said, “say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come …” And Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4:6-7).

When life is overwhelming, re-focus on who God is, and Whose we are, as the day begins. Each morning, when we meet our Heavenly Father in prayer, only He knows what we will need to navigate the day ahead of us. He is faithful to provide for us and sustain us, if only we will still our souls long enough to see His hand move and hear His Truth ringing in our ears. His mercies are new every morning!

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10 Reasons Why THis is a Wonderful Time to Be Alive

God has placed us in this generation purposefully, to live life to the full. This is a wonderful time to be alive, despite the challenges surrounding our modern world on a daily basis. From ancient history to today, chaos and conflict have challenged humanity. We were never promised life would be easy (Matthew 7:13-14), but God does ensure His plans for us are greater than anything we could ever ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Only God knows the number of our days (Psalm 139:16). He is trustworthy and good. We can be still and know that He is God, sovereignly sustaining us day by day (Isaiah 46:4).

By adopting a grateful countenance, we can find endless reasons to be glad to be alive during these times.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/LightFieldStudios

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10 Beautiful Ways God Tells You How Much You Matter to Him

Our hearts know their Maker, and our souls are filled by the power of His personal presence and compassionate touch on our lives. He knows us, and there are many ways, every day, He makes it known to us. May our eyes be open, and our hearts softened, to feel His embrace in our daily lives.

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