Another year is done. It seems each one goes by just a little faster than the last. Most of us spend time reflecting as these last few days of the year go by. Yesterday as I was driving in the car with my son he asked me how I felt about 2022, what kind of year was it. As I thought about his question, I was reminded of a blog post I wrote back in May called There are Beautiful Days I told him a bit about the post and said that is how I feel about this past year. Overall, the year was rough. Like most of us, I can’t wait to see it go. So many hard days, trying times, heartache, losses, and stress. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Jesus, I really question if I would have made it through in one piece. However, when I look back through my camera roll and think about some of the things we did this past year, and think about the people who stood by me, walked with me, prayed for me, and helped me through, that phrase returns to my mind, there are beautiful days.

As we head into the new year many of us look with hope and expectation to what a new year can mean. A fresh start, new hope, new beginnings. We also tend to look back at the last year with a sense of good riddance. There is nothing wrong with either of those feelings, but as I was reading through a devotion I am doing on the Psalms, my attention was brought to the Psalms of lament. There are so many amazing psalms where the author pours his heart out to God and cries out for help. To me these Psalms are a great example of how to respond as we head into a new year. There is a pattern to these Psalms, the author tells God how he feels, with honestly and truth. (I mean God already knows how we feel, why is it that we think we should try to pretend otherwise when we cry out to him?) Then he presents his needs, cares, and concerns to God. (After all, He is the only one who can change the unchangeable and do the impossible.) But after all that, after the crying, after the weeping, after the pleading, the psalmist refocuses. He speaks truth to himself. He worships, He says this is how I feel, this is what I need but, none of that matters in comparison to you God. I will praise you because you are worthy, I will worship you because you are my God. I trust you Lord, you have been so good to me! Psalm 13 is a great example of this,

Psalm 13 NIV

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,

for he has been good to me.”

I love this Psalm, it is so real and raw. David cries out to God honestly, he doesn’t hold back. God can handle our sorrow, our frustration, our anger, our disappointment. He already knows what we are thinking and feeling, praying like this gives us the chance to give voice to it. God invites us to come to him. What I love most is that in the end David doesn’t leave with the same misery he started out with, he leaves with hope. He leaves with truth, he leaves with the knowledge that God is God and he is not and that he will praise and worship God and trust in Him because His love is unfailing, His promises are true, and He has been so good to him.

As we approach this new year, we can cry for the things that we carry into this new year, we can weep over the hurts of last year but then we leave them with God and refocus our minds on the truth. God is God eternal, He doesn’t get tired, He doesn’t sleep, He created each of us uniquely and knows everything about us. He loves us with a never-ending love. He loved us so much that He sent His son to live for us, die for us, and rise again conquering sin and death so that we could have a relationship with Him. We can trust every moment to Him because He is faithful. I read this great quote this morning and I thought it is a perfect reminder as we say goodbye to this year.

Leave the irreparable past in His hands, and step into the Irresistible Future with Him.” Oswald Chambers

Let’s do just that! Praying a blessed New Year to each of you!

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Peace Amidst Chaos

Here we are again, another Thanksgiving in the books and our journey to Christmas has begun. For most of us, this season brings a lot chaos. There is far too much to do and get done and far too few hours to do it in. We rush from one thing to the next, one store to the next, one house to the next to try to create the perfect peaceful holiday. I am laughing as I typed that, because most of us are thinking, there is nothing peaceful about the holiday season. Why is that, is it maybe because we are trying to find peace someplace that it can not be found? Is it because we have lost sight of where true hope is really found?

My life has been in a very hard place as of late. It has taken a toll on me and I have felt far too tired and far too weary. There are some very difficult things in my life that are very trying, very hurtful, very much beyond my control, and nothing that is going away anytime soon without a miraculous touch from God. So as thanksgiving was approaching, I decided to focus my devotion time on being thankful. I sought out a couple of good Thanksgiving devotions and prayed for God to help me see what He wanted me to see.

Like many of us, especially as mothers, and even more so as single moms, our days start with awaking in a frantic panic of what the day expects of us. I usually immediately pray when that starts to happen. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but as I read through the first of my Thanksgiving devotions, the author, Sue Boldt, started with a challenge. To surrender, to give ourselves to Jesus, to place ourselves in the loving arms of our savior where life is truly found. She challenged to put everything else aside, to focus solely on Jesus, worshipping and thanking him before we did anything else. What would our day look like if the first words out of our mouth each morning were words of praise and thanksgiving and gratitude to our savior? What would happen if instead of awaking and crying out Jesus help me followed by a laundry list of things we need him to do today, we took a minute to come into his presence with gratefulness for who he is and what he has done. Psalm 100:4 tells us

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

What if we did just that, entered into his courts with praise and dancing and singing instead of just dragging in our bags of problems.

As Sue put it in the devotion “Even when life has its darkest tragedies and trials, what might out lives be like if we worshipped at His footstool because His compassion never fails and His mercies are new every morning? “ -Sue Boldt A Week Full of Thanksgiving-Youversion

As this week of devotions went on Sue highlighted how gratitude and praise changes our perspective. It puts us in a position to hear from God, to see him work and move in our hearts. Surrendering our lives to Jesus means letting go and trusting His handling of both the big and small details of our lives. Gratefulness can be the gauge by which we see where we are at. Someone once said that worry is believe that God won’t get it right. When we begin to move past trying to control everything ourselves, when we move to gratitude, we can then clearly see who God is. We can clearly see his love for us and we will know that He NEVER gets it wrong. One of the things I loved most that was said in this devotion was this:

“Gratefulness for who God is and all He has done for us can interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves in light of our current situation.” Sue Boldt

I don’t know about you, but far too often when I am going through a really tough time or in a situation that is “long-suffering” my focus tends to become far too inward. It is hard to see past my problems. However, refusing to worry, choosing to start our day with praise and worship even when maybe we don’t feel like it, brings us to the feet of Jesus. When we begin to think of what he has done for us and who he is we can’t help but feeling totally grateful and totally unworthy of his love. We see the beauty of Christ in a way that shines brightly and leaves all those troubles in the shadows.

As I began this devotion, I challenged myself to awake every morning and spend time praising Him and thanking Him for who He is and for all he has done for me. I spent time rehearsing his goodness before I did anything else. As I went through the day and things got tough, I would try to return to that place. Sometimes it meant walking outside to get away from things around me, sometimes, I still allowed the things in my life to overwhelm me, but I pushed on with the help of the Holy Spirit carrying me through. As I looked back over the week before Thanksgiving I noticed a difference. While nothing in my current situation changed, I noticed I had felt more peace than I had in a long time.

Now as thanksgiving is over, I can see what a blessing this time has been. I learned so much and in the end against all odds and in spite of my trials and struggles, I had a wonderful thanksgiving and saw God move in a way that I would not have imagined possible as the week began.

Now the challenge continues, as we head into the Christmas season, what if instead of running from one thing to the next, instead of trying to “make” the perfect Christmas we just stopped. What if we just took time to sit at his feet in worship? What if we remembered that peace is a person and his name is Jesus? Might our focus on the true hope of the world in the midst of chaos bring us the peace we so desperately long for? This holiday season, lets do just that, let’s make spending time at the feet of Jesus a priority. Let’s praise him in gratefulness for the greatest gift we were ever given. Let’s put aside everything else and focus on who we really celebrate at Christmas, Jesus. Then and only then will we find true peace.

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Trust God More

The other morning I woke up around 4:00 am. This seems to be happening more and more lately. As I laid there in my bed, I tried to go back to sleep, but as usual my mind started to go to a million different things. Worry began to set in and overwhelm me. My mind went from one thing to the next and when it settled on one problem I started thinking through all the ways I could solve it in my head. We all are feeling the pinch of the economy right now and with winter looming I know I am not the only person worried about the price of heating oil and how to even think of affording heating. I started going over idea after idea, can I buy everyone a space heater, can I try to use my fireplace more and get more wood, should I get a 2nd job. what can I eliminate etc etc etc..on and on for the next hour I went over and over how I could work to solve the problem, finally I was tired and anxious and I just put on some worship music, and started to pray to try and go back to sleep. As the music began to play and I started to pray what came to my mind was…Work harder is NOT the answer, Trust God More is! I got out my pen and quickly wrote this in big letters in my journal.

I shared this with my friends and sisters and over the next few days, we each began to post things about how God was showing us this truth. When times get tough, far too often my first response is how can I fix this? Maybe you’re like that too. I will go over and over solutions and have atleast 3 things in my mind that I will be able to do in any given situation. Too many times, I do this for things that have not even happened yet! (like worrying about heating oil this winter when we are in the middle of summer).

Every time I do this and God reminds me of Who He Is, I say why am I worrying about this?! God has taken care of me and my kids over the past 9 years better than I ever could myself. He has taken care of the big things and the small things. He has often shown up in miraculous ways that seem too incredible to believe. God WILL continue to take care of us.

One of my friends posted this in our group chat:

“…I am the Lord All-powerful. so don’t depend on your own power or strength, but on My Spirit.” Zechariah 4:6 CEV

The answer to my problems, the answer to your problems is the same, it isn’t about what we can do to solve our own problems or how we can work harder to find a solution, it is about learning to trust God more and more with each day and allow Him to lead and guide us. He knows what we need and He already knows what to do. We just need to run to Him and trust Him more.

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There are Beautiful Days

Life goes through seasons, some good and some bad, and some just seem to be dark. Those dark season can be overpowering. When nothing seems to change in your circumstances. When one bad thing after the other seems to happen. When you are out of energy, out of money, out of ideas and your hope is dwindling fast. Have you been there? Maybe you are there right now.

In those days, in those season it can be hard to hold fast to the truth that we know to be true. When one day of hurt and pain follows another, when your life feels completely out of control. When stress continues to build and no matter how hard you to try to find moments of peace they seem to elude you. What do we do in those times? How do we keep moving forward when darkness seems to surround us?

Well, an interesting thing happened to me this morning. I have been in one of those dark seasons lately, and just when you think things are dark enough, it seems more hurt gets added. After a very, very rough night, I was sitting in my kitchen this morning, listening to some worship music on my phone, running to the only place where we know peace can be found. As I went to my home screen on my phone, I looked at the background picture. It was a picture I took a few weeks back when my boys and I went hiking. I love the picture because the gorge we were in and the angle of the sun above the waterfall almost made it look like light was about to come spilling through the gorge we had hiked through. Then the thought came into my head, there are beautiful days.

One of the traps of the enemy, especially when we are in dark times, is to get us to forget that happiness, joy, beauty exists. He attempts to get us to focus so much on our circumstances that we can no longer see anything else. Tunneling our vision into darkness. But at that moment, when I remembered, there are beautiful days, it reminded me that there is a light at the end of the darkest tunnel. Jesus is there. He walks with us through those dark seasons. He holds our hand and never lets go. A close friend of mine sent Psalm 23 to a group of us moms earlier this week. She reminded that even as we walk in the darkest places, ones where we can’t see at all, He is with us. He is right beside us, holding our hand and HE WON’T LET GO! As the Bible tells us in Romans 8:38-39 “…nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

On the days where all seems dark, light still exists, there are beautiful moments even in those dark times, we just need to remind ourselves of that. We need others in our lives who will come beside us and remind us when we can’t remember ourselves. We need to put ourselves into a position tho hear God speak, through prayer and worship and we need to look at our faith markers. Write down those beautiful times, take pictures, set scripture around your house, memorize it so that in the dark time, when no light seems to be getting through, you mind can bring to its forefront the truth that there are beautiful days, and one day, those days will be every day. That is the hope we have in Christ.

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Desperate for Hope

The holiday season has officially begun with Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas just over the horizon. Decorations are in full swing everywhere you look and nighttime drives are filled with the awe of looking at Christmas lights. I know everyone is different when it comes to decorating for Christmas, I myself am strictly an after Thanksgiving decorator. However, this year, I found myself longing to put everything up early. I was also surprised at the number of people I saw putting their trees up in early November. I read post after post of people saying things like, I just felt compelled to put everything up early, or I just couldn’t wait to put stuff up. I thought about why that was. What is it about Christmas decorations that makes us long to put them up and this year more so than years past? As I thought about the past 2 years and all that has transpired in our world, it seems that we are desperate for hope. This pandemic has lingered so long. Just when we think perhaps the end is in sight, it comes back with a vengeance and brings despair once again. So much loss, so much sickness, so much animosity, so much darkness. Christmas brings hope. It brings light into darkness literally and spiritually. Darkness surrounds us this time of year and as we put up those decorations and light them up we feel we are pushing back the darkness just a bit. The spirit of Christmas that often goes dormant during the year rises inside of us and others and our despair seems to lessen.

It was no different 2,000 years ago when in the dark of night, in a dark place during dark times, the light of the world was born. Born into our darkness to shine the light of hope, joy, and peace. Jesus came to end night for us, to end the darkness and bring light that can not be extinguished. I love the way Charles Spurgeon writes of this.

“The coming of Jesus to us, when he does really come into our hearts, takes away the darkness of ignorance, sorrow, carelessness, fear and despair. Our night is ended once for all when we behold God visiting us in Christ Jesus. Our day may cloud over, but night will not return. O, you that are in the blackest midnight, if you can but get a view of Christ, morning will have come for you! There is no light for you elsewhere, believe us in this; but if Jesus be seen by faith, you shall need no candles of human confidence, nor sparks of feelings and impressions: the beholding of Christ shall be the ending of all night for you.” C.H. Spurgeon

This year more than most, we feel the darkness pressing in. It feels oppressive and overwhelming at times. We try our best in our human efforts to push it back, but the truth is only Jesus can light up the darkness.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:5

Only Jesus shines light that can’t be overcome by the surrounding darkness. In our desperation for hope, we must look to the only one who can truly bring that hope. Christmas decorations are wonderful and they add beauty to the night, but unless they point us to the true light, the true meaning Christmas, they are merely a temporary distraction from the darkness. Look to the light that never gets packed away, look to Jesus and hope will rise as darkness fades. With Jesus, the light of Christmas can be a part of us all year long.

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Do We Say Thank You?

Over the course of the past year, I have been doing a devotional based on the chronological life of Jesus. It is very interesting and very often convicting. Today was one of those convicting days. The story today, was the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. The story is found in Luke chapter 17. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and is traveling to different villages along the way.

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

As I read through these words that I have read so many times before, I thought, how could they not return and say thank you when such an amazing thing had happened to them?

Immediately, I felt the Holy Spirit say, do you go back and say thank you? I then thought about all the times in a day when I cry out to God to help me with something, whether it is to make it to where I am going when my gas tank is low, or to help me have strength to do something that I need to do. Or maybe to find something I need at a store, you get my point. I cry out to God to help me with a million things a day and yet how many times do I take the moment to stop and thank and praise him for those things? How often do I even remember that I asked him to help with a particular thing and realize that he helped me? It was a tough enough realization that I probably don’t do this any where near enough, but the conviction didn’t stop there. I then thought about what do I do when God hasn’t answered something where or when or how I would want? God does more things than I can count for me in a day why is it that I forget to thank him for those things but I am very quick to remember the things I feel he didn’t do? The truth is I am no different most the time than those 9 lepers who did not return to Jesus. I go about my day and while of course I am thankful, how often do I actually stop and take the time to thank him and praise him for all He does for me throughout the day and for all he has done for me throughout my life? Are those things any less incredible than the lepers being healed? No, of course not! Jesus rescued me, He lived for me, He died for me, He rose conquering sin and death and made a way that I could become a daughter of God. What could be more incredible than that! He doesn’t stop there though, He walks with me daily, He rejoices with me, He weeps with me, He carries me when I don’t have the strength to go on. Yet, what do I do? I worry, I complain about the things in may life that he hasn’t changed or fixed or healed etc. I have often said if I put half the time I spend worrying and complaining into praying who knows what would happen?!

Why do I do this? Why is it that I let so much of what is going on around me take over my thoughts and forget how utterly amazing God is? Regardless of why, I know the solution is to more and more remind myself of who God is, to remind myself of the truth of the Gospel moment by moment because sometimes day by day isn’t enough. To allow my faith to rise up. Jesus told the man rise and go, your faith has made you well To remember that above all God is sovereign and He is in control. Regardless of what he does or does not do in any given day, I can say thank you because I know that He is my father who loves me and he knows what’s best.

Lord help me to thank you more and more, help me to focus on all that you have done, are doing, and will continue to do in my life! Increase my faith that I can rise each day knowing that you have done it all! Thank you Lord, there is none like you!

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Small Hope

The other morning as I was doing a devotional, a couple of verses from Matthew chapter 12 really caught my attention. The thing that stuck out to me, is that the devotion I was reading used a version of the verses that I had not read before, and I really like the way it put it. It said,

He will not crush those who are weak, or quench the smallest hope, until He brings full justice with his final victory. And His name will be the hope of the world.” Matthew 12: 11-12

When I read the words “weak” and “smallest hope” they really stuck out to me. Maybe it is because that is how I have felt lately. Weak and like my hope is so small. I thought about the version of the verses above that I was more familiar with, which is a “…a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” Sometimes I feel like my fire is just smoldering, like my hope is so small it is barely there. But as I read those verses, I thought about how Jesus knows me better than anyone and these verses remind us that He will not put out our smoldering fire, He will not drown our small hope. What He will do is rekindle it!! He will bring it back to a full blazing inferno when we cry out to him and give him that little smallest hope.

I think of the man who came to Jesus asking for healing for his child. When Jesus told him all things were possible to him who believed and he cried out:

“Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

When our hope seems so small, when we feel like we are nothing more than smoke without a fire, we cry out, Lord, help! We cry Jesus, I need you! We ask for an increased measure of faith. We bring our small hope to the only one who can make it grow! I love how the end of verse 12 says, and His name will be the hope of the world. Our small hope can be a big hope because our hope is Jesus!

This year of Covid has taken much from people, and because of that, many have little hope. But when our hope feels nearly gone, it is then that we need to remember that our hope is not in what goes on around us, it isn’t in a vaccine, it isn’t in the end of the virus, our hope can be found and rekindled in only one place, that is the arms of Jesus. So let’s take our smallest hope to Him, let’s bring our smoldering wick and ask him to do what only He can do, rekindle the fire of hope within us until it burns bright for all to see.

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Empty Halls, Empty Homes

This post has been on my mind for quite some time, but with Christmas upon us it hit even harder. Though I have wanted to write it, I just don’t even know where to begin, or how to put what I feel into words. That seems to be the case more often than not these day.

The thought “empty halls” originally occurred to me months ago. I work in Children’s ministry at my church. We have large children’s wing with a central hall the runs the length of the wing with many different classrooms for different age environments.. Before the virus, on any given Sunday we would have upwards of 230-250 kids spread across 2 services. The hall would always be full of parents and kids, talking laughing, checking out the candy store to spend their points and just a general atmosphere of fun. On a holiday or a special event, which we do several of through out the year, the excitement and the number of kids would be even greater. Since the virus that is no longer the case. Events have been limited or even non-existent because of restrictions and safety issues. The number of kids who now attend at times was maybe 1/3 of what it once was and lately, even less than that.

This past weekend was our Christmas celebration weekend. Normally before the virus, we would have had hundreds of kids in the hall, we would be playing Christmas music and handing out cookies to everyone who walked down the hall.. We used to do this every weekend throughout the month of December, often theming our weekend for different cultures and handing out treats specific to that culture during the holiday season. This year, was so different. The hall was quiet and even though we still had music playing and handed out pre-wrapped candy canes, we only saw around 30 kids across those 2 services. Empty Hall.

I thought about schools as well and how on the day before Christmas break, the halls would be buzzing with excitement of the upcoming holiday, where now, in most schools, the halls are empty and kids are home.

Then my sister made a comment last night that really drove home the “empty” theme for me. My sisters and I video called our mother to give her a gift we had all purchased for her, In the name of safety, we decided the best way to do this was over video. I snuck over to my moms home and left the gift on her porch. We then video called her and told her to go out on her porch and get the gift. She was excited and it was fun, but of course not the same as all being in the same room and watching her open it. Then one of my sister showed us her Christmas Tree over video. She said “here look at my tree because otherwise, nobody is going to see it”. Empty homes.

All across the world, Christmas is here and homes are empty. Empty of family and friends that make this season so special. Empty of laughter that comes when all your family is together and joking about things that are unique to your family, Empty of grandparents and cousins. Empty. In the name of safety and protection, restrictions have been put in place but to what end? The truth is, there is no easy answer and no easy solution. Everyone has their own thoughts and opinions, as they have since this horrid virus began almost a year ago. What do we do? Do we get together as family and risk someone getting sick, do we stay home alone and risk depression especially in our older family members who may end up entirely alone? Do we risk not seeing grandparents when there is a chance this is their last Christmas? What do we do? This seems to be the question of the hour. Honestly, I don’ know what the answer is and I am sure it is different for every family.

So what do we do when we don’t know what to do? We pray. We remember where our hope truly lies. We remember that whether we are alone or with family we can have joy and peace because those things are not based on circumstance, they are based on a person, Jesus! We remind ourselves of the hope that Christmas brings, the reminder that God came to live with us, to live for us, to die for us, and to rise from the grave conquering sin and death. We smile knowing that while right now we may not be able to celebrate with family, one day we will celebrate in heaven and the celebration will never end!

I don’t know what your tomorrow looks like, I don’t even know what my tomorrow looks like, but I pray that across the world families are able to be together. That hope will rise out of the darkness that surrounds us this holiday season. My prayer for all us tomorrow and this coin year is this,

“because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

Lord in the midst of uncertainty and darkness, shine your light on us and guide out feet to the path of peace. May God bless each of you the Christmas! Merry Christmas!

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Happy Thanksgiving! It is hard to believe that the holiday season is upon us already! With all the craziness going on in our world, it seems nice to take the time to just reflect and be thankful. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is a day to stop and just be grateful and it ushers in the Christmas season.

Over the past few weeks many of my devotionals have reflected on gratitude and being thankful. As I know I have said many times before, November is a month that always leads me to reflect back. It was in November on this day 7 years ago that the course of my life was altered forever. While many hard times have come and gone since then, today, I can reflect back with thankfulness. That probably sounds strange but it is true. Thankful for where I am, for who I am, for what God has blessed me with, and most of all for God, who is sovereign and always knew and still knows what I need.

A couple of weeks ago I went out for coffee/tea with a few of my closest friends. As we sat talking about our lives and our kids I had said, “who would have ever thought I would end up having the job I have”. One of my friends said, “God did! He knew! He knew it was the job for you.” And they are right. God knew, he put me in the perfect job that allows me to be there for my kids as I need to be, do something I love doing and work with people who are family. It led us to remember that even when our kids are struggling, we can trust God to lead them far better than we can and we can rest in His sovereignty.

The other day as I was thinking back on that conversation, I started thinking about my life and those friends. I thought about how God had placed them in my life and the roll they had played in helping me over the past 7 years. One friend, though at the time we had never really even met, opened her home to my kids and I that first Thanksgiving, just 2 days after their dad had left. To this day, we all remember that as one of the best Thanksgivings we’ve had. Another was there the day after my ex-husband served me with divorce papers. She came with me and stood by my side as I had to attend a soccer game he would be at. Over the years they have all prayed for me, encouraged me, sent me flowers on Valentines Day, given me generous gifts just to let me know I am loved. They have laughed with me and cried with me. They have held me accountable and kept me on course when life has gotten crazy and I felt like I would lose my way. God knew I would need these women in my life and I am forever grateful.

This year has been rough for everyone. We have all faced the unexpected. Many have lost more than they can say. It may seem hard to be thankful. But in all that has changed and turned upside-down this year, one thing never changes, God is god and He is sovereign! He cares about every aspect of our lives. He knew about all that would happen in 2020, just has He knows all that will happen every moment of our lives. He gives us what we need even when we don’t know we need it. We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future in the palm of His hands. Life may seem out of control, but the truth is, it is never in our control and it is never out of His control. Today and every day, that is something we can be thankful for!

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Do We Love Like Jesus?

A few months ago at the start of quarantine, I wrote a post called Maybe This changes Everything. In it I spoke about the good that could come out of having to take a step back and seeing things change in our lives. However, as the months have gone by, what has transpired has seemed to be far more dividing. Yes, of course, there are good stories of people coming together to give away food, to help neighbors and the like. But, on the other hand, there is so much division it is overwhelming. We have people on every extreme, from those who don’t believe Covid is even real to those who are too afraid to walk out of their homes and people everywhere in between. We have people for shut down, people against shut downs, people for schools reopening, people for distance learning, people for vaccines, people against vaccines. And of course one of the biggest fight of all, MASKS! People who think masks should be worn and those who don’t. You hear of many people who insist that their rights are being trampled and it is their right to refuse to wear a mask, and I suppose that is true. It is YOUR right, to choose not to wear a mask, to not stay home etc. But just because something is YOUR right, does that mean that you should insist on it? I think this is a question, that we need to ask ourselves, especially if we profess to be Christians.

I just finished reading the book Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. If you ever want to be challenged in your life of following Christ, this book will challenge you. There were stories that had me thinking, how do I even call myself a follower of Christ compared to some of these individuals. Stories of those who truly reflect the verses in Hebrews 11 of those who had an amazing faith. Individuals who set aside everything to treat people as Jesus did. Who gave up home, money, food, comforts, and ultimately in many cases their lives, for the sake of the gospel. These people weren’t concerned with what they considered to be their rights, they were concerned with loving like Jesus. As Christians, we are meant to be followers of Christ. Jesus told us in John 15:20, that “...a servant is not greater than his master.” Do we think that our rights are more important than Jesus? Let’s think for just a minute about this. If anyone had rights it was Jesus! The ruler of the universe, whom through, as the Bible tells us, ALL things were created.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16 ESV

Who could at any moment have called legions of angels to his side. (Matthews 26:53)

Jesus, who was given ALL authority on heaven and earth. (Matthew 28:18)

Yet he gave up everything to come to earth, born as a helpless baby, to grow up poor, to live the perfect life that we could never live and die the death that we deserved to die. He suffered in ways we can not imagine, including facing the full wrath of God because of OUR sins! Can you even imagine having all of that power at your disposal and choosing not to use it and instead allow yourself to be beaten and broken? To be perfect in every way and yet allow yourself to be treated as a criminal?

He did all this so that through His obedience to the Father, through His life, death, and resurrection, we would be able to be adopted into his family as sons and daughters of God. He gave up everything, never once worrying about what his rights were, so that we as sinful, hateful, human beings, could be saved. And we are worried about wearing a mask? I’m sorry, but do you hear how silly that sounds? Are there times when we need to stand up and fight for our rights, of course. However, those rights should never become more important than living out the commands of Jesus. Jesus tells us that all of the commandments are summed up by this, loving God and loving others. (Matthew 22:37-40). Right now, the most important thing we can do as Christians is love God to the utmost and act on that love by showing that love to others. Wearing a mask, social distancing and the like may not seem important to some people, but it is very important to others. So, if your being inconvenienced by wearing a mask during a church service allows your brother/sister to feel comfortable enough to come to service, shouldn’t you do that? Jesus didn’t say, love your neighbor only when they agree with you and act the way you think they should. Shouldn’t we be understanding of different points of view and respect and help each other rather than allow our differences to divide us? The bottom line is this, regardless of where you stand politically, regardless of what you think about COVID-19, there are brothers and sisters who feel differently and we should be no less loving. Let us live out 1 John 4:7-11

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 

I speak to myself with this as much as to anyone else. Let us love as we should, the way Jesus loved, with no thought of our own comfort and desires, but putting our brother first. Let’s put our “rights” aside and live as Jesus calls us to live, in love. We need to love like Jesus loves!

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