I drifted off to sleep watching a movie tonight.
For the first time in weeks, my body and mind relaxed.
On this rainy night, the four of us played cards and then nestled together on our sectional to watch Revenge of the Sith (my younger son claims this is the best in the Star Wars saga).
Just simply present.
One son on my right, the other on the left.
The feeling of contentment that washed over me was hard to describe.
In my heart, I know that these days are coming to an end.
Any captured moments together make me feel like I have won the lottery.
In the not so distant future, our home will be empty for the first time.
Both boys will be off to college.
And as I lay here in the stillness of the night, comforted by the fact that we are all under the same roof right now, my thought was this:
I desperately want to have this same peace when they are no longer in the house.
Certainly I felt anxious when they started Kindergarten, had their first sleepover and drove for the first time.
But this just feels different.
How can we embrace His peace when our heart feels anxious?
First, spend time in His presence.
If I am being truthful, I have not been as intentional about taking time to spend with my Heavenly Father these past few weeks.
I need to stay as present with Him as I was tonight curled up on the couch watching tv with the boys.
He will be seeing even more of me when my son moves 1,135 away from home in August.
I do not know about you, but my measure of peace is much greater on the days that I make my time with God a priority.
Second, remember God’s promises to His children.
He fully knows us.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Psalm 139 1-4 ESV
He values us.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two [c]copper coins? Yet not one of them has [ever] been forgotten in the presence of God. Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are far more valuable than many sparrows.” Luke 12: 6-7 AMP
There is no place we can go that He is not present.
“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139: 7-10 ESV
He has a plan for us.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
Finally, spend time in His Word.
Read this passage from Psalms:
The Voice of the Lord in the Storm.
A Psalm of David.
“Ascribe to the Lord, O [b]sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty and majesty of His holiness [as the creator and source of holiness].
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders;
The Lord is over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion (Mount Hermon) like a young, wild ox.
The voice of the Lord rakes flames of fire (lightning).
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord [c]makes the doe labor and give birth
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple all are saying, “Glory!”
The Lord sat as King at the flood;
Yes, the Lord sits as King forever.
The Lord will give [unyielding and impenetrable] strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace. “ Psalms 29: 1-11 AMP
This book in Psalms took a hold of my heart.
Our Heavenly Father has the power to break the cedars and shake the deserts.
He gives us strength and peace
Friends, I don’t know what is making your heart anxious tonight.
But I know the One who sits as King forever and who will remain by your side in the storms of life.
Grab a blanket and curl up in His presence.
May He bless you with His peace when your heart feels anxious.
These past few weeks I have been pouring over tons of old photos.
I have always loved taking pictures.
My first camera, when I wasn’t using my parents’ Polaroid, was a Disc camera.
Some of you in my age bracket will remember that one.
But I have adapted with the times, moving through a number of cameras over the years.
From getting my same day prints made at CVS to storing 18,385 precious photos on my IPhone, I have always found a way to capture what is going on around me in the lives of those I love.
It is fair to say that a good number of profile pictures and cover photos of my friends are ones that I have taken.
I’m kind of like the Friend Historian, if you will.
And while I love to just drink in these moments, there have been specific reasons for time spent strolling down memory lane these past weeks to gather pictures.
The first is for putting together slideshows: one for a funeral and another for a farewell.
The second is for creating a picture board for a graduation party of my son and his friends.
Whether you are the moms whose children are graduating, a family who is saying goodbye to a husband and father, or a church who is saying goodbye to a pastor, there has been a common thread sewn into patching these memories together.
We do not walk through this life alone.
From the very beginning, God did not intend for us to walk alone.
He created woman so that man would have someone by his side.
“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Genesis 2:18 ESV
In His Word, He tells us that two are better than one,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV
From hello to goodbye, from celebration to mourning, through good times and bad, our Father instructs us to have the same love for each other as His Son.
“ So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Philippians 2: 2-5 ESV
It gives our heavenly Father joy when we think of each other and do nothing selfishly.
Jesus thought of us when He left the heavenly realms to come to earth to walk among humans.
Even though there are no pictures, we get snapshot after snapshot of who Jesus did life with in His Word.
I am certain if someone had taken pictures, there would have been more than my 18,385.
He was thinking of us when He took our place on that cross.
He did not do anything out of selfish ambition, only out of His great love for us.
There is another common thread that is woven through these photos.
God walks with us through every season of our lives.
Our Creator has known us since the very beginning.
“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139: 13 ESV
Somedays I need that reminder.
Maybe you do as well.
In a time when everything feels as if it were changing, the one thing that remains constant is that our heavenly Father is ever present in all of our days.
Friends, may that bring you comfort on the hard days and hope for the future.
Pictures from Timehop on Facebook always delight me.
I love when images of my 6 foot plus boys pop up from when they were playing Little League or outside in the snow with friends.
Especially at this time of year, shots of Easter egg hunts and family dinners make my heart full.
It all seems to change in the blink of an eye.
I believe that those closest to Jesus felt the same during His last week on earth.
There was no Timehop back then, but scripture gives us a snapshot of the days leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion.
It all seemed to change on the blink of an eye.
On what we know as Palm Sunday, the crowds welcome Jesus as He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, waving palms and cheering.
“Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around Him were shouting,
“Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Praise God in the highest heaven!” Mark 11: 9-10 NLT
On Thursday, Jesus sits down to eat for the last time with His disciples, whom He calls friends.
Jesus knows that one among them will betray Him.
“When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the Twelve. While they were eating, He said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?” He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays Him. It would be better for that man if he had not been born.” Matthew 25:20-24 NLT
It all seemed to change in the blink of an eye.
After being betrayed by one of His own, Jesus is brought before the crowds, the same crowds shortly before that had welcomed and praised Him.
But there was no more cheering for our King.
“Then a mighty roar rose among the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill Him, and release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas was in prison for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government, and for murder). Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus, But they kept shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Luke 23: 18-21 NLT
One minute, welcomed with open arms.
The next minute being sent to death, by the same crowd that embraced Him.
This image strikes me at my very core.
Because I know in my heart that there are days that I welcome Him with open arms, and others that I am distracted by the world and want to go with the crowd.
Where do you find yourself this Holy Thursday, friends?
We do not need TImehop to remind us how quickly things can change.
Remember that our heavenly Father sent His Son to take our place on that cross.
Each of us is given unexplainable grace because Jesus came to earth in human form to understand our joys and our sorrows.
He knew what it was like to be the center of attention one moment and betrayed the next.
Knowing that He would suffer greatly, He chose the cross anyway.
“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.” Phillipians 2:8 NLT
He did that for you and for me.
May that be the image you return to as you remember the gift of His love this Easter and always.
Over the holiday break from college, my oldest son frequently had friends over to the house.
Talking about everything under the sun, it was evident that they were just happy to be in each other’s presence.
Entering at all times of the day and night, they had full access to the house.
My husband jokingly asked me, “how many people have the code to our garage?”
But there was something about seeing the ease at which they would come and go.
During one of our late night conversations, one of the boys said this to me:
You make it feel like this our home.
I get choked up even now as I write this.
John and I have always wanted our home to feel welcoming.
But to actually have it feel like home to others touches my heart.
And makes me think of our heavenly Father.
I talk with Him about everything under the sun and am happy just to be in His presence.
He is available to me all times of the day or night.
He grants me full access to Him.
No code required.
I come and go with ease, because He is always welcoming.
He makes it feel like home because it is our home.
“Lord, through all the generations
you have been our home!
Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from beginning to end, you are God.” Psalm 90: 1-2 NLT
Sometimes it is difficult to grasp that the Creator of the heavens and the earth will pause just to listen to my heart.
But He does.
Every single time.
There is no place that feels more like home to me than when I spend time with Him.
Friends, I do not know what you are going through today
But know this.
The Creator of the world wants you to feel at home in Him.
You can talk with Him about anything under the sun.
He will be happy to have you in His presence.
You are always welcome, day or night.
And you don’t even need the code.
My prayer is that you allow Him into your heart today.
It feels like home.
“I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him.
Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the
power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high,
and how deep His love is.” Ephesians 3:16-18 NLT
It’s unusual for me to get a call from my friend this early.
Or at all to be honest.
She is more of a texter.
But when I saw her name pop up on my phone screen, I took a chance that it wasn’t a pocket
dial and answered.
Much to my surprise, I heard her voice on the other end.
And before even saying hello, she asked this question:
Did that just happen?
In an instant, I knew what she meant.
For the next few minutes, we talked about the events that unfolded in our nation’s Capitol the day before.
Disbelief, fear, sadness, horror.
So many emotions brim to the surface of our souls.
Then another call from a friend experiencing an incredible loss.
And another question.
How do you move forward when you feel so much pain?
A pain that penetrates us to our core and rocks our foundation.
On these days, I struggle with what I can offer those around me who are hurting.
So I listen, offering what Dharius Daniels calls “the ministry of presence.”
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT
When I cannot find the words, I can go to His Word to find comfort.
“Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son.
He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding..” Ephesians 1: 4-8 NLT
When I cannot trust in the things of this world, I can trust in His plan.
“God has now revealed to us His mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill His own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for He chose us in advance, and He makes everything work out according to His plan.” Ephesians 1: 9-11 NLT
There seems to be so much pain and confusion in our world right now.
Some days it may feel difficult to take the next step.
Friends, on those days remember the Creator of the Universe loved you before the world began.
That is something you can trust even when you don’t understand the plan.
It wasn’t as it should be.
Every year at this time, our family piles into the car to journey to Beck’s tree farm.
The boys take turns using the saw to cut down the perfect tree.
Once the tree topples down, my sons would drag it to the car and secure it on top.
Afterwards, we travel to Hot Dog Johnny’s to feast on hot dogs, fries and birch beer.
But this year looked different, as everything does.
Because my husband still did not feel well enough to join us, the boys and I decided to adjust our plans.
Instead, we purchased a pre-cut tree from our local fire department.
As the boys and I stood in line for take out, we fondly recalled the many memories we had performing our yearly ritual.
It wasn’t as it should be.
I’m pretty sure that this was Joseph’s thought when he found out Mary was pregnant.
They were to marry first, and then start a family.
Everything looked different than Joseph probably imagined.
“This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.” Matthew 1: 18-19 NLT
Can you even imagine being in Joseph’s shoes?
But God knew exactly who He wanted to be Jesus’s earthly father.
“As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.”
All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and
took Mary as his wife. Matthew 1: 20-24 NLT
The plan in Mary’s head probably did not come close to what our heavenly Father had in store for her as well.
But just like Joseph, God knew who He wanted to bring His son into this world.
“Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David. And He will reign over Israel forever; His Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Luke 1: 28-34 NLT
In a year that has brought things most of us could have never imagined, I am reminded of the unimaginable birth of our Savior.
I am encouraged by Joseph’s obedience and Mary’s trust in God.
The birth of our Savior could have looked very different.
Maybe He would have not been born to an unwed teeanger in a stable.
But gratefully, He was.
And it was exactly as it should be.
May this most unexpected story of His birth bring light and hope to your souls today.
We need it now more than ever.
Today was the day.
The day that my son was supposed to finally take his SATS.
But they were cancelled for the third time.
Today was the day.
The day that we were to continue with our yearly family tradition.
Going to Beck’s Tree Farm to cut down our Christmas tree together and then to Hot Dog Johnny’s to grab lunch is something we look forward to every year.
But instead we are waiting for test results to see if my husband is positive for Covid.
As I write this, I am watching him sleep on the couch (socially distanced of course).
If I am being honest, it is hard not to feel discouraged.
And not because we can’t go for our tree or my son cannot take his exam.
It’s because there is just so much brokenness everywhere.
My heart is heavy for my brothers and sisters who are suffering.
For those who are separated from or have lost loved ones.
For those who are struggling with finances.
For those who are not certain if their business will survive or if their jobs will still be there in the new year.
For those who are battling the dark days that accompany mental health and addiction.
For those who feel isolated and alone.
For those who have lost hope.
So I go to the place where hope lives.
In His Word.
A place where I find encouragement and comfort as I wait.
“Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
Romans 15:4 NLT
A place where I am reminded of His promises.
“And in another place Isaiah said,
“The heir to David’s throne will come,
and he will rule over the Gentiles.
They will place their hope on him.” Romans 15: 12 NLT
I remind myself that today is the day that we have hope.
Hope that came in the form of an infant who would become the Savior of all.
The day that despite the struggles belongs to Him.
Friends, it is hard even in this season to not feel discouraged.
The source of our hope is always available to His children.
Today and every day.
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15: 13 NLT
Today is the day to embrace that hope.