You can’t make this up.
If you have teenagers, you should be well acquainted with this phrase.
The phrase that was uttered the other night when my son and his friends strolled into my living room on Monday night with ducks.
Emphasis on the plural.
Not one, two or even three.
During the book club that was being held at my home.
To say that they thought this was a great idea would be an understatement.
Heat lamps and food were purchased to care for these 3 week old babies.
These kids were serious.
But they had missed one crucial step when making this decision.
No one had asked their parents if they thought this was a good idea.
The parents were taken by surprise.
Now, the ducks were adorable.
We could all agree on that.
But the impact that decision would have on others was not thought through.
The who, what, where and how had been overshadowed by the appeal of these cute furry creatures.
I have to confess I am no different than a teenager some days.
I do not always consult my heavenly Father first about my decisions.
My choices do not always line up with what His will is for me.
The appeal of something that brings me short term joy may have weighty consequences later, ones I have not considered.
My impulsivity and human inclinations take over.
And just like buying ducks, I don’t always consider how my decisions might impact those around me.
Maybe I am not alone here.
But unlike earthly parents, our heavenly Father is not surprised by anything that we do.
Even when we rebel and don’t consult Him about our choices, He always takes us in.
“But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.” Daniel 9 : 9 NLT
After the initial shock of the chirping wore off, our group of parents had a chuckle and knew we would have a story for later.
Friends, I am certain that Father God has many stories He could share about us.
Gratefully, the same God who was full of compassion and mercy for Moses has that same compassion and mercy for you and for me.
“The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,“Yahweh![a] The Lord!
The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” Exodus 34:6 NLT
And that is something you cannot make up.
Gazing at my son walking away with one crutch under his arm, my heart felt heavy.
He was happy to be with his teammates, even though he would not be able to play this season.
Truthfully, his attitude is much better than mine some days.
I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes, thinking about the year ahead.
His senior year.
Between the surgery and COVID, we both knew this year would look different.
And even though my words told him we would make the best of this crazy year, I have to confess my heart is not always there.
Today was one of those days.
So after an iced coffee and a few more tears, I decided to shift my focus to my shopping list.
New shorts for school, a birthday present and a baby shower gift.
I tackled the list in just that order and finally found myself in the baby section.
And then I heard it.
The sound was unmistakable.
One I had not heard in awhile.
It was the sound of sheer joy.
While browsing through the baby section, I could not help but overhear a man on the phone with his wife.
Quickly it became apparent that he was shopping for his infant son.
He picked up outfits, describing each one in detail.
It was as if nothing else mattered.
His excitement was so genuine.
It was almost childlike.
Like he was seeing the world in a whole new way.
And while he looked at onesies and sleepers, I wondered if he even knew how much I needed to hear that sound.
How much we all do.
A reminder of all that is good in the world.
The presence of joy, even when our hearts are heavy.
I stood there with my 25% off coupon in my hands and my heart in my throat.
The days of buying baby clothes had long passed for me, except for when I was in search of a gift.
But this was a gift I was not expecting, one that changed my outlook on the rest of the day.
As I approached the young father, I told him I could not help but notice his excitement.
Beaming with pride, he quickly shared that his first son had just been born 3 weeks before.
I told him to enjoy every moment and handed him my coupon.
Be blessed, I told him.
In my heart, I knew he had already blessed me.
God knew the heaviness on my heart.
He knows what is on your heart, too.
“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.” Psalms 139:1-4 NIV
God knew I needed encouragement in that moment.
A reminder of all that is good in the world.
A reminder that there is joy, even when my heart is heavy.
God challenges us to encourage each other in different ways.
Consider this scripture from the Hebrews:
“So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps His word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:22-25 MSG
This translation really challenged me to think about how I can be inventive in my ways of encouraging those around me.
That is what we are called to do.
And encouraging someone else is one way we can find joy, even when our own hearts may be heavy.
How will you be inventive today?
A sticky note on a lunch box, a cup of coffee, an unexpected visit?
A 25% off coupon to a stranger?
The possibilities are endless.
Because we serve a God of endless possibilities.
Friends, my prayer is that His promises keep you going in the days ahead and that you are able to find joy, even when your hearts are heavy.
“I just want to start with a blank page.”
An expression like this can stir up an array of emotions.
It can be an exciting prospect for some, the notion of starting new.
But for others, the mere idea of taking ink to a fresh sheet of paper incites pangs of anxiety.
Or maybe you are like me.
The excitement and anxiety are like two parallel streets that are so close together, you are not certain which one you will turn down..
Today, the road I have chosen is Anxiety Avenue.
I tend to take detours here when my focus is not clear.
Clearly on the Author of my life, that is.
My thoughts go back and forth like a teeter totter, with my shoulds and can’ts.
The weight of my own insecurities pushes me up and down again and again.
In those moments, the ones I have more of than I wish to admit, I forget that God has already set out a path for me.
My short-term memory has nothing to do with my 50 plus years, but my own need for a plan and immediate answers.
Just like the children of Israel, brought out of slavery in Egypt, I forget seeing the miraculous works of our Creator.
I see only the blank page before me.
Not the history behind me or my faith in the God who has already set a path before me.
The history that shows me that my God never fails me.
What can you do when you only see the blank page?
Remember these scriptures:
- “By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.” Hebrews 11:3 NLT
God started with a blank page. Our Creator spoke the world into existence. If He can do that, our faith tells us that He can create a path for us as well. Even if we cannot see our future, God already does.
- “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” James 1:3 NLT
God is shaping us into who He created us to be. The shaping of character does not happen overnight. We need to have endurance for what lies ahead. This tests our faith, but we need to remember that the Author of our lives is giving us opportunities to grow.
- “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” Ephesians 3:12 NLT
God knows if we are feeling anxious or excited about our future. He invites us to draw close to HIm and to share our hearts. We should never be afraid to go sit at His feet. Go boldly to Father God and ask for wisdom and guidance. He never withholds Himself from His children.
Friends, tuck these verses into your heart as a daily reminder of His love for you.
I do not know what test you are facing right now, but my prayer is that you do not focus on the blank page, but on the One who holds the pen.
“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
My first steps in the morning are typically toward a large cup of black coffee.
My first thoughts of the day?
Well, I would like to say that everyday they rise up to Him with a song of praise or a prayer of gratitude.
But honestly, that is not everyday.
And especially these times, when school openings, business closings and the physical and mental health of those around me is constantly in question, my first thoughts tend to be all over the place.
Maybe you are in that season, too.
Some days these thoughts swirl around in my mind like a cyclone, picking up anything it can scoop up in its grasp.
The neverending saturation of news, others opinions, and general chaos loom around me before I have had my first sip of motivation for the day, twisting my first thoughts away from Him.
So each morning, before I put my feet on the floor and head towards the coffee pot, I need to make a choice.
Where will my first thoughts go today?
Friends, as easy as it sounds to choose door number one or door number two, I can say with complete honesty I struggle with this daily.
My worries and fears sometimes get the better of me.
And yet, when I choose to let my first thoughts rise to Him, my days always go exceedingly better.
My perspective of what lies ahead changes.
I am no longer focused on the world, but on His promises.
Here are a few verses that help me stay grounded and not swept up in the cyclone of despair.
- “He remembers His covenant forever, the promise that He made, for a thousand generations.” 1 Chronicles 16:15 NIV
Our God is a covenant keeping God. The promises He made to His people thousands of years ago still covers you and me today.
- “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Psalms 119:50 NIV God sees us as we struggle. He knows our daily challenges. And yet it is our relationship with the Almighty and His promises to be with His people that reminds us we are never alone in our suffering.
- “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV
Most of us are worried about what lies ahead. But our heavenly Father goes before us. If He is already in the days ahead, we can embrace the promise that He is waiting there for us and preparing the way.
What verses give you grounding?
Focus on these words.
Let them penetrate your heart and your mind.
My prayer is that your first thoughts rise to the One who gave us life.
Could that be your prayer for me as well?
Less worry, more peace.
Not our perspective, but His promises.
“Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.” 1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV
May each of us find strength in Him today.