I know of some with family on hospice, some in the hospital, some mourning the empty chair, some thankful their loved one has recovered and is finally home, and some in quarantine.
Some in a brand new home, some who can’t pay the mortgage on the one they have, some who’ve never had one.
Some who are celebrating baby’s first Christmas, and some who are grieving the one they lost or can’t seem to have.
Some with new precious pets and others grieving the ones they had to part with this year.
Some who are so thankful for any time off this weekend and some who wish they had a job to go to.
Some who will be working on Christmas Day and many who will be separated and home instead.
Some heading to divorce court and some celebrating their first Christmas as a married couple.
Some who have all their kids home for the first time in what feels like forever and some who will be missing theirs.
In many ways a strange year. In others, it’s just like every other. Read it again… and recognize the ups and downs of life.
2020 just brought it to the forefront.
“There is no one who has tried to enjoy life more than I have. And this is what I learned: The best thing people can do is eat, drink, and enjoy the work they must do. I also saw that this comes from God.” — King Solomon Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 (ERV)
This year has been one for the books. Not JUST Covid and I work in healthcare. Not JUST this election year and I cringe at both options. Not JUST tackling distance learning for the first time ever…
For me personally and in other ways.
This year my daughter graduated from the private school she attended for the last eight years. I am so thankful for that option and am still counting the blessings and friendships she formed from that opportunity. Time to pick a new school.
This year, both girls went to a public school in their dad’s district, not mine. You can imagine how hard this transition was. If you can’t imagine, consider yourself so grateful for that. So much fear. Fear of losing them. Fear of what others would think. Fear of change. Fear of public. It was hard. The legal decision was mine to make, but still made in this direction, for now. With all the fear and angst my body could feel, it went forward. With boundaries shared and more prayer than I knew was possible, I followed the Lord. In a direction I never thought we’d take.
This year, even before Covid hit, I started therapy. To help my current and heal my previous relationships. To help process why I struggle with certain things and determine what is mine to own, mine to fix, and mine to let go of. So much hard work. But, I was ready. It is no one else’s job but our own to get the help we need to better our relationships or to let go of the ones we need to.
This year, I asked both of my parents for better relationships. And what that would look like to them.
This year, I feel like a snake shedding its skin. That skin of fear. Fear of how I’m perceived. Shedding the fear of change. To set a boundary. To concede when necessary. To compromise for the chance of better relationships down the road. To give even myself grace if it still comes crashing down or goes another way. To honor my own intentions even if misunderstood by others. To ask for help. To extend love anyway and to appreciate love received more than ever before.
This year, because of Covid, changing schools, and churches, relationships have changed. Shedding skin. Wishing the best, welcoming the new, and appreciating the constants. Giving back and letting go. Loving from afar and looking ahead.
I credit my God and my current husband for this shedding. The love that covers it all and helps the shed to take place. I’ve never felt so loved in my life. The healing, strength, and action that can occur in this environment. An environment I pray all of our kids feel married or not. And that I also pray that I can be part of. To love them this well. To help them shed.
I don’t like snakes, my husband is more of a fan. He knows quite a bit more about them than I do. He told me that before a snake sheds, its vision gets cloudy. Because it can’t see well, it tends to perceive everything that encounters it as more of a threat. Makes sense. It can’t make out the difference. Oh, how I’ve been there too. Like a cloudy eyed, itchy, uncomfortable, irritable snake that feels everyone and everything is out to get it. But, it’s also necessary for a snake to shed in order to grow. Time to shed.
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly”. Similar to a cocoon experience. “What’s happening? I can’t see? Am I dead?” No, time to shed. And to fly.
The devil appeared as a serpent in the Garden of Eden. The serpent instills fear. His greatest tactic is to let fear have its way. But, beautifully I’m reminded.
No fear exists where love is. Rather, perfect love gets rid of fear, because fear involves punishment. The person who lives in fear doesn’t have perfect love. 1 John 4:18 (GW)
I can’t let the fear of people or illness or change stand in the doorway of the joy and courage Jesus wants to give me. All fear does is cloud our vision. Of the abundant life Jesus came to give each and every one of us. Fear gets us uncomfortable in our own skin. Time to shed.
Even if court doesn’t go in our favor, I’m glad we’re going.
Even if the school choice ends up too difficult, I’m proud to have tried.
Even if we get Covid, I’m thankful for medical care and ultimately the hope we have in heaven.
No matter who is elected, God has the final say on when this world will end.
A snake shedding its skin from the fear the deadly serpent wants all of us to wear. No, I cast you out, Satan. Out of my life and into the lake of fire you will one day end up in. You have no power here. I’m leaving that skin behind.
Our Bible study this past week explained how we all tend to put God in a box. What we learned from our parents or didn’t, how they viewed God, our particular denominations, our past disappointments, our personal views on miracles, our certainty of God’s sovereignty, or lack thereof.
When we consider how different each one of these are for each one of us, we can see how our boxes would all look differently too.
I imagine a drive-thru…People with orders that sound something like “Can I get a Baptist with a side of hard to please and just moved here?” Next car, “I’d like two Catholics with lots of questions and fear of letting their family down”…Cars keep coming.
“One child of divorce with two sides of scared and extra hope.”
“Two previous churchgoers with a childhood of abuse, add a side of adultery and not sure God’s even real by the way they’ve been treated.”
“One I survived a brain tumor only for my baby sister to die in a car wreck with three little girls to raise and I don’t know why.”
“One divorcee who swore it would never happen to her, topped with the loss of a child and a sadness she can’t explain.”
“Five pregnancies with still no baby to hold, add a whopping struggle of misplaced blame.”
“A Sabbath keeper who felt the Holy Spirit for the first time ever in a Sunday church down the road.”
“Three shots of still single and wondering why…extra hot.”
Each one is given a box. And the options are endless.
Broken hearts. Questions. Assumptions. Teachings. Personal experiences. Each one a different story to share.
Testimonies come from these stories and boxes turned upside down.
God is hoping that one day we see how confining that box is. If we don’t in this life, we all will when He returns.
He’s not a genie in a bottle. He’s not carried around easily or quietly. He’s all holy. All loving. All-powerful. His character is the only thing predictable about God Himself. His activities and answers are anything but.
When I asked my husband what he thinks his God box looks like, he agreed we all have one. He also bravely shared that his particular God box would be that He is a far off God. That’s He’s so far away, He might not hear or see him. That his prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling at times. Or off into some prayer hole. I loved his honesty in sharing. God wants my husband to know He’s close.
A peak inside his box made me consider mine…
If I have a God box, it would be that I KNOW He’s capable of all things. I KNOW He is able, but I also tend to think that He probably won’t…for me. Others, yes, because I’ve seen it. But for me? Probably not. Which is strange because He’s also already given me so much. Maybe it’s because He answered differently than I’d hoped for in a past situation.
Still, He wants to bust open my box as much as my husband’s. As much as yours. He wants me to know that He not only can, but will. When it’s in line with His will and plan. His bigger picture. He will, for me too.
God wants to turn our boxes upside down through the circumstances that we face. He’s bigger than our questions and doesn’t expect us not to have them. We’re human. He’s God. Only He knows it all.
He’s bigger than what we’ve been told or how we feel. He’s bigger than a political persuasion, the thorn in our flesh, that thing we can’t seem to get over, that conversation we wish had gone differently, that character or physical flaw we wish we didn’t have.
When our lives are shaken up, He is shaking up that box. He’s hoping we see how much bigger He is. Because only then can we realize, He’s not something we just carry around and stow away. He’s not under the tree or stacked up in a corner. He’s not limited by what we think His limits are. He’s just waiting for us to see how small we’ve made Him. Because of our box.
“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is TOO GREAT to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish INFINITELY MORE than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:19-20 (NLT)
TOO great to understand fully. MORE than we might ask or think.
Let’s look down into our own boxes and then look up to the One who sacrificed His Son to make us His own. The One who has always been and will always be. The One who is close, can, and will one day bust them wide open.
I like to take walks when my schedule allows during my workday. The fresh air is wonderful and the sunshine warms my face and fingers. It feels good to get the blood moving when I’m in a cold office all day. Usually, I’m listening to music. This particular day, I was listening to Christina Aguilera, singing, knowing I sounded nothing like her and also glad I didn’t care.
Walking, I noticed the sky. A beautiful path of sunshine shining through a darker cloud. Breathtaking, but also a pale comparison to what I imagine the clouds will look like when Jesus returns. When the skies open up for all to see. When life as we know it will be forever changed for those who believe. Our bodies made new, our debts paid, and our future secure in His presence forever and always. The end of our world.
I took a quick picture and kept walking, thinking about that glorious day in our future. I sampled a few filters on my photo but went back to none. It looked the best. A glimpse of Glory in real life.
As I continued to walk, I noticed cars driving into a recreation center nearby. It was surrounded by political signs and I saw a line of people waiting to get in. It was the line to vote.
This year, 2020, has been tumultuous, to say the least. So much unrest. So much change. Unprecedented closures and restrictions. Viruses and protests. Anger and sadness. Fear and change. Loss and political bias.
This year’s election feels exceptionally electrically charged. Emotional. Like it is THE cause and THE cure for all our problems. Like the outcome of this election may very well be the end of the world to many. Like they won’t be able to bear living here if one or the other is elected. Both sides. Like it’s the end of the world.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t vote. I’m not saying our votes don’t matter or make a difference. I’m just saying the outcome is not the true end of the world.
I feel like God pointed out the legit end of this world to me when He drew my attention to that little bit of sky opening. Like His kind heart was reminding me and hoping to remind others, that what seems so important and life-altering won’t change one iota of His plan for us.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:4-5 (ERV)
THIS will be the true end of our world.
With voters in line on my right and the sky opening on my left, perspective was graciously given. An eternal perspective. A reminder that God is bigger still. Just like the picture I took shows a glimpse of what His return will be like, this election pales in comparison to what His plans for us are. Regardless of who gets elected. God already knows and His plans won’t be deterred because of it.
The devil would love for us to think that whoever our next president is will fix everything or ruin everything. And hang our lives on it. But, just like the rest of us, they are both fallen human beings too. And they won’t have all the answers or perfect solutions.
Problems will still be here. Death will still be here. Crime will still be here. Corrupt cops will still be here. Racists will still be here. Because sin will still be here.
Our country’s next president pales in comparison to what God did for us and will do for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. HE is bigger than all this and HE is coming back and bringing with Him the real end of this world.
May we lean into that joy and promise when the grief, confusion, or disappointment of this year takes hold. The enemy wants us to think the end of our world is coming on November 4th, the day after. My gut tells me we’ll still be counting or recounting ballots, although I hope not. My gut and my Bible also tells me things will only get worse after this election. Regardless of who is elected. Until His glorious return. That’s how it’s written. But, for those of us who claim Jesus as our Savior, we GET to look forward to those clouds parting. When it’s all said and done. When God says so.
So, for those who think the world will end if your guy isn’t elected, I say “I hope so!!” Because that means the clouds will open and future elections and airborne viruses will be no more. And we’ll be on our way to a place where donkeys and elephants will lie as peacefully together as lions and lambs. With the rest of God’s creations.
Tomorrow is my birthday. Another August 22nd on the horizon. And, I’m already thankful for it. It’s the first one I can remember that has organically fallen on a Saturday…when I have my kids. All of them except my bonus son who will be at work.
I plan our lives (and all our birthdays) knowing we have specific weekends with and without the kids. As they get older, I recognize that even this starts to change. So, getting to wake up knowing they are home, that I don’t have to rush and leave for work all day, that my husband will be home too, and that my family is coming over is the greatest gift. Time. A day together.
I’m thankful for the other family members we get to celebrate tomorrow. I’m thankful for the house and space and health to do so. I’m thankful for the lessons learned this year and the desire to learn more next year.
We plan to go to church in the morning. It’s the first weekend it’s been open in awhile and I’m thankful for that too. Not only that we can go and worship with others, but also that my daughter asked to go. No greater gift than that. The desire to worship and time together. Makes me think of heaven one day. Nothing but worship and time. Togetherness with no awkwardness, no grudges, no paranoia, no shame, guilt, or blame. Only what we love and desire about togetherness. Peace and harmony.
I don’t expect this tomorrow. I expect food, family, and some fun. But, I also realistically expect a house full of people, littles, and teenagers. In all it’s imperfection, I say thank you. To each one. Even if the choice isn’t theirs to be there, I am thankful they will be. Because we never know how many birthdays we have left. Especially ones that fall on a Saturday.
Man, just when all hope seemed lost. I prayed, I asked for prayer. I cried. I fought it. I was shown relief. Again.
By a woman I just started following this year. A woman who lost her daughter. A woman who has been blamed for the publicity she’s received over this devastating loss of her daughter. The publicity she would give back in a heartbeat. For her daughter’s heartbeat. The hardships and the lessons being shown during and because of it has touched me deeply.
Today, she shared the story in the Bible about the friends who brought their friend to Jesus. Through the roof. Heads down, not worried about what others thought or what the homeowner would think. By the work it would take. By the degree of difficulty. Not deterred by the people in the crowd probably thinking (like we all have)..”Really?? How dramatic can you be? We’re all here to hear Jesus!”
Not deterred. Not afraid. Unrelenting friends. Who bring their friend to Jesus, even though we’re sure they had their own issues they themselves wanted help with. They didn’t ask Jesus for help first. They didn’t ask Him for help after because of their efforts. They just wanted to help their friend. They couldn’t fix his problem, and knew of only One who could. May we all be and have some of these friends!
Jesus had haters. Everywhere He went. They followed Him. They watched Him. They hung on His every word, even trying to trip Him up over and over again. They didn’t care that He literally healed people. They just looked for problems knowing full well they couldn’t. Anything to bring Him down.
What bothered them the most was when He said He forgave sins. The blasphemy!! Even when they didn’t say it out loud, they thought it, and Jesus Himself would point it out. He called out His haters, time and time again.
Why did He do this? I think one of His reasons was so we’d know we aren’t alone when we have them. And, to let us know He sees our hearts too.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” — John 15:18 (NIV)
Short. Simple. Clear. We will have haters. Even if we love them. Even if we try everything we can for reconciliation. Even if we ask them not to be. Even if we apologize for our human part. Even if…
Jesus didn’t have anything to apologize for. He knew their hearts. And called them out.
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?— Luke 5: 21-23 (NIV)
He knew EXACTLY who He was. He wants us to know who we are too. To Him. To others. To ourselves. And WHO is in charge. We think we have so much control over all these things. We only have control of ourselves and when there are demons running through our bodies and veins, not much of that. (Which He healed and still does too).
Today, a friend prayed with me. Another texted me. I know my husband prayed over me. Another new friend posted a Bible study. One I needed to hear and see so badly. God made sure I was online to see it. It spoke straight to my heart and I’m so grateful.
These friends carried me to Jesus today. Through the roof, through their own uncertainties and needs, no matter what, not worrying about others, only me and Jesus. “Here, Lord, have her, heal her, comfort her, remind her” was their cry.
These people are gifts because they were pointing me to the Greatest Gift. The One I try so hard to show others. The One who I often times in all my hard stuff, forget is still ministering to me so that I can still minister to others. Just like the woman who tragically lost her daughter and the man who couldn’t walk for who knows how many years can share in a way only they can after Jesus met them there…
That He’s still MY Hero, not just everyone else’s.
That even when our haters might be our own children or spouse or sibling or parent or one we hoped was a friend, He STILL loves us more and most.
In those times when you don’t just FEEL turned on, but ARE turned on. He’s asking you to draw nearer. To come closer. To let Him love you. And to trust that one sweet day, because of what HE did for us, all the hate will be gone too. That hate that hurts His heart even more than our own.
Until then, remember…. Jesus had haters too. So much so, they eventually killed Him.
Yet, He still loved each one enough to die for. And, He did.
Not getting what we want does not mean that God loves us any less.
Last weekend a little girl in our town fell. Traumatic brain injury. The kind of fall that many get up from. The kind of fall that could happen to any of us. The kind of fall her daddy never saw coming. We prayed for a miracle….but she didn’t make it. Hearts are broken.
She has rocked so many people’s worlds. Watching this family grieve, lifting their hands and hearts to their Heavenly Father. Literally praising Him in their storm. Giving their daughter back to the One who gave her to them. Helping others by donating and giving other children the gift of life through the loss of her own. The ability to share so publicly that their love for God is not for one minute lessened by this tragedy. They know He weeps with them.
To hear that they may not have received the miracle they prayed for, but that now she has become the miracle that so many parents had lost hope in.
Seeing all this has renewed my boldness for our God. If God can do that…. If God can be seen here. If God is not doubted for a second by this family in this tragedy. How have I ever allowed it in my life? It’s not crazy. It’s crazy faith.
They prayed that their little one would recover. She didn’t this side of heaven, but she has blessed eight others with her gifts of life and countless others by this family’s testimony.
Their grief is glorifying the God so many do not understand. This is the type of situation that makes people question if God can be a God of love at all. That an innocent child would die by such a random accident. And, if so, how will their parents respond? Will their faith be shaken? Will they turn away? Will they change their minds and hearts towards the God they thought they knew, but must not have? That’s what the devil wants. But, the answer to all these questions is absolutely not. Their faith is stronger than ever.
They plan to show their God off. In her memorial service. Online. In person. They will use this to share His Glory. How is this possible? Only through a personal relationship with the One who they KNOW loves them most, even though. And their daughter too, even though. Only because that love has been cemented in their hearts and souls. God didn’t answer their prayers the way they wanted Him to. So, yes, they will grieve, but nothing will stop their faith in and commitment to the One who had another plan for their daughter and that was to help so many others, including me.
You know when you’ve had a really hard and confusing couple weeks, even sleepless nights, and the Lord finally tells you what you need to know?
Yeah that. That’s me today.
Lesson #1: You never know what someone is going through!
They can have what looks like the best year ever. Blessing after blessing all the while being hit by things you never see and would never know if you aren’t close to that person. The devil doesn’t let up. He gets angrier. He hits you where it hurts. He knows your every weak spot too. He’s relentless. But, that’s only because he relentlessly hates us.
Lesson #2: Every friendship isn’t meant for you any more than every romantic interest is.
You can be friendly to all, but friendship is mutual. Friendship comes when both are at a place to share openly. To learn about the other. To share with each other. To start building trust. That is a healthy friendship.
Each best friend you have now gave of themselves too.
Just like with romantic interests, the timing might be off, locations may impede or promote the relationship, interests may not be the same, etc…
God Himself knows who you need in your life. And that includes friends. When it’s real, you’ll both know. He’ll clue you in.
Rejection in your love life can hurt immensely, rejection or replacement by friends can too. But, know that HE will replace who you wanted so badly with someone better suited for you in the timing that you both need it. HE will heal you, teach you, relieve you, and help you through the stages of grief. And, grief is also normal and needed.
Feeling anger and jealousy and confusion isn’t of our Heavenly Father. He is love, peace, joy. So, heal. Ask Him to help you. And love anyway…. because you just never know!
Thank you, Jesus, for these lessons that I had to live to learn. May they help others too and possibly prevent some of their sleepless nights… You just never know..
Too much salt can ruin a dish, maybe even more than not enough salt. We can always add salt…
This got me thinking. Jesus said His followers are the salt of the earth. So, why don’t we spread out more?
“You are salt for the earth. But if salt loses its taste, how will it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people.” — Matthew 5:13 (GW)
We tend to fear different schools, different churches, different places. But, why don’t we spread out? Many times believers feel they need to stick together AS the salt of the earth. And, while I agree, we need each other too, and as the Bible also says we should not neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). That’s a lot of salt, all in one place.
Too much salt in a dish makes us cringe, we spit it out. We can’t fix it or remove the salt in a recipe gone bad…But, not enough salt, can easily be remedied.
Go, and share Jesus there. Go, and love like Jesus there.
Go. Spread out, and pass the salt, please.
Jesus also says “GO to the people of all nations (and churches and schools and workplaces) and make them my disciples (followers). Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.” — Matthew 28:19-20 (CEV)
These days the word “salty” is also used as slang for “tough, aggressive, angry, irritated”. I say stay salty (tough) for Jesus. Stand up for Him and He will surely stand up for you. Jesus Himself got “salty” at people who abused others or accused others without addressing their own logs in their eyes.
Can we do the same? Can we humble ourselves and share that Jesus is our Corrector, Forgiver, Best friend, and Savior? Can we stay salty for Jesus and spread Him around? In different places? Can we show them Jesus? And His love for all? Can we do what He asks us to do? And go?
I pray salt into every church, private school, public school, prison, office, neighborhood, country, home, heart on earth.
We need to pass the salt please. It’s what Jesus asks us to do, and quite frankly tastes better too.