Light of the World

photo taken by Kobe Spurlock

Another Christmas is behind us, and typically all of life resumes without the sparkly glow that hovers over everything Christmas throughout the beloved season. I am one who can’t take her Christmas decorations down fast enough – not because I have anything against them, but because it is such a huge chore, and I don’t want it hanging over my head. Rarely am I reluctant to say goodbye or do I wish to linger in the decorative atmosphere for just a little while longer. It’s all business come December 26th!

I have a take-away this January, and I still have some Christmas songs playing on my playlist to remind me of it. I feel like continuing the celebration because of the light that shines in the darkness.

I was reading about the birth of Jesus, the prophecies that foretold His coming, and the accounts of the event. There was such anticipation of the coming Messiah, the hope and salvation he would bring. His birth was announced with glorious splendor as the angels appeared to the shepherds. The wise men followed the great light of the star to find Him. It was the most significant event in history that had ever taken place.

I thought about how some are offended by the real reason for Christmas – about how they might ask how the world is any better since He came those many years ago. There is so much pain and disaster and loss in the world, if Jesus came to save us, why doesn’t He rescue mankind from such devastation?

There indeed is so much darkness and pain in this world, and everyone shares this reality on a personal level in some way.

In the Gospel of John Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” I cannot think of anything more HOPEFUL than those words, but what could that mean when the darkness of the world remains?

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:4, 5

We are not just made of flesh and blood. God made each of us with a soul that will live beyond our earthly lifespan. The Bible refers to the soul over 800 times!

I’ll list a few:

  • But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29
  • You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5
  • He restores my soul…Psalm 23:3
  • Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5
  • Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Psalm 62:1
  • Let my soul live, and it shall praise You…Psalm 119:175
  • Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live…Isaiah 55:3
  • For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26
  • For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

    Lasting hope, true peace, and salvation are all directly related to the soul.

    The light that Jesus gives is a soul light. His salvation is a soul salvation.

    I have hope deep down in my soul because of His love for me. I am never alone. He will never leave me or forsake me.

    He will wipe away our tears. One day there will be no more pain, suffering or sorrow for those who are found in Him. This is the promise we have for all eternity!

    Jesus’ birth, His life and death on the cross, His resurrection made a way for salvation for the souls of mankind. He came to this earth as a baby to make a way for us to enter into eternity, no longer orphans, but children of God. He took the punishment for every sin upon Himself. He chose to purchase our redemption forever!

    Whatever we may pass through in this life, if we have put our trust in Him, our soul’s future is secure. In this life until then, He is our peace, He is our hope, He is our light.

    photo taken by Kobe Spurlock
    The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

    Thanksgiving

    Our pastor delivered a beautiful Thanksgiving message this past Sunday that has stayed with me all week. There were a couple specific parts that went to my heart; I’ll share one.

    Though I understand I cannot earn God’s favor, I still try to. I don’t realize I’m doing it, but more often than not, there is a sense of duty that overrides a precious relationship with Him. Our pastor reminded us that we should come to Him out of love for Him and not from a place of duty.

    All week I have remembered gratitude and worship for my God, not out of responsibility, but from my heart. God has so tenderly met with me this week.

    If I had to say what I am most thankful for this year (and always), it would undoubtedly be the unfailing love and mercy He has for us.

    Seek the LORD while He may be found,
    Call upon Him while He is near.
    Let the wicked forsake his way,
    And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
    Let him return to the LORD, 
    And He will have mercy on him;
    And to our God, 
    For He will abundantly pardon.
    
    "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 
    Nor are your ways My ways,"
    says the LORD.
    "For as the heavens are higher 
    than the earth,
    So are My ways higher than
    your ways,
    And My thoughts than your
    thoughts..."
    Isaiah 55:6-9

    In The Silence

    There are so many gut-wrenching questions to which I do not know the answers.

    How do I help someone who is battling darkness?

    What is the catalyst for a heart or perspective or belief to change?

    How do people come to terms with past failures or ever make up for the consequences left in their wake?

    Why don’t prayers for hearts to be healed and lives to be restored yield visible results, often times, after years of prayer?

    Should we pray for specific requests if God has a different ending in mind than we do?

    Who gets to have things work out as they had hoped, and who has to endure way more than what seems to be their share of suffering?

    Where was God when…?

    Why does God allow…?

    Why won’t God…?

    etc.

    Sometimes all we hear is silence.

    I know there are some automatic answers some of us might begin to attach to those questions, answers that might be accurate in a concise set of circumstances. Answers that have seemed to be or have been true and accurate in the past. But I wonder if it is profitable to attempt to answer all the questions.

    Some who have lived through enough pain and uncertainty, darkness and difficulty, could speak to those questions and others would listen. I would guess, though, that even many of the wisest souls would admit that they’re careful not to apply a trite reply as a balm to a battered heart.

    Some shake their fists at God in their pain. Some rebel and accuse Him of being a liar, but Satan is the father of lies. He preys on pain, swift with the implication: Could God really be a loving God with so much evil allowed in the world?

    Only God can meet one at the point of their unbelief or their crisis of faith. Our prayers for God to be the answer to unanswerable questions, by illuminating His love and touching hearts, are the best way forward through uncertainty. God sees the wounds of every soul, and He alone knows how to reach them.

    God is TRUTH and LIGHT and LOVE. He is HOLY and RIGHTEOUS and JUST. Those are answers I know even when I can’t understand, even when He is silent. His heart is for us, not against us.

    May we remember that this life is a vapor compared to eternity. God sees all of time and knows all the answers that we cannot fathom.

    Faith matters to God. He is the one who gives it to us.

    Will we keep coming to Him without receiving the answers we seek? If we do, that is faith.

    Will we come to realize that we will never cease to be desperate for Him? That is faith.

    Will we realize that He alone is our hope? That is faith.

    Pain can cause bitterness, or pain can push us closer to God.

    I have struggled with my faith, wondering why I can’t hear God or feel His presence. In the silence, I realize the truth that He is God. He is the Creator, and I am His creation. I have a choice before me: trust Him in faith or trust in my own understanding. My faith feels wobbly to me, just about always. But I run to Him again and again because I have nothing without Him. I believe that He is the true God who is Master and Creator, and I will stumble my way back to him each time I question or fall.

    When it’s silent and we can’t understand where God is, He is still at work to draw our hearts to His if we let Him.

    Jesus laid down His life for mankind out of God’s unfathomable love for us. He suffered and died and did nothing to deserve it, but He saw the whole picture with eternity in mind. His pain would bring us redemption and eternal life. He wouldn’t stay in the grave forever, and neither will those who put their trust and hope and faith in Him. There’s a time that’s coming with no more pain. He made a way for us.

    May God love through us those who are lost and hurting. Oh, may we listen to their pain and take it before God, asking Him to rescue and heal, revealing His love and salvation that can restore the most broken and hardened hearts.

    May our hearts break for the souls that are blind to the truth of who God is, accusing Him of everything He is not. Those who rail at Him and refuse Him have a spiritual battle raging for their souls. We pray for their eyes to be opened, for the faith to believe, for our own faith to be strengthened so we can stand as His people in these dark times. God alone can save, the great DELIVERER.

    God is LIGHT and in Him there is no darkness.

    Oh, God, be our Light in the darkness. There is hope in You. You are always the answer.

    The Branches

    We’ve all heard the phrase ‘the black sheep of the family’. We’ve heard it used jokingly, lightheartedly, but when it is referred to seriously it is heartbreaking. It is saddest when it is said as a self-reference by one who believes that he or she is too different or even worse, unredeemable. Maybe they think it’s what everyone else thinks of them – whether or not their assumption is accurate.

    What a sad thing to think that someone would see themself that way. Today, as I was driving home, someone on the radio said something (I actually don’t even remember what it was) that made me think this thought: Everyone gets a branch on the family tree. The genealogy websites will know your name, and it will go down in history just because you existed.

    I want to speak to that one who carries the burden of rejection or self-condemnation. There is good news. The One True God has loved you with an everlasting love.

    EVERY SINGLE LIFE will count for something. Every name will occupy a space on its family tree – whether it’s written in ink or not. That’s to say that you are counted. We don’t choose the family or the legacy we are born or adopted into – healthy and in tact. – or – wildly dysfunctional. It still remains that we are COUNTED.

    Think of the kids who are given the homework assignment to research and record their family trees. Think of the possibility of someone further on down the line, generations from now, writing your name on that branch as they record those who came before them. Your name belongs on that line because you exist(ed). Your life has value because of the One (God) who gave it to you.

    I wonder if we could ever grasp fully that God has created us on purpose – every single one of us – to belong to His family. To know this, to let it sink deeper than we’ve let it, may make all the difference.

    If God created us, how He must have thought about us!

    He has not forgotten about the life He gave you to live. He was there when you drew your first breath.

    You are here for a reason.

    You were made to love God – to choose life, to find satisfaction for your soul in Him alone. Every one of us is in need of God’s intervention on our behalf. He has made a way for us to be part of His family. There, He will keep us.

    I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5

    No one in all of history has ever earned his or her right to draw breath. It is a God-given right.

    There’s no catching up required to become a recipient of God’s love. It cannot be earned – it is free.

    Life is a gift from God. It is sacred. God thought about you, formed you, and breathed life into your lungs. He is the source of our value, our hope. He does not play favorites. We ALL need Him.

    If you have isolated yourself because of the belief that you are unworthy to belong, I invite you to come to Jesus and ask Him save you. He will give you an incorruptible inheritance – eternal life.

    All honor to God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for it is His boundless mercy that has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God's own family. Now we live in the hope of eternal life because Christ rose again from the dead. And God has reserved for His children the priceless gift of eternal life; it is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in His mighty power, will make sure that you get there safely to receive it because you are trusting Him. It will be yours in that coming last day for all to see. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (Living Bible)

    Ask Him to help you turn from your sins and from living life your own way, and confess that you need the salvation of the Cross where Jesus paid with His life to take sin’s penalty for you and for me.

    If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

    Jesus is alive and calls us to come and follow Him.

    And He [Jesus] said to all, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." Luke 9:23

    The most famous Bible verse that speaks to the Gospel (good news) begins with a statement of God’s love.

    For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

    One Tiny Pierce

    This is a strange time in history. Each day, it seems we are closer to saying goodbye to life as we have known it. I know that sounds dramatic. I believe that our society is declining at a rapid pace. The underbelly of cause lies in the battle for souls, spiritual in nature. We see the results on the surface, but often forget what’s really going on.

    The problem stems from each heart (well-meaning as they may be) that has chosen to defy God with the rejection of His ways, His word, His truth – pridefully dismissing His authority, arguing with His goodness, or denying His deity. Our nation appears to wish to remove the Rock of our salvation and replace Him with the fancies of sinking sand – refusing to submit to Him while submitting to every idol that steals and kills. How heartbreaking to witness such a trade that reaches so far.

    The Bible tells us that it is all about a choice – life or death. We were created in the image of God to glorify Him with our lives. Jesus has paid the greatest price to provide true freedom for mankind, yet countless souls still do not acknowledge the cross as the loving provision for life and salvation that it is. How many of them have never heard? God’s will is that we choose to follow Him wherever He leads, to walk in His ways, to abide in Him as branches receive life from the vine. Any other knowledge that contradicts the word of God is rebellion and will end in disaster – false promises, false hope for the future.

    It has been what we are to do from the beginning of the church: to tell the world about Jesus and to become His followers.

    Many believe that freedom is the right to do and believe whatever we want, giving no consideration whatsoever to life, or absolute truth of any kind. If you don’t want something to be the way it is, you can just “say” it isn’t so, and then you’ll find your freedom or your truth. If you want what you want, feel free to invent your own reality, gauging right and wrong on whims of self-satisfaction. How incredibly deceptive this insidious reasoning is.

    We are called to love others with the love of God and to share the gospel. Some believe this involves inclusiveness, accepting any new idea, no matter what it could lead to. Others believe that it means we should be sticklers for the truth to the point of harsh judgement which can communicate rejection of the individual who is not of the same beliefs. These are two ends of the approach, neither are profitable. Most fall somewhere in the middle: loving others with care and service while sharing the unpopular truth of God’s word with a passion for the individual’s soul.

    One thing I know is that we absolutely need to be led with love for the lost and faithfulness to God. Grace through faith is what we have been saved by, and not our own doing. We cannot carry on as though we have anything other than Jesus Himself. That same grace that gave us eternal life through no effort or works of our own, needs to initiate our approach to sharing the gospel of Christ.

    Even with such a purity of motives, the gospel and the name of Jesus will bring division. Rejection and harsh reactions are sure to follow. Still, we can rest in knowing that we are following Jesus as He leads us to love the world. If the consequences are painful, we can be encouraged knowing that we are sharing in His suffering as He said we would.

    I pray that we walk in humility as servants of God and that we are led by the Holy Spirit in love, truth and grace. Let us remember the mercy that God has shown to us, the mercy that saturates us each new morning.

    There is a lot of darkness in this world – a lot. How can we even begin to push it back?

    This last Sunday my husband and I played music at a fair a few towns away. As we sat in some coveted shade waiting for our time on stage, we got a window into the condition of hearts through the conversations of some nearby young adults. I think they thought they were all having a good time together, but there was so much anger and hatred in their words toward each other. Joy was nonexistent, light seemingly unwelcome.

    Leading up to this venue, my husband asked what songs I would sing. Without hesitation, I told him I would sing all Christian music, music that spoke of hope and life and salvation through the life of Christ – TRUE freedom. He embraced the “all or nothing” plan. As I prepared, I dreamed that the lyrics would penetrate the darkness that was sure to be present at a secular event with all walks of life in attendance. I thought, one tiny pierce to let the light through is all there will be as we share Him with those who are listening, but even the tiny, no-name platform we had been given would shine for the time we had.

    We boldly shared Jesus throughout our set. The sound technician was a young man who was so kind and helpful. I kept thinking throughout the set, that if even just one heard from God through our message it would be worth it; maybe it would be him. As we were packing up to go, he particularly commented on how much the message meant to him. He heard it all and took it in. I don’t know if he knew the Lord or not, but he made a point to let me know how much he appreciated it. It confirmed the ministry that I had hoped and prayed for.

    Auburn, California

    Lord, give us courage to take each opportunity You provide, and may your Spirit lead. Move in the hearts of man unto repentance and salvation. Amen.

    So Good To Be Back

    I am full of joy over what happened yesterday. Since February of 2020, due to Covid restrictions, I have not been permitted to enter the facility where I have volunteered for the last six years. Well, yesterday was my first day back with those beautiful people in almost a year and a half. The facility is a short-term rehabilitation and also a long-term living facility for those who can no longer live on their own. My Granny spent time there many years ago and we visited her as often as possible, hoping to lift her spirits and give her encouragement throughout her recovery from a broken hip. Since then, I have always remembered how I felt as I witnessed the sadness that engulfed many of the residents who had lost the ability to fully care for themselves.

    Years later, I still thought about them and began to pray as to whether or not I should try to see if I could go and sing to them. This praying and contemplating took about a year before I picked up the phone and called to talk to whoever was in charge of that sort of thing. The craziest thing happened when I told the coordinator my idea – she said, “Yes, you can come sing gospel music to them.” Well, I never told her what kind of music I would sing! She just knew. I didn’t know then that she was a sister in Christ and would become dear to me as we shared our desire to reach the souls in that place with the love of Jesus. I quickly knew with certainty that I had heard God lead me to this ministry.

    I have been entirely overwhelmed at times of the clarity of God moving, ministering, and loving in our midst. More than once, I’ve had the thought and sensed that we were covered in the shelter of His wing as He had his way in a place that is prone to pain and despair – as if His covering mightily drew us into His presence. There have been times when, for just a second’s glimpse, I thought I could imagine what Heaven will be like.

    As I was driving up to the parking lot yesterday, getting ready to unload my music equipment (something that had grown mundane through the years), I was hit with the glory of it all. That God would provide in this way – that I might be a part of His work in serving and loving the lost and hurting and broken, I found a gratitude beyond what any worldly thing could ever unearth.

    I sang my heart out with a mask fixed over my mouth, not to be put off from my job that God had for me. I knew that it would be difficult to sing with a mask on, and it was. But somehow, it made it more beautiful a task to me. What are we able do for Jesus? Anything He asks. If I say yes to singing, He supplies the air I need to do it. Whatever He is leading us to do, may we trust His provision and His purpose. These are the eternal things that our eyes cannot see. We don’t know what He is accomplishing through our obedience. One thing for sure, when we obey, there is no doubt that it is His power in us and we bring nothing other than a desire to serve Him with our lives.

    You know, I am looking forward to the day when our eyes can see in full, the goodness and glory of our great God. To know that we ran the race that was set before us in all of its stops and starts and trials and victories. Knowing that it was His grace alone that has saved us and that He has healed and delivered us along the way, setting us back on the right path again and again. In light of our inability to save ourselves, what an indescribable thought to contemplate those words from Matthew 25: Well done, good and faithful servant. What mercy!

    May we live for Him, keeping before us the eternity that He has prepared for those who believe in Him. And may we remember the souls that are lost and be ever willing to go wherever God leads so that they might know and believe unto eternal life. May we, like the beautiful old song says – turn our eyes upon Jesus…and may the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

    Love This Day

    Kings Canyon Trail

    Another Mother’s Day in the books! As is our tradition, my husband and boys and I spent the day together outdoors hiking/walking. My oldest son wanted to be there and planned to be, but he was under the weather and was unable to join us. We missed him!

    I love Mother’s Day. I love that I get to be with my family and that they always make me feel loved and appreciated. When my boys were very little I decided to make it a tradition to spend this day doing something that they would always have fun doing – hiking. It happens to be one of my favorite things to do too! We have always brought our dogs along, but Sydney is too old now and Scooby is, well, let’s just say, not quite ready yet (he’s completely insane around other dogs!).

    Kobe, me, and Eli
    Some of the many horses we encountered at Washoe Lake
    Horse watching
    Two of my three sons at Washoe Lake

    Our day was full of beautiful sights and shrouded in the warmth of the Spring sunshine. I loved every minute of it. Thankful, thankful.

    Kings Canyon Waterfall in Carson City

    My Hope Is In You

    “For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.”  Psalm36:9

    I think every parent has, more than just a time or two, experienced gripping panic when it comes to the well-being of their children.  I know I sure have!  None of us has all the answers, and we certainly don’t have the ability to prevent every possible difficulty and heartache.  There’s not a parent in the world who knows how to navigate perfectly all the scenarios that would arise while bringing up their children.   Sometimes we’ll meet someone or observe from a distance one who seems to have no weaknesses as a parent.  The truth is that we are all vulnerable to finding ourselves lost in a sea of confusion and struggle at times, just trying to do right by our kids.  It’s not easy.  It’s just not.  We parents continually need encouragement and forgiveness and wisdom.   Parents have to contend with a complicated and flawed world that has dangerous and destructive ideas.  We are trying to navigate a million different philosophies, “truths”, principles and approaches to raising our kids; all the while learning more about our own inadequacies.  We are discovering and working on things we need to change in our own hearts and minds while trying to instill a standard in our kids’ beliefs and character that we have yet to see perfected in ourselves. 

    Our tasks in discerning and detecting areas that need attention concerning our children can be downright overwhelming.  We try to be ever vigilant in protecting them.   But when you mix in even a little guilt with mistakes and missteps we are likely to find ourselves longing for peace of mind. How do we stay strong and effective in caring for our precious kids when we don’t exactly know the best way to proceed?

    Experience has taught me that my deepest times with God are when my circumstances (whatever they may be) are the most unresolved or even desperate.  Though the path may be too dark to see ahead and doubt is all around, God is there and He is at work. Often, in just such times, a prayer will pour out of my heart and on to the pages of my journal.  Often just such a prayer will concern the needs of my children. I’ve learned that when I choose to trust God, He gives me the words to pray and the Scriptures that confirm to my soul that He hears me, that He holds my kids. This trust brings a peace that breathes hope back into the circumstance.   When the answers don’t come to mind I read the pages of the Bible until I hear His voice of truth.   The answer isn’t always specific or even clear, in fact, most times it’s neither.  When I finally quiet my soul and rest my panicked heart, His voice is enough to comfort me even if I still don’t see what the answer could be. 

    As parents we tend to think that no one understands our particular challenges, leaving us feeling disconnected from each other. Though each home and parent and child is unique, we need to remember that we are not alone.  One of the most powerful sources of faith building and encouragement in my own life is hearing the testimonies of God’s faithfulness in the lives of others.  We will all have stories on the other side of our trials that will encourage someone else. Parenting is no different. May God use our lessons learned for His good in someone else’s life. 

    Parenting is a job with matchless responsibility.  It is huge and it is great!  God is the One who works miracles in the lives of our children.  Our part is to learn to lean heavily upon Him and to listen to His voice, praying continually.  He is ever building character and faith in us and in our children.  Remember, God loves our kids more than we as human beings could ever love them. He hears our prayers.

    Do You Love Me?

    Nothing feels better than when selflessness is lived out and expressed as genuine love. Why is it so difficult to love that way at all times?

    DSCN5109It is easier to love without reservation if the reciprocation of that love is guaranteed.

    How many times do we have an idea to reach out to someone but we hesitate when we aren’t sure of how the gesture might be received? Will they even care? Will they love me back?

    Rejection is brutal and wreaks havoc on our confidence.

    Maybe you’re one of those beautiful and rare people who love without thinking about it first. Come what may, you dive right in. It is my goal to love with that kind of crazy brave love.

    DSC_5756There have been times when I’ve passed opportunities to reach out purely based on the risk of not receiving a reaction that says I see your heart and I accept you.

    I get hung up on those times I didn’t get a positive response. The pain of rejection creates fear of rejection which creates an unwillingness to risk rejection.

    I am an over-thinker and I know how a perceived slight can affect my thoughts. It can cause my insecurities to surge. So I often choose to not create a situation that will set me up for potential angst.

    However, I have grown tired of depending on any approval beyond what God’s thoughts are toward me. I am so deeply loved.  You are so deeply loved. God’s love never fails, and He will never leave us.

    4AE8B92F-EC8F-4B3D-8275-2F1E698D94E2What if I remember that truth and access His love as my diving board for loving without reservation? What if I imagine God’s response to my willingness to risk rejection in order to love sacrificially, as if he is the direct recipient of that love? What if that makes me brave?

    DSC_4623True love is selfless and has no conditions attached. We aren’t always going to be understood or even liked, so how do we move past this to be one of those beautiful people who love first?

    DSC_4408If I believe that rejection means I am unloveable, I will not have the courage to love others. This has been a large part of my challenge to love with transparent  generosity – to share my heart.

    For the first time in my life I am beginning to see myself through the filter of God’s love for me. I am learning to value His approval above anyone else’s.

    Having a tenderness in my own heart for my own heart is a brand new experience.

    DSC_4439I pray that if you’re one of those (as I have been) who hasn’t learned to see yourself through God’s eyes, you will have the power given to you by the Spirit of God to be gracious to yourself.

    May He fill us with love enough to give away freely with His love providing the solid foundation. May our legacies no longer be of our insecurities calling the shots and of self-doubt, but of love – generous, transparent, brave love.

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    Mother’s Day Thoughts (A Mother’s Perspective)

    Before I speak from a mother’s perspective, I’d like to acknowledge my mom from a daughter’s perspective.  Mom, I don’t know how you communicated love so easily.  You may not even have realized it.  I never felt controlled by you or uncertain of your love for me.  The confidence I had and have now about your thoughts toward me was and is a foundation that gives me wings.  I love you.

    05EFDBA4-04F7-4FEE-9930-850863F763B9

    Mother’s Day is my favorite day.  I cherish it above all the others.  It’s the day my heart rejoices with gratitude that God gave me children and made me a mom.  I’ve been a mom for almost 25 years, and sometimes I still get overwhelmed with the gift.  The night I gave birth to my oldest son I was in a comfortable king sized hospital suite (I don’t think they do that anymore), and I should have been exhausted into involuntary sleep.  Yet I couldn’t sleep.  My heart REJOICED over my son in the most profound and stunning way.  My heart had never been more complete.  I was lost in love.

    My next two sons’ births held the same feeling of my heart soaring with love and purpose.  I had never known love like that existed before becoming a mom.  My entire identity I gladly gave over to raising my boys.  

    What I wasn’t prepared for was their adolescent – teen years.  I parented much of those years in fear and overreaction when something scared me for their future.   Thank goodness my husband was more confident that everything would be okay than I was and God used him to bring stability to our household when needed.  He was and is a rock.

    We have many happy, fun memories during those years, but I know that a lot of the tension and heartache we endured could have been walked through in better ways if I’d known better how to trust God.  I just didn’t know how to let my kids find their way by giving them the room they needed to grow.  It seemed like GRACE was often an afterthought.  If I could keep an eye on EVERYTHING I could guarantee no brokenness.  This wasn’t my job, but I thought it was.   I tried to control outcomes in an effort to protect.  I unintentionally communicated conditional love at times.

    There have been times when I felt so woefully inadequate and unworthy to fill the role of mother. I tried so hard to be a good mom, loving them with all my heart.  By God’s grace, there were a lot of things I did right, but I didn’t realize that some of my earnestness in raising them was misguided until it was too late to go back and do things better.  I wish I had known more about the human heart in my younger years.  There are some gaping holes I left in my parenting that only God’s grace can fill.

    Through the years that powerful love for my children has been refined with more awareness of how to care for their hearts.  As the years go by, the love is better lived as the wisdom grows.  The grace of God mercifully stands as my rescue and my hope.  Restoration of broken moments seem impossible in our regret, but my God is bigger than my failure.  He restores what cannot be restored.

    My precious sons have so much love and grace that continues to fill my heart.  Since they were tiny it’s been our tradition to go on a Mother’s Day Hike.  I have a scrapbook dedicated solely to those hikes – pictures of love expressed and Mother’s Day bliss – year after year spending it celebrating ME.  How can that be?

    (Here are a few shots from the Mother’s Day Scrapbook Archives)

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    Even though they are now adults, I am a mom to them still.  They still let me speak into their lives and they still spend time hanging out with me and my husband.  My heart is full.  I am immensely grateful to God for teaching us to grow together in grace and love and wisdom.  Where would we be without Him?

    This Life

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    As I was opening the curtains this morning I had a thought (right about the same time all the cares of the world were beginning to take up their familiar real estate in my mind). The crystal clear thought was that today isn’t about me, today is about God.  The weight of my worries instantly lifted with that thought.  I felt physically lighter.  Next unmistakeable thought:  My life isn’t about me, my life is about God.  So if each morning that I wake to a new day is all about Jesus then the only real thing that hangs in the balance is my response to Him – that God is glorified.

    We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, follow Him, and seek the will of God.  He leads us to life in ways that make us never forget about Him.

    God goes to great lengths on our behalf to set things right (as I was just reminded by a dear friend).  His love for us is immeasurable.  He hears our cries and He keeps track of every tear that falls – this, the very same God Who created all things, Who is all powerful, Who counts the stars and knows them each by name.

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    We don’t have to figure it all out on our own or fear our tomorrows.  Only we must always remember that this life is about Him.

    You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in Your book. Psalm 56:8 NLT

    For through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.  He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.  Everything was created through Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16 NLT

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    LIGHT from the Start

    I have referenced my on and off again battle with depression a couple of times now on this platform. While I’m not ashamed of the struggles, it is difficult to put something so personal out there for all of the many opinions or pre-conceived notions to stir.  I can truly understand those who don’t understand.  There have been monumental milestones of growth that have occurred through these sufferings, but understand these sufferings I do not.  So, it’s okay to not have a grasp on what we don’t know.  We do know that there will always be things beyond our own understanding and as believers we have been shown how to handle the unknown.

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5, 6

    There have been times in years past where I felt 100% that God’s word had provided the very air that kept my heart beating.  This is not flippant, figurative speech.  It was my source of life in the darkest moments of my life.

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    I am reading through the Bible as are many others that I know of.  I started before the new year, not setting it as a goal, just needing to learn and seek and find more of Jesus and to know what the heart of God is like.  By the way, the Bible is the best place to seek more of Him.

    There is a reason the verses in the Bible which refer to light catch my eye.  Many of those verses I had penned onto homemade flash cards for quick reference to remind my soul of my Source of Light when the darkness threatened to consume.

    So while beginning in the most logical place – Genesis – this verse seemed as if it had a huge sign on it that declared God’s provision for my weary heart.  I didn’t have to go very far to find the treasure.  In verse 3 it says Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.  The verse right before said that darkness was on the face of the deep. God provided light for the darkness!  What a glorious provision!  And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness (vs.4).

    Then I saw something else that just wrapped arms of love around me; Then God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night (vs. 16).  He provided for us to have light even in the dark of night.  Verse 17 says that God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth; while verse 18 says again that the light was to rule over the day and over the night.  Light was to prevail.  We had been gifted light for the darkness before we were ever created.

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    There may be some of you who are reading this who have not yet become a believer and follower of Jesus.  I hope you learn about the saving love He has given to us, to you.  My prayer is that you will find hope and love and life that you never dreamed could be given so freely.

    There is another Light that the Bible tells us about.  Jesus says in John chapter 8, verse 12 of the New Testament of the Holy Bible, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  Jesus, being both God and man, was the Light of God incarnate.  God came to us as one of us!  He left His throne to become a man who knows our suffering.  What love!  When we accept Jesus into our hearts to rule our souls with His light, we will no longer have to be blinded by the darkness.

    Therefore I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me.  Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise; When I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.  Micah 7:7, 8

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    He came to this earth to be put to death on a cross.  He lived a sinless life and chose to take our punishment though He was innocent of any crime.  We are all sinners – there’s not one of us who hasn’t fallen short of the glory of the ONE TRUE GOD.  The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death.  That is the end we all face, an eternity in everlasting separation from God, void of any light, if we refuse the gift of salvation Jesus gave to all who will receive.  The rest of that verse in Romans 6:23 says that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Instead of condemnation, Jesus came for our salvation.  He made a bridge so that we could go to the throne of God and not have to pay the debt we owe.  He exchanged our own death sentence with His and in the greatest act of love ever known, He gave us life.

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    Though He suffered and died on the cross, God raised Him to life again.  In the same way, we are raised to life everlasting if we accept His loving sacrifice and become a follower of Jesus.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16  

    There is nothing you can do to earn God’s love and there’s nothing you can do to keep Him from loving you.  He died for all mankind while we were still in our sin.  No sin is too terrible for Him to forgive.  I pray that His love will speak loudly to your heart.  You are not forgotten and never forsaken.  God loves you.

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    My Constant

    A few days ago I was writing in one of the last pages of one of my journals.  It is nearly full.  Pouring over the words I’ve spilled out from the depths of my heart I can plainly see that some of my battles are ongoing – not that I needed to read about them to realize this about my life.  So many of my entries are pleading for the same things I’ve written about even years before in other journals.  But the biggest, most consistent part of my story is not in those fears, failures, weaknesses or my off and on battle with depression.  Nor is it in my beautiful family, the MANY wonderful blessings, provisions, joyful celebrations or victories.  I’ve had the good times and the bad and the in between, but the overwhelming constant that marks my heart’s journey is running to my God over and over again.  I hope to write a post about the “pieces” of our lives and my own journey to ask God to help me find rest as He gives me His perspective.  Maybe we can finally find His peace with those things that we wish we could change.  But for today I will just share with you my journal entry.  I pray that you can have His perspective to see Him as your constant.

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          I am almost at the end of this journal.  Looking back on the moments spent filling it up with many different kinds of ink and handwriting, there is one central theme throughout.  Every single entry that I can possibly think of has to do with my God – His goodness, His glory, my desperation for Him, my desperate pleas to Him, His faithfulness, His word. My words reflect where my hope lies.  My sincere and life-saving hope is in my Jesus, my God, my Hope, my Redeemer, and my Healer.  His love never fails and He is holding me up to live this life – to try and try and try to believe what is true and learn to walk it out.  He is my life-giver and my life-sustainer.  He is my Rock and my steady source of light in the darkness.  He will be with me to the end and my end will be with Him.  May He be glorified in me.

     

    The Truth Matters

    Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me…”  John 14:5, 6

    Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”  If Jesus called Himself the Truth, then we know that there is truth and that the truth matters.  There have been times when I wished so badly to have the right words to say, to speak truth and wisdom into the pain and confusion being expressed by fellow believers.  Speaking the truth just to set someone right can be fruitless and cold if we aren’t motivated by love and concern for their well-being.  Our hearts can hurt for those passing through times of doubt, confusion, and pain.  Most of us have been in that place where we have been desperate for solid ground.  We know  that pain and seemingly unanswered prayer can sometimes cause one to doubt the truth of God’s word.  One thing I have learned is that sometimes you just have to listen with compassion and to pray for those who are hurting; for them to hear God’s voice above the deception that is contrary to the truth.  If those that are looking for answers are followers of Jesus, they will likely come back to the Word of God and surrender the situation to Him.  However, if someone is headed in the wrong direction and is being deceived, there will come a time when we need to confront with the truth for the sake of love.

    Christians believe in the Bible as the infallible Word of God.  Every belief about God, right and wrong, good and evil, and every doctrine of salvation comes from the Word of God.  The truths in the Bible are foundational and unchangeable.  There are gray areas in this life that aren’t specifically addressed in the Bible, but if we know the principles God teaches and the heart of God and allow His Spirit to lead us we will have conviction where we need it.  I may have strong conviction in an area where I have a particular bent that could be destructive in my life.  That doesn’t mean that it is a hard fast rule for everyone.  However, the facts, edicts, instruction, definitions, and principles that are specific in God’s word can never be changed for the sake of perceived mercy, love, inclusion, or convenience.

    God has set boundaries for us because He loves us.  If we stop and really think about it, why would any of us want to bend right and wrong to fit our current desires or to seek resolution for another.  That would not be resolution at all.  It would be a dangerous step in rebellion toward God, and His ways are always best for us.  What if we justified certain sins and it really sounded right and it meshed up quite well with society’s wisdom, making it temporarily easier for us or the ones we love who are struggling to make that sin fit their lives?  How would that ever make things better?  We would be resisting Jesus by resisting the truth.  If Jesus is the truth, and He is, when we hold tight to the truth during troubled times, we are then holding tight to Jesus. Isn’t that where our hope is?  If I am out to sea and there is a terrible storm that turns everything upside down with zero visibility and Jesus is there, I am most certainly going to cling to Him with all of my might.  He is my only hope of salvation.  He is our loved ones’ only hope of salvation.  To steer ourselves or our loved ones in any direction that is contrary to the truth is to point them away from Jesus.

    Jesus and the Word of God are inseparable.  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14.

    Jesus never changes, so the truth will never change.  It is impossible to justify changing the truths of the Bible – even if is seems that it will reach more people. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8.  If we are not leading them to the truths of God’s word, then we are not leading them to Jesus – the HOPE of this life.

    Truth is not relative.  It is the basis for all right and wrong.  How could there ever be true love or justice without a solid definition of right and wrong?  Where would the basis for the definition of love come from if truth was left up to us to define?  Considering our fallen and sinful nature, that’s a frightening thought.  How would we long for justice if right and wrong were left up to each individual’s interpretation?  And where would we come up with these ideas of right and wrong without a singular, immoveable source that is from the beginning of time to the very end?  “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:1.

    God’s truth is a provision of love for us.  He loves us with His truth!  It is how He surrounds us with protection and keeps us in the cleft of the Rock, in the shadow of His wing.  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Psalm 119:105.  “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.”  Psalm 25:10.

    Anything that seems good or right but is contrary to the Word of God is ultimately deception and should be turned away from.  The path before us may appear promising or profitable, but if it goes against God’s ways it will lead us away from Him.  As human beings we want to always have an answer or an explanation as to why things are the way they are.  This is often why we are lead into deception.  We feel that we should be able to understand or explain all of the confusing things that come our way, that it is almost a right.  So we are tempted to erect an idol of explanation to satisfy our desperation to justify or soothe the pain in seeking wisdom from a source that is not biblical.  In doing so we risk giving that other source authority in our lives.  Only God can be trusted with our souls, and His authority on anything we may question is the ultimate.  Let’s face it, we aren’t always going to understand God and His ways.  We have to choose to trust Him.  “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty.  Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.  Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”  Psalm 131:1, 2.

    We can have all the knowledge our brains can contain, but if we are not seeking the truth that leads to salvation, we will be forever lost.  We think the answers will satisfy, but they only will satisfy to the degree that we rely on them for peace and security.  Let us never replace relationship and faith in God with our appetite for knowledge and resolution.  We aren’t God.  It is not our right to know all things.  It is not a bad thing to rely on God for navigating the mysteries of the universe He created.

    Lord, may the pain and fear we experience in the storms of life cause us to cling for dear life to You.  Oh, God, let us never be tempted to look past Your truth to another source that may provide us with temporary and convenient answers.  When we veer from the truth we turn away from Jesus.  You will come through; You are always faithful.  You deserve our devotion even in the pain and confusion.  You sent Your Son to die in our place.  That is the ultimate expression of love.  You set the standard.  You have the say.  Jesus is the only way to eternal life and to the heart of the One True God.  There is no other way to be saved than the way You freely provided for all of mankind.  We are so prideful in our need to understand.  It doesn’t feel like pride to us, it feels like survival, but You are our source of salvation.  May we never be ashamed of the truth of Your word.  Teach us how to speak the truth in love for the souls you died to save.  Watered down truth is not truth.  Let us hold tightly to the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

    “Whom have I in heaven but You:  And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 73:25, 26

    “Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.  I will praise You, O LORD my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore.  For great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”  Psalm 86:11-13

    Silver Bells

    Bells are ringing, this 27th of November.  No, not Christmas bells, anniversary bells!  Today, I want to thank God for a gift that He has given to me each day for the past 25 years – my best friend in the whole world – my husband.

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    We have been exceedingly blessed with the love that God has stirred, developed, and nurtured in our hearts for each other.

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    I have always known how much my husband loves me.  His quiet confidence and sense of security has kept me held and cared for all of these years.  There is nothing in the world that he wouldn’t do for me and he has never kept me wondering where I stand with him.  He loves me freely and selflessly.  He is a beautiful human and I love him so.

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    Happy 25th Anniversary, Deac!