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.

    Change

    This is my favorite season, it always has been. Fall gives me a feeling that I have permission to nest and create, to leave some of those to-dos on my list until Spring. Oh, and there are quite a few of those to-dos for us these days. Since I last posted, we have moved into an older home in a charming neighborhood, after living in the same neighborhood for 20 years! Our new residence is around 30 minutes (longer with heavy traffic) away from our former home. That doesn’t sound like a lot of distance, but everything is different here. My friend said it was like we moved to a whole new city, but still have all our friends and family nearby.

    morning walk downtown Reno
    morning walk along the river

    The initial thoughts on us moving both scared and excited me. My husband and I have looked into moving to more land for the last two years. It didn’t work out, and we just decided to stay put as we apparently could not compete in this crazy housing market. We loved our place and it was a perfectly acceptable option to toss out the idea of a move.

    For years now, my husband and I have loved to spend time downtown by the river – walking under the shade of the many mature trees, getting coffee, admiring the old houses and the architecture of the buildings, eating at locally-owned restaurants. It was our go-to when driving up to the mountains wasn’t an option, and we would talk about what it would be like to live downtown.

    Truckee River

    We couldn’t really imagine such a thing, though it seemed charming and nostalgic (maybe we could get a condo downtown for the weekends if we ever got rich – haha!). We have always firmly believed that the more land we had, the better. We aren’t used to having close neighbors, and didn’t necessarily want that. But as we would sit in the coffee shops by the window and look out at all the passers-by walking with their families and dogs in their neighborhood, we started to think that it would be pretty great. Maybe we even started to dream about it a little.

    Here we are, two and a half months after our move to that very same neighborhood, more pleased with our decision than we ever thought we would be. For a while, it seemed like we weren’t going to get the house. I have to tell you that during that time, I actually hoped it would fall through, even prayed that it would. I got too scared of all the change and all that it would mean for our day-to-day lives and for the foreseeable future. I just couldn’t see it working for us. Never had we envisioned ourselves moving to a fixer-upper (albeit a pretty one) with tiny yards. We had always talked about just the opposite – Our next house has to need NO work and it must have a lot of land. – notLet’s move to a house where nearly everything is original and will all eventually need repair or replacing – and one where we can live super close to our neighbors.

    One day, after it was clear we would indeed get the house, (unless God heard my prayers for a big intervention that would cancel everything and allow us to stay in the same comfy place we had been for so long) I had a pretty big panic attack about the whole thing. I kept it mostly to myself, not wanting to upset my husband who was happy and certain about it all. But I had absolutely NO peace – not an ounce of it. I prayed and prayed for it to fall through, and if it didn’t, I needed to have peace about it.

    There are some things that only a dad can do for us. I don’t exactly know why, but there is something so deeply reassuring when a father speaks words of encouragement. It has a unique and stabilizing quality that makes you believe it will all be okay.

    I talked to my dad on the phone in the midst of my crisis – fervently resisting the change that now seemed inevitable. What was I thinking?! I had a perfectly lovely, comfortable home. Why on earth were we pulling up the posts and moving to the unknown? Whyyyyy? But all it took were a few kind, calm, wise words from my dad to settle my terrified heart into a safe place that I couldn’t get to on my own. From that moment on, with his support (and my mom’s – always my precious mom’s) things began to turn around. I found little bits of courage to go forward with this giant change.

    Last Saturday my husband and I walked from our front door to get coffee, then to see a movie, then to dinner, then back home all in one afternoon. It was freezing and rainy and windy and wonderful.

    sculpture downtown Reno
    One of the many cool Mid-Century buildings downtown

    One of my dearest friends came with me to the house one day while it was still in escrow. We had permission to begin tackling the yard work before we got the keys, and she faithfully worked alongside me with her gloves and tree clippers in the summer sun. We were only able to peek through the windows, but she told me that she believed that we would be far more blessed here than we ever thought we would, that God would show us all sorts of little gifts we couldn’t even see yet, gifts specific to us and for us from His heart to ours.

    We already have stories to tell.

    What if I hadn’t had the strength of my dad to give me the courage to proceed through all the new things? I am thankful for his steadying hand. I am also comforted to know that my Father in heaven will always be my strength in every crisis, every change. He answered my plea, just not as I had asked. He used my dad to be His voice of calm and peace in my heart, to reflect His own heart.

    So here we go into this new way, this new place with new people. We keep saying that we can’t believe we live where we live and how much we love it. It is all so new still. I can’t believe we made such a huge change! Though I miss my old house, I don’t miss it as terribly as I thought I would. The first week here was rough. I just wanted to go home. So strange to realize how much of a role familiarity plays into my sense of security. It’s still not home in the way that my other home was, but time and making new memories will help that. But maybe it’s not supposed to be exactly the same. Maybe our world will be a little bit bigger and my sense of security less dependent on the familiar.

    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

    No Rush

    Have you ever met someone who is never in a hurry? Can you think of someone who always seems to be in a hurry? I tend to lean toward the latter. As much as I have longed to be just someone who can say, “I’ll get to it when I get to it. It will wait,” I am not that person (yet). It’s as if I think that if I keep at it I’ll reach that magical point when all the duties and chores will just be done, as in finished – never to need an update or revisit. And that if I don’t get right to it in the mean time, it will pile up and bury me alive. Oh, drama! hahaha!

    To be fair to those like-minded individuals, life sometimes just demands an extended period of busyness. But maybe we could still try to take a minute in the short windows between the next thing to do or place to be. I’m mostly talking about a mindset.

    -Lake Tahoe-

    Those who are never in a rush seem to possess a secret way to navigate life’s demands without panic over the when, where, how it will all get done. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I have learned to take the initiative to lean into the current more freely than I used to. One of our family members recently said how she loved the wave pool at the water park – the one with so many stories of people having a near-drowning experience in it. It’s tough to know what the waves will do once you’re at their mercy, so many panic and fight them. Another family member said that the LAZY river was his favorite. I laughed at him choosing that over all the other exhilarating experiences the park has to offer. He’s got the idea!

    -Lake Tahoe- near sunset

    It’s wonderful how different we all are. We can watch and learn from each other. Different stages of our lives hold different priorities. Different people enjoy different things. One of the gifts that can give us time and inspiration to consider those values and reflect on how to live them and where we are in it all is the beauty of God’s creation.

    -Lake Tahoe- very windy day

    It is not always possible for a get-away or for a retreat into the mountains to hike or to soak in the sun on a beach, but given the opportunity for even an hour or two outside for refreshment, I will take it. That’s when I find it easiest to forget about my to-do lists and my worries.

    -Lake Tahoe – looking as vast as the sea

    This last weekend we were able to spend a few days at Lake Tahoe. Last year we stayed at the same time of year, before the official start to summer, and it is just the best way to experience the lake! There is NO RUSH. There are no crowds blocking the way or standing in lines. It’s quiet and peaceful. Starting just next week, that will all change for the next few months. People come from all over the world to visit this magnificent lake, and they are willing to make their way through the sea of tourists. It’s that great a place!

    -near Nevada Beach on Rabe Meadows Trail-

    We stayed at Zephyr Point in an old cozy cabin that had a wood burning fireplace. That was our favorite thing – the crackle of the wood and the movement of light that performed so beautifully to create a sit-and-stay atmosphere. Just what we dreamed for our weekend.

    -cabins at Zephyr Point-

    The Zephyr Point Conference Center where we stayed is a Christian organization. These pillars have the names of the four gospels engraved on them: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

    A couple cabins down from ours was the first cabin built on the grounds – 1920s (I believe the barista said) and is now a coffee spot. Cozy, nostalgic, and great coffee!

    I will take as many opportunities as I get to enjoy the warm weather and the sunrises, sunsets that happen every single day. Some of my favorite pictures throughout the years are those I took all alone on an early morning walk before that day’s hustle and bustle demanded my attention. I’ll try to remember and notice and drop the “hurry” more often.

    How Precious

    Throughout our lives, people come and go. We change jobs, move to different neighborhoods or cities, find new interests; the reasons are many. Rarely is there one who is with us from the very beginning of our lives to the very end. Family members are the most likely to fulfill this, however, there isn’t a single person, not even a twin, who can know EVERYTHING about us, the depths of our hearts and the entirety of our understanding.

    – local walking trail –

    There’s nothing that we need to explain to God in order for Him to comprehend something about us. He already knows and understands, fully, as no one else ever can.

    – Fallen Leaf Lake, CA –

    Psalm 139:13-16 tells us that God was the One who was there from the very beginning of our lives; He formed us in our mother’s womb and fashioned our days. He is the Creator of life – yours, mine – life to our bodies and eternity to our souls.

    God knows us completely. He knows our thoughts, our past, present, future. He knows where we are at all times. He knows what we will say before we say it.

    O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. Psalm 139:1-4
    – garden –

    Some may find God’s thorough knowledge of us disconcerting, frightening as we are all imperfect, flawed, sinful human beings. But God knew everything we would do, say, think throughout our lives even before Jesus, who willingly gave His life for ours, died on the cross to atone for the sins we never could.

    In fact, God doesn’t use this all-knowing to harm us or to condemn us. John 3:17 says that He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved! He doesn’t remove His love for us when we rebel or fall short. His very knowledge of our weakness and sin is why Jesus took our place on the cross, to justify us, to redeem our souls.

    – Carson River, near Genoa, NV –

    This type of love from a perfect God is difficult to fathom, but it is the truth of His Word, His character.

    It means that He can love us, provide for us, care for our souls far better than we can understand.

    In the 139th chapter of Psalms it tells us that there is nowhere we can flee from God’s presence, that the darkness cannot even hide from Him. Verse six reveals that David, the psalmist, finds this a wonderful thing.

    – near Genoa, NV –

    Imagine that: The God of the universe – the One who spoke light into existence – never loses sight of us. His love for us reaches farther than our minds can comprehend. It is His desire that we love Him in return. He has given us the free will to either choose Him or reject Him.

    Some will walk away, reject the God who can love us like no one else ever could. Oh, that they would see and understand the gift they are offered and run straight to Him, turn from all the things that could never compare.

    If someone refuses God and rejects His gift of salvation, the thought that he or she cannot hide from or outrun God would be unsettling, maybe even terrifying. But if we yield to Him and believe His word, that He is love who came to save us and not to condemn us, the same realization of His all-knowing can be our greatest comfort and hope. When we repent of our sins and follow Jesus, we are admitting our desperate need for Him to be the Keeper of our souls in a way we never can.

    – Burney, CA –

    It is never too late to ask God for forgiveness – to accept His gift of reconciliation through Jesus. He has loved us first. Would we love Him in return?

    How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You. Psalm 139:17,18

    Hello!

    It has been way too long since I’ve posted. I have started on and added to one in particular several times, but it is weighty, and I have yet to finish it. Whenever I have an unfinished project, I tend to freeze up until I have completed the task. But sometimes, the task isn’t meant to be completed quite then, especially if it prevents other good ideas from their development.

    homemade banana crumble muffins underneath a gorgeous still painted by my mother

    My blog has been on my mind throughout these last five or so months, and I have missed publishing posts.

    -beach at Camp Richardson, Lake Tahoe

    I’ve had many ideas – too many (written in the notes section of my phone) – piling up into a menacing stack too daunting to tackle. So I came up with a plan to prevent this unnecessary procrastination in the future. I believe the best way to keep the blog going strong is to write more often with less pressure.

    spring flowers

    When I first started this project I was reluctant to write too often for fear of having nothing of any value to say in between the more serious posts. That worked to motivate me to establish quality content in the beginning, but I need a different approach moving forward.

    The plan is for my topics to be as light-hearted (not necessarily inspirational or impactful) as they may be in between the more “meaty” posts. I want to have more fun with it and hopefully engage in a more community feel. My idea was to build an authentic conversation with others who would engage with or appreciate the type of content I put into the blog and have others share as they feel compelled. I do hope to grow in interaction and visitors/followers.

    I want to keep the categories I have already created, and maybe create a few more.

    garden chive blossoms

    It’s been months since I’ve pursued photography as I have in the past. I can’t wait to get out there and get some more great shots for the blog!

    springtime

    There have been a couple of funny stories (indeed, at my expense) that I could have shared. I may begin to incorporate some of those. 😊

    I have discovered that dog posts are by far the most popular. It would be my pleasure to write more about my dogs, and it seems that people like those sorts of posts (though I’ve only written a few so far).

    our sweet Scooby

    From the beginning, I wanted to encourage and point others to Jesus. I hope to shine His light to others who may be walking in darkness and need hope. For me, this is the most important part of my writing.

    Lake Tahoe

    This June will be the fourth anniversary of the start of this blog. Thank you for being a part of it. Be on the lookout for more frequent posts!

    A Little Walk, A Lot Of Beauty

    So much uncertainty surrounding us these days. More than I can remember in my lifetime (collectively, as mankind). It does my heart and mind infinitely good to get out and be surrounded by CREATION, which reminds me with clarity of the One True God.

    View from the trail that runs along the bottom of the mountains at Hidden Valley Regional Park

    Scooby and I arrived at the Hidden Valley Regional Park at around 7:20 a.m. The sign says that the park doesn’t open until 8:00 a.m., but the gate and the bathrooms were already open. Thank goodness (coffee drinker)!

    Located in South Reno, the chances of seeing wild horses dotting the landscape, and even up close, are pretty good.

    I took these two photos of the horses at a previous visit to the park.

    There is a dog park that is always full of people and their beloved companions. It really doesn’t matter what time of the day, there are always dogs running around playing in that portion of the park.

    My sweet puppy, Scooby, however, does not handle encountering other dogs without extreme excitement. He expresses himself in such a way that people have looked at us with judgment, concern, fear, and pity as they pass by us. Scooby only wants to play, but he can’t contain his hysteria. His yelps sound like there are four or five coyotes carrying on at once. I don’t know how he does it – some sort of vocal trick! He jumps and yanks on the leash and WILL NOT settle down. We’ve tried everything, and it all works a little, at first. Inevitably, he gets too crazy to calm down anyway. He is getting better, but he has a looooong way to go.

    Here, he can hear or smell the horses we had seen previously, but disappeared out of sight. I saw them before he did (thankfully) and we promptly turned to a different direction!
    He always turns around to check on me when we are out walking.

    So thankfully, at this park, there are also trails along and in the surrounding mountains where you can see for miles and miles, literally. When the day is clear you can see nearly the entire valley and the surrounding mountains in the distance. The views are stunning and as a safety net for dog hysteria, we can keep an eye on any potential dog traffic!

    A couple times the fog engulfed us and the trail nearly disappeared. You can spot a few horses on the upper left side of the photo.
    You can see the Grand Sierra Resort peeking out through the fog where you normally can see all of downtown Reno.

    Scooby does best when we are somewhere way out with no other dogs or people and we can let him off his leash. He stays near us and comes back at our calls. I wasn’t going to dare to do that here, though we were just about alone, because I don’t know what he’d do if he encountered the wild horses. I could end up on the news!

    The thing to see this morning was the uncharacteristic fog that blanketed our valley. When I set out to head to Hidden Valley with my dog for a morning walk, I didn’t know what a bonus I would get. I had packed my camera because it’s always beautiful up there, but I was extra glad that I did.

    I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it many more times; Nevada is beautiful!

    Delicious Autumn

    Autumn is going to pass by too quickly. I wait for it, even long for it. Delicious Autumn is a bold description of the season from a quote I read. I thought it a perfect starting point to paint my own picture of fall.

    Highway 88

    The beauty is endless, stretching over all the land with a vibrant, clear energy, excited as one who wants to demonstrate their extraordinary talent so that others can partake of the gift.

    The view from our cabin at a Women’s Retreat in Lake Tahoe
    Puzzle time at our dining room table

    Autumn’s scents: pumpkin lattes, apple cider, burning firewood, candles. Autumn won’t be outdone by the things we add to it. It has a scent of its own that needs no flame or cup to create a heavenly aroma. It’s as close to how nostalgia would smell if it could be contained.

    Near Donner Lake
    Hike near Donner Lake
    Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

    Comfort food is cooked with old family recipes. Fashions get creative with all the layering, and boots are eager to make their way out of storage. Coffee has never tasted better than when the temperature drops off into cold mornings and chilly evenings.

    Near Donner Lake

    Who can resist a hike when a light jacket will suffice until the warmth of the sun is enough to shed the layer, but not enough to be too hot? When the leaves underfoot are the unmistakable, intricate creations of God?

    Highway 88 near Kirkwood – a snowy fall day
    Hope Valley
    Red Lake – Highway 88

    But why does the sound of flying geese overhead cause my heart to ache a little? Why do the leaves floating through the air as in a fairy tale cause me to cherish the sight and at the same time feel like I can’t quite grasp this glory while it is at my doorstep?

    Hope Valley
    Hope Valley

    Fall isn’t a passive guest outside my window. It calls me to itself and begs me to participate in its splendor. Willingly, excitedly, I do with utter delight. But I cannot hold on to it. It slips through my fingers. Autumn teases with the pleasure of its grandeur, but promises to disappear beneath the sleeping grass and barren trees.

    Hope Valley
    Hope Valley

    Take it all in, every bit that you can, I tell myself with almost a panic that I’ll miss it. Engage as it beckons you, I chide myself in my fear of it passing me by.

    “Enjoy,” Autumn tells me.

    Hope Valley – snowy fall day
    Near Donner Lake
    Our sweet puppy (Scooby) on a fall hike near Donner Lake

    Autumn, you are indeed delicious – you are extravagant. You demand attention, not for your own pleasure, but for ours. Thank you.

    Sunset at Lake Tahoe on our Women’s Retreat

    Light’s Next Door Neighbor

    My husband and I were asked to come and play for a Christian motorcycle rally this past weekend. The venue was none other than Ely, NV. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t until I made plans to go), Ely is in the eastern part of the state, not too far from the Utah border. There’s not a whole lot to see by way of population or towns on road trips through our state. Very few towns, and the ones you do see are very small and can be a bit run down and depressing. If you choose to find interest in and focus on all of the historical buildings and imagine the way life was when these towns were at their prime, the experience is more enjoyable.

    Eureka, Nevada

    I didn’t know quite what landscapes we would see along the way, but I knew we’d behold some Nevada desert beauty in the mountains and skies. I love the type of majesty the desert mountains and open skies boast. The drive was lovely once we moved beyond the smoke from the various wild fires.

    We stayed at the Jailhouse Hotel and Casino. It was plenty accommodating and we appreciated the fact that it was in the middle of all the old, historical buildings.

    Downtown Ely, Nevada

    The rally was held at a park near downtown. There were people gathered who lived in a number of different places, all there to fellowship with other like-minded believers. I learned that the CMA (Christian Motorcyclists Association) was birthed for the sake of evangelism – reaching out, ministering to, and sharing the gospel with people in all walks of life. Our dear friends explained their hearts for this ministry and we were so thankful to have been invited to their worship night.

    We (my husband and me and our two guitars) were only into the first song before the wind literally started blowing our music sheets away. My husband eventually put his guitar down in order to hold my music and stand for me. The wind and looming storm worsened impressively. All around were black clouds, thunder, lightning, and wind. My friend ended up stepping in and held my music on the stand so I could see to play it. Another kind woman sat at the base of my music stand to keep it upright. By this time, Deaconn and others held down the tents. While they were all gathered in those strategic – hold down the fort while the storm rages above – locations, I could hear their voices singing with me. The heavy clouds seemed only to show up so they too could be part of the gathering. It never did rain!

    The surrounding area of Ely is stunning. We agreed to make plans to go back when we have more time so that we can explore the mountains and maybe do some camping. The short time we had to stop and take a few pictures was an unexpected and soul-refreshing treat. I felt like I was being given a gift from God for no particular reason. Just because He is good and His creation is astoundingly grand. We were all alone and the silence only shared space with the sounds of the clear, cold running creek.

    Our hearts were full and we looked forward to the beautiful drive home in the magical light that comes automatically with each new morning. Right before we left town I saw something that made me feel such grief. It was like seeing death. Not tucked way, way back hidden out of sight, but right in plain view not far from the main road, with signs bragging about “new girls”, was a brothel. I know we live in Nevada and there are many such places. But it was right there, marring a small town surrounded by such beauty with its evil darkness. I felt crushed at the contrast between the light we’d experienced while in Ely and the devouring darkness that exists alongside that light.

    It caused me to think again of eternity. It was a stark reminder that people are living their lives in darkness all around us. Things aren’t always as they seem. There is Heaven and there is Hell. Every person we see is heading to one of those eternities. There is no comforting “to each his own” phrase to soften the blow. Sobering thought. Crucial perspective.

    Dear God, may we bring light to the dark. May the Gospel reach the dying souls and convict and save. Please, Lord, let us not be content to make this life about “our best life”, but about Your heart and Your life that You laid down. May we take up our cross and follow You.

    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

    Walk With Me

    I grew up believing in God. I can’t ever remember a time when He wasn’t in my life to save, love, comfort, guide, teach, convict or correct me. He has rescued me and healed me, been my Restorer and Redeemer.

    I don’t remember the first time I asked Jesus to come into my heart (I was a small child), but there were many additional times along the way when I asked Him. I used to pray for Him to come into my heart almost daily, asking Him to forgive all my sins. I believed in Him without question, though my wayward heart took priority over Him many times. He was present in my life and I knew it, but I was always afraid that my sins might make me miss my salvation. I had it backwards. Obedience to God is what should follow my salvation, not what guarantees it.

    Salvation belongs to the Lord and He is the One who saves. He paid the debt of sin that I owe, all of it, when He gave His life on the cross. He is my righteousness. Nothing I will ever do can earn me a better standing in God’s eyes. I literally have nothing to add to my salvation.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8, 9

    There are innumerable Christianity commentaries/ideas readily available to access through Youtube, blogs, radio sermons, and even Christian songs which can powerfully advance different Christianity perspectives. Notice I did not say ‘Christian’ perspectives. I have noticed that our American Christianity, way too much of the time, reflects the opinions, agendas, personalities, and interpretations belonging to other people in the church. We seem to follow one another. This is dangerous as some even try to alter the Word of God in order to justify the cultural norms. This breeds confusion if we look to others to validate our relationship with God.

    I have recently learned a lot about certain passages of Scripture that I never understood before. Though somewhat jarring, this is not a bad thing if it makes me cling to the Word of God and study it more closely. These sorts of shake-ups are beneficial in their effectiveness to strip away pre-conceived, man-made notions that are more cultural in nature than Biblical.

    Sometimes the popular songs and books that are widely popular really are not all that Biblical. The words might seem nice and pleasant and even have our favorite memory verses woven in to appear solidly faith-based. But we can get used to looking at Christianity through a certain comfortable lens and not even notice the ideas and thoughts that are self-seeking and that do not line up with Scripture.

    When there are popular messages of encouragement leading us down a path that cause us to focus primarily on this earthly life or our own gain we should pause and look further on down that path to see where it is leading us. Is there daily surrender and true discipleship down that path? Or are we looking for more than the cross to save us, looking to add some of our own righteousness to secure our right-standing with God? Or maybe we can feel really good about a message that justifies, in some beautifully sounding way, our own will for our lives. If we ourselves are the front and center priority in the answer to these questions we may need to examine the words in these messages and see if they line up with the overwhelmingly clear call for believers to die to self.

    I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20
    
    Then Jesus told His disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24

    If God’s Word isn’t instructing us as our primary source of spiritual food (Matthew 4:4) it is all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the teachings, books, podcasts and song lyrics suggesting that God is here to accessorize our best life and make our dreams come true. The reality is that our purpose is to worship and glorify Him, testifying to others of His salvation. He indeed has good things in store for us, but we don’t get to tell Him what those things look like or whether or not we’ll see them this side of eternity. I was moved by this quote by Elizabeth Elliot who knows about loss and suffering for the cause of Christ in a profound way.

    "To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss. The great symbol of Christianity means sacrifice and no one who calls himself a Christian can evade this stark fact."

    I have had wonderful pastors, teachers, and parents – all true servants of God. They provided a solid foundation as they taught me the Scriptures. Still, my faith is my faith. It is between me and God. I am learning a lot as I seek continually to know the truth of God’s Word. In our time in history there are no shortages of assertions regarding spiritual things. I have let doubt and fear creep into my heart at times when I listen to what others have to say more than what God’s Word says. I dare not neglect His Word! Those same childhood fears of whether or not my salvation is secure can still haunt me if I take my eyes off of Him and start listening more to the ideas that are out there than to His voice as I study the Word of God.

    If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3
    For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

    God does not want us to be confused. When there are so many different ‘takes’ on the Christian life in this modern day, the only voice we need to hear is His. My Bible is my lifeline! Truly! Answers to my anxious questions don’t always fly off the pages, but then I keep praying and seeking Him. Sometimes I think that it’s best that we don’t know all the answers. It keeps us more dependent on His day to day, moment by moment sustenance.

    For God is not a God of confusion but of peace...  
     I Corinthians 14:33 

    My relationship with God is personal. It is not subject to someone else’s opinion. I think of the song In The Garden where it says “And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own…” That’s the God that I’ve known and He never changes. I’ve looked at some things I’ve written throughout different times in my life in the margins of old Bibles and journals and I am reminded that yes, I do know Him. I have seen His hand move over and over again. Even to the smallest detail sometimes. May I never forget all the many personal ways He’s led and healed and provided in my life.

    We need to ALWAYS keep our priority and worship about Him.

    Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:12, 13

    Is There A Dog in Here?

    I just had my 47th birthday! That morning I awoke with God’s tender reminder of how loved I am. The thoughts of Him covering me through every storm, giving me life and being my Rock and Hope for those 47 years washed over my mind and heart with force. Gratitude is a gift from God. His perspective and grace are what prompt every good heart-thought I have.

    My sweet husband and boys all remembered to wish me happy birthday. They love me and I am deeply moved by that. My nieces, sisters-n-law and mother-in-law all sent me loving birthday messages. The day before my birthday, my parents drove 3 hours from California to spend the day with me before the storm was due to hit later that evening. My sister, two of her kids, and my youngest son were able to come spend the time together. The rest of the family was at work for Mom and Dad’s short visit.

    Beauty in the little things which, to me, have always been the big things.

    I am fortunate enough to have friends and family who are skilled in gift-making and gift-giving. I love handmade things, thrift store/garage sale finds, and words. When I was flooded with such things this birthday (Christmas too), I felt known and cared for.

    My sister is incredibly talented to create stunning works of art – paintings, jewelry, clothing, custom clothes hangers, handbags, dresses and more. This journal with the two trees in the background and its vibrant color scheme was just a plain canvas before she put her beautiful touches on it. GORGEOUS!

    I had told her what kind of earrings I would love to have, so what did she do? – she went to the craft store and bought what she needed to make these, my favorite earrings EVER!

    My sister’s art fills my home with my favorite things. I will show just one more of her gifts to me real quick. She needle-pointed this two-sided pendant for me a couple of Christmases ago!

    My mom is an artist as well. Her skills reach far (paintings, blankets, sweaters, purses, scarves, gloves and on and on and on!) This gorgeous pillow was my birthday gift this year. She made scarves for all the grandkids and with the remnants, threw this gem together. Oh, I wish I knew how to do that!

    My dad is a great talent too! I know, I am so lucky! He built a chicken coop and shed that could be displayed in any home and garden magazine. Everything he builds is spectacular! He’s one of those people that can do anything and do it well. For Christmas (veering a bit from my birthday story, but I wanted to brag on him) he made my sister and me matching cutting boards out of walnut and maple.

    My beloved friend of 37 years took me out for my birthday sushi lunch (she treats me every year!). She knows how to find treasures at thrift stores like no one else (my favorite) and she found and gifted me a ring that I have worn every single day since. So much love.

    Another dear friend of my heart knows how much I love words and how deeply they move me. Here are two of the things she wrote to me in my birthday card that I will read over and over again.