From our forth floor balcony at Panama City Beach, my husband, my daughter, and I watched the waves roll in and the waves roll out. We could have gotten mesmerized by the rhythmic sight and sound, but it was a different kind of evening on the white sandy beach beneath us. Several boats with blue swirling lights were driving back and forth in search of a young 20 year old who had gotten pulled away from his friends by a riptide. His panicked friends and accumulating spectators lined the shore in hope.
At 11 pm, the search was over, the young man was found. A thriving life ended, and inexplicable grief began.
Only 24 hours later, same balcony, same white sand, same rolling waves. Yet, what we witnessed on this perfect sunset-evening was a young man, dressed in khaki and blue who had set up a twinkling "marry me" sign in the sand. He waited for his sweetheart, and sure enough, she came. He bent to one knee and asked the question that young girls dream of. When they embraced, the condo balconies erupted in applause.
At 7pm, the search was over, the boy got his girl. His anxious thoughts stopped. Uncontainable joy began.
To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of the two extremes, the high and the low of it. I'm still processing the waves of emotion on both ends.
My only consolation with the young man who was swept away so suddenly is to think that Jesus himself was with him, saying, "Come with Me to a better place." There is a better place, I hope you know...maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you there is a better place than this life, and Jesus will take each of us there if we believe in him as our Savior. Yes, He saves us...from messes, from chaos, from riptides.
My genuine hope for this young, engaged, very happy couple is that they will walk with Jesus in the land of the living. Maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you that you don't have to walk this life alone, and that Jesus will help you in each moment and in every relationship. Yes, He helps...in the happy and in the hard.
We will always have the extremes...the high waves of over-the-top-joy as well as the low undercurrents of knee-buckling sadness.
Life and death and everything in between. The hope is this: Jesus is in the midst of it all.
Maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you that Jesus is in your midst...and to tell you to hold His hand in your extreme.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
A couple of weeks ago, on a cold dreary day, I was cocooned in a blanket on my couch for my usual Saturday afternoon nap. With college football on in the background and my little dog nestled at my feet, I couldn't help but feel the oncoming winter, not outside my home, but inside my soul. As I lay there, I was talking to God about it, saying, "O God, here it comes...that old familiar gloom that I'm going to wrestle, off and on, for the next several months. Please GIVE me something to help me move forward in this season."
Wrapped in my blanket, he unfolded a plan.
Before I go further, I want to empathize with all of you who deal with depression of some kind. And also, I want to ask for grace from those of you who do not. A way to explain a depressed spirit is to compare it to a rainy day. When it's raining outside, one cannot say, "It's not raining." Likewise, someone who is dealing with depression, is indeed depressed. To say, "Get over it", is defeating on many levels.
We may not get over it, but with God's strength, we can function in it. Just like opening an umbrella, putting on a rain jacket, and stepping into galoshes all help shield us from physical rain, these steps below can help you and me when the gloom creeps in.
Here is the unfolding that took place as I lay listening to the Lord. Its outline is the acronym GIVE:
G--Give yourself grace, one day at a time. Do what you can do that day. Also "G" stands for these things: Get sleep--so important! Get dressed--I mean that spiritually first. Spend time with the Lord every morning and let him speak truth into your heart. God's word is my life-line. I need him to reroute my thinking EVERY morning. Also, Get dressed physically. Wash your face. Brush your teeth. Simply freshen up. Get out of your PJs (even if you're putting on other comfy clothes). Here are your options: Get up or Give in. Choose to get up, and with grace, inch forward.
I--Initiate. Physically, do something productive. One day it may be as small as clearing the kitchen sink of dirty dishes; another day it may be to write a book! Again, grace for each new day. Also, Initiate relationally. Send one text that asks someone how they are doing or how you can pray for them. Or, make a phone call. Or, meet someone face to face. Think about somebody else rather than yourself. Get "willfully lost in the rain" by praying for dozens of people you know and love. Your choices are: Initiate... or isolate. Today, choose to Initiate.
V--claim Victory "in the rain". The grey clouds may not stop rolling in and spilling out, but you can choose to be victorious as it pours. This is where my faith in Christ becomes my stronghold. HE is with me always as my closest Companion. I am never alone. He is light and love inside of me through his Spirit. His grace and strength move me forward no matter how I feel. In the rain, I can and I will rejoice. Victory in it, or victim of it. Ask the Lord to help you choose the former.
E--This is very practical: Eat well, Exercise regularly, Enjoy a wholesome hobby. Quite frankly, I really don't like eating healthy foods, ugh. I'm trying to develop a taste for broccoli and other green things, but chips and chocolate will always be my favorites. In the aging process however, I'm much more aware of the adverse effects of unhealthy eating. Therefore, I'm inching forward in the nutrition department. Concerning, Exercise, just do it, says Nike. Pick something; anything is better than nothing. I walk with a friend and we pray together; this has been transformational for me in numerous ways and I highly recommend it to everyone. And then, Enjoy. What do you love to do? Make room for this activity (or non-activity; for example, I enjoy my Saturday afternoon nap, "watching" football with my husband.) Eat well, Exercise, Enjoy or... escape into unhealthy alternatives. Again, ask God to help you choose the former.
On that cold dreary day in November, I rolled over inside of my cozy blanket on the couch and thanked God for his detailed Counseling session. (To think, it was free!) And then a little later, I decided it was time to get up. I went to the kitchen and cleared the sink of the dirty dishes...claiming absolute victory, in the rain.
As some of you know, my daughter Emmy, is an RN on the Covid floor at Vanderbilt hospital. Today I want to share a post that she wrote for Soul Sisters Ministry concerning her "word for 2020" which is "faithful." May you be inspired and encouraged:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” Hebrews 10:23
When asked to write a post about 2020 my first reaction was, “Really? I’m not totally sure you want to hear what I have to say about it haha!”. But the more I thought on it, the more I realized how cathartic for myself writing this post would be; and more importantly, a huge testament to God’s character.
I would first like to share a journal entry I wrote at the end of December 2019. At this time, I was already struggling with the intensity of my very first job as a nurse on a Cardiac Medicine Stepdown Unit at Vanderbilt. I was only about three months in, but I already felt the emotional and physical toll this field can take on someone. This is what I wrote:
“Ruth and Esther…women of faith! They did not have easy lives, so why do I expect one? What is it about human nature that shies away from hard work. We crave easy, we crave no stress, no pressure. But without pressure, how would God mold us? Ruth and Esther pressed into the molding. They listened to the counsel of those around them, older than them, wiser than them. I long for that in my life Jesus. To be a woman of faith is to obey you even when it is scary, when it’s hard. I’m so resistant to change Jesus, I pray I would not be resistant to your voice. Jesus, help me not to allow fear to guide my actions”.
After writing this entry, I began reading through and studying the books of Ruth and Esther. Looking back now, I can see so clearly how the Lord was faithfully preparing my heart for the year to come.
2020 has been a big year for me, I got married as well as dove headlong into my first year of nursing! Mid March was when things really turned upside down. Amidst wedding planning and night shift, I was told that my unit would be going from the Cardiac Medicine floor to the Covid floor…yikes! This was a scary time. And to be honest with you, it still is. Each day that I go in to work, I walk in not knowing what kind of condition my patients will be in. Some days it seems as if people are healing, making a quick recovery; other days I have individuals whose hands I’m holding as they take their final breaths.
Through it all I can hear the Lord saying to me as He once said to Esther, “For such a time as this.” Each day I choose to go into work with the confidence that this is where the Lord is calling me right now. Without his faithfulness through this year, I would have given up so many times. His presence alone is what has sustained me. Everyday, with every patient, he renews in me a desire to bring to them His tender love and healing.
God has also been faithful to me through my new husband. What a joyful gift he gave me in him! Up until one week before our set date, we were unsure if we were going to be able to have a wedding haha! But because of God and his faithfulness, we were able to have the most beautiful weekend surrounded by friends and family as they celebrated our union together. Over and over again, God has shown me his faithfulness through Kyle and how well he loves me.
Lastly, I want to share a song that has become very special to me this year, a great reminder of God’s faithful goodness! It’s called The Goodness of God, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvSuGyJQ6oM
Dear Jesus,I pray that each day you would open my eyes to see how you are being/have been faithful to me. I pray that I would trust you even when it’s hard, and that I would be confident that you will equip me with your strength. Thank you for making me brave even when I feel as if I am not. Thank you for your goodness.
For further reading: Esther 4:14; Ruth 2; Lamentations 3: 21-23
I grew up in the deep southern woods of Mississippi--lots and lots of pine trees towered over our home. So when I moved "way up here" in Tennessee, the colorful fall season took me by surprise. Year after year, I am mesmerized by the radiant reds, the fiery oranges, and the brilliant golds that are bursting from the trees and bushes--incredible, breath-taking beauty.
I'm sure I am not the first to correlate God's seasons with His love story:
Fall represents His dying for us on the cross.
Winter represents His burial, enclosed in a death that we will never have to endure.
Spring represents His resurrection... a newness of life for all who believe.
And Summer represents the growth and abundance of this new life.
So, here we are again in the seasonal cycle; the glorious fall surrounds us. It's hard to believe these brilliant leaves on the trees are actually dying. But isn't that exactly what happened at the cross? Listen to Jesus' words to His Father, just before He was taken into custody:
"Father, it's time. Display the bright splendor of Your Son so the Son in turn may show Your bright splendor." (msg, John 17:1)
Two thousand years ago, the King of Glory hung on a tree, dying. His fiery passion for the world He loved held Him there, not the nails. His perfect crimson blood was willingly shed for you and me. And as our Savior's life was drained from Him, it was the most tragically beautiful gift to behold. Before the darkness of "winter" encroached, the Light of the World triumphantly cried out, "It is finished." Indeed, it was awe-full.
Today, this day, when I see the radiance all around me and watch these colorful trees of the field clapping their hands, I know why they're applauding. I want to join them in honor of the King that gave His life a ransom for many. And I too, just as the trees are teaching us in this season, want to die to myself so Christ can live radiantly inside and outside of me, drawing many to His marvelous light.
Yes, as I look all around me, I will praise Him, and thank Him, and worship Him... for His glorious Fall.
Here is a seven year old "journal entry", still filled with simple yet saving Truth:I was talking with my son this morning about the basic beliefs of Christianity. The conversation got started because we were kindly talking about a friend of his that thinks he's a Christian. I told him that he should gently and respectfully challenge his friend with the fact that he can know he's a Christian, not just think he's one. It was a delight to review the fundamentals of faith with my maturing 17 year-old son by using ...legos. You're never too old to play with legos, especially when they illustrate the beautiful simplicity of the gospel! Here is a review of the familiar "Colors of Salvation" method of sharing one's faith, usually portrayed with a beaded bracelet:
BLACK represents sin. Humans are born in sin; thus, we cannot reach God on our own--no matter how hard we try. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
RED represents God's love found in Christ's blood that was shed for us. Jesus, the perfect God-man paid the price for every sin, past, present, and future, when He was nailed to the cross. He chose to die for us. God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
WHITE represents the forgiveness of sin. When we confess our sin and believe in the truth of Christ's death and resurrection, we can then stand fully forgiven in the presence of God. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7).
BLUE represents the Holy Spirit, given to us, alive in us... an amazing thought... a life-changing truth! We are buried with him in baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by he glory of the Father, we too might to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).
GREEN represents growth. Because of the Holy Spirit's indwelling, we have the ability to understand and obey God's word. A beautiful relationship begins! Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
GOLD represents God's eternal kingdom that we as believers in Christ will inherit. For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).I think many people "casually" believe in the concept of the first three colors (black, red, and white). First of all, can someone really be casual in their faith? If so, I think that's why this person may never experience a life marked by all of God's "colors", possibly making the Christian life hard and unattractive. He misses out in knowing that he has the capacity to house the living God, the Helper, in his own soul (blue). And he doesn't get to experience the awesome reality that he can talk to Him and walk with Him each and every day (green). And THEN...there's the daily hope-filled anticipation of ETERNAL life (gold)!
I challenge you, as I did my son, (and myself!), to grab some legos, markers, or colored beads and share your faith with a friend sometime in the near future. Who has God put on your heart while reading this?
But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them unless someone is sent to do it? That's why Scripture exclaims. "A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!" Romans 10:14-15, The Message
May your life and mine, and the friends we tell, be lives that are marked by His true colors.
Do you need peace--the kind of peace that passes all understanding? (Phil. 4:7)
Soul Sisters Ministry is an on-line group of women who come together daily (M-F) to be encouraged in God's word. We are starting a new study called Forty Days of Peace. (For more detail on this study, see my previous post entitled "The Order of Peace").
If you are interested, please join us in reading these daily devotions. We would love for you to be a part of this journey!Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/752566431555141/?ref=share
May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!
Yesterday I was discouraged. I won't go into detail, but I cried (literally) to the Lord about some things with my writing; bottom line, technology has never been my friend. And then today... I received two random but timely texts about the same prayer found in my devotional book,The Heartbeat of God. (By the way, it's on Amazon, if you're looking for a devotional prayer book). Since this scripture-based prayer spoke to these two people, in two different states, decades apart in ages, I thought it might also encourage you:
O God, You are the One who Calms. I confess to You right now that my thoughts and emotions are in a whirlwind. I cannot rest. I want to manage and control each and every situation and make it "right." I know this is impossible in and of my own strength, but it doesn't keep me from worrying and trying! So I come to You, and I pour out my complaint before You and tell You all my trouble; for You are my safe place. Thank You for Your patience as You listen; thank You for Your lovingkindness as You work. As I pour out my issues, O God, I pray that I will be attentive enough to the peace-filled words that You long to pour in. Allow me to learn from the disciples of long ago: Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you." And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord, Jesus therefore said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them "Receive the Holy Spirit." Dear Jesus, sweet Savior of mine, hallelujah! You are in my midst! Please breathe Your peace into me once again so that my troubled heart will be quieted. And then Lord, help me to focus on You, the One who Calms, instead of my present circumstances that only stir up unproductive strife within my soul. For You promise in Your word: You keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts You. Therefore, I will trust You with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding, and I will also choose to meditate on who You are: You are all-knowing, You are able, You are strong, You are good, You are sovereign, You are at work. Ah, in remembering who You are, I can rest. Yes, I can now hear You gently whisper these words of promise into my quieted soul, Cease striving, and know that I am God. Indeed, You are the One who Calms.
Psalm 142:2; John 20:19-22; Isaiah 26:3; Proverbs 3:5; Psalm 46:10
My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:11
Dear Lord, The more we know you the stronger we become in you. Give us a heart's desire to read your word so that you can enlighten us into all of who you are as we walk out our days. For your word brings LIFE. Help us to know it, believe it, and live by it. Amen.