When Light Seems Absent {New: Short Bursts of Encouragement Series}

Some days it seems the sun will never shine. Dark and dreary skies hang heavy. Weary days move into foreboding nights. 

But regardless of what your feelings tell you, there is every reason to rejoice. Because darkness is temporary. That’s a promise.

The Light still shines, even when we can’t see its brilliance or feel its warmth. [←Tweet this.]

Light can never be snuffed out. Darkness has already been defeated.

Light came for you and me. He pushed back the power of dark forever. 

Light is everlasting. In His power, we will walk in glory for eternity. 

Lord-everlasting-light=

Click on this photo to print or save it.

So on those days when you wonder if the sun will ever shine again, take simple steps to remind yourself of this Truth. Create tangible reminders of His everlasting Light: 

  • Light a candle. 
  • Arrange a bouquet of yellow flowers. 
  • Put on worship music.
  • Turn every light in the house on (just for a little while).
  • Spend a half hour (or more) looking up Bible passages on light. 
  • Keep a portfolio of sunlight photos to pull out for a quick boost. 

Let the truth of this promise push back the clouds and reveal the sun (Son)! 

“Your sun will no longer set,
and your moon will not fade;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and the days of your sorrow will be over.” Isaiah 60:20

Reflection: What are some other ways you can remind yourself of God’s everlasting light when the day looms dark? Lets encourage each other in the comments. And if you like what you’re reading, may I humbly ask you to share it with your people. 

This is a new series I’d like to begin on Wednesdays sharing short bursts of encouragement. I envision each series post featuring a Scripture and photo you can download with a few words of encouragement from me, perhaps even a prayer, a recipe, a giveaway–anything to give your week a boost. I’d love to hear if this Short Bursts of Encouragement Series is … well … encouraging to you, and please pass on any topic ideas you may have. 

Linking today with my lovely friend, Rachel Wojnarowski, for 100 percent Christian encouragement at

 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

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Posted in Hope, Short Bursts of Encouragement

Healing Salve for When the Pain Is Real and Your Heart Is Weary

Grief clouded my vision as my van skidded to a stop in the ditch. On my way to hold my infant nephew’s tiny, lifeless body for the first and last time, anguish overwhelmed me.

adamsquilt

My precious nephew Adam’s quilt.

Pain wasn’t new to me, nor would this be the last time it would slice into my heart. But it was deep and it was real, and it felt like it would forever define my life. This was especially true for Adam’s parents.

And since I’ve now lived long enough to see it, I know heartache has been or will be present in your life as well.

Along with times of intense hurt, we will also carry the burden of daily life issues. None of us can avoid heartache and oppression.

Deep pain moments and soul-heavy weariness punctuate my life and yours,

  • the loss of a loved one,
  • the constancy of caring for a child or parent with disabilities,
  • the nagging doubt of worthiness,
  • the fear of inadequate finances,
  • the helplessness felt in trying to salvage a struggling marriage,
  • the day-to-day issues of maintaining friendships,
  • the mundane, unending tasks of parenting,

but they don’t have to define it. [←Tweet this.]

Our Solution

For years I’ve tried interventions to prevent discouragement and weariness from settling in. And I have discovered some that lift my spirits for while:

  • music,
  • exercise,
  • friendships.

These are all good, helpful tools, but the truth is nothing you and I can ever do will fully salve the pain and discomfort of living in a finite body in a fractured world.

hope-from-God-

We deceive ourselves by thinking otherwise. Some things will definitely help us feel better, but

we can never completely heal our hurts by ourselves.   

True Healing Salve

Hear me on this, my friend! Doctors can treat your ailments, therapy can offer emotional and mental relief, music can lift your spirit, but

only in Christ can true relief be found. [←Tweet this.]

So as much as I cherish you popping in and as much as I love to share encouragement, don’t rest your hope here or in any other blog site, magazine, book, TV show, radio program, person, or intervention.

Our hope is found in Christ alone. So always I will point you to the truth of what this Psalmist discovered:

“Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5

And may I leave you with this beautiful song of hope, In Christ Alone, written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend:

Reflection: What about life makes you most weary? In what specific ways can I best encourage you to seek the hope found in Christ?

Although it seems Ann is no longer offering her Multitude Mondays linkup (although her Joy Dare continues), I will continue to post my 1000-gift list on Monday (okay, today it’s Tuesday) because it seems a great day for it and because … well … I just can’t quit. (Just between you and me, it helps me in the savor department.)

Since beginning nearly 3 years ago, I’ve counted over 3,000 gifts!! What a blessing! So here we go: #3157–3177, read the entire list by clicking here.

  • My girl teaching me how to love a stranger in the medical clinic waiting room; Medicine for what ails her; Night rain–a natural sleeping pill
  • Friendlies sharing their umbrella at a soggy football game; Watching son play his favorite sport; Living close enough to meet with Mom for a few hours
  • Joy of knowing I’m helping others by giving blood; Great evening of hanging with dear friends; Chocolate tart with raspberry topping–a great combo
  • Morning walk with hubby after taking a few days break from it; Rachel’s gleeful laugh as she snuck my cell and randomly dialed numbers; Being able to sleep in safety and comfort all night–a blessing we tend to take for granted in our country
  • Refreshing morning walk with hubby in the 40-degree rain; Throwing together soup with garden stuff and a few extras and it turns out good!; Dry, warm, quiet Friday night home 
  • Joey’s help in peeling and coring apples; 2 batches of applesauce and 1 more of apple butter–done with apples!; Near nightly game of UNO with kids–and Rach wins most often (and no we don’t let her)
  • An honest gentleman returning my camera bag; Afternoon of pretending my kids are little again and going to the playground with Joey and Rach; Crickets chirping outside, not in

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

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Posted in Daily Living, Hope, One Thousand (or more) Gifts

How to Thrive in the Aftermath of Interrupted Plans and Shattered Dreams

If we’re honest, we all experience it: the shattering of our dreams, an interruption in our well-planned life. It’s unexpected, many times devastating, and it often doesn’t make sense, humanly speaking. purpose-of-Lord-stands-

Because most often our plans are good ones. They involve things that would lift people up, provide for others, and even honor God in the process. Still, those very plans fail, and we’re left to figure out how to cope.

The aftermath is not easy.

Our comfortable life is no longer comfortable. Our rock-solid faith is rocked. Our certainty in life is no longer certain. And left unchecked, in the aftershock, despair and cynicism set in. 

At 22, I thought I had it all figured out. My life was laid out and it looked good.

But live long in this broken world and you know that looks can be very deceiving and our dreams can dissolve in a heartbeat. 

Some of us found this out earlier, some later, but I’m guessing you’ve felt it: 

The mess of life seeping into the manicured path we’ve forged. It’s unnerving and paralyzing. [←Tweet this.]

For a while after, we spin out of control, confused and uncertain, struggling to regroup and start again. 

Our plan was good yet something went wrong and that dream shattered. How are we to reconcile that? How do we go on to find fulfillment in life amid our broken dreams? 

Well I can tell you, it’s not by trying harder or drawing up better plans, and it’s not by giving up. 

Mired in deep sorrow over the loss of my children and an all-encompassing fear for my daughter’s future, I began to stagnant and atrophy. I was seeing in others the joy I knew to be still possible but could not grasp it. 

When marching to the beat of our own drum, that’s how it is: Our goal—joy, peace, satisfaction—is always a step away. [←Tweet this.]

Thriving in the Wake of Interrupted Plans

We know God is all-sufficient. We know He is in the business of redeeming difficult situations and brokenness. Our heads know this, but our hearts struggle to beat to this new rhythm, to recognize our limited insight and His profound awareness. 

Honestly, the only way I could resolve my hurt and fear of this new-looking future in the midst of pregnancy loss and a child’s disability is to finally recognize and admit my nearsightedness. 

My desire for many children was admirable. My ideas for my daughter’s future were well-founded and good. 

But I didn’t have access to everyone else’s path. I couldn’t see around the bend or through the fog of my own. My heart beat to my rhythm, the rhythm of what I knew to be. 

But in order to thrive in this walk, I needed to trust in God’s perfect vision.

To believe His plan for me and my children took into account all the other plans in the world.

To recognize He didn’t ever make mistakes.

To begin to hear and respond to His heartbeat. 

That’s the only way.

Your plan may be a great one. You may have taken in account everything you humanly could to craft the best plan ever.

But you can’t see every obstacle in your way.

You aren’t aware of the better things to come.

You are limited to using what is physically and logically evident to lay out your path.

Satisfaction in this life cannot be obtained by walking in our nearsightedness. Marching through life to the rhythm of our own heart will never lead where we want. 

We must acknowledge God’s perfect vision.

Fulfillment and joy in this fractured world can only be found (and retained) when we let our heart beat to His rhythm. [←Tweet this.]

Then His plans become our plans, and reaching our goal is ensured. 

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

Reflections: What do you think it looks like to journey through life to the rhythm of God’s heartbeat? 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

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Posted in Disability/Special Needs, Faith, Perspective

Bring Light and Life into the Dark and Empty: Love Well

The idea of love appeals to nearly everyone. True love transforms lives, bringing light and life into the dark and empty. But few of us demonstrate love well. 

We may do okay with our families and close friends, but universally, many of us fail miserably in the love column. [←Tweet this.]

Many things get in our way. Time. Responsibilities. Fear. Pre-conceived ideas. Selfishness.

Yet, God commands us to love others as we love ourselves (Luke 10:27-28). Not just some people, but everyone, even (perhaps especially) our enemies (Matthew 5:44). 

True Christian love injects helplessness with hope and anxiety with peace, for both the giver and the recipient.

Good stuff!

But if you’re like me, your mind gets in the way of loving others, and you need examples to follow. 

BenandRach2

Ambassadors of Love

I gave birth to, and am blessed to be raising, one amazing example of the love God is talking about. Her name is Rachel.

Rachel loves unconditionally and unfiltered because she’s not loving from her mind but from her heart as is discussed in the Pulpit Commentary on 1 Peter 1:22. Peter contends Christian love must be from the heart, true and pure. 

 By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22). 

In loving from the heart, Rachel is not confined to pre-supposed ideas of who should be shown love.

She never notices someone’s body odor, their tattered clothes, or dirty faces.

She doesn’t check to see if they are popular, smart, or deserving.

She never stops to question whether sharing her love is politically correct, socially acceptable (okay, this is a bit of a problem in school with 16-year-old boys), or deserved. 

Rachel loves naturally and completely. She shares the Lord’s love willingly and without predetermined criteria. And she does it without ever uttering those three little words we like to say but falter in living out, “I love you.”

Instead, she pours out love with spontaneous hugs, contagious laughter, and persistent “hi’s”.

Rachel offers love to the likely as well as the unlikely, such as the unkempt man I tried to ignore as we sidled by in the restaurant or the sloppily dressed woman in the doctor’s waiting room who just needed a hug. 

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to learn from other Ambassadors of Love as well, like Ben (my friends’ grandson, shown in the picture above with Rachel), James, who fellowships at our church occasionally, and many at Special Olympics events.

Through these wonderful individuals, God’s love shines bright, and not only for those who meet the cultural standard for being loved. These ambassadors love with abandon.

Their radiant love and joy put the rest of us to shame (1 Corinthians 1:27). 

Sharing love doesn’t require hugging everyone we see, like Rachel does. But it does require demonstrating that we care. To everyone. Without judgment. 

Jesus’s love doesn’t have parameters, and mine/yours shouldn’t either. [←Tweet this.]

Love Well

love-increase-and-overflow-

So practically, how does unconditional love present itself? 

  • With eye contact and a sincere smile (maybe even a hug or hand shake).
  • With an offer to pay for a meal, open a door, or help carry a parcel.
  • Through asking how the person is doing … and honestly wanting an answer! 
  • Through any actions that demonstrate the Lord’s love for the person. 

Demonstrating the love of Christ daily doesn’t have to be elaborate or drawn out, but it does have to be sincere. [←Tweet this.]

Pray for a transformed heart of love. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

Watch the actions of those Ambassadors of Love, like Rachel, Ben, and James, who the Lord placed in this world for, what I believe, is this special purpose.

Let them teach you what it means to love others as yourself…

…and how to do it from the heart. 

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. (1 Thessalonians 3:12). 

Reflections: Do you find your mind getting in the way of loving well? Have you had the blessing of knowing a true Ambassador of Love? 

Although it seems Ann is no longer offering her Multitude Mondays linkup (although her Joy Dare continues), I will continue to post my 1000-gift list on Monday (okay, today it’s Tuesday) because it seems a great day for it and because … well … I just can’t quit. (Just between you and me, it helps me in the savor department.)

Since beginning nearly 3 years ago, I’ve counted over 3,000 gifts!! What a blessing! So here we go: #3136–3156, read the entire list by clicking here.

  • Exploring and finding/picking wild edibles with Joey; S’mores to wind up the long Labor Day weekend; Morning rain, which encouraged a lazy beginning to the day
  • Playing Bingo with residents of a local care center; Power of and freedom found in forgiveness; Hubby shelling acorns for me– now that’s love!
  • Productive day of editing and making fudge and acorn pancakes; Church choir starting up after a summer break; My assignment to teach 1st-3rd grade Sunday School–It’s been a while (I sense a needed stretching and growing coming)
  • Watching 5th graders’ faces as they try sumac iced tea, catnip tea, and acorn pancakes; Fun sharing my hobby; Relaxing evening with family
  • Rachel so proud to make her scraped knee “better” herself by putting diaper rash ointment on it!; Parenting growth moments for this mom; Trouble getting out of the grocery store with Rach, not because she wants everything, but because she has to greet everyone!
  • God’s mercy in sparing nephew Dan’s hand/fingers; Finally a year of nice tomatoes to can; Awesome respite help today
  • Fun and meaningful kickoff for Sunday School; Two potlucks in one day!; Accidental meetup with a friend who ended up walking with us 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

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Posted in Daily Living, Disability/Special Needs, love, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Thankfulness

What If Today We Took Off Our Blinders and Noticed God’s Abundance?

I love how fall highlights the provisions of God.

From foraging for wild edibles to harvesting my garden produce, His abundance is never more evident than in that hued season that precedes the cold months. 

You-open-your-hand-

Yet as I was picking raspberries, it dawned on me how easily we overlook His provisions in our daily lives. 

We pray for relief from the pain, but ignore the comforting words of our neighbor. We ask for His will in our lives, but fail to heed His call to minister where we’re at. We beg for direction, but never crack open His Word. 

We often journey in life with blinders on, oblivious to the answers and gifts God has already provided. [←Tweet this]

We look neither left nor right nor up. Keeping our eyes focused only on our next step, we miss seeing His glory and His blessings.

We become so preoccupied with getting where we’re going, we fail to notice the many provisions God gives to help us along the way. [←Tweet this.] 

What If…

What if we slowed down a bit and took time to breathe deep of our surroundings? 

What if, today, instead of blindly completing the day’s tasks, we would first stop and look for His works?

What if, today, instead of beginning with our to-do list, we’d ask God for His ideas?

What if, today, instead of walking with our eyes focused downward, we’d lift them to the Heavens and to creation and to our loved ones and neighbors? 

What if, today and everyday, we’d commit to being more intentional about noticing God’s provisions in our lives? 

His Abundance

God doesn’t just long to bless us, He does it. He gives us all we need and more to enjoy.

Let’s not miss His provisions because we’ve put on blinders. Focus on Him. Open your eyes and minds to notice how He’s working in your surroundings.

You may just be surprised at what and how God provides. 

 All eyes look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:15-16)

Reflection: Has there been a time in your life when you’ve missed God’s obvious provisions for you? In the end, how did you come to realize His blessings? 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

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Posted in Daily Living, Edibles, Garden, God, Gratitude, Thankfulness

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Hello, I'm Julie, an imperfect wife and mother of four. Life in this broken world is not always easy. Yet, joy can be found in each day through the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I find it's easy for our day's BLESSINGS to get lost in its HAPPENINGS. But God's "mercies never end" (Lamentations 3:22) and His "grace is sufficient" (2 Corinthians 10:9).

May the posts and pages on this site offer you a measure of peace and encouragement.

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