These Things I Know

August has a way of reminding me that summer can’t last forever. The heavy scent of harvest is in the air, with its sweet promise of abundance. Most years a north wind blows through in the third week and abruptly ends the warmth of summer but this year the sun is standing its ground. Amid the heat, we’re catching glimpses of shorter days with a post-6am sunrise and a few leaves turning here and there, and we’re making the most of these final schedule-free days.

Amid summer’s dying embers, fall looms in the distance. Routines, requirements, responsibilities — all await a fresh energy and positive attitude built up over the months of rest. We’re preparing for the new school year and the rhythm of life that September brings, with all its challenges and opportunities. I’m steeling myself and praying that the Lord would remind me of a few things as we launch into this fall.

Work is a blessing

Whether I deem the work to be meaningful or not, I am formed in the process of carrying it out. The excitement of work I love reveals God’s goodness to me. When I have the opportunity to do the things I enjoy and do well, I live out His design in my life and reveal His glory. The drudgery of tasks I don’t enjoy reminds me that not everything is about me. The toilet, the laundry pile, the dishes in the sink – each one is an opportunity to live out a love that costs me something by laying down my pride, leading by example and serving others well. Either way, the blessing remains.

Rest is essential

When I push myself past the point of no return, it’s not only I who suffer but those around me who bear the weight of my foolishness. My irritability and inability to manage well becomes a sharp sword in my hands, hurting the ones I love the most. Repairing the damage is a painful and lengthy process. When I rest well, I submit to the limits of my body and mind and enjoy the good gift that God has designed as nourishment for myself and my relationships. It becomes an essential part of what it looks like to live well.

Consistent times of worship and prayer are non-negotiable

It’s one of the easiest things to neglect – but also one of the costliest. How quickly I forget who God is! The only One who made me and knows me inside and out, who can bear the weight of the heavy things I’m carrying, who is sovereign over all and yet walks with me step by step, whose mercies are new every morning – He is the One who holds it all together. When I am rooted in Christ’s love through worship from the Word and time in prayer, I am grounded and ready for the temporary challenges that stand in front of me. My perspective shifts from the struggle of the here-and-now to the promise of the what-will-be and I live with my eyes wide open to God’s work in my life. It must be a daily practice.

Community is a gift

As much as I like to fly solo, I am learning that it is unwise to consistently attempt to go it alone. Accepting help is not my forte, but in His great wisdom the Lord has graciously placed people in my life to gently walk along with me in every area. The insecurities left over from previous rejections and hurts are slowly transforming into confidence and strength. Learning how to be a contributing member of the circles we inhabit is crucial for our growth, offering us much more than we can obtain in isolation. We need this.

Lord, let these truths settle into my heart as we prepare for September. Help me stand my ground against the distractions and temptations to go my own way, and keep me on Your path.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;

 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

The glory of an August sunset on the Prairie (image credit: my dad)

Remember

A mama house sparrow hops around our front lawn, looking for a bite to eat in the sunshine. Everything is alive now, with dandelions, saskatoons, apples and irises in bloom. Ants carry on, bees bumble from sweet flower to sweet flower, sparrows and chickadees flit here and there, robins diligently care for their broods. The hawks are back too, solitary hunters soaring and diving to fill their bellies.

Let heaven and nature sing!

In becoming what I like to call Noticers, we’ve caught breathtaking glimpses of our magnificent, carefully designed world right in our own backyard. I’m amazed at how many times I hear, “Mom! You’ve got to see this!”, an invitation to hurry out the back door to observe the shape of a spiderweb or quietly tiptoe across the deck to spy a house finch among the leaves.

For years I’ve thought that I was just one of those people who didn’t like change. We have this vintage book about opposites where the characters go to the circus and at the very end two of them are heading home. One says, “I’m sad that it’s over” and another one says, “I’m glad that it happened”. Guess which one I tend to be! I’m the one who sheds a few tears at the end of the Beatles Anthology every single time, even though we know from history how that story ends. It occurred to me this week though, that it’s not change itself I dislike but its hallmark sense of loss.

I find the slow rhythm of the seasons steadies me. Give me the first robin, the first handful of Saskatoon berries, the first pop of fall colour, the first blanket of snow and I feel confident in what lies ahead. These changes I welcome, although they’re bittersweet. New milestones, adventures and plans are exciting, but a sudden illness, unplanned large expense or unwelcome news can throw me for a solid loop unless I pause to remember not only who God is but also what He has done in the past.

This week I came across Psalm 116:1-7 — 

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion. 
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

Amen. Praise the Lord. He is good to me, even when my plans go awry, when interruptions come, when my energy is drained and I have little left in the tank. Even when the mundane is, well, mundane. Even when the day feels like an uphill climb or the pace of life is dizzying. Even when we have to say goodbye, and change brings its unmistakeable sense of loss.

Maybe, especially then.

What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

(Psalm 116:12-14)

The foreshadowing of a fruitful year for our Saskatoon. (image: mine)

Still Beautiful

Still beautiful, even it its twilight.

Nearly a month ago, I picked up a gorgeous bouquet and placed it on the top of the piano, my favourite spot for a vase full of bright blooms. Its longevity was surprising! Beautiful purple and white flowers brightened the room day after day. Slowly, as they are prone to do, they began to wilt and drop their petals. I thinned out the bunch and placed it back in its spot, hoping for a few more days of spring beauty indoors while I await its arrival outside.

The few remaining flowers began to dry out a little, but instead of turning fully brown, new shades of purple and pink were revealed as sepia tones lined their edges. Their beauty did not diminish, it simply changed. Young, bright and full of life at first, and then, although rearranged, new shades of gorgeous colour revealed themselves over time.

What a gift!

As I hand down the dewy-cheeks and bright eyes of youth to my own daughters and watch as my face gradually begins to reflect a growing collection of years and life experiences, I am grateful for this simple reminder that growing in beauty looks different than we think.

Even in their twilight… (image: mine)

The Skies Proclaim

This fall has been remarkably pleasant, with many beautiful days for hikes and walks through colourful hillsides and parks. Snow flurries made their annual Thanksgiving weekend appearance though, serving as a reminder that winter has not forgotten us. As surely as the squirrels hide peanuts in my planters, cold weather is on its way. Seems like every year the second weekend in October is a turning point where we go from brilliant warm fall sunshine to “the north wind doth blow and we shall have snow”.

As an extra rare Thanksgiving treat this year, even city-dwellers caught a brilliant display of the northern lights. The light pollution here makes it difficult to see much of anything, but over the weekend, what a show! For some, it was their first glimpse of aurora borealis in all their majesty. Growing up in the country, they frequently danced across the winter sky and let me tell you, it never got old. My memory clicks back to a scene: sitting bundled up in lawn chairs with our chins tipped to the sky, watching brushstrokes of green shimmer and sway across the deep blue night filled with diamond constellations. Quiet. Calm. Magnificent. My mind took a snapshot that stays with me even now that those days are long gone.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge. 
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth. (Psalm 19:1-6 NIV)

Remarkable how every eye can see the glory of the Lord on display on a night like this. Scientific explanations only deepen my awe of His design. His fingerprints are everywhere.

Last night as I was trying to sleep, I felt the weight of time slipping away. It happens on occasion, where I’m lifted out of the current state of day-to-day affairs to see the larger picture of life, like a sudden display of aurora borealis in the night sky. Look up! it says. And see the glory of the Lord!

I’m always alarmed by how short our time here actually is. My musings must have been prompted by an old movie we watched recently with our gaggle of kids about a man whose daughters break tradition as they grow up and start their own lives. As I watched the story unfold before me, the heavy realization that one day my own children would move on from this place into their own seasons of bittersweet beauty had me feeling some feelings. Kids are likely to do things much differently than their parents and it’s naive to think we’ll be spared of the growing pains coming our way. It’s also quite tempting to imagine that the best of life is behind us now that our kids are basically through the baby and preschooler years when things are simpler (albeit exhausting) and they’re all just so darn cute! But I’m catching glimpses of what’s to come as I watch friends bless their grown kiddos and send them off into the world, and let me tell you, it’s stunning!

These friends are my northern lights, my glimpses of beauty in the unknown, my beacons of hope, yet another fingerprint of the Lord’s gracious hands. They remind me that no matter what life brings our way, God goes before us and walks with us through it all. So today I’m tipping my chin to the sky and drinking in the truth: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)

And then, back into the ups and downs of the day-to-day. As I turn my eyes back to what’s right in front of me, Lord, let me soak in the daily hugs from You — snuggles, laughter, moments of insight and the works of Your hands, right here in our home.

Image: Stocksnap

Lay Your Burden Down

Something came up unexpectedly this morning and my heart began to pound. I immediately imagined a future where a certain outcome had taken place and sadness and fear welled up within me. Every ounce of my being wanted to run in the other direction instead of dealing with it head-on.

Not another thing, Lord! Not another thing.

We’ve heard the call of Jesus: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” We’ve heard that we need to “cast all your cares up on the Lord, for He cares for you”. We’ve heard that He never leaves us alone, that when we walk through the fire and flood we will not be destroyed because He is holding us up.

Each of us carries silent burdens that others know nothing about. We may hold them for a few minutes and release them with ease. Some linger a few hours and are more challenging. A few days, months or years and we are nearly crushed beneath their weight. At times, just one more thing feels like it’s simply too much to bear, driving us to our knees in prayer.

We cannot escape the challenges of life. They come slowly, they come fiercely, they come with great joys, too. I love to see the goodness of God on display right in the middle of the mess. When my heart was gripped with fear this morning, and I was praying, Not another thing, Lord! He brought to mind His faithfulness from generation to generation. I remembered how throughout His Word and throughout my life I have seen His goodness unfold in situations that seemed hopeless. I remembered the promise of an eternal future filled with His presence in a way I cannot imagine here and now. I remembered the beauty of the truth that He is with me in all seasons and at all times.

When we’re weary and burdened by the visible and invisible, when the cry of Not another thing, Lord comes upon our lips, we can take that as a beautiful reminder of our human limitations and acknowledge our desperate need for Him. We choose to stand on the Solid Rock of Christ Jesus our Lord, knowing that God the Father has brought us to Himself and the gift of the Holy Spirit empowers us to face these challenges with confidence that He will carry us through. And He does, every single day.

And for that, I am eternally grateful. Praise the Lord.

I took this photo years ago and it still reminds me of the life Jesus gives!

Sunrise, Sunset

2020 is the year of doing things differently.

October surprised us with a short stretch of extremely cold weather, then warmed up nicely just in time for Halloween. This year’s fall time change ushered in the warmest start to November ever.

I can’t remember the last time we were able to wear t-shirts and bare feet on the grass this late in the year. I even snapped a photo for those January days when I’ll wonder if we’ll ever see the grass again, let alone go barefoot in it. Balmy temperatures have ushered in the most breathtaking sunrises and sunsets with blazing sky-flames of rose-gold twice a day. These are the moments you call everyone to the front window for. The ones you try to capture in a photo, the kind we text and share. With a quick tap-tap-tap of our mobile phones, we invite each other into these brief but stunning things, sharing in a gift of extraordinary beauty in an otherwise ordinary moment. 

I’m so thankful the Lord knows exactly what we need. Since this is not the year any of us expected (or probably wanted, for that matter), we’re learning to let go of what was and embrace the amazing moments amid the mess.

This has been the year of the home-cooked dinner, the quiet holiday, the simple gift of breath in our lungs for as long as we’re allowed. The year of projects that may never have otherwise gotten done. The year of staying home and exploring our own backyards. The year of learning to live with discomfort and inconvenience. The year of slowing down. And hasn’t it been good for us? Last week our kids finished their work on a 5-generation family tree that shows the faces of all the people whose lives had to intertwine for our family to exist. It’s on the wall in our living room and every day I get to look at the faces of each one. I sometimes find myself thinking about the challenges they faced when they were my age. I wonder what they were like and if we would have been friends. Another gift of beauty – that these connections made my current life possible.

And yet, mingled with gratitude there is always grief for the things we’ve lost. The things we can’t get back. The things we wish were not, but are.

Today, my heart is aching as I think about my only living grandfather and his very recent cancer diagnosis. How I wish I could hop on a plane to sit around their kitchen table once again, the music of my family’s easy laughter ringing in my heart. I haven’t gotten back home very often in the past 13 years, but when I have, I always knew I had a place at their table.

Sunrise, sunset. Life is short. What are you holding onto? What are you placing your hope in? What do you run to when everything is different and disorienting? When loss washes over you in wave after enormous wave?

When many disciples deserted Jesus, He asked the rest of the twelve if they wanted to leave too. John 6:68-69 has always been a source of comfort to me: “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

As we move into a holiday season that will likely be very different from ones in the past, let’s hold on to the One who has the words of eternal life. The Holy One of God does not leave us in our darkest moments.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

(PS – Grandpa, I love you. I wish I could visit. I am praying for the Lord’s comfort to surround you today, and that you would find that He is your joy, now more than ever.)

Early November Sunset

Garden Lessons

I don’t garden because I am any good at it.

In fact, you might say the opposite is true.

Nearly everything I planted this year got eaten by insects, birds and critters, drowned by torrential rain and hail or wilted by weeks and weeks of extreme heat, despite repeated waterings.

A few weeks ago I noticed a business meeting taking place in the backyard between three robins and two magpies. So strange, I wonder what they’re doing, I thought. The next morning I opened the curtains and scanned the fence. This year I planted a beautiful giant sunflower, even tenderly nursing it back to health after the wicked wind broke it in half as a young shoot. Toothpicks and packing tape, a stake and some twine and she found the strength to grow five feet tall. 

My eyes searched for the large flower, ready to bloom as it followed the sun from dawn til dusk. Except, it wasn’t there. The stalk stood tall and strong, but the entire flower head was gone.

Maybe it was the Gang of Five. Maybe it was that grey squirrel I caught digging in my peas on my deck. Either way, the sunflower will not bloom.

Sigh.

Rabbit and squirrel food. That is what I grew this year. 

My beloved rose bushes, the ones that grow heavy with roses from June to October, were the victim of some sort of insect that ate the leaves into lace. I tried watering and feeding, and in a last-ditch effort to bring them back to life, I pruned them down to the ground a few weeks ago. I knew they might not make it, but it was worth the risk.

This morning I stepped outside to soak in the freshness. It’s a chilly fall-ish morning with the promise of a warm, golden, late summer afternoon. The growing season is slowly winding down, but these little rose bushes never give up. One, two, three new shoots.

They even have buds.

I don’t garden because I am any good at it; I garden because it reminds me of things my heart knows are true, in nature and in life.

Even when I don’t see it, I know He is working.

The sunflower stalk still stands, three smaller flowers popping out from the leaves. The rose bushes are steadily filling out with smooth shiny leaves and precious little buds. Pansies I planted two or three years ago have re-seeded themselves and are spreading through one corner of my flower bed, thriving with yellow and white and purple joy.

It makes me think of that passage in Isaiah 35 (NIV) —

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
    the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
    the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;

say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.

The burning sand will become a pool,
    the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
    grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
    wicked fools will not go about on it.

No lion will be there,
    nor any ravenous beast;
    they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,

    and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Thank You Jesus that You do not abandon us in the darkest and most difficult seasons of life. You are the Life-Giver! We live in the now and not-yet, where glimpses of resurrection fill our hearts wth hope. You breathe life into what was dead. Wilderness and deserts won’t last forever. Burning sand and thirsty ground will pass away. Desolate jackal-haunts will be transformed into lush, fertile land.

This world and our life in it is incredibly beautiful, and at the same time, filled with imperfection and evil. I can’t pretend it’s not the case. I’ve just learned that some of the most faithful missionaries from my childhood church are enduring one of the deepest griefs imaginable. Please pray for them as they mourn.

Following Jesus does not guarantee a pain-free life.

But it does guarantee that pain will come to a permanent end. Gladness and joy will overtake us. Sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Hallelujah!

Resilience

Something To Hold On To

Raise your hand, or rather blink twice, if you’re tired.

Like, deep-down-in-your-bones tired.

Under normal circumstances, when a crisis hits we ride the wave with a surge of adrenaline. Things tend to settle down and we find our feet again, bumped and bruised but still standing.

These are not normal circumstances. We’re facing a global situation with no quick and easy answers.

Some areas are loosening restrictions, but this pandemic experience has changed things. I find myself noticing whether or not the characters in the fictional television show I am watching from decades ago are appropriately physically distant from one another. And I’m annoyed when I see an out-of-province license plate, even though there is likely some pre-lockdown explanation. Is that person wearing their mask correctly? Did I just hear a sneeze in the grocery store? I’m temped to criticize everyone and everything around me, to become suspicious and fearful, to look for someone to blame.

Up until this point, the novelty of it all made it interesting. We know we’re living in an historic event – a different sort of 9/11 moment. We can feel it changing the world around us as we watch, wide-eyed. Science fiction movies feel more realistic than what’s unfolding before our very eyes, and we can’t look away. Adrenaline pushes us out of bed in the morning and through the day to maximize this newfound “free time”. We’ve  jumped into a juggling act of working (if there is work at all) and schooling (if there are children) multiple children from home. We can do this, right? Yeah! Go team!

We have Zoom meetings, Youtube church, porch visits if everyone is healthy, monitoring for symptoms and cleaning surfaces we never imagined cleaning, sifting through free online resources, grocery store navigation, mask-making, bread-baking, veggie-growing and the dull ache that comes from adjusting to a new normal forced upon us by an invisible enemy.

Fast forward nearly 60 days.

Less smiling on the street, less grace in the line-up. We are battered by the rough-and-tumble news headlines. The novelty has been replaced by gloom. We miss each other. We need each other. We are sad for the things we’ve had to miss and we miss having things to look forward to. We need healthy food, good sleep and lots of exercise. We need hugs and love and care. We need to gather with other Christians and sing of the goodness of God in worship together. We need to visit our grandparents and let our kids visit theirs. We need a good cry and a lot of prayer. And while some of these things are impossible at this time, we long for their return.

In the waiting, I am finding I like to fill the time with work, coffee, walks, television, movies, cooking, conversations — all good things. But as the weeks roll into months, I am realizing that adrenaline and activities will not carry me through this pandemic. Positive thinking and favourite songs aren’t quite cutting it. I need something that will truly make a difference, something life-giving, something to satisfy my weary soul.

Colossians 3:1-4 popped into my head this week.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (NIV)

As a follower of Christ, I have been raised with Him. My life is hidden with His. He IS my life! There is something more to hold onto, or rather, be held by.

What a relief to know that I don’t have to try harder or be better at all the things on my to do list.

To rediscover that my hope is not based on my circumstances.

To see God’s faithfulness in the midst of my personal uncertainty and the global anxiety that attempts to rule my day.

The words of Psalm 62:5-8 wash over my heart, bringing clarity and encouragement:

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
 
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.”

Will we accept the invitation found in these ancient, beautiful words? Find rest in God. Trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him. Written thousands of years ago, they pierce the darkness of this season with the Light of the World.

Thank You Jesus that You have brought us eternal encouragement and good hope! (2 Thessalonians 2:16)

river refuge

A river refuge

Puzzle Pieces

Six years ago, we started a 1000 piece puzzle.

Our then-3 year old daughter had a newfound love for the L. Frank Baum classic, “The Wizard of Oz”. One Sunday afternoon, we popped in the DVD of the 1939 MGM re-telling and she was instantly captivated by the fantastic technicolor land, loveable iconic characters and irresistible soundtrack.

Her eyes grew large when the Wicked Witch appeared and her smile grew even larger when Scarecrow did the silliest of dances. She dressed up as Dorothy every day and would only speak to my husband if he responded in the voice of either the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion or Scarecrow.

Her love for the movie coincided with its 75th Anniversary celebration and we soon found ourselves in possession of a 1000 piece Wizard of Oz puzzle.

Neither of us are puzzlers.

And yet, there we were, with high hopes that we could actually finish this insurmountable task. We spent two winter evenings trying to put the pieces together. Of course when you have toddlers and preschoolers around you just know if you leave a big puzzle on the dining room table the pieces will grow legs and walk quietly into all the nooks and crannies of your house. So we purchased a felt roll, tucked in the pieces we had managed to fit together (the edges and Dorothy and Tin Man’s face), put the rest of the pieces back in the box and stored it on the top shelf of the closet.

It gathered dust while life went on. We eventually found the time to complete a few other puzzle projects, although only in the past two years, so with renewed confidence and extra time in our schedule we pulled out our very first thousand-piecer for another go.

It was a very slow start.

Last weekend I dumped the pieces out onto the table and tried to fit a few together. It was not very encouraging. Slowly, though, more and more of the image began to take shape. I began to feel hopeful we would eventually see this full picture, and it would be even more beautiful because of the work and time we had poured into putting it together.

We’ve bravely left the puzzle in the middle of the table this time, extra pieces sorted and stored in plastic containers on the piano, hoping that any milk spills or potato chunks will be caught before doing permanent damage. One morning at breakfast I lifted a loose piece and showed it to my kids as they ate their oatmeal. A few more parts of the picture were assembled, but we still had a long way to go.

“Where do you think this one goes?” I asked, holding the piece between my finger and thumb.

They shrugged and munched away.

I began to think out loud. “This is kinda like our life. We can only see this little piece of it. We only see what’s right in front of us today – the things happening in the world, the stuff on our to-do list. This puzzle piece looks like it’s part of the yellow brick road or something, but I can’t tell exactly where it goes in this puzzle. We know all the pieces fit together to make a picture because we can see the picture on the box, but if we just look at this piece or that piece or this pile of random pieces, it seems impossible to think it will ever look like that.”

My captive audience listened.

“We only see a part of what God is doing right now, but God sees the whole picture.”

“Yeah, you’re right Mom,” my 7 year old said with wide eyes. She’s always keen to talk about spiritual things.

We went on with our day, but the puzzle is still on the table. It’s not quite finished yet. I’m learning when it comes to puzzling, the darkest pieces are the hardest to fit together.

In the middle of this pandemic-stricken world, I quickly forget that there is a bigger picture. I forget that God is still God, and we cannot see everything that He sees. I desperately need the reminder that I can trust Him, even when things seem like they could never, and possibly will never be a beautiful picture.

My small piece of the puzzle isn’t the final work of art.

Job 38:4 has been coming to mind recently:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.”

The Lord’s words to Job are striking the depths of my heart in these trying days. As we head toward the darkness of Good Friday and the wonder of Easter Sunday, I am praying that I will remember the invitation from Isaiah 55:1-9 (NIV) —

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

puzzle pieces

A piece of the puzzle (Thomas Kinkade/Wizard of Oz/Ceaco)

Where Does My Hope Come From?

I find myself wanting to hold my family close and speak the words “I love you” to them.

I’m listening to music from my childhood, calling my grandparents and parents to check on them and reaching out to my friends daily.

Why does it take a crisis to prompt me to do the things I should have been doing long ago?

Tears come easy these days. I’ve never been great at quickly adapting to abrupt change and find I need to let the grief flow at the strangest of times.

On Sunday morning, we showed the kids a few scenes from the Jesus film. I found my heart longing for the day when heaven touches earth in such a profound way once again – when the King of Kings makes everything right and sin and death are vanquished forever. This momentous, frightening time in history will pass. Fear will be gone. Sorrow and pain will be no more. Isolation will end. The body of Christ will be together, praising Him evermore! The breath caught in my throat and my heart swelled with hope as hot tears of relief filled my eyes. I tried to blink them away but a few escaped and slid down my cheeks.

My 2 year old noticed. “Do you have tears?” he asked, sticking his little cherub cheeks right in front of mine so I could hide no longer.

“Yes,” I said. He is just so cute.

“Are you sad?” he pressed, eyes wide with curiosity as he touched the tears on my face with his soft little fingers.

“I’m a little sad and a little happy,” I explained.

“I’ll take your tears and put them away for you,” he said as he placed both hands on my cheeks. He ran down the hall, opened my bedroom door and “threw” my tears in. Then he came running back to my side.

“I put your tears away in your room,” he said.

“Thank you,” I laughed through more tears.

Jesus, one day You will put away our tears. You will wipe our sad red eyes and hold us close. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain because the old order of things will have passed away, and You will make everything new! (Revelation 21:4-5)

As we look forward to that day, we are in awe of how we experience Your presence even here in the middle of the darkness. We see Your light shining unapologetically in the storm. We are filled with Your Spirit, bringing a bit of heaven to a very weary earth. We cry out to You and wait with baited breath for Your kingdom to come in all its fullness, Lord! We walk forward in confidence that You have not forgotten us, and that in fact, You have equipped us to serve You at this very moment in history. We praise You for strengthening us even now!

We fix our eyes on You, Jesus.

Have you experienced joy this week? Have you seen kindness in action? Have you felt connected to someone? Have you found comfort in God’s Word? Have you seen someone pouring out their life for the sake of another? Praise the Lord — He never stops working!

Meditate on Psalm 46 and find your hope in Christ today.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

-Psalm 46 (NIV)

Lighthouse Rachel Omnes

Image: Rachel Omnes