Birthdays and Legacies

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Today, my grandma would have been 88 years old. When I was thirteen and wrote my first poem while at her home, I received encouragement from her to keep writing. One day, she presented me with a blank journal and told me that someday she wanted a book completed and signed by me. I did not finish it before her death, nor was it ever submitted for publication, but when I did finish it, I signed it and dedicated it to her anyway.

Fifteen years passed while I did this and that in life. The only writing I did was for lesson plans and speaking engagements, but then God called me to write a book. Eighteen months later, it was published, dedicated to Him, and signed for many. Although my grandma never lived to see this day either, she walked with me through it, and I could imagine what she would say and do. You see, she had prayed over me every day, for each specific day and for future days. She loved me. She spoke words of life and encouragement into me. She left me with an example of following Jesus. Her legacy left a mark on me.

What you do and say now matters. The words you speak into the lives of loved ones and even strangers matter. The prayers you pray matter. The choice to follow in the footsteps of Jesus matters. Someday, somewhere down the road, someone is going to need what you can give today. They will have to dig deep and do something harder than they have ever done before, and your encouragement–inspired by the hand of God–will lift them when they are weary, help them keep their eyes on the goal, and help them hear truth amidst the lies and discouragement that will try to thwart them.

Make a difference today. Leave an eternal legacy. Let these dear ones emulate you as you emulate Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11:1).

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Text and photos by Francee Strain, December 9, 2019
No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose by Francee Strain, published by WestBow Press, 2017.
Ornament inherited from my grandma.

𝑶 𝑪𝒐𝒎𝒆, 𝑳𝒆𝒕 𝑼𝒔 𝑨𝒅𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝑯𝒊𝒎

IMG_9177 (2)Are you singing? ‘Tis the season for singing!

It is a season for the joyous songs of Christmas and a time to reflect upon what they truly mean. But why stop singing with the Christmas season? Why put the songs away with the decorations? Or why wait to get them out until then?

I think some Christmas songs are great any day of the year! We can enjoy the gift of music, but even more the presence of God. Psalm 95:2 (KJV) says, “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.” God inhabits the praise of His people.*

It is precious to enter into His presence, and it is precious to invite His presence to be with us. My favorite musical invitation to God is to sing the words of the old Latin hymn popular at Christmastime: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” And then my heart is subsequently drawn to adore Him.

O come, let us adore Him! Sing with me!

♫ O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord. ♫

*See Psalm 22:3
Original text and photo by Francee Strain, December 7, 2019.
Adapted text by Francee Strain, 𝘕𝘰 𝘖𝘳𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘳𝘺 𝘐𝘯𝘷𝘪𝘵𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯: 𝘊𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘓𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘢 𝘓𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘌𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘗𝘶𝘳𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 108-9.
Song lyrics taken from “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” attributed to John Francis Wade, c. 1711-1786.

Gratitude vs. Grumblitude


Happy Thanksgiving! Or is it? What is the attitude of our hearts? Are we exhibiting gratitude or grumblitude? What exudes from our beings? Sweetness or sourness? Compliment or complaint?

Sometimes, we lose perspective on what is important, and we come down with a case of the grumbles. I hear it in the voices around me. I hear it coming out of my own mouth. “I wish my house….” “I wish I had a….” “I wish I could____, but no, I am stuck with_____.”

So, how can we quell the flow of such unthankful thoughts coming from our hearts, minds, and mouths? We change our perspectives and take in new things so that we in turn can pour them out.

God reigns in the kingdom of men. It is He who holds our very breaths. What a magnificent thought.

What can I see, touch, hear, feel, taste, and do? Perhaps some of my limbs and senses do not function, but I still have some amount.

Have I eaten? Slept under a roof, even if it belonged to a shelter? Worn clothes? Experienced warmth? Had joy at some point in my life? Yes. Yes, I have.

So, the fact that my car is fifteen years old, dented (that pole in the parking garage should not have been in my way), and buried under years of country dust because I cannot lift the hose and brush to clean it should still be a cause for gratitude.

The fact that my couch is seventeen years old, worn, sagging, has shot springs, and has a piece of wood frame jutting out should not be a source of grumbling.

The fact that I am living in a manufactured home, which needs repairs and landscaping, rather than living in my dream Victorian mansion with park-like gardens should not faze the attitude of my heart.

The fact that I play a piano I bought out of the want ads rather than play a concert grand from the music store (which would have cost more than I paid for my home, by the way) humbles my heart because God miraculously gifted me with a beautiful instrument and the gift of music.

In all of these places, I have been blessed. In all of these places, God has come near. In all of these places, I have wept with others, rejoiced with others, and listened to their hearts, as they have done for me.

God has drawn near in other places, as well, with possessions I have only held temporarily. A value menu sandwich filled the tummy of a homeless man instead of mine while we sat together on the curb in sub-freezing December temperatures. But there, while I sat next to him with my tummy grumbling, I was filled with gratitude. His tummy was now full and grateful. I heard his heart. I looked into his eyes. And I knew what mattered that day–not my sandwich, not my needs, not my collection of money to be spent on little things for myself that day or set aside for bigger things someday down the road–it was our hearts that mattered. What mattered was eternal, and God gave us both a perspective to see as He sees. This man heard of the love that Jesus has for him, that had searched him out even in this lowest of places. It was a holy moment as God drew near. He wept with me and this man. And He rejoiced with me and this man. And He heard both of our hearts. For this moment, I will ever be grateful.

Yes, for all these things, and much more, I will express gratitude rather than grumblitude. I am humbled by the grace of God that has searched me out even in my lowest of places.

So, whether you join me in my well-used car, on my well-used couch, in my well-used home, on a freezing concrete curb, or just through the words on this page, I pray you will hear how much God loves you and that His grace is searching for you.

Welcome to grace and gratitude.

But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalm 13:5-6 NKJV)

Text and photo by Francee Strain, November 28, 2019

The Rainy Season


‘Tis the season—the season for rain.  But it is also the season for thanksgiving.  Rain can be destructive, but it can also bring beauty.  Rain can wipe away our chalk drawings, but it can also grow our roses.  Take a second look at your rainy season and find a reason to give thanks.

Thankful Thoughts (book excerpt)
We have most likely learned that although it may not be raining now, one day it will be. Even though we may be living in relative ease right now, we know to anticipate the “rain” of struggles. Part of being human is facing the difficult times that will be forthcoming someday. On the other hand, we may already be living in the “someday” and be in the midst of those struggles right now. Our lives may be in states of chaos, with one crisis after another, and we can barely think straight. How can we rest amid our suffering? How can we praise God anyway? One place to find answers is to look at the life of Job.

There was a way that Job was able to find peace and rest. He said, “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind. … With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding” (Job 12:10, 13). Job’s burdens were lightened because he placed his trust in God’s character. When we meditate on who God is in relation to who we are, our thoughts will become peaceful as we recognize His sovereignty and omnipotence. When we read these verses and see that He has understanding, it can bring relief to our minds to know that at least He has things figured out even if we do not. God is wise and strong, and He has been around so much longer than we have. He knows how things work–He made them! If He created the earth and He created us, then He definitely knows what to do with our lives. Our minds can be calmed by understanding that He holds our lives in His hands and gives us every breath. So when the rains of life come, we can rest safely in His shelter, knowing He is going to bring growth from this downpour.


Psalm 135:1-7 (NKJV)

1 Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord; Praise Him, O you servants of the Lord!
2 You who stand in the house of the Lord, In the courts of the house of our God,
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; Sing praises to His name, for it is pleasant.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure.
5 For I know that the Lord is great, And our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.
7 He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.


Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 193.

Photo Credit: Francee Strain

Bitterness on Fire

Smoky Sunset posted on Facebook Aug 27, 2018

He’s at it again. There she goes again. They’ve added more infractions to their already tall stacks. On, and on, and on they go, hurting me repeatedly. And while their lists of wrongdoings grow longer, my root goes deeper–my root of bitterness.

Every time pain is inflicted, I add another layer to my root. It is somewhat like the rings inside a tree trunk, growing more with an abundance of water. In this case, it is my root of bitterness, growing more with each drop of someone else’s behavior that I let seep into my heart. While their stacks of offenses mount, my root digs deeper. I am building something, just as they are, but instead of stacking things upward as they do, I am spiraling down, digging a deep, dark hole in the soil of my heart. And as I do this, I am going against God’s building plan. We are to be rooted and built up in Him, not torn down by our death grip on sin. We are to grow up into Him in all things, not let ourselves or others send us into a downward spin.*

God designed the soil of our hearts to be seeded with good things. It is to be plowed up and ready to hold things that will nurture us and nourish the lives with which we share the harvest. The rocks and the old roots, and any other debris, need to be removed for the best and most fertile conditions.

What will be pulled from the soil of our hearts at harvest time? Ugly, twisted roots that we neglected to tend to or beautiful grain and luscious fruit? What will the harvest of our souls provide to the souls of others?

Don’t do unto others the awful things they’ve done unto you; instead, do unto others as Jesus has done. Give lovingly, sacrificially, with a beautiful heart and a grand purpose. Follow His example. If anyone ever had a right to be bitter, it would be Him. But instead of allowing bitterness to consume Him, He served the world around Him, bringing hope, joy, peace, and healing. He replaced ugly debris in the world around Him with the beautiful gift of His love and salvation. He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

We are to abide in Him. He is the vine, and we are the branches. We are not to abide in ourselves, trying to be the vine, making bitterness our root and using our branches to hit back at others. Jesus is the Master Gardener, and His forgiveness quenches every sin. He is the source of strength to help us defeat this obstinate and seemingly unconquerable problem of bitterness. He can miraculously uproot things from our hearts that ought not be there, if we will allow Him to tend the soil of our hearts. We can grow upward into beautiful trees of righteousness, plantings of the Lord, that He might be glorified.**

Let the root of bitterness be burned up in the fire of forgiveness.  And when the smoke clears, the beauty of grace will remain.

*See Colossians 2:6-7
**See what God can do for His people John 15:1-17, Isaiah 61:3, 10-11


©Text and photos, Francee Strain, October 26, 2019


Sapphires and Gold


I encountered something beautiful and breathtaking. I was walking around my property in the summer, under a sapphire-blue sky. I live in a fairly arid region, and by June, things are dry, golden brown, and crunchy. Fire danger ramps up in July, and we spend the rest of the summer holding our breath. But that particular day, amidst what appeared to be dead, dry, and unattractive was something astoundingly beautiful, something I had never before witnessed. Across the field, something was glinting gold.  A closer look revealed a dragonfly perching on a dead weed. I had my camera with me, and thus, zoomed in for some photos. The glinting I had seen in the afternoon sun was coming from the veins running through its wings. They shimmered and glowed. Light was reflecting off them. Wow! The beauty was such that it made me hold my breath.

I then got to thinking how much this scenario is like our lives. Sometimes, we look around, and we don’t see the beauty. We see the weeds. Our dreams crumble into dust. Our hopes get crushed and crunched beneath passing feet. We live with fear and worry and anxiety, awaiting the firestorm that may potentially come as the days pass by. But, if we open our eyes, we will notice there is beauty surrounding us. In the tiniest details, sent directly from the hand of God, we will see the gold. He is the master weaver, taking each thread and shaping it into wings in us so that we may fly. We can perch above what looks hopeless below. And although He works with threads of gold in our lives, where He dwells, where the sapphire sky is beneath His feet, there are streets of gold.*

Hold on to hope—with Jesus in your heart and your hand in the master weaver’s hand—because someday, your belief in Him will place you atop those streets of gold. You will look around, stunned by the beauty of His glory. You will see things you never before could have imagined. Perfection will surround you. No fires of life will ever again touch you. Nothing will die, nothing will be broken, nothing will be damaged. All will be whole and complete. And you will have found the greatest treasure, treasure that surpasses even gold.

*“[A]nd they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.” Exodus 24:10 NKJV

“And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:21b NKJV

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, September 26, 2019

The Look of a Legacy


What does yours look like? How would your eulogy read? What will people remember long after you are gone? Should your example be followed?

What has God called you to do and be? Are you at the ready, listening for His voice, reaching out with open hands and a willing heart? Our positive responses to His words will affect our lives and those around us. A negative response will do the same.

Important examples can be seen in the pages of scripture. For example, look at the twelve disciples. Jesus called them to follow Him, and their positive responses and subsequent actions changed the world. If they had neglected to heed His voice, our world would be different than it is today. What they did centuries ago still affects people now.

Each life leaves an imprint, and the action each person takes affects others either positively or negatively. Living as God has asked us to live will leave a lasting imprint, one that is eternal. Lives will be touched and changed, ours included.

What legacy do you want to leave behind as you walk forward?

As for me and myself, I want to leave an eternal impact, a legacy that shines with the light and love of Jesus Christ. When people look at my heart, I want it to look like His legacy was imprinted there. This is my response, and now I must take subsequent action. This is how I want my legacy to look.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which 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 NKJV)

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, September 21, 2019

On My Side

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God is for me, not against me.

It seems I have heard that phrase frequently as of late. As a matter of fact, I encountered the phrase three times in two days. I believe God wanted to draw my attention to this fact, to examine the reality of this statement and remind me of its truth. What was my conclusion in thinking about this phrase for a while? I concluded without a doubt that He is on my side. Why would I draw such a conclusion? Because the proof is there—the foremost being the proof in His side, where He was pierced after being crucified for my sins—and I trust in His goodness.

It seems so many people are questioning God and whether He is truly on their side. Many blame Him when bad things happen, even when the consequences result from their own choices. He gets blamed when people don’t get their own ways, when things don’t turn out like they want them to or think they should. He gets blamed when life is unfair, when there’s loss, when things are hard, and when He allows tests and trials. He gets blamed for sin and the choices resulting from free will. That is a lot of blame, and it covers everything from A to Z. But the reality is, we live in a broken world with broken people. We also have enemies of our souls—Satan and ourselves. What do we do about the brokenness? How do we see and find the good? How do we get the help of almighty God on our side, to push through these things and make it to the other side? We take a step and move to His side.

God draws near to us when we draw near to Him. And actually, He already stepped near to us about 2000 years ago. He came to our side when Jesus was born and then gave His life for us on the cross. Jesus, God’s own son, stood in the gap between sin and holiness and provided us with a rescue, a way of escape from ever having to be apart from His side. When we choose to do life with Him and for Him, He will never leave us nor forsake us. Choosing to stand on God’s side by choosing His son as our Savior will keep us from ever being plucked from His hand. We will never again walk alone. He will walk beside us as a traveling companion in this life. He will be our provider, source of strength, listening ear, supporter, and encourager. And when this life ends, we will forever be in His presence.

So, before that final day, we all have a choice to make. Will we choose to have God at our sides? As for me, I choose Him. I can confidently say, “God is for me, not against me; He is on my side.” He is always watching over me, and thus, I can walk in peace, knowing all things are working for my good. I need not be anxious about anything, because regardless of the situation, I can still commune with Him and be blessed. I can rest in the knowledge that His will, not mine, is being done. Worry is unnecessary because He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Even when all the world is crumbling or is against me–when the enemy surrounds me, when I falter and fail, when everyone forsakes me–He will keep His promise to never leave me nor forsake me. He will be at my right hand, and I will not be moved. He will fight for me, and I will hold my peace. He will be an ever-present help in time of need.

Yes, I choose to move to God’s side, and thus, have Him on my side.

Francee Strain, August 24, 2019

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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Our immediate family, extended family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, acquaintances, and strangers we meet on the street are going through trials right now. Times of great difficulty are not just on the horizon, they are now; they were yesterday; they will be tomorrow. We are in the thick of it, and we are wearing thin. We face things that make us want to quit, things that overwhelm us, things that cut deep, things that we cannot even fathom with our human minds. What recourse do we have? How can we cope? How can we continue to put one foot in front of the other? We give up. We surrender. We put ourselves between a rock and a hard place. But not just any rock—the Rock.

• We let God be at our backs. We let Him be the one we fall back on. So, no matter which direction we turn, there He is, supporting us on all sides.

Then they remembered that God was their rock,
And the Most High God their Redeemer. (Psalm 78:35)

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21)

• We let Him lead us. We let Him be the one that goes before us, preparing the way and meeting us when we get there.

And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you.
He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake
you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

• We let Him carry us. At our lowest, even in the low valley of the shadow of death, it is His everlasting arms that are beneath us.

The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms; (Deuteronomy 33:27a)

• We let His love cover us and His presence overshadow us.

By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He
has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the
Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses
that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And
we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love,
and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:13-16)

This is the rock and the hard place between which I want to find myself firmly planted. Like a rock, immovable, because my God is immovable. He is stronger than anything that comes against me.  Yes, the LORD will preserve our going out and our coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore, if we entrust ourselves to His hand. (see Psalm 121:8)

The Lord is my rock and my fortress
and my deliverer;

As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?

God is my strength and power,
And He makes my way perfect.
(2 Samuel 22:2b, 31-33)


Francee Strain, August 10, 2019

Scriptures taken from New King James Version

Your Invitation


Book excerpt from Chapter 1 of No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose

Have you ever been a contestant on a game show? I would venture to say that most of us have not been game show contestants, but the majority of us have probably seen them on television. Place your mind-set into a game show scenario, and envision the show taking place in front of you. You know how it is: people in the studio audience sitting on the edges of their seats, just waiting for their names to be called. They wait with sweaty palms and thumping hearts for the chance to win money and prizes and trips to Jamaica or other exotic places. The possessions they can gain, the vacations they can take, and the monetary amounts they can win are things that most of us can only dream about or experience vicariously.

What is it about things that makes people respond so eagerly? When people hear the words of an exuberant host inviting them to come to the front, they excitedly comply because it is expected that they do so. They go forward expecting to have the opportunity to win prizes as the host promised. The competition gets underway, and we watch and wait to see what the outcome will be. The crowd cheers or boos the contestants as the competition ensues. Our minds and emotions follow them through to the end of their game show runs—to happy victories or to heartbreaking defeats. The players will either rejoice in their winning or sadly trudge back to their seats, their opportunities over. The time of the invitation has ended, and they part ways with the host.

What motivates people to respond to invitations in life? Would we excitedly respond to an amazing invitation from an exuberant host, especially if it was to something so much better than the incredible prizes awarded on game shows? Well, we do not have to guess or imagine what we would do if this happened to us, because it already has. God is a host, and He has called us to come forward to receive amazing gifts. Now, understand that there are differences between this invitation and a game show invitation: God’s invitation to us is not for a game or show—it is for real life! There is no competition to engage in. There is no loss, only winning. There is no sales tax to be paid on the earnings because everything He offers is absolutely free! We just need to get up out of our seats in the audience and become active participants in the events taking place in front of us. The rewards will be great, and there will be believers cheering us on. And after we have received our reward from this host, we will never have to part ways. The reward is eternal life with Him forever in heaven.

Since before time began, a call went out to you. Even in the midst of a crowd, God has been seeking your heart as an individual. An invitation was developed with you in mind. From the time that the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus prepared to die for you and for each soul that would ever live. His sacrifice was arranged before you were ever a thought—before a single soul had ever lived. He did this so that you might have eternal life. Have you responded to His invitation?

This call has gone out directly to you. It does not involve living vicariously through someone else; it involves you living directly. The rewards of answering this invitation are beyond anything you could ever imagine. God is offering you a most amazing prize: the gift of eternal life. This gift was given in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV). God, the host of heaven, wants you to win in life, and He wants to give you a reward in heaven too. Eternal life is the prize that God will give us if we come forward to claim it. It is free for the taking to whoever wants it. Come and get it! Eternal life is an eternal prize!

… Have you answered His call?

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 3-4.