Steadfast

Are you weary?  Steady on.

Are you tired?  Don’t quit.

Are you faltering?  Don’t stop.

Are you losing touch?  Reach out.

Do you feel like giving up?  Look up.

Keep on Keeping on.  Steadfast.

Stand firm in the faith, and walk forward in it, too.  Have faith in the Only Begotten Son of God who loves you and gave His life for you.  His love is steadfast.  He spent a night with no sleep, being betrayed, arrested, falsely accused, mocked, and beaten.  And then, He made His way to the cross—for you.  He gave His very life so you would never have to journey on alone.

He holds the hands of those who hold Him in their hearts.  He never leaves His own.  He was faithful unto death, and now He is faithful unto life.  Eternal life awaits those who place their trust in Jesus, the Savior of the world.  There is hope for better days, days with no more pain, sorrow, or tears.

Life is hard.  And tiring.  And painful beyond belief.  But His presence will go with His children, and He will give them rest.  When the earth shakes, and the mountains fall into the sea, our quaking hearts can walk forward unafraid.  Do not fear.  He will hold us fast.  Having our foundation firm in Christ will give us a solid rock upon which to stand.  He never lets go of those who belong to Him.  He is the Creator of all.  He holds all power and knowledge in His hand.  He does not change, faint, grow weary, or close His eyes in sleep.  If you are on His side, He is on your side.

When we keep our eyes steadfast on Him, we will see His glory and His beauty.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is steadfast and faithful.  His mercies are new every morning.  His love is unconditional.  His peace is beyond understanding.  His joy is indescribable.  His grace is freely given to us, undeserved. 

Do not look for other things to fill, comfort, and satisfy you.  Only He can save, and only He can perfectly help.  Set your heart on Him.

Keep your mind stayed on Him.  Do not let it be overtaken by doubt, impurity, lies, and deception.

Set your ears to listen for His voice.

Set your voice always determined to praise Him.

He is high and lifted up.  He is the King who sits enthroned forever.  And He has said that we can boldly approach His throne and find grace to help in our time of need.

So, for all of my days, I will be steadfast in Him.

I will endure and continue, unshaken.  I will be confident, strong, sure, and peaceful.  I will continue on course, on task, on focus, on point, onward.  Steady on.  Steadfast.

My soul follows hard after You; Your right hand upholds me.*

*See Psalm 63:8 KJV.

For further reading: Psalm 40, Psalm 103, Romans 12:12

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 20, 2020

Overwhelmed, Again

IMG_6485

Two years ago, I wrote a post entitled “Overwhelmed,” and I asked these questions: Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Too much to do? Too many places to go? Too many people to see? Too much laundry? Too many dishes? Too many pieces of paperwork to read? Too much pain—inside and out? And now, here we are in 2020, and I could add a new assortment of questions to the list. Life sure has changed, but one thing still hasn’t: we get overwhelmed.

Sometimes, life is just too much—and then a whole new set of circumstances rolls in, and we almost don’t even know what to do or think. Overwhelmed describes our state of being and our emotional state. We take the circumstances that surround us and internalize them. The “stuff” of life becomes the emotion of life. And sometimes it is just too much. Overwhelmed then describes our status.

Overwhelmed by circumstances, by emotions, by the present reality.

And then, more questions come: Why? Why is it like this? What made things this way? Will things ever change?

And then comes a question we can actually answer: Do things have to stay this way? My answer is an overwhelming NO!!!

Things do not have to stay this way. Our being overwhelmed can be overwhelmed by God! His greatness and His power, His majesty and His authority, His presence and His involvement can change all that we are and all that we are in the midst of.

And even when circumstances do not change, we can change. We can let ourselves be overwhelmed differently. We can be overwhelmed by the presence of God. His peace can flood our minds. His joy can spill from our hearts. His strength can empower our actions. We can be made new.

And again, questions: Have you ever been overwhelmed by God? By His goodness, His love, His mercy?

You have…you just may not have known it.

Did you wake up this morning? Did you see and hear and feel and taste? Did you see the beauty of His creation all around you? Did you lay your head on a pillow last night and sleep beneath a blanket of stars? You have been overwhelmed by God’s goodness.

Did you awaken this morning with an opportunity to know God and know He loves you? Do you know that you have the capability to be forgiven for every wrong thing you have ever done? You have been overwhelmed by His goodness, AND His love, AND His mercy.

God has been good to us in body and in soul. Do our minds understand this?

What an overwhelming thought: to think that the God of the universe loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to save us. He wants to be with us and cares about every detail of our lives. He has made Himself available to us. The gift of salvation is free for the taking. And after that, His strength and power are abundantly available to help us through all the things of life that would overwhelm us.

My heart is overwhelmed with awe and gratitude.

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
Psalm 107:1 (NKJV)

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 30, 2020

The Sparrow Keeper

IMG_2037

I am a birdwatcher. I peek out the windows to check on the happenings in my yard. Certain birdcalls send me running outdoors to catch the action. At times, you will find me with my mouth agape as I observe the spectacular scenes unfolding before me.

Several of my hobbies revolve around wild birds. Some days, I get a finger cramp pressing the shutter button on my camera. I use my photographs in a multitude of ways. I have a feather collection. Bird figurines adorn my tabletops, shelves, fireplace mantel, and piano. There are framed bird prints hanging in various rooms of the house. I have bird identification books and recently had a magazine subscription where I could gaze at other people’s bird photographs and further my bird education. I am not sure where my fascination came from. I remember checking out bird guide books from the elementary school library and sitting at my bedroom desk tracing over the photos. Birds of paradise were my favorites. But after that, I do not remember too much of anything else related to birds—until five years ago, when I acquired a birdbath. At that point, I moved beyond being a bird watcher—I became a bird keeper.

A keeper is one who has the job not only to watch but also to protect and maintain what or whom is being cared for. Daily, I have taken to caring for the birds. I water them, fill up feeders with birdseed, and cook up batches of hummingbird nectar. I chase away cats looking for a feathery meal and shoo away deer who believe the bird feeders exist for their benefit. Thus, I have become a sparrow keeper, along with being a keeper to more than thirty-five other types. It brings great joy to my heart to be able to share in the lives of these beautiful creatures.

When we look at sparrows, beautiful may not be the first word that comes to mind.  We probably are not impressed by their appearance or wowed by their size. We might think they are a dime a dozen and are nothing in comparison to the showy peacocks or powerful birds of prey. But the Bible says not one sparrow is forgotten by God or falls to the ground without His knowledge. And we humans are told not to fear because we are of more value than many sparrows.* Think of it!  If God cares for each one of these little creatures, how much more must He care for us?

But, how do we understand this when life seems to be flying out of control in many directions at once, like a flock of birds flushing out of the field? Right now, there is noise, confusion, scrambling, blurring, fleeing, crying out, and fear. Things are startling us out of our peace and rest, interrupting us as we try to go about our normal lives, causing us to question what is happening and what to do next. We don’t understand the outside forces that are bearing down on us and making our anxious hearts pound. But I want to encourage us not to fear. God’s eyes are on the sparrows, and He is watching over us, too.

Recently, I was thinking of two songs which talk about God being a sparrow watcher. But the more I thought about this concept, I realized He is not just a sparrow watcher, He is a sparrow keeper. He is not simply an observer of what’s taking place in our lives, He is involved in our care. He fulfills the definition of a keeper as He guards and cares for, protects and maintains. As we live our lives in the midst of a difficult and fallen world, He abides, faithful.

Indeed, we are told the very hairs of our heads are numbered.** God is aware of each of us and is paying attention to the details. From our safe little perches and our huge falls to the ground in this big overwhelming world fraught with danger, He remains vigilant. When gale force winds, seasons of drought, firestorms, and famine come, He speaks peace. When we are separated from the flock, lost, or abandoned, He is omnipresent. When our feathers get ruffled, when we smack into the window while looking at the reflection of something we think we want, or when we get blown off course in the high winds, He sees. He knows. He remains steadfast. And He is available to help us recover. No one else can meet each need or save our very souls except Him. He has provided Himself, the living water and the bread of life. He guards souls from eternal death and is capable of keeping them in life. He is omnipotent and everlasting.

Yes, God is the world maker, star namer, and soul saver. He is the sparrow watcher and the sparrow keeper. From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.

IMG_8166

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by.

I will cry out to God Most High,
To God who performs all things for me.

He shall send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.
(Psalm 57:1-3 NKJV)

*See Luke 12:6
**See Luke 12:7

©Text and photos Francee Strain, August 16, 2020

Between Seasons 2

IMG_2376

These are difficult days. Long. Hard. Tiring.

We beg for relief from the firestorm that blazes around us. Will these days never end? Aloud we commentate. Silently we muse. In our hearts we wonder. In our minds we question. Confusion and chaos seem to reign supreme. But I want to encourage you to hold on. Hold on to hope. A change of season is coming. Refreshing rains. Beautiful colors interspersed amongst the landscape. The fruit of harvest.

Things will not always be as they are now. We are simply between seasons. Beyond what our eyes can see and what our minds can comprehend stands Jesus Christ, reigning supreme over all. Fully aware. Fully engaged. Fully planning to keep His promise to return for His own.

But something amazing can happen before the time of His return—He can speak peace to our storms even now and cause the raging winds to cease. We may not see it with our eyes, but we will know it in our spirits. Rays of light and hope will burst in and pervade the darkness and despair hanging over our heads. Peace will flood these plains of anxiety. Rivers of calm we have never known before will fill our quaking hearts.

We can invite His presence to enter into our situations. Today. Now. Even while this relenting heat beats down on our heads and tries to scorch every drop of hope we have remaining within us. He will come if we ask. We won’t need to fret or worry about what tomorrow holds because His power is real, His plan is perfect, and His peace is available.  He created the world from nothing, and in Him all things exist and subsist.

So, while we are here between seasons—enduring difficult days and bracing for more yet to come—we can access His strength.  He will enable us to pass through this dry season into a bountiful harvest.

“The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.”
Psalm 29:11

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.”
James 5:7

~~~For further reading, see my blog article entitled “Between Seasons.”~~~

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, July 26, 2020

Scripture quotations taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982, Thomas Nelson.

Beyond the Now

I wrote and posted this article a year ago and also posted it earlier this year…before things were, well, like they are now.  I hope these words encourage you today, even if you have read them before.  Remember to look up.  Remember who you are, why you are here, and what it is all about.  Let your weary heart take heart.

IMG_6650

(Repost)
Eyes on the goal. Eyes on the prize. What you do today impacts your future, and that of others.

There is more to this life and more beyond this life. We must plan and be intentional. We must count the cost when we are laying the foundation. We need to be rooted and built up in Jesus and let Him become our life.

We need to move in God’s direction—staying on course, getting directions from His Word, and letting Him be our motivation. And we need to come back after we fail.

We need diligence, perseverance, and endurance. Just like the slogan for graduates that says “The tassel was worth the hassle,” this hard journey pays off. You are impacted by the path you choose, and you impact others by the path you choose. Choose wisely. Do not give up. Do not quit. Keep pushing. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Be encouraged by those cheering you on, and in quiet stretches, remember those whose voices you cannot physically hear. I think of my grandma; you can think of me; we can both think of the cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 12:1) …and remember that God is on our side.

We need to saddle up, buckle up, buckle down, hunker down, and batten down. We need to keep calm and carry on. We are not to worry or be anxious. We need to trust in where our help comes from (It comes from the Lord—the Maker of heaven and earth!). We need to look up, but also ponder the path of our feet. We need to hydrate with the Living Water and keep moving, all the while being still and knowing He is God. We need to shake off the pain and take on the peace. There can be joy in this journey. We will never be alone; He is there beside us—hearing us when we call and drawing near to us as we draw near to Him.

We need to reset our focus to the season ahead and move with eternal purpose. What’s done is done, and we need to move forward. Time does not stop, and we do not get to go back. So, now is important, and so is prepping for the future. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus endured the cross. He finished the race that was set before Him to fulfill the reason for which He was born; and He is our example. The “now” for Him was to give His life for us so in the future we had a Savior. Now is our time to call on Him so we can be with Him in the future.

Finish the course. Keep the faith. You can do this. You can get beyond the now. All things are possible with God. And when you cross the finish line, you will lay your eyes on the prize—your eyes will be on Him. He is the joy, and He is the prize that is set before us.

Eyes on the prize. Eyes on the goal. Eyes beyond the now.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12–14 NKJV).

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 15, 2019

Make Me More

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?  Do you want to be more?  I suppose we all might likely answer yes to this question, as I do not think I have ever met anyone who has said, “I wish I was less.”  Why is it that we want to be more? Why do we think that we are not enough just as we are?

We want to be more because that is how we were created to be.  We long for more. We search for more.  We ask for more.  We yearn for more.

We have hearts that are on a quest.  Hearts that search and long for something else that they do not yet have.  That something that we do not yet have is eternity.  God has placed a longing in our hearts for it.  A longing for a life that is full and vibrant and beautiful.

So, how do we reconcile the reality of what is and the reality of what could be? How do we get to this place of eternity where the longing will be fulfilled?  The answer is really quite simple.  We place our longing into the hands of God and we take into our hands what He offers in return for that longing.  He offers salvation first.  If we choose to accept that gift, our hands can then become so full that they overflow.

The gift of salvation opens the door to blessings unimaginable because it is the key.

Salvation is given to you when you give your faith and trust to God.  When you realize that there is a door between you and God, a separation that needs to be removed so that you can be together with Him, that is when your hand is about to grasp the key.

Jesus is the key–the key to eternal life.  He is the perfect Son of God who became a perfect sacrifice for you.  He lived a sinless life on this earth and died a painful death on the cross to become the key that opens the door to eternal life.  Each of us is separated from God by our wrongdoings and imperfections.  Jesus came to die on the cross to forgive us of those wrongdoings and make us perfect through His righteousness.  Your belief in His death to atone for these wrongs, and your request that He forgive you of yours, will cleanse you of them and permit you to enter through the door.

And then, there is more.  Salvation through Jesus gives you eternal life, but you also have the opportunity to have abundant life.  Into your hands–into your life, heart, mind, soul, and relationships–can come love, joy, peace, strength, ability, patience, kindness, and so much more.  You can be transformed in how you live–how you act, think, feel, relate.  You can be more.  More because of the gifts that will be placed into your hands.  More because you will have things that you never had before.  Things that cannot be measured.  Things that cannot be priced.  Things that are not tangible.  The “more” will be things that are immeasurable: like the grace of God that covers all sin, a peace that passes all understanding, a joy that is present even when there is no cause for happiness, and a supernatural ability to endure.

And then we, when we have “more,” can be made more.  We can be made into beautiful representations of the love of God, the strength of God, the passion of God.  He is able to do above and beyond all that we ask, think, or imagine.

As for me and myself, I say: “Make me more!”

I want to glow like I have never glowed before.  I want to shine like a star in the heavens.  I want to go in the strength of the Lord God.  I want to do what I have never been able to do before.  I want to tread a path that follows in the footsteps of Jesus.  I want to think like He thinks, feel like He feels, love like He loves.

Yes, God, make me more.

Peony Time-Lapse 1Peony Time-Lapse 10Peony Time-Lapse 13Peony Time-Lapse 15

© Text and peony time-lapse photos, Francee Strain, July 8, 2017, revised May 25, 2019

 

Three Years and Counting

IMG_9521

Today marks three years that I have had my website.  I wanted to take this opportunity say thank you.

  • Thank you to anyone who has taken time to read my articles.
  • Thank you to those who have become site followers.
  • Thank you to those who have shared how an article has impacted you.
  • Thank you to those who have given me words of encouragement.
  • Thank you to those who have purchased my book.

I am grateful to all of you for being a part of my life.  I truly appreciate your support.

Sincerely,

Francee

Photo credit: Francee Strain

To Look Upon Beauty

024 (2)

(Repost)

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I would say that beauty is in the eye of the Creator.

God has an eye for beauty, and He knows how to put it on display! His works within the beauty of the natural world are astounding. Who could even begin to imagine such majesty but Him?

Who could fathom the depths of the sea and the height of the heavens? The force of a gale and the gentleness of a baby’s breath? The speed of sound and the slow calculated movements of a sleepy sloth? The bright flash of summer lightning and the cool vastness of moonless winter nights? Beauty. Look upon it.

Has He ever stolen your breath? Has your heart leapt in your chest at the beauty that lay before you? At the magnitude of the size, shape, color, and texture? At the sound that soothes your soul? At the smell that makes you sigh in contentment? Oh, what an amazing God! And to think, we have barely even seen or experienced a portion of all that He has made.

What words come to your mind…stunning, amazing, incredible, miraculous? Do words escape you? They escape me.

Yes, not only has He stolen my breath, He has stolen my vocabulary!

But there is one thing He has not stolen…my heart. I most gladly, freely, and eternally give it to Him. And because of this, one day I will get to look upon ultimate beauty: God Himself.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, revised version, October 16, 2018

Consider This

IMG_9455

There are so many thoughts that consume our minds, day in and day out. The minutes tick away while the thoughts bounce around in our brains and sometimes come out in our actions. Our thoughts dwell on fanciful daydreams of unrealistic plans, the daily drudgery of our chores and schedules, the pain of the relationships within which we exist, the pridefulness and selfishness of our own desires, the worries and cares of the world around us, the fleeting joy of pleasures, and so on. Well, what if we brought our minds to settle on boundless joy and abundant hope, ceaseless gratitude and incomprehensible peace, lasting love and eternal life? What if we brought our minds to settle on God—who He is and what He does?

Consider that He made and holds all of creation in His hand. He causes the sun to rise, the moon to glow, and the stars to shine. He arrays the flowers of the field in more majestic garb than the richest of kings wears. He sets the bounds of the waves and brings the morning dew. He knows the ways of the wind and when each sparrow falls to the ground. He exists outside of time yet holds every day in His hands. He needs nothing from anyone; and yet, He desires it. He desires a relationship with us. He wants us to know Him.

Consider this: He is mindful of us. He loves us with an everlasting love. Before the foundation of the world, He knew us. He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs with intricate and stunning detail. And as we grew, He waited for us to turn our thoughts and hearts toward Him. He turned His thoughts and heart toward us from the beginning of time. And when the time was just right, He sent His only Son to be the Savior of the world, the Savior of anyone who would believe.

Consider the choice you have to know Him. Consider where you can turn your thoughts and heart. I have chosen where mine will dwell; they will dwell in His presence forever.

I will meditate on all His works and on the glorious splendor of all His majesty. I will remember Him all throughout the day. I will rise up to call on His name in the morning, and I will give thanks to Him while I lie in my bed at night. I will take time to process His words, recognize His character, and ponder His mercy and grace. I will praise Him for His works and His magnificent goodness to me all throughout the day, and I will think about Him in the night watches until my eyes close in sleep.

Who am I God, that You are mindful of me, that You would consider making me Your child? How high are Your ways and Your wonderful works to all humankind.

~~~

Consider Psalm 145 for further meditation.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 28, 2020.

Beyond the Now

IMG_6650 (2)

(Repost)

Eyes on the goal. Eyes on the prize. What you do today impacts your future, and that of others.

There is more to this life and more beyond this life. We must plan and be intentional. We must count the cost when we are laying the foundation. We need to be rooted and built up in Jesus and let Him become our life.

We need to move in God’s direction—staying on course, getting directions from His Word, and letting Him be our motivation. And we need to come back after we fail.

We need diligence, perseverance, and endurance. Just like the slogan for graduates that says “The tassel was worth the hassle,” this hard journey pays off. You are impacted by the path you choose, and you impact others by the path you choose. Choose wisely. Do not give up. Do not quit. Keep pushing. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Be encouraged by those cheering you on, and in quiet stretches, remember those whose voices you cannot physically hear. I think of my grandma; you can think of me; we can both think of the cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 12:1) …and remember that God is on our side.

We need to saddle up, buckle up, buckle down, hunker down, and batten down. We need to keep calm and carry on. We are not to worry or be anxious. We need to trust in where our help comes from (It comes from the Lord—the Maker of heaven and earth!). We need to look up, but also ponder the path of our feet. We need to hydrate with the Living Water and keep moving, all the while being still and knowing He is God. We need to shake off the pain and take on the peace. There can be joy in this journey. We will never be alone; He is there beside us—hearing us when we call and drawing near to us as we draw near to Him.

We need to reset our focus to the season ahead and move with eternal purpose. What’s done is done, and we need to move forward. Time does not stop, and we do not get to go back. So, now is important, and so is prepping for the future. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus endured the cross. He finished the race that was set before Him to fulfill the reason for which He was born; and He is our example. The “now” for Him was to give His life for us so in the future we had a Savior. Now is our time to call on Him so we can be with Him in the future.

Finish the course. Keep the faith. You can do this. You can get beyond the now. All things are possible with God. And when you cross the finish line, you will lay your eyes on the prize—your eyes will be on Him. He is the joy, and He is the prize that is set before us.

Eyes on the prize. Eyes on the goal. Eyes beyond the now.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12–14 NKJV).

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 15, 2019