The Cares of This World

Sometimes, the cares of this world are just too much—too much to think about, too much to handle, too much to bear.  Their heaviness can weigh on our hearts and minds until our spirits are downcast and we can barely lift our heads. 

I found myself this week sighing in my spirit.  The grief was palpable.  I was distracted from my tasks of the day as my mind started listing the burdens one by one—mine, his, hers, theirs, ours.  The tears welled up and spilled over.  “God, please help us; We need your help,” I pleaded.  And instantly, He was there, speaking comfort to my soul, reminding me that His shoulders are here to carry the loads, His strong arms are here to lift me up, and His hands are here to hold me close. 

We do not need to be anxious about anything.1  God cares about every detail of our lives.  We were not made to carry this weight, and definitely not made to carry it alone.  If we are focusing on our burdens, it will keep us from focusing on our Source of help, whereas trusting in Him will render perfect peace. 

Scripture tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us.2  We cannot change the past, but He can heal us from it.  The present may be completely out of our control, but He is present.  And instead of worrying about and dreading the future, thinking “What if ___________happens,” we can replace those thoughts with ones about His character and presence, ones like “He is loving.  He is good.  He is sovereign.  He is all-powerful.  He is.” 

Remembering the truth lifted the weight from me.  The problems and pains remained, but healing and strength had come to my heart.  A lilt of joy entered in, and I continued the tasks of the day, going in the strength of the LORD God, the One who cares for this world. 


Carry Me

When the road is long, carry me.

When I’m not strong, carry me.

When all is wrong, carry me.

Carry me on the road that is short to You.

Carry me in strong arms that will pull me through.

Carry me in the way that is right and true.

Carry me straight to You.3


NOTES

1 See Philippians 4:6.

2 See 1 Peter 5:7.

3 ©Francee Strain, August 2017

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 25, 2021

Hold My Hand

“Hold my hand.  I’m scared.”  These were the words of the seven-year-old boy I was babysitting.  I was tasked to take him to a movie which portrayed good animals and bad animals.  We were sitting on the front row of the theater with our necks craned, looking up at the very large villain. This little boy was a tough guy.  He had a life-threatening disease that eventually took his life a few years later.  He was very mature and well-spoken, as he spent quite a bit of his life around doctors and other health care professionals, but he also had the heart of a seven-year-old little boy, full of silliness and spunk.  So, when it came time for this intense scene in the movie, he needed some reassurance.  My presence was comforting to him as my fingers closed around his. 

How many of us are walking through life beside people who are afraid and needing us to reach out and hold their hands?  How many of us are these people, afraid and needing someone to hold our hands?

So many of my friends and family members are walking through great trials of uncertainty and loss right now. Many of them do not live near me, however, and my health prevents me from traveling to be by their sides. Thus, I cannot physically hold their hands, but I am able to hold their hands in spirit. I can send a message, send a card, or call and pray with them.  A gesture of love and encouragement can become a comfort across the miles. 

And what if we are the ones who need our hands held?  We can speak up and reach out for the comfort we need. But what if there is no one to answer?  At times, we cannot find comfort because others do not truly understand our need, or perhaps they do not have the time or energy to give us.  When we find ourselves in situations like these, we do not have to remain comfortless.  We can always reach our hands up to the Savior of the world.  He tells His own He will be with them to the end of the world.  He gives them His spirit so they are not left comfortless.  His hand is mighty to save.  He upholds, guides, sustains, and shelters.  Fear not.  Reach out for His nail-scarred hand.  He conquered death and is Lord of all.   


Precious Lord, take my hand,

Lead me on, help me stand

I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;

Thro’ the storm, thro’ the night,

Lead me on to the light

Take my hand, precious Lord,

Lead me home.

*

When my way grows drear,

Precious Lord, linger near

When my life is almost gone;

Hear my cry, hear my call,

Hold my hand lest I fall

Take my hand, precious Lord,

Lead me home.


NOTES

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 18, 2021

Lyrics excerpted from the song “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” by Thomas A. Dorsey.   

Four Years and Counting/Make Me More (double feature)

This week marks the fourth anniversary of writing for my website. It has been an exciting journey to meet people from all over the world. 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.

Below, you will find the first article I ever posted. Its words still ring true. This is what still pours from my heart.


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.


NOTES

© “Four Years and Counting,” Francee Strain, July 10, 2021

© “Make Me More,” Francee Strain, July 8, 2017, revised May 25, 2019

© All photos Francee Strain. This mountain bluebird photo was my first website background photo. The peony time-lapse photos accompanied the “Make Me More” article.

Lingering Gratitude

It has been four weeks since I stood and watched a fire consuming my land.  The landscape has been permanently altered.  There will now always be scars and evidence of trauma.  But I have discovered something in the midst of the wounds and barrenness the flames left behind; I have found gratitude and beauty.

What my physical eyes now see day after day is charred earth and dying trees, but my spiritual eyes see something more.  The scars are ever reminiscent of God’s mighty hand of protection over me.  I see what I have right now, but I am also blatantly aware of what could have been.  And I am grateful.

Sometimes, I walk out and stand in the burn zone.  I look in every direction, and my physical eyes see what the fire tried to take, but my spiritual eyes see the hedge of protection that God raised around us.  The firebreak that the bulldozer carved has become a new path where I have been able to walk and discover new beauty.1  Missing trees and absent foliage provide a new line of sight to scenery that was previously obscured.  I have caught my breath in awe and wonder.

And this is the message to my heart: when the receipt of the blessing is long past, let your gratitude linger. At the end of the day, be thankful He awakened you to that new day and kept you through every hour of it.  When events become memories, remember them.  When discontent and disappointment arrive, remember how you were blessed in the past and still are.  When Thanksgiving Day passes, continue to give thanks.

As we move on through life, let us not forget the Giver of Life.  He gave us the breath of life so we can know He gave His life on the cross to offer us the gift of eternal life. His power is real. His plan is perfect. His peace is available.  Let’s accept His gift, and let’s return our gratitude to Him. 

And let that gratitude linger, remembering all He has done for us.  Let our hearts feel wonder.  Let our lips offer praise. 


They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness,
And shall sing of Your righteousness.

Psalm 145:7

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

Psalm 103:1–2


NOTES

1 This scene was newly photographed from the bulldozed path across my property.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 4, 2021.

The God of the Brokenhearted

Why is this happening to me?  This is not what I had planned for my life.  This is not what I signed up for.  This is not where I thought I would be by now.  Castles crumbling all around me.  Teardrops falling relentlessly.  Cold hearts.  Cold glares.  Empty words.  Unfulfilled promises.  Brokenness everywhere I look.  Brokenness in them … and brokenness in me.  We are broken, and we are brokenhearted.

We are brokenhearted because we possess broken hearts.  We have stepped out of God’s perfect design and into lives marred by sin.  Poor choices.  Wrong choices.  Hurtful choices.  Selfish choices.  And now, what can we do?

We can make more choices.  Choices to mend what is broken.  Choices to ask for forgiveness.  Choices to offer forgiveness.  Choices to leave our lifestyles of sin.  We can choose to do more, be more, love more.  We can choose to live our imperfect lives with the perfect God, the God of the brokenhearted.

God sent Jesus to heal us from sin and reconcile us to Himself by His perfect sacrifice on the cross.  We can choose to believe He did this for us and choose to ask Him to forgive us and save us.  The wounds sin has left upon us can be healed, and our broken hearts can be made whole.

“He heals the brokenhearted

And binds up their wounds.”

Psalm 147:3 (NKJV)

IMG_6018 (3)

NOTES

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, October 31, 2017.  Revised text and photo June 25, 2021.

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

The Father’s Invitation

“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).”1

Do you believe?  I do.  And because I have accepted Jesus’ forgiveness, I have become a child of God, and God has become my Everlasting Father.  Yes, I get to call Him Father.  The Great I AM, the God of all gods, the Omnipotent One, the Creator—this very One is also my Father.

So, on this Father’s Day holiday when we celebrate our fathers, I will not only be celebrating the man I call dad but also my ultimate Father, God Almighty.  I am thankful for the things my earthly father did to help me learn about my Heavenly Father, and I am so grateful God extended the invitation so I could become His child.


NOTES

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

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, June 20, 2021.  I chose this photo because God blessed me with this rare sighting, and because my dad and I both enjoy photography and caring for wild birds. 

Eyes Forward

If you noticed my blog article was nonexistent last weekend, here’s why: my property was on fire, along with multiple others in the neighborhood.  Strong winds blew a tree onto some power lines running across the rural acreage here, and a fire ignited.  The fire then spread to the prairie grasses and other trees across the vicinity while the winds continued to blow strongly.  Our family and some neighbors were fighting the flames and dealing with all of the chaos of the situation until enough fire crews arrived to render aid.  When we called it a night, my brain was too exhausted to think.  Praise God, we are all safe, and no homes were lost. 

Prior to the fire, I had been putting a few thoughts together for this article, but the fire adjusted my line of thought and my vision.  I had to keep my eyes forward, with my heart looking to God to help us through whatever the outcome would be.  I could not look at my past experiences with fires, nor be concerned about those that might come tomorrow.  I was in the moment, and that is where I had to live.  Yet, God took me to a place I had not been before.  While flames were inches from my face, God’s presence was closer.  The wave of fear that threatened to drown me at the outset became waves of His peace washing over me.  Panic became purpose.  Chaos was overruled by calm.  The humanly impossible was swallowed up by the power of God.  And then after the smoke began to recede and the scorched earth made its appearance, the magnitude of what He carried us through became ever more apparent.

Standing in the burn zone now is overwhelming.  The magnitude of what was at stake cannot be denied.  The reality of the rescue is readily realized.  And there is beauty.  And wonder.  And awe.  And overwhelming gratitude at the goodness of God.  Praise continues to flow from my heart and lips.  My remodeled landscape is a blatant reminder that God is with me.  He was there in the flames, and He is here in the aftermath.  He sent what I needed when I needed it, and I know He always will.  The eyes of my heart have the vision of His. 

What fires of life are you facing right now?  Are you looking at them with the eyes of your head or the eyes of your heart?  Are you caught up in what your physical eyes can see or in what your spiritual eyes know?  Are you looking to yourself or to others to aid your circumstances, or are you looking to God?  He is good, and He does what is good.  He is worthy to be praised at all times and in all circumstances.  His ways and thoughts are higher than ours.  His love for us is deeper than we could ever comprehend.  Faith in His salvation will be our salvation.  No matter the storm that rages, He is the Master who speaks, “Peace, be still.”  Jesus conquered the power of sin and death to save your soul, and if you accept His gift of eternal life, the things of this temporal life grow dim.  Eyes that look beyond the now to the eternal purposes of God find life, and hope, and peace.

Eyes that look forward see life is not just about waking up, eating three meals a day, going to work for a shift, and filling the evenings with family and recreation.  These eyes don’t focus on the mundane or the chaotic.  They don’t look inside themselves for answers.  They don’t focus on the pain, the past, the addiction, the fear, the comparison, the discontent, the regret.  They look forward.  They look to God.  He created us for a purpose.  He gave His Son to save us.  He has a plan for our lives and a desire to commune with us.  He will do amazing things in us and through us, if we look to Him.  He will watch over and care for His own.  His eyes and heart will be with them.  And beyond the now, those who have placed their faith in Jesus will see more than what their hearts know; they will see Him, face to face.  We have this to look forward to. 

NOTES

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 13, 2021.  This photo was taken of a salsify plant in the burn zone the day after the fire.

He Is Always There

Alone.  I sat in the emergency room alone last week.  My family was unable to be with me.  I wondered if I would die.  Tears filled my eyes as I sat in the waiting room alone.  Surrounded by people, but alone.

But then … God.

God spoke to my heart and reminded me I am never alone because He is always there.  He began to show me things all throughout my eleven hours and thirty-five minutes spent there—touches of His grace, provisions of His mercy, comforts of His love.  He gave me hope.  He brought me joy.  He sent a friend who read His words to me, prayed over me, attended to my needs, and kept me company for ninety minutes of that very long day with offers to give more assistance later.  Others prayed from afar. Strangers stepped up to assist me. Kindness and skill flowed from the employees. It would take a while (eleven hours and thirty-five minutes) to tell you about all of the goodness of God in the midst of that hospital.  He was in the midst of that day, every single minute of it.  His hands were in the details, and He deeply touched my soul.

After my release from the emergency room, I reflected upon my experience there and the following words came to my heart:

He’s always there.

His face is before me.

His hands uphold me.

He goes before me.

He walks beside me.

He’s got my back.

He watches over me.

My feet walk His paths.

His voice is in my ear.

His spirit testifies to mine.

His light is in my eyes.

His words are in my mind.

His wings cover me.

He’s the Rock upon which I build my life.

My name is known to Him.

The hairs of my head are numbered. 

His praise is on my tongue.

His joy is in my bones.

He’s acquainted with all my ways.

He directs my steps.

His mercy is upon me.

In me, through me, and for me, He is always there. 

From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.1


For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”2

Cast all your care upon Him for He cares for you.3

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.4

Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore!5


NOTES

See Psalm 90:2

2  Hebrews 13:5b

3  See 1 Peter 5:7

4  Psalm 46:1

1 Chronicles 16:11

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 30, 2021

Curbside Pickup

This article is not about pulling up to the curb for our groceries or take-out orders in the era of COVID; it is about the pickup of the spirit.

As we pass through the city, do we notice the people out on the curbsides?  The ones who sit at the corners asking for donations of money, transportation, work, food, or alcohol?  What do we do when we see them?  Quicken our pace?  Avert our eyes?  Feel a wash of fear come over us?  I have done all of the above.

But what if we joined them on the curb?  What if we stopped to pick up their burdens?  What if we stopped to pick up their spirits? 

It can be a scary prospect to think of approaching these strangers, especially as a woman, but inside, their hearts need love just like ours do.  I have had some incredible promptings from God at times to approach these souls on the curbside.  Some amazing things have happened!  Not only have their spirits been lifted, but mine has been as well.  These experiences have been imprinted on my heart.

People are weary and worn, carrying heavy loads on their shoulders and in their hearts and minds.  Even the ones who are not homeless but are just sitting on the curbside during their breaktimes from work or to wait for the bus are carrying loads.  But a smile and a kind word from us can make a world of difference.  Giving food can fill their hungry stomachs.  Giving them the address of a place where they can receive assistance offers them hope.  Giving our time and a listening ear gives them a sense of dignity and worth.  Giving them a hug or a handshake can bring them comfort.  And if we discover they don’t know the love of God, sharing that with them is the greatest help of all as it meets their deepest need—the need of their souls.

Let us remember and care for those in need.  It is the pickup we all need.  Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive.1 

And on second thought, perhaps I will mention us doing our curbside pickup from the restaurant or the grocery store; the souls who bring our orders to us are important to God.  Let’s see if we can pick up their spirits at the curbside.

Have a wonderful week!

~Francee


“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35

He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, And He will pay back what he has given.

Proverbs 19:17

The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all.

Proverbs 22:2

He who has a generous eye will be blessed, For he gives of his bread to the poor.

Proverbs 22:9


NOTES

1 See Acts 20:35.

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

©Text and photo by Francee Strain, May 23, 2021.

Don’t Quit

It seems to me so many people are battle weary, downtrodden, and living in defeat. But we are not defeated, for the battle belongs to the LORD. The victory is His.

In the midst of these dark times, let’s look for the good He is bringing and the new beauty. Let’s look for the blessings in the brokenness.

Remember these seemingly impossible situations? 

  • The Red Sea loomed in front of Moses and Pharaoh’s army behind him, but God parted the sea and crushed the enemy.  Moses proceeded on dry land, untouched. 
  • Goliath loomed over David, but God helped him defeat the giant.  David proceeded forward and became a man after God’s own heart. 
  • The wall of Jericho loomed over Joshua, but God gave the instructions that toppled the wall.  Joshua marched forward into a miracle and the Promised Land. 
  • Death loomed over Jesus, but He arose from the grave.  It looked like life was over and all hope was lost, but Life and Hope were just beginning.

You do not have to be in the battle alone.  Whatever looms over you, God will help you face it and move forward.  When David came against Goliath, he said he was doing so in the name of the LORD of hosts.1  God is the one who has all power and authority.  Be battle ready and let Him fight for you.

How can you become battle ready?  Guard your heart.  Listen to the voice of God’s truth.  Wear your spiritual armor.  Prepare with prayer, the Word, fellowship, and obedience. Follow the instructions of the LORD God. Nourish your soul with the Living Water and the Bread of Life. Allow God to give you His peace.  Ask for courage. Take in the good. Release the sin that entangles you.  Trust in Him at all times.  He sent redemption and will keep His covenant with His people.2   

Don’t quit. 

Press on. No retreat. No surrender. Sure-footed and strong. Safe in His hand.

If God is for us, who can be against us? We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us so.3

Give it your all, for His glory.


Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Psalm 23:4–5

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:57


NOTES

1 See 1 Samuel 17:45.

2  See Psalm 111:9.

3  See Romans 8:31, 37.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 16, 2021