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

The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter blog June 2020

Have you done a heart check lately?

Does your heart belong to Jesus?

Does your heart love like Jesus?

“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)

 “For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b NKJV)

 

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, June 7, 2020
Scripture verses taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1994.

No More Tears

(Repost)

“Whew!”  That is about all I can say right now.  How about you?  Is your heart heavy and hurting?  It seems that everywhere I turn, people are in great pain.

I must admit that I have been crying my share of tears this year, even just this month; yes, even just this week.  Difficulties just pile and pile on.  Relentless.  Tears cried in a hospital.  Tears cried at a memorial service.  Tears cried in my home.  Tears cried in anger.  Tears cried in pain.  Tears cried in disappointment, frustration, offense, … .

Well, I have news for you, for us.  For those of us who have Jesus as our Savior, someday there are not going to be any more tears.  No more hospital tears, funeral tears, angry tears, pains-of-all-kinds tears.  Nope.  Not a one.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  (Revelation 21:4 KJV)

IMG_4853

Francee Strain, November 15, 2017

Photo by Francee Strain

In the Name of Peace

IMG_8598

We need peace. Peace in our world. Peace in our homes. Peace in our own hearts. We long for peace. We yearn for peace.

When troubles mount, we can feel overwhelmed. Helpless. Hopeless. Sometimes, we want to bury our heads under the covers. Other times, we want to run away. But these actions are not what will solve the problems. These things are not what will fill us with lasting peace.

Lasting peace can only be found in the Prince of Peace, the One who is Everlasting: Jesus. His name is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.*  Inviting Him into the situation is what will bring peace. Holding Him in our hearts will find Him holding us.

Peace is a matter of the heart. Peace is for hearts that matter. Peace is for you. YOU matter.

~~~~~

Grief can overwhelm us, and at times, we can become lost in it. Our hearts can break and bleed and cry out for relief. Our hearts can burn with questions hotter than Death Valley. “Why?” “Why God?” “Why are those three young boys going to be left without a mother?” “Why did he do that to me?” “Where were You when that was happening?” We can cry so many tears, inside and out, that we become dehydrated. Our throats become dry from crying, from screaming. We wander alone in deserts of pain and sadness, feeling like the vultures are circling overhead, their dark shadows coming for us next. So many unanswered questions. So much hurt. “Why?” “What good is there in all of this?” “What good is going to come out of this?” Our focus wanders from the well of water directly in front of us, to the blur of the heat waves rising from the burning sand all around us, to the pain of the scorching heat, to the howling of the desert wind. Our focus shifts to the pain and away from what can soothe the pain. But there is someone who can help us return from these perplexed states and find healing: God. We can mimic some of the words King David spoke in Psalm 25:16–18, asking for God to “turn” to us and “have mercy” on us because we are “desolate” and “afflicted” (v. 16). When the troubles of our hearts have grown, we can ask that He would see our afflictions and pain and then deliver us. And if we are in a state of grieving because of our sin, we can ask for His forgiveness (vv. 17–18). Calling out to Jesus is a good thing to do because He was acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). He knows what we are going through.

Immanuel. God with us. This is one of His names, one of His amazing characteristics, and one of His precious promises. He has said that He will never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). When our hearts are heavy and our spirits are wounded, Immanuel. When our minds swirl and whirl in chaos and questions, Immanuel. When nothing makes sense and all hope seems lost, Immanuel. Storms rage. Dreams die. Immanuel. People leave. People die. Immanuel. Homes are lost. Possessions ravaged. Immanuel. Days are long. Nights are longer. Immanuel. Pits are deep. Scars are deeper. Immanuel. No one even understands our pain and the depths of it. Immanuel. In this name, there is hope and there is rest. Immanuel. Comfort can be found in knowing that we are not alone in what we are facing. We can rest, assured of His promise to always be with us. And because God always keeps His promises, we can cling to this name for all we are worth. Immanuel. When we are lost, we can find Him: Immanuel.**

~~~~~

Let Him care for your heavy heart. Let Him catch your tears. He knows your pain. He knows your name.

YOU are precious.

YOU matter to Him.

YOU are loved.


*See Isaiah 9:6

**Excerpt taken from Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), pp. 64–6.

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, May 30, 2020.

 

When Mountains Stand Strong

IMG_5407

(Repost)

For those who are facing mountains right now, I have been there.  I originally wrote this post from a different place than I am writing today.  Some mountains have fallen into the sea; some have yet to fall.  New ones have risen–sometimes multiplying faster than I can count.  To you, I say: Hold fast.  Keep on keeping on.  Grab hold of the One who will never let you go.  With Him by your side, you can face any mountain.*


I am on the mountain of heartbreak, and I don’t want to climb it anymore. Every muscle in my aching body screams for me to stop, to give up, to turn around and get off this mountain—to run and hide rather than face what looms before me, to maybe wander off into a green pasture, to lie down beside a calm stream, to spend hours listening to the symphony of birds in the trees and crickets in the grass—anything but put one foot in front of the other on these craggy ledges and dangling precipices. I am tired from this journey that presents nothing to me but pain and arduous struggle.

The problems that loom in front of me are mountains of immense proportion. Their enormity is overwhelming. Just one look at them can cause my heart to sink into the lowest valley. Their height seems to reach to the heavens, and the length of the mountain chain seems to go on for miles with no end in sight. Whatever can my human heart do when this is what stands in front of me, staring me in the face with its cold, hard reality? These mountains are formidable opponents. Some people don’t survive the battle against these giants. Sometimes, I wonder if I will.

Why can’t I have it the easy way? Why can’t I have the things that look so much more desirable, and that appear as though they will bring me so much more peace? Why do I have to labor and exert myself for hours on end to head to a destination that I can’t even see, that seems so far beyond my reach? Why do I have to do it? Because this is what He has called me to. Because this is His perfect plan for my life. He knows something that I do not know. He sees something that I do not see. He knows what I will find when I get to the end. He goes before me, He goes beside me, He holds me up from behind, and when the finish line is finally in sight, He will be there with arms outstretched and waiting to enfold me—to tell me well done, to tell me that I have gained the prize. It is His wisdom that outweighs mine. It is His sovereignty, His omnipotence, His love that will spur me on. I have to choose. I get to choose. Will I be spurred on? Or will I turn and walk back down the mountain to a destination where He is not? To a place where He is not walking beside me, or upholding me, or spurring me on to finish. Which will I choose? Which direction will I go? I choose Him. In all things, I choose Him. No matter what lies ahead, what difficulties I must face, what trials I must surmount, I choose Him. I would rather have Him than anything. This is what I do when mountains stand strong: I stand stronger because of His strength in me.

So although I am enveloped in a thick, confusing fog, with winds howling all around me; although the storm clouds rage and break upon my face, their roaring thunder striking fear into my heart; although there are sudden avalanches that make the situation even more unstable than I thought it already was, and torrents wash away what I thought I knew, I can look up. Yes, at these times, I can look up. My fear and unbelief will then be washed away by grace, because when I lift up my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help, these heavy things have to flee and give place to hope, peace, and eternal love.

In my newly-washed perspective, I see God—the source of hope, peace, and eternal love. I see His goodness. His power. His strength and majesty. My heart can hope, and it can rejoice. Yes, although my feet are in the valley, my soul can soar above the mountaintops. I can stand strong because my Maker causes me to stand strong. Nothing compares to the awesomeness that He is. Nothing can lift my head like He can. Nothing can lift my soul like He can. Nothing can move my heart like He can. And nothing can move mountains like He can. He can give me the mustard seed of faith that can say to these formidable mountains, “Be moved into the sea!” When my Mountain, my Rock, battles against these mountains, they are no match, because greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. There is power in the name of this great God. There is none else like Him. When mountains stand strong, He stands stronger.**

“You are my rock…
Into Your hand I commit my spirit…
You have known my soul in adversities.”
(from Psalm 31:3, 5, 7 NKJV)

*Intoduction by Francee Strain, July 27, 2019
**Original text by Francee Strain, March 2, 2018
Revised photo by Francee Strain, May 23, 2020

The Bird-Watcher

IMG_7323

A robin facing the sunrise, Easter 2017

Birds are amazing creatures. My country backyard abounds with them. A birdbath filling is a daily ritual around here. And when the magpies show up, it is a multi-times-a-day ritual!

The details that have been poured into their precious little bodies astounds me. How can I be astounded when I have seen thousands of birds over the years? Because I have newly seen them, because I have paused to see them.

The shape and size of their feathers. The color. The texture. Their little toes and cute little voices–or big toes and big, cacophonous voices. Their busy little schedules they keep at 6:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., and even when I am trying to sleep. Stunning.

And to think at times, I just see a blob of birds and don’t think about the details. But God knows each little bird in that blob, and He knows when each one falls to the ground.* And what’s more, He cares about each bird…and the people watching them.

We look around and see we are a blob of humanity, flitting here and there from thing to thing to thing, keeping busy schedules–even when we are supposed to be asleep. But if we take pause and look closer, we will see exquisite details. Beautiful colors. Small voices and large.

And to think, God looks at each one of us and thinks about the details–and cares about the details. He knows each one of us. He knows when each one of us falls to the ground.

He is the bird-maker and the bird-watcher. And if He cares for each one of these creatures, how much more will He care for us, additional creations of His? And how much more for someone who has become more than just one of His creations, someone who has become one of His children through Jesus’s salvation and who wants His involvement in the details.

If we who are His children pause and look closer, we will see His hand in the details. He knows His children: when we are rising up or sitting down, what we are thinking, all of our ways, all of our words. He is before us and behind us, and His hand is upon us. There is nowhere we can go where we will be out of His presence. His hand leads us and holds us. His light shines around us. He formed us intricately and awesomely, and He continues to think about us. He never leaves our sides. His works are marvelous, and our souls have the opportunity to know it. Have we paused to know it?**

*See Matthew 10:29
**See Psalm 139

©Text and photo, Francee Strain.  Original post, August 30, 2017.  Revised post, May 9, 2020.