Steadfast

(Repost)

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

Unexpected Gifts

Certain times of year lend themselves to the expectation that we will receive gifts: Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, graduation, and anniversaries, to name a few.  But sometimes, gifts come at unexpected times—gifts “just because.”  There is a special type of joy that arises with the receipt of gifts, but there is a whole different facet when they happen “just because.”

This past week, I was the recipient of several gifts of the latter kind:

  • Monday, it was evidence of the promise of spring—flower shoots poking through the soil earlier than expected. That evening, I received an unexpected call from a dear friend from church who prayed for me over the phone.
  • Tuesday, it was the arrival of the birds of spring, and to a birdwatcher/photographer, this is exciting.  And then the ears, shoulders, and prayers of a dear friend were made available to help bear my burdens. 
  • Wednesday, it was a follow-up text of encouragement from this same friend, as well as a text from someone I do not hear from very often to say I was being thought of.  
  • Thursday, it was a message in a devotional encouraging me to let God love me daily because, after all, Jesus died to bring love to me.  And as I was reading this, the mailman came to the door and delivered a box filled to the brim with handwritten notecards from a friend and her children, cookies, chocolates, and a bookmark. The day was sunny, and there were heart-shaped clouds above my front yard and some deer in my backyard.  Later that same day, I was given the gift of being employed in a career I love, and then was given the gift of someone’s time, friendship, and a book.  My husband took care of some things my chronic illnesses did not allow me to handle. 
  • Friday, I received a handwritten card tucked into an invoice because the financial secretary felt God wanted her to send me a card of encouragement.  A Bible verse she had written in the card was also in my devotional reading that night!*  My husband again took care of things my chronic illnesses did not allow me to handle. 
  • Saturday morning, I sat reflecting on the significance of what God had poured into my life for several days straight.  It was an overwhelming amount of proof that He loves me and cares about every detail of my life.  He was pouring into my life just out of the goodness and kindness of His heart.  And then the mail arrived.  A dear friend who faithfully encourages and prays for me felt God prompt her to send a card.  The card was filled with a gift of words to lift my heart in the midst of all my health challenges and to encourage me on my journey for Jesus.  And that evening a sweet young friend closed out our conversation by telling me she loved me.

Wow! No ribbons or wrapping paper, but I feel as if I have had day after day of Christmas morning.

Are all weeks like this?  My first tendency would be to say no.  It does not often happen that I am lavished with gifts—well, at least not gifts of this type in this amount.  But if I look deeper and think about what goes on behind the scenes from day to day, there are myriad ways God shows His love for me.  My answer to the question of whether or not all weeks are like this has to be yes.  Yes, even at the darkest of times and in the most difficult of circumstances, God is pouring out blessings into my life.  I may not see them at that particular time or be apt to classify them as blessings, but He is at work and is bringing something good out of my life.

When I think back to my growing-up years, there was quite a bit of pain and struggle.  But with time and maturity removing me from the situations, I see God’s hands all over the place.  For example, the pain of being a military child moving from place to place gave me opportunities I never would have had growing up in the small rural community where I was born.  As much as I disliked the uprooting and the subsequent “new kid” treatment, in each place I also encountered people who significantly touched my life and loved me dearly, although I did not realize it at the time.  One uprooting brought me to a place where the gospel was shared with me, and I gave my life to Jesus.  Another uprooting brought me to a rental home with a piano in it which I learned to play.  I subsequently became a piano teacher, a church pianist, and have played for schools, hospice, and other organizations.  Another uprooting brought me to a place where I developed multiple language skills which have assisted me in ministry and as an author and teacher.  Another uprooting, not due to the military but rather a devastating event in our community, led my family to a new community which is where I met my husband.  Adulthood has featured more pain and struggle: years of challenges, betrayals, disappointments, and emotional scars; years and money poured into an education that did not lead to a job in my field; years that found me in places I never thought I would be.  Yet, these years and experiences have been the very things that have found me in places where I was better able to carry on relationships, parent, teach, minister, and volunteer.  It is truly astounding to see how God has woven the threads into a beautiful gift, and for more than just my benefit. 

I want to encourage you that if your heart belongs to Jesus, you can trust Him with it.  Even though you may not see or understand what He is doing, He has a perfect plan for your life.  Evil will be turned to good, whether your eyes ever see it or not.  There is so much more happening of which we will never even be aware.  If you allow it, your relationship with Him can reach a place it never would without the difficulties. You can be made stronger.  Your testimony can touch the lives of others and encourage them.  These are some gifts you can expect.  God will complete the good work He has started in your life. 


Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights,

with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 

James 1:17


*My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, March 7, 2021

Scripture taken from the New King James Version, © 1982, Thomas Nelson.

Author’s note: All of the gifts I received this past week, and the very meeting of the people who gave them, came after I passed through trials.  I did not know any of these gifts would be given, but God did.  And He knew just when my heart would need them.

Victory in the Valleys

So many people are walking through the valley, crawling through the valley, languishing in the valley, and sadly, there are some who are even dying in the valley.Have you taken the time to look around and see where it is you are and where you are heading? 

In these days of fear, confusion, and disillusionment, it may feel like there is no way to know what is ahead of us and how things are going to turn out.  While it is true that we cannot know what the exact details will look like, the end result is sure, and having this knowledge can give us rest, hope, joy, and peace.

How can we rest in all of life’s circumstances: the normal, the busy, and the difficult? We do it by realizing that the rest is not dependent on us—it is dependent on God. We do not have to succumb to the ba­ttle that is life. We can have true joy in Him even though the things around us bring no cause for happiness. We can also have true rest by having faith in Him and placing our trust in Him. He will allow us to endure and allow us to rest. Faith places our good times and bad times in His hands and invites Him to work in the midst of them. He can miraculously reverse our circumstances, but even if that is not His plan, He can miraculously reverse us—from a state of unrest to a state of rest, from the valley floor to the mountaintop. His Spirit will do the work if we invite Him to do the work.2

We should each take a moment to look at where we are right now and where we are heading. We can come to Him whether we are on the mountaintop or in the valley. We can come whether we have it all together or it is falling all apart. We can come whether we are experiencing great joy or deep sorrow. We can come whether we have traveling companions or are all alone. Whatever the circumstances, we can come to Him and rest during our journeys, and then continue on, with Him by our sides. Will it be worth it to respond favorably to God’s invitations? Yes! Most definitely, yes! We will not even need to exercise a trial period to find out if it will be worth it because we can know beforehand that it is going to be. He is trustworthy, and His love does not disappoint. This world and this current life are not all there is; there is more to come. There is eternity to come. We need an eternal focus, eyes that see past the reality of now. Jesus offers us an invitation to eternal life so that we may benefit in having a relationship with Him in heaven. There is no pressure or obligation to accept His invitation—all that He does is make the offer. The choice is completely up to us. He will come into our lives if we answer yes when He knocks (Rev. 3:20), and then His answer to us will be admi­ttance into heaven.3

Regardless of the states of our circumstances, it is here that we can seek out God’s joy, peace, and strength—even when we struggle, even when there is loss, even when we are overwhelmed. No ma­tter what happens and no ma­tter the trials and sorrows that we find ourselves involved in, our minds can be at ease and our hearts can be at rest. Even when we are rendered nearly helpless, we are never truly helpless, because we have the Helper. We can rest contentedly, knowing that we rest in His hands.4

We should not allow our difficulties to destroy us; instead, we should let them define us as people of strong faith. We need to wear the hope of God and allow its weight to affect our hearts so that we can be joyous in our life’s journeys despite their realities. We can break the bondage of suffering, and bear the love and hope of Jesus to those around us, even in our darkest days. We will be able to press on through life with strength and resolve when we are sensitive to His words and His leading and when we exhibit trust, patience, and a­ttentiveness. We will see amazing things when we look up from the loads, and we will be able to accomplish things that we never could on our own. And although we are under these loads, we can feel as if we are on top of them and that they are bearing us upward to God. He knows the times and the seasons, and we can know that He loves us through all of those times and seasons. Let’s bear hope in our hearts! May the loads not break us, may they instead yoke us to Jesus. May we not let our trials have the mastery over us, but instead let them be mastered by Jesus. May we allow Him to set us free.5

There are multiple cares we have, and there are multiple loads we carry, but we can bear these loads and rest in Him simultaneously. Our burdens do not have to overpower us, and they will not, if we take the time to be led by God in the midst of them. These are not platitudes but truths. I have seen proof in countless lives, including my own. We do not have to wait until we get to the end of the tunnels to see the light; we can see it now, even though it is dark all around us. We can see the light of God’s glory shining through the darkest of clouds and the darkest of nights, radiating brightly through the darkness of hopelessness and the darkness of despair. God gives strength beyond strength and peace beyond peace. He is there with us through His Spirit, and He is there with us in love. He does all things well and will be there with us every moment of every day. He is for us, and He has eternal purpose in each day. He is the fountain of life, and in His light we will see light (Ps. 36:9).6

And in these valleys, we will have victory.


Notes

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, January 24, 2021.

1 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 184.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., 254.

4 Ibid., 199.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid., 181–182.

When Mountains Stand Strong—2021 Edition

Dear Readers,

Some of you have seen the following post before, while to others of you, it is new.  This article just kept coming back to my mind and heart this week, and I felt it timely to post it again.  Although life looks completely different for me than when I originally wrote the article in 2018, the truths of it have not changed.  And now, as I look around at family, friends, and strangers, I keep seeing and hearing a common theme: people are struggling, people are hurting, people are despairing.  More mountains of hardship have arrived.  Pre-existing ones seem to have grown taller.  But I want to encourage you to hold on to hope.  Don’t look at the size of the mountains; look at the One who can move them.

~~~

Original Post:

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)

©Photo and text by Francee Strain, January 16, 2021.  Original post from March 2, 2018.

Happy New Day!

Happy New Day!

What?! 

You were expecting me to say Happy New Year, weren’t you?  But really, we can have a new year every day that we have a new day.  We do not need our lives to match the calendar’s transition from December 31st to January 1st to experience joy and good plans.  We can turn the page on our old lives and let God make them new this very day.  His mercies are new every morning, but we do not even need to wait for the morning to dawn; He covers the entire day.  So, anytime we are ready to have a happy new year, we can begin it with our present day, our present moment.  His presence is available now.  And His power is forever.

People usually spend the month of December talking about the upcoming new year, but this year, people have been talking about it for months, and some people for much of the year’s entirety.  People have been saying they want 2020 to be over and that they can’t wait for 2021 to arrive.  But flipping a page on a calendar to read January 1, 2021 is not going to change the reality of what we are facing today.  A new page on the calendar does not equal a new day.  A new day equals a new day.

How we live today is what changes the calendar for tomorrow, which eventually changes the calendar for the year. Who and what we prioritize is what fills the squares and fuels our goals.  Well, that’s how things typically work, right?  But what about in a year when things seem to be out of control and we do not get to make the decisions or resolutions we typically make?  Looking beyond the now will help us. 

It is true we cannot control or change a good portion of what is happening, but we can control and change ourselves and the type of legacy we leave behind.  We can take our focus off the temporary and put it on the eternal.  We can put Christ first in our lives, and thus, our days, and live for something beyond ourselves and the trials of this life.  Christ is not just for Christmas and not just for our new year’s resolutions for better living.  Christ is for every day, holiday or not, and for every day beyond the resolutions we do not keep.  He will never abandon us, and it would be excellent if we would never abandon Him.  We can allow Him to make our days eternally significant—every single one of them. 

How do we accomplish this?  By entering into every day with Him—by being deliberate in our steps to follow Him, by being thankful to Him and blessing His name, by seeking His truth and gaining knowledge of Him, by heeding His voice and exercising discernment.  We can fill each day’s page with Him—with His eternal salvation, comprehensive forgiveness, incomprehensible joy, unconditional love, and all-encompassing peace.  We can allow Him to remake us into new and beautiful creations. 

Let’s let the old be gone and the new come.  There is no need to wait for 2021 (or any other new year).  We can see the Light and Joy now.  His presence is here now.  And His power is forever.

Have a happy new year full of happy new days! *

~~~~~

*Author’s note: In this article, my focus was on the word “new” rather than “happy,” but what about the “happy” part of the new day and the new year?  What if our circumstances are terrible, miserable, depressing, or desperate?  We want to be happy, but the reality is we cannot always be.  Things devastate us and break our hearts.  Misery and despair come knocking on our doors and minds.  This truth is the reason I actually prefer to say “Joyous New Year” rather than “Happy New Year.”  Joy is different than happiness.  Happiness is circumstantial, but joy is definitive.  I am not talking about living in denial of reality, I am talking about knowing something deeper than what is happening in our current situations.  I am talking about a knowing in the depths of our souls.  We can always keep the seed of joy planted firmly in our hearts.  We can take joy in the fact that Jesus loves us and will forgive every sin, that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and that He is coming back to get His own.  These truths do not change based on the circumstances of our lives.  This is why joy can remain when happiness flees.

We can take heart because one day, our calendar pages will not contain scribbles and overbookings, stress loads and tear stains.  We will not have to worry about changing pages, because time will be no more.  One day, a new page will turn; eternity will begin.  We are approaching that day, are you ready?  There will come a time when Jesus will make all things new for those who have placed their trust in Him.  For now, He can make us new–new creations in Christ, where the old has passed away and the new has come.  Let us press on toward the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus, press on for the joy set before us, press on for the new day.

~~~~~

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Revelation 21:4-5 (NKJV)

~~~~~

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 31, 2020

THANKFUL THOUGHTS

The following passage is taken from my book, which was published in 2017. I think the “someday” has arrived—I hope you are able to fill it with thankful thoughts. Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.

~~~~~

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.

~~~~~

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

©Photo Francee Strain, November 20, 2020

When Winter Comes Early

Well, it seems winter came early for our region.  Approximately eight inches of snow arrived on October 23rd.  We typically expect a bit of snow in November, with our majority coming in December and January, so, snow in October found us surprised, shocked, caught off guard, and not mentally ready.  Our flowers were still blooming.  Our lawns were still green.  Leaves were just beginning to turn to their autumn colors.  And then came the snow.  Relentless.  Almost all day and into the night it fell.  Piling on, inch after inch.  Branches broke.  Possessions were buried.  Roads were obscured and treacherous for drivers.  And then came the cold the following day.  Winds whipped the snow into drifts across the ground and rooftops.  Gusts blasted trees and drifts, sending swirls of snow into the air.  And the temperature dropped, and dropped, and dropped, all the way down into the teens.  Surprised comments, sighs, and groans escaped the lips of many.  A few may have even shed some tears.

Sometimes, life is like an early heavy snowfall.  Blizzards of problems fall down on us unexpectedly and relentlessly.  One day, our lives are sunny, and the next, we need to break out the winter gear.  Our health gets buried in doctor’s appointments and medical bills, we face the sharp winds of grief when we lose a loved one, we watch irreparable damage come when our retirement savings disappear as our company folds and puts our pink slip in the mail.  Now what will we do?  How can we go on when we can’t even see which way is up, or forward, or through?

When dreams die, and our plans don’t go as planned, our life landscapes look bleak, barren, and hopeless.  Depression colors our skies gray.  Our hearts become cold and joyless.  Our thoughts become dark and desolate.  We feel forlorn, forgotten, and forsaken.

This happens to all of us at one time or another, in different forms and fashions.  The account of Job as told in the Bible shows us that sometimes every aspect of who we are gets hit, all at the same time, before we are even finished processing the reality of the first thing that happened.  Job lost his ten children, his livelihood, his wealth, his health, the support of his wife and friends, his reputation, and any comfort he had.  He was alone.  Alone with his thoughts, with his overwhelming grief, with a crowd of unsupportive people.  But then, things changed.  He had a talk with God.

God’s perspective got Job through the blinding, swirling cloud of questions and doubts.  Truth pervaded his darkness.  The immensity and majesty of God’s power broke through and changed everything.

Job got up out of the dirt, realizing that God had a plan, and God could do anything.

And then, Job continued to live.  A new depth of relationship with God remade him from the inside out.  Hope and joy came again.  New blessings arrived.  New purpose set him on a new path. 

So, if you have gone into the wintry ditch, look up.  There are still sunrises and sunsets.  Look at the beauty that is still there.  Look at the silvery-blue skies crafted by the hand of the Almighty God.  Look at the glimmer in the sparkles of snow. 

While things sleep, waiting for the next phase of God’s plan, progress is underway.  Moisture is being put into the earth, and plants are resting in preparation for the work of spring.  They are awaiting their cue from their Maker, and then the wonder of spring will unfold.  We, too, can anticipate the bloom that is coming and prepare for it now.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”*  Because He lives, we can live also.  Faith, hope, love, and resurrection power will cause us to bloom when the timing is just right. 

So, have a conversation with God, and hold on for spring.  He is doing something in you even now, and you are going to be a new and beautiful creation.

~~~~~

Isaiah 55:6–13 (NKJV)

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

12 “For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the Lord for a name,
For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

~~~~~

*Matthew 11:28 (NKJV)

©Text and photos Francee Strain, October 24, 2020

Bloom Where You Are Planted

IMG_2532

Bloom where you are planted…

–in the middle of wonderful circumstances
–in the middle of difficult circumstances
–in the middle of impossible circumstances

How? Lean on the expertise of God, the Master Gardener, to help you bloom.

God can supply everything we need, and He possesses a perspective we do not. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. He knows and understands our environments and appointed the bounds of where we would live and when. He knows how to nourish us in such a time as this, in such an environment as this. He possesses all wisdom and all knowledge.

He can bring water to a dry situation, remove thorns, pour in His light, revive us with the breath of His Spirit, encourage us when we are downtrodden, and bring beauty from our lives. He is able to cultivate any circumstance and bring forth a fruitful harvest.

He daily loads us with benefits and sets His eyes upon us for our good. Will we set our eyes upon Him so we can grow, and not just grow but bloom?

When we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. And He will help us bloom where we are planted.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 26, 2020

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

IMG_4133 (2)

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