When Mountains Stand Strong

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(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 Heart (3-part series)

Part 1:
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Hearts of Stone

Have you ever had a heart of stone? I have. There was a point in life when I was burned out. I had more to do than I could do. More places to go than I could go. More people to see than I could see. Too many irons in the fire and too much on my plate. I had no feelings. No joy. Seemingly nothing to look forward to. Nothing that is except work…and more work.

Those were difficult days. How did I wind up in such a circumstance? How did I get so lost? What became of the me that used to be? What became of the relationship with God that I had enjoyed? Frankly, I left it behind in pursuit of other things. I let Him hang by a thread while I grasped on tightly to the hands of everything else besides Him. I let go of His heart. And I let go of my heart.

I knew that I needed to come out of this type of life. I wanted to come out of this type of life. But how could I do it? The answer came when I read the words of Ezekiel 36:26 which say, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”*

The summation of the answer was that I needed a heart replacement. Who could perform such a surgery? I certainly could not do it–I was stuck. Stuck in a rut, stuck in a pattern of living that was not pleasant and that was not true living. Only God could perform such a surgery, so I asked Him for it. I began to pray.

I prayed that He would take my heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh. And that is exactly what He did. I went from being a rock in the dirt to a living, breathing, fire of spirit. Before I knew it, I went from wanting nothing to wanting everything. I was filled with zeal, passion, hope, and overflowing love. I wanted to do. I wanted to live.

Yes, He took my heart of stone and made it beat again, feel again, live again. And He can do the same for you.

And now my heart of stone is external, a heart-shaped stone that lies in the field in front of my house. When I walk past it, instead of seeing a heart of stone, I see a heart of love. My mind’s eye sees a memory of what once was and is filled with gratitude for what now is. That heart of stone reminds me of the love of a Great Surgeon who can make all things new, including hearts of stone.

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, August 2017
(Ezekiel 36:26 KJV, emphasis mine)

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Part 2:
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Your Heart Can Rest

“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?

When God invited David to seek His face, David decided that his heart would do so (see Ps. 27:8). We do not need to know everything today; we just have to trust that He has our best in mind. We can find a resting place for our bodies, minds, souls, and faith in the safety of His hands. We can place the details of our lives in His capable hands. We can place the recesses of our vulnerable hearts in His loving hands. We can place our trust in Him because of His unfailing hands. He never fails, never breaks His promises, and will never let go of us.” *

The words of Hebrews 13:5 are personal for us who call Him “Savior.” These precious words of God are: “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Did you read that? He will never leave us. Never. In the midst of this process of life, through all of the struggles we are currently immersed in and the ones yet to come, as we sleep through the night and toil through the day, He will never leave us. His presence will go with us, and it will be He who give us rest.

Yes, our hearts can rest. Your heart can rest…if you will let it rest in God.

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, February 8, 2020
*Paragraphs one and two are taken from my book, rom my book, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 4, 116.

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Part 3:
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The Victorious Heart

Life is a struggle. A battle. An uphill climb.

They say it takes heart, but my heart is weary. It is overloaded with pain and the cares of the world. It strives. It aches. It weeps. I feel like I am losing the battle and losing heart.

What can turn this around? Is there anything that can be done?

YES!

• I can offer my heart to the Healer of brokenness.
• I can offer the heart of this warrior to the one who leads the host of heaven.
• I can place this lost, wandering, confused, and lonely heart into the hands of the One who knows every trail and trial, every battlefield and tear.

Every step of my journey is already seen and known before I have even stepped. Every battle has Someone to come alongside me. Every hopeless moment is waiting to be filled with the God of all hope. And every desolate battle cry (that sounds more like a whisper) can find its voice in I AM–the One who spoke the world into existence.

No longer will my heart lie downtrodden and defeated. No longer will it fold inward in silence. It will rise up in the power of God’s Spirit, and I will press on. For it is not by my might or power, but by His Spirit. He will lead me to victory. I will see it. I will taste it. I will know it. My heart will know it—because my heart knows Him.

This is the heart of victory.

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, February 13, 2020

Birthdays and Legacies

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude vs. Grumblitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to grace and gratitude.

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

Text and photo by Francee Strain, November 28, 2019

On My Side

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God is for me, not against me.

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

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

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

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

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

Francee Strain, August 24, 2019

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Francee Strain, August 10, 2019

Scriptures taken from New King James Version

When Mountains Stand Strong

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.

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Repost:

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)

 

Original text by Francee Strain, March 2, 2018

Revised introduction and photo by Francee Strain July 27, 2019

Reset

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It seems we do two major resets per year: January 1st and the week after Labor Day. But let’s be real here. We need to reset more than twice per year. It is so easy to get off-track and off-kilter in life. When the power goes out, and the clocks are blinking, we need a reset.

Things can kick our feet out from under us. We can get sucked in, pulled this way, shoved that way. At times we get dragged in, kicking and screaming. Sometimes we dive in headlong, willingly. We miscalculate. We set it and forget it. But, regardless of how we get here, we can hit burnout; we can hit depression; we can hit a season of prodigal living; and we can be laying in a rut deeper than we can dig ourselves out of.

I have just passed the nineteenth anniversary of the beginning of my chronic illnesses, as year after year, more chronic illnesses have been added to the initial one. There are days when I can barely get out of bed, much less leave the house. Travel is not in my vocabulary. Common tasks like moving, thinking, eating, and communicating all become difficult or impossible. For a moment, I celebrated this nineteenth anniversary. I was excited to think how far God had brought me, because when things first began, I honestly thought I was going to die. But then my mind shifted—my focus shifted—and I watched what everyone else around me was doing: gearing up for vacations, packing up picnic baskets, dusting off suitcases, and stocking up on suntan lotion. And my heart hurt. The celebration came to a halt as reality crowded its way into my mind.

If I go out in public, people think I must be better. They have no idea of the battle that ensued to put me in their presence. And unless there is divine intervention, I will never be better; I will actually grow worse. My mind slips into thinking how unfair this is. Another anniversary of my high school and college graduations has come and gone, and I am not where I imagined I would be at this point in life. Life rolls on without me. The party continues without me. The friends go on their shopping and luncheon dates without me. The family reunions happen without me. The weddings, baby showers, and even funerals don’t require a seat for me. In my humanness, it is quite discouraging. My heart breaks. My heart cries out—not questioning God, but in frustration. “God, if I was just healthy, I could do a, b, and c. I could do this for You. I could go there for You. I could reach them, touch them, help them in Your name. I could do that God. I could.”

But I can’t. Not in that way. Not yet. There has to be another way. There has to be something else for me right now. What is it? What is it, God?

As my heart breaks, so do the sobs. But then I think about the words “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2 NKJV). There is an eternal purpose. There is an eternal plan unfolding in my life right now. Everything is filtered through His hand. Everything can be viewed as a good and perfect gift. Everything is a good and perfect gift. I just need a reset: To reset my mind on things above. To reset my heart in the direction from whence comes my help. To reset my focus to still serve God no matter what I can or cannot do. To reset my course to serve God in this current state. I will do things in a new and different way, or I will do something new and different altogether. I will reset my purpose from temporal to eternal. I will reset my goal—not to be chasing after the things other people are chasing after, nor even chasing after the things I want to or think I should be chasing after, but to instead be chasing after the things God wants for me. This is my goal. This is my purpose. Your will be done, not mine.

I will reset my gaze from what I see now to what is beyond the now. He is good, and He does what is good. I will reset my heart to bow to His will. And I will reset the words running around in my mind and spilling off my tongue to be words of gratitude, praise, and worship. Yes, I am going to reset my mind on things above and not on things of this earth. And in another nineteen years, I am going to be celebrating again. But I am also going to be doing it all along the way until I arrive there.

Resets can be difficult, but the payoff is worth it. Refreshment will come. Peace will come. Joy, hope, and a powerful witness will come. The new day will bring new mercies. The new eyes will bring new hope. The new direction will leave a new legacy.

The new year, the new season, can start on any day of the calendar year. Reset your mind on Christ.

 

Text and photography ©Francee Strain, June 2019

Beyond the Now

IMG_6650 (2)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

Miracles of Motherhood

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Dear moms—of all types—biological moms, stepmoms, single moms, adoptive moms, adopted moms, foster moms, fostered moms, spiritual moms, and honorary moms; and to any woman:

Miracles can and do happen.  “Really?” you might ask.  “I’d like to see one.”  Maybe you have never seen one…or maybe you just didn’t recognize it.  Maybe you’ve actually seen many.

Here are a few:

After the life of one son was taken by another, a third son was born.  Eve experienced a miracle.

One woman, along with her husband, three sons, and three daughters-in-law were all spared from a worldwide flood.  Noah’s wife experienced a miracle.

One woman, banished with a child who approached the brink of death, was seen by God, directed to water, and promised that her child would become a great nation.  Hagar had her miracle.

A widow woman’s sons were going to be taken away by creditors to pay off her debt.  A jar of oil became bottomless, and she had her miracle.

A woman became a widow, then she became childless.  But she remained a spiritual mom to her two daughters-in-law.  These daughters were foreigners and not of the people of God, but one eventually became so and became part of the lineage of Jesus. Naomi had her miracle, and so did Ruth.

Her son was ordained from the womb to be a prophet to the nations.  And even though he ran from his calling for a time, he returned.  He shared God’s messages with the people.  Jeremiah’s mom had her miracle as her son became what God called him to be.

A widow in Nain experienced the death of her only son.  As she walked along in the funeral procession, Jesus raised him back to life.  She had her miracle.

Peter’s mother-in-law lay very sick from a fever.  Jesus came in and brought her healing.  She was able to get up and serve those around her.  She had her miracle, and it overflowed to others.

She carried the Son of God within her womb and then watched the Son of God die before her very eyes to become her Savior.  Within a few breaths of His last, He turned her over to the care of John the disciple.  Mary had her miracles.  And we all had a Savior now waiting to care for us, too.

A poor young boy did not have a formal education, but he became the president of the United States and helped save his country.  Although Mrs. Lincoln did not live to see her miracle, it came.

A rebellious young man who ran far from God turned his life back toward Him.  He now travels the world, preaching and doing disaster relief for millions of people.  Ruth Bell Graham had her miracle.

A woman with a barren womb, eyes full of tears, ears full of unhelpful statements from others, poured out her heart to the Lord.  She enlisted prayer from others.  Hannah received her miracle, and then some.  So did I.

Who would have thought a miracle could come after tragedy, abandonment, desperation, and death?  Who would have thought it?  Well, miracles could come, and did come, because God saw, and God had a plan.  A plan of comfort, provision, restoration, and salvation.  Continuation, protection, legacy, and calling.  Healing, position, vision, and abundance.  The same things are available today because He does not change.  He is the God of the impossible.  He is the God of miracles.

Be open to receive what God has for you.  Good things come from His hand in myriad forms and ways, and they may look nothing like you expect.

God is still at work in and around us, doing things both seen and unseen, doing things on a timeline we sometimes understand and sometimes do not.  He is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  Don’t give up hope.  He is the God of miracles.  He is beyond good.  And He deserves thanks and praise.  Even now.

 

©Text and photography by Francee Strain, May 16, 2019