Birthdays and Legacies

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(Written in 2019 and updated for 2020)

Today, my grandma would have been 89 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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Original text and photos by Francee Strain, December 9, 2019. Updated December 9, 2020.
No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose by Francee Strain, published by WestBow Press, 2017.
Ornament inherited from my grandma.

Losing and Winning

We have lost so much this year—and are concerned we will lose even more.  We are worried about losing via the elections, losing our jobs, losing our health, and losing our freedoms.  The reality is, pandemic or not, we lose all sorts of things in life.  At any time, we can lose money, homes, jobs, loved ones, health, quality of life, and sometimes even life itself.   Life can be very scary and very sad.  It can be so difficult to get through each day and to keep on keeping on.  How can we?  Why would we want to? 

I want to encourage you that life can also be good.  We might find all sorts of good things: happiness, the loves of our lives, the perfect jobs, and sometimes even our car keys.  And think of all the blessings we still have!  But there is something even greater than these available for us to find, the thing that matters most of all: the salvation of our eternal souls.  Jesus gave the treasure of His life, poured out on the cross, to provide that salvation for all who would believe.  Have you ever gathered that treasure to yourself?  He offers it freely to you. 

And when you have secured your eternal life, your earthly life can be filled with the treasures of peace, joy, hope, and love.  And no matter what you lose on earth, these treasures will always remain.

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b NKJV

©Text and photo Francee Strain, October 31, 2020

Some text adapted from Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 63-4.

Languishing in Limbo or Living in Liberty?

Are you languishing in limbo or living in liberty?  I am seeing and hearing so much pain and anger in people’s lives and voices.  I see people bowed down, hunched over, listless, and joyless.  Disappointed, disillusioned, and distressed.  Clenched and cocked and flinging words and punches.  This is not how things are supposed to be.  Let’s do a heart check.

The Bible tells us that heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop, but a good word makes it glad (Proverbs 12:25 KJV).  This is so true.  So, here is a good word for you today: Jesus loves you! 

There is life, joy, hope, and peace available to all who ask Him for it.  In the midst of dark, dreary, and drudging days, there is light.  He is the Light of the World. 

Look up, my friends. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”* 

©Text and photo by Francee Strain, October 10, 2020

*Quotation taken from the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen Howarth Lemmel.

Steadfast

Are you weary?  Steady on.

Are you tired?  Don’t quit.

Are you faltering?  Don’t stop.

Are you losing touch?  Reach out.

Do you feel like giving up?  Look up.

Keep on Keeping on.  Steadfast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Set your ears to listen for His voice.

Set your voice always determined to praise Him.

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

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

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

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

*See Psalm 63:8 KJV.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 20, 2020

Beyond the Now

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

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(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

Beyond the Now

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(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

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