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

This week marks the fourth anniversary of writing for my website. It has been an exciting journey to meet people from all over the world. I wanted to take this opportunity say thank you.

•Thank you to anyone who has taken time to read my articles.

•Thank you to those who have become site followers.

•Thank you to those who have shared how an article has impacted you.

•Thank you to those who have given me words of encouragement.

•Thank you to those who have purchased my book.

I am grateful to all of you for being a part of my life. I truly appreciate your support.

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


Make Me More

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?  Do you want to be more?  I suppose we all might likely answer yes to this question, as I do not think I have ever met anyone who has said, “I wish I was less.”  Why is it that we want to be more? Why do we think that we are not enough just as we are?

We want to be more because that is how we were created to be.  We long for more. We search for more.  We ask for more.  We yearn for more.

We have hearts that are on a quest.  Hearts that search and long for something else that they do not yet have.  That something that we do not yet have is eternity.  God has placed a longing in our hearts for it.  A longing for a life that is full and vibrant and beautiful.

So, how do we reconcile the reality of what is and the reality of what could be? How do we get to this place of eternity where the longing will be fulfilled?  The answer is really quite simple.  We place our longing into the hands of God and we take into our hands what He offers in return for that longing.  He offers salvation first.  If we choose to accept that gift, our hands can then become so full that they overflow.

The gift of salvation opens the door to blessings unimaginable because it is the key.

Salvation is given to you when you give your faith and trust to God.  When you realize that there is a door between you and God, a separation that needs to be removed so that you can be together with Him, that is when your hand is about to grasp the key.

Jesus is the key–the key to eternal life.  He is the perfect Son of God who became a perfect sacrifice for you.  He lived a sinless life on this earth and died a painful death on the cross to become the key that opens the door to eternal life.  Each of us is separated from God by our wrongdoings and imperfections.  Jesus came to die on the cross to forgive us of those wrongdoings and make us perfect through His righteousness.  Your belief in His death to atone for these wrongs, and your request that He forgive you of yours, will cleanse you of them and permit you to enter through the door.

And then, there is more.  Salvation through Jesus gives you eternal life, but you also have the opportunity to have abundant life.  Into your hands–into your life, heart, mind, soul, and relationships–can come love, joy, peace, strength, ability, patience, kindness, and so much more.  You can be transformed in how you live–how you act, think, feel, relate.  You can be more.  More because of the gifts that will be placed into your hands.  More because you will have things that you never had before.  Things that cannot be measured.  Things that cannot be priced.  Things that are not tangible.  The “more” will be things that are immeasurable: like the grace of God that covers all sin, a peace that passes all understanding, a joy that is present even when there is no cause for happiness, and a supernatural ability to endure.

And then we, when we have “more,” can be made more.  We can be made into beautiful representations of the love of God, the strength of God, the passion of God.  He is able to do above and beyond all that we ask, think, or imagine.

As for me and myself, I say: “Make me more!”

I want to glow like I have never glowed before.  I want to shine like a star in the heavens.  I want to go in the strength of the Lord God.  I want to do what I have never been able to do before.  I want to tread a path that follows in the footsteps of Jesus.  I want to think like He thinks, feel like He feels, love like He loves.

Yes, God, make me more.


NOTES

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

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

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

With All My Heart

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.1

Recently, someone deeply wounded me emotionally.  I then got to the point where I cycled through a host of negative emotions that seemed to keep coming around to anger.  The offense ate at me for days.  My brain was imagining the next conversation I would have with this person and what I would say.  I was going to give this person a piece of my mind.  But then, God stepped in and reminded me I was not behaving appropriately.  Vengeance is His, not mine.  He sees every tear I cry.  He knows my pain.  He endured the deepest pain of all—separation from His Son because of the sin of humankind being placed upon Him at the cross—and yet He loved with all His heart.  So, I agreed with God and changed my thoughts.  But then later on in the course of the day, my anger and hurt resurfaced.  I battled back and forth, day after day, not being able to release the hurt.  I was losing peace, productivity, and even sleep.  And then one day, I cried out with all my heart and said, “God, what do I do about this?  Please, help me.”  God subsequently spoke to my heart and said, “Love this person well.”  I agreed.  I needed to love this person well.  I needed to do what God wanted me to do.  I needed to do the right thing regardless of what the other person had done.  So, I began to think and speak different thoughts.  “I will love you.  I forgive you.”  But I had to go a step further, I had to move this from a matter of the mind and tongue to a matter of the heart.  I had to allow God to help me love this person with all my heart.

And then came the face-to-face meeting with this person, our first encounter since the painful situation had unfolded.  I held my tongue and showed love and kindness.  Victory!  God had brought healing to my heart!  And because my heart was right with God, healing entered this particular relationship, whereas the opening of my mouth with my previous thought pattern would have utterly destroyed it.

I am trying to live as God would have me to live.  He is love, and He offers forgiveness.  I have asked Him to teach me His ways and unite my heart to reverence Him.2  When I go off and start living for myself, caught up in my ways and my sins, my heart is divided.  And, I cannot serve two masters.  I am either serving God, or I am serving myself.  Thus, when I recently allowed these negative thoughts and emotions to take over my life, I was not following God; I was following myself.  I was not exhibiting love, and I was not exhibiting forgiveness.  I was not loving God with my whole heart; yet, this is something I always need to be doing.  When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, this was His response: “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”Jesus also spoke about forgiving others, and at one point He answered a question to say that it should be done 490 times—for the same person!4

So, onward and forward I go, seeking to love God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind.  And when I am wholeheartedly doing this, I will be able to love my neighbor as myself. 


For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
And attend to the voice of my supplications.

In the day of my trouble I will call upon You,
For You will answer me.

Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.

All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name.

For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.

Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.5


NOTES

1 Psalm 86:12

2 See Psalm 86:11

3 Taken from Matthew 22:37–40

4 See Matthew 18:22

5 Psalm 86:5–12

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 18, 2021

Make Me More

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?  Do you want to be more?  I suppose we all might likely answer yes to this question, as I do not think I have ever met anyone who has said, “I wish I was less.”  Why is it that we want to be more? Why do we think that we are not enough just as we are?

We want to be more because that is how we were created to be.  We long for more. We search for more.  We ask for more.  We yearn for more.

We have hearts that are on a quest.  Hearts that search and long for something else that they do not yet have.  That something that we do not yet have is eternity.  God has placed a longing in our hearts for it.  A longing for a life that is full and vibrant and beautiful.

So, how do we reconcile the reality of what is and the reality of what could be? How do we get to this place of eternity where the longing will be fulfilled?  The answer is really quite simple.  We place our longing into the hands of God and we take into our hands what He offers in return for that longing.  He offers salvation first.  If we choose to accept that gift, our hands can then become so full that they overflow.

The gift of salvation opens the door to blessings unimaginable because it is the key.

Salvation is given to you when you give your faith and trust to God.  When you realize that there is a door between you and God, a separation that needs to be removed so that you can be together with Him, that is when your hand is about to grasp the key.

Jesus is the key–the key to eternal life.  He is the perfect Son of God who became a perfect sacrifice for you.  He lived a sinless life on this earth and died a painful death on the cross to become the key that opens the door to eternal life.  Each of us is separated from God by our wrongdoings and imperfections.  Jesus came to die on the cross to forgive us of those wrongdoings and make us perfect through His righteousness.  Your belief in His death to atone for these wrongs, and your request that He forgive you of yours, will cleanse you of them and permit you to enter through the door.

And then, there is more.  Salvation through Jesus gives you eternal life, but you also have the opportunity to have abundant life.  Into your hands–into your life, heart, mind, soul, and relationships–can come love, joy, peace, strength, ability, patience, kindness, and so much more.  You can be transformed in how you live–how you act, think, feel, relate.  You can be more.  More because of the gifts that will be placed into your hands.  More because you will have things that you never had before.  Things that cannot be measured.  Things that cannot be priced.  Things that are not tangible.  The “more” will be things that are immeasurable: like the grace of God that covers all sin, a peace that passes all understanding, a joy that is present even when there is no cause for happiness, and a supernatural ability to endure.

And then we, when we have “more,” can be made more.  We can be made into beautiful representations of the love of God, the strength of God, the passion of God.  He is able to do above and beyond all that we ask, think, or imagine.

As for me and myself, I say: “Make me more!”

I want to glow like I have never glowed before.  I want to shine like a star in the heavens.  I want to go in the strength of the Lord God.  I want to do what I have never been able to do before.  I want to tread a path that follows in the footsteps of Jesus.  I want to think like He thinks, feel like He feels, love like He loves.

Yes, God, make me more.

Peony Time-Lapse 1Peony Time-Lapse 10Peony Time-Lapse 13Peony Time-Lapse 15

© Text and peony time-lapse photos, Francee Strain, July 8, 2017, revised May 25, 2019

 

Bitterness on Fire

Smoky Sunset posted on Facebook Aug 27, 2018

He’s at it again. There she goes again. They’ve added more infractions to their already tall stacks. On, and on, and on they go, hurting me repeatedly. And while their lists of wrongdoings grow longer, my root goes deeper–my root of bitterness.

Every time pain is inflicted, I add another layer to my root. It is somewhat like the rings inside a tree trunk, growing more with an abundance of water. In this case, it is my root of bitterness, growing more with each drop of someone else’s behavior that I let seep into my heart. While their stacks of offenses mount, my root digs deeper. I am building something, just as they are, but instead of stacking things upward as they do, I am spiraling down, digging a deep, dark hole in the soil of my heart. And as I do this, I am going against God’s building plan. We are to be rooted and built up in Him, not torn down by our death grip on sin. We are to grow up into Him in all things, not let ourselves or others send us into a downward spin.*

God designed the soil of our hearts to be seeded with good things. It is to be plowed up and ready to hold things that will nurture us and nourish the lives with which we share the harvest. The rocks and the old roots, and any other debris, need to be removed for the best and most fertile conditions.

What will be pulled from the soil of our hearts at harvest time? Ugly, twisted roots that we neglected to tend to or beautiful grain and luscious fruit? What will the harvest of our souls provide to the souls of others?

Don’t do unto others the awful things they’ve done unto you; instead, do unto others as Jesus has done. Give lovingly, sacrificially, with a beautiful heart and a grand purpose. Follow His example. If anyone ever had a right to be bitter, it would be Him. But instead of allowing bitterness to consume Him, He served the world around Him, bringing hope, joy, peace, and healing. He replaced ugly debris in the world around Him with the beautiful gift of His love and salvation. He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

We are to abide in Him. He is the vine, and we are the branches. We are not to abide in ourselves, trying to be the vine, making bitterness our root and using our branches to hit back at others. Jesus is the Master Gardener, and His forgiveness quenches every sin. He is the source of strength to help us defeat this obstinate and seemingly unconquerable problem of bitterness. He can miraculously uproot things from our hearts that ought not be there, if we will allow Him to tend the soil of our hearts. We can grow upward into beautiful trees of righteousness, plantings of the Lord, that He might be glorified.**

Let the root of bitterness be burned up in the fire of forgiveness.  And when the smoke clears, the beauty of grace will remain.

*See Colossians 2:6-7
**See what God can do for His people John 15:1-17, Isaiah 61:3, 10-11

 

©Text and photos, Francee Strain, October 26, 2019

 

Immeasurably More

When you read the words of Ephesians 3:20, you will find an amazing concept about our amazing God.  In short, you will find that God is able to do “immeasurably more” than we can ask, think, or imagine.*

He is able to do this because of His power.

He does such things in us because of the power of Jesus at work in our lives.

Greatness comes into our lives when we allow God to come into our lives through the acceptance of His Son, Jesus, as our Savior.  Greatness in word, greatness in deed, greatness in endurance. Greatness that is immeasurable.

Life is hard, and so many times it is ugly, overwhelming, and painful.  But through all of this, in spite of all of this, there is immeasurably more.

There is immeasurable grace to cover our mistakes, failings, and shortcomings.  We are immeasurably forgiven by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus.  Our sins are buried in the deepest ocean and are as far as the east is from the west.  They are immeasurably forgotten as He remembers our sins no more.

There is immeasurable endurance to face any trial that comes our way.  We can get out of bed in the morning.  We can continue to put one foot in front of the other.  We can accomplish the things that are necessary to get through the day.  We can sleep peacefully through the night because He gives His beloved sleep.

There is immeasurable love that covers us, that sings over us, that draws us ever nearer to God.  His immeasurable love is patient, and it is kind.  It keeps no record of wrongs.  It endures all things, and it never fails.

There is immeasurable hope.  Even when we cannot see any way out of this or through this, even when we cannot understand what is happening and why it is happening, we can hope. Everything that takes place can be worked into something beautiful by His hand.  All things are not good, but He is able to work all things for good.  Not some things, not a few things, not many things–ALL THINGS.  Immeasurable hope.  Nothing is hopeless with Him in our lives–standing beside us, going before us, dwelling within us.

There is immeasurable peace.  Peace came to live with us and dwell among us in the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  He came to bring peace between us and God–peace in knowing that we will have eternal life if we place our trust and faith in Him and receive His forgiveness. Immeasurable peace.  Peace for now.  Peace for eternity.

There is immeasurable joy.  Through my tears I can see His beautiful face.  Through my pain I can see His mighty hand.  Through my unhappiness I can have a joy I have never known before because I know He has done immeasurable things for me.  He has given His very life for me.  He has given me salvation.  He is preparing a place for me in heaven.  He is never going to leave me or forsake me.  Ever.

Immeasurably more.  Immeasurably God.

 

As far as the east…IMG_2091

…is from the west.031

 

*I have utilized and paraphrased the words of two Bible versions in this opening paragraph.  The phrase “immeasurably more” and the words “ask” and “imagine” appear in the NIV.  The word “think” is taken from the KJV.

Copyright Francee Strain,  July 29, 2017, all rights reserved

Photos by Francee Strain

Make Me More

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?  Do you want to be more?  I suppose we all might likely answer yes to this question, as I do not think I have ever met anyone who has said, “I wish I was less.”  Why is it that we want to be more? Why do we think that we are not enough just as we are?

We want to be more because that is how we were created to be.  We long for more. We search for more.  We ask for more.  We yearn for more.

We have hearts that are on a quest.  Hearts that search and long for something else that they do not yet have.  That something that we do not yet have is eternity.  God has placed a longing in our hearts for it.  A longing for a life that is full and vibrant and beautiful.

So, how do we reconcile the reality of what is and the reality of what could be? How do we get to this place of eternity where the longing will be fulfilled?  The answer is really quite simple.  We place our longing into the hands of God and we take into our hands what He offers in return for that longing.  He offers salvation first.  If we choose to accept that gift, our hands can then become so full that they overflow.

The gift of salvation opens the door to blessings unimaginable because it is the key.

Salvation is given to you when you give your faith and trust to God.  When you realize that there is a door between you and God, a separation that needs to be removed so that you can be together with Him, that is when your hand is about to grasp the key.

Jesus is the key–the key to eternal life.  He is the perfect Son of God who became a perfect sacrifice for you.  He lived a sinless life on this earth and died a painful death on the cross to become the key that opens the door to eternal life.  Each of us is separated from God by our wrongdoings and imperfections.  Jesus came to die on the cross to forgive us of those wrongdoings and make us perfect through His righteousness.  Your belief in His death to atone for these wrongs, and your request that He forgive you of yours, will cleanse you of them and permit you to enter through the door.

And then, there is more.  Salvation through Jesus gives you eternal life, but you also have the opportunity to have abundant life.  Into your hands–into your life, heart, mind, soul, and relationships–can come love, joy, peace, strength, ability, patience, kindness, and so much more.  You can be transformed in how you live–how you act, think, feel, relate.  You can be more.  More because of the gifts that will be placed into your hands.  More because you will have things that you never had before.  Things that cannot be measured.  Things that cannot be priced.  Things that are not tangible.  The “more” will be things that are immeasurable: like the grace of God that covers all sin, a peace that passes all understanding, a joy that is present even when there is no cause for happiness, and a supernatural ability to endure.

And then we, when we have “more,” can be made more.  We can be made into beautiful representations of the love of God, the strength of God, the passion of God.  He is able to do above and beyond all that we ask, think, or imagine.

As for me and myself, I say: “Make me more!”

I want to glow like I have never glowed before.  I want to shine like a star in the heavens.  I want to go in the strength of the Lord God.  I want to do what I have never been able to do before.  I want to tread a path that follows in the footsteps of Jesus.  I want to think like He thinks, feel like He feels, love like He loves.

Yes, God, make me more.

Peony Time-Lapse 1Peony Time-Lapse 10Peony Time-Lapse 13Peony Time-Lapse 15

© Text and peony time-lapse photos, Francee Strain, July 8, 2017, revised May 25, 2019