Do You Trust Me?

If you follow my posts, you may have noticed I missed a week of writing.  I had begun to write about my son’s upcoming wedding, but then I took ill, and last week’s article didn’t happen.  All this week, I wondered what to write.  Should I finish what I began last week?  No; it didn’t feel right.  I sat still, waiting for inspiration, but there was nothing.  A possible topic flitted through my mind.  Again, no.  I then wondered if I should just repost my article about writer’s block.  No, that wasn’t it either.  So, I prayed and asked God what I should write.  This was His answer: “Do you trust me?”

Off and on for the past week or so, I have been thinking about and grappling with whether I truly trust God.  Am I a fair-weather Christian, or will I trust Him at all times, in all circumstances?  Will I trust Him in the little things as well as the monumental?  Will I trust Him all through life and even to the death?  Will I remain faithful, steadfast, unmoved?  Do I actually trust Him like I think I do?

Fear seems to be a factor.  I want to say I trust Him.  I have demonstrated in the past that I did.  But do I now?  Will I always?  And why would I not?  Whose vision am I going to trust?  My shortsighted vision which is limited to what is right in front of me, or the vision of the One who sees the end from the beginning and everything in between, whose vision is eternal?

There is no need to fear trusting Him.  On the contrary, trusting in Him will remove a huge load from us.  When we commit our lives to Him, He will take care of us.  Just as the Bible tells us Abraham trusted God and went forward despite being unaware of where he was ultimately going, so we, too, should trust in God’s plans and promises to get us where we need to go.1 God created the world, and He created us.  He has things well in hand.

He will guide our steps even when there are obstacles in our paths.  We can trust Him step by step, day by day.  He is working all around us, sometimes seen and sometimes unseen.  He works on a future timeline beyond our scope, with a path laid out for us which we cannot even begin to conceive. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be u­tterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.”2 Thus, we can step out in faith, knowing He is holding us securely in the palm of His hand. He will lead us safely home. 

“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.”3

So, am I going to place my trust in people, or in my own limited skills, intellect, ingenuity, strength, and resources; or am I going to place my trust in the One who has proven Himself trustworthy?  He fights for His people.  He provides for every need.  He does not fail nor forsake His own.  He has all power and authority, and by Him all things subsist.  His wisdom is infinite.  He is a God of purpose.  He is working for my good and His glory. The bad and the ugly from this world of sin can be transformed into something beautiful by His hand.  He triumphs over evil.  He is good, and He does what is good.

Such great knowledge of this great God can give us the ability to trust, and trusting Him will bring peace. There is no need to fret; He can handle the details.  I don’t need to force my hand; I can just place it in His.  He is God.

I know what I will answer Him now.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.4


NOTES

1 See Hebrews 11:8.

2 Psalm 37:23–24

3 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 116.

4 Proverbs 3:5–6

©Text and photo Francee Strain, October 10, 2021

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

Stand on the Sea

The world seems to be a raging sea in a relentless storm.  There are storms of war, famine, disease, natural disaster, political difference, family brokenness, and more, and the waves are threatening to overtake us.  What do we do in times like these?  Where do we look for help and hope?  Where do we look for peace?  How do we withstand the storms?

We need to make sure our foundation is firm—this is what will enable us to stand on the sea as if it is solid rather than raging.  If we are planted firmly on Christ as our foundation, then we are planted firmly upon the Rock.  Though the rains come, and the winds blow, He will not be defeated, and we will not fall.  The storms may not dissipate, but our fear and anxiety can, if we keep our eyes fixed ahead on the One stretching out His hand to us, urging us to trust Him, offering us His peace.

Just before Jesus was crucified, He spoke these words to His followers: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jesus conquered sin and death, and He makes His power available in our lives.  Yes, we live in a broken, fallen world, but He can lift us up and bring us healing.  He can bring a great calm to us in the midst of the storms.

We can scale the highest height, descend into the deepest deep, and traverse the darkest night because there is nowhere we can go where He is not.2  He whispers peace to our anguished hearts and weary souls.  He whispers peace to our racing minds and trembling bodies. 

Peace, be still. 

Peace, with Him. 

Be with Him. 

Peace, be still, with Him.


Stand on the Sea

You can stand on the sea, with eyes kept on Me;
I am with you in the midst of the storm. 
Look up, don't look down.
I'll never let you drown; 
I am with you in the midst of the storm.


Fears will rise.
Child, lift your eyes; 
Look at me in the midst of the storm. 
Courageous and strong, 
With me you belong; 
Look at me in the midst of the storm.


Cares pile heavy, high, and wide.  
Child, it is I who's by your side, 
Who holds you in the midst of the storm. 
Winds will rage both day and night, 
And you'll feel too weak to fight;
But I am with you in the midst of the storm.


Stand on the sea, child. 
Look at me, child, 
In the midst of the storm, in the midst of the sea. 
You can endure.  You can stand. 
And you’re safe.  Hold my hand.
In the middle of the storm, my child, stand on the sea.3 

NOTES

1 John 16:33 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

2 See Psalm 139:7–12 and Romans 8:35–39.

3 “Stand on the Sea,” Francee Strain, ©2021.  These are some words of peace He spoke to my heart.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 21, 2021

Another Sunrise

Am I going to live to see another sunrise?  Covid caused me to ask that question.  I am currently on day sixteen of symptoms.  There have been several times over the past two weeks where I could not breathe or could not breathe well.  Interesting thoughts occur at a time like this.  Fear tries to take up residence in the heart and mind.  But I decided I was having none of that because my life is held in the hands of Almighty God.  He will determine the number of my breaths, and I do not have to fear since my heart belongs to Him.  I entrust my life to Him—at this time and at all times. 


For if I live, I live to the Lord; and if I die, I die to the Lord.

Therefore, whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s.1


Book Excerpt:

I have heard this statement many times: “Life is what you make it.” This is a futile human a­ttempt to make life look pre­tty. The underlying principle is that there is something that can be done about the lives we live. But sometimes, we just cannot change our lives no ma­tter how much we try. What we can do is ask God to change them and change our perspectives of them. When we look at things through God’s eyes, with an eternal perspective, our views will surely change. We will no longer be blinded by what the enemy puts in front of us to keep us from seeing what God wants us to see. For example, Satan does not want us to see our blessings. He does not want us to praise God or serve God but instead wants us to turn our backs on Him in bi­tterness and anger. Satan also wants us to be so inwardly-focused that we do not help others in the name of Christ. But God wants us to see the blessings that He has made available for our lives and wants us to use them to bless others in turn. So, this is what we are presented with: two perspectives. Satan can blind us from what truly ma­tters, and God can open our eyes to what truly ma­tters. Whose vision are we going to trust?

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

In addition to health issues, I deal with the normal things of life that everyone else does: financial issues, vehicle breakdowns, runaway dogs, complicated family relationships, the loss of loved ones, etc. There are also undesirable realities of life that I have to face. Things have not gone as I had planned. Things have not turned out the way I had envisioned. People have not treated me as I had hoped. There have been devastations and limitations. Essentially, my dreams are gone. I have been in the depths of despair—hurting, suffering, lonely, broken, disappointed, frustrated, angry, and dissatisfied. Yes, I have been all of these things and more. But even as much as I am limited in my life, I have cause to give thanks. God’s dreams for my life are so much be­tter, and they are in the process of unfolding.

Over the years, I have had a perspective adjustment. I have come to the conclusion that if this is the road that God desires for me to walk—because through me He is achieving a great and eternal purpose—then I most definitely want to walk it, and walk it with gratitude. I have experiences, circumstances, and even a physical body that I never signed up for, but despite all this, I have a boundless treasure because I have God as my Father, Jesus Christ as my Savior, and the Holy Spirit as my Helper. God Almighty is on my side! And if He is for me, then absolutely no one can be against me!2

I have cause to give much thanks as I watch another sunrise.


NOTES

1Based on Romans 14:8

2 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 199–200.

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, August 14, 2021

On My Side

IMG_5193 (3)

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.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 24, 2019. Reposted August 8, 2021.

The Cares of This World

Sometimes, the cares of this world are just too much—too much to think about, too much to handle, too much to bear.  Their heaviness can weigh on our hearts and minds until our spirits are downcast and we can barely lift our heads. 

I found myself this week sighing in my spirit.  The grief was palpable.  I was distracted from my tasks of the day as my mind started listing the burdens one by one—mine, his, hers, theirs, ours.  The tears welled up and spilled over.  “God, please help us; We need your help,” I pleaded.  And instantly, He was there, speaking comfort to my soul, reminding me that His shoulders are here to carry the loads, His strong arms are here to lift me up, and His hands are here to hold me close. 

We do not need to be anxious about anything.1  God cares about every detail of our lives.  We were not made to carry this weight, and definitely not made to carry it alone.  If we are focusing on our burdens, it will keep us from focusing on our Source of help, whereas trusting in Him will render perfect peace. 

Scripture tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us.2  We cannot change the past, but He can heal us from it.  The present may be completely out of our control, but He is present.  And instead of worrying about and dreading the future, thinking “What if ___________happens,” we can replace those thoughts with ones about His character and presence, ones like “He is loving.  He is good.  He is sovereign.  He is all-powerful.  He is.” 

Remembering the truth lifted the weight from me.  The problems and pains remained, but healing and strength had come to my heart.  A lilt of joy entered in, and I continued the tasks of the day, going in the strength of the LORD God, the One who cares for this world. 


Carry Me

When the road is long, carry me.

When I’m not strong, carry me.

When all is wrong, carry me.

Carry me on the road that is short to You.

Carry me in strong arms that will pull me through.

Carry me in the way that is right and true.

Carry me straight to You.3


NOTES

1 See Philippians 4:6.

2 See 1 Peter 5:7.

3 ©Francee Strain, August 2017

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 25, 2021

Eyes Forward

If you noticed my blog article was nonexistent last weekend, here’s why: my property was on fire, along with multiple others in the neighborhood.  Strong winds blew a tree onto some power lines running across the rural acreage here, and a fire ignited.  The fire then spread to the prairie grasses and other trees across the vicinity while the winds continued to blow strongly.  Our family and some neighbors were fighting the flames and dealing with all of the chaos of the situation until enough fire crews arrived to render aid.  When we called it a night, my brain was too exhausted to think.  Praise God, we are all safe, and no homes were lost. 

Prior to the fire, I had been putting a few thoughts together for this article, but the fire adjusted my line of thought and my vision.  I had to keep my eyes forward, with my heart looking to God to help us through whatever the outcome would be.  I could not look at my past experiences with fires, nor be concerned about those that might come tomorrow.  I was in the moment, and that is where I had to live.  Yet, God took me to a place I had not been before.  While flames were inches from my face, God’s presence was closer.  The wave of fear that threatened to drown me at the outset became waves of His peace washing over me.  Panic became purpose.  Chaos was overruled by calm.  The humanly impossible was swallowed up by the power of God.  And then after the smoke began to recede and the scorched earth made its appearance, the magnitude of what He carried us through became ever more apparent.

Standing in the burn zone now is overwhelming.  The magnitude of what was at stake cannot be denied.  The reality of the rescue is readily realized.  And there is beauty.  And wonder.  And awe.  And overwhelming gratitude at the goodness of God.  Praise continues to flow from my heart and lips.  My remodeled landscape is a blatant reminder that God is with me.  He was there in the flames, and He is here in the aftermath.  He sent what I needed when I needed it, and I know He always will.  The eyes of my heart have the vision of His. 

What fires of life are you facing right now?  Are you looking at them with the eyes of your head or the eyes of your heart?  Are you caught up in what your physical eyes can see or in what your spiritual eyes know?  Are you looking to yourself or to others to aid your circumstances, or are you looking to God?  He is good, and He does what is good.  He is worthy to be praised at all times and in all circumstances.  His ways and thoughts are higher than ours.  His love for us is deeper than we could ever comprehend.  Faith in His salvation will be our salvation.  No matter the storm that rages, He is the Master who speaks, “Peace, be still.”  Jesus conquered the power of sin and death to save your soul, and if you accept His gift of eternal life, the things of this temporal life grow dim.  Eyes that look beyond the now to the eternal purposes of God find life, and hope, and peace.

Eyes that look forward see life is not just about waking up, eating three meals a day, going to work for a shift, and filling the evenings with family and recreation.  These eyes don’t focus on the mundane or the chaotic.  They don’t look inside themselves for answers.  They don’t focus on the pain, the past, the addiction, the fear, the comparison, the discontent, the regret.  They look forward.  They look to God.  He created us for a purpose.  He gave His Son to save us.  He has a plan for our lives and a desire to commune with us.  He will do amazing things in us and through us, if we look to Him.  He will watch over and care for His own.  His eyes and heart will be with them.  And beyond the now, those who have placed their faith in Jesus will see more than what their hearts know; they will see Him, face to face.  We have this to look forward to. 

NOTES

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 13, 2021.  This photo was taken of a salsify plant in the burn zone the day after the fire.

He Is Always There

Alone.  I sat in the emergency room alone last week.  My family was unable to be with me.  I wondered if I would die.  Tears filled my eyes as I sat in the waiting room alone.  Surrounded by people, but alone.

But then … God.

God spoke to my heart and reminded me I am never alone because He is always there.  He began to show me things all throughout my eleven hours and thirty-five minutes spent there—touches of His grace, provisions of His mercy, comforts of His love.  He gave me hope.  He brought me joy.  He sent a friend who read His words to me, prayed over me, attended to my needs, and kept me company for ninety minutes of that very long day with offers to give more assistance later.  Others prayed from afar. Strangers stepped up to assist me. Kindness and skill flowed from the employees. It would take a while (eleven hours and thirty-five minutes) to tell you about all of the goodness of God in the midst of that hospital.  He was in the midst of that day, every single minute of it.  His hands were in the details, and He deeply touched my soul.

After my release from the emergency room, I reflected upon my experience there and the following words came to my heart:

He’s always there.

His face is before me.

His hands uphold me.

He goes before me.

He walks beside me.

He’s got my back.

He watches over me.

My feet walk His paths.

His voice is in my ear.

His spirit testifies to mine.

His light is in my eyes.

His words are in my mind.

His wings cover me.

He’s the Rock upon which I build my life.

My name is known to Him.

The hairs of my head are numbered. 

His praise is on my tongue.

His joy is in my bones.

He’s acquainted with all my ways.

He directs my steps.

His mercy is upon me.

In me, through me, and for me, He is always there. 

From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.1


For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”2

Cast all your care upon Him for He cares for you.3

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.4

Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore!5


NOTES

See Psalm 90:2

2  Hebrews 13:5b

3  See 1 Peter 5:7

4  Psalm 46:1

1 Chronicles 16:11

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 30, 2021

Steadfast

(Repost)

Are you weary?  Steady on.

Are you tired?  Don’t quit.

Are you faltering?  Don’t stop.

Are you losing touch?  Reach out.

Do you feel like giving up?  Look up.

Keep on Keeping on.  Steadfast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Set your ears to listen for His voice.

Set your voice always determined to praise Him.

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

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

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

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

*See Psalm 63:8 KJV.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 20, 2020

Victory in the Valleys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in these valleys, we will have victory.


Notes

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

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

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., 254.

4 Ibid., 199.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid., 181–182.

Advent Series, Parts 1-5

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐝𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐇𝐨𝐩𝐞

Walking through a dark and evil world can leave us with deep pain and an abundance of tears. We lose, and we grieve. We wander, and we mourn. We look down, and then we look in. We forget about the light. We find ourselves in a state of hopelessness.

But Isaiah 50:10 says, “Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God.”* So, if we look up to see the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, shining all around us, that hope will raise us up. The truth of His hope will enable us to keep moving forward. His power will enable us to walk and love again. Joy will flood the empty spaces of our beings. The pain will be touched by supernatural comfort. The mourning heart will sing again.

Just as the sun always shines even though we can’t see it, God’s hands and heart are outstretched for us to see by faith. God is good, sovereign, and omnipotent. He makes a way out of no way. He provides for every need. He keeps every promise.

The first week of the Advent season, we celebrate hope. Many waited for hope to come to the world, and it finally came. Its name was Jesus.

Jesus gave His life on the cross to give eternal hope through salvation. What a precious gift! And then, He left for a while to prepare a place for those who would believe in Him. And one day, Hope will return to the world. He will come again. He will take all who believe to their eternal home. Have you accepted His gift of hope? Are you ready for His second advent?

This is the truth of hope. Hope has come. And Hope is coming back.

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Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 NKJV

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*Taken from Isaiah 50:10 NKJV

©Text and photo Francee Strain, November 29, 2020

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐝𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐏𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐞–𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝟏

Do you have peace? Do you want peace? Do you believe peace is possible, especially in the day and age in which we live? I fully believe it is possible. I have experienced it for myself.

Peace can come to us the moment we open our eyes and take in the light of day. We can breathe in the peace of God because He has come to dwell with us. Just over 2000 years ago, God sent His only son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the World. And one of the names and characteristics Jesus has is that He is the Prince of Peace. He rules it. He is the source of it. It is His to give.

I have asked Jesus to be a part of my life, and His presence results in peace. He calms storms of all kinds. He removes the sting of death. He does miracles. He cleanses me from every sin. He has restored my soul and made it acceptable in the sight of God. I never have to worry about walking alone because He has said He will never leave me nor forsake me. I don’t have to worry about what will happen when I die because He has already assured me that since I gave myself to Him, I can never be plucked from His hand. I do not have to worry about decision making because He gives wisdom to those who ask for it. I do not have to worry about my needs being met because He is the provider and sustainer. I do not have to toss and turn at night but instead can sleep in peace because He is omnipotent and will care for those who are His own.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the LORD with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding. If we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He is going to direct our paths. I could go on and on with example after example of the things I can know for certain and how this knowledge brings peace. You can know these things, too. It simply starts with you coming to the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, and giving your life to Him.

This is how peace comes.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 6, 2020

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𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐝𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐏𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐞–𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝟮

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

When troubles mount, we can feel overwhelmed. Helpless. Hopeless. Sometimes, we want to bury our heads under the covers. Other times, we want to run away. But these actions are not what will solve the problems. These things are not what will fill us with lasting peace. Lasting peace can only be found in the Prince of Peace, the One who is Everlasting: Jesus. His name is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6). Inviting Him into the situation is what will bring peace. Holding Him in our hearts will find Him holding us.(1)

He comes in the storm with power and authority. Creator of all. Ruler of all. Sustainer of all. With a word, He can cause the storm to cease. With a word, He can bring great calm. With a word, He can speak peace. In His presence, there is peace. As the winds of life howl and the storms rage, He holds us–safely and securely in His almighty hands. As the winds drive the pounding rain, and our hearts pound in fear, He comes. Listen to the power of His words, “Peace. Be still” (Mark 4:39 KJV).

Over and encircling, through and beneath, His presence pervades; and there is peace. This is our God. The God above all gods. Let us never be shaken. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7 NKJV).

During this time of upheaval, I want to encourage you. You can find hope. You can know peace. Because…you are loved. God has loved you with an everlasting love, and with lovingkindness He is drawing you to Himself. Though the earth shakes, and the mountains fall into the sea, He is the Creator and Ruler of all.(2)

Place your hand in the hand of the One who can hold you securely. Place your heart in the hands of the One who gave His very life to save you. Look up to where there is help. Look up to where there is redemption. Look up into the very face of God.(3)

This is how peace comes.

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(1) Excerpt from blog post “In the Name of Peace,” Francee Strain, May 30, 2020

(2) Excerpt from blog post “He Comes in the Storm,” Francee Strain, May 3, 2020

(3) Excerpt from blog post “Peace to You,” Francee Strain, March 21, 2020

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 10, 2020

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𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗔𝗱𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗟𝗼𝘃𝗲

What is love?

We would likely define this word by mentioning many aspects, perhaps things like having close bonds with others, giving and receiving affection, being connected in a family, experiencing loyalty and faithfulness, hearing or speaking words of affirmation, giving and receiving gifts, serving others, or being the recipients of acts of kindness. Yet although we might have all these varied ideas in mind, there is a common thread—love is something demonstrated in deeds. Love is action.

Since before time began, love was active and awaiting us, and then love came near. Love took action. But where did love come from, and why did it come near?

Love came near because God came near. God is the source of love. He is love. He has given the very essence of Himself in an offering to us. This offering is actually what we are focusing on right now during this season of advent—He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life, and He did this because He loved the world (see John 3:16).

Since before time began, God had a plan to gift us with His love. And when the time was just right, the gift arrived: Jesus was born to be the Savior of the world to show us the love of God the Father. Jesus was a representation of the love and an act of that love. He gave up the position of honor He held as King of kings and humbled Himself to walk as a man. He gave up the riches of the entire universe to be laid in a manger and give everything to us. He gave up the comforts of having and doing anything He pleased, going anywhere He wanted at any time, to come to this earth and experience the life we experience, walking in obedience to God’s will and God’s timing. This is the gift of love we celebrate at Christmas.

But the love did not stop there. Jesus did not remain a baby in the manger. He grew into a man who continued to act in love. He travelled and spoke to thousands, sharing with them about the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life. He healed and fed. Taught and visited. Comforted the grieving and raised the dead. All this, He gave. And He gave even more, things that we find difficult to give: He loved His enemies. He prayed for those who despitefully used and persecuted Him. He gave His time and energy and service to those who gave nothing back. He loved the unlovely that others avoided and scorned. He sacrificed His very life for us. All so that we could know His love and know it forever.

This is how love comes. God took action. He has loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us with loving kindness. He has given us the gifts of His Son, His Word, His promises, His salvation, and His very presence. Do we see it? Do we recognize it? Have we responded to it? Have we given Him our hearts and our love in return? Has there been an advent of love from us?

You can receive His gift today and return the gift of your heart to Him. This is how love comes.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 12, 2020

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𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗔𝗱𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗝𝗼𝘆

Joy. It is a word I am seeing in quite a few places right now. It is mentioned on Christmas shirts and socks, Christmas cards and photo frames, ornaments and wall hangings, figurines and mugs, wrapping paper and gift bags, among a host of other things. But what is joy? What is the meaning of the word featured on so much Christmas merchandise and other items all throughout the year? Is there joy in all this “stuff”? Is joy found in items? No, joy is not found in materialism. It is not found in a holiday, or a season, or a fashion, or a pretty thing. It is not even found in people—as we all know, they can cause us pain. Joy, true joy, comes from the source of all joy. Joy is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the giver of joy.

Joy is both a noun and a verb. Joy can abide in our hearts, but we can also take action with it. We can access it, share it, give it, receive it, and keep it. It can influence our perspectives and be the foundation of our actions. Think about when a baby is born—smiles and laughter abound. Babies are even called bundles of joy. They are all packaged up in sweetness and wonder. And we are changed by what we see before us. Well, one night, the bundle of all bundles of joy was born. Jesus made His advent into the world. The Savior was here! He fulfilled the joy of those who had long awaited His coming. He filled hearts, and He inspired actions. There was an advent of joy!

Can you imagine the joy that resounded across the hillsides when the angel announced Jesus’ birth and was then joined by the heavenly host praising and glorifying God and proclaiming peace and goodwill on earth? Can you imagine the quick and excited steps of the shepherds as they went to see the good news for themselves? Can you imagine the joy and excitement that inspired the magi to travel long and far to the place where the star marked the joy of the whole earth? And then, this child grew into a man who continued to bring joy to those who were willing to receive it. He gave sight to the blind, speech to the mute, hearing to the deaf, food to the hungry, attention to the outcast, healing to the sick, and life to the dead. And then He gave forgiveness to the sinners so they could experience eternal life and eternal joy at His right hand.

Thinking on these things brings me great joy because I know this Savior. He has come to live in my heart. His Spirit fills me with an abundance of joy. Even in the midst of deep sorrow, great pain, searing loss, and overwhelming troubles, joy remains. How can this be? It is possible because the joy I have does not come from the things of the world; the joy comes from Him and cannot be taken away or overcome.

So, even though it is raining on us now, and the day looks as dark as the night, His light is there, shining all around us. Will we have eyes to see it? 𝘏𝘦 is the Light of the World. Will we have eyes to see 𝘏𝘪𝘮? He is the joy of every longing heart. He will never fail or disappoint us. He will never harm or abandon us. He will never move on to something else or somewhere else. Will we have hearts to experience Him? If we never take Him into our lives or walk in His ways, we will never experience true joy, only temporary happiness connected to the things of the world. The advent of true joy is connected to the advent of the hope, faith, peace, and love He gives through His very presence. And this true joy is deep and abiding. It gives us the ability to look beyond the now, to have strength, to be confident in the hope we have in Him and the love He has for us.

In His presence, there is fulness of joy.* This is how joy comes.

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Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.

The Lord has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.

He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.

Psalm 98:1–4 (NKJV)

♫ Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing. ♫

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*See Psalm 16:11.

Song lyrics taken from “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 20, 2020