I Know How You Feel…

As I shared in my blog, A Tale of Three Fathers, my biological father died from cancer when I was 13 years old. We were surrounded with such love and support from our family, church, and friends. I learned many valuable lessons during that time in my life. I have been thinking about these lessons lately, particularly when it comes to how Jesus calls us to respond to others in crisis.

Six weeks ago something happened in my family that brought unexpected change and with that change came sadness, fear, hurt, loss of innocence and even some anger. And at the same time that unexpected change brought joy, faith, hope, love, life and even laughter! We have been surrounded with such grace from our family, church, and friends, much like when my dad passed away. Kindness has been abundant and often brought me to tears!

I know that God uses every season of life to refine, teach and draw us closer to Him. I have been reminded how important it is to “show up” for one another. I have also been reminded the importance of seeking understanding in all situations, refraining from judgment and holding back on assumptions.

I think when we are met with difficult situations, we look for the right words to say, especially when the situations are a bit messy. A response I remember hearing over and over again after my dad died was, “I know how you feel.” I remember thinking how that was simply impossible. I understand the statement was a kind attempt to sympathize. But often the statement would come before the person even inquired about what those feelings of mine actually might be. Oh Lord let that be a lesson to me!!

Jesus calls us to be present. He calls us to show up, to listen, to ask questions and to always point our family and friends back to truth, hope and love that can only be found in Him. He asks us to step into His dust covered sandals and meet our loved ones in the middle of the road they are walking, without assumption and with complete grace.

Boy, has God given me those kind of people during this season! And it has renewed a fire in me to do more of this kind of “showing up” for others! Yes, the lessons are abundant and I am leaning in and listening.

What season do you find yourself in? If you are in a difficult season, I pray that you find God in it. I pray that you lean in to His teachings. And I pray that He surrounds you with people who are seeking your feelings and thoughts on the matter. And loving you even more for it. Most importantly, I hope you know that nothing happens in our lives that has not been sifted through the sovereign Hands of our Father. And He does know exactly how you feel!

Kindness Matters!

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:17 NIV

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36 NIV

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John 15:12 NIV

Surprise!

I grew up about an hour and a half from Disney World. Yes, we were Florida season ticket holders and I was blessed to visit the Magic Kingdom frequently.

My dad traveled quite a bit for work, so we also took frequent trips to the Tampa International airport to see him off. Which is why, on one particularly early morning, when my parents loaded my brother and I in the back of the station wagon that we immediately stretched out to sleep our way to what we thought was the airport.

Much to our surprise, we awoke to my parents blaring the Disney radio station, which only aired on Disney property. They both yelled, “surprise” and we embarked on a fabulous day at the Magic Kingdom! Oh what fun a surprise can be!

Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we’ll skip and dance all the day long. Psalm 90:12‭-‬17 MSG

I was reminded recently how wonderful surprises can be, especially when given by God. I also have been astounded at how a little love can change everything! Indeed, our Father’s love can turn a difficult season into joy! His love can surround you with just the right people with just the right words and just the right support. His love can surprise you with such undeserved blessings that you truly want to skip and dance and sing in praise to Him!

This morning, I am thankful for surprises, God’s love and His rich blessings. May you find God’s love in life’s surprises too! And may you praise Him for it!

Choose joy!

I Didn’t See it Coming….

When I was in elementary school, I was a Girl Scout. Yep. Troop 189 to be exact in St. Petersburg, FL. I know you fellow Girl Scouts want to throw three fingers up and join me in saying, “On my honor, I will try to serve God, my country, to help people at all times and to live by the Girl Scout law.”

My troop volunteered to hand out water to runners in a local race. Our job was simple enough: stand on the side lines and hold out a paper cup of water for the runners to grab. So, there I was, looking so cute in my girl scout uniform, holding that cup of water with an outstretched arm. The runners started passing by and one made eye contact and said, “throw it” and I did, cup and all, hitting him right in the side of his head. What should have been cool refreshment made hard impact! I can still see the look of bewilderment on his face as he looked back at me.

Boy, life can definitely do that to us, can’t it? We are running our race, staying in our own lane, anticipating the upcoming refreshment station and instead, we are hit right in the side of the head with the wrong diagnosis, the bad news, the rejection, the death, the rumor, the judgment. And we are left in bewilderment, looking back and thinking, “I truly didn’t see that coming.” And it really may feel like we are alone for that next leg of the race, running with little refreshment or support. We wearily wipe ourselves off, focus our eyes on the road ahead and begin placing one foot in front of the other.

But, here is the good news! God did see it coming! In fact, He was already running the race. He was setting the pace, waiting for you to focus your eyes forward, on Him, allowing Him to guide your steps!

When you are hit with hard times, you can find that much needed refreshment in Him! He will get you through the next leg of the race. And before you know it, you will feel His very breath moving in your lungs and His tender words written on your heart, encouraging you to keep running. Not only is He running ahead of you and cheering right beside you. He is watching for you at the finish line, with arms wide open, waiting to welcome you home.

So, the next time life throws you that curve ball and hits you smack dab in the side of the head, I say, “look up” and just keep running! He’s got this! And He’s got you!

Choose joy!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1‭-‬3 NIV

Jesus is the Reason…

So, I truly believe that I am the sane child in this photo. You see, there is simply nothing normal about forcing a child to sit on a strange man’s lap, especially when the strange man is dressed abnormally. If you look closely, you will see that my brother knows that I am right. His forced smile gives it away. He is thinking, “geesh, my sister sure does seem to be losing it. Maybe I should be a little scared too.” You see, I am the wiser child.

Oh the wonder and joy of Christmas! If you are like me, you find yourself in the midst of tradition, laughing at family memories, making lists and checking them twice, shopping, baking, and trying desperately to live in the moment and not allow the season to simply sprint on by. Boy, I can sure make Christmas about me, myself and I.

Christmas is about Jesus. Nothing more and nothing less. It is about the Savior of the world, God incarnate, born in a lowly, humble stable. A tiny baby boy, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. The innocence of His birth with the weight of sin and salvation resting squarely on His shoulders. God’s perfect Son born in God’s perfect timing. Filled with God’s perfect grace. No, Christmas is not about me. It is about Him. Jesus.

Live this Christmas with Jesus front and center. Live this Christmas filled with the hope, joy, love and wonder that He brought into the world. Find Jesus this Christmas and let Him fill you with warmth and light: in the midst of the chaos; in the midst of grief; in the midst of illness; in the midst of tradition; in the midst of memories; in the midst of the list; in the midst of shopping; in the midst of your circumstance. (Even in the midst of a strange man abnormally dressed.) Yes, Jesus deserves our best thoughts, best words and best deeds. His entrance into this world that day in Bethlehem makes this life bearable and His grace changed everything.

Be merry and hopeful!

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NIV

Photo Shoot…

I was looking at pictures from my daughter’s recent senior photo shoot while waiting for my annual mammogram. Quite the contrast, I know. Let me just go on the record that my “photo shoot” was far less glamorous than hers.

The pictures are simply fabulous. I truly can’t decide which one I like the most. A sweet sister in Christ blessed us with her God-given talent in photography. The day of the photo shoot was such fun, which was an added blessing. God gave us a cool, fall day here in south Texas with lots of blue skies and sunshine. My daughter and I had shopped for three perfect outfits, picked out accessories and even discussed her makeup. There was much giggling and silliness during the shoot. I will have that day forever carved in my memory as a blessing. When I look at the pictures, the happiness and ease of the day play back in my mind.

I have experienced many kinds of days as a mom. The days haven’t always been all smiles, blue skies and cool weather. There have been days bathed in frown lines, darkness, and hot tempers to say the least. But, I realized that the hard days are what make the photo shoot days even sweeter.

It is in the contrast that God’s grace shines the brightest. His grace holds us in the heaviest of days and His grace dances with us in the lightest of days. And because of His grace we can be thankful for all of the days.

Let His grace refine and refresh you on this day. For His grace surely changes everything!

Be hopeful!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

Alisha Cornett Photography

Welcome Home…

The stray dog Baby loves to greet her momma when I arrive at home. It doesn’t matter how long I have been gone. I am always greeted with such excitement! In fact, she wiggles her whole hind side, wagging her tail so enthusiastically that I often think that she is going to wiggle her tush right off! She will leap from couch to couch if I do not stop and give her enough attention. Her response to seeing me is sheer joy. (This is not always the case with my seventeen year old daughter. Those of you who have teenagers definitely understand where I am coming from here.)

As I watched Baby wiggle and carry on yesterday, I realized that I will have a homecoming with my Father in heaven some day and He will greet me with sheer joy. I wonder if I might be the one behaving like Baby in this Homecoming though. Maybe I will leap and wiggle with the excitement of His glory!

And, consider this, it doesn’t matter how much distance and sin we put between us and Him. He never moves, changes His mind, nor pushes us away. In fact, He waits for us to turn back around and run to Him for forgiveness, understanding, comfort and yes, joy! Whose hind side is wiggling now?

Live today with the full understanding that you are on a journey home! And your homecoming, thanks to Jesus, will be met with eternal joy, peace and love! And maybe even a wiggle or two!

Be hopeful!

If you return to the Lord , then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.” 2 Chronicles 30:9 NIV

Baby has come a long way! Isn’t it amazing what love will do?

Hummingbirds…

“Why can’t my hummingbirds just get along?” My friend posted this on facebook today and it made me giggle. I, too, have delighted in watching the battle of the hummingbirds in my own back yard, as they chase each other away from the feeders.

Between my house and my neighbors, the hummingbirds are privvy to at least five feeders; yet, every day the chase is on like donkey kong. Fascinating, isn’t it? Instead of enjoying the abundance of sugary sweetness around them, they spend most of their time fighting.

Isn’t that a picture of us? I imagine God looking down on us pondering the same question, “why can’t my children just get along?” He watches as we chase each other, coveting each others’ possessions, allowing jealousy and comparison to cloud our hearts. He watches as we desperately try to keep up with proverbial Jones’, instead of finding satisfaction in our own last name. He watches as we think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, instead of savoring the sweetness of the grass in our own back yard.

And because He knew that we would struggle, fight, covet and compare, He sent the sweetest gift of all to us: His Son, Jesus; in hopes that we would stop chasing each other and start chasing Him. He sent Jesus so that we would stop fighting and start loving Him. And others.

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:14‭-‬17 NIV)

Who are you chasing? I encourage you to savor the sweetness of God; cherish the abundance of His goodness in your life; and love those around you fiercely.

Be hopeful!