Learning to crawl…

My grandson is about to crawl. He wants it so badly. He pushes up on his knees and rocks his body back and forth, eyes focused on the toy just within arms reach. In those moments he is laser-focused on what lies ahead and what he wants to accomplish.

His attempts to crawl forward so far have resulted in a face down sprawl. Most of the time, he pushes back up and tries again. My grandson likes to babble and whine during the struggle. Often, instead of moving forward, he actually pushes himself backwards, away from his goal. And sometimes, he gives into frustration sprawled face down crying, looking for a hug and a pep talk.

Oh what a picture of our life in Christ!

Paul shares in Philippians 3, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Just like my grandson, I realize that I must take baby steps toward the call God has placed in my life. I must be diligent and laser-focused on what lies ahead and not let what lies behind be a stumbling block.

Some days, I persevere and I am able to push myself up and strain forward easily. Other days, instead of forward, I feel like I have taken two steps back away from my goal! Much like my grandson, I like to babble and whine to my Father during the struggle. And there are definitely days that I find myself in a face down sprawl needing a hug and a pep talk, which my Father readily provides!

My grandson doesn’t realize that he is training his muscles with each attempt to crawl. Soon and very soon, he will crawl, reach that toy and receive his reward! And he will eventually turn that crawl into a walk, a walk into a run, and a run into a sprint! Glory! You see, God will reward His obedience and training. God has so many things for my grandson to accomplish with the life He entrusted.

The same is true for you. And for me. Keep striving! Keep training! Keep straining! Press on toward the goal! Our prize is found in Christ Jesus. Our call is to glorify Him with everything He has given. He will take our attempts and turn them into victory! Oh yes, He is Worthy!

Run your race!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7‭-‬8 ESV

Jesus’ life matters…

My women’s group just wrapped the Bible study Trustworthy by Lysa Terkeurst, where we spent six weeks studying the Kings of Israel noted in 1 and 2 Kings of the Bible. The fact that a global pandemic was the back drop for this study was not a coincidence. Nor was it a coincidence that during the last part of the study, we experienced a tragedy as a nation and an outpouring of chaos and hurt. Much like the Israelites, we find ourselves with a desperate need for God’s truth, healing, grace, love and a Savior. We have all of that and more in Jesus and His life matters. And because of His life, every single one of our lives matter too.

Jesus is no stranger to chaos, injustice, or political unrest. He is no stranger to hurt, slander, or prejudice. He is no stranger to sickness, disease or death. He is no stranger to communities divided and lines drawn. His time on earth was filled with all of these things. He chose to walk in truth, love, compassion and justice. He chose to walk in obedience to His Father and His Father’s will for His life. Oh yes my friends, Jesus’ life mattered then and it matters now.

Jesus taught us how to handle ourselves during conflict, division, troubled times, pandemics and chaos. He is quite clear in scripture on exactly what to do.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30‭-‬31 ESV

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:5‭-‬7 ESV

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 ESV

Jesus didn’t just choose words. His actions backed up His words when He was stripped and beaten; when His flesh was torn and He was spit upon; when He wore a crown of thorns and carried a cross; when He was nailed to that cross and was left hanging to die. All the while, Jesus was teaching us how to handle ourselves when everything and everyone seems to be against us. His words from the cross mattered.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:34 ESV

Jesus died and three days later rose again. He now sits at the right hand of God the Father and He will return again someday to judge both the living and the dead. His kingdom will have absolutely no end. And because Jesus’ life matters and he laid that life down for us, we stand in perfect love, grace, forgiveness and unity. Our victory is secure. The battle has been won!

Jesus provided the perfect example of how to handle pandemics, tragedy, hate and injustice then and now. We must put our hope in Him. We must allow His perfect life and example to change us. And we must put His life in proper perspective to our own lives. Oh yes, Jesus’ life matters. I can’t think of a life that matters more.

Choose Him!

Peaceful slumber….

My 14 week old grandson fell asleep this morning on his back with arms stretched wide open across my bed. We had been playing with rattles, cooing and giggling when his eyes grew sleepy and he nodded off. I was struck by his complete innocence and open-armed trust. He doesn’t have a care in this world. There it is…complete peace.

Oh how I would love to join you grandson in your sweet slumber; but the corona virus still looms, face masks and social distancing keep us apart and my very own church decides whether it is safe to gather or not with precautions. Not to mention the dryer just beeped, my floors need mopping and I haven’t even worked out yet today. No, I simply can not join you grandson, I have too many things to do and so many things to worry about!

How many times have I allowed the world, all the fear and all the trouble, keep me from that peaceful slumber? I focus on the sickness, the distance, the unkowns, the trouble, the to-do list, and forget about the precious face of my Savior.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

My focus each morning should be more like my grandson: complete surrender to the goodness that God provides. I should giggle more, worry less and allow that peaceful slumber to come. In fact, I should find more time to stretch out my arms and relax into the goodness of my Father’s arms. Jesus demonstrated trust in His Father when He stretched out His own arms on a cross. His sacrifice overcame this world and all of its trouble when He rose victorious!

You know, I think I will join my grandson in a peaceful nap. I am confident that God is in control of this crazy world. He is in control of the trouble in my life. I will stand firm on the solid ground of His truth, His grace and His love. I will focus on that precious face of Jesus and find peace! Wanna join me? 😉

Be joyful!

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 NIV

The Future…

My daughter had a baby. Yes, a perfect baby boy who has changed my life significantly in the last two months. He was born on January 30 and I was the second one to hold him. The miracle of this tiny addition to our family is nothing short of extraordinary. God breathed out and this life began. I marvel daily at his beautiful face, his tiny hands and his feet. Where will those feet take him? How will God use those hands to serve others? What kind of God sightings will take place through his eyes?

Six weeks after he was born, COVID-19 changed our world. What a juxtaposition. The innocence and calm of this little life against the calamity and panic of a nation. Tender mercies and quiet snuggles wrapped against the back drop of social distancing and hoarding. A precious life given, while others battle a virus. I watch my grandson grow while the death toll rises.

I find myself thinking quite a bit about the future. What will the world look like as he grows up? I know that the current life of “stay at home” will soon pass. But, in the reality of today what things will I choose not to go back to doing? Could we emerge from this time apart better? A little more kind? A little more generous? More God-centered? More thankful? For my grandson’s sake, I sure do hope so!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV

What good are we going to allow God to work through this season? We were absolutely called to this time for a purpose. We need to love and trust God. We need to lean into His teachings and allow Him to refine us. We need to rest in His hope and in His peace that surpasses all human understanding.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37‭-‬39 NIV

Oh yes, grandson, we are more than conquerors. Jesus loves you so much. The victory is yours. And the victory is mine. And the future is bright!

Fear Not….

“Have no fear, little flock;
have no fear, little flock,
for the Father has chosen
to give you the kingdom;
have no fear, little flock!”

Did you know that God tells us to “not be afraid” 365 times in the Bible? Yep. It’s true! An assuring Word for every day of the year.

Do you want to know why I think this is His most mentioned command? Because He knew that this world would give us trouble and fear. He knew that we would need to lean in and hear His voice. Every. Day.

He knew that raising children would bring knee-buckling uncertainty. He knew that marriages would bring trying times that require trust. He knew that doctors would bring troubling news. He knew that social and regular media would inundate us with fear. And He knew that we would often feel isolated, lonely and yes, filled with fear!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

God knew exactly what He was doing when He crafted your life. He gifted you with loved ones, children, your unique gifts, your feelings and your very personality. He strategically placed you exactly where you live. He knew that you would serve at the exact job you have now. He knew the battle you are currently fighting. And He certainly knew the uncertain times you would face.

You see, He created you to live today to glorify Him. He chose you, for such a time as this, to live boldly for Him in full hope, faith, trust and love. And He has given you everything you need to survive! He gives you peace that surpasses all human understanding when the world around you is filled with panic. He gives you discernment and a complete hedge of protection. He gives you hope when those troubled storms are lurking all around. And please take heart, He plans to receive you in His kingdom with arms wide open when He is ready to call you home.

I encourage you today to put your hope and trust back into the Lord. He is bigger than your biggest worry. And He is holding you!

Choose Joy!

They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. Psalms 112:7 NLT

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