Do Not Despair

As life pours out hardships, struggles or pain, the world tells us to fret and despair. It can be tempting to throw up our hands and give up when things get tough. The evil one wants us to believe that we have no hope. “See, there is always something horrible happening. There is no hope for you.” I remember hearing these lies as a child. “Your life will always be filled with pain. You will always be trapped in this hell. There is no hope for you.” The devil uses these lies to diminish and defeat us, keeping us from our God-given purpose.

For many years, I believed these lies. When I met Jesus, He started to reveal to me His truth. First, He showed me that He cares for me by rescuing me when I asked Him for help. And He did this when the world considered me to be nothing just a poor, weak child.

Second, He began to help me understand why I had gone through such suffering. The world is broken. It is not as God created it to be. And people are broken, filled with sin, and not as God intended us to be. In our sin, we hurt each other. This hurt destroys relationships which creates a domino effect of pain and sorrow which flows through our families, communities and nations.

Third, He showed me that I did not need to stay trapped in my despair – current or past. In fact, I could use my experiences to help other hurting people and to fight injustice. My painful experience gave me empathy and compassion for other people – people I have never met and even people how have hurt me, intentionally or not.

Finally, Jesus has given me great hope. He has shown me over and over again that He will never leave me. He is always with me even during the darkest days. And He reminds me that “joy will come in the morning.” He has filled me with His Holy Spirit so that I can rely on His love, His gentleness, His kindness, His strength to walk-through any situation. I am never abandoned to face situations in my own weakness as long as I rely on Him.

There are times when life still overwhelms me. During those times, I quiet myself before God. He lovingly reminds me of His goodness and faithfulness. He restores my soul and my hope. Hope in the Lord will never disappoint us as it is a gift out of God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. His love and His hope are available to anyone who will ask in faith. Will you ask Him for hope today?

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 ESV

O, Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and You have healed me. Psalm 30:2 ESV

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5 ESV

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 ESV

Just Ask

This morning is absolutely beautiful.  The sun is shining, a perfect blue sky, the birds are singing, and a lovely breeze is whisking through the house bringing forth song from the chimes I hung in the kitchen window yesterday.  It is 67 degrees so it feels lovely sitting with the sun on my back and under a blanket.  It is a perfect morning to journal and sip tea with my Heavenly Father.

This morning, He is reminding me just how much He loves me.  He says I am valued by Him and nothing outside of that matters.  He loves me more than I can imagine and will take care of me.  He does take care of me!  Sometimes, he waits for me to ask first.  I guess it is like a young mom with her toddler.  The toddler is in the kitchen pointing at a jar of sweet with grunts and whining to get her mom’s attention.  Her mom turns to her, “What do you want, me Beloved?  Use your words.”  

How often do I go through life grunting and whining when what I really need to do is pray to my Heavenly Father.  He is the one who loves me more than anyone else.  The one who is all powerful.  And He is the only one who can truly help me in all situations.  He just wants me to use my words to ask and to trust Him.  Making me ask Him helps me to understand that the blessings in my life are from Him.  If He always just poured blessings on me without waiting for me to ask, I would probably give the credit to myself or something else.  He knows I need to understand that He is my provider.  He is helping me day-by-day to fill my trust bank with memories of His blessings and care.  Memories that will serve me on the darker days when I need to stand in faith.  He is always good.  His love never ends.

“On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in Him at all times, O people;  pour out your heart before Him;  God is a refuge for us.”  Psalm 62:7-8

I Remember

It is a clear memory for me as a third grader moving to a new school.  It would be my first of many moves between schools.  The move was difficult for me with the loss of my first real friendships – friendships that really spanned a third of my life.  We had moved from a rural community to suburbia.  It would be my most challenging year of school both academically and emotionally.  There was no love lost when we moved again before the end of the school year. 

But before going into the specifics of my memory, I want to share what brought out this memory.  As you know, this past week has been brining out voices raising a cry of injustice.  It is a cry that is way over due.  And the sad reality is so many of us didn’t understand the depths of the injustice – even those of us who have known injustice.  I was reading an article by Bryan N. Massingale, “The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it”.  His article was quite eye opening for me as I had no idea the depth of white privilege in our society.  I was absolutely blind to it.  (It is a similar ignorance as the child being raised in an unhealthy home and not realizing until they have the opportunity to encounter a healthy family.)  The author’s statement that struck me the most was that all white people have a moment some time in their youth when they realize they are glad they are not black.  It is a haunting statement as this is the kind of thought that should never enter our minds as we are all created equal – in the very image of God himself – and should never feel as if we are more or less than someone else.

The other gut wrenching part of his statement was I remembered my moment immediately.  It was not a common memory for me; however, it was quick to float to the surface.  The memory goes back to being nine and the new kid at school.  There was no welcome wagon.  In fact, I vividly remember a girl in my class confronting me at recess, “we don’t like you and wish you would go away.”  They were just mean kids.  Yet, I wasn’t their only target.  There was another girl in the class who they singled out even more than me.  She was a quiet, reserved girl who tried to stay to the edges.  It seemed like she would probably be nice; however, I was too afraid to find out, and I kept my distance from her.  I did work up the nerve to ask another child if she was new too.  She was not.  She had always been in their class.  I couldn’t understand why they were so mean to her.  It just didn’t make sense.  Then it came out, she had a black and a white parent.  I had no idea what this had to do with anything, but it did explain some of the names they called her.  It was at that moment that I had my first thought that I was glad I was not black because things were far worse for her.

Sadly, the story does not end in that third grade classroom.  From suburbia, we moved to the depths of Appalachia.  During that summer between third and fourth grade, I spent just about every waking hour outside – except for during the rain.  By the time school started, my skin was a deep golden brown.  This time being the new kid in class, the other children were oddly excited about having me in the class.  There was a black child in my grade who had been adopted by a white family in the area.  The children were so excited about me because he could finally have a girlfriend because I was also black.  This area of Appalachia was so white that they easily mistook my tan as me being black.  Instead of feeling happy about being immediately accepted into the group on any level, I recoiled.  The prior year had evidently given me a firm lesson that it was not good to be black.  In desperation, I tried to explain that I was not black.

This may seem like a minor story to some.  It is not.  These situations should never happen.  All children and all people should be accepted no matter what they or their parents look like or regardless of their heritage.  It seems obvious that the children in my third grade class learned the name calling from their parents.  And in the fourth grade class, there should not have been distinctions for friendships or any other relationship based on the color of our skin.  My hope is that you will take some time to reflect on your own past and identify the moments that may have shaped unknown privilege or lack of privilege in your life.  I hope that through my openness in sharing my memory that you will be able to share your memories as well.  As with all buried hurts and lies, admitting that they exist and exposing them to the light is a great start towards healing and change.

Black lives matter.  Let’s be part of the solution.

Reset Button

The second week of March was extremely stressful for me (and certainly for many others as well).  It was the first week that the reality of COVID-19 was starting to hit home.  I had just returned from vacation that Sunday which included a plan ride with a hundred or so people who could have been from anywhere.  The governor was shutting down our business.  In a hurried rush, I packed up my office to work from home – for who knows how long.  I wasn’t even certain how long I would be able to continue working.  It was so stressful.

As my life began to settle into some semblance of routine, blessings started to pop out at me.  One here, and then another over there.  With less distractions and constant going here or there, these blessings became more visible.  There was more time for prayer and journaling in the morning since there was no need to commute to work.  My cats would take turns visiting me while I worked as if they knew exactly when a cuddle was needed.  And since it was spring, nature was coming to life with lovely flowers, a wide array of greens, and beautiful melodies from the local song birds.  I was able to enjoy all of this during my lunch and some occasional, distressing tea breaks.  On neighborhood walks, there were parents outside playing with their children with laughter and squeals of joy.  

Life had slowed down; and maybe for the first time in my life, I was discovering true rest and peace.  A hope was bubbling up in me for a new normal.  A hope, that as individuals and a world, we would come out on the other side of this pandemic better than we had entered it.  My heart longed for others to notice and embrace the blessings of now rather than falling into the stress of the gloom and doom.  I do hope we leave the quarantine with a priority and refreshed love for our relationships, with a knowledge that we can still live comfortably with less, with an appreciation for living at a slower pace, with an understanding of how much we do impact our environment, and with a desire to care for one another.

As I hear the news and see friends lashing out in anger online, my hope gets shaken.  Sometimes, fear and anger suck me into the madness.  At those moments, I need to hit the reset button.  Instead of holding on to the anger, I back away and allow myself to fall back into the awareness of all of my blessings.  I refocus on the beautiful sound of the birds and remember how important love is.  And I will continue to focus on hope and hold onto the peace I have found.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  Isaiah 26:3 ESV

Tender Hearted

A dear friend of mine gave me a beautiful book by Ruth Chou Simons, Gracelaced:  Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart.  The author is an artist so the pages are truly beautiful.  More importantly, she does a fantastic job of guiding you through meaningful self-reflection.  I highly recommend her book.  

The other day, I was reading through her section on forgiveness.  Forgiveness has always been a challenging topic for me.  I believe this is true for most people.  We want justice now.  We do not want to wait for God’s timing and His justice.

Her self-reflection question was “Who in your life needs to see your tender heart?”  I’ve considered myself to be tender hearted.  Many people have even told me that they saw me as a tender hearted, caring person.  However, I was ashamed of how many people came to mind – and how quickly – that I needed to show tenderness and mercy.  If you would have asked me two days ago if I was a grudge holder, I would have said “No.” The existence of this list says quite the opposite.  I shouldn’t have a list!  

For me, part of this comes from a lack of humility.  If my self worth is truly defined by my relationship with Jesus, how others treat me or view me does not matter.  I worry too much about how others see me.  I worry too much about being successful at work.  If someone falsely diminishes my work or undervalues what I do, it just doesn’t matter in the big picture.  The only thing that matters is what is happening between me and God – that I am working for Him!  What I do at work has little impact long term.  Instead, how I work is what matters.  I need to do all things as if for Him with a tender heart and with integrity.

Beyond the lack of humility, there is a learned behavior here as well.  Self-preservation has its role and is important; yet, sin twists it into something negative.  As a child, I learned early on that other people could not be trusted.  I kept a record of hurts.  Now this was not me as a 6 or 12 year old thinking, “Oh, I should make a list so I remember…”.  I believe it is more of a  subconscious behavior.  Part of the job of our brain is to remember situations or people that are unsafe and help us stay clear of them.  This behavior helps keep us safe.  For me, instead of applying this self-protection to extreme situations, my brain learned to apply it to everyone.  This was a bi-product of believing that no one could be trusted.  And due to this behavior and its liberal application, I spent years keeping people at arms length, and unfortunately, keeping that record of wrongs – big and small.

As a lover of Jesus, I am called to live differently and to let go of my grudge list.  I am called to a life of love.  Love does not keep a record of wrongs.  Love is patient and kind.  This is how I am called to live – to love everyone including my enemies.  I cannot hold on to grudges.

Why would God call us to love our enemies?  First, because He loved us while we were His enemies.  He wants us to love as He loves.  He wants us to live in peace with one another.  Second, all people are created in God’s own image and are precious to Him.  God sent His one and only son, Jesus, to save everyone.  Yes, everyone – all nations and all peoples – no exclusions.  When we love others, despite how they treat us, we shine the light and love of Jesus.  I need to love others because Jesus loves them.  He came to earth and died a brutal death because of how much He loves all of us.  How can I not live as He has asked when He has given so much to me?

Jesus – Please help me to love others regardless of how they treat me.  Help me not to keep a record of wrongs; instead, give me a tender heart and eyes that see others as You see them.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”    Ephesians 4:32 ESV

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”   1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son”     Romans 5:10a ESV

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”    John 3:17 ESV

Let’s Eat Together!

One of my favorite things to do is to have dinner with family and friends.  Doesn’t matter if it is a regular meal at home or at a restaurant.  There is something special about sharing a meal with others.  This is even true for the workplace.  Taking your team out for a meal naturally grows the team.  For whatever reason, a shared meal grows relationships.

This morning, I was listening to a local pastor talking about Jesus meeting with his disciples in their home after his resurrection.  He was helping them to understand what happened through the cross and prove that he was truly resurrected.  And then Jesus ate a piece of fish.  At the beginning of the verse, Pastor Paul, pointed out that Jesus entered their home and said “Peace to You” just as he had taught them to do.  Jesus was living out his instruction.  (He is not just talk.) Jesus is action.

“As they were talking about these things [Simon seeing Jesus on the road in the preceding verses], Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them ‘Peace to you!’  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.  And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me, and see.  For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’  And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.” 

Luke 24:36-42

Why would he be asking to eat something?  This seemed very odd to me, at first.  The disciples must have had many questions.  And Jesus just came back from the dead.  Did he really need something to eat?  Then it reminded me of a verse that has come up several times for me over the past several weeks, Revelations 3:20 ESV:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Jesus doesn’t want us to just know about him.  He doesn’t want us to simply understand that he is our Lord.  He wants to come into our homes.  He wants to come in and share meals with us.  “I will eat with him and he with me.”  Together.  This is something we do with friends and family.  A meal in our home is relationship building.  Having someone over for dinner is about camaraderie and desiring to spend time with one another.  Jesus wants a deep relationship with us.  He wants to share life with us.  And he is not just words – he is action.  See what happens if you were to invite him to share a meal with you.  Invite him in and he will give “Peace to you”.

The Week of Provision

For the past couple of months, I have been reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.  It has been an enjoyable yet challenging read.  It has pushed me to try new things, helped me discover some areas that still need attention, and encouraged me to be more accepting and open about my artwork and writing.  I’ve been doing a lot more journaling, as well, which enables deeper soul searching.  It is very freeing.

The first week of March was the chapter entitled “Recovering a Sense of Abundance”.  I dubbed it the Week of Provision and set a goal to watch for and make a mental note of all of the things God did for me during that week.  I was filled with anticipation entering the week as He has always been faithful and His idea of blessings are always better than mine.  It just so happened that this was also the week my family was going on vacation.  For the record, I don’t believe in coincidence.  The timing of our vacation and this chapter was divine.  

My anxiety always heightens before a trip especially when flying.  There were already news reports circulating of coronavirus extending out of China and across Europe.  People were asking us if we would cancel our trip.  I prayed for the trip to go on as scheduled.  Originally, we were supposed to take this vacation 9 or so years ago when we had to cancel two days before leaving due to a family emergency.  My daughter’s heart was broken though she handled her emotions gracefully.  It would have been awful to have to cancel at the last minute again not to mention losing the money already spent on the trip for a second time.  

As it turned out, we were able to go, and it was a beautiful time of family, fun and relaxation.  We were blessed in so many ways:  some of our tickets from the first attempt were still good, free luggage on the plane because we are veterans, no crowds, perfect weather, and safety just to mention a few.  And the rest was so needed – sandwiched between an always stressful first quarter and returning home to the beginning of the implications of the coronavirus.  (It would have been tough to sustain that high level of stress.)  All of these things were reminders of God at work in my life.  My dear friend says He was putting deposits in my trust bank.

God used my intentional awareness to show me His deep love for me and just how faithful He is – even in the things that seem to have little kingdom value, like a vacation.  He knows what we need and loves to pour out blessings on us.  If you are struggling to see His blessings on your own life, ask Him to show you.  Then keep your eyes open!

“Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” 

Psalm 144:15b ESV

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matthew 6:25-33 ESV

How are you dealing with isolation? Update

Today, I was thinking about a time when I was full of fear and a deep sense of loneliness.  There was no doubt that there was something seriously missing in my life.  Something that went way beyond my situation in life.  As we are all dealing with the coronavirus, I can’t help but wonder how many people are having the same experience right now – full of fear and loneliness.  Considering the scope and isolation of this pandemic, it must be a lot of people.  Some may recognize that these feelings have been with them long before the virus. Maybe the feelings are just magnified by the chaos in our world.

I vividly remember my days of, well, emptiness.  With every part of my being, I never want to go back to living like that.  Sure, I have moments of fear and loneliness, but it is only because my heart misaligns and I need to refocus.  Refocus?  Have you ever heard the phrase “filled with the Spirit”?  You may know exactly what this means.  Others may think this sounds like nonsense.  Stick with me on this for a moment.  Some things seem like nonsense until we experience them ourselves.  Remember being a child and not listening to advice from your parents.  Later, you discover that they were right, and you think “how did they know?!?”  Experience.

God knows that life on this planet can be hard, and He doesn’t want us to walk through this alone.  He wants a relationship with us.  To have this relationship, He gives us His Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is my constant companion.  He helps me go back to sleep when I wake up overwhelmed.  He helps me calm down when I get stressed at work.  The times I need to refocus are when I forget that the Holy Spirit is with me – when I try to live on my own strength.  I can tell you doing things on my own is not good.  The Holy Spirit fills me with peace, love, self-control and more.  There are still hard days – on my own, I would dig myself deeper into a the hole.  He carries me through.

I get it.  This is hard to believe or understand without experiencing it yourself.  I encourage you to do some investigating.  Here are some suggestions on how you can do this.  I recommend that you try each of these.

  1. Go directly to the source.

Ask Him.  Ask Jesus if He is real and if there is a Holy Spirit.  He loves to talk with us.  Jesus is all about relationship.  Though, it is important to address Him by name.  He wants you to talk to Him directly and not some vague higher power.  

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.”
Psalm 145:18 ESV

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Acts 2:21 ESV

  1. Go to the book.

One of the best ways to learn about God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is by reading the Bible.  It explains history, what God is doing, why we need Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and even your purpose in life.  Now, some of it might be confusing at first. Give it time.  I highly recommend starting with a Bible reading plan.  Using the YouVersion app, a great option is Nicky Gumbel’s “Bible in One Year”.  (It is also available as a book).  Nicky Gumbel does an excellent job of introducing each day’s reading and bringing it to life.

  1. Go to Alpha.

The Alpha Course is a series of videos and discussions that give you an opportunity to learn about Jesus and to ask your tough questions.  There is no need to hold back or to hide your skepticism.  In these days of coronavirus, we cannot literally go anywhere.  Fortunately, there are Alpha courses available online.  Nicky Gumbel actually developed this course and his church, HTB, offers an online Alpha class.  It consists of eleven sessions.  Each session includes a video and a discussion area.  To learn more go to http://www.htb.org/alpha.

You might not believe what I am sharing; however, I can tell you my life has been blessed by my faith in Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Check it out for yourself.  And truly, you can expect great things – like nothing before in your life.

Edit:  A friend of mine shared this video of HTB’s Easter message which discusses our situation with the Coronavirus, the hope of Jesus, Alpha and even touches on His Holy Spirit.  It seemed like a perfect addition to this post.  I hope you take the time to watch.

Thank you for reading my post.  May you stay healthy and find hope & peace.  Essie

Trapped

Today begins my third week of isolation due to COVID-19.  My work took early precautions and asked all of our office staff to work from home.  By the end of the first week, our governor was asking everyone to do the same thing.  It is strange being so isolated from other people.  Even us introverts long for some level of interaction with other people – just in small, controlled quantities.  Though, I am very fortunate that I can keep working, for now, unlike so many other people who are unable to work.  State after state is beginning to mandate their residents to stay home.  For most of us, this is not a terrible situation.  We can video chat with our friends and families.  And for those of us with children and/or pets, we are finding more quality time with them.  My concern is for the people who are now trapped in a horrible situation with no safe place for escape.

When my family moved to West Virginia when I was a child, we were extremely isolated.  We were so far back into the woods that there was barely a road.  The only time we left our land was for work, school, and grocery shopping.  These were usually bundled together since it was a trip to go anywhere.  Very rarely, we would visit a neighbor (the closest neighbor was probably about a half mile away).  School was my only escape from the loneliness and quarreling.  Then my parents decided I should be homeschooled.  This is following the spring that the sexual abuse began, again.  Without school, I had no place to escape – I was trapped.  My mom was working at the hospital and volunteering as an EMT so she wasn’t home very much.  It was horrible.

My only saving grace in the situation was that I was very good at math.  You might be wondering how being good at math would have anything to do with this or even be helpful.  Well, the homeschooling fell to my father (and what a joke that was).  He dropped out of school early.  As a seventh grader, I already knew more math than he did.  I was able to use that to end the homeschooling and return to school after the Christmas break.  My time of complete isolation lasted for seven months.

If you are currently isolated in a horrible situation, please know that it will not last forever.  The voices in your head saying “it will always be like this” are from an evil place.  Don’t believe them!  On this earth, forever is not real.  Everything has a beginning and an end.  Please don’t give up on yourself.  You may be in a terrible place now, yet cling to the hope of what is beyond it.  Focus on your future.  The church is an excellent place to find hope.  In today’s isolation, so many churches have started offering online services.  This makes it easy for you to try out many different churches.  You don’t need a ride there.  You don’t have to worry about talking to people you don’t know.  You don’t have to worry about fitting in.  And many of the services are recorded too so you can decide when to watch the service.  You don’t have to try to make Sunday morning work.  All church congregations are a little different.  Keep trying different ones until you find one that suits you.  

The point of this is to encourage you to find a source of hope.  Jesus became my hope and my Savior.  He wants to save everyone and give us a better life.  May He become your hope and Savior too.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  John 3:16-17 ESV

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

 

https://www.bible.com/59/jhn.3.16-17.esv
https://www.bible.com/59/jer.29.11.esv

Rescue

As a child, I felt isolated and alone.  To me, there were no visible signs of hope – no one to rescue me from my situation and my distress.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized I was never alone – not really.  I was just blind to my help.  And my natural state and free will (which, as a child, I wasn’t even aware of) kept me separated from my one source of hope.  Who was there to open my eyes so I could see?  Who was sent to help me?  Who came forward with a message of hope?  Hidden away in the deep woods of Appalachia, there weren’t many who could come or would be able to find me.

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!””
Romans 10:15 ESV

There were arguments between my parents that brought up the name, Jesus.  By my father’s attempt to drive Jesus out of my mother’s life, he introduced Jesus to mine.  And every year, like clock work, my great grandmother would send me a birthday card with a track.  “What is this?” I remember asking my mother.  It was another introduction, and my eyes were slowly opening to the presence of another – unseen – the one who could truly save me. The one who could save me not just from my situation but also walk me through the healing of the scars I would carry.  The one who would save me from a life of shame and give me a life of blessing and purpose.  The one who would show me grace and teach me to love as He loves. 

He was always there even in my darkest days.  And because of His great love for me, He sent messages to me through people and highlighted the work of His great hands in the world around me so that I could find Him.  What messages is He sending you?  Do you hear?  Can you see?

His great army fights all around us, in the heavenly realms, to save us.  And He uses people – those who love us and sometimes even those who don’t – to reach out to us.  

He hears our cries to Him!  Do you need rescued?  Cry out to the only One that saves.  He is waiting for you with open arms.