A building crumbled. A 24-year-old construction worker who was remodeling an old store into a new Lewis Drug buried under the rubble. A 22-year-old woman who lived in an upstairs apartment also buried.
Three and a half hours the girl was trapped, not knowing if she was upside down or right-side up. Hope hung on as she connected with her parents and workers by phone. Cheers, fist thumps, and high fives as the girl is rescued in good condition.
But the mood soon sobered again as the caring, dedicated rescue workers carefully kept searching for the man who was buried deeper. Hoping against hope. A search dog was brought in, and an area was targeted. Seven hours after the collapse, he was found. No life left.
So many mixed emotions in a few hours. Shock and grief but praying and hanging desperately onto hope. Elation and gratitude as God worked a miracle. Fear and a deep foreboding about the life of the construction worker. Then grief and disappointment. And ripped-apart hearts for the family who would have a missing place this Christmas.
One family can celebrate life spared. Another must grieve a life snatched away.
It baffles me. How can joy and grief mix together?
My heart rejoiced that the girl was alive. But after the loss of the other life, the miracle of life didn’t seem as special any more. Well, it still was, of course. But the joy of it drained away and seemed out of my grasp when another family was devastated with the loss of a loved one.
Pain. Loss. Devastation. Everywhere. In our hearts. In our families. In our world. How does one remember the joy of the miracles when the grief can be so heavy and overwhelming? How does one rejoice for the miracles without feeling guilty of disrespecting the grief? How can joy and grief live together in one heart?
It’s a mystery… The joy in Christmas is all about God stepping into our deepest heartache. There can be no joy at all without the broken. Because Jesus came into this world of suffering to be broken for us, joy is possible. Only because of His unfathomable love can we rejoice in anything at all.
It is descending into the dark valleys of grief that we learn to more deeply appreciate the gift of God’s love. The love that infuses light into the dark places inside. The love that seeps joy in to make the grief more bearable. The love that radiates hope into despairing hearts.
For you who are feeling downhearted and trodden down with troubles, I pray God will help you find joy in His gift of love. Grief and joy can live together. God’s love can carry us through the grief. Allowing ourselves to process our grief at the feet of Jesus brings greater joy. And joy is all the more glorious because of the grief.
Then Jesus said, “Come to Me,
all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.”
But the angel reassured them.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said.
“I bring you good news
that will bring great joy to all people.
The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today
in Bethlehem, the city of David!”
“The Gift of Love”
“Trials and suffering can actually refine and deepen gratefulness if we allow them to show us not to take things for granted. Our national holiday of gratitude, Thanksgiving, was born and grew out of hard times. The first Thanksgiving took place after nearly half the pilgrims died from a rough winter and year. It became a national holiday in 1863 in the middle of the Civil War and was moved to its current date in the 1930s following the Depression.” (“How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times” by Robert Emmons)
A Thanksgiving Prayer
by Helen Steiner Rice
Thank You, God, for everything …
The big things and the small,
For “every good gift comes from God” …
The Giver of them all.
And all too often we accept
Without any thanks or praise,
The gifts You send as blessings
Each day in many ways.
And so at this Thanksgiving time,
We offer up a prayer;
To thank You, God, for giving us
A lot more than our share.
First, thank You for the little things
That often come our way;
The things we take for granted
And don’t mention when we pray.
The unexpected courtesy,
The thoughtful, kindly deed,
A hand reached out to help us …
In the time of sudden need.
Oh, make us more aware, dear God,
Of little daily graces,
That come to us with “sweet surprise,”
From never-dreamed-of places.
Then, thank You for the “miracles”
We are much too blind to see,
And give us new awareness
Of our many gifts from Thee.
And help us to remember
That the “key” to “life” and “living,”
Is to make each prayer a “prayer of thanks,”
And every day THANKSGIVING.
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above;
it comes down from the Father of lights
[the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens],
in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting]
or shadow cast by His turning
[for He is perfect and never changes].”
Perhaps because of difficult circumstances, troubles, or losses, you’re having a hard time feeling thankful at all. Maybe your cry is, “Why, God? Where are You? Do You even care about me?”
Yes, Jesus cares. Deeply. He knows what you’re going through. He understands you better than anyone ever can or will. He cries with you. He opens His arms wide and longs for you to rest in His love for you.
Does Jesus Care?
“Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press,
And the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?
O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long night dreary,
I know my Savior cares.”
Do you sometimes feel like you are battling giants? Like you’re constantly retreating? Like you’re just too weary to fight anymore?
There can be so many giants in our lives, can’t there? I can’t begin to name them all, but two biggies for me this past week were discouragement and fear.
It’s hard not to be discouraged when the continuing battle of chronic illness gets me down. My body attracts bugs so easily, so I often catch the viruses flying around. They usually succeed to wreak havoc in my bronchial tubes. My husband came down with a nasty one the week before, and I begged God to please keep me from getting sick again. He had different plans. But even as I knew it was starting in my body, I felt God whispering, “My child, haven’t you asked me to deepen your trust in Me? Let go and surrender your way into My way of making it happen.” Sometimes God doesn’t give us our way, but He helps us to have peace with the plan He chooses.
Then there’s this year’s presidential election. Discouragement and fear looms in many hearts. Many have been belittled and trampled upon. Deep hurts remain in women, minorities, and the vulnerable like the handicapped, etc. People who need to be loved, respected, and accepted just as they are. People who need grace, support, and healing. People who are just as precious in God’s sight as the next person.
Our hearts may droop in discouragement and freeze with fear. But God is still in control of the giants in our way. We are never alone. We have God on our side, and He will never, ever fail or abandon us! So let’s keep moving forward, one step at a time. Remembering that God cares about each and every one of His unique creations.
What giants are looming over you and intimidating you? Taunting you with lies that victory is impossible? Blocking the way forward in the path God has chosen for you?
“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.
You have recorded each one in Your book.
My enemies will retreat when I call to You for help.
This I know: God is on my side!”
David said to the Philistine,
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin,
but I come against you in the name of the Almighty,
the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”
1 Samuel 17:45
“So be strong and courageous!
Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.
For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.
He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Lord, You are Almighty and You are still in control, no matter what happens in our hearts, our lives, our world. But oh, Lord, sometimes we get so discouraged, so worried, so afraid. We cry to You for help, because anything is possible with You. Help us to truly believe You have already gained the victory over the giants of sin and death and Satan, and no giant in our lives is too big for You. You know the giants in each of our hearts, some hidden from human eye, but never from You. Thank You for loving us so much and counting it a delight to care for us. Please remove all uncharitable thoughts from our hearts. Help us to treat others with love and kindness as You have treated us. Help us to trust in Your love and power and grant healing in each of hearts.
by Francisca Battistelli
“Don’t you be afraid
Of giants in your way
With God you know that anything’s possible
So step into the fight
He’s right there by your side
The stones inside your hand might be small
But watch the giants fall
We could really live like this
Can’t you imagine it
So bold, so brave
With childlike faith
Miracles could happen
Mountains would start moving
So whatever you may face…”
Does your spirit feel empty, discouraged, and confused? Does it feel like you’re missing something important in your life? Do lies about God, yourself, or others torment you? Do you long to grasp your identity in Christ Jesus? Do you crave a deeper relationship with God?
Wearying of trying to fit her circle into the square expectation of certain key people, Dolly Lee prayed and asked God to show her how He created and designed her. God answered her prayer and led her on a deeper experience of His love.
The journey was far from easy. Through valley lows and mountain highs, God led her on a journey of self-discovery and a deeper experience of His love that can transform and redeem brokenness to beauty.
Dolly’s personal battle with anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and God’s transformation through His love and grace has birthed a book that will resonate with many. 7 Days of Soul Care: A Guide to Letting God Do the Extraordinary With Your Ordinary “invites readers to surrender fear and to courageously embrace the journey of living more fully into his or her amazing true identity as God’s Beloved.”
Through creative (and some vulnerable) stories, Scripture, soul-searching journal questions, and heartfelt prayers, Dolly gifts us with highlights of what she learned over the past 17 years and continues to learn. With love and compassion, she invites us into a deeper relationship with God.
The top three takeaways Dolly wants readers to take to heart are:
- God created you in love and for love.
- God sees you as a masterpiece.
- We won’t be able to fully receive God’s love when we believe lies about God, ourselves, or others.
Some of my favorite quotes, one from each day, are:
Being exceptional begins with our connection with God. It has taken me decades to learn relationship with God begins first with our “being” and not with our “doing.”
We have worth because we are created in God’s image.
When I admit and experience my own brokenness and my failure to love well, I see in contrast God’s tender love and grace welcoming me back home. He calls me to rest my weary head on his chest. I don’t need to live by my own limited strength.
The more I remind myself of God’s unconditional love for me, the more I walk in freedom from people–pleasing and perfectionism.
Remember that the cross and not your circumstances are the measure of His great love for you.
I travel away from God whenever I forget I have all I need in him and instead seek my soul’s fulfillment elsewhere.
It isn’t selfish to make time to care for our minds, souls, and bodies.
Life can get so busy, but that’s all the more reason to rest and nurture our souls. Our time will not be wasted as we read this book slowly and carefully so we can soak in refreshment for our thirsty, weary souls.
“I am the Vine; you are the branches.
The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit,
for [otherwise] apart from Me
[that is, cut off from vital union with Me]
you can do nothing.”
John 15:5 AMP
If you purchase this book, you will be contributing to a worthy cause – the International Justice Mission, a ministry that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. Dolly’s hope is to raise at least $500 out of her royalties for this book.
When Dolly needs to remember what is true about God and herself, she listens to songs. One of the songs she listened to during the writing process was “Here’s My Heart” by Casting Crowns.
Dolly Lee believes God’s love can transform a person from the inside-out if one surrenders to his love. She’s thankful God’s grace allows second acts and second chances. She attends Fuller Seminary and writes at her blog Soulstops.com where she invites readers to stop and connect with God. She lives with her family and one lovable dog in California where she loves to hike, read, share meals and laugh with family and friends. Her goal is to collect enough in royalties from the sale of her book, 7 Days of Soul Care, to donate $500 to the work of International Justice Mission.
* The two images were created by Dolly’s daughter.
* I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book but I was not paid to write this review. This is my honest review, based on information from Dolly and my own opinion.
Have you ever laid back and gazed at the clouds? As a child I would find all sorts of animals and shapes in them. But what I didn’t think about at that time is who forms and holds those clouds up. And the power behind them.
Recently I went to Outdoor Campus, and I saw something I hadn’t even noticed before. In a children’s play area, grasses were planted in a circle leaving the middle open. A sign in front of it says: Cloud Garden. Lay back. Relax. Watch the clouds. I was strongly tempted to do it. I even glanced around to see if anyone was watching. The coast was clear. Now I wonder… Why didn’t I just do it? Why didn’t I just let that inner, excited child in me relax instead of wondering what others would think.
Anyway, this resting place of gazing at the clouds inspired me. I could hear God whispering:
Relax in My love.
Focus on Who holds up those clouds.
Can’t the same God who holds up those clouds and changes them in endlessly unique ways be powerful enough to take care of me? Can’t the same God who dissipates the clouds in the sky to reveal the sun’s full light also remove the stormy clouds in my life and reveal the light of the Son in my heart? Or even if the clouds remain, can’t the same God still warm and brighten my heart with His love?
Yes! He can! God’s got us! The same God who holds up those clouds with His Almighty hand holds us up. He has made us a special part of His creation that He will continue to care for. He has written, even engraved us, on the palms of His hands. He is not going to drop us. He’s got us.
I have made you a part of Me,
written you on the palms of My hands.
Your city walls are always on My mind,
always My concern.”
Isaiah 49:16 The Voice
When prayerful longings are not met
God’s Got Us
He still cares whether we get a yes or no
When troubling situations don’t change
God’s Got Us
His plans are higher than ours
When others don’t support or understand us
God’s Got Us
He empathizes and hugs us to His heart
When we worry about the hearts and lives of our loved ones
God’s Got Us
He brings miracles in His time and way
When fear for our country and world consumes us
God’s Got Us
He still has the whole world in His hands
When losses leave us desolate
God’s Got Us
He fills the emptiness with His love
When painful memories get triggered
God’s Got Us
He cries with us and heals us layer by layer
When others reject us
God’s Got Us
He will never, ever abandon us
“In the Hands of God”
By the Newsboys