Grandma lived through the Depression; she never had many expensive things. But, she collected a lot of things over the decades. My mother, sister, and I have spent several hours at my grandma’s house over the past year. There is a lot of stuff to sort, and we’re sifting through it – one shelf at a time.
She kept hundreds of greeting cards handed and sent to her by friends and family. We also found colored pictures, brittle with age, given by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Cracked shells. Anniversary cards. Hundreds of photographs, dated and explained.
We can’t keep everything, I know. And, it’s just stuff.
But, each of these things meant something to her. She kept them not because they were valuable in a monetary sense, but because they were priceless in a memory sense. With each new finding, I feel like we’re tapping into an undiscovered piece of her. Pieces of her mind and heart wrapped in tissue paper, set in a box, and placed on a shelf.
Dementia broke through her protective pane. It stole things from her. She couldn’t live in her home anymore and had to leave most of her treasures behind. She didn’t remember the box with all the pictures or the anniversary cards Grandpa had given her throughout the years. She couldn’t recall the shell I gave her, or the picture my sister colored, or my brother’s favorite truck.
She remembered us, though. Her face lit every time we stepped into the room. She asked about our children and all we’d been doing. She was always interested and loved us with all her heart. It wasn’t the stuff she treasured – the cards and pictures and everything else; it was the memories they represented. Each a treasure.
And she loved the Lord. He was her greatest treasure.
He’s helped me through so much, she’d say. I can always talk to Him.
Dementia’s got nothing on our Jesus or the love He infuses into His children – for one another and Himself. He helps us remember the important stuff when our flesh fails.
He covers us, draws us beneath His protective wings, and says, I’m here. I’ll help you. Just rest.
After her body quit and she flew free, my sister and I boxed up the things in her room.
A whole life, I thought.
This is what’s left. Hand lotion and Kleenex and more greeting cards. But, she left so much more and took so much with her.
She left a legacy of love and faithfulness.
She left hearts full of love for her, and with her she took her heart full of love for us.
Word of the Day:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
You come and offer treasure. Eternal, priceless treasure. Keep our eyes on You. Let Your extravagant love distract us from the fleeting vanity of this world. Give us wisdom to see and hear and love the gifts from Your merciful hand. Thank You. In Jesus’ name and for His sake, Amen.
Author: Melissa Bronson
As I settled into the window seat on my flight to Florida, my neighbor to the left asked why I was headed to Tampa.
In a quaking voice, I choked out words that sounded foreign to my ears, “To see my Dad who is in the ICU.”
In one of the many ways God showed me He was with me over the hard days that followed, she revealed that she had been a hospice chaplain for many years. Then she asked me to tell her about my Dad.
From nearly the time I was able to walk, I can remember placing my tiny feet on top of my daddy’s shoes and moving to the beat of 1960s and 1970s classics.
As I got a little older, I’d place my hand in his and let him spin me around on the splintered wood and cracking concrete of our back porch.
Despite our history of cutting a rug, I never really mastered the art of moving my body in rhythm to music. In fact, the only time I can remember dancing without feeling self-conscious is with him.
When it came time to pick the song for the Daddy-Daughter dance at my wedding, I struggled. Nothing seemed to fit our relationship just right.
Two weeks before the big event I finally confessed that I hadn’t yet selected the tune. He said, “Oh, I know what we’re dancing to.” It was as if he had pictured the moment in his head for years.
My heart skipped a beat when he told me.
“I’ve Had the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing
In heels? And a full length, beaded gown? On a polished dance floor? In front of nearly 200 of our closest family and friends, and some of my in-laws I hadn’t yet met?
Ummmm… What? No. Way.
But then, I remembered. I remembered how he had twirled me around to that very song over a decade before during a 4th of July BBQ. How he had never let me down. How his hand firmly gripped mine and his eyes focused on me without distraction. As I watched him and took my cues from him, I could anticipate our next move. How well we danced when I let him lead me.
That’s when I knew it was going to be alright. That I could trust him to keep me from sliding across the dance floor in that crowded ballroom.
We danced to that song at my wedding and a friend of mine snapped a couple of my favorite photos during our performance. The skirt of my dress full and flowing. My arms stretched out wide. My hand firmly holding his. Our eyes focused on each other.
I'm so thankful for this amazing memory.
As I talked with my neighbor in coach, I realized the things that helped me believe I could dance to that song with my daddy are the same principles that give me confidence to face challenges in life with my Heavenly Father.
It’s been twelve years since my wedding, but the lesson surfaced when I needed it most. When I’m faced with something that feels hard, daunting, overwhelming, or like it has the potential for failure, drama, danger, or embarrassment, I know Who has the power to provide the comfort and encouragement I need. When my Heavenly Father asks me to dance to a song I wouldn't have picked for myself, I can turn to those same four principles.
When I stepped off that plane, I knew nothing in my life would ever be the same again. My father was critically ill, and I carried the burden of his medical power of attorney. My sister and I faced decisions that no child should ever have to make for a parent. But throughout the whole ordeal, I focused on remembering God's faithfulness, following His lead, holding tight to His promises, and focusing on Him.
What challenges are you facing today? Which principle can you apply to gather the courage to step onto the dance floor?
Word of the Day: Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced. (1 Chronicles 16:12)
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for always being faithful to Your Word. Help me to be deeply rooted in You so that no challenge I face feels out of Your control. Help me to remember to hold tightly to Your promises, follow Your lead, and keep my eyes focused on You when I face challenges that are beyond my own abilities. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Author: Liz Giertz
“I don’t usually do that.” I was standing about 5 feet away when I heard my son’s quivering voice in the dugout. I knew something was wrong. As I made my way closer to the chain-linked fence, I could hear the strain in his voice and see the tears in his eyes.
You see, a kind volunteer dad from our little league team was trying to persuade him to put on the catchers gear. The poor man had no idea of my son’s hang ups when it comes to trying new things and/or switching up his routine. He was innocently trying to allow Gavin a turn at trying a new position.
My son’s reaction was surprising to him; but not to me. There was a time in our lives that I had to introduce a reward system to help my son in overcoming his aversion to trying new things, and while we’ve seen much improvement, I still hear the occasional: “I don’t usually do that.”
I started thinking that warm Spring evening at the ball-park, how often this is my reaction to God. God is calling me to step out of my comfort zone, and I shrink back in fear because of my inexperience or lack of confidence. Ever been here?
You feel the tugging of the Spirit telling you to approach a neighbor or a mom at the playground, and you think: God, I don’t usually do that.
Or maybe it is something a bit bigger than that. Maybe you feel God calling you to make a career change or step out in faith in the area of your finances, and your first reaction is “I’m not sure, God, that seems a little out of character for me.”
A verse that continues to come to mind for me is 1 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
I truly believe, at least for me, that my unwillingness to step out of my comfort zone is because of fear. A fear of how I might look, or what people might say. A fear of failure or even of success.
The problem with seeking our own comfort due to fear is that the Bible is clear on this topic: God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear. A spirit of fear is from the enemy. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). God gives us a Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline and he desires for us to have life, and have it to the full.
Friends, let’s live in this truth. Let’s step out in faith knowing that it is his power that strengthens us. Let’s commit to loving others at a higher level. Even if it means “putting ourselves out there” and maybe getting hurt. Let’s set the example of self-discipline and pursue what we think is right despite the temptation to abandon it.
Word of the Day
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 1 Timothy 1:7
Lord Jesus, you have not given us a spirit of fear. Help change our perspective of things we “usually do” and move us out of our comfort zones. We desire to be used of you greatly. Amen.
Author: Emily Goss
I almost missed them…
All of the wonderful things God did in 2015.
Then as the clock counted down toward my kids’ bedtime and we lifted our fancy glasses half-filled with chocolate milk, we began recounting events from the past 365 days…
“Avery started 1st grade.”
“Yeah, and Emory started kindergarten!”
“We went to summer camp.”
“We got a house!”
“Daddy built lots of things.”
“We played with friends.”
“WE GOT A TRAMPOLINE!!”
My kids’ excitement grew and, I must admit, mine did too.
Yeah… yeah, we did do all those things.
Well, God did all those things.
Gratitude welled up to my eyeballs.
This was something I hadn’t felt in a while. An old familiar friend.
While I looked back and saw a year that seemed wasted, my kids recognized every beautiful gift in it.
I couldn’t see it before, but my gratitude had been crowded out. The fog of long days and sleepless nights, stress and hardship, change and loss had blinded me from beauty God was working in my life. Other times, entitlement rotted my thankfulness, leaving it unexpressed.
So the question I’ve been asking myself is this: What can I do to keep gratitude at the forefront of my life?
I think what I’m discovering is it’s a daily practice of “chocolate milk cheers.”
Not with literal milk and glasses and all that jazz, but more mindful gratitude.
It’s waking up in the morning and thanking God for another blank slate.
It’s pausing at lunch to reflect on the pace of my day and the attitude of my heart.
It’s going to bed with a prayer on my tongue…
God, thank you for my husband.
Thank you for love.
Thank you for our health.
Thank you for food on our table and a job to wake up to…
Intentionally practicing “chocolate milk cheers” is changing me from the inside out. Gratitude has taken back the driver’s seat from complaining and negativity, allowing me to see all our blessings more clearly.
With thankfulness at the forefront, again, the words flow more quickly these days…
God, thank you for clothes on our backs.
Thank you for your forgiveness.
Thank you for your love that I can’t even begin to comprehend…
Gratitude breeds more gratitude.
And all that gratitude gives birth to joy.
Then we actually begin to enjoy the things God intended for us--imagine that!
My pastor always states, “What you fail to celebrate will leave your life”. And while, as children of God, His goodness towards us never ceases, I believe our ability to recognize it can and will if we don’t.
Friend, don’t let gratitude be choked out by entitlement.
Don’t allow a bad moment, month, or season blind you from your many, many blessings.
And don’t let everything you wish you were or had keep you from enjoying all that God has given to you.
Begin the habit of “chocolate milk cheers” starting right now.
God, thank you for…
Celebrate, and stand amazed in gratitude.
Word of the Day:
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. (Psalms 9:1)
Father, thank You for the countless blessings You’ve given me. I must admit I’ve allowed them to become clouded by pain, negativity, and even entitlement. Forgive me for the times I have been ungrateful and unyielding. Open my eyes to see the many, wondrous ways you are working in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Author: Katie Gibson
So my life is hard right now. There are days I don’t feel like I’m going to make it.
Life is like that. We are in a world at war between God’s kingdom and the kingdom of darkness.
For this battle, God led me to the story of Jesus walking on water.
The disciples spent all day ministering with Jesus, then Jesus sent them ahead in the boat while He stayed behind to pray. When Jesus was ready to join them, the boat was far from shore and was being buffeted by waves — because the wind was against it.
The disciples were doing what Jesus told them to do, but the wind was against them.
We can be in the middle of God’s will and face ferocious winds.
Jesus came during the fourth watch.
That is 3 am. It’s dark. I have had many 3 am moments hoping and praying the night ends. Because sometimes in a storm, it feels like it never will.
And this is when Jesus decides to come to them. He walks on the waves, through the wind, out of the darkness. And the disciples are terrified.
So often when Jesus comes to us in our storms, we are so disoriented by the waves and the wind we don’t recognize Him. Instead of being filled with reassurance, we are terrified.
But Jesus speaks. He answers their cry immediately and tells them to “take courage. It is I.” If we can recognize Jesus as He comes to us, we can be full of courage.
I am still working on this.
Jesus tells Peter to come. Peter gets out of the boat in battering waves and thrashing winds and walks on the water towards Jesus.
And this is the invitation Jesus is offering me.
He is telling me to walk across the waves and winds of my circumstances. I want to hunker down in the boat in a fetal position and just try not to die, but Jesus offers so much more. He says, Come out and live. See how much bigger I am than whatever life throws at you. Experience Me in a way you never can on smooth seas or in the safety of a boat. Be filled with courage.
It doesn’t take courage to walk on a placid lake. The worst that will happen is you get wet. But waves and winds are scary. It has to be Jesus that I am walking toward, or I’m not going to survive.
So Peter steps out and walks on the water. For a minute anyway. Until he started looking around. At the waves. And the wind. Then he started to sink.
Here is where I can really relate to Peter—in the sinking. I find myself hearing from the Lord in quiet moments, then I walk out of that time alone with Him, and I see the waves and the wind. I start to sink. But Jesus is still faithful and true. Even when we forget what He has said and we start to sink, He reaches out His hand and grabs hold of us. In the moments where we gloriously walk on water and the moments where we sink like a rock—His love for us never changes.
I think we focus so much on Peter sinking that we forget something important: Peter got out of the boat. No one else did. Just Peter. Maybe he sank. But he also walked on water. He experienced the miracle of stepping out on God’s Word and finding it to be true. And he experienced being rescued by Jesus.
So in my fear over what my future holds, I am refusing to stay curled up in the boat. I am stepping out into the unknown, the scary winds, and dangerous waters because I am walking toward the One who can save me.
And He says I can walk on water.
And I would rather risk sinking with Jesus than trying to stay safe in a boat that only holds the illusion of control.
Digging Deeper: Matthew 14:22-31
Author: Brooke Kireta