There is too much noise.
Have you ever had days or even weeks like that?
My brain won’t be quiet amidst the whirlwind of life going on around me.
I am a thinker. I love to think on God’s word. I love to think about life lessons He has for me. I love to voice my thoughts to God as I pray.
I love moments of quiet with Jesus.
What if life isn’t quiet though?
Morning until evening. Constant.
No time to gather your thoughts or be still with God.
I tend to assume that my blog suffers at times like these. I fret. I can’t seem to focus on what I should write about because I can’t seem to gather just a few moments to think, and when an opportunity presents itself, my brain strays and I end up focusing on everything else that’s going on in my life at the time. I find myself wishing for a miracle. I find myself begging God in the late hours of the night to give me a message of hope, but often I strive in my own strength.
Trying to think. Trying to push past the noise.
The noise hasn’t all been bad. There has been beautiful noise. The laughter of grandchildren. Wedding songs and vows made. The fellowship of extended family. Ladies discussing the study of God’s word. Church services and beautiful old hymns being sung.
But then there has been the noise of other things. Things that push past quiet moments and steal away my thoughts toward God. The noise of traffic as we travel. The noise of packing and unpacking and packing again. The noise of responsibility and to do lists screaming at us to get finished before the noise of hospital stays next week. The noise of worry over my husband’s upcoming surgery. The noise of wondering and what ifs.
And I just want to stop.
I yearn for the quiet. I yearn for God.
But my brain doesn’t want to be quiet.
This morning I stole a few moments from my day. I turned on my Bible app and I sat and made myself listen to God’s words. I quietly asked Him to speak to me. To speak past the noise. To speak past the whirlwind in my brain.
He never fails.
Today He showed me the simple passage of the blind man in Mark 8. Jesus took him away from all the noise. Away from the city, (v. 23) and then He touched him.
It didn’t happen right away~
that miracle God had just for him.
Jesus asked him a simple question.
“Do you see anything?” (v. 23)
But things were still blurry to the man. So Jesus touched him again, and that’s when the miracle happened.
The man could see.
In that moment as I read, I knew that I needed to stop talking AT Jesus. I knew I needed to stop asking Him for something to write. Stop begging Him for a message of hope that might help others. I needed my brain to get away from it all and allow Jesus to speak to me. I didn’t need just the right words to share with the world, (Mark 8:26) I needed His words to see things clearer. I didn’t need a message of hope to write for my blog, I needed a message of hope FOR MY OWN HEART.
In that moment, I heard His message.
Do you see? Do you see me? I am here.
It was blurry at first. Like the blind man, the noise still seemed larger than life to me. Like looming trees. (Mark 8:24)
I read that passage and then read it again.
And then the miracle happened.
I could see. So clearly.
I didn’t need the quiet.
I was the one who needed to be quiet.
I needed to look at Jesus and listen to Him.
It never ceases to amaze me that I can read scripture countless times and miss a tiny morsel of knowledge that God has for me and then suddenly He touches me with His words and miracles happen. My eyes are opened and I see exactly what I need at the exact moment I need it.
The blind man didn’t question God and ask why he couldn’t see after the first attempt, Jesus questioned the blind man. Sometimes we just need to be quiet, stop striving and just listen to God and apply His words to our souls so that are eyes are opened to His truths.
Maybe some of you might feel like your life is out of control right now. The noise is deafening and your heart is crying out, but you just can’t seem to focus on God. Let me encourage you today.
Stop trying. Get away from it all, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Then, stop talking AT Jesus and allow Him to speak to you. Get yourself a bible app and listen to His miraculous words.
Your chaos. Your busy. Your overwhelm and your noise will all be silenced in awe of Him and you will feel His peace wash over you.
What do you see?
Imagine opening your eyes amidst the chaos that looms over your soul. Imagine opening your eyes and seeing Jesus there. Smiling back at you.
That’s the miracle that can happen if you just stop to listen.
I listened to his breathing. Tears fell unashamedly from my eyes. It was excruciating to hear the labor with every breath that was drawn.
My heart yearned for heaven for him.
I didn’t want him to leave, but I did not want this pain for him.
So many of us have lost loved ones in the last few years. Death seems to be on the forefront of social media, as well as the prayer chains in our churches. Sorrow upon sorrow have hit so many. It has hit me more than I care to think on.
I saw a picture recently that brought it to my mind once again. The sign read~”We know you would be here today, if heaven wasn’t so far away”. I understood the heart behind the words, but I rejoiced in the truth of God’s word and what a difference it can make in the believer’s life.
If you have lost a loved one this might sound like your reality, but my friend~it is not. Heaven is not far away at all. Heaven is only one breath away for the believer. One last breath and you are in the presence of God. There is no waiting.
2 Corinthians 5:8
Just a breath.
My scripture reading has been in the book of Job lately. A book that I desperately need God’s help to wrap my mind around. God never fails. I asked my husband why some preachers act like it’s so wonderful that in the end, Job got a double portion of everything he had previously lost.
Everything except his children.
Every one of Job’s children had been killed. I could not wrap my mind around the idea that yes, Job had more kids, but they could never replace the children he had lost. My husband’s answer convicted me.
God did not replace the children that Job lost, because they were not lost. He would see them again. 2 Samuel 12:23
How often do I forget this when I think on all those that I loved so dearly who have left this earth?
They are not far away at all.
They are as close as my last breath.
Sweet friend, Jesus died on the cross to give us eternal life. Do we dare look at the cross and tell Jesus it is not enough? That what He endured for us wasn’t enough? When we work harder at being good, always hoping it’s good enough. When we give more to the church, as if trying to buy our way in~that’s exactly what we are telling our Savior. The words of Jesus become null and void in our representation of earning our way to heaven.
His words~”It is finished”.
God tells us that absent from the body is present with the Lord, and that the only way to be in His presence after death is through Jesus finished work on the cross. I John 5:12-13, Luke 23:43, Hebrews 7:25.
Our repentance, His forgiveness. Romans 10:9-13
Once that’s our reality, Jesus tells us that no one can pluck us out of our Father’s hand. John 10:28-29. We have a home in heaven one day with our God of mercy, grace and love. No question.
Immediately in His presence.
And so my friend, rejoice in that truth. We might not understand why God chooses to take our loved ones when He does. Job 42:3 We weep, but so did our Savior. He understands our emotions because He lived them. John 11:35 We sorrow because we love, but we sorrow with the hope of heaven bringing light to our sadness. 1 Thessalonians 4:13
And knowing this~ we don’t ever have to be afraid of death, or feel as if God and Heaven are far away. Psalm 49:15, 1 Corinthians 15:54-58
If you are sorrowing today, ask God to bring the light of hope to your sadness.
Your loved one isn’t far at all.
Heaven is only one breath away.
It has been an emotional week.
My dad has been gone for a little over a year and yet, thoughts of his passing have come to the forefront of my mind for no particular reason. At times I can hardly wrap my mind around it. My dad went home to heaven the day after the funeral of one of our dearest friends, who had unexpectedly passed away just the week before.
The friend whose birthday would be this Monday~the day before my dads. They entered this earth a day apart and left this earth a week apart.
Thoughts of the trials my children have faced, and continue to face have also weighed on me. Thoughts of missing my sister-in-law as I watch her son get married tonight have brought tears of happiness mixed with tears of sorrow.
And then, thoughts of the horrors other countries are facing have been a constant, even as I write this.
I have struggled with what to post this week. I have prayed and asked God for words to encourage, and yet He has been silent.
And I couldn’t understand why.
I wondered if perhaps he didn’t want me to write a thing. Certainly I don’t want to post some cliche story that God never intended I share.
Sometimes you may wonder why continual “bad” hits you from every direction and God seems to remain silent.
Here’s the thing.
For me, He hasn’t been silent. He has been speaking to my soul, but my mind was screaming too loud to hear Him. My eyes were focused on the emotions I was feeling instead of on Him.
My scripture reading landed on Job this week. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to read it. I complained. I told God I needed something uplifting, but He knew exactly what I needed.
Quotes that I had scheduled a month ago popped up on my Holding Hope page all week, and it still didn’t hit me. Quotes suggesting I pray about what my mind wanders to. Quotes reminding me to keep praying, even if all I have left is a whisper.
(1 Thessalonians 5:17, Philippians 4:6)
Quotes that told me to just Be Still.
My mind was anything but still. My thoughts were running a marathon inside it. But today in the tiny moments of quiet I had, I prayed again.
I finally heard Him.
His whispers through the cracks of distractions touched my heart.
(I Kings 19:11&11, Matthew 14:28-30)
He kept telling me to be still and as much as I argued that I was being still, I knew deep down I wasn’t. So I stopped. I stopped trying to figure out all the answers on my own. I stopped and I just sat. I sat on my bed and I asked Jesus to sit with me. Just to sit there and hold my hand and still my heart. (Matthew 28:20, Jeremiah 29:11)
And He did.
And He told me to tell you to do the same.
How easily I allow circumstances to weigh me down and steal my peace and joy as I wonder what’s going to happen. How easily I miss my loved ones and fall into a sadness I don’t want to climb out of, instead of realizing the comfort and hope of heaven.(1 Thessalonians 4:13) How easily I try to control situations and find myself in continual unrest. How easily I focus on the bad and miss all the good.
I miss Him.
We’re all looking for hope. For answers.
We scroll through social media looking for that quote or devotional that will give us those answers we’re seeking. We even open our bibles, as if a verse will magically appear to answer our “whys”. God often uses all of these things to help those in need, myself included, but sometimes in the looking we are striving in our flesh to find the answers that only God knows. Sometimes the answer is simply Him, and that’s all we need to know.
(Hebrews 6:18 & 19)
Once we get to the place of that realization our eyes are opened. We see life through Him and in His stillness, everything is changed. We suddenly understand that we don’t have to know all the answers, we just need to be still with Him. (Ephesians 1:18)
Don’t stop praying sweet friend, even if it feels like God is silent. He is not. Keep seeking Him in the stillness until His stillness pushes out all the distractions and it is just you and your Savior~
And through faith, you once again see your life through His eyes. The eyes of of Him who loves you and gave Himself for you.
(Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 4:17 & 18)
Happy memories can dance through the recesses of our minds and bring so much joy to an ordinary day. Memories give us hope, because we can see the entire picture that the happiness was painted around.
Tears can stay with us as well. Just as much as the happy memories can linger, so can the memories that brought us tears.
When I set my mind on one or the other, it amazes me how many of those moments come flooding back. The good and the bad. The moments that brought tears are so distinctive to me. Some have stayed with me from a very early childhood. They are etched into my brain and I can remember them like they were yesterday.
Kindergarten and the first death of a beloved pet.
The stinging words of a supposed friend.
Having to move for the first of many times.
My parents fighting.
My parents separation.
Leaving all my friends and moving far from our country home to a city filled with people.
A heart broken by young love.
The cool girl with her mean words.
The word cancer and the death of my grandfather after a year of hospital visits and treatments.
Watching the agonizing pain and heartache my mother was going through every single day because of it.
Leaving my family to move 700 miles away.
The words “your child will have birth defects. Termination is an option”.
Losing my best friend.
The mama tears of watching your children through every phase of their lives as they face all the same heartaches you did.
A crushing betrayal.
10 wasted years of unforgiveness.
Losing my mama.
Death upon death upon death.
Losing my daddy.
Unanswered prayers of a begging heart.
Too many tears to mention.
In those moments I did not want to hear~
“God does everything for a reason”
“We can’t have rainbows without rain”.
Or any of the cliche things that people say, because they don’t know what to say.
In those moments I just wanted to cry. And I wanted someone to cry with me and understand my pain.
Tears are very lonely.
Tears have a profound impact on us. Heartache can shape our souls if we allow it. Our days will be filled with misery or bitterness, anger or resentment, self pity or loss of hope. Sometimes even the loss of our will to live. And when the tears beat down on us day after day after day, sometimes we give up the fight, because there’s no fight left in us.
If we continually look back at our life we can have hope again because we can see that somehow when we truly believed all was lost, God brought us out to the other side. We were never alone. (Joshua 1:9) He was always with us, we just lost sight of him through the tears that blurred our vision and blinded our hearts.
Whatever might be causing your tears today will be a memory for your tomorrow. God does not just paint the beautiful pictures of happy moments. He paints His goodness and peace and comfort into every heartbreaking moment we go through. One day you will look back and see the entire picture God had painted.
His word tells us that He puts every one of our tears in a bottle, and writes them all down in a book. A bottle is a container. It holds things. Every single one of your tears are precious to Him and when you thought you couldn’t hold it together any longer and it was the end of your story, He was holding you and writing what you didn’t think you could. (Psalm 56:8&9)
Yes, if we set our minds on the heartache we will be overcome by the grief and so, our loving Heavenly Father and Friend bids us~ set your mind on things above. (Colossians 3:1)
Time passes so quickly and the moments that I thought would break me are the moments I see God putting His loving arms around me, picking me up and carrying me through.
(Psalm 34:18&19) I feel the comfort He gave and the peace that overcame the heartache. (John 14:27) I see that He did answer my prayers, despite the tears that blinded me in those moments. And I look ahead to the day I am in His presence when His loving hand will wipe away every single tear that has fallen from my eyes. (Revelation 7:17, 21:4)
Each tear He holds in His bottle sets my heart on things above. Each tear reminds me of my Savior’s love. Each tear reminds me that He wept along with me and understands.
(John 11:35) Each tear reminds me that my Savior suffered for me, yet He did it with joy.
(Hebrews 12:2) Each tear reminds me that I am never ever alone, and as I look back each tear reminds me of the beautiful happy moments God created for me through it all.
Because each tear makes every happy memory so much sweeter. And the happy far outweighs the sad. (Psalm126:1-3)
Don’t hold on to the tears. Let Jesus hold them. You hold on to the good. Every single good memory~and just believe. You will see His glory. (John 11:40) because everything good and everything perfect always comes from God. (James 1:17)
And because He is writing your book, and every story He has ever written always has a beautiful ending.
(2 Peter 1:19, Psalm 139:1-18)
Our children’s Christmas play might look a little different this year. Sickness has seem to hit our little town very hard. School activities have been canceled and our children’s midweek program has suffered. Attendance has been light to say the least, and because of this our Christmas program has also suffered. A program that we look forward to every year. A program that fills our little church with parents, grandparents and friends. A program that tells the good news of Jesus birth.
As I prayed about this Sunday, my heart wondered who would even attend? We only had a handful of children participating ~ half of whom were my own grandchildren. I thought about empty pews, and how that might affect them.
But as I prayed God whispered to my heart that it would all be fine, because He brought to my remembrance the very first Christmas. The night the good news of Jesus birth was proclaimed by an angel. Not to a large auditorium full of people, but to shepherds in a field who came to a manger and worshipped a Savior.
Thousands of people were in Bethlehem that night, but God came into the stillness of a silent night and spoke to the humble hearts of shepherds.
And I knew that whether one person came and sat alone in our little auditorium, or 100 people came, God knew all along that the ones who needed the message would be there. Listening to the words of children proclaiming the good news. Watching the faith of a younger generation and having hope again in their hearts.
And I knew that God would be there. Jesus among us~ no matter how small the attendance might be.
This year your Christmas might look a little different, for one reason or another. Lack of family and friends and empty chairs might affect you. Don’t be tempted to look for Jesus in the big. Don’t look for Him in the parties or in the shopping and wrapping. Don’t look for Him in the Christmas music and movies. Don’t look for Him In the festivities filled with all the big Christmas things. Don’t look for His joy and peace in a place. Look for Him in the silent night, with the faith of a child.
That’s where Christmas will be because that’s where God will be. His love fills all the empty places.
Jesus among us.
The precious gift of Jesus~right here in the stillness of your humble heart.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
I don’t know if it was my hormones or just my crazy personality, but I cried the entire drive home.
I mean I wept ugly tears.
We had been at church camp for the week and the very day we were to leave and return home, my wedding ring went missing. My four children were old enough to be campers, but my two nieces were not. They had been staying with Mike and I in our tiny room all week. Needless to say~ between the rainy weather that caused an over abundance of muddy clothing and the wet towels strung around the room, the sleeping bags and the toys they brought with them~it was almost impossible to find anything. I tore through every inch of that room to no avail. I was sure I had taken the ring off and placed it on the high dresser top before we left for swim time, but now my mind was playing tricks on me. Had I actually taken the ring off or had it slipped off in the pool without my knowing? The pool area was searched. The grounds were searched. The car was searched. The room was searched.
And then it was time to leave. Camp was over. We had to bring the children home. And I wept.
A wedding ring is a symbol of never ending, eternal love. The ring has no beginning. No ending. It is continual. And I had lost it.
Once we were home, I needed to be alone. My poor nieces and nephews had never been so quiet (or so good). Even my own kids were somber. I stole away to my cellar and muttered that I would be doing the mounds of laundry that were always accumulated after a week at camp. As I poured out one big garbage bag of laundry after another, something caught my eye. A glimmer of hope amidst the dirty items that lay in piles on the floor. My ring came tumbling out right along with the mess of it all. It had been there all along. And once again I cried. I fell to the floor and wept ugly, grateful tears.
I can still see that big black garbage bag. I can picture my ring inside among it all, and as I look back on that story I can see such a picture of Christ in my life. When I mess up over and over again and feel like a failure. When I allow my mind to play tricks on me and believe that God must be so disappointed in me. When He seems so far away and I feel completely lost in a darkness that seems to enfold me~ and when I fall on my knees and pour it all out to Him among ugly tears~ I find that He has always been there. Right there in the very middle of my mess.
I just lost sight of Him.
He never lost me.
I’m very sentimental when it comes to certain things, especially things that hold beautiful memories for me. I guess that’s my crazy personality. I know that others might think that “things” don’t hold eternal value, but I believe God often blesses us with beauty simply because He loves us~and in the loving we feel His presence~and that does have eternal value. It can change a person’s entire outlook on life.
My ring isn’t just a ring to me. When I look at it, a lifetime of memories flood over me. Some have been incredibly hard but most have been incredibly beautiful.
God’s love is just like that. It’s an eternity of love. It has no beginning and no ending. It is constant and continual. Our life here on earth might not always be easy. There will be hard times and in the darkness we might lose sight of the fact that God has never left our side. Let me give you a glimmer of hope today. Cry out to Him. Let the ugly tears flow. Let it all coming pouring out and never forget sweet friend~
He’s always been right there.
Right in the middle of it all.
You might have lost sight of him
But He never lost you~
And He never will.
In the last week I have been asked a very similar question on two separate occasions. The question went along the lines of~ What has God done for you this year?
I am embarrassed to admit that both times my mind went blank.
My immediate thought was~He took my dad. And for some reason I couldn’t get past that.
I didn’t want to answer. I wanted to get up and leave the room, partially because younger family members were waiting for my reply and partially because I’m a pastor’s wife, so shouldn’t I have my act together? Shouldn’t I come up with a million things God has done for me?
I could have plastered on a fake smile and given a rehearsed, cliche answer on God’s abundance. I knew all the right words to say. In my heart I know He has given me countless blessings, but in that moment that was all that I could think of.
My dad. He took my dad.
As I contemplated what to write for a post this week I knew that I wanted it to go along with Easter, but again my mind was drawing a blank. For some reason I had writer’s block. I mentioned it to my husband only minutes before I was asked for the second time~
what has God done for you this year?
I went down to my bedroom later and felt shame that I hesitated and could not answer in a way that would glorify my Savior.
As I lay in bed in the quiet darkness that night, I mulled over that question again and again and I truly believe God answered me.
A tender compassionate answer full of mercy and grace, patience and love~
Yes I took your dad Charisse, but that’s not the end of your story. I took him to heaven. I brought him home. Not only is he in the presence of the many loved ones that have gone on before him, but he is in My presence. That has given Me joy. He is home with me.
And I wept.
If it wasn’t for Easter. If it wasn’t for the horrific death Christ endured on the cross, my dad wouldn’t be in heaven today.
The breathtakingly beautiful part of the glorious story of Easter doesn’t end with the horror of that death. It begins with life after death and the incomprehensible knowledge that~
Jesus did it all with joy.
He was beaten and nailed to that cross. He hung in agony as He took the sins of all mankind upon Himself. He died for me and for you and he did it with joy.
Did you get that? Do you truly understand that?
He did it with JOY.
Because that’s how much He loves us.
That’s how much He loves my dad. That’s how much He loves you.
No matter what we go through or how hard our circumstances are, I have this hope to cling to~ Jesus did it with joy. For me.
If I had to do it over, my answer would be so different. God has done so many amazingly beautiful things for me each and every day. I know there will always be trials, there will always be sorrow and pain, sickness and suffering. There will always be heartache in the permanent form of death, but none of these things are the end of our story.
Love is. Jesus is. Heaven is.
And Easter is our promise of that joy.
What has God done for me this year? Everything. He’s done everything. And to know that He has done it with joy makes my heart sing. A love like that is almost unbelievable. How do I know it exists? I know because not only has He told me in His word, He continually reminds me when sorrow makes my heart forget.
I truly believe God gave me writer’s block because He wanted to be the author and finisher of my faith. Easter is the perfect first chapter. It’s ending is a beginning. A beginning overflowing with pure love and absolute joy.
Easter. For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross that we might become the children of God. My dad is partaking in that reality in heaven even now. I get to partake of that reality here on earth.
All because of Jesus.
And because of that reality, my story has only just begun.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God...”
1 John 3:1
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
How can I get my joy back?
If I was asked this question a year ago, I would have been very confident in how I responded.
Today I don’t know.
I guess that isn’t 100% true, sometimes I just “feel” like I don’t know. My emotions feel like a jumble of “I don’t knows”.
Even though there are a lot of good answers on how to find joy, I can tell you this, not all circumstances merit that cliche answer many people like to throw out there.
ie~ “choose joy”.
It isn’t always that simple. The “fake it till you make it” mentality doesn’t work when it comes to joy. Sure we can change our attitudes and mindset to reflect happiness, but in some circumstances the darkness is still buried deep inside, no matter our good intentions .
The good news is, there is Someone Who will always be our answer. THE answer to every heartbreaking circumstance this world throws at you.
Jesus~ first and foremost.
Actually, only Jesus.
He’s the answer.
God obviously knew that our human hearts would still struggle. He knows our frame. (Psalms 103:13-14) He is our strength through every circumstance. We’re the ones who forget. So he gave us His word. The Bible. And in it we find a wealth of wisdom on how to find joy.
The hard part is applying that wisdom to our everyday lives.
How do you find joy when you’ve lost more loved ones in the last year than ever before? How do you find joy after coming home from a heart wrenching funeral of the dearest friend, only to find your precious daddy gone without warning the very next day? How do you smile when your heart hurts terribly for friends and loved ones going through their own heart wrenching moments? Sickness, job loss, accidents, affairs, abusive relationships, death. When sleep won’t come because you can’t stop hurting for them? Or for yourself? When you feel like joy and Jesus are very far away?
And in the unexpected moments when you do catch yourself smiling and feel a little spark of that joy, you immediately feel guilt along with it.
Our little church has been bombarded with heartache lately. Truly tough stuff. It’s knocked the air out of our lungs as my husband and I try to minister.
Last week I woke up feeling like this heavy cloud was hanging over my life. Our lives. I just wanted everything to stop. I wanted to sit in front of my cozy fire, oblivious to my circumstances and forget everything. I wanted to smile again. I wanted to go back to when things were predictable and happy.
When I woke up feeling that way, I could almost picture that black cloud hovering above me and all I could utter was~
“God please help me.”
And He did.
God immediately reminded me of the story in the Old Testament about the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. (You can read about it here~Exodus 13:21-22, 40:34-38, Numbers 9:15-23, Psalms78:14)
If you’re not familiar, God led them with a cloud by day.
The moment God brought that picture into my head felt like freedom.
God was in that cloud.
It was His reminder to me that He is always with me, even in the dark clouds hanging over my life. He is in control and despite feeling hopeless, He is in that cloud protecting and guiding me.
Not only did God lead and protect them with a cloud by day, He also gave them a pillar of fire by night. Just as I longed for my predictable life and the comfort of sitting next to my cozy fire, I saw that pillar of fire that God provided as comfort too. (John 14:8)
If you continue digging deeper into God’s words you will find that the pillar of cloud and fire were continually leading and when they stopped, the people were to stop and set up God’s tabernacle. That tabernacle was God’s gracious presence. A place to reside for a time. A home. A dwelling place.
God showed me that He is always leading. Sometimes my moments might feel cozy, warm and comfortable and other times I might feel like a dark cloud is parked over every facet of my existence. That’s when God wants me to stop. Stop wandering on my own and just be home with Him in His beautiful presence, beside the still waters (Psalms 23) and among the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) . He tells me I can stay as long as I need because He will never leave. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5) He is my dwelling place no matter what circumstances look like all around me. (Psalms 46:1-2, 91:1-9)
Despite that phenomenal story of God’s leading in the Old Testament, His children still complained. They were still afraid. They wanted to go back to their predictable lives back in Egypt, even though they were slaves in that predictable existence. They missed all the beauty that was ahead for them. All that God had prepared for them.
I don’t want to miss the beauty God has ahead for me. I don’t want to just exist and be a slave to my circumstances. I don’t want you to miss God’s beauty either. That dark cloud that you might feel is constantly looming overhead, that cloud is guiding you.
Whatever your cloud might be, God is in it.
In the next few weeks I would like to take you on a journey with me. The journey to find joy again. I want to help you to see that God is in that cloud. I want to show you specific ways God has shown me how to find joy again, despite the deeply sorrowful circumstances we might be in.
I want to share with you my Savior’s solutions.
He is there. Don’t let go of that hope.
Joy will come again.
My heart is glad. My whole being rejoices. My flesh rests in hope.
(Psalm 16:7-11, 30:5, 34:17-19, Isaiah 41:10)
FINDING THE GOOD IN THE GRIEVING
I realize this is a very long post, but I ask you to bear with me because once again, I’m going to be brutally honest here and admit some things I’m dealing with. Things I don’t want to think about, let alone write about. But things that God has given me to help me through this. Steps that I think can truly help others.
I know many of you have been anticipating 2021 since March of 2020.
It’s been a year of horrors, and people desperately need to believe everything will change for the better in the coming year.
But I am struggling.
Thanksgiving and Christmas~
decorating shopping, wrapping, baking, Hallmark movies and Christmas music~
all of these things masked the deep ache of grief in my heart.
I didn’t want to face it just like I don’t want to face 2021.
I don’t want to move forward.
My heart wants to go back in time.
I’m facing the responsibilities that go along with losing your last parent. Packing up a lifetime of memories my dad held on to. My memories. I don’t want to go through his drawers and cupboards and make the hard decisions on what gets thrown away, or given away, or kept. I want to keep it all, right down to the tape dispenser and air freshener he recently purchased.
No, my heart doesn’t want to move forward. Instead, I want to go back in time and just sit with him there in his living room. Laughing about something funny my grandchildren did. Sharing a chocolate. Reminiscing. I want to see his red Jeep outside my front door as he stops by for his daily check in.
I want to tell him one more time how much I love him.
I know many of you are in the same boat. This year has taken so many loved ones.
The heartbreak has been unfathomable.
In the past 5 months I’ve written 7 posts on a variety of things that can change your life for the better.
Today my own heart longs to be changed.
I don’t want to be sad. I don’t want to mask the pain with busyness or superficial happiness. I don’t want to continue to push it down into the recesses of my soul and pretend it isn’t there, always looming over me like a black cloud.
I don’t want to dwell on “what if’s” and “could have been’s”.
How do I move past this deep ache of grief?
I understand that everyone deals with grief differently. My own personality does not want to read someone else’s words on how to deal with grief.
The devil knows this.
He knows our personalities and he will use our own deceitful hearts against us. (Jeremiah 17: 9) He tricks me into believing that I am unique in my pain and no one can possibly understand enough to write anything that will help.
But he is wrong.
God has continually been tugging at my heart. He will never leave me.
He will not give up on me~
even when I feel like giving up on me.
He is always whispering to my sadness~”I am right here Charisse.” (Romans 8:38&39)
And so, today I want to share some simple things God has used to comfort me. I am a work in progress. My words are not the ‘end all’ solution. They are a day by day choice. Every single day has new challenges and I know I am facing some even harder ones in the coming weeks.
1. Ask God for help- As I have said in my previous ‘life changing’ posts, my number 1 tip will always, always, always be to ask God for help. You will never conquer the next 6 steps if you do not take this very first one. (Psalms 16:11, Romans 8:26, John 14:16-18, 26, I Peter 5:7)
2. Stay in Gods word- The minute I slip away and allow other things to come before, or even replace my time spent talking to God or reading His word is the minute the heartbreaking grief takes control. (John 15:11, I Thessalonians 5:17) Every morning I must get out of bed and choose joy. (Nehemiah 8:10) Choose God, His words, His promises, His peace. Some days when I wake up I just know it’s going to be a good day. I smile. I tell myself I can do this. Other mornings, I just want to hide under the covers and sleep the day away so I don’t have to deal. I don’t know why one morning can be so different from the next, but these are the days that I must choose wisely. I must choose God. Which takes me back to point number 1. I cannot do this in my own strength, so on days like this I cry out to Him and ask Him to help me. Some days I am silently begging Him for help over and over and over again. Even though the day may feel like it was the worst day ever, when I lay my head on my pillow that night I realize I made it through, but only because of Him. If we could see our lives the way God can~if we could understand how horrible things would have been without His continuing presence~we would realize that even on our worst days He was right there with us and got us through it. (Jeremiah 33:3) Tomorrow is a new day. (Psalms 118:24)
3. Face your grief- as much as I don’t want to, I have realized that I cannot pretend my dad is just gone visiting my brothers. I cannot push the pain down deep and not think about it, because in doing so the pain will remain debilitating. I must face it, and in facing it a myriad of other steps come into play.
4. Cry. Talk it out. Ask for help and prayer- We should not feel shame for the grief we are going through. We do not have to pretend we have it all together. We need to cry and not bottle everything inside. This is an area I have a hard time with. I do not want to cry because I do not want to cause my children worry or sadness and I don’t want my grandchildren to see me sad. I have realized that this not only makes the process harder, but drags the grief out longer and longer. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, for someone to just come and sit with you as you talk about what you’re going through or just need to reminisce. (Galatians 6:2) There is nothing wrong with asking others to please pray for you when you are having a bad day. (I Thessalonians 5:25, James 5:16, Matthew 18:20) There is nothing wrong with crying. (Psalms 56:8-13) There is nothing in the Bible that says that we shouldn’t cry, only that we should not cry as if we have no hope. (I Thessalonians 4:13) Which brings me to my next point.
5. Eternity- God has given us this amazing, unaltering hope through the shed blood of His Son Jesus on the cross. Eternity. If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, if we in repentance accept His gift of salvation~ God promises us eternity with Him in heaven. (I Thessalonians 4:14) My daddy did this and I have the full assurance from God’s word that my dad is at home in heaven right now. (Romans 6:8, John 14:2, I John 5:13, II Corinthians 5:8) If I choose to focus on my dad instead of myself~ it changes my whole perspective. Why would I choose to wish for him to be here with me, when he is in the very presence of his God? His Heavenly Father who loved him so greatly that He sent His Son to die for Him? My cousin so sweetly reminded me of this on Christmas Day. His very words were~”he is celebrating Christ with your mom right now.” My parents are celebrating Christ, and what a celebration!!! They are in glory. No more pain. (Revelation 21:4) Only praises. (Psalms 89:5, Luke 15:10)
6. Focus on the good and be thankful- This can be a hard one because when we focus on the good and happy memories, they often bring the tears as well. I know there will come a day when my tears turn into happy, thankful tears. And so, I will remember all the happy times. All the moments turned into memories. The moments that wouldn’t seem particularly special at all to anyone else, but hold beautiful happiness to me. Moments that I thank God for. (Philippians 4:6) As much as my heart hurts and wants those moments back, if I continually remember step number 1, I know that God will help me to be thankful and to see how amazing it was that I had all those silly, special, mundane moments with my dad here in Caseville the last four years.
7. Live every day as if it were your last- (Psalms 90:12b) We do not know what tomorrow holds. (James 4:14) We aren’t promised tomorrow, or even today. Knowing this, and with God’s help, I am moving into the future. Today. January 1, 2021. I am resolving to live every day to the fullest. To see the beauty in every single thing~ whether that’s the snow storm in our forecast, whether that’s the silly things my husband does that tend to irritate me or my aching back that I threw out putting Christmas decorations away~ I am asking God to show me the good in every singe thing. And my friend~ there is SO MUCH GOOD. (James 1:17) Beautiful, fresh clean snow. A picture of a new beginning. A husband that loves me despite all my irritating qualities (like putting away heavy Christmas boxes without asking for help) and then waits on me hand and foot. Time spent sitting with him because, as much as I want to, I can’t move. And realizing how precious this time of doing ‘nothing’ is. I am resolving to truly be present for my grandchildren. To stop and listen to their childish babbling and soak in every word. To play with them and create beautiful moments they can someday remember and be thankful for. So I will ask you~ how do you want your friends and your loved ones to remember you right now? Today? If you drew your last breath as you fell asleep tonight, just as my dad did, would they remember sadness or would they remember joy? Not a masked happiness but the true joy that only comes from God?
I want my friends and loved ones to remember joy. I want my husband and children and grandchildren to remember my laughter. I want them to remember me smiling, just as I will always hold the memory of my dad.
My sweet, precious dad outside my front door in his red Jeep. Smiling.
Smile again with me my friends.
I promise, God can change your life!
Ask Him to help you find the good again.
The raw humanity of grief has overwhelmed my soul the last few weeks.
My heart feels such a hurting emptiness. My emotions have gone from despair to anger to joy, almost as if I’m on a roller coaster.
Despair that I will never say I love you to my dad again, or visit with him on his porch. No texts, no meals together, no more reminiscing about the beautiful life God blessed us with. Despair at the feeling that my childhood has been taken from me and I am left alone without the comfort of a mom or a dad to love me, as only a mom and dad can.
Anger when others have told me God won’t give me more than I can handle. Anger that someone would tell my kids they shouldn’t be so broken hearted. Anger when others have told me my dad wouldn’t want me sad, or how much sweeter heaven gets every day.
My selfish heart wants that sweetness back. My selfish heart wants them here with me again.
I am ashamed to even admit this.
I know in my heart that the despair and the anger are not where God wants me to stay, but I also know He understands. He understands the despair. He understands the anger. When you lose someone you loved with all your heart, He understands the tears.
The tears fell this week.
I cried out to God.
I told Him I don’t want to be strong,
I just want my dad back.
I begged God to help me.
As I cried out to Him, somehow through the tears and the despair, through the anger and the weeping~joy came.
Joy because God showed me how very much He loves me. His love is infinitely greater than my own. It’s infinitely greater than the love of my mom or my dad.
God’s love is greater than life itself.
As I wept over the fact that I lost my dad so close to Christmas and that we would not be sharing our favorite holiday together, as I tried to hold on to hope amidst the ache my heart felt~God reminded me of a song my daughter sang last Christmas Eve.
A song my dad loved.
I have listened to that song over and over again this week.
The words have filled me with unexplainable joy~
“Wondrous Gift of heaven, the Father sends the Son. Planned from time eternal, moved by holy love.
He will carry our curse~
and death He’ll reverse~
so we can be daughters and sons.
Who would’ve dreamed, or ever foreseen that we could hold God in our hands? The Giver of life, born in the night revealing God’s glorious plan.
To save the world.
To save the world.”
He knew the pain of death and separation from our loved ones would be a pain we could never bear on our own. He knew the sin of the world would bring death. And so~
He sent His Son.
God sent His Son to save the world.
He sent His Son to save me.
He sent His Son to save you.
That is the joy I will focus on.
The joy of the wondrous gift God gave me. The gift of His Son. He reversed death and gave me the gift of eternal life in heaven with Him. The gift of being carried home to my people someday. The gift of being in the presence of God almighty. The gift of falling into the arms of my Jesus, my Savior and my Redeemer. The gift of knowing that my mom and my dad are in Gods presence even now.
Because God gave His only begotten Son.
The rawness of my broken heart will probably never go away until the day I see Jesus, but I will cling to that joy in the brokenness because those I miss so very much are in the presence of Jesus.
And one day I will be too. I can never stop thanking Him for such a beautiful gift.
I miss my dad~
but I am God’s daughter.
He is a Father to the fatherless.
He is my Father, a Father of infinite love.
Love greater than life itself.
I will never forget the first time I was introduced to Jesus as more than just a cold, religious statue hanging on the big wall of our church.
I was 7.
I was sitting at her table looking up at her. I thought she had the kindest eyes and made the best peanut butter sandwiches. She always gave us potato chips on the side. To this day I love sweet and salty together. She was talking about Jesus like she knew him personally. I didn’t really understand what she was telling me. To be honest, I don’t remember much about it at all.
Until the end.
I could hear my brothers playing with her kids outside and I wanted to go play with them. And then I heard my mom ringing our dinner bell, and I knew I better get home.
And that’s when she said these words~
”So Charisse, if you pray and ask Jesus to be your Savior, I will write that in this bible and you can take it home!”
Man, I wanted that bible.
It was red and shiny and new.
It was amazing to my little eyes.
We didn’t own a bible, except for the big storybook one my mom read to us at night.
This was a real bible!
A bible that would belong to me?
I nodded my head and told her I would pray.
A few days later that bible was mine. It sat on my nightstand like my most prized possession. I was so proud I owned something so important.
Time went by.
Days turned into years.
We moved several times.
We went through a lot of heartache. I have no doubt that my sweet neighbor prayed for little, 7 year old Charisse after she gave her that bible, and I have no doubt she continued to pray.
My parents split up.
Without warning my mom packed up our belongings, showed up at our school and we drove away. I never got to say goodbye to my friends. I was confused and hurting.
Did my dad know where we were going? Why wasn’t he with us?
A year passed. A year full of fighting and sadness. My mom moved us from our wonderful farm to the big city. Everything was scary to me. Back on our farm our beloved dog had been shot and killed, which added to the sadness. For the last ten years he had been our faithful, loving companion. There were a lot of ugly parts about my story that year. It seemed like my tears were constant.
But then one day a glimmer of hope touched my heart. My parents made the decision that they would try again, this time with God. We found a church close by and started attending regularly. Week by week I could see a change in my mom and dad. Week by week I felt a change in my own heart. I was hearing things that were vaguely familiar to me.
I was attending Sunshine Girl’s club at church one Monday night and it all came flooding back. Even though 5 years had passed, I remembered like it was yesterday. I remembered her kind eyes telling me about Jesus. I remembered the immense love she had for Him, as if He were a real person, and not just a statue. I remembered her telling me what the word sin meant and I remembered at the time not truly understanding.
But here I was now.
I finally understood.
My teacher explained that God sent His Son Jesus to earth for me. That He was born in a manger only to die a horrible death on the cross. All for the sins of mankind. She told us that this was God’s gift to us. That if we understood that we were sinners and we were repentant of those sins, our great God would forgive us.
All because of Jesus.
He could be my Savior.
This was too wonderful for me.
I knew now why my sweet neighbor loved Him so much. She knew Him personally. He took away her sins and saved her from eternity in hell. He loved her immensely,
more than she could ever love Him.
And He loved me.
I asked my teacher if I could talk to her after class and that day I knelt down in the back of that little church and asked Jesus if He would take away my sins and be my Savior too. I didn’t have a single doubt that He wouldn’t, and my life has forever been changed.
I went home that night and dug that red bible out of the box in my closet. And I remembered.
Hope filled my heart that day.
I knew that no matter what my future held, Jesus would be right there with me.
I would forever have that hope.
Maybe it was the testimony of my kind neighbor and the love she had for her Jesus. Maybe it was her prayers for me and my family. Maybe it was her words that God burrowed deep into my heart until the day He knew I would truly receive them. Or maybe it was all of these things.
Sometimes I lose sight of why I started this page. Satan knows how to discourage and get in my head. He tells me my words aren’t good enough. He tells me there are much better bloggers out there. He tells me I’m not worthy to pen words of hope to others because my own life is such a mess.
But then I remember that little, 7 year old girl and the hope that was shared with her so long ago. The hope that kept her going and continues to be with her every
I might be a mess, but if we’re honest with ourselves~aren’t we all?
And that’s where Satan will never have the victory~our hope is not dependent on us. It’s not dependent on our past or our future or how good we are or how messed up we are. Our hope is in Jesus alone and His finished work on the cross.
I’m not here to share Charisse.
I’m sharing Jesus.
I’m right there with all of you in your struggles and heartaches, in your sadness and in your joys.
I’m sharing that hope that only Jesus can give.
I will continue to share and I will continue to pray for you all~
just like my neighbor did so many years ago.
Because I want you to have that same hope burrowed deep inside your heart.
A hope that will forever change your life.
I can’t even tell you the number of bibles I’ve owned since I was 7, but I still have that red bible. It’s not shiny and new anymore but it is still my prized possession because no matter what I have gone through in the last 47 years,
it has always been there~
Am I the only one who feels like she’s in some sci-fi, futuristic movie while out in public?
No, this isn’t another post on masks~
just stick with me here for a minute~
The other day as I shopped, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in another world. Was this really my small hometown? Everywhere I looked there were masks.
Familiar faces all hidden. No smiles. Almost strangers~all behind masks.
I could see it in people’s eyes. Darkness.
Sometimes fear and sometimes even anger.
Rarely did I see light and happiness.
Joy was missing.
When the stay at home order had been given, I embraced it. Even though it was scary, I felt a peace as the entire world seemed to stop. I felt a nudge from God saying~ this is what it’s supposed to be like.
Schedules set aside.
Fast paced lives, jobs and activities all came to a halt.
Time was our friend.
Time with family.
Time with God.
Even though many felt caged, I felt a freedom~because God had given us that time. Time to reflect on our lives and on our Savior.
But then our “cages” were opened again and everyone forgot.
In just a few short months our world was turned upside down. Not only had our schedules become busier and more stressful, but fear and hatred seemed to triple over night. Our news feeds were filled with hateful words, arguments, political agendas and fear for our futures.
Both sides forgot.
We all forgot.
God can change all of this if He so chooses.
Our actions have only proved that we don’t truly believe God is in control. We have taken matters into our own hands and in so doing we have pushed aside the things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Phil.4:8
Our trust shouldn’t rest solely on our leaders, laws, masks or medicine. Our trust shouldn’t be in politics or the news or even our pastors.
Our trust should only come from God. Hebrews 11:6
I’m not saying that we should sit idly by and let the chips fall where they may, but can I ask you~
are you praying for your leaders as often as you are complaining about them? Are you praying for the lost souls around you as much as you’re parading your political views across social media?
Our political agendas cannot save a soul from hell.
Read that again.
Our political agendas CANNOT save a soul from hell. Our political views cannot change hearts. There will always be division. There will always be sides.
He is and always has been.
It is God that will change hearts and it is Jesus that will save souls~
and in the saving, our world will be changed.
We won’t be hiding behind masks of fear and hatred. Our news feeds won’t be filled with darkness.
Have we learned nothing from Christ’s ministry here on earth?
Yes, we are a very messed up nation right now, but we must realize that a president isn’t the answer. A mask isn’t the answer. Hydroxychloroquine isn’t the answer. All the thousands of Doctors with their differing opinions aren’t the answer. Fox News and CNN aren’t the answer.
There is no other answer.
Why did He come to earth? Why did He die on the cross? In His own words~”I came to seek and to save that which was lost.” Like 19:10
“For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” John 3:17
His light and His glory can overtake all that darkness. John 8:12, 9:5. Ephesians 5:8&9
His redeeming power is what will change hearts and lives.
That is what we should be praying for. That is what we should be parading across our news feed. The ONLY good news. The good news of the gospel.
Does it mean that all the bad, all the horrors and wickedness happening in our world will immediately go away? No. But it’s a start.
The gospel has transforming power and when we share it, God promises it will not return void. Isaiah 55:11. Once we realize this, even with our masks on we will begin to see change. We won’t see anger, hatred and fear in the eyes of those around us.
We will begin to see love and joy and peace. We will see longsuffering, gentleness and goodness.
We will see humbleness, meekness and faith~
and we will have HOPE. 💗
Galatians 5:22, Colossians 3:12-17,
Hebrews 6:19, Romans 5:1-5
NOTHING ABOUT THIS IS NORMAL
2 minute read
Last year’s home was gone.
The tall evergreen had been cut down.
The tree she had made her home in every single year. It had been a hard winter. The wind off the water had been brutal, continually knocking down the only trees left, the fake ones my dad put on his porch that overlooked the lake. The trees that now gave life to the porch area, despite not being real. They lay half toppled over, waiting to be picked up and placed aright again. Waiting for the sunshine to replace the snow~even though it was May.
It was Mother’s Day and yet, even though they lay in a crumpled bunch, even though nothing about this Mother’s Day was normal~
They held life. They held promise.
They held hope.
Deep in their fallen branches lay a beautiful nest. As we approached my dad’s door that evening, a protective mama flew from that nest. The home she had made for her babies despite the circumstances. As we peered inside we saw that promise of hope.
Four beautiful blue eggs.
And we were joyful.
Our homes may not have been the same this year. This Mother’s Day. They may have looked different than last year. The snow and cold may have discouraged us. Missing our loved ones because of this virus may have had us feeling defeated and alone. Maybe some were hoping and praying that this year they would celebrate their first Mother’s Day, but that dream had not been fulfilled. Maybe some had lost their mother or a child this year, and the loneliness of that loss left an aching deep in their soul.
And yet, God our Father has not forsaken. He meets us, comforts us and protects us right where we are. Wherever that may be. He gives us hope for our futures. He builds a home in our hearts. In our crumpled, fallen down mess, as we wait for Him to pick us back up~He tells us that He is here. He has always been here. He will never leave.
He holds us under the shadow of His wings
We watched as that mama returned. She would not leave her babes. Despite the home, despite the circumstances, despite the mess. Despite us, she remained. As the snow blew in the cold wind, she protected them there. They knew no different. They were safe. They were loved.
Allow Gods presence to overshadow you today. Rest under His wings as He protects. Give Him every circumstance that surrounds you. You are safe. You are loved. Let His peace comfort your heart until you know no different.
God showed me hope that day. He showed me the promise of life despite what our world might look like right now.
New life. New beginnings.
Soon those babies will hatch. They will fly from the crumpled mess their home once was. We will pick up those trees and they will stand aright again. And they will always be a reminder of Gods love, of His promises, of His care and protection. Of His presence.
They will remind us how beautiful our lives can be, no matter what our circumstances are.
Despite ourselves, He will always be there hiding us under the shadow of His wings.
Psalm 17:8, 32:7, 36:7, 57:1, 63:7
STOP FREAKING OUT
2 minute read
I was having a particularly stressful week. I got bombarded daily with unexpected inconveniences that continually messed up my plans.
I tried to remain calm.
One more week and we would be on vacation. I would be laying in the sand, soaking up the sun and listening to the ocean waves. I was pretty sure I had the following week free to get my “to do” list accomplished before we left. I looked at the calendar and, I kid you not~
I almost had a panic attack.
Every single day before vacation was booked with activities and appointments.
And I had a freak out moment.
I am a big planner. I’m one of those people who has a daily “to do” list written out for the next month. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with planning but~
There is something wrong when those “plans” cause you to freak out because they aren’t going “as planned”.
And that happens to me more than I care to admit. God is constantly having to remind me to~
“Be where your feet are Charisse. Today is all you need think about. What do I have for you today? Right now? Right this very minute?” “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself...” Matthew 6:34
So what happened? A virus hit so hard that everything shut down.
All those activities and appointments, all the worry I had about finishing everything before vacation~ it all came to naught.
Vacation didn’t happen.
The sun, sand and ocean waves didn’t happen.
The only thing that did happen was me freaking out about something that God already knew wouldn’t matter.
I wasn’t trusting God.
As I look at social media, it is very evident to me that our entire country is freaking out. We’re complaining about our plans getting canceled. We’re either complaining that the government isn’t doing enough to protect us and heal this virus, or we’re complaining that the government is doing too much by not allowing us to work.
Instead of God’s plans, instead of God’s purposes, instead of God’s peace~ it has become either personal pouting or political. We are constantly fighting or griping instead of just being where our feet are. Right now. Today. “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:15
Perhaps Gods plan all along has been this day, this moment. Maybe His plan all along was just to stop. To enjoy today. The extra time He has allowed us to spend with Him and our families.
But we aren’t doing that.
We are wasting our today’s by fighting over our tomorrows.
Every single time I have freaked out about my plans and my future, every time I have cried and complained and worried over how I would do it all~
God always, without fail pulled me through and showed me that His plans were not mine. That I couldn’t do it all, but He could and would.
His plans were always SO MUCH better.
And yet, for some reason~I continue to place my trust in myself instead of remembering the thousands of times He has shown Himself faithful.
He knew all along I had no reason to freak out about my week ahead.
Today, stop and look at where your feet are. Look at today. Look at your parents or your husband, look at your children, look at Gods word. Look at everything God has blessed you with. Enjoy this day God has given you and trust Him with your future. Ask Him to show you what His plans are for you TODAY~ what He wants to teach you TODAY. How you can choose joy TODAY.
How you can be like Jesus TODAY.
Our country has a 3 phase plan in place, but can I encourage you~Gods plans for your tomorrows are so much better. God’s got this. He’s going to take care of this virus. He’s going to take care of our finances. He’s going to take care of our families.
He’s going to take care of you.
Not the government.
Not the doctors.
So let’s all leave it with Him~
And stop freaking out.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
YOUR ‘NO’ MIGHT BE GOD’S ‘YES’
2 minute read
I can remember sitting in Cobo arena with my parents.
Thousands of people were there to hear one man speak. I was probably only in 7th or 8th grade but I can vividly remember looking at that crowd and thinking how amazingly beautiful it would be if I were in that man’s shoes, reaching and encouraging thousands for the Lord. I prayed that someday, somehow I could glorify Jesus that way.
I finished high school with a longing in my heart to be a teacher. I enrolled in college with a major in elementary education. I loved teaching and I loved children. I just knew God placed that desire within me and I prayed that someday that desire would be fulfilled.
I got married and we started a family. Since grade school I had dreamt of becoming an author and publishing a book. I started with a course on children’s writing. I had so many thoughts in my head that I wanted my pen to tell. I prayed that someday, when my children were grown and my life was less busy God would allow me that dream.
In each instance I asked God~
Would You allow this for me? Could You? But as the years went by~
I thought His answer to each of these was no.
I have never gotten to reach or encourage thousands of people in an arena.
I never was an elementary school teacher. I never wrote or published a book.
I married a pastor and eventually we moved to a small town in the thumb of MI. No huge crowds. No large arenas. A pastor’s wife at a tiny church of less than 100.
The years went by. I raised my children and watched and prayed as each left our little home and then one day...
as I sat and listened to the broken heart of a woman seeking counsel, God whispered to my own heart to begin something new.
That was this.
The beginning of Holding Hope.
And so, yesterday as I thanked Him for this beautiful privilege He has allowed me~
He showed me.
and He did.
40 years after the quiet prayer of a shy girl in the midst of thousands, He answered.
He didn’t answer in the way I expected.
No, I don’t get up in an arena and talk to thousands. From my very small town in the Midwest, God chose to use social media as His platform instead. Holding Hope.
No, I never taught in a school. God brought me to a church where, for a long time I was the only teacher for the children there. For 25 years He has allowed me to fulfill that dream and today I teach along side my own children in that very same church. And no, I have never published or even written a book, but every week God allows this pen to write the stories He puts in my heart.
Don’t give up. Wherever you might be right now, whatever your prayer, whatever your dream~ God has your answer. It might not come tomorrow or next week or next year. It might take 40 years, but He will answer.
Hold on to that hope.
You might be a student, sitting in a classroom wondering if God could ever use you to reach and encourage others.
You might be a mama, sitting in the middle of babies and bottles and diapers with a “someday” dream tucked away in your heart.
You might be a grandmother who hasn’t even realized that God has already answered your prayers.
He has always been faithful, even in my unfaithfulness.
My no was His yes.
Search your heart for His yes and when you find it, you will find so many more answers to the prayers you have whispered through the years.
Prayers you may have forgotten~
but He never did,
and He never will.
HOW TO HOLD ON TO HOPE
December 2019 did not end the way I had anticipated.
My heart was tremendously heavy for loved ones, neighbors and even people on social media that I have never met. People going through horrible heartache and trials. I couldn’t shake the sadness I felt for each of them. Prayers were spoken continually for what seemed like hopeless situations.
And with the sadness, I looked to a season for happiness instead of my Savior.
I wrapped presents.
I made cookies.
I went to parties.
I ate too much junk food.
I stayed up too late.
I struggled with perfectionism.
I watched too many Hallmark movies while I neglected much needed time with God.
And yet, at the stroke of midnight a new decade was ushered in, whether Charisse was ready for it or not.
In the quietness of my bedroom as these words pour out of me, God begins whispering His words into my heart.
New Years resolutions?
My flesh has already failed my resolve, but praise God He tells me that my flesh does not have to prevail~
as long as He is my hope. Psalm 73:26
He is telling me that I don’t have to be ready. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to have my life in order as I step into this new decade, because~
CHRIST IS MY PERFECTION.
And that’s what Holding Hope is all about.
No matter what you feel, no matter what you are going through at this very moment~
the very first week of this new decade~
You can hold onto hope.
If your heart is screaming right now~ “How?... How do I hold on to hope?”
The only answer I have for you is this~
Call out to Him.
Read His words of hope, written just for you.
Ask others to go to Him on your behalf.
Even if you mess up every single day or your future looks grim~ keep calling out to Him.
Even if your heart has been deeply wounded by others,
or maybe wounded over the heartache of others~
Keep calling out to Him.
He assures us that His mercies are new EVERY morning and so is His faithfulness.
His faithfulness is not contingent on our faithfulness.
His comfort, peace and joy are not contingent on our worthiness.
His love is not contingent on our love and His forgiveness, grace and mercy are not contingent on our perfection.
Today I whisper His name.
Over and over and over I whisper it.
I whisper it for others.
I whisper it for myself.
I whisper it for you.
And my heart rests in knowing that 2020 will be perfect.
Not because of anything Charisse has done, but because of EVERYTHING Christ has done for me~
and for you.
There are no hopeless situations because He is my God of all Hope~
And I will forever hold on to that.
1 Corinthians 2:9
I WAS HOPING FOR A DIAMOND!
3 minute read
You know the story~
and if you’re new here and you don’t know it, I’ll share it with you next week~
but I didn’t want to date my husband.
In fact, I hid from him so he couldn’t ask me out.
Once I got to know him though, WOW!~ I was pretty sure I was in love with him only a few weeks in.
Suddenly joy filled my heart. I woke up happy, my thoughts were always on him. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life
And even though it had only been a month, I secretly hoped that he would ask me to marry him at Christmas. If a proposal didn’t come I decided it would be okay, as long as he gave me some hope
(and maybe a little jewelry 😏)
that he saw our future together.
My hope did not.
He was so excited to give me my present, which made me excited to receive it,
until I opened it.
I tried to act happy, but my heart dropped.
I think my jaw dropped too.
He got me a stuffed animal.
A large Snoopy dressed in camo.
At the time my husband liked the character Snoopy, and he quite often dressed in camo. (I know, you’re wondering how I ever ended up marrying this man 😉)
He was so pleased with his gift.
He thought it would remind me of him.
Pretty sure a diamond would’ve reminded me of him a lot more. 😂
I wasn’t pleased.
It wasn’t anything I hoped for.
Did I break up with him? No. Did I complain and throw a fit and act ungrateful? No. Man, I loved him so much. SO MUCH!
And it’s true, every day that Snoopy reminded me of him and as time went on it always made me smile.
At times we all can be that way with God.
We want to spend every minute with Him. He brings joy and happiness and meaning to our lives. Life is good.
Until he doesn’t give us what we want.
We have a hope. A hope for an answered prayer. Perhaps a hope for a hurting heart. We pray and pray and when God answers, or doesn’t answer, and it’s not what we hoped for~
We get mad. We blame God. We get upset. We cry and complain.
Sometimes we even stop praying.
In our desperation, we give up that hope.
And all the while God is saying,~
I am here and I will answer~ but in my perfect timing, in my perfect way. If you knew the plans I had for you, you wouldn’t lose hope. I’m so excited to share this with you. Trust me. I love you deeply. I love you more than you could ever know, so much so that I gave you the gift of my only beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.
My love is a love you can’t fully fathom and because of that powerful love, my plans are what are best.
I ended up marrying that guy. Eventually a ring popped up and the question was asked. No it wasn’t when I had hoped for but man am I happy as I look back on the process. It always reminds me of how good God is and it always makes me smile.
Don’t be impatient with God. Rest all your hopes and dreams in Him. He will never, ever disappoint because there is no one that can love you more.
He already knows your future. His word is more precious than gold and gives us hope to cling to. Psalm 119:127, Psalm 19:8-10.
Right now that future might seem camouflaged and your life might feel stuffed with so many unwanted things~
But one day....
The eyes of your understanding will be opened and you will know what is the hope of His calling and the riches of the glory of His inheritance. You will know the exceeding greatness of His power to us who believe and you will continue to hope, knowing~
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.”
Ephesians 1:18-19, 1 Corinthians 2:9
Rest all hope in that powerful love.
Something As Silly As Makeup
2 minute read
The store was empty.
A strange change from its normal busyness.
Mike took the three older kids in his cart while I went with tiny Kathryn to pick up her baby necessities.
My heart was heavy.
I admit, I was feeling sorry for myself.
The last few months had been a struggle. Kathryn had suffered from allergies that resulted in fevers, sleepless nights, doctor visits, bills and tears. Lots of tears. Tears from sweet, baby Kathryn and tears from her mama.
And so, here I was about to spend half (yes HALF) of our grocery budget on formula for her. The only formula her little tummy could handle. Mike and I and our three older children would somehow live on the other half of the budget.
Money was very, very tight.
As I wondered the lonely aisle looking for her formula, I began talking to God.
You see~of all the silly, shallow things to talk to Him about~I was asking Him about makeup. I had run out and we had no money left to even purchase one of the items I needed.
As you know from previous posts, I’m just a makeup person. Always have been. Partly because I was raised that way, and partly because I would scare you if I wasn’t.(*note top pic) I never leave the house without makeup. I know that sounds vain, but it’s always been an insecurity of mine.
And so, I asked God what to do.
I put the bottle of bleach for her cloth diapers into the cart with her formula, then turned the corner.
And there in the middle of the next aisle over lay a 20 dollar bill. It was crisp and new. There wasn’t a person in sight anywhere. I picked it up. I looked around. I went aisle to aisle. No one. I asked the service desk if anyone had reported losing money. The answer was no. They told me it was mine.
And I cried.
I don’t know why God loves me so much. I certainly didn’t feel I deserved it, in fact I know I didn’t.
Perhaps because that’s what God is.
He is LOVE, and despite my selfish, shallow, heartfelt cries~ He answered.
He sent a crisp 20 dollar bill.
In that moment I realized it wasn’t the money that made me cry. It wasn’t the happy thought that I could go out and buy that much needed makeup. It was that He was there all along. He knew, and He showed me how very, very much He loves me. Even through something as silly as makeup.
Remember when you were little, all the unimportant things you would ask your daddy for? It never felt silly to ask~ because he was daddy.
I can’t even tell you how many times my heavenly Daddy has shown up in the little, unimportant things that clearly don’t matter in light of eternity.
But when He shows up~
He tells me that I MATTER~
and He shows me how incredible His love is.
That’s my God.
Look for Him in the little things.
They aren’t coincidences.
They are all God.
They’re His way of saying~”I see you, I know your struggles and I’m here for you.”
The little things are actually big things.
They’re like getting a hug from your daddy.
Don’t ever feel silly asking Him for something that seems unimportant and small.
Because you are not small to God.
If it’s important to you,
it’s important to Him.
Even if it’s as silly as makeup.
WHEN “GOD WON’T GIVE YOU MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE” DOESN’T CUT IT.
I’ve been accused of living in a bubble.
It used to upset me and I’d feel the need to defend myself. I watch the news. I know what’s going on in the world. Tragedy has hit home in my own life on more than one occasion. I know and understand the suffering of others.
But maybe, just maybe my blog has become a bubble of pet answers and cute cliches, and I truly wasn’t seeing the deep despair some are living with on a daily basis.
What answers do I give to those who feel as if they have no hope?
How can I tell a mother that her children will be okay when that mother is facing debilitating heartache and despair in her own life?
How can I speak words of hope to those who know all those same words, and still can’t grasp that hope?
“God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” doesn’t cut it.
So what do I say?
I don’t know.
I don’t have all the answers.
As desperately as I want to, I can’t write some cute cliche that will answer all the heartache and pain you are going through.
The only answer I have, the only answer I can cling to is this~
God loves you.
When life is at its darkest, when those we love the most in this world have failed us~ failed us in a way that breaks us to the point we think there can be no return,
God loves us.
He is the only One Who loves us unconditionally~with grace and mercy. With power. With hope. With strength. With compassion and with comfort.
And when there isn’t anything else left to cling to~ we cling to Him.
When the pain is so deep we don’t have words left to say~we just ask Him to hold us and keep loving us because that’s all we have left in our emptiness.
And we can know that He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. He will keep loving us amidst the anger we feel for the circumstances life has thrown at us. He will keep loving us when we stop believing He does. He will keep loving us when we can’t pray. When we have lost all faith. When we can’t function. When we can’t stop the tears from flowing.
He will keep loving us.
Cling to Him as He holds on to you.
He won’t ever let go.
Everything and everyone will eventually disappoint.
When you feel like there’s nothing left in this world to trust in~
the One Who gave His only Son for you because of His unfathomable, indescribable, unending love ~
THAT love belongs to you.
It is all yours.
It wraps around your heart and soul and holds you when you think you can’t go on.
God will never stop loving you.
And if that is all we have left in this world,
It is enough.
I cannot emphasize enough how badly I did NOT want to go on a first date with my husband.
So much so, that when I found out he was going to ask me out, I hid.
It was evening, it was dark and I was hiding in a van with tinted windows.
Even as I watched him walking toward the van, I did not open the door.
I would not roll down the window.
That didn’t stop him.
He walked right up to that van and knocked on that window.
Obviously I went on that date with him, since I am now referring to him as my husband 😂😂
On our first date I just sat there and listened to him talk. His dreams and goals. His convictions. His drive.
His walk with God.
Every part of me did not want to give in to my feelings or give up the “fun” I thought I was having at the time. I knew by the lifestyle Mike kept, he did not enjoy my kind of “fun”.
I was looking at a relationship with him all wrong.
Despite my inner conflict and desire to stick with the cool crowd (and not my husband’s crowd), he won me over that night because I sat and I listened.
God’s love never stops.
At this very moment God might be knocking on the door of your heart. You can feel the tug but you are hiding in the darkness of fear.
Fear of what you think you will have to give up.
You are missing all the joy, all the sweetness, all the peace and all the beauty a relationship with Jesus holds.
I don’t know why Mike chose to ask me out. I wasn’t “pastor wife” material. In fact, being a pastor’s wife was the furthest thing from my mind. At times I wonder why he loves me even now, but I do know he has made my life beautiful and sweet and I can’t imagine not having him by my side.
Just as I don’t know why God chose me and loves me. I don’t deserve it, yet He gave His life for me and~
He gave His life for you.
There’s no more beautiful way to fall in love with Jesus than to sit and listen. Open a bible. Listen to His words. Read them and discover the boundless love He has for you. In doing so, you will discover that his love is so unfathomable it will completely change your way of thinking.
A relationship with Jesus isn’t about everything you have to give up. It’s not about rules or church attendance. It’s not a prison sentence, it’s a freedom verdict. A relationship with Jesus is joy, peace, comfort, love, hope. It is hope. Hope in everything beautiful and sweet. Hope we can cling to. Hope that supports us when we are at our lowest.
So, I stood there in white and said “I do.”
As he carried me over the threshold, I could see the deep love in his eyes and I couldn’t wait to do life by his side.
Say “I do” to God. Give in to His absolutely matchless, transcendent love and give Him your life today. Ask Him to carry you through the threshold of life to all that His incredible love has in store for you. Let go of everything and allow Him to hold you as you hold onto Him and the hope He has for a life with Christ by your side.