Great (Unmet) Expectations

I have a rather large pile of party decorations sitting in the corner of my dining room. Graduation decorations to be exact. Red and silver balloons, confetti, maps, globes, suitcases, you name it – I have it.

My eldest daughter is a senior this year and I’ve been collecting the decorations for her party for months now. Her heart is to travel and I wanted to be sure we captured that spirit of adventure when we decorated. She, like many others, has an adventure up ahead.

But the adventures, and even the celebrations ahead will look differently than any of us could have anticipated.

We’ve all been feeling the loss of unmet expectations. Our seniors were expected to walk across the stage and have their name called. I was expected to cheer so loud that I would embarrass my daughter and family sitting with me. We were expecting to throw a massive party with numerous friends and family making the trip to celebrate. We were expecting to capture all the important “lasts” of her final year of high school, all the “lasts” of our middle daughter’s final year of middle school, and the final days of our son’s 2nd grade year. We expected to take pictures of graduations, continuations, and end-of-year swimming parties. But everything has changed and will look differently moving forward.

We’ve had tears from learning the school year would be finishing up here at our house instead of in the hallways of their schools, and we’ve had lots of sighs because we’ve been feeling all the feelings. 

We’ve also had the following:

We’ve been blessed to video chat with our family and friends catch up on life. Seeing faces and hearing voices makes such a difference!

We’ve had face masks that were lovingly made and delivered to our doorstep by our church family.

We’ve had beautiful yard signs made and delivered by friends to honor our senior girl.

Cake pops were delivered to our middle girl by a friend from her middle school – out of the blue.

Meals and treats have been delivered to us by friends across town and across the state.

A Surprise Easter Egg Hunt was lovingly delivered and placed in our front yard for our kids to enjoy on Easter Sunday.

More than just these wonderful expressions of love, we’ve had hope delivered to our hearts.

Yes, everything we expected to do won’t happen quite like we planned. But believe me when I tell you:

Our Seniors will still graduate.

Our middle schoolers will still continue on to High School.

Our littles will still finish out their school year with the excitement they always have with summer ahead.

Above all, Our God will remain faithful. That’s who He is.

Those events and celebrations will happen, they will just look differently than we expected.

But in the midst of this, we can still find hope, celebrate, and find reasons to discover joy. 

Celebrations will look differently for all of us. At our house, we are going to do our best to throw a backyard Prom, a Drive-Thru graduation Party for local fam & friends, an 8th grade Continuation Dance, and a 2nd grade End of Year Party. Why? Because celebrations still matter and I can’t let this crappy virus steal any more from my kids.

Our senior girl will still dress up in her Cap & Gown because Caps & Gowns Matter and if you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you know that message means a lot to me. If you are new to the blog, here is another reason why it matters: Click here.

This time of being at home has definitely felt like a loss in many ways, but I also feel as if God is giving us back so much. 

He’s supplying our needs.

He is providing us strength and new mercy every single day.

He is helping us to think creatively about how to make the most of our time, and how to connect with others in our community.

He is sustaining us with His love and quieting our minds with His peace.

He is making His love known and His gospel accessible through things like online worship experiences, through food banks being open, and through community outreach programs for all who have been affected.

He is helping our entire world

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He is giving us a chance to see the world through different eyes, and giving us the opportunity to respond to the needs of those around us as best as we can with what we already have. 

Friend, if you are reading this anywhere in the world today, chances are, you’ve felt loss at some level during this pandemic. I’d even venture to say you have felt a lot of loss. Whether it be personal loss, or feeling the weight from what your children have lost, we are all walking through this together. A beautiful reminder that we are not alone. 

My hope for us is that we reflect the love we have been given and the hope that has been delivered to us. That our children, young and old, can watch how we respond to unmet expectations. I pray that our families would see the resilience that comes from thinking about doing celebrations differently. Moving forward may not look the same as in times past, but that is probably a good thing. I keep hearing leaders say the same thing, “Do we want to go back to the way things were?”. I don’t want to go back to normal- I want to grow through this whole experience and learn to look at life and people differently.

As we inch closer and closer to the dates that these celebrations would’ve been taking place, let’s be mindful to show those around us that we too can hold onto hope while walking through uncertainty. We can still seek God while we wait for Him to move in and around us. We can shout for joy while we wait for restrictions to lift. We can honor the achievements of those we love while providing for the needs of those around us. It’s not one or the other; it can be both. It must be both. Here in this image is the verse I am praying over you, and today, let’s all begin to pray it over each other:

Lana's View
That’s my girl:)

Go The Extra Mile: Today, take the time to check out one of my all-time favorite songs. A beautiful reminder that we can hold onto hope in the midst of uncertainty. God is our hope and He is truly the anchor for our souls.

Do you have a senior or someone special you;d like us to celebrate with you in this season? Tell us about them in the comments!

peace-liz

Easter Experience 2020

Our family enjoyed some quality time by creating an Easter message on our sidewalk through our #JCCChalkTheWalk project!

This Easter was definitely a different experience altogether. Being a family in ministry, we are so accustomed to getting ready early and worshipping with our church family in person. This year, while getting ready in the early morn, a friend messaged us saying there were eggs in our front year for a surprise-egg hunt for our kids. That’s when my heart was overwhelmed with joy.

We have some amazing friends in our lives that blessed our kids and made their day bright because of the lavish love and thoughtfulness of friends who know that for kiddos, these ever-changing times can be overwhelming. It was a beautiful reminder to them, and to us, that we are not forgotten and that goodness is still happening in our community.

What an egg-cellent surprise!

The entire fam was up and ready before our first online service began, so our kiddos went out to find the candy-filled eggs (hooray for chocolate!), and then we began our online worship experience. We are very used to hugging our church fam as they walk through the doors and in this time of experiencing Easter from home, it was beautiful to see friends and family near and far stream in and hop on to our worship experience with us. We were able to say hello to friends and family in different time zones, and hear from God’s Word together. We hosted our own watch party for each service and every time a new friend or family member joined online, my heart began to swell with joy. I’m so thankful that our services are live-streamed and our pastoral team made the online experience feel like we were home at Junction Community Church.

This pandemic isn’t stopping us from getting together. No, in fact, this time where we are all sequestered is proving to serve as a time where we are digging in our heels and learning new rhythms of community. Especially as the church; we are learning new ways to express and demonstrate our faith and embracing new ways to engage and develop our community.

For this, I am so grateful.

Another exciting experience we got to be a part of yesterday was a “Virtual Choir”. You have to know- a huge piece of our heart is for the city of Sumter, South Carolina. God allowed us to serve as youth pastors there a number of years ago (I know that’s vague- but if I tell you the number of years I will feel really old, lol). So, when our dear friend and brother asked for friends to help join his church’s virtual choir for Easter, we couldn’t resist. My husband, my oldest daughter, and I were all able to participate, and when we saw the finished product…again, my heart was filled with incredible joy. There were familiar faces of friends in the choir that we haven’t been able to physically worship with in years because of distance. But yesterday, we were able to worship together. It was a powerful experience and I am honored that we got to partner with such an amazing group of worshippers.

I wanted to share it with you – first, because number one: you are part of my community. And two: because I am blown away by how beautiful it is to see the church being the church and bringing the hope of Christ to everyone, virtually everywhere. This experience made us feel so deeply connected to the body of Christ near and far, so I hope it also brings joy to you wherever you get to watch it from.


Easter may be finished, but let me assure you – the story continues dear friend.

How beautiful to know that we were all loved so much by God that He did in fact send His Son Jesus to die for our sins. And not only did He do that hard and painful work of suffering and dying on the cross for our sins, but He conquered death and gives us new life in Him. He resurrected to give us that new life and ascended to The Father so that He could send the Comforter, The Holy Spirit, to fill us with His power.

Friend, we might all be staying home, but we do not have to let our story end at home. Our story in Christ continues. And because He lives, we too can live, being moved to action by the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives. This verse was a part of my reading today and I found it fitting for us:

My prayer is that during this time, we would wait on God and seek to be empowered by His Spirit, to move into action using your unique gifts and abilities. Just like the disciples of old, let’s wait and pray; seek God and continue to love others well.

Easter may have been different this year, but sometimes different is good. It definitely made us appreciate the rich and vibrant community of faith and family we have both near and far. It also brought to mind the unique opportunity we have been given during this time of staying home: time to slow down and embrace a new way of experiencing God’s presence and a new perspective on how we can still connect with our family and friends during holidays.

From my family to yours, I hope you know you are remembered and loved and created on purpose for a purpose. Our story continues friend, so let’s keep doing what we can with the time we’ve been given.

We were going for that peep-yellow duck color palette:)

Go The Extra Mile: In case you are searching for an online worship experience, please know that I am personally inviting you to join me at Junction Community Church online Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. (MST), and Sundays at 9:00 a.m. & 10:30 a.m.. You can also check out previous messages and services on our YouTube channel. I’d love for you to join me online!

peace- liz:)

New Post: Pain Management

Almost one month ago, I gathered with my family as we walked and are still walking through an incredibly difficult moment in our lives – the passing of our father. There aren’t words to describe the amount of loss we felt then and still feel even now. It hurts. It’s an ache I can’t even put it into words. Watching our earthly father draw his last earthly breath and enter into eternity with Jesus was painful. But there was something beautiful happening at the same time: Our dad was transitioning to a new life, completely whole and healed, dancing on the streets of heaven.

The tears burned as they poured out of our faces and we all cried aloud, lamented, and felt the absence of his presence with us. Pair that with the fact that we can’t have a Celebration of Life service for him because of the current restrictions from this pandemic, which many others are experincing right now. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but even in the misdt of this pain, I can’t help but thank God for His very real presence in that room that night. And His healing presence still meets us each morning; when we wake up feeling the loss come in waves over us, He is there. On the good days and the really really hard days (because grief comes and it hits when you don’t expect it), He is still here, right next to us. Our God is always on call.

Our Great Physician doesn’t sleep or take breaks – the psalmist says he is close to the broken hearted.:

He even promises to be with us until the very end of the age. 

Do you ever think we avoid Our Great Physician as much as we do our earthly ones? Does the pain we feel inside feel altogether too much to pour out to Him as he intakes our emotional, mental, and physical history?

I think we often try to run from the ache of the pain- from the ache of the evaluation of our ourselves, and also from the pain or suffering we might have to endure in order to feel healed and whole again. 

Don’t run friend. Don’t avoid the powerful and healing love of God that reaches the very source of our suffering. 

Sometimes the remedy is as simple as a prayer of surrender. Other times it takes some work and therapy on our part: like making that phone call, getting ourselves into therapy, or forgiving those who have wounded us in some way, even when that someone is us. These steps must be done without delay – especially in this everchanging season when so many are canceling events and postponing gatherings, those phone calls and next right steps could be incredibly healing (more on that in an upcoming post). 

Let’s call on The Lord in prayer; let’s surrender to His ways. Let’s ask Him for the wisdom to make that next right step – then, let’s make the next right step. Make the appointment (even if it has to be through video conferencing because of this current Covid-19 situation). Let’s make the phone calls we’ve have been wanting & needing to make. Let’s listen closely to that voice that cannot be replicated in text messages. If an apology is needed, let’s give it gladly and with sincere love. If forgiveness is required, let us give it graciously and abundantly. Whatever we need to do, let’s do it together because pain & suffering do not have the final say in our stories.

Friend, we don’t have to manage pain with avoidance or denial when Our Loving Father is on call 24/7. Our Great Physician has more than just our physical form in his sight. Our mental, emotional, and spiritual state matter to Him because He designed us and formed us. My prayer today is for all of us to remember that Jesus is well acquainted with pain and suffering. In fact, that’s what we are remembering today, this Good Friday of Holy week:

“He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like someone people turned away from;[b]
he was despised, and we didn’t value him. Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for[c] the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:3-6 CSB)

Take heart friend, Jesus has already paid it all- for our forgiveness of sin and for our complete healing of mind, body, & soul. All of it has been completely covered by his plan. And no surprise bills come in the mail. 

He’s a specialist and the best in every way. What a Savior! What a Surgeon! What a Healer we have!

Let’s PrayLord, on this Good Friday, we choose to remember that You are still Good. You know exactly what pain and suffering look like and feel like. We thank You for understanding us and our circumstances even better than we do. Lord, You see the entirety of us all- our past, our present and our future. Lord, when pain rises up in front of us we pray for the strength to run into Your arms. We are done running away from the hurt and the anguish. Our desire today is to run full-force into Your embrace as we pour out our hearts to You. We are done feeling alone in this – because You have already promised to never leave us or forsake us but to be with us until the very end of the age. Help our hearts to hold onto Your truth this morning! We don’t want to walk around avoiding pain- this world is full of brokenness and experiences that wreck our hearts. Lord, we come to You, knowing that You fully understand, and knowing that we can turn to You in our pain and brokenness. Thank You for Your love that walks us through it step by step, moment by moment, so we can live lives that are healed and whole. We will remember Your sacrifice for our salvation and for our healing today. And Lord, let us not forget that You didn’t avoid the pain of the cross or the depths of the grave; You finished the painful work because of Your great love for us. We are loved by You Lord, and we love You and thank You today for embracing us in the pain and through the healing, Amen.

Go The Extra Mile: We’ve been singing this song recently and it often comes to mind these days, so give it a listen and I pray it encourages you!

This post is dedicated to our amazing Daddy, Ricardo B. Sanchez

The One and Only Rico