It’s Christmas morning here on the Western Slope is Colorado, and though I wish I could say we are experiencing a snowy white Christmas, we aren’t :). It’s still beautiful; sunny outside with a chill in the air, and warm and cozy here in the house.
There are a several things this season that aren’t quite how we wish they would be due to the year we are all experiencing together. I don’t even have to go through the list of things that aren’t like Christmas last year because we all know what the list is and feel the ache of longing to be with loved ones and celebrating in big gatherings, etc.
But this year, my hope is that we will take time amidst this different kind of Christmas- time to reflect on the good things we have right in front of us, and, time to be great Gil for the family and friends who are still with us (whether in our homes or a phone call or Zoom away). I also hope we’ll take time to remember the loved ones who ran their race and walked into eternity during 2020 as well as their loved ones who still remain here.
It’s a time for celebrating and remembering Our Savior’s birth. He came into the world that was very much dark and longing for things to be made right. In fact, that’s the whole story of creation- knowing that things aren’t as they should be, and aching for the time when they’ll be made new again.
Today, I’m so grateful that Our Jesus came to this earth- right into the middle of our mess and our struggle and He became Immanuel- God WITH us.
He’s with us friend.
In the messy, the momentous, and the mundane- He is with us. In the broken, the beautiful and the blessed- He is with us. In the longing…through it all He is with us.
Friend, I pray that wherever you find yourself today, that you’d be reminded of His presence so very near to us all today. Right where you are, that’s where He is.
He is Jesus, Immanuel, dwelling with us and hearing every prayer and seeing every need this Christmas Day.
May your day be filled with the reminder of His love for you, His care of you and His peace over you.
Let’s Pray: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of your presence today. Thank you for the ache that tells us things aren’t the way they should be, because it’s the reminder that you will make all things right again one day soon. Thank you for stepping into this broken world so that you could bring redemption and hope. Thank you that you are right here with us in and through every bit of this life. Help our hearts to cling to the promise that you are with us, even to the end of the age. Amen.
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.
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.
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!
These past few weeks in Colorado have dropped snow in our high country and even rain down here where I live. Just outside my dining room window, I can see in the distance frosty white blankets of snow on top of the beautiful Grand Mesa. Add a warm cup of coffee, and you are set for a picturesque morning. Add coffee to any morning and you are set for just about anything:). Anyhow, coffee is great and my state of Colorado looks lovely with snow. This wintery week made me think back to a memory I had just a couple months ago:
While traveling over the mountains and through the plains of Colorado, my family and I saw piles of snow plowed off to the side of the highway, and fields covered in thick bright – white flakes of snow. The sight was so bright that it had me reaching for my sunglasses. Which, I conveniently forgot at home (yay me). One sight that I couldn’t get out of my mind while driving: the areas around the mountains that never seem to experience direct sunlight. The snow always seems to stick longer there; the ice underneath doesn’t melt when everything else around it does. Those drifts of snow and ice seem to be covered in shadow most of the time- not exposed to the brilliance of full-light, but they do feel the effects of the light a little later in the season. As I stared out the window while driving, I had my husband jot down a note for me so I wouldn’t lose my train of thought (thank you hubs!):
There are places in our hearts that feel much like those cold and dark areas with snow and ice. Places that are in need of the warmth of God’s love and renewal; places that never quite feel sunny or bright. They often come tethered to choices and situations that feel more like a dangerous slope than a beautiful winter wonderland. These places within us may not directly feel the sunlight instantly melting away the bitter and frozen-over parts in our hearts, but we must not forget- they are indirectly affected by the light and movement around them.
Friends, I don’t know what nook you may find yourself in today- be it cold and keeping you numb or stuck in dangerous patterns of behavior. We may not know when that area will have a melt from the warmth around us, but we can know this: God’s love IS all around and His light CAN pierce through the dark shadows to bring warmth and hope for new seasons of life ahead.
Even when we can’t see it.
Even when it feels like there isn’t any change.
Even when it feels like everyone and everywhere else is experiencing His brilliance and His presence.
He is right there where we are.
He is bringing change in and around us.
His presence is very near, even in the places where the sun doesn’t always shine.
This is my prayer for you today, and if I’m being honest, it’s for me too.
Let’s Pray:Heavenly Father, You alone are the only One that can search the depths of our hearts. You can see the areas that You are working in so much better than we can. We are thankful that You continue to work in us and all around us. Today Lord, help us to know that You are still near in the seasons of life that don’t always feel bright and brilliant. There are areas of our hearts that desperately need Your light to flood them, and cold corners in us that still need the warmth of your love. In all of those spaces, in whatever season we find ourselves today, help our hearts know that You are near. We want to live lives that display the warmth of Your love and the hope and peace that comes from experiencing Your process of healing. Help us to focus on the light and love we do see happening in and around us so that we can remind ourselves of Your promise to make all things new – even the spots that look lifeless and scary- You are still able to breathe hope and security into them. God, we choose to trust that You are working within us- in the places where the sun hasn’t quite shown its face, and in the places all around it. You are Good, Faithful, Loving, and Kind, and we will believe that Your timing is perfect – illuminating our hearts to the realization of Your nearness. Thank you Lord for the reminder that You aren’t afraid of our cold and closed off areas. I pray that in this season, You would make our hearts ready for the bright seasons ahead- so we can allow You to continue to work in us with the light of Your Truth. Thank you for being the King of our hearts Lord; help us to never take your presence for granted. In Your Holy Name Jesus, Amen.”
Peace – liz
Go The Extra Mile: This is one of my favorite songs from Hillsong United, for the simple phrase, “Come, now, as you are or as you want to be…”. That’s the invitation we have from Jesus – to come to Him with all that we are and allow Him to do what only He can do with our hearts and lives. I hope it encourages you the way it does me every time I listen to it!
Hey friend:), first things first: It has been a loooooooooong minute since I have taken the time to put together a post, and for that, I am truly sorry. Finding my new rhythm in my new location, with a few new seasons had me really digging deep to find the words. Words which are usually easy for me to pour out into a note or onto a rough draft on my phone suddenly became hard for me to publish.
However, there was always hope:).
Hope never left my heart, I just let it sink down further than normal. But after some months trying to wrap my brain around life and new seasons up ahead, hope gently floated to the surface reminding me that there is still a voice within me with stories to tell and messages to shared right here, with you. So thank you! Thank you for sticking with me in this writing journey and most of all, for sticking with me just to share life no matter how near or far we are in miles!
Last year, some big milestones happened:
– I was published 2 times in an awesome online magazine! (Yay Dearly!)
-I embraced being brave and auditioned to sing for the local GJ Rockies and was asked to sing the National Anthem at a game! (Yay to being brave! Go GJ Rockies!)
-I was invited to speak at a local women’s conference (Yay Flourish!)
-I was able to visit with family & friends under the best of circumstances and under the toughest of times (Seriously, let’s give it up for life-giving community!!!)
Yes…I am now able to check the box that says “40 and Over” on all kinds of paperwork (Yay Getting Older! Haha!)
In the lives of many people, this is usually the time where one questions their life and purpose and wonders what they have accomplished thus far. If I’m honest, I’ve been doing that for a few years now; looking back at all that God has entrusted me with, all the dreams and goals He’s placed in my heart and mind, all the messages He’s planted in my heart, and all the people He’s entrusted me to love and serve. I’ve also been thinking about how faithful I’ve been with the life He’s invited me to pursue; writing, speaking, listening, and encouraging, leading, remembering…all of it. And I come back to this one phrase:
In this new year of life, how can I be a more faithful steward of all that’s been given to me? Where can I be more faithful in the assignments I have been entrusted with? In what ways can I demonstrate more faithfulness to those under my roof & under my care? Where is God asking for a renewed commitment of faithfulness in my diligence in seeking Him and His ways?
Faithful is actually my word for 2020:)
Not just because of the questions I am processing though, but it’s the word that most reminds me of Him. Over and over I read and I know God to be more than faithful. He’s faithful to show up, faithful to come onto the seen, faithful to visit with me, faithful to recognize my cry and need. He’s faithful to provide for every need. He’s faithful to complete the good work that He started in me. He’s faithful to help me when I am weak, and He’s faithful to provide the community I need and crave every single day. He’s faithful to bring alongside friends and warriors who have gone before me that have wisdom to share. He’s faithful to provide mentors near and far from whom I can glean wisdom. He’s faithful to help me pause and soak in the moments that are passing faster than I would like. He’s faithful to remind me of the joy it is to cheer on friends making big strides in their own lives. He’s faithful to me, and I know He’s been faithful to you too.
Friend, my bit of advice from my 40 years of life: Look for His faithfulness.
I invite you to pause and reflect on your life (just like I’m doing today), and look all around for examples of His faithful and strong love in this life. Let’s take a moment to soak it in; the enormity of His great love, and the beauty of His sacrifice for us. I’m not going to take this new year of life for granted, because it has been gifted to me by Him, the Creator and Sustainer of Life.
Will you do me the honor of leading us in prayer today? Let’s pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, we take time today to just thank You for Your faithfulness… You display Your commitment to relationship with us in so many beautiful ways- through faithful sunrises and sunsets and rainbows; through the strength and mercy that is new each morning, through family bonds and friendships that endure and grow…Lord, we thank You for all of it. Today, we choose not just to look for Your faithfulness, but to praise You for being faithful. We choose to look at the life within us and around us and say, “Thank You”, with grateful hearts. We choose to look at the dreams and goals and assignments that You’ve entrusted to us and embrace them fully – knowing that You provide the inspiration and hope and strength to accomplish each step because they have been given to us by You. God, as we hold onto Your faithfulness, help us to become living examples of Your faithful love to everyone we come in contact with. Everyone is our neighbor, everyone is deserving of love, and because Your love is enduring, ours should reflect the same intensity and longevity. Lord, embolden us to share of Your amazing faithfulness in all we say and in all we do. Amen.
Go The Extra Mile: It wouldn’t be a blog post without a song, so enjoy this current favorite of mine with a slice of chocolate cake in honor of my big day! This song by Sarah Reeves & The Belonging Co is on repeat in my personal playlist and it’s my prayer in this new season of life- ” to pour out my affection” as sweet incense to my faithful God. Enjoy and celebrate friends! #40yearsofLiz
FYI: I’m blown away and thankful for the obedience of Mary- the Mother of Jesus. Young, engaged, highly favored by God, and she was still given an opportunity to choose to obey the Lord by doing what He asked of her: to carry, give birth to, and raise The Son of God.
Check out this part of her story: 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings favored woman! The Lord is with you!” 29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.” 38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”And then the angel left her.(Luke 1:26-38 NLT)
Mary began the scene feeling unsure and disturbed by the angel Gabriel’s appearance to her but she didn’t stay in that mindset. She thoughtfully considered all that the angel had told her, and willingly accepted the role, and said yes to Lord with no delay.
That’s a challenging phrase to say aloud: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”(v.38)
In essence, Mary said, “Ok, whatever this adventure entails – count me in.” By doing so, she became the vessel through which Jesus The Messiah was brought into this world. And He came to seek and save that which was lost, including you and me.
I think many times in our lives we might be presented with an opportunity to serve others or give of ourselves and we end up staying in the initial shock that Mary herself experienced. We might even feel shaken to our core or scared to death of going on the adventures God gives us on our journey of faith. The idea of adventure is appealing but the work, the labor, the pain of it, frightens us away. I was catching up with some friends recently and shared this idea with them too.
When did we loose our sense of adventure?
I think a better question is: When did we stop trusting God?
Now, Mary had no clue the entirety of what God was asking of her. But her heart was so yielded to Him and His plans that her response was “yes” to what had been said to her and about her.
Friend, I don’t know what kind of adventures or season you find yourself in today. I can’t see all the questions about your future that are racing around in your head and possibly overwhelming your heart. But I do know this: we can trust God.
We can place every question and obstacle in His very capable hands and allow Him to give us wisdom and strength for the journey ahead. We can carefully consider all that God may be speaking to our hearts as we run to Him in prayer. We can demonstrate faith in action to those around us (especially to our kids!) by choosing His plans and not our own today, knowing He will be our source and hope as we move toward whatever He is asking of us. Be it a very simple task or an overwhelmingly large request, we can choose to trust Him. We can walk firmly in obedience because of Him.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;6 in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight.(Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)
I love how this Proverb commands us to trust. It doesn’t say “Try to trust God”, it begins by saying, “Trust”. God knew our human nature would feel like its impossible or daunting, but this verse speaks to our Spirit, encouraging us to trust God. He is God- he can see right now and 10 years from now. He knows what the journey will require of us and He promised to be with us the whole way. That’s the best company we could ever ask for! He will make our paths straight friend- even if they seem crooked or invisible right now. When we seek Him and place all of our trust in Him, He will make the way clear and straight. The path marked out ahead will not be filled with easy days, but it will be filled with the presence of The Lord and His peace to rest on us as we yield ourselves to Him and say, “Ok Lord, count me in.”
Let’s pray friend: Dear Heavenly Father, I choose today to trust you. I choose to say “Yes” to Your plans for my life. Whatever the task or opportunity that comes my way today, help my heart to be yielded to You. I trust that You will be my strength and You will be with me. I don’t have to be scared or overwhelmed by the adventures You want to take me on. Lord, help my thoughts to line up with the truth of Your Word and help my mind not to be derailed by fear of the unknown. You know and see all things Lord. Help me to make Your love and hope known as I follow Your leading. Thank you for the examples of obedience and faith in action throughout Your Word that inspire and challenge me. God, I place all my gifts and resources in Your mighty hands and remind myself that I am Your servant. Count me in Lord,on whatever Your plans for me. Amen.
Go the extra mile: Check out the new song from Plumb entitled, “God Help Me”! Seriously folks, it sums up the post today!