Hold On

Last Sunday we came home from a whirlwind weekend in which we both celebrated our oldest daughter turning 20…#weareold, and we also celebrated and cheered on our middle daughter performing in the State Band Competition. Lots of travel, lots of activity, lots of planning and prepping, and partying. All of it was awesome!

I don’t think I’ve cheered quite as loud as we did for our percussionist. We (our family and some amazing friends) screamed loudly and shouted her name and funny phrases until she could hear us over the crowd and until we saw that we had sufficiently embarrassed her – blushing face and brilliant smile:).

I don’t think I’ve smiled as wide as I did the night we (our family and some amazing friends) sang to our young girl who is now growing into this incredible woman. We sang until we had acheived 3-part harmony, and until her face was blushing from the attention, and yet again, another brilliant smile:).

We later smiled and shared time at a local favorite lunch spot with some other amazing friends – a little itty bitty funny guy and his precious mama- and we laughed until our sides were hurting, and smiled until our cheeks were sore and our faces were blushing as well:).

In each moment, I was reminded how every person on the face of the earth needs these exact kind of people to surround them in this life here on earth. Friends who are timeless; friends who cheer you on and stick with you long enough on the journey to cheer on your kiddos too. Friends who show up to help in the hard times, and friends who show up to celebrate the good times. Friends who can literally call you on your junk and let you fall to pieces in their arms. Friends who want to take the time to go grab a coffee and walk around Target, even if just for an hour so you can let it all out while you find the thing you didn’t know you needed until Target told you so:). Friends who need a break and know you might need one too, so they take you for a coffee or Slurpee or if you’re far away in miles, they send you a hilarious text mesage or meme to brighten your day, helping you to breathe a little easier in the middle of your season.

Let me give you a little history here:

I met many of these friends when I was a teenager; while I was still in my formative years. Friends I didn’t know in childhood and friends I didn’t know I’d walk into and through adulthood with. But God did.

These friendships, like many of the friendships I’ve been blessed to be a part of, have been lifelines for me. Providing pivotal encouragement and support, sharing wisdom and hope in the seasons when needed most and sharing laughter and joy like good medicine for the bones. Even sharing in several greetings including many hellos, and farewells, as life has taken us each to different places than our original starting point.

That’s the beauty of friendship though, isn’t it?

Sometimes you don’t know how much hope it gives you to have a friend until you need a friend & have a friend by your side. In the seasons where they know you can use the extra hope to hold onto, and even in the seasons where they have no clue how much their presence, their smile, or their messages mattered.

We arrived back home and after a fun weekend and while unpacking, my husband brought in a rose that he had just cut from one of our rose bushes outside. He’s a keeper:). This rose was exceptional (see pic below). It was huge, in full bloom and it’s petals were various shades of hot pink. Mind you, it was end of October, almost November here on the Western Slope of Colorado. Our area has already experienced the dry heat of Summer, the chill of Fall setting in, and frost covering the housetops of our neighborhood. But this rose you guys, this rose held on through all of it to display it’s most beautiful colors and fragrance at the most unlikely time – in the middle of Fall. Not when the climate was sunny enough or when the sky was brilliant and bright; this rose was in bloom in the middle of a grey and overcast day.

The Beautiful Rose From The Hubs:)

My pink rose held on during the heat that saps life out of most everything, and endured rising and falling temperatures in the days that followed Summer. It endured wind and rain, tons of dust blowing around from nearby construction. It held on, and we noticed it’s beauty.

Friends, I don’t know what kind of season you’ve been enduring through. I don’t know what kind of season you are in the middle of right now. What I do know is that if ever there was a time for us to hold on, it’s now.

We must hold onto hope.

We must hold onto friendship.

We must hold onto God Himself.

Whether you are walking through some difficult times and need a friend to lean on, or maybe you are enjoying the best times in life, everyone is in need of friendship that both endures and helps us hold on to hope. I encourage you today, call up a friend, text a funny message to a loved one, or tell your coworker to send you their coffee order and pick up coffee before heading into work. Look for flowers and bring them indoors to bring a smile to someone’s face and joy to their heart. Here are the lessons I learned about friendship and flowers this past week – They are gifts that help us hold on. And through holding on, we have been given two gifts:

  • The ability to receive hope and healing when our friends speak words of encouragement and display actions that speak louder than words,

and

  • the ability to offer hope and healing when we allow our hearts to hold onto hope and overflow with that same love through our words and actions.

When we have received that burst of hope and that healing medicine to our bones, we too can be like that rose from my hubby – A display of enduring beauty in the midst of a cold season while sharing a sweet fragrance of strength for those around us to be impacted by.

Friends, may we not just know friends like the ones I have shared about today, but may we also be friends like that. May we also remember that because Our God offers comfort and hope to us daily, that we can choose to do the same for those around us too. And the next time we see flowers in the store or in our own garden, may we remember that they endured some seasons of their own, and we can too.

Let’s Pray: Dear Heavenely Father, thank you for the blessing of friendship. Thank you for the gift of receiving love and hope from others on the days we need it most and on the days that we didn’t realize how much it would mean later. You are the giver all all good gifts Lord – may we never take for granted the gifts of the family and friends in our lives who uplift and encourage us. Lord, we ask You to help us be those kind of friends for others – noticing where we can offer a smile or where we can administer a healing word or action. We thank you Lord that our life happens in seasons, and that no matter the season, You reveal to us that You Jesus, are truly the friend that sticks even closer than a brother. Thank you for demonstrating friendship to those around You all throughout You Word and for giving us a model to follow. You are our hope in the middle of every season we experience and You are the Author and Sustainer of Life. Lord, we humbly ask for Your help as we offer hope, love, and support to those around us. We also pray that in the seasons where our own spirit could use a boost of hope, that we would have eyes to see it around us and the endurance to fiercely hold onto it as we go from one season to the next. Lord as we hold on to Your hope, may we bloom beautifully right where we are and in doing so, may it bring beauty and hope to the lives of those around us. You are so kind to us – giving us the gift of friendship and God, we thank you for the blessing it is to share this life with others near and far. Amen.

Go The Extra Mile: It might be beause we have lived in the country a little bit these last (almost) 4 years, but this song hit just right today! Check out this song by Chris Tomlin & Chris Lane, “Gifts From God” and then calll up your friends to let them know how much of a gift from God they are to you! Such a cool song!

A Year Ago Today

On March 13, 2020 I got to sing in a private concert in my hometown to an audience of one, my Dad.

That morning after a long night where my sister took the night shift caring for our dad (like she and mom had done so many times before), I took the morning shift, caring for him, making sure he had everything he needed while she got some much needed rest and a shower. While with Dad, I chose just to sit with him and overcome by all the emotions that I was feeling, I didn’t know what else to do except for sing. It wasn’t a huge vocal performance or a power ballad; it was more of a whispered prayer – trying to wrap my head around what the next hours might be like being next to my Dad before he took his journey to see our Jesus. And while I was sitting there, I was just whispering a song (I don’t even recall what song I started out singing). All of a sudden, Dad tried to raise up a little in his bed and he said, “Lord I’m amazed!”, to which I said, “Ok, Dad, let’s sing that”, so I began to sing, “Lord I’m amazed by you, Lord I’m amazed by You. Lord I’m amazed by You, How You love me…”. I can’t help but think that in those fading hours, God was giving my father little glimpses of what was to come. Little glimpses of where he would be transitioning to once he closed his eyes on this earth.

I have often said it felt like I was dancing with eternity; taking one hand and one step in a direction I’ve not experience before, knowing that at any moment the music and the dance would stop. Eternity felt so close and so tangible in the room in Greeley. We were all feeling God‘s presence in the midst of feeling loss and in the midst of feeling ache, not yet fully understanding how deep that ache would be.

I finished the song that day and we carried on. We continued to just wait and hope, and love and care, and hug and cry and laugh, just our family. Dad wouldn’t have had it any other way – he loved his family being all together. Throughout the day family and friends called and texted us, prayed for us and supported us. And so did those amazing hospice nurses – literal angels on this earth. We were so glad to be surrounded and uplifted in a time where for much of the rest of the world, it felt like the life was closing in and shutting down. A year ago today, we didn’t know what we didn’t know: That the world was going to feel like it stopped in time. Back then, we didn’t know what was to unfold globally or what 2021 would unfold like so in that moment, we just continued to do the only thing we could do:

Love, care, cry, pray, repeat.

I’d love to tell you a little of how Dad’s earthly story ended miraculously. On this day, a year ago, at 9:30 p.m., our Dad Rico breathed his last breath on earth while simultaneously taking his first gasp in glory. Dad was risen to new life in eternity with our Lord Jesus, and as he was, we felt the ache of great loss because we knew the gift of great love.

Our hearts so wanted to see Dad completely healed and, our hearts also knew at the time that it would not be done according to what we wanted. But I’m so thankful God had a better plan because God‘s plan included him being surrounded by all of his loved ones. God‘s plan included that Dad would be loved into eternity although this world didn’t welcome him the way it should have or could have when he was born. My sister wanted us to be sure that we loved dad out the way that only a family could, and I love her for that. God‘s plan included Dad’s healing. God‘s plan included Dad’s hope realized. God‘s plan included his restoration and salvation sealed. God‘s plan included dancing in the streets. God‘s plan included being surrounded by his family on earth while being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses in heaven. God‘s plan included not shutting the world down quite yet, allowing us to just have time with family. God‘s plan included allowing us to be together as a family to say, “See you later”, to our Dad and over this past year, we can remember and we see God‘s faithfulness and mercy; how He’s given us the strength in what felt like a season of one blow after another, in what felt like one separation after another, in what felt like one loss after another, in what felt like one ache after another.

God has been so so good. So that’s what I sang to God that day in the final moment of my Dad’s life: “You’re a Good Good Father.” Because that’s the truth – God is a good good Father.

Friends, I don’t know what your March 13th, 2020 looked like. I know what mine looked like: My 2020 looked a lot like love and loss, hope and joy, chaos and peace. For many of us it felt that way. Through it all, I know God was standing with us. Maybe your 2020 looked a lot like mine with deaths or different losses, from all areas of our world whether it was in our schools, in our jobs, in our homes, in our ministries, in our churches, in our communities – we all felt loss. Maybe it was very personal. Maybe it was a family member who passed away – maybe it was due to this destructive Covid, or maybe it was due to something else; something harder, something more difficult, something you never could’ve imagined or something so sudden, or even something so drawn out like dementia.

I don’t know what your March 13th, 2020 looked like – the day before the world kind of stopped for a while. What I do know is that you are not alone, and even now, we are not alone today. We (you and me friend), right now, we are surrounded even if we are socially or physically distanced. We are surrounded by people who want to support us. We’re surrounded by friends who would love to help out. We’re surrounded by people in our lives who have been longing to hug us and hold us, longing to uplift us. And though we are slowly emerging out of this crazy season of being cooped up, locked in, and shut down, we have people waiting for us to let them into our messy and broken pieces, and in return, we get to step in and do the same by uplifting them, upholding them, strengthening them, and supporting them too. We also have a great cloud of witnesses who is looking for us to allow God to do what He wants to do in this time even when we don’t understand, even when we can’t comprehend. God himself is waiting for us to say, “I trust You”.

God is waiting for us to say we will live with hope while we trust. He’s waiting for us to say we will work while it is day, we will love while there is still breath in our lungs, and we will care while we can.

Friend, will you join me in that challenge today?

I know it’s the beginning of this season of where we’re revisiting a lot of these memories from last year. There’s gonna be a lot of those moments over the next several months. Will you help me and join me as we choose to say God, ” I trust You Lord. I’m amazed by You. I want to carry on through Your strength”? Today, I’m reminded of this scripture:

See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him.” 1 John 3:1 CSB

Friends, you and I are God’s children and He does love us. Even when we look back at losses and remember tough memories. He wants us to remember we are His children so others can live in that same realization too. I’m reminded of some lyrics from the song, “Fear Not My Child” by Carman: “I know how to care for what belongs to Me.”

God does know how to care for us in every single season under the sun and every moment throughout all eternity.

I invite you to join me in singing to an audience of one today. Use your own words dear friend, because we all experienced this past year from different perspectives. Even so, let’s pray and ask God to help us see His faithful love all over the story of our lives as we reflect together.

Let’s Pray: Lord I’m amazed by You. The pandemic doesn’t stop You and the powers of hell cannot prevail against You or the plans You have for Your children. I’m grateful today God that the grave couldn’t hold you any longer and that you’re not finished – You’re not done- even when the coroner says life is done. You’re not done when breath stops coming out of our lungs – that’s the exact moment when you begin new life again. Help us God to see that important message today – That You are not finished with the story of our lives here. Help us to see that our March 13th, 2020 doesn’t have to define the rest of our lives. Today on March 13, 2021, we are choosing to start the day looking for Your love written on the pages of our lives through this past year. Today, help us to carry on doing all that we can do while we can do it: loving, caring, laughing, crying, living, writing, speaking, doing, releasing, embracing, and repeating. Loving Lord of Life, we surrender and ask You to do what only You can do in this moment. Thank you for caring for us and for loving us through every circumstance and season of life and death and life renewed. Amen.

Today, much like I started last year on this very day, I’m going to do what I can: Wake up to write, to love, to care, to hope, to let go, and to honor my Dad, all while worshipping Our Father God. Today as I’m jogging my memory thinking about Dad, I’m choosing to think about how he loved his kids – all of them. I’ll remember how he loved his grandkids and great -grandkids – all of them. Even the ones he never got to see and even the future ones he didn’t get to know. As I reflect, I’ll recall God’s powerful love over us – love from the Father’s heart. Love that doesn’t quit, love that doesn’t stop. Love that will never fail.

Friends, thank you for sticking with me through this very long post. And if you find yourself aching today or even rejoicing, and you don’t know what else to do or what else’s to pray, just worship. Even if you have to just mouth the words until sound comes out- just worship. With cracking voice and through tear-stained eyes, just worship the Lord. I’ll be doing the same.

Let’s remember that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Not even death. And more than ever before, I am convinced of it.

peace – liz:)

Go The Extra Mile: Check out this amazing song from Church of the City! It is a constant reminder that God is our hope and He keeps hope ALIVE! Listen to it, put it on repeat, and sing it out today!