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This Easter weekend, I’d like to introduce you to someone I’m most fond of. He may be the most misunderstood man who ever lived. But I love him for it, because he’s probably the only man who didn’t care one bit about any of that. And because he didn’t care about what others thought of him, he was unswerving in his life’s purpose.

He didn’t get in the way, like some religious people of his time, and block others from seeing God. He showed up in unlikely places—often with the unpopular—and pointed people to his father. Instead of harsh judgement and criticism, he honoured everyone: men, women, and children, and reached out to those on the outskirts of society who would have appeared unholy, unworthy, and labelled sinners by the “religious”. He showed great compassion and said they were the ones he came to call (see Luke 5:32). He offered healing, grace, love, hope, and peace to anyone who would listen and even offered his very life. He gave all, for all, until his last breath.

He was the most unselfish person the world has ever known. His life was lived for his father’s purposes for the sake of others. Every place he stepped, every action he took, every word he spoke was for another’s benefit. His mission was clear: to show God’s love in a myriad of ways so all could see, hear, and understand his father’s great mercy and love.

The beauty of his unfathomable life is that none of it was typical—nothing you’d expect of a king. That was part of the problem. People found his humanness and humility unfitting. It was difficult to take him seriously and hard to accept that he wouldn’t fit their preconceived idea of God. Those who had spent their whole lives waiting for him, missed him. Those who should have known better, crucified him.

This is how one man explained him:

“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.”  ~ Isaiah 53:3

In the end, even his closest friends scattered. He died utterly alone, and it appeared his thirty-three years on the earth had amounted to nothing. But I adore the way looks are deceiving, and more than that, how his heart-wrenching obedience changed everything. Because he suffered the most horrific death known to humankind, I was offered a second crack at life—a chance to surrender the life I deemed so dear for a new one with him.

He once said: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30

And there it is, with him I live freely and lightly; the heaviness of all the things I wasn’t meant to carry handed over. My burdens lifted, my sins wiped out, and my mind renewed. All the former things fade in importance for the friendship found in him. And as the load is lifted, love fills the deadened creases of my life. This same love brings with it a breath of freedom and joy, and peace that ignites hope. You can’t describe his beauty. It’s something to behold.

He moves into our tired lives when we let go. But it’s not easy—the letting go. You see it at the cross, this refusal to release. Some hanging on tightly to their position or praise, others hanging on to disbelief, and others to the material things of this world, grasping at anything that seems too precious to leave behind. Because what is known feels safer than launching into the unknown, even if the known is mediocre at best. But all the praise, position, money, best behaviour, or good deeds count for nothing if I reject him.

His radical, life-altering offer is extended to all. No one left behind. No matter where you come from or what you’ve done, you aren’t excluded. His forgiveness is a free, unearned gift, and when you receive it—believe in and trust him—you’re renewed for today and preserved for eternity.

You’re beautifully and unconditionally accepted and adored by the creator of the universe, all because one Easter, over two thousand years ago, Jesus died for you.

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God loves you. There isn’t a thing you can do, or not do, to earn his love. With a simple prayer, you can receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and step into tomorrow with him.

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Life is full of disappointments, hurts and hardship. When our lives don’t unfold as planned, it’s easy to become discouraged. Below are a few thoughts to encourage you to not give up, to keep going, to persevere through whatever you are facing today.

I pray…

That you would always keep your joy and wonder.

That you would continue to dream big.

That you wouldn’t allow others to dilute your dreams,

Or let obstacles or disappointments crowd out those dreams—

Even when you must scale the mountain or take the long route around.

If some scoff at your goals—say it’s a long shot or that it can’t be done—smile, disregard their lack of faith, and keep going.

Someone needs to persevere. It may as well be you.

Nothing worthwhile comes without dogged effort. No effort is wasted.

Fight fear with faith.

Be brave; bring courage with you wherever you go.

Keep trying hard things.

If you fail, you’ve learned something priceless.

Love.

Be patient and kind to yourself and others.

Forgive quickly so you remain free.

Choose to remain positive—

Don’t allow the negative voices or treatment of others to detract from what you know to be true and good and right.

When hurt, embrace the hard work of healing.

Avoid comparison.

Use your unique skills, knowledge, intellect, voice, talents, and resources to help those around you, to influence and change the world for good, and to glorify God.

Keep your sense of humour. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but be serious about your intentions and integrity.

Remember life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Not everything will happen instantly.

Keep your eyes on the finish line, but enjoy the scenery on route—

Life is composed of all the moments made while you move forwards and reach your goals. Don’t miss or mistake these moments that matter for distractions;

The main event is never really the main event; it’s all the bits between.

Be thankful for everything. Even the hardships—they make you beautiful, strong, and mature.

God is your help and is cheering you on.

He has a plan.

Trust Him in everything.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

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  1. What discouragements are you struggling with today?
  2. Bring them to God, hand them over to him in prayer, and find his comfort, help, and peace in your time of need.

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By virtue of being alive, and living any length of time, there will come a point when you experience the agony of a broken heart. Its initial impact brings you to your knees as soul-searing pain rips repeated and relentless at your insides. Bewildered and vulnerable, you struggle for air as internal bleeding threatens to overcome you.

This wasn’t the way it was meant to be.

Betrayal, sickness, death, abuse, neglect, broken relationships, and broken dreams can bring the kind of heart-sickness that tears strips off our faith, hope, and trust. Such is the devastation of brokenness that at times we fear we are impossibly damaged.

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Hope deferred makes the heart-sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.  ~Proverbs 13:12

A positive attitude, an improved meal plan, a lengthy holiday, a workout regime, a self-help program, a new hobby, the numbing effects of substances—or another’s body—are all Band-aids. And we are so accomplished at finding fixes and fillers that we think it’s helping. And maybe it does, for a time, but a broken human being is a difficult thing to fix.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Enter the healer:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

We go to great lengths to mend ourselves, often ignoring the one who was sent for this very purpose and the only one qualified for the job. We can wander in the wilderness a long time, thirsty for something we can’t put our hands on, trying to fill a God-shaped hole that nothing else fits. When that emptiness, sadness, or brokenness threatens to swallow us alive, Jesus is there. He was always there.

He is the saviour, healer, counsellor, and lover we’ve needed all along. He’s the only one able to take the fragments of our once tender heart and piece it back together so we can begin to trust, live, and love again.

I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.  ~ Jesus

Jesus meets us in the middle of our pain, our brokenness, and loneliness. He doesn’t expect us to fix ourselves. We can’t anyway. We’ve already tried that. But until we accept that we are irreparably broken—unfixable apart from Jesus—we can’t be repaired.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  ~Psalm 34:18

Like us, Jesus experienced all of this messiness while on earth. He wasn’t immune to betrayal, sickness, death, abuse, neglect, broken relationships, and the broken dreams of others. He came to stand with us in our brokenness to heal us, to love us, to point us heavenward, and then to die for us.

Once we’ve experienced the devastation of brokenness, it feels impossible to entrust our heart to another again. It’s much easier to close ourselves off in an attempt to protect ourselves for fear of being hurt again. This protective measure leaves us cold, angry, distant, and joyless. We become untouchables—the walking wounded—never really opening ourselves up. It takes an act of courage, and a measure of faith to love again.

Hearts are a notoriously fragile but remarkably mendable. Entrusting your heart to Jesus—the only one who is fully faithful—will not only secure your eternity, it will secure your heart for the here and now. You are loved by God, fully, unconditionally, endlessly. You cannot be unloved, abused, neglected, or left by Jesus, no matter what you do or fail to do. His is a forever kind of love.

He has said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5

God’s love gives us the boldness and strength to love others, more purely, more patiently, more unconditionally, and more fully. Even if that love isn’t reciprocated, even if others are incapable of loving you the way you’d like to be loved, even if you are mistreated. God gives you the faith, hope, and love to overcome your own messes and brokenness and love others in theirs. There is beauty and abundant life on the other side of brokenness, and it’s gifted from Jesus.

“I am the way, the truth and the life.” ~ Jesus

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  1. Have you ever felt so brokenhearted you feared you could never mend?
  2. Bring your brokenness to Jesus, and trust him to heal you.

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Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. I would hazard a guess that you can easily name a few of your own. As this new year starts afresh, I want to embark from a place of thankfulness. As I leave 2018, I feel blessed to have witnessed my first-born wed and to welcome a new daughter into our lives as a result.

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I’m thankful to have seen my youngest go off to school for the first time where the transition, after homeschooling, was seamless. I’m thankful my novel is now in the midst of its second edit. I’m blessed to have ended the year surrounded by family and friends I hold near and dear. Such priceless blessings.

The start of a new year brings a sense of hope and wonder. Anything is possible. New adventures await. So as you enter 2019, I wanted to pass along this blessing I wrote a while back in hopes that it will stir your faith and rekindle your heart to God.

A New Year’s Blessing

I bless you this year, that you would rise up and give your Maker the first fruits of your time. May you draw close enough to hear the sound of his voice, the breath of his gentle whisper into your soul, the gesture of his hand beckoning you to sit awhile and listen to things too wonderful for you, yet meant for you alone.

As a child longs to be gathered onto his father’s lap, to be dandled on his knee, to be comforted, may it be your irrepressible desire to draw in close to the Lord. As a lover longs, with a full heart, to be with their one true love, may the Lord’s love likewise overwhelm you, fill you, and warm you with a burning desire to remain in his presence.

May you remove yourself from the entanglements of the world, the snares and numerous enticements that war for your time, affection, and very soul, and come away to be with the Lord. Jesus made a way for you to enter the Holy of Holies, “for the veil was torn in two” (Mark 15:38). So it was that the physical barrier that separated us from God was removed.

May you enter boldly (Heb 10:19-25) and lay your offering – your very life – at his feet. In that secret place, may you be devastated by his love, utterly undone in the presence of Almighty God (Isa. 6:1-8). May you be transformed, renewed, washed, filled, as a love deluge washes over your soul, cleansing away the soul-silt and rocky barriers that prevent you from being both cleansed and moving forward.

May you leave that place carrying the aroma of God, like incense, with a lingering cloud around you; the very scent of heaven saturating your skin, spirit, soul. May you be ushered into the places you are to tread, where those nearby would stop and lift their faces, and breathe deeply of God’s love, goodness, and mercy that is affixed to you.

May you leave that holy place confident of his abundant love for you, filled to overflowing with his outrageous love, so you will likewise love others without limits and barriers. May you walk in the knowledge of the miraculous things of God, fully expecting his kingdom to come on earth, your faith bolstered by all you have heard and seen, so that nothing can convince you otherwise. For you have lingered in the presence of God and will never be the same.

May you have the desire to return again and again, that action would replace longing, so that you dwell in the secret place, humbling yourself in his presence. Jesus being your intercessor, may you enter freely, fully, and often, so that your iniquity be taken away, and your sin purged (Isa 6:6), that you may be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:1-2), in the world but not operating by the world’s system (John 17:14-16), and set apart to speak to the nations (Jer 1:5).

May the winters of your soul melt away, the rains disappear, the flowers blossom within your spirit, and your life.

Blessings to you this new year, in the name of Jesus.

Amen.

My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come. ~ Song of Solomon 2:10-12

 

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In our youth, we race headlong into this one life filled with idealistic optimism. The world is an expansive unknown stretching far beyond us and filled with unending possibilities waiting to be harnessed. At this stage, there are no limits to what can be accomplished, no unforseen roadblocks or impending disasters, and no reason to believe our dreams will not be realized.

But then, as it’s prone to do, life happens. Some of it by our choosing, and some coming upon us as an unexpected downpour, and we discover that life isn’t perfect. After some repeated saturation, we may look at our life and declare, “This is not how I expected things to turn out.”

At this point, we often choose a pity party, sometimes even a tantrum, stomping and flailing about how unfair it all is. Or, we can towel dry our hair, gather courage and hope, and discover ways to dance despite the downpours and drink of the falling drops. Because here’s the truth: the most fragrant beauty radiates after the rain, and sunsets are most spectacular as the storm clouds recede.

Even though you never asked for any of it, even though you thought you would be further along in your journey, or imagined your life differently, this is it. No matter what has passed, or what you thought it would look like, you cannot change one single bit. This is your one life. And you have a choice. Will you let what has happened this far shape you – rearrange you if needed – to grow, to overcome, and to fully flourish?

We ignore the blessings we’ve been given when we focus on how our lives failed to unfold how we imagined, when we linger on the wreckage of what went wrong, the injustices enacted against us, or the ways we’ve let down ourselves or others. In our misperceptions, we forget this place isn’t meant to be perfect, and neither are we. This is a rehearsal, of sorts, for things to come. When the last curtain is drawn, and we arrive at our final destination, then and only then will all be as it should.

I rather adore this verse:

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

It reminds me that using the world’s measuring stick to determine success is rubbish. That God’s measurement for a successful life looks dramatically different. It’s possible that the very place we find ourselves, and the very person you and I are right now, is just where and who God would have us be, however inglorious, unattractive, desperate, downright ugly, or devastating it may be at present. That’s meant to be encouraging!

However disappointed we are with this patch of life so far, God doesn’t see your journey in any way wasted. However hard we buffet life’s storms, however unwelcome we make trials, even downpours can usher in beauty, refine character, and construct in us an enduring peace and patience the likes of which we had yet to know, not to mention prepare us to walk with added fury – a true force to be reckoned with – for the next leg of our journey.

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I like to think God looks at us – and our lives – rather like we used to as a child: full of possibility and hope, and without limits. And maybe, just maybe, from here on in, we would take His outstretched hand in ours, be led through the storms, navigated through the roadblocks and disasters, and follow Him out the other side, joining Him in puddle jumping, reclining by His side mesmerised by the sunset, while drinking deeply of the fragrant beauty of His love. Maybe then we will see our one life for the truly miraculous gift it is. Besides, by now you realize the best is yet to come anyhow.

I’ll leave you with this reminder:

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in the world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and the saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” ~ Ephesians 2: 7-10

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  1. Start a list of things you can be thankful for.
  2. Ask God to help you redirect your heart and thoughts to thankfulness. Develop a habit of replacing disparaging thoughts with thankful ones.
  3. Pray over each disappointment/disaster, handing it to God to make beauty out of. This may take time, but it’s worth it!
  4. Memorize a passage of scripture as encouragement during the downpours.

 

 

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Ten years ago I could barely walk, sleep, or carry my own purse. I could no longer drive. That’s how intense the pain had become. I’d been a runner for 28 years. My motto was, “Why walk when you can run.” Now I had no choice. It was nearing two years, and over ten health care providers, but no one could help me. On top of it, I became pregnant and couldn’t take enough medication to dull the pain. It seemed I was trapped in a hopeless situation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Right before the Canada Day long weekend, along with a sizeable crowd of hardcore people, I completed an exercise challenge called Rebellion. At the party to celebrate our achievement, I bought this t-shirt. The saying on the front resonates with me. The two obvious reasons are that it includes words from Canada’s national anthem (the country of which I officially became a citizen 33 years ago), and secondly, by working out and completing the challenge, I grew stronger and free from indulgences that might otherwise keep me off track. But a less obvious and deeper meaning for me began 29 years ago at age eighteen. Read the rest of this entry »

We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all.  ~Hebrews 10:10

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When my eldest daughter was eleven, she decided to keep chickens. We took her to our friend’s house in the country to handpick three hens. Along with two healthy-looking ones, she chose a third that had no tail feathers. I asked if she was certain she wanted to buy that one. She assured me she was. Later, when I asked her why she chose that particular hen, she told me she felt sorry for it because it was getting pecked by the others, and she wanted to rescue it.

For a long time, it appeared as if nothing would ever again grow on that chicken’s unsightly, raw back end, but a little over a year later, that hen grew beautiful, full feathers on her formerly exposed derrière. The previous lack of plumage made its unexpected appearance even more beautiful.

There are times when (excuse the upcoming word picture) our lives might look a little like that chicken’s bottom: barren, raw, ugly and seemingly ruined for good. Even though our lives may appear permanently damaged and show no signs of improvement, just like those missing feathers, it too can be made whole and beautiful again. And when it happens you appreciate it even more.

We may look and see barren ruin; God looks and sees room for growth. We may see ugliness; God sees the makings of beauty.

It’s a bit like my daughter peering in the chicken run and intentionally selecting a damaged chicken out of the flock. God looks at the wreckage of our lives and thinks we are worth saving, worth being set apart, and worth nurturing.

We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all. (Hebrews 10:10)

It’s because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we get a second chance at life – both here and now and in the life to come in heaven.

Even so, as we walk with Him day-to-day, there may be times when we feel barren or come up against a situation that rips out a few “feathers” until we question whether our life will ever bear the resemblance of beauty again. It can be unnerving – even disheartening – to see bald patches, but somehow, despite that we never thought it possible, God takes the ruin and makes beauty once again blossom.

Don’t despair if you life is looking a bit barren. It just might be the fertile ground needed for new growth!

And remember this:

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)

May the barren places in your life once again blossom and flourish!

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  1. What is your barren place right now?
  2. Pray with thanksgiving that despite how it appears, God is making beauty even though you cannot see it yet.

 

 

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

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Maybe you’re like me and you like to figure things out. You strive to understand why something is happening, to comprehend why someone is treating you a certain way, or attempt to sort out what God is doing.

I think: if only I could make sense of the evil I see, if only I could apply some overarching truth to the madness in this world, if only I could find some sort of pattern, or future hope that reassures me this circumstance will change, people will improve, or God will let me in on the divine conversation in heaven, then I could relax.

Which sounds fairly reasonable…but is it?

Not really.

Because if I think about it enough, I realize those “if onlys” are a by-product of fear.

Let me explain.

When I am afraid, I’m not faith-full and clutch harder to control events, people, even God.

This fear-laden control is detrimental to relationships. It steals joy, squashes trust, and hinders hope.

If I understood everything in the midst of a crisis, if God downloaded the step-by-step plan, there would be no need to trust, to have faith, and to hope in things unseen.

One thing I have noticed a pattern of is God asking me to trust Him. And it seems the longer I live, this invitation to trust repeatedly shows up, in a variety of ways and through various hardships. I’ve been invited to trust Him with my marriage, my kids, my friends, my health, and my future. Of course, I’m meant to trust Him with everything, but He uses circumstances to make it clearer when I’m not. I’m to trust that He is working all things together for good and that – though it might not bear even a small amount of resemblance to how I imagined or even prayed it would look – it will be beautiful, it will be better, actually…the best.

God repeatedly reminds us not to be afraid. I assume it is mentioned over and over because He knows we are so prone to it, and because He knows how limitless the opportunities are in this world to be fearful.

The verse above was highlighted to me to other day and is packed with all I really need to be fearless: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding (don’t try to figure it all out). In all your ways acknowledge Him (abdicate control), and He will make your paths straight (steer my life in the direction He knows is best).

And this: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

…the peace of God will guard my heart and my mind. Who couldn’t use a healthy dose of that?

It’s not as though God is asking us not to think. Of course we do! But preferably we do so “not leaning on our own understanding”, which is prone to be life-squashing and fear-filled, and instead by learning to apply Godly wisdom that partners with Him to make life-giving decisions.

Will we always get it right? No! But as in anything, we are growing in fearless Christ-likeness. And that’s a worthy goal.

May we grow in greater trust and more often experience the peace of God.

When you wonder if God is listening…

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” ~ John 11:32

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I’m probably not the only one who has experienced asking God to step in and provide wisdom or rescue from a situation only to have it, not only worsen, but fall apart completely. We wonder why was God silent, why didn’t He offer insight or direction, or why He delayed and let it completely crumble when He was perfectly capable of saving it.

But what if God’s apparent no in that moment was because of a future yes? What if God is sometimes intentionally silent – such as His deliberate delay in saving Lazarus – so He can let whatever it is “die” in order to beautifully resurrect it? What if what we deem most important, what we are desperately trying to resuscitate, is far removed from God’s best, so He allows it to pass away?

In the waiting, we may grow disillusioned and confuse His silence with disinterest. After the loss, we might sulk rather like spoiled children who didn’t get their own way, or even blame God for the calamity. But God is a God of love, and He can’t act against His nature. He is quite content to hold back the good from us in order to proffer His best. He’s got the big picture, we only see a pixel. In the meantime, though it grieves Him (see John 11:35), he can handle our disappointment, our tears of loss and frustration, while He works the miraculous.

What appears indifference is actually an incredibly loving act.

What appears distant unconcern is actually the tip of a blessing for His greater purposes.

You see, it’s in the waiting where the miraculous work of God occurs – both within and without. During the delay, we wrestle, we persevere through the trial, we grow in faith and Christ-like character. Bystanders are witness to His work – and resulting recipients of it – as we share our story and offer comfort to fellow sojourners. All the while, God forms the wreckage into a spectacle of His love and greatness.

He offers this exchange:

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” 

~Isaiah 61:3

The next time you find yourself in the middle of an unanswered prayer, or facing a loss, trust that God is working it for good and His glory. It didn’t slip past His peripheral  view, nor became lost in processing. Trust that though it may not appear it, though it may not unfold the way you asked, His delay always means greater good; He loves you too much to give you everything you ask for, because not everything you think you want is His best for you. In the end, He hears it all. And though perhaps not how you expected, they’re really all answered prayers.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
   As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

~ Isaiah 55:8-9

I bless you with increased trust that God has your life in His care and is intricately involved in every aspect.

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