Encouragement

Tidings of Comfort & Joy

This morning when checking my email, I found one from my grandmother about Hallmark channel’s “Jingle in July.” For those of you who have not ever enjoyed a Hallmark Christmas film, this is a summer excuse for Christmas lovers around the world to forget that it’s the dead of summer, curl up on the couch, and watch Christmas movies back to back for two weeks.

It hit me as I scrolled through the email, that Hallmark’s biggest “Christmas in July” ever may be about to kickoff. So many people are at home, desperate for normality and escape from the confusion and division our world is facing right now. How easy would it be to turn on the TV and be delightfully distracted by a big time CEO falling in love with the small town girl who happened to be staying in the hotel next to his office over the holidays to visit her grandmother? I’m willing to bet you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who, when given the choice of a Hallmark movie or another press conference, would choose the press conference. (Dad, you’re the exception.)

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Encouragement

Where the Wildflowers Danced

It was dusk and I was driving through the Midwestern country roads on my way home from babysitting for some friends. Peter Hollens’ album of folk songs played softly in my car, and the wind rushed through the open windows blowing my hair all around.

But my heart was heavy.

As I wound out of one county and into another, I saw to my right a vast field and it’s emptiness seemed to shout an invitation to come and simply be still beside it. There was not a building, fence, or human in sight. Just a field with trees in the distance and the sun dipping down behind them as wildflowers danced in the breeze.

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Encouragement

When Our Own Understanding Fails

It doesn’t make sense.

I don’t understand why people kill other people out of anger. I don’t understand why an invisible virus can both take and destroy lives with the fierceness of a great army. I don’t understand why people we love get cancer. I don’t understand why the dearest of friends are pitted against each other with the simple click of a share button. I don’t understand why sometimes doing the right thing can cost so much. I don’t understand how all of this can still be used for our good and God’s glory.

But I wanted to understand. I needed to understand.

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Encouragement

The Woman in the Shadows

Every church has the names most often heard from the pulpit in the organization of events. We have the woman known for her teaching abilities, the woman known for her musical gifts, the woman known for her special touch with little ones, and the woman known for her hosting, and the woman known for her counseling skills. But there’s another woman each church has, but few ever hear of, and that’s the woman in the shadows.

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Letters

Dear Jill Pole: A Letter to the Fearful & Thirsty

“It must be a dream, it must, it must,” said Jill to herself. “I’ll wake up in a moment.” But it wasn’t, and she didn’t.

The Silver Chair

Dear Jill,

Few fears are ever confined only to our dreams. We’d like for them to be, wouldn’t we? To be able to open our eyes and realize that where we are, this wonderful world, was safe and filled with delightful calm and security. But more often than not, our worst fears are very true. More true than Louis Armstrong’s beautiful ballad, unfortunately. Our world is writhing in pain and fear, and it is in this broken world that we wake up.

I’ve been you before, Jill. I wake up, terrified, and chant to myself, “It must be a dream, it must be a dream” to will away the darkness. But it wasn’t a dream and rather than awaking from the terror gripping my mind and body, I find I am already awake. Then I do the same as you or any other fearful and lonely child would do, I cry.

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Encouragement

What We Need to Know

Imagine you are a middle aged woman living in Holland on the brink of World War II. Each day, the radio brings news of yet another series a catastrophic political events. Uncertainty is the air people breathe, fear the pillow on which they wake and drift off to sleep on. The world seems as if it is at last unraveling and the predictions, dreams, and guarantees of what lie ahead causes everyone’s stomach to turn.

There is potential that your nephew and niece could be killed for resisting tyrannical leaders. Your father is too old to survive an arrest should it occur, and your sister, whom you love more than any other person, is running headlong into the effort against the evil, putting herself right in harms way.

Horror. Chaos. Sorrow. That’s what seems to lay ahead for Betsie ten Boom.

She doesn’t panic though. She doesn’t hide underneath the watch shop counter and weep for fear of what may come. She cooks meals, she smiles, she makes tea, she folds laundry, she keeps going on with life as the changes swirl around her. She’s not coping with Netflix binges, or alcohol, or fluffy novels, or social media or food. There’s one simple truth that every atom of her body is clinging to that brings a peace and joy–dare we even suggest a happiness–that surpasses all human understanding.

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Encouragement

Not Even His Shadows

Yesterday, I allowed myself to take a trip with nostalgia back to a day that is now a mere memory.

I could smell the dogwood flowers blooming, feel the creaky wooden swing holding up my frame, and feel the wind rustle through the trees onto the porch and through my hair. I was fifteen years old again, on the front porch of my childhood home, laughing. Old friends were seated around me, and conversation centered on new sunglasses, books we were reading, and things we’d heard about through mutual friends. We were little, though we didn’t think so then, and I wish with all my heart somedays I could just go back, be there, be the girl I once was, with the friends I once knew, in a world that didn’t seem so big and scary.

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Encouragement

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

When I was a little girl and the thunder would crash outside my window rattling the panes and wooden shutters, I would pull my covers up over my head, tightly squeeze my eyes shut and try to imagine that it wasn’t storming. I hated night and I hated storms, and both were closing in around me. No matter how hard I tried, the storms wouldn’t go away with even my most earnest imagining, so I would lay there in the dark listening to the skies bellow and roar, and I’d sing to myself, Jesus loves me, this I know.

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Encouragement

What Isn’t Can’t Change What Is

I was suppose to be at my Mimi’s house tonight. My Aunt and Momma would be leaning on the counter in the kitchen talking about their kids. My Dad and Uncle would be in the living room with my brothers and sisters and cousin catching up and laughing. My Mimi and Nana would be laying out the final plans for tomorrow, when to put the ham in and take the rolls out, etc. Place cards and table linens would be set aside and ready to lay out before we left for church tomorrow so that when guests started to arrive for lunch, everything would be ready. Poppy would be doing dishes and I’d be drying. We’d be talking about books and theology. He’d say something like, “You sure are pretty” and I’d tell him he was a blind old man. We’d laugh. We’d all be together, and it would be wonderful. It would feel like home. It would feel right.

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Monthly Treasures

March Treasures 2020

I’ve wanted to do this for awhile now. I absolutely love short lists of fun, helpful, (and sometimes purely delightful) things from other writers, and thought it would be fun to start my own. Maybe you’ll enjoy them as much as I do, or maybe, it’ll just be a fun way for me to find joy in crazy seasons and intentionally take note of them. Either way, here are some treasures I found helpful, smile-inducing, and delightful in March. (A few weeks late, because that’s how I roll.) This month’s edition consists of one of my favorite authors reading me his books each night, laughter in suffering, a tool for more intentional prayer, a recipe for a s’more/Oreo treat that will change your life, a movie to watch, an article reminding us where we ought to focus our minds and hearts, and more.

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