Bekah's Heart, Devotional, names of God

Certain Uncertainties

“And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? Psalm 39:7a

“Where do we go from here?”
This concept is not foreign to any of us living through 2020.

As plans change by the hour and uncertainty feels like the only certainty, our hearts are left wondering “what now?”

Yet, when all our hopes and expectations are dashed, Jesus steps in as Hope himself.

Where do we go? Well, if nothing else we’ve figured out where not to go. Verse 6 lays out some of that:
“We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.”

Our hope is not in productivity or money. Nor is it in political leaders or a health care system. If our ultimate hope is in our plans or our people, even then we will often be left disillusioned, distracted, and disappointed.

And so…

And so, Lord, where do we go?

Where CAN we put our hope?

Our only hope is You. (Psalm 39:7b, 71:5)

And so…

“And so we have this hope as a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus, [our anchor of hope] has already gone in there for us.” Hebrews 6:18b-20a

“And this is the secret: Christ lives in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

31 Days of Joy, Bekah's Heart, Joy

NOT 31 Days of Joy

Something I’ve learned over the last few years and even in this month of trying to focus on joy is the importance of intentionality in choosing joy.

I’m also learning that there can be intentionality in choosing to stop things that aren’t bringing joy to my life.

I’m discovering this 31 Day Blog Challenge actually fits in that category.

I was so excited when the month started to center in on this topic and blog about my journey. While the focus of joy has continued strong and so has my desire to blog, the pressure of writing specifically about that topic and doing it every day has not proved to be joyful.

So, I’m abandoning ship. It happened unintentionally a few days ago when I simply forgot but it caused me to pause. So today I consciously decided to not force myself to keep going in this daily rhythm.

I am keeping the goal of writing more and I also have my ears and heart tuned in for concepts of joy. (For example, it’s been crazy to see that there hasn’t been a day since the start of October where the word joy or rejoice didn’t show up in my daily Bible reading. It’s literally been there every single day.)

So yes. Joy and blogging remain goals but I’m choosing to actually LIVE in joy by putting aside an arbitrary expectation that wasn’t helping me live the very thing I was writing about.

This leads to my questions for you today…

1. What are the things that brought you joy this week?

2. What’s something you may need to stop because it is not adding value, meaning, or joy to your life?

Bekah's Heart, Just Write, Music

The Stories We Tell

When I wake up with a worship song or Scripture already in my mind as my first waking thought, I pay attention. A few days ago, these lyrics were on repeat as I transitioned into my day:

“You write a beautiful story. You write a beautiful story.
From glory to glory. I believe.
You write a beautiful story. You write a beautiful story.
Beginning to ending and in between.” ~ Beautiful Story by Andrew Holt, Mia Fieldes, Robert Marvin

To be honest, I wanted to joyfully believe these words but in the moment it felt more a mantra I needed to repeat over and over to convince myself of. All the same, I was thankful my day was starting with this reminder.

As I pondered this concept more, I considered God’s Word and realized: it’s true. Looking back I can see it clearly that our God does write an insanely beautiful story. The day to day moments often don’t seem so sweet but when you see both the beginning and the end, and the redemption that happens along the way, it becomes clear.

The hard part that we’re living right now is not the end of the story, but it still can be beautiful. Or perhaps how we TELL the story is what really shapes this view.

We can walk through a challenging season of life (like the one we’re all currently living) and have it be all about how hard it was, how tired we were, all the ways people didn’t treat us well or we hurt them, all the ways we messed up, etc.

OR

The narrative I tell can be about how day after day God showed up, how faithful and constant He was when everything was changing, how He provided strength when we had none.

It’s not that the first reality isn’t true, but it doesn’t really capture the beauty of the real story God is writing.

My tendency is to stay focused on the first half. I don’t think I’m the only human who does this. But to do that without also shifting my heart and my words to God’s role and action leaves the story incomplete. If that’s how a movie or book was written we’d label it “boring”. It’s not what people would want to take in.

But Jesus, He writes beautiful stories, stories filled with redemption, with restoration, with faithfulness.

May that be the story I tell this day, this week, with my life.

Which leads me to another recent favorite song called “The Story I’ll Tell” by Alton Eugene, Benji Cowart, Naomi Raine which include these lyrics:

“And I’ll testify of the battles you’ve won
How you were my portion when there wasn’t enough
I’ll sing a song of the seas that we crossed
The waters you parted
The waves that I walked

Oh, oh, oh, My God did not fail
Oh, oh, oh, it’s the story I’ll tell
Oh, oh, oh, I know it is well
Oh, oh, oh, is the story I’ll tell” 

That is the story I want to be telling through my life, the song I want to come out of my mouth. Just like I described above, this song, especially in it’s verses, doesn’t ignore the hard and painful aspects of life. It names them all, but it doesn’t stop there. It continues declaring truth that we can trust the pain is not the only part of the story. Rather, because of the faithfulness of God, we know that on the other side we’ll have a water parting, wave-walking, victorious story of provision. It may not happen in this life, but we will some day look back on this moment, yes even a moment in 2020, and see God’s hand on it and in it.

The song ends: 

“All that is left is highest praises
So sing hallelujah to the Rock of Ages”

My prayer is that I’d see and pay attention to God’s hand day by day. May we not have to wait until we look back on this time to be able to tell the beautiful story God’s writing. I want God to get the praise, even today.

a weary world..., Bekah's Heart, Devotional

“deute!”

deute
This was the call I heard as I laid awake at 3:45 am one Friday morning at some point in the early days of the pandemic. No, I don’t know Greek, but I stumbled upon this word that is often translated as “come” or “come now” as I was poking around in Matthew 11. I found myself processing what it looked liked to live these words in the middle of pandemic, in the middle of some of the hardest most stressful days of my job, in the middle of exhaustion and loneliness:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
There it was right at the very beginning.
Duete. Come.
With sleep clearly not happening that very early morning, I got up and “came” not really sure where God was calling me to. As I searched more about this word, I discovered Jesus used this call quite often throughout His days on earth. In the verses above and in Mark 6 we see this as a call to come away and rest, but that’s not the only “come”.
In Matthew 4 and Mark 1, “duete” is the “follow me” used by Jesus to call His disciples into ministry.
Matthew 25 documents the parable of the sheep and the goats. The goats are told to “depart from” him, sent away to eternal punishment. The sheep though? “duete” … come … inherit the Kingdom.
After the resurrection, the disciples are out on a boat fishing and they hear a voice call out, “Come and have breakfast” and suddenly, maybe because of the repeated use of this word, they know it is the Lord. “duete”
How beautiful to see all the ways Jesus used this word. Jesus didn’t just call his disciples to the hard work before them of ministry. He also called them into rest, into meals, into His Kingdom. Each aspect of those callings just as important as the other.
In this weary, worn season that never seems to end, what could our life look like if each day we woke up and listened for Jesus’ “duete” call. Maybe today that call looks more like caring for yourself, getting away and being restored. Or perhaps he’s asking you to walk into challenging situations. Maybe he just wants to sit down and have breakfast with you. No matter what, the call is clear… “Come. Be near me. Do this with me. See what I have in store for today.”
Jesus isn’t the only one who uses this word in scripture though. Others often use it when pointing to Jesus.
The Samaritan woman invites her whole community to “Come and see a man who told me all that I ever did!” “duete”
And the angels at the empty tomb… “Come and see the place where he lay.” “duete”
In these two instances it didn’t stop with “come”. The come was followed with “then go”:
Come and see.
Come and rest.
Come and have breakfast.
Come!
Then go!
Go and tell!
Go and teach!
Go and share!
Go and echo Jesus’ call …
“duete”.

Sea of Galilee, where Jesus invited the disciples to come and hv
Sea of Galilee (Where Jesus invited the disciples to come and have breakfast.)

Bekah's Heart, Just Write

Fasting from Isolation in the Midst of Pandemic

Lent. It’s a season known for fasting. As I journey though a devotion book suggesting a new fast for each day, the suggested fasts have ranged from “collecting praise” to an actual physical meal. I had to laugh when I came across the most recent suggestion. “Today, fast from isolation.”

In a current world climate where “social distancing” is the buzzword in efforts to slow down the spread of a pandemic and many are being told to stay home or to isolate in their offices at work, I found it ironic that God, through my devotion, was encouraging me to fast from isolation today.

The reality is that with or without COVID-19, WE NEED EACH OTHER!

We can’t do this life alone and while we my physically need to maintain some distance for a while, I think we all should make it a goal to “fast” from isolation today and for all the days and weeks ahead.

As a coworker reminded me yesterday “Don’t go it alone!”

So what’s that practically look like? How do we fast from the very thing our employers, health departments, and friends are encouraging us to add to our lives? In a phrase, “be creative!”

1. Text, call, or FaceTime a friend. Grieve together, celebrate together, process this crazy life together. It may not happen in the normal classroom/office space or in a crowded arena watching a game, but you can still do life together from a distance.

2. Find ways to support each other. If a friend is sick, drop off some supplies on their doorstep with a little note. If you know a nurse or other professional who is caring for those directly impacted by this disease, simply ask them how they’re doing and maybe get them a gift card to a restaurant near their work or home so they don’t have to worry about cooking after extra long days.

3. Snail mail! If you are one who has to be home for a long time, maybe write some notes. Wash your hands well and then get to writing. (Maybe spray a little Lysol on it before dropping it in the mailbox.) 🙂

4. Offer people patience. This is an overwhelming, anxious time for many sorting through the impact pandemic has on lives. Whether your decisions impact hundreds or the decisions of others greatly impact you and your family, offer compassion and grace towards each other. We’ll get through this but we can’t see each other as the enemy.

5. Worship. Even if your church closes or you need to avoid social gatherings, don’t forget to find moments of worship. This is a way we can fast from isolation by connecting with the God who is always with us. Also, worship connects us relationally with others who join in worshipping the God who is still overall and in all, the God who remains faithful. We may not be in the same room but can join in the same spirit of worship that unites and connects us.

6. Enjoy and don’t take for granted what limited social interaction you may have. If you’re “stuck” at home with your family, break out the games. Make Spring 2020 the season you look back on as one of your favorite family times. If you get to interact with others at work, enjoy that time and use it to build each other up. When you’re in the grocery store, be kind to others who are also just trying to find a couple rolls of toilet paper.

7. Make use of technology. Start up a phone app game with a friend that lives across the country. Video chat with people who can’t have visitors right now. Watch a movie “together” or read a book and then talk about it.

8. Make plans for when this all settles down and you can get together again. Use this time apart to make grand plans for face-to-face connection when it’s possible.

Well, there are a few ideas. What else would you add? How are you going to join me in fasting from isolation even in the midst of pandemic? How are you going to show love and compassion perhaps in ways that are different than you’re used to? How can COVID-19 push us toward expanding our repertoire for how we connect and care for each other? Get creative today!

Bekah's Heart, Thyroid, transition

Though I sit in darkness…

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light!” (Micah 7:7-8)

Social media has pros and cons but one of my favorite elements is the way in which it allows you to easily look back. Through things like TimeHop or Facebook memories I can see little glimpses into years past, reminders of the good times and the hard.

The last few weeks have proved fascinating whenever I click on the “memories” section, especially the most recent years. I didn’t remember until now just how hard each of the last two years started out.

January of 2018 was month number two of a six-month waiting period trying to figure out what was wrong with my body. Tracking every symptom, painful biopsies, countless doctor’s visits, wondering and waiting to find out if I had cancer only to be told over and over again, ‘we don’t know’. I was in a place of fighting for peace and for joy. I was determined, but also many days, defeated.

Fast forward to January of 2019. Surgery was seven months past and the initial wounds caused by removing half of a vital organ from my body were well on their way to being an easily-forgotten scar. However, the impact of removing that organ caused complete chaos in my body physically, mentally, and emotionally. I went from being under-medicated in the months directly after surgery to now grossly over-medicated causing muscle weakness, extreme fatigue, anxiety, depression, and literally dozens of other symptoms. Because my body was weak and exhausted so many of the ways I generally dealt with stress and the emotional impacts weren’t options as they made the physical symptoms worse. Every day was a fight to get out of bed and there was nothing more I could do than what I already was besides wait for the hormones in my body to balance out.

January 2020. I found myself reflecting to a friend, “I think it’s been over 2 years since I felt this healthy. Life is not at all without its challenges right now, but I’m doing so well and it feels so good.” When I made that comment I was mainly referring to new life-giving rhythms I recently found. Between the health challenges of 2018 and 2019, attempting to buy a house (and then not buying a house), and the transition to a new job across the country far from most of my support system, rhythms and routines had been seriously lacking for a really long time in my life.

Christmas break provided a reset and suddenly I now find myself weeks into some sustainable ways to connect with God and friends and care for my body and exercise and de-stress. Facebook Memories keeps confirming the reality day after day that it’s not just daily rhythms that have been restored in this new season… my whole being has. In the looking back I see glimpses and reminders of how hard and painful those days really were. Even some posts that may have looked positive to others, documenting the determined fight for joy, I recall how much of a fight it really took to make that a reality in a given day.

While I’ve only recently discovered this verse from Micah it’s been sweet to look back and see how this is a prayer God answered.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light!” (Micah 7:7-8)

In those stumbling days of 2018 and the darkest days of 2019, I heard the Lord whisper (mainly through my friends and family): “Though you have fallen, you will rise. Though you sit in darkness, I will be your light!”

Some days I couldn’t believe Him. (And that’s when I’m thankful for the friends who held out hope for me.) But our ever-faithful God came through!

Great is His faithfulness! His mercies are new every morning! Therefore, I too, dared to hope! (Lamentations 3:21:23)

My enemy, Satan, did not win. The one determined to take me down by attacking the most vulnerable parts of me, only forced me to lean in closer to my Savior. I won’t say I didn’t sometimes believe his lies that I’d never be effective in ministry again or that I’d always be in pain or depressed. But instead of taking me out of the game, those seasons just stripped away some unhealthy aspects of the way I did life and ministry and made me stronger yet. Instead of the enemy gloating over me, I now can do that over him!

Though I fell, I have now risen.

Though I stumbled in the darkness, the Lord was and IS my light.

Hard times will come again, that I know for sure, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”

Amen. Let it be so!

Until that day when we rise from death and pain forever. Until the day when darkness ceases for good. I watch and wait in hope.

Amen and amen!

Bekah's Heart, Music, transition

Follow You Anywhere

It was a Monday night. I was at a young adult worship night at a local church when I first heard the words of this song, a prayer to God:

“You make it easy to love You
You are good and You are kind
You bring joy into my life
You make it easy to trust You
You have never left my side
You’ve been faithful every time”

I was singing along but the prayer in my brain was not quite on board. The situation I was in forced me to wrestle more than agree:

“God you don’t really make it easy to love and trust you. Actually, it’s really hard. Yes, you bring joy and are trustworthy, but ‘easy’??? Definitely not the word I would have chosen if I was writing this song.”

What annoyed me more was that a lot of the rest of song was truly the cry of my heart that night:

“All I want is You
Jesus, all I want is You

You are the refuge I run to
You are the fire that leads me through the night
I’ll follow You anywhere
There’s a million reasons to trust You
Nothing to fear for You are by my side
I’ll follow You anywhere”

I awoke at 4am with these words on my heart, praying through a situation I had brought before God a million times before, but yet again was burdened by. There WERE a million reasons to trust God (and that’s not hyperbole!) So I placed this situation back in God’s hands and chose trust, honestly crying out that I’d follow His lead wherever that took me.

Little did I know that God about 12 hours later I would get a phone call that would dramatically change my life. God was indeed preparing my heart to trust and follow and it had nothing to do with what I was praying about.


Fast forward nearly 6 months. I now live in a different state, learning a new career, sitting in an unfamiliar church pew wondering when and where and how I’ll find the kind of community and connection I left behind in Buffalo. This “church-shopping-as-a-church-worker” thing is still a bit foreign, yet I’m thankful for opportunities to rest and be renewed on Sunday mornings soaking in God’s Word without distraction. As the first lyrics of the first song came out of the speakers and then my mouth, the tears fell instantly from my eyes:

“You make it easy to love You
You are good and You are kind
You bring joy into my life
You make it easy to trust You
You have never left my side
You’ve been faithful every time

I’ll follow you anywhere”

It feels like this song has become an anthem in this season. An anthem I never really wanted. A prayer I still am not 100% sure about. A cry of trust and dependence on the faithfulness of God. Literally 6 months ago the life I get up and live each day now wasn’t even on my radar. Who knew that “anywhere” would mean the cornfields of Nebraska?

God. God knew.

I’m not sure it will ever be “easy” to trust God, but what I found comforting on this Sunday morning in looking back is that there are no regrets. I’m realizing that there never are when we’re following God. God knows exactly where “anywhere” for each of us is and has a million blessings in that place. Making the decision to say “yes” when God asks us to follow Him actually IS of the easiest decisions of life. (Despite the many hard things that come along with those decisions.) It’s easy because His track record is 100%. It’s easy because He is faithful, always. It’s easy because of the way He protects and provides along the journey.

And so I guess my prayer remains:

“Wherever You lead me
Whatever it costs me
All I want is You
Jesus, all I want is You

I’ll follow You anywhere.”

I’ll follow You into this week to love on the people you put in my path.

I’ll follow You when it’s lonely and I miss my friends and family in NY.

I’ll follow You into interactions with my teammates.

I’ll follow You into tough conversations or joyful celebrations with my students.

I’ll follow You with my eyes wide open for the joys and blessings You have waiting along the way.

“There’s a million reasons to trust You
Nothing to fear for You are by my side
I’ll follow You anywhere
Follow You anywhere”

Bekah's Heart, transition

I’ve Walked These Halls

I’ve walked these halls.
I’ve wandered these buildings.
I’ve sat in these offices (and in some potentially unfortunate cases maybe in these same exact chairs).

I went to school here.
I left.
Nine years later: I’m back.

Once a student. Now staff.
Always a Bulldog.

So much seems the same and yet so different.

I’ve lived in this town… kind of. The brick-paved streets feel familiar as I make my way to restaurants and stores and businesses around.

Some remain. Some have changed.

And I find myself back on the same 2.7 mile path on the east side of town where I pounded the pavement training for my first half-marathon 10 years ago. And the curves are the same, the bridges bring back memories, the sunrises and sunsets still beautiful.

It’s so similar and yet so different.

This time as I ponder this “moving back” yet “staring over”, the difference hits me:

The trees have grown. It makes sense that they’re bigger now, but it takes me a while to notice.

Wide open spaces now filled in with green leaves and big brown branches.

And I realize that I, too, am the same and yet so different.

The buds that began sprouting in my life in the spring of 2010 are flowering now in 2019. And branches beginning to grow out of control have been pruned and cut back by life and loving humans placed around me. Like wear-and-tear on dorm room furniture, I have a few more scars than when I walked out of this place in a graduation cap. And in other ways I’m stronger now than I’ve ever known.

Scripture tells us that “those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”

And I can’t help think of the tears sown on Ruth B third,
and SW Pit,
and in the very office that now has my name on the door.

What seeds were watered then that God is bringing to life here nearly a decade later?

I see them springing up all over the place.
Morning by morning,
day by day:
New mercies. New life.
New songs of joy.

In renewed passion.
In a great team.
In gifts and experiences uniquely preparing me for this work.
In 49 amazing human beings who walked on campus tonight … and many more in the days ahead.
In the chance to walk with them through this year.
In hope that maybe a decade from now they’ll find themselves looking back on these years and know without a doubt that God used this time to shape them uniquely for the calling He has on their lives.

Yes, I’ve walked these halls.
And I’m glad to walk them again.

Bekah's Heart, transition

One Month In: What Do I Need?

Today marks exactly one month of living in Seward. My house is starting to feel a bit more like a home, I’ve got at least some clue of what my job will entail (how to do it all will come later), and I’m starting to settle in to small town life.

One new thing for me is how I experience Sunday mornings. It’s a weird thing to able to walk into church and just be present. No need to make sure volunteer slots are covered or collect mission trip payments or track down people I need to connect with. I wouldn’t trade my years working in a church for anything, AND what a blessing it is to be more present in that space and time on Sunday mornings.

Normally a place to worship comes with a place of employment for church workers, but that’s not the case when your ministry takes place outside of a church. So I’ve been hopping around trying to figure out where I fit. This week I actually went to worship services at two churches in town… and I was exactly where God needed me. I’m still a little amazed at how perfectly these two messages fit together centered on completely different texts/themes.

The first message was based on Luke’s telling of a time when Jesus was at his friend’s house. His friend Martha was busy preparing a meal for all the guests while her sister sat at Jesus feet listening to Him. Pastor Bruick’s message to us echoed Jesus’ caring invitation to Martha to “please sit down”. To sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him is, as the passage says, the one thing we all need most.

The sermon at the second church didn’t miss a beat as Pastor Mike’s first question to us was: What do you need most today?

Just in case the message didn’t get through powerfully at the first service (which it did!) God wanted to make it extra clear to me today:

All I need is Him.

There are plenty of ways I could have answered that question of what do I need. There are things I need to still find for my new home. There are needs I have related to figuring out my job. I have a need to establish community in this new town. Our needs are many, but in that moment, framed within the context of Jesus’ invitation to sit and listen, my greatest need was so clear…

Jesus, I need You.

After church someone mentioned that I really seemed at peace. At first it caught me off guard a little, because there have been some hard things, really hard things, in the last few months, years, weeks.

Peace? Really?

But the more I thought about it the more he was right: there is peace… deep peace… despite and right in the middle of these hard things. I’ve been operating in such a place of uncertainty and chaos for the last 18 months that I almost missed the spacious place God has brought me into.

The hard things haven’t disappeared but with a lot of things stripped away from me in this new season I’ve become more dependent on God than ever before. God’s voice has been clear and (most days) I’ve been taking Him up on His ongoing invitation to “Please sit down.” I’ve been running straight to Him with the hard and in that space it gets easier to sort out the lies. It gets easier to hear truth: I am loved and chosen and precious. Period. Full stop.

That trumps everything. That brings peace.

Peace isn’t one of those things that means everything is wonderful in life. Instead it’s a confidence in knowing: it will be okay.

Worry fades.

Striving stops.

Anxiety releases.

No matter what happens today, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe loves me. He always has and always will. That truth, my friends, brings peace. That is the one thing I need today.

Bekah's Heart, Joy, transition

Grief and Gratitude

Grieving.

It’s a weird thing. Everyone’s grief process is different. Even when people experience what seems like “the same exact loss,” how they each walk through that grief changes (as it should!) from person to person. However, whether the loss is big or small, I feel like there is something that happens almost every time at some point along the way. Sometimes this moment happens immediately, other times it takes weeks or months, sometimes it happens again and again and again.

You’re going along in your grief, doing this hard thing. Maybe the grief is completely overwhelming you and the loss of the person or dream or job or house or life you thought would be is all you can focus on. But then, suddenly, unexpectedly, you find yourself laughing or enjoying something. And THEN, in a split second, you wonder: “Is this okay?”

In seasons of grief, there’s something about a moment feeling “normal” or even dare we say “good” that feels somehow “wrong”. It seems we’re discounting the impact of that loss, especially if the loss involved a person. We feel a pull to stay in the grief as a way to hold on to what is no more. We fear that if we enjoy the here and now we somehow have to let go of what was.

I experienced one of these awkward moments today. I was at work. Laughing with my teammates…. hard… at one point laughing so hard I was crying. It seemed everywhere we turned today there was something to laugh about. But, I didn’t know what to do with that in the midst of the loss of leaving Buffalo, and missing my incredible teammates there, and being so far from my friends and family who have become so dear.

But then, I stumbled into the answer… an unexpected grace. As I let myself, in that split second, just feel all the things… the joy and the sadness, the good and the hard, I suddenly found myself overwhelmed with gratitude.

I am thankful for nine amazing years in Buffalo AND new beginnings in Nebraska. I’m thankful for not just one but TWO teams that love to laugh (some people don’t ever get that in their whole careers!!!). I’m thankful for friends back “home” in Buffalo who still care for me well even while I start to try (not there yet) to call this place “home”. I’m just insanely grateful.

I don’t have to choose between all the feelings as if one would betray the other. Instead, I let them all lead me into a graceful space of gratitude. And that’s what we do with these awkward moments of grief… we give thanks. We give thanks for what was… and is… and will be. We give thanks for a God who walks with us through it all. We give thanks IN the circumstances not necessarily always FOR them. We give thanks because gratitude reorients our focus on the One who gives all good things.

And suddenly I’m reminded of how this whole year started for me… with a call to gratitude, back on January 1, with these words from Ann Voskamp on page 1 of my journal:

“Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: Joy.

Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.

When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, LIFE GROWS! The clouds open when we mouth thanks.”

And so I pick up my pen and I continue the list started 6.5 months ago… counting the gifts of this year one by one…

1237. A beautiful sunrise while out on an early morning run

1238. Teammates who love to laugh

1239. Seeing VBS pictures from Buffalo

1240. Being able to “be real” with teammates, sharing the joys and challenges, even only a few weeks in to the new job

1241. Memories shared of college days

1242. Becoming a NE resident

1243. Multiple Buffalo friends texting to check in today

1244. A hilarious video of my precious godsons

1245. A courageous 10-year old girl smiling with friends and singing praise to Jesus at VBS only weeks after brain surgery

1246. Joy

1247. Peace

1248. Hope

1249. New mercies

1250. Grace to grieve with gratitude