THIS FALL LOOKS DIFFERENT
This is how we’re cheering for my sixteen-year old while she plays soccer this year. Yup. Through a fence. Because crowds aren’t super safe and bleachers are only so big and seating is incredibly limited—at some venues only one fan per player. And you know what? I am incredibly grateful. Because right now, she’s still getting to play. And not everyone is. And we didn’t know if she’d be able to, so for today, peering through a chain length fence feels like a ginormous blessing.
And this is how my son’s play practice looks—a small show with a limited cast instead of the splashy musical they’d planned on performing. Wearing masks on stage. Shorter rehearsals. Oh, and the show is going to be streamed. No live audiences. But wow! He gets to be in a play. His spring show was cancelled two weeks before the performances. His summer theatre was called off altogether. And my boy, who loves to act, gets to be with his fellow thespians, stand on that stage, slip into character, and act. Gift. Gift. Gift.
Life looks different. The rules seem to change every day. Our schedules and plans keep getting unended. But there is one thing we can count on—our everlasting God! As the prophet Isaiah explained to a weary nation, “Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying,“God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts."
I love that.
School looks different. Sports look different. Church looks different. But God? He is sturdy and strong. He is solid and never changing. I see Him at the soccer games, giving the precious gift of camaraderie and teamwork to the girls. I see Him in the theatre allowing His creative kids to use their gifts. I know we all didn’t get to do the things we wanted to do. Although high school sports are on, college sports are cancelled. My teen can act, but Broadway is closed. Even these things I'm grateful for today could be cancelled tomorrow. And God calls us to be thankful in ALL of it.
Paul instructs the Thessalonians, in 1 Thessalonians 5:27-28 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Is that always easy? No. I can’t begin to understand it all. But I know that God is working in those closed and cancelled spaces too. I’m not sure how, but I know He is. I know He is, because that’s the kind of God He is. A mighty God. A loving God. A faithful God. And for that I will rejoice and give Him thanks.
God loves you and wants the best for you. Even if something looks stark, God wants to carry you through the challenges, set you back upright and help you soar. He’s a good good Father.
The prophet Isaiah continued by saying:
He (the everlasting God) gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. –Isaiah 40:29-31
Yes, life looks different. Our world is changing. Some of those changes have been hard. But some of them are pretty great--less business travel as we realize Zoom is an easy way to meet, groceries we can conveniently pick up in the parking lot, and outdoor classes, meals, and meetings. I’ve loved breathing in so much fresh air! But no matter how the world shifts and changes, God is constant. He does not change. He still loves His children (that’s all of us humans) and wants to shower us with gifts. Will we receive them? Will we even notice them? Will be take time to breathe them in? Will we thank Him?
When the uncertainty and shifting schedules tangle you up, make you anxious, or leave you exhausted, God wants to strengthen you. He’ll give us power and energy to renew us. All we have to do is ask. Even though you might be weary? He’ll help you fly. We don’t have to do this on our own. We actually can’t. But if we reach out to God, put our hope in Him, He’ll help us soar.
God does not change. He is still good. He is still all powerful. He still loves you. He still has plans for you. He still forgives you. He’s still fighting for you. He will never leave you. Hold these truths in your heart today. This is something to be so thankful for! Look for the gifts our faithful God gives--they might be as simple as being able to watch your child do their thing through a fence. Breathe them in like the cool, crisp fall air, and let His love surround you.
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Saturday night I went to a glow in the dark party. Long story, but suffice it to say I came home wearing one of those fluorescent bracelets – you know the kind when you pop and crack the plastic tube, a mysterious glowing liquid fills the chamber in either hot pink, cool blue, acid orange or neon yellow.
I was tired. It had been a full week, a cram-packed week, and although I managed to remove my mascara, brush my teeth with minty paste and run my Clarisonic over my face before falling asleep, I did not take off the bracelet.
In the middle of the night I woke to an enormous thud. My subconscious tugged me semi-awake for a second to make sure everything was okay. And as my brain registered the loud thump was only a particularly heavy walnut falling from our tree onto our roof, I saw through fluttering eyes my glowing wrist. It surprised me. I’d forgotten about it. Yet, the bracelet still glowed, still cast a lovely soft pink light about my room.
Did you have a nightlight as a child? I did. It was shaped like a little wooden birdhouse. A colored bulb sat inside like an egg. When my parents thought I outgrew my nightlight and threw it away, I switched to sleeping with my closet light on. There is something extremely comforting about a light in the midst of darkness.
My sleepy brain, comforted by my cozy covers, the realization that I was safe and my built in neon nightlight bracelet turned to the permanent nightlight that is with me wherever I go – Jesus.
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. Isaiah 40:28-29
Jesus is my comforting light in the midst of darkness. He is the One who reassures me that the loud noise is only a nut, that the to dos on my list don’t all have to get to done today, that no one else’s opinion of me matters except for His, that I will always be safe in His loving, capable arms. Even when my eyes are closed to Him. Even when my brain has tuned Him out or temporarily forgotten all that He is and all that He offers, He shines on.
But unlike the glow of the neon bracelet that had fizzled out by the middle of Sunday afternoon, Jesus’ light never goes out. Ever. No matter how jarring the bumps and thumps of life, no matter how dark our nights. He is always there, providing His soft, peaceful glow of love. All we have to do is open our eyes, for just a moment, to see Him and remember He is there.
Have you ever had a nightlight? What did it mean to you? I’d love to hear.
STRAIGHTENING THINGS OUT
Cars need their front ends realigned.
Mattresses need flipped.
Teeth need braces.
Every now and then things need straightening in life.
And then they need to be straightened again.
I had braces when I was in sixth grade. I had horrible, thick silver bands that dug into my gums. Wads of wax couldn’t provide comfort against the wicky-wacky wires poking the insides of my cheeks. My braces were so large and protruding my lips stuck out like a football player wearing a mouthpiece. Add that to my giant, bug-eye shaped glasses and permed hair, and I had quite the look going.
But thanks to the guidance of my orthodontist, my teeth shifted and straightened. My braces came off. My smile was in line.
And so it went until I was twenty-three and the pain in the back of my mouth felt like bee stings in my gums. My wild wisdom teeth decided not to come in up and down like normal teeth, but sideways instead – those rebels. They pushed along the other roots like dominoes squishing and slanting my smile, until all the work the braces had done was undone. The wisdom teeth were pulled. I got to drink a week’s worth of milkshakes, but the damage they’d done remained. My teeth were once again crooked.
And so, as an adult, I’m sporting braces AGAIN. They’re better this time. They’re clear, for one thing. Although not as “invisible” as their name, Invisaline, may indicate, they’re pretty close. Let’s just say my own mom didn’t notice them. They don’t dig into my gums, and since I pop them out to eat, gross particles of food don’t get stuck in them. But they’re still braces.
Some days as I’m turning down a piece of gum (because it’s impossible to chew with Invisalines on) or drooling with my mouth propped open in the orthodontist's chair, I ask myself, “How can I be doing this again?”
I often wonder the same thing about my life.
How can I need to get on track with my workouts again? When did I fall off track? It’s so hard to get back into it. I huff and puff and my muscles ache.
A venti here, an extra shot of espresso there - am I really drinking this much caffeine again – time to cut back, again. But those first few mornings, I’m soooo tired. I might even get a withdrawal headache. The list and its challenges goes on and on.
· How many times have I rewritten this manuscript?
· I can’t believe I messed up again, and therefore I need to ask forgiveness again.
· I continuously need to work on my patience. Each and every single day.
For some people it’s ‘I can’t believe I’m going back to school! I need to quit biting my nails again. Is it possible that I’m moving or switching jobs or starting a new relationship again?’
Although working on straightening things all over again, is sometimes overwhelming and initially discouraging, it is almost always worth it.
When I get back in the swing of regular workouts, I sleep better at night, breathe better at day and am less stressed. When I cut back on caffeine, I’m less anxious. My skin looks better. Every time I rewrite a manuscript the plot quickens and the characters come more alive. Every time I try to make amends for my mistakes, I feel better for trying to do the right thing. And every day I pray for patience, bite my tongue, or count to ten, I’m thankful I, at least for the time being, avoided doing or saying something I know I’ll regret. And soon, I’ll smile wide and bright and confident that my teeth, are once again aligned.
Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God. Fill in the valleys, level off the hills, smooth out the ruts, clear out the rocks. Then God’s bright glory will shine and everyone will see it. Isaiah 40: 3-5
Just because I’ve fixed something once in my life, doesn’t mean it’s fixed forever (just ask my car, which must be crushing on the mechanic, it likes to visit him so much).
Every now and then things need straightening in life.
And then they need to be straightened again.
What needs realigned in your life today?
Laura L. Smith