“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” – Job 8:21

Imagine my surprise when I realized that this post had never gone up when I scheduled it to! If you need to refresh your memory on what happened in the first part of this story, go read it here.

By now I couldn’t tell if my manicurist was joking or if he was just plain crazy. I thought about getting up and leaving right then, but I reasoned that he must be mostly done.

I stopped trying to make conversation. Obviously he needed all the concentration he could get. It didn’t help that the TV overhead was playing a show titled “Life in the Paranormal” and he kept turning his head to watch it instead of looking at my nails.

After a while he tired of watching stories about sightings of UFOs and vampires, and asked me some questions. “What’s your name?”

“Aimee.”

“How old are you?”

“Eighteen.”

He started singing in a tuneless voice, “I know a girl named Aimee…She’s eighteen…she afraid to get nails done…Do you have a boyfriend Aimee?”

“No.”

“You pretty girl. Maybe you would have boyfriend if you weren’t such a scardy cat!”

Finally he was done. I stood up to gather my things and wait for my mom and sister to be finished. I examined my nails, which were bloodied at the cuticles and scratched under the surface of the nail polish, and I haven’t wanted a manicure since.

———–

Yes, this is a laughable story. At the time, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh at the absurdity of it or to be totally creeped out! You might still be reeling from events that have been going on in your life as well. In these times, it is hard to know how to react; should you hunker down and wait out the strange things going on, or should you accept this as the new normal?

Jesus gave us some direction in John 14:27. He said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” There is one option that we don’t have: giving in to fear. Jesus has promised us peace that is different from any other peace you seek. It is ‘not as the world gives.’

In what areas are you seeking God’s peace in today? How have you experienced his peace in the past? I’d love to hear about it!

Grammie Lee

“We’re getting closer,” I replied to my tiny great-grandma who was seated in the wheelchair I was pushing. “We’ll walk outside now because I think I can find the building easier that way.” At 92 years old, Grammie Lee’s frail body seemed to add no weight to the wheelchair as I pushed her on the sidewalk towards the apartment where we would meet my grandmother.

“Would you look at those flowers!” Grammie Lee exclaimed in her small voice. “The yellows are so pretty!” I glanced across the street and spotted the patch of yellow pansies she was talking about. “Yeah, they’re nice!” I tried to muster up some enthusiasm to match my great-grandma’s. Where was that building? The retirement community had such a large campus that I sometimes stopped to get my bearings.

A few minutes later I heard a sound come from the chair. “What, Grammie Lee?” I leaned forward to listen. “Look at those little flowers in the ivy! Who would have known they were there? Aren’t they beautiful?” I looked at the greenery that lined the sidewalk. Sure enough, there were small green flowers hidden among the leaves. I marveled at how Grammie Lee seemed to notice all these things that I would pass by otherwise. What would it be like to see things through her eyes? I decided to try it.

“Grammie Lee, look at that!” I pointed to a pair of geese with two goslings following close behind. “Oh, yes.” She spent a few moments admiring the animals.

By the time we found the apartment building, my heart felt a lot lighter.

Grammie Lee is able to have a joyful attitude even though she can’t participate in many of the activities that go on around her. Her secret lies in Psalm 9:1: “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Giving thanks to God means looking for those tiny blessings that we might pass by every day. Our whole heart should be occupied in telling of His miracles, even if they are as common as a yellow flower.

Has your heart felt especially burdened lately? Try taking a walk and making a point of giving thanks to God for making the beautiful things around you.

Some of My Favorites…

Music is such a powerful tool in influencing our thoughts. An environment of faith-filled songs will help us to stand strong in our relationship with God, while songs with degrading lyrics can influence us to think sinful thoughts. When fighting against discouragement, it is very important that the songs you listen to are uplifting. This week I wanted to share with you some of the songs that I have been enjoying lately. Click on the link to hear the song on Grooveshark!

Day by Day by Point of Grace

Blue Skies by Point of Grace

He’s Always Been Faithful sung by Sarah Groves

Absolutely by Starfield

Top of Our Lungs by Starfield

Have you heard any of these songs before? Which is your favorite? What other music do you like?

Good Growth

The enormous trees of the Redwood forest rose far into the air above our heads, blocking out the sky and creating the illusion of being deep inside a jungle forest. My family and I spent several hours walking the trails that wove through the forest, pointing out ancient trees that were especially impressive. Some of the largest trees were big enough to hold two or three laughing children for a picture within their hollowed trunks. This was one of the largest Redwood forests in the country: Muir Woods.

As we passed by the visitor center on our way out, I noticed a cross-section from a tree that had fallen several years ago. The cross-section, which was at least 4 feet in diameter, was marked at different rings with dates and events that evidenced how old it probably was.  Next to the cross-section was a tiny seed. It was hard to believe that this enormous Redwood tree had grown from a tiny seed.

The other day I was continuing to read through the Psalms when I came across Psalm 126. If you have a few minutes, take some time to read the whole Psalm (it’s not long!), but verse 5 particularly struck me: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.”

You might be going through some very painful things right now – things that you never imagined could happen to you or your family. Maybe you have spent many nights sowing your own tears and crying out to God. Let Psalm 126:5 speak to you.

You have been promised that you will reap joy from the tears that you have sowed. Picture that joy as one of the enormous Redwoods in comparison with it’s small starting point: the seed.

How have you reaped joy from your hardships? I know that I personally have reaped closeness in my relationship with God that is a direct result of suffering in my life. I turned to God in a way that I might not have if I hadn’t experienced sorrow from an early age. Those seeds grew into the joy of a beautiful relationship.

I’d love to hear how you have experienced the truth of Psalm 126:5! Leave a comment below and tell me about it.

 

Hand in Hand

The glowing bride floated slowly down the aisle with one arm hooked inside her father’s. From my seat I glimpsed the proud smile  that the father wore as he escorted his daughter to meet her groom. It was a beautiful picture of the close relationship the two held – the father protectively guiding his daughter as his prized possession.

If your parents have been divorced for a little while, you have probably considered the touchy question of who will walk you down the aisle on your wedding day. The tradition is supposed to symbolize the handing off of the mantle of protection from father to husband. But what if that role of protector has been totally missing? Where other girls have the subconscious knowledge that daddy is looking out for them, maybe you have always felt that you are your own first and last line of defense.

In Deuteronomy 10:18, God steps into the picture. He “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” The “fatherless” have the best Father of all! When our earthly fathers have abandoned us, God takes things into his own hands. The God that led the Israelites by a pillar of fire is your protector. In Psalm 121:7-8, the author says that “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” I love the phrase, “the Lord will keep you.” It reminds me that my protection, both emotional and physical, is in his hands.

Today think deeply about God’s intimate protection over you. Ask him to make you fully aware of his defending presence. Then let the peace of God wash over you as you submit yourself to his defense. You are no longer alone in watching out for yourself. Rest in the joyful peace that God gives.

Peace in the Bizarre

It was my mom’s birthday, and my mom, sister, and I were entering a small salon where we would get manicures to celebrate. When we arrived at the front desk, a short Asian man with spiky hair came towards me. “You ready?” he asked in a clipped accent. I sat at the table while he finished setting up.

He began by rubbing the surfaces of my nails vigorously with a sandpaper board. I was getting worried at the scratch marks appearing on my nails. “Is that good for them?”

“No.” He answered matter-of-factly.

“Umm, are you sure you should be doing it then?”

“No.” He paused for a second to look at me, and then went back to work.

“Okay…” I glanced over at my sister where she was waiting. She shot me an alarmed look.

The man transitioned to trimming my cuticles. To get my mind off the sharp object in his hand, I tried to make conversation.  “So, how long have you been working here?”

“This my first day.”

“Oh, okay…so what did you do before this?”

“Nothing. Just this.”

My attempts at conversation were failing. I saw his work license on the side of the workstation. “How do you pronounce your name?” I asked curiously.

“Oh, that not my license. That is picture of twin brother. I’m filling in for him today.”

“I see.”

Then I looked down at my fingernails. Three of the nails had red marks where blood was oozing from the cuticles. “They’re bleeding!” I exclaimed.

“Oh, that nothing.” He grinned mischievously. “This morning I was giving pedicure and lady moved just like you doing. Almost cut off my finger.” He showed me a bandage on the end of his finger and peeled it up so I could see the ugly wound underneath. “Poor lady, she didn’t come out so good. You should have seen it.” He made an ominous gesture with his hands.

This is a humorous (but true!) example of one of the bizarre circumstances that can enter our lives every day. Maybe the circumstance in your life is just as bizarre but not nearly as humorous. Maybe you are still trying to convince yourself that your parents really are getting a divorce.

I have good news for you: there is a way for you to have peace even in the middle of your most difficult trials. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” When your mind is on God, all your troubles dwindle in comparison to His all-consuming nature.

What trials are you trusting God through today? How are you working to keep your thoughts on Him?

P.S. – Come back next week to hear about the rest of this manicure visit!

Wonderful Weakness

I watched in the mirror as the young woman curled my hair. The formal event was staring in just a few hours, and a group of my friends had gathered to prepare together. The lady smiled as she held the curling iron steady. “So what is your book about?” She asked.

I remembered that my mom had mentioned it to her earlier. “It’s a devotional to help teen girls who have gone through their parents divorce.” I replied. “I just finished it the other day, and I’m really excited about it!”

“Wow, that’s great! You’re writing from experience, I assume?

I paused to think of a way to answer. I didn’t like to sound like I was complaining when I told someone about my book and the circumstances that brought me to write it.

Have you ever felt a twinge of guilt when talking about your problems or prayer requests? As though maybe you were exaggerating? I have definitely felt this when writing blog posts about the challenges of divorce. I wonder if I’m exaggerating the situation or if I’m prolonging the whole experience. Maybe I should just stick with devotional writing without including personal stories, I think.

I was contemplating this the other day when I realized something: if I don’t acknowledge the difficulty of a situation, how can God be glorified in it? God’s power is manifested when it is obvious that the solution did not come from me. We see proof of this in 2 Corinthians 12:9 after Paul asks God to take away a significant challenge in his life. God answers “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Paul then concludes that he will talk gladly about his weaknesses so that “the power of Christ may rest upon [him].”

Do you avoid talking about your failures? Paul didn’t. Our failures and challenges, when contrasted against God’s power, bring glory to God.