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Not Always Merry and Bright

I so wish for life to be like a Hallmark movie. Love and contentment always win. The ending is tidy, happy and sealed in a pretty package accentuated with a red bow on top. But it is television, and so far from the reality, we inhabit.

I think that is one of the allures of Hallmark movies. They provide a magical escape from the tender truths that are indigenous to what we have always falsely believed is the happiest time of the year.

Pain wears many faces and holds no prejudices. It does not adhere to our calendars or circumstances. Maybe the agony shows up in the loss of a job, marriage, a parent, a spouse or the incredible heartache that settles in when we hear someone has to bury their child.

Broken people, broken families, broken worlds; they may all present differently, but fractured hearts are inherent to us all. The holidays as merry and bright as they are for many, are equally melancholy and bleak for others.

Life is incongruent to my desire for everyone to be happy, but I have learned this piercing lesson: happiness is a circumstantial frailty, not a gospel actuality. Without the assurance of our eternal inheritance, we stand here today poor, hopeless and lost. But it does not have to be that way.

A 1700s French writer captured something very tragic, yet I think significant in his last words. “And so I leave this world, where the heart must either break or turn to lead.” ~ Nicolas Chamfort

Sometimes our greatest challenge as we go about living in this world that is remarkable one moment and ruthless the next is continuing to engage. It is so easy to check out, but we are called to check in. It is so simple to let our hearts turn to lead, but we are called to be light instead. Is any of this straightforward in our climate of death, destruction, hatred, and hostility of unparalleled proportions? No, it is not effortless, but it is essential.

Dear friends, I know many of you are facing unspeakable burdens. My heart aches for you and throbs with you. Right now pressing in may be asking too much. That is ok.

We, unfortunately, have to drink from the cup of hurt before we can be quenched by the hand of The Healer.

God never forsakes us, though. One way He manifests himself is through our community. I pray wherever you find yourself today, the love of those around you warms, even if just slightly, the weeping heart inside you. Your internal song may never be the same, but this I know, someday your soul will sing again.

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Poverty, My Greatest Blessing

I love old, beautiful churches, so it is no surprise I was drawn off the busy streets of downtown Chicago and through the front doors of Fourth Presbyterian Church this past Thursday morning. Inside I sat down to enjoy sacred shelter from the cold and the hustle and bustle of what was going on outside the majestic doors, although that was not my motive for going in. I walked into the church wanting to experience Jesus and expecting I would. I had no pre-conceived notions what that would look like, but imagine my surprise when I found what I was unknowingly seeking in the eyes and embodiment of a homeless person.

After a couple of minutes inside, I broke through my fascination with the beauty around me, and I noticed near the front of the church a handful of people sitting on both sides of the middle aisle. I quickly realized they were homeless. They had come in off the streets to warm up and rest. I sat silently in the back just observing. God began to make something evident to me. I wasn’t there to watch homeless people in a beautiful church. I was there to remember one of life’s wealthiest truths.

There in that reverent church, I felt drawn to engage, so I walked forward and sat down next to one of the men. I said, “hello.” His disposition was gentle and relaxed. He was soft-spoken. It was apparent that he and his friends were broken, impoverished, homeless, needy, unclean and dependent for every need.

His eyes. I will never forget them. They looked sad but settled. They were sunken yet soft, wrinkled while welcoming. The story they expressed was foreign yet familiar.

This man and his friends bore no weight of expectations beyond shelter and rest. No schedules were taunting them, and no plans or unmet duties were daunting them. They just came as they were, destitute, weary and worn.

I sat there in clean, warm clothes seemingly not lacking, yet oddly I knew that even though it looked like the homeless people had nothing, in a different way they had everything, the most important thing, I need every day. A fresh awareness of the poverty of my heart is my greatest blessing.

As I sat with this man, I asked God to make me more like him. That sounds crazy, right? Not at all. I want to enter into The Lord’s presence fully aware that I am poor, needy, lost and unclean without a Savior outside of myself. I want to come free of distracting thoughts about schedules, deadlines, and duties, and for the love, thinking about what I will eat next! I want to come as I am, not as I feel I should be. I want to come aware of what is but more focused on the hope of what will be. I want to come empty of myself because it is only then I can be filled by my Savior.

These people were an exposed and unfiltered expression of me. I can dress up in my best smile, clothing, and accessories, surround myself with desirable things and people, but underneath it, and right in the middle is an impoverished heart that cannot be dressed up. It is destitute, broken, frail and in desperate need of a Shepherd every day.

Just like the people I encountered, I am a homeless heart wandering around grasping for places of shelter and rest because this world is not my home and everyday-everyday-I feel the ramifications of my exile.

The good news is this, though, I do not wander without hope or direction when I remember it is my poverty, not my perfection, popularity or “power” that yokes me to the love of my Provider. Neither do you, friend. Neither do you.♥️

And, this was the hymnal song that was on the board.

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Foreign Yet Familiar

There is a recurrent, intense longing inside me for something or somewhere that remains insatiable. I cannot name it, draw it or explain it, but it pierces my heart to its deepest depths. It is like a refreshing drink of water to my dehydrated soul. It is there in the beauty of a photograph. It swaddles me in the emotion of a poignant movie. It dazzles me within the lyrics of a song. It is in the elegance of a sunset or sunrise salutation. It captivates my attention within the feelings of distant but divine memories. It is in the grace of a landscape and the dew of morning break. In everything beautiful, seemingly perfect and even among the presence of pain it strums the most tender and precious notes of my soul. It mesmerizes me in my laughter and comforts me in my tears. It seduces me like the silver lining that peaks after a pruning rain. It is the essence of my most coveted desires. It is always with me, rising and setting like the sun, shining like the beauty of the moon. I know this for sure; it is a person I have never seen, a place I have never been or a thing I have never fully known, yet, it holds a foreign familiarity woven into the very fabric of my soul.

 
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Broken Relationships

Broken relationships. They are a painful reality. For some, it is a daily ache that shackles our every step, and for others, it is an ache that shouts and settles throughout time. Universally, however, the holidays seem to ignite and amplify the grief that resides in the hearts and minds of those carrying the cross of someone living in the world but lost from our lives.

Sometimes reconciliation is not possible. Maybe you have hurt someone, and despite your repentance and request for forgiveness, it was refused. Know this; we are only responsible for what we can control, an apology, but not an acceptance.

Sometimes reconciliation is not achievable because the pathology of the relationship is too unhealthy. The loss is still painful, nevertheless. I get it.

Although being reconciled is implausible, relinquishing resentment, retaliation, and further ruin is not. I realize and know that takes time. Often, a lot of time. A lot of prayers. A lot of dying to self and surrendering to the Savior. We cannot make ourselves forget, but we can pray ourselves to forgive. The two things are not the same. Forgiveness does not always look like an active relationship, but it can manifest as an intentional release of the toxicity that grows from the root of resentment.

In some scenarios, forgiveness is not a one-time event.

For some, it takes a daily recommitment. It is painful. I know.

There are other times that forgiveness is possible, but pride convinces us that we are justified staying stuck. It is then easy to find ourselves reasoning, “I cannot do it.” What that statement means is, I will not do it. Forgiveness of tender transgressions requires sacrifice. It demands a figurative death that feels real.

The antidote for my stubborn pride is always the cross.

I can try and run from its reality. I can try to deny its ramifications, but I have not found a comfortable place to hide.

The truth is, I am a sinner who was in desperate need of the greatest act of forgiveness history has ever known. It did require a literal death. It did require bloodshed. It demanded far more than my flesh can comprehend, but Jesus did it anyway. Like a lamb led to the slaughter He was my substitute, and He never articulated a word. No complaints. No poor me. No. Whining.

This holiday season friend, if you are in the league of the unforgiven, have asked for forgiveness from a well-intentioned place and were denied, I am sorry and pray that you find peace. I know the anguish will always be present to some degree, but remember pain is the best tutor, and it’s redemptive purposes are infinite.

And you, dear friend, if you are on the other side of the fence, carrying the weight of unforgiveness, that I sympathetically recognize is not a one size fits all scenario, I pray that your heart would soften because I wish freedom for you.

Sometimes the very things we are trying to escape, we cling to.

Holding on to the pain can oddly feel comforting. It is a counterfeit comforter. I know you must have been intensely wounded. About now you may be thinking; you just have no clue. No, I do not pretend to understand, but I have experienced a lot.

One thing I do know for sure, life is so very short. Once someone is gone, what was not spoken cannot be undone. Sometimes there are no second chances. No do-overs. If you possess the power to release someone, not necessarily reunite with them, I am praying for you. It is so very hard. I. Know.

I am not writing to you because I have gotten anything right. I am writing to you because I have gotten just about everything wrong and I am processing my realities, too.

This Thanksgiving may we all acknowledge the sadness of what is not, and then shift our hearts towards the abundance of what is.

You are loved. All of you.♥️

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What If You Get It Wrong?

Recently, I was struggling with an important decision. It was tearing me apart as I was allowing the lies of the enemy to compromise what I know to be true.  I was lamenting to a trusted and wise friend that my fear was I would get it wrong.  My friend said to me, “D’Anna, what if you do get it wrong?”  It was then that I remembered that Jesus’ gift of salvation does not come with a qualifier that I get it all right.  If my performance was a qualification, that would mean I have some responsibility for my salvation and in my eyes, I would never be enough.  How exhausting that would be!

Thankfully, I can take no credit for my eternal destiny.  Any good work I do is as a result of the Holy Spirit’s presence, not my power.  I cannot even take credit for faith, for it is from God, as well. (Ephesians 2:8).

Are you wrestling with getting something wrong today?  Has the idea of not being perfect or falling short thrown a dark disguise over the veil of truth that is meant to set you free? (John 8:32).  I pray if you find yourself here, you take the hand of truth today.

Father, I repent of the times I fail to believe. Help me and my friend remember that you and your promises are the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) AMEN.

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Already Found

Earlier today I was scrolling through Instagram, and this phrase caught my attention: “Spending most of my days searching for someone I’ve already found.” It is the bio line on Beth Moore’s Instagram account, and it stopped me dead in my tracks before I even saw who wrote it because I knew it described me!

Shortly after reading that I heard Billy Graham say in one of his sermons from the 1980s that a famous woman wrote in her suicide note, “I only wanted to find a little happiness.” I assume she never found it.

Like the woman, he referenced, my problem is I am searching to fill a void, too, but in all the wrong places. I pursue happiness in food, possessions, people, accomplishments, approval… I think you get my point.

We live in an “instant” world. We can have instant everything from food to hair. My generation is probably on the fringes of being the last ones with any remote memory of life before every desire was quickly at our fingertips.

Our salvation is instant at the point of putting our faith in Jesus, but other than that, He can appear to be painfully slow and silent.

Contrary to the tempo of our culture, we do not depend on a microwaveable Savior.

Because my flesh wants instant everything, including happiness, and I possess the illusion of “self-salvation,” relying on Jesus sometimes does not even enter my radar until I have tried a million other things and am still holding a tall glass of water and dying of thirst.

I cannot tell you how often I have frantically searched for glasses that were on my head, keys that were in my hand and a purse that was on my shoulder. I was desperately looking for what I already had but did not remember.

On a more serious note, it grieves me that I waste so much energy and precious time searching the world for a Savior who is already in my heart, but I sometimes forget to acknowledge.

I am a lost lamb who daily needs to be found, put on the shoulders of my Shepherd and carried back home. I am a lost lamb, and that is ok because a Shepherd never forgets His sheep, not even one!

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Maybe

Maybe it is the pervasiveness of pain and suffering.

Maybe it is the outflow of a heart overwhelmed by the burdens before me.

Or maybe it is the fresh awakening of the sacred charge branded in the depths where the Holy hides His instructions.

Whatever the explanation, I feel an urgency today for wandering hearts that are beating in the shadows of uncertainty.

If that is you, friend, I would love the privilege to pray for you. We are all on a journey heading somewhere.

I want you to be certain of your destination.

Feel free to private message me anytime.

You are loved.❤️

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At The Foot of The Cross

Every day I must wake up and remember who I am in Christ- loved, accepted, redeemed, worthy and righteous. When I forget or mistake my identity, and I often do, I spend my day resolving, grasping, controlling and exhausting myself trying to secure that which is already mine, procured by the sacrifice of my Savior not the striving of myself. Jesus did die for my sins and yours, but He also forfeited everything to impart His perfect record to us. I can work so hard attempting to achieve that which I only need to surrender and receive. Friend, this week I am praying for the grace to leave our debts, failures, and insufficiencies nailed to the cross where they have been rectified. There is a shady spot waiting for us at the foot of the cross.

Jesus did die for my sins and yours, but He also forfeited everything to impart His perfect record to us. I can work so hard attempting to achieve that which I only need to surrender and receive. Friend, this week I am praying for the grace to leave our debts, failures, and insufficiencies nailed to the cross where they have been rectified. There is a shady spot waiting for us at the foot of the cross.

There is a shady spot waiting for us at the foot of the cross.

You are loved!♥️

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Purpose Amidst Imperfection 

Nestled amidst the sunrise of a fresh week and all the promise it holds is an ever faithful reminder of my inadequacy. I am presently, but peacefully aware that I got more wrong than right last week, and that will surely be my truth this week as well.

My keen sense of insufficiency poses a different purpose for me now, though. Growing in grace teaches me that it is no longer about striving for perfection only to be frustrated, but seeking purpose amidst my imperfection only to be furthered.

 It is an incongruent truth that on the other side of our failures is an intention designed for our prosperity. 

Understanding that falling down is not a shameful thing, but a sacred tool is the genesis of praise. Praise opens the door and welcomes gratitude right into our hearts.

When gratitude is our guest, we see through all the heavy right into the heart of the holy, and joy becomes a source of our strength. 

This week, friend, I pray you have eyes to see and ears to hear all the beauty that your brokenness beholds, and your heart will sing, it is good and it is well with my soul.
You are loved.❤️