Another Christmas of Faith-building Mishmash and Miracles

MEME - Merry Christmas to share with photo credit - Dec 2016As my husband, Alan, and our son, Xavier, helped me hang ornaments on the Christmas tree this year, I reminisced about the precious moments attached to each decoration.

The homemade ornaments brought back sweet memories from Xavier’s childhood. When he was only two years old, he brought home his very first December craft from school. Every year, he created a new ornament that I hung with joy. And every year I carefully packed away each priceless treasure so we could place them on the tree the following Christmas.

We have souvenir ornaments to commemorate our travels. Each one triggers conversations about our trips.

We remember. We laugh. We thank God for the countless blessings symbolized by those souvenirs.

Friends have given us ornaments. Some of those friends we still embrace like family, some we miss but haven’t seen in years, some are no longer a part of our lives, and some have gone to be with Jesus. Hanging those gifts fills my heart with both joy and sorrow, as I thank God for bringing those people into our lives . . . even if only for a season.

Tears streak down my cheeks as I admire the ornaments my mom sent Xavier, every year since she bought him his very first ornament in 1996. Now that she’s gone, we buy him a yearly ornament that we hope he’ll enjoy hanging on a tree in his own home one day.

But my favorite ornaments are the ones I bought after I received Christ as my Lord and Savior, after I learned the true reason Christmas was worth celebrating.

A beautiful shiny heart proclaims the Lord’s name and reminds me of His perfect love. A delicate slice of Olive wood with three crosses carved in its center celebrates Christ’s victory on Calvary. A jeweled cross that we used on a display at my mom’s Celebration of Life service hangs on a satin ribbon, comforting me with the hope of eternal life.

Almost lost in the branches, a simple nail hangs with a yellow slip of paper attached on a fading strand of curling ribbon. Inside, a poem by an anonymous writer declares Christ as Savior and the nail as evidence of His intimate love for each of His beloved children. The last two lines of the poem read:

“ . . . I know it was His love for us that held Him to that tree. But when I see this simple nail, I know He died for me.”

This Christmas, our family is rejoicing over all the wonderful ways God has worked in and through our lives. We’re also placing our heart-wrenching prayers at His feet.

We’ve endured great losses and faced difficult obstacles, but our Lord continues to fill us with peace and hope. Though we’re grieving much, we can’t stop counting the ways God has blessed us, ways that have nothing to do with material blessings.

We’re struggling with complications in my healing journey, as well as with finances and family strife. But we’ve also witnessed the Lord restoring relationships, giving us wonderful opportunities to serve Him, and giving our family all we need to continue trusting Him in this moment . . . one step . . . and sometimes one breath at a time.

Like the ornaments on our tree, this year and this Christmas is filled with faith-building mishmash and miracles that represent God’s proven faithfulness, sovereign goodness, limitless love, and endless grace.

As we approach the holiday that shines a light on Christ and consider the ornaments on our Christmas tree, I realized we’ve been celebrating Jesus all year and every year.

The circumstances we’re in currently won’t decide the measure of our love for the Lord, or the measure of His boundless love for us.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Hallelujah!

Lord, thank You for affirming You are with us always and worth celebrating every day of every year . . . not just on Christmas. Help us acknowledge the wonderful ways You’re working in and through our lives every single day. Please help us accept the tears and the cheers in life as priceless opportunities to experience Your constant presence, rely on Your limitless power, and surrender to Your immeasurable and trustworthy grace. Please, Lord, help us look beyond ourselves and our current circumstances, so we can love You and others with joy. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

What faith-building mishmash and miracles has God entrusted to you this year and this Christmas?

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Living with Surefire Faith: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Psalm 33 v 22 - Photo by Lidia Hu

(Suggested Reading – Psalm 33)

Staring out the window of our hotel room, I scowled. We were supposed to be celebrating my husband’s birthday while in Kauai. Instead, I remained bedridden for the first few days of our vacation. My frustration quickly nudged me into a funky mood that triggered a full-blown pity-party.

The more I complained about my unfair circumstances, the more discontent I became. My grumpy attitude began to rub off on Alan, who had been doing all he could to nurse me back to health and improve my usually positive perspective.

While my sweet caregiver braved the rainstorm to pick up dinner from one of my favorite restaurants, I crossed the room and stared out the window.

Who was I to be complaining when my loving spouse was driving through the storm to make my evening a little brighter? Who was I to think I deserved better than the incredible blessing of celebrating my husband’s birthday in Kauai? When had I allowed discontent to demolish my hope?

By the time Alan returned, the Lord had given me a much-needed attitude adjustment. I apologized and thanked my husband for the delicious meal. We watched a movie that night and were able to enjoy short outings for the rest of the week.

Whether our lives are going well or we’re right smack in the middle of difficult trials, griping can blind us to the wonderful glimpses of hope God places right before our eyes.

We can miss the opportunity to experience peace in the presence of the only One who can offer a foundation of everlasting hope.

No matter what kind of day we’ve had, even when our circumstances feel bleak, we can find reasons to celebrate God, to rejoice in the surefire hope He’s placed at the tips of our fingers, to enter His presence with a joyful song of praise (Psalm 33:1-3).

Why? Because “the word of the LORD is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” (v. 4)

Every infallible, life-transforming word of Scripture affirms God was and is and always will be “faithful in all He does.”

The sound of God’s voice holds eternal power to make and maintain everything in the world, yet He makes time to hear us and care for every detail of our lives (vv. 6-7).

When we gripe about our circumstances, we’re telling God that He isn’t enough for us.

But God is enough.

As the psalmist proclaims the evidence of God’s divine power and supreme greatness, we can confidently place our hope in the Lord and submit to His authority. He’s proven to be worthy of worship and reverence (v. 8).

The Maker of all secures it all (v. 9). His plans for each of His beloved children are ordained before we took a breath.

Still, we doubt Him when things don’t go our way?

We can stand firm on God’s purposes and promises, because we can count on His unchanging character (v. 11).

He who formed our hearts, knows our hearts and all we think, say, and do (vv. 13-15). The greatest leaders of the world combined are no match for our God (vv. 16-17).

So, why do we push Him away or feel betrayed when things get rough?

We can’t run away or hide from Him. We can’t make Him stop loving us, caring about us, or pursuing us.

We may feel far from God, forgotten by God, or even failed by God when the days are long and hard. But we can be sure that “the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love” (v. 18).

Fear, meaning to revere, honor, acknowledge His majesty, know and trust His sovereign goodness and limitless might.

Hallelujah!

God’s trustworthiness ensures our hope in His reliability, so we can live with surefire faith and join the psalmist in singing:

“We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield” (v. 20).

Even when we feel rushed or anxious to lunge forward, we can be certain God works at the perfect pace for our personal journeys.

He longs for us to sing: “In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name” (v. 21).

We can rely on El Shaddai‒Lord God Almighty.

We can cry out to El Elyon‒The Most High God.

We can lift our hands to Adonai‒our Lord and Master.

We can rest in the arms of Jehovah Shalom‒the Lord is Peace.

We can follow Jehovah Raah‒the Lord our Shepherd.

We can trust the heart of Jehovah Jireh‒our Provider.

And we can wait expectantly for Jehovah Rapha‒The Lord that Heals‒whether our healing comes on this side of eternity or when we’re welcomed into the arms of our Savior.

When we’re self-focused or dedicated to self-help, it’s too easy to start losing our joy, shattering our peace, and dimming our once radiant light of hope. Even the blessings seem a little duller when we’re devoted to seeking self-satisfaction.

But when we cry out to the Lord, asking Him to empower us to live in surefire faith and grateful joy, we place every ounce of our hope in the infinite and immutable power and promises of His name.

“May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in You.” (v. 22)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Photo taken by and used with permission by Lidia Hu.

Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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When There’s No End in Sight: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Psalm 86 v 7 - Photo by Jeanne Doyon

(Suggested Reading – Psalm 86)

With a heavy heart, I endured another bout with weariness. Though discouragement crept up on me, God continued to help me trust Him with my troubles. Over the last few months, He’s blessed through interactions with some amazing people who minister to others even though they are enduring great suffering.

Their passion for serving God and others as they praise Him in all circumstances deepens my faith and my desire to serve the Lord with every breath He gives me.

God has given me numerous opportunities to focus on Him as He allows me the privilege of praying for hurting friends. I’ve been participating in an online group of believers who are interceding in prayer, as an infant and his family wait in a hospital for a miracle of God’s healing mercy.

Witnessing the bold faith of this forum inspires me to praise God as I press onward.

This week, the Lord refreshed my spirit with a call from a friend who shared how He’s using this series to help her through her seemingly endless season of trials.

Praying with her lifted my eyes toward God’s undeniable trustworthiness and majesty.

How could I have fallen into the ditch of doubt so easily after all the times I’ve seen God come through, sometimes in miraculous ways and other times in ordinary-yet-divinely-extraordinary ways?

While thinking about the pain and heartaches that others are experiencing is difficult, praying for them is one of the most empowering and faith-building gifts and privileges we could ever receive.

When the weight of emotional or physical suffering feels like oversized boulders on our backs, it may seem impossible to shake off discouragement, doubt, and despair.

We may begin to feel as if pressing on is useless, as if fighting is futile, as if persevering is an endless cycle of disappointment. That moment is when we have the opportunity to be the strongest we’ve ever been.

As we lean into longsuffering, fully accepting the reality of our utter helplessness, we are ready to trust our mountain-moving deliverer with confidence proven by His past faithfulness.

We don’t have to fear falling to our knees and begging God for help. Like the psalmist David, we can embrace our weaknesses like warriors.

In Psalm 86, David’s words echo with desperation, as well as determined confidence in God’s character, faithfulness, compassion, power, and love.

“Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (Psalm 86:1)

By admitting his dependence on God, David displayed steadfast courage and faith. His persistence in prayer, as he called to God “all day long” (v. 3), proved his belief in God’s compassion as well as His nearness.

David’s tenacious trust of the Lord’s goodness and love (vv. 5-7) confirmed his willingness to rely on the extent of His limitless reach (vv. 8-10).

With a spirit of surrender, David devoted his life to following the Lord with an “undivided heart” (v. 11). His commitment never faltered, even when he struggled with obedience. He placed every detail of his existence in his Lord’s capable hands, even when he doubted.

No matter what obstacles met David on the road ahead, he remained motivated by gratitude and love toward the One who loved him beyond compare, the One who renewed his thinking and changed his life (vv. 11-13).

Though David’s problems didn’t go away (v. 14), he continued to hope in God’s consistent track record and immutability (vv. 15-17).

When the walls seem to be closing in on us and we’re trembling with uncertainty, God remains steady and sure.

When we feel as if persevering has zapped the last ounce of our strength, God offers to carry us.

Our faithful Father created us, cares for us, remains with us, and promises to sustain us. He is the same yesterday and undoubtedly today and forever, so we can count on Him to be true to His Word.

When we’re tired of marching down the treacherous roads of the unknown and the uncontrollable, the signs of God’s goodness can be found in our rearview mirrors and in the God-breathed words of Scripture He’s placed within our reach.

When there’s no end in sight to our rough roads, God will help us take one stride at a time . . . starting with the first step of crying out in confidence: “Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (Psalm 86:1)

Hallelujah!

Lord, thanks for hearing our prayers and reminding us that we can count on You, no matter what we’re facing or how we’re feeling. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Photo taken by and used with permission from writer Jeanne Doyon.

Meme created by and quote written by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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When We Can’t Hold On: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Psalm 18 v 2

(Suggested Reading – Psalm 18:1-18)

October cleared the charts as a tough month seasoned with plenty of opportunities to lean on and praise the Lord. It’s been three years since I lost my mom to cancer. I entered the sixth year of my healing journey and am still experiencing severe muscle spasm flare-ups that lead to debilitating headaches. Physically and emotionally spent by the end of the first week of October, I considered cancelling the vacation we’d planned.

By God’s grace, I was able to travel. I spent the first few days of our vacation recovering in our hotel room and could only endure short outings each day.

Still, I thanked God that we were able to enjoy our time together as we continue to adjust to our “new normal.” But adjusting is a process.

After returning home from our trip, I spent a few days drowning in discouragement.

The Lord blessed me with some amazing people who offered encouragement and prayer, some were readers I haven’t even met in person. But during a few of my darkest valley moments, their attempts to lift my spirits fell on deaf ears:

“You can do this.”

“Stay encouraged.”

“Keep hanging on to Jesus.”

“Hold on to your faith.”

Though people meant well, those phrases reminded me how weak I felt.

My depleting strength made it impossible to believe I’d be capable of doing anything, staying encouraged, hanging on to Jesus, or holding on to my smaller-than-a-mustard-seed faith.

Some days, all I could do was simply rest in God’s presence.

On the good days, I’d read my Bible between unplanned naps or bouts with chronic pain. I’d let worship music pour over me and let my sighs . . . and sometimes my tears . . . be the prayers I placed at God’s feet.

I couldn’t depend on my own strength. I didn’t have all the answers I needed. Self-help failed me every time. As always, the Lord comforted me and strengthened me as He carried me through the prickly patches of adversity.

When I couldn’t cling to hope, when I couldn’t imagine pressing on or persevering, God never failed me, never disappointed me, and never let me go.

God held me close and embraced me with His endless supply of grace.

Like the psalmist David, I’ve learned that the Lord doesn’t just give me strength. God is my strength (Psalm 18:1).

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

We can call on the One who is worthy of all our praise, no matter what we’re up against (vv. 3-6). When everything around us feels like it’s falling apart, when it seems as if we’re losing our grip, we can trust God to rise up in majesty and fight for us (vv.7-15).

God reaches down to take hold of us, to pull us out of the depths of discouragement, despair, depression (v. 16). When we feel outnumbered, outmuscled, or out of chances, the Lord turns our eyes toward His promises and rescues us . . . often first from ourselves (v. 17).

Many of our fiercest foes and our toughest critics face us in the mirror each day. But whether we’re battling the lies we tell ourselves or our circumstances are jabbing us until we fall to our knees, the Lord will support us (v. 18).

As we draw nearer to Him daily in prayer and seek to know Him intimately through Scripture, God confirms His love for us remains unconditional, unmatched, and unending (v. 19).

We may not be able to see the light at the end of our current tunnel of adversities. We may not be able to feel the ease of relief today. But we can trust God hears us, cares for us, and will always be there for us.

Almighty Lord of Lords, thanks for reminding us that we can cry out to You in prayer and stop trying to flex our muscles to prove we’re strong enough to hold on. Please help us trust You will never let us go. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from my foes who were too strong for me.” (Psalm 18:16-17)

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Photo taken by and used with permission from my husband, Dr. W.A. Dixon, Sr.

 Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Counting the Ways

MEME - Psalm 150 v 2(Suggested Reading: Psalm 150)

During my last appointment with my doctor, I thanked him for helping me improve over the last five years. Although I still struggle with chronic pain, I’m better than I was when I started this trek in September 2012.

I rejoiced over the little things I can do now, like writing for longer periods of time. I reveled in the small victories and even appreciated the battles that God used to strengthen my resolve and remind me how much I need and depend on Him.

It haven’t always embraced His peace. Sometimes, I struggle with discouragement, weariness, and doubt. But God’s been patient as He helps me experience the endless hope of surrender and contentment founded in knowing His ways are good because He is good.

After my appointment, I suffered another bout with severe spasms and a debilitating headache that lasted over 14 hours. The next morning, I praised the Lord. Why? Because those painful flare-ups have lasted for days in the past.

As I thanked the prayer warriors who interceded for me, even before they knew I was struggling, God reminded me about the power of praising Him through all circumstances.

When we begin to count the ways God’s been good to us and practice honest praise, it’s harder to drown our hope in discouragement.

The psalmists practiced honest praise.

They processed their emotions and shared their struggles. They recounted God’s merciful and mighty acts, always returning their focus to His unchanging goodness, unlimited power, and unhindered demonstrations of love.

The Lord doesn’t expect us to stuff our feelings or minimize our hurt. He doesn’t want us to pretend we’re perfect or act as if we never struggle.

He knows us, inside and out, and wants us to be real with Him . . . and others.

God can handle our mixed emotions. He can change our confusion to clarity, as we seek Him in His Holy Word. He can replace our anxiety with confidence, our uncertainty with wisdom and discernment. He can meet us in our weakness and empower us to stand firm in faith.

When we’re feeling weary, battling doubt, or ready to quit, God beckons us to lift our chins, inhale His peace, and exhale a whisper of praise.

The more we breathe in the countless ways the Lord has been good to us, the more we can sing His praises and trust His unchanging goodness.

A praise list begins with one thing that we can be grateful for, one thing we’ll choose to give thanks for. That one thing can incite our endless worship and gratitude as we praise the Father of Compassion, the Maker of the Universe, the Sustainer, Redeemer, and Deliverer whose love transforms us and changes the way we approach life.

One thing.

We can praise God for the heavens, the starry skies that light the darkest nights, the sunsets that make us gasp in awe of His creativity, the puffs of clouds and rays of sun that warm our hearts with hope (Psalm 150:1, NIV).

We can praise God for His miracles, as well as the quiet moments when He simply makes His presence known (v. 2).

We can praise God for His greatness (v. 2). Oh, how the list goes on when we count the ways that God is great. Hallelujah!

Nothing compares to the magnitude of God’s love for us, the depth of His compassion for us, the measure of His sacrifices for us.

His greatness is revealed in His unchanging character, the perfection of His God-breathed words, and the dependability of His faithfulness.

We can praise God with the music we make and as we enjoy the songs nature sings for us (vv. 3-5).

We can count the ways He is great as we appreciate every detail in His vast creation, from the sweetness of honey to the intricate paint strokes on each flower petal He decorates.

Our great God listens to us, even when our prayers are silent tears that slip down our cheeks. Hallelujah!

Our great God remains with us, even when everyone else seems to have deserted us. Hallelujah!

Our great God understands us, even when we don’t understand ourselves. Hallelujah!

Our great God loves us . . . He loves us.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

When we’re counting the ways God loves us, the ways God has been there for us, the ways God has provided for us, the ways God has protected us, our praise will flow.

Hallelujah!

Lord, thanks for the opportunities to reflect on who You are, what You’ve done, and how much You’ve given us. Please fill us with gratitude as we consider all we have, instead of what we feel we lack. Help us appreciate every breath we take as a priceless gift to be treasured. Help us recognize every morning we wake up as another chance to praise You, to get to know You more, and to share You with others. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Photo taken by and used with permission from Ivonne Vargas.

Meme created by X. E. Dixon.

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God Doesn’t Forget Us

MEME - 2 Corinthians 4 v 17To respect my husband’s family tradition, we visited the cemetery on Memorial Day and brought new flags, in honor of his father’s service in the military. Although we know we don’t have to visit the cemetery to honor or remember his dad, although we know he had accepted Christ as his Savior and that his spirit is secured with the gift of eternal life, we place new flags on his headstone once a year.

On the way back to the car, I noticed the raised words on a sailor’s gravestone: World War I & II.

Weeds crawled over his name and dying year . . . 1975. No flowers. No decorations. Just weeds.

I glanced at the faded flags we’d taken out of my father-in-law’s marker a few moments earlier.

Every year, we drove to the cemetery to pay our respects to my husband’s dad. But there would come a time when no one would visit, when everyone who knew him would be gone.

The sailor’s headstone reminded me that there would come a day when all of us are forgotten on this side of eternity.

I’m sure we won’t be worrying about being remembered by other people when we’re praising God in eternity, but the thought of anyone being forgotten grieved me.

Kneeling before the sailor’s headstone, I twisted and pushed the wooden dowel until I’d secured the flag in the dry, cracking dirt. “Thank you, Sir,” I said.

Alan knelt beside me, without saying a word. He took the second flag from my hand and planted it deep into the ground.

I gazed across the yellowing grass dotted with grave markers and small waving flags and sighed. A group came every year to remember and honor veterans. We’d seen them before, placing new flags on the military headstones. The fresh flags waving in the slight breeze affirmed they’d finished their yearly task. Still, even they’d missed this lone sailor with the weeds covering half of the identifying words under his name.

I began plucking the overgrowth. “It’s sad,” I said, “the idea of being forgotten.”

My husband nodded. “We’ll bring extra flags next year.”

“I’d like that very much.”

And so began a tradition.

Even though there could be people who remembered these veterans without visiting the cemetery, and even though we believe our spirits live forever in eternity when we place our trust in Christ, we committed to bringing extra flags for those whose stories had long since stopped being shared with eager ears seeking to learn more about their families’ history.

We would be more intentional about thanking God for those who had given their lives to protect our freedom, those who had served sacrificially, those who had probably never imagined having weeds over their headstones, those who had never dreamed of the day they would be forgotten.

As the reality of my mortality sank in, God comforted me with the assurance that He knows each of us by name and loves each and every person He creates, even when we reject Him.

God knows us, cares for us, and will never forget us. He wants none to perish, and all to be restored in His love and grace (John 3:16-17; 2 Peter  3:3-9).

Gratitude filled my heart as I, once again, received His truth on a deep and personal level: God knows my name. He is always with me. He will never leave me, never forsake me, and never, ever forget me.

I never imagined there would come a day when I was concerned about being forgotten, until an injury and an extensive recovery time led me into a season of isolation.

These have been the most difficult days I’ve ever experienced.

When feelings of loneliness and sorrow threaten to destroy every bit of my joy, peace, hope, and faith, the Lord comforts and strengthens me with His constant presence and His infallible Word.

He’s increasing my compassion for the forgotten ones, the lonely ones, the hurting ones in the world.

He refreshes my hope by empowering me to live and love each and every day, in honor of our Savior Jesus Christ . . . because even when life is hard, this world is not where our lives end.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV)

We may not know what tomorrow brings, but we know there will come a day when all of the people who knew us will be gone. That’s no reason to lament.

Because of our new life in Christ, we can leave a legacy of faith that points others to His everlasting hope.

Lord, thank You for empowering us to make a lasting difference in this world by living and loving in the name of Jesus‒praying for others as we share Your Holy Word, and serving selflessly as we lead others to You‒the only One who can truly promise You will never leave us, never forsake us, and never, ever forget us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children‒with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

The LORD has His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:13-19, NIV)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

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When Mother’s Day isn’t as Happy as the Messages Available in the Card Aisle: A Mother’s Day Prayer

MEME - Proverbs 31 v 30 - Happy Mother's Day

Thank You, Lord, for creating moms and showing us how to love moms through Scripture.

Please help us to remember moms are people who fall short, people who have been hurt and who have hurt others, people who do the best they can to love, people who need You. 

 

Help us recognize one another’s brokenness and need for grace.

 

Thank You for those beautiful, loving relationships between mothers and children.

 

And thank You for those more complex relationships, like mine with my mom, that were made beautiful through the refining fires of conflict, through trials that led us down hard paths to Your healing grace made possible through our individual relationships with You, Lord.

 

Even if we don’t have a good relationship with our moms or if we’re moms who don’t have good relationships with our kids, for whatever reasons, please help us honor one another and pray blessings over each other.

 

Please help us experience Your love so intimately and completely that we will be forever changed.

 

Help us love You and receive the fullness of Your love for us, so that we can surrender and allow You to help us love like You love, forgive like You forgive.

 

And help us serve one another selflessly and generously, like You served Your disciples when You‒the King of Kings and Lord of Lords‒knelt to wash their feet.

 

Please give us wisdom and courage to say the kind and affirming words we’ll wish we would have said to our moms while we were able to see their smiles, on this side of eternity.

 

Even if the other person is not ready to receive our love, our forgiveness, or our grace, please help us to choose to love You by doing our part to make peace without feeling responsible for how the other person responds.

 

Please, Lord, love on those precious ones who have broken relationships or unresolved conflicts with their moms.

 

Please love on those who are grieving because they don’t have their moms with them today.

 

Please love on those who don’t know their moms but long for that relationship.

 

Please love on those who have been hurt by their moms, those who are trying to figure out how to love their moms in a healthy and holy way, those who aren’t ready to take that first step toward reconciliation or even that baby step toward making peace without reconciliation.

 

Please love on those moms who long for better relationships with their children, for those who want to forgive but are struggling, those who want to apologize but don’t know where to start.

Please love on those who are aching over the loss of children and those still waiting to be blessed with a child.

 

Please love on those whose mother and child relationships are even more complex than those we’ve placed before You today, Lord.

 

You know every detail and are able and willing to help us. So, we ask for Your help today, Lord.

 

We need You. We can’t love without You.

 

For those who are hurting this Mother’s Day, for whatever reason, please be our peace as You shower us with Your unconditional and life-transforming love.

 

Help us open our hearts to You and trust You are always with us, always loving, always listening, and always enough.

 

Please bless our families with Your healing and restoring grace, in Your perfect timing and in Your perfect way.

 

Help us trust You as we accept our mother and child relationships will not look like any other person’s mother and child relationship.

 

And through our intimacy with You‒Loving Savior and Redeemer‒we can relate to others in a way that honors You and brings us peace.

 

May You be glorified as Your power is magnified through our weaknesses, especially when we’re facing a Mother’s Day that isn’t as happy as the messages in the card aisles.

 

In Jesus’s name, Amen

 

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In honor of my beautiful mama, Martha.

 

Mom, I thank God for allowing us to experience the heartaches that brought us to Him and eventually deepened our relationship with one another. I will always miss you and am grateful for the last four months God allowed me to serve as your caregiver, the last four months He allowed me to know you as a person, not just my mom.

To read more about my mom, check out “What I Wish I Would Have Said to My Mom.”

 

Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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What I Wish I Would Have Said to My Mom

MEME - John 13 v 35This year, I’ll be celebrating the third Mother’s Day since my sweet mama danced into the loving arms of Jesus. I’m thankful God blessed me with the privilege of serving as her live-in caregiver for the last four months of her stay at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance House.

Even though we would talk weekly before her diagnosis, I learned more about my mom during those four months than I had my entire life.

The Lord allowed me to get to know her as a woman, not just a mom.

We laughed. We cried, well mostly I cried. We shared stories, and even secrets.

God blessed me with the opportunity to tell my mom I thanked Him for our past, for the struggles and disagreements that strengthened our relationship.

I wrapped my arms around her and told her I was proud she was my mom, that I was proud to be her daughter.

I thanked her for the tough love I had resented before.

I thanked her for making time to chat with me whenever I called, for encouraging me to be creative and use my gift of writing to help others.

I thanked her for making me laugh, and even for the times she made me cry. Then I apologized for all the times I made her cry.

I thanked her for being the best mom she could be.

I affirmed I had no regrets, even though the great relationship we shared during our last decade together and through those last four months had been refined by the fires of conflict over the years.

I told my mom what I liked about her as a person, not just a parent.

As I watched her interacting with friends, with doctors and medical staff, and with fellow SCCA House neighbors, I complimented her until she blushed.

Oh, how I miss seeing her sweet cheeks blushing whenever she received a kind word. My mom was more comfortable speaking kind words to others.

During the most difficult time of my mom’s life, God blessed me with a glimpse of her heart.

When the cancer returned, time passed too quickly. There were too many people around. Our private times were gone. There was so much I wanted to say, but didn’t.

She knew I loved her.

By the grace of God, I served as her caregiver while still recovering from two shoulder surgeries, multiple injections in my upper thoracic back and neck, and a hip injury that occurred two months into our stay in Seattle.

As she watched me battle my own chronic pain, as she saw how much I missed my husband and son, my mom realized the depth of my love for her.

She knew I loved her so much that I wanted to serve her whatever the cost . . . the way she’d loved me and served me over the years.

She loved me enough to tell me she knew.

The Lord blessed me with the opportunity to thank my mom for choosing me as her caregiver. I thanked her for the priceless gift of allowing me to care for her.

We affirmed one another, encouraged one another, and prayed for one another.

Still, there were some things I never said to my mom, things she probably knew but I wish I would have spoken out loud.

I wish I would have told her I’d miss the sound of her laugh, the silkiness of her hand on mine, the way she ran her fingers through my hair when we snuggled.

I wish I would’ve told her I’d miss seeing her eyes fill with compassion and tears when she listened to hurting people.

I wish I would’ve told her I’d miss the softness of her voice when she asked me to pray for someone.

I’d miss her storytelling.

I’d miss the cards she sent me, the stick figures she drew of us in those cards.

I’d miss our phone chats.

I’d miss the early mornings I called to say, “I love you and just want to say have a nice day,” before she headed to work.

I’d miss hearing her tell me she was praying for me and every member of our family.

I’d miss her saying she just wanted to tell me she loved me.

I wish I would’ve told my mom I like when people say I look like her, but it’s more important when they say I love like her.

I wish I would’ve told her the way she chose kindness and grace made a difference in my life.

I wish I would’ve told her I was glad God created her and thankful He decided to bless me with her as my mom.

The list could go on and on.

Even if I was the greatest wordsmith in the world, I wouldn’t be able to express the beauty my mother added to my life, the priceless impact she made in my world.

She exemplified the fruit of the Spirit every day:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)

During her standing-room-only Celebration of Life service, countless people shared stories of how my mom expressed kindness through her words and her actions:

“A kindhearted woman gains respect.” (Proverbs 11:16, NIV)

My mom wasn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. But she was the perfect mom for me.

She loved God. She loved our family. She loved people. She loved me. She loved well.

She loved like people are supposed to love: selflessly, fearlessly, willingly, cheerfully, and generously.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35, NIV)

I wish I would have told my mom how much she meant to me every single day.

I wish I wouldn’t have wasted moments, days, years being angry, bitter, unforgiving, and stubborn.

God blessed me with the chance to tell my mom I was sorry for every conflict we had, and at the same time grateful because He’d used each trial to help us appreciate and understand one another more.

Still, I wish I could tell her I love her, just one more time.

I know she knows.

And though we’ll be together in Eternity with Jesus, our Lord and Savior, I wish I would’ve looked my mom in the eyes and said everything I wish I could say now that she is gone.

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Lord, my relationship with my mom reveals how complicated mother and child relationships can get. Thanks for blessing us with the opportunity to make things right after wasting years hurting one another. Thanks for bringing both of us into a saving relationship with You and making it possible for us to have a good relationship with one another.

There are some of us who are grieving the loss of our mothers or struggling with the dynamics of mother and child relationships. Please comfort us and guide us during those difficult moments when this day brings up mixed emotions. Please bring freedom and peace through love, forgiveness, and grace, whatever that looks like for our individual circumstances.

I’ve experienced how hard Mother’s Day can feel when there are unresolved conflicts in this special relationship or when the sting of grief feels as fresh as the day we said goodbye. These moments cause me to be grateful for my relationship with You, Lord.

Please bring each of us closer to You and make it possible for us to be closer to one another. May Your will be done, Your name glorified, and Your power magnified, as You empower us to love as You love us.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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In loving memory of my mom, Martha.

Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Finding God’s Fingerprints

MEME - Psalm 145 vv 1-2 - FREE Pexels Cross Photo Downloaded April 30, 2017

(Suggested Reading: Psalm 145)

As I continue to grieve the loss of a beautiful sister in Christ, I’m missing her Facebook posts. I’d always enjoyed the way she praised God in all circumstances and prayed for others, her hope firmly anchored in unshakeable faith, even as she battled cancer.

I’ve noticed a common thread as I read posts and comments shared by others who are grieving her loss and celebrating her inspiring life. Suzanne loved God and saw His fingerprints in every aspect of her life, much like David−the writer of Psalm 145.

David begins his love song by committing to a lifetime of praising the Lord:

“I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1-2, NIV)

David proclaims God’s greatness will be passed on to future generations, as His people share who He is and all He’s done (vv. 3-7).

The psalmist affirms the Lord’s goodness, graciousness, compassion, and loving patience (vv. 8-9). While pointing out God’s fingerprints in his life and in the lives of those around him, David gets caught up in praise and changes his focus.

Instead of merely telling others about the wonders of the Almighty, he immerses himself in worship.

The recording of his testimony becomes an intimate conversation with the King of Kings.

I often find God’s fingerprints more easily in situations when I’m writing about the things He’s done, the things He’s taught me, and the things He reveals about His character as I read His God-breathed words in Scripture.

By inviting Him into my writing process, I can get so caught up in what I’m sharing about the Lord that I become drawn into a time of intimate worship, praise, and prayer.

Like David, in Psalm 145, my focus switches from serving God by pointing readers to His Word to sitting at my Master’s feet and gazing into His face.

Whether we’re writing, singing, teaching, or chatting with a friend, something powerful happens when we join forces to help others find God’s fingerprints in the world around us:

They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your might, so that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom.” (Psalm 145:11-12, emphasis mine)

As we point to the Lord and proclaim His greatness, our own faith deepens and our testimonies become psalmist’s songs that we can’t keep to ourselves (v. 13).

We can burst out in joyful praise and say:

“The LORD is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” (v. 13b-14)

Like David, we can become so enthralled by God that we turn back to Him with grateful confidence in His provision (v. 15-16).

We can celebrate His loving righteousness toward His people (v. 17).

We can rejoice in His constant presence, His sovereign care, and His promise to listen to those who call on His name (v. 18-20).

The psalmists and my precious friend Suzanne recognized God’s fingerprints in their lives, in the lives of those around them, and in Scripture.

When we do this, the Lord can strengthen our resolve, comfort us, and empower us to tell everyone how wonderful He is and always will be, no matter how hard our current circumstances feel.

We, too, can sing:

“My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thank You, Lord, for the allowing us to experience Your loving grace, encounter You intimately as we prayerfully study Your Word, and exalt You as we share Your truth and love. Please fill us with wisdom and courage we need to speak or write words that will glorify Your name and testify about who You are and all You’ve done. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon, using free photo from Pexels (April 30, 2017).

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The Risen King’s Love

MEME - Mark 16 v 6 - He is Risen! - Photo by Alan

I came to Him broken, fearful, and weary.

I listened to His promises, hopeful but leery.

How could I trust Someone I couldn’t see?

How could the King of Kings love someone like me?

 

I leaned in to hear Him, scouring through His Word.

Begging for answers, I longed to be heard.

Why would God’s Son die so I could be free?

Why would He care about someone like me?

 

I came to Him hungry, empty, with scars.

Longing for love, my heart locked behind bars.

When would His mercy and grace help me see,

Christ took my place on the cross . . . loving me?

 

Jesus, my Savior, He died in my place.

He rose three days later and saved me by grace.

How can I submit if I’m supposed to be free?

How can I resist . . . if He lives just for me?

 

Come to Him broken, fearful, or weary.

He can be trusted, no need to be leery.

When trials and heartache are all you can see,

know the Risen King loves you . . . just like He loves me.

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Photo taken and used with permission by my husband, Dr. W. Alan Dixon, Sr.

Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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