Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Stumbling in the New Year

Today’s blog is from Encouragement for Today and Alicia Bruxvoort

“Three days later, they all went to celebrate a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee … While they were celebrating, the wine ran out … [And Jesus said] ‘Fill each water pot with water until it’s ready to spill over the top.’” John 2:1a, 3a, 7b (VOICE)

We were sitting in the dimly lit corner of our favorite Italian bistro when my husband asked the question that made my heart lurch: “What are you looking forward to in the new year?”

The last hours of the last day of December stretched before us like a gift wrapped in moonbeams and grace, and I was grateful for time to connect as we bid another year goodbye.

I cast him an appreciative smile, knowing that my quiet guy would have been content to merely eat his steak and savor our momentary break from baby babble and toddler tantrums.

Normally, his inquiry would have aroused my love for conversation and undaunted dreaming. But as I sliced into my baked potato on that particular New Year’s Eve, I realized I was strangely devoid of words.

I felt more hollow than hopeful, more discouraged than dreamy.

I wanted to answer with expectancy and exuberance, to rehearse to my willing listener a list of grandiose goals and polished plans. But I was road-weary from a long and exhausting year. Unexpected disappointments had left me discouraged, and I felt depleted by the demands of the daily grind.

My husband buttered his roll and waited in comfortable silence. And I felt a cavernous ache rise from the tip of my toes to the corners of my muddled mind. I held his green-eyed gaze and wondered if my heart would split wide open if I put words to my unseen struggle.

I willed my tears not to drizzle, and I blinked long and slow in an attempt to hide the drops of watery despair.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” my husband asked, reaching across the table to lace his fingers through mine.

“I just feel so empty inside …” I cried, as I tipped my water glass to my lips and sipped the last drop. “I don’t how God can use me in the new year when I feel so depleted by the old one.”

Maybe you’ve been there before — too haggard to hope, too wary to wish, too exhausted to anticipate.

Maybe you’re there right now, toes tired from the journey, your heart feeling bankrupt by the barrage of life.

But if you’ve limped into the new year with muted hope and a poured-out soul, I’ve got good news for you. Our emptiness doesn’t disqualify us from Christ’s extravagance. Our weariness doesn’t exempt us from His wonder.

In fact, today’s key verses suggest that our emptiness might actually give us reason for expectancy in the new year.

After all, we have a Savior who delights in filling empty vessels.

If we read the entire account of Christ’s first miracle in John 2:1-12, we learn that Christ didn’t view those barren wine jugs as a reason for condemnation; He simply viewed them as a wordless invitation. A subtle summons to reveal His glory in a fresh new way.

Think about it, friends: if our lavish Savior can use poured-out pots to display His splendor, surely He can use poured-out people to do the same. We need only to admit our void and ask for His help.

A waiter lingered beside our table with a pitcher and reached for the glass near my plate.

“An empty one!” the waiter exclaimed as he held the fluted glass up to the light. “I can fix that!” he said with a silly smirk. Then he tipped the pitcher with a gallant swoop and filled my glass to the brim.

My husband raised his eyebrows as the young man waltzed away. “Maybe being empty isn’t so bad after all …” he said with a wink.

I took a long sip of water and let it wash away the lump of tears that had been sitting in my throat.

Then, I cast my husband a grateful grin and let an unexpected giggle spill from my lips.

After all, it suddenly seemed like I was in the perfect position to embrace a new year brimming with possibility.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Relax, Reflect, Recharge

You Could be Someone’s Miracle 

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” 1 Peter 3:15 NIV

angel ornament

To Beth it was the confusion of an inept airline. To me, it was a divine appointment from God.

“I don’t have an assigned seat,” the disheveled young woman complained as she stumbled into the airplane.
“This one is empty,” I pointed out.

“Thanks,” she huffed as she plopped down.

The beautiful young lady was obviously exhausted. She was dressed in skin-tight jeans and a distracting low-cut T-shirt. Her flip-flops slid under her feet to reveal a tattoo on the top of her foot. Sunglasses hid something…I wasn’t sure what. She looked straight ahead, but I felt that her mind was traveling to a distant place.

After the plane left the ground, I pulled out a book I had written to prepare for an upcoming radio interview. Put the book down and talk to this girl, God seemed to say.

God, she doesn’t want to talk. I can tell by her body language. She’s not interested in conversation, I mentally argued.

Put the book down and talk to this girl.(God can be very persistent. Especially when it comes to one of his little lost lambs.)

I closed the book and turned to this…kid.

“So, where are you headed?” I asked.

“Home,” she replied.

“Where’s home?”

“Right outside of Charlotte,” she replied. “It’s a small town. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it.”

“Were you in Florida on business or pleasure?” I continued.

“I was visiting my boyfriend,” she answered.

Then she took off her sunglasses to reveal red swollen eyes. She glanced down at the book in my lap. “Your Scars are Beautiful to God,” she read, “that’s an interesting topic. I’ve got lots of scars.”

“So do I,” I replied. “That’s why I wrote the book.”

“You wrote that book?”

“Yep.”

For the next hour and 90 minutes, this young girl poured out her heart. She had been abandoned by her birth father and sexually abused by several men in her life. She was on this flight home because her boyfriend, who had just come out of a drug rehabilitation center, had “roughed her up.” Actually, she was fleeing. My heart broke as this beautiful young girl told me story after story of cruelties that had been doneto her mingled with bad choices that had been made through her. At the moment, her life resembled a 100-car train wreck with one lone survivor who was in desperate need of life resuscitation.

As my mind engaged with Beth (not her real name), my spirit communed with God. What do I do? I prayed. So much hurt. So much pain.

Pray for her…now.

“Beth, would you mind if I prayed for you?”

“No,” she said with a quiver in her voice. “I’d like that.”

I held Beth’s hand and God’s sorrow for this girl filled my heart. It wasn’t just a “God bless Beth,” sort of prayer. I sobbed. It was as if God’s pain for this girl I didn’t even know was flowing through me.

As God would have it, Beth and I were in the front row of a very sparsely filled plane. The only person paying any attention to us was the flight attendant who sat facing us in her jump seat. I’m not sure, but I think God was working in her heart as well.

When the plane landed, I handed Beth the book, we exchanged e-mails, and embraced one last time. Since then, we have kept in touch and Beth has continued her journey for peace and purpose. Her stepfather wrote me a letter expressing his appreciation for taking the time to minister to his “little girl.” He wrote: “I had been praying for God to send Beth an angel, and I believe He did.”

Well, I’m no angel, that’s for sure. But I believe the angels were hovering around us in that plane.

One of the great mysteries of the Christian life is that God has given us great power through prayer. Through the pages of the Bible and the volumes of history, we see God mightily working on behalf of those who seek Him through prayer.

All through our lives, there will be times when we feel powerless. But friend, we are never more powerful than when we use our words in prayer. I was only with Beth a few hours in that airplane, but God’s power was evident when we grasped hands and prayed. His transforming power did more in a few moments than any human could have done in years.

So keep your eyes open. You could be someone’s miracle today.

Thank you to Girlfriends in God and Sharon Jaynes for today’s blog.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!