While I would not classify myself as an “emotional” person (ask my husband and daughters!), this year has certainly challenged my mental health. Todd and I began the year with great anticipation. In January, my son-in-law’s mother and I took a 10-day trip to the Netherlands to visit our grandchildren. We are amazingly blessed with the people our daughters “married into.” They are truly family, and I think of both mothers-in-law as the sisters I never had. We had so much fun on that trip, notwithstanding it was very cold and windy. Our grandson referred to us as “Twos Nannys,” a title we still share proudly.
As I look back over the first quarter of our 2020 ATCM ministry calendar, it’s filled with lunches and dinners out, meetings with pastors, ministry opportunities, meetings with life groups, and workshops. It culminated in a two-week trip in March to Montana to serve at a local church in various ways.
As we sat in the airport in Missoula waiting for our flight home, we watched as the news channels talked about the coming “pandemic.” Up to that point, we hadn’t given it much thought, but by the time we got home, the country was pretty close to shutting down. Our spring and summer calendar was as full as the first quarter…you name it and we had it planned. Needless to say, it was soon cleared of all activities that involved meeting with other people. In other words, everything.
If I had to come up with one word to describe the days and weeks between March and August, it would be distracted. If you follow my blog, you know that in 2019, I wrote every single day, following a chronological read through the Bible. In addition, I wrote a 30-day devotional called Let Us Run The Race, with the particular aim of encouraging young adults participating in The World Race, but applicable to anyone with a heart to share the gospel. As a writer, it was a productive, spiritually rich year.
In all honesty, this year has been different. The constant barrage of negativity in the news media, the loss of confidence in anyone telling us the truth, the required isolation from family and friends, the loss of social contact, the fellowship of our churches lost to the unsatisfying, impersonal on-line or Zoom presence has taken its toll on all of us. While I have not been anxious at all, I have watched as fear has taken root in so many lives around me, unchecked violence has erupted in many cities, and political agendas have ripped our country apart. Personally, I believe many of the events that have happened are simply the unfolding of what God reveals in His Word that will happen in the last days. I believe that Jesus’ return is closer than ever and that we will never go back to “normal” again. The anticipation of meeting Jesus very soon is the only thing that has kept me sane.
One of this year’s goals was to write a new devotional (it’s actually been an annual goal the last few years). With all the mental and spiritual distractions, I found it hard to write a weekly blog post. Full disclosure, I didn’t know what to say. To focus on current events like COVID, masks, rioting, etc. seemed a waste of time…there was certainly enough being said already. But not to address it seemed to deny reality and appear to “stick my head in the sand” and pretend things weren’t happening. So, mostly, I just didn’t write. I had several “starts and stops” for devotional ideas that were abandoned. While I still read God’s Word regularly, it seemed He wasn’t speaking as loudly or clearly as He has in the past.
Mid-summer we received confirmation that our daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren would be coming home for a four-month visit and would be staying with us for most of that time. At last, a project I could focus on! We began to prepare our home to accommodate them, and around the same time I finally felt God had given me something to write about. In all the distractions of the current culture, I needed to refocus my attention on what was truly real, and truly important – the abundant life found in my relationship with Jesus, despite and in the face of any confusing or disturbing world events.
Knowing that life would get a bit busier when two adults and two little people arrived, God graciously cleared my mind. I sat down and made a list of all the gifts God has given us in Jesus. Before I knew it, there was an outline for a new devotional.
I called it Open The Gift because I’ve discovered that whatever is going on around me does not change who I am in Christ, nor should it diminish my experiencing the full abundant life that He died to give us. The world’s “new normal” doesn’t have to be my normal. My faith is rooted deep in the truths of God’s Word. I am forgiven, reconciled, and justified in God’s sight as holy and righteous. I have access to the peace of God because I have peace with God. I know that I am genuinely loved and surrounded by the family of God even when I’m not able to be present with them. I am sustained by His courage, His peace, and His strength. I may lose my job and be unable to pay my bills here, but I have an inheritance waiting for me in heaven, and I will live in perfect immortality for eternity.
If you’re a Christ-follower, I want you to Open The Gift because you need to be reminded of what God gave us in Jesus. Knowing and experiencing these realities will keep you from the fear and anxiety that rules the lives of those who do not know God. If you haven’t met Jesus, I want you to Open The Gift because without receiving Him, this is your best life now. This is as “good as it gets” for you. This crazy, distracting world can’t give you peace or hope.
The answers for life aren’t in banking on the right political party getting into power, or a vaccine that may or may not keep a virus from invading your body. Real life is a gift. It’s only found in Jesus, and that’s why I want you to open it.
If you’re interested in purchasing this new devotional, you can find it on our ministry website here. Thank you in advance for your purchase, as it helps support our ministry. We also have some discounts available for quantity group purchases. However, I don’t write to get rich and famous; I write as a way of sharing the gospel. If you want a copy and truly cannot afford it, email me. We’ll make it possible.
Thanks for reading!