Comfort and Joy

As the three female voices blended, sending harmonies soaring towards the rafters, I let go of some long held breath.

“Comfort and joy, oh tidings of comfort and joy”

They sang echoing the thoughts in the angels’ refrain.

“Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” the angels sang, and…

“Tidings of comfort and joy” we sing today.

The words hang in my mind, like a smoke trail that refuses to dissipate, clarity dawning in me as if for the first time.

Why did the angels proclaim peace on earth, unless the earth was in decided chaos and turmoil? Why else would we need comfort, than if life was hard and our hearts were broken with grief and longing? This is not a cozy comfort, a simple ease, or a placid, picturesque peace that Jesus came to bring. This is a medicinal comfort: a Surgeon coming to bind bleeding hearts and restore shattered lives.

He comes bearing a healing comfort and a mending peace.

”But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.“
‭‭Malachi‬ ‭4‬:‭2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We don’t need to be anxious or frustrated if this Christmas season does not seem to hold any joy for us. Because our Savior comes first to proclaim comfort. Proclaiming into the very heart of our pain and fear and turmoil: peace.

And who but God Almighty is strong enough to bind the cruel and festering wounds the world leaves upon our souls?
Who besides the King of Glory is great enough hold the broken pieces of our lives?
Who besides the Prince of Peace can still our aching and stormy hearts?

”“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.”…O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.“
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40‬:‭1‬-‭2‬, ‭9‬-‭11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Are you feeling crushed and broken this Christmas season? Are you overwhelmed and joyless? Are you buried under grief and longing?

Your Savior comes to comfort you.

Don’t try to push past the healing, the binding of wounds, the comfort.
Don’t search through the lights and the gifts and the festivities to find artificial joy soften called “the holiday spirit”.
Don’t rush into busy to numb the pain wrapping icy fingers around your heart.

Don’t settle for artificial peace dependent on the world around us succumbing to our desires.

Instead, bring your brokenness, your joylessness, your pain to the feet of the One who came bearing comfort. Let Him bind you, tend you, apply stinging salve your bleeding wounds, and in His hands you will find true joy.

It might be a slow and complex joy. A quiet welling from within rather than fireworks pouring from without. But it will be joy, because our Savior came to bring…

Comfort and Joy

Blessings,
Alesha

Lead Us to Worship

Worship at Sunrise

How can I
Morning after morning
Wrap myself in
All this glory
And not open my
Mouth to praise?

by Alesha Sinks

So often I find myself overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. And yet, so often I fail to step forward into the intended result of awe and wonder…worship.

Isn’t that the purpose of creation?

”The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Romans 1:20 (NIV)

In the Psalms, there are examples upon examples of the writer praising God, inspired by and in awe of the glory of God’s creation.

“How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”
Psalm 104:24

“For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;”
Psalm 95:3-6

Yet so many mornings I hurry, feet pounding across weather pavement, stechting out to reach the sunrise. And when I get there, when I reach the oceans edge with the early light rippling across the waves, when I stand still and breathless at the beauty in front of me, I forget to do the very thing for which my soul was made.

I forget to do the very thing for which my soul was made.

I forget to take my awe of creation and let it lead me into awe of the Creator.

And that’s true of a little million moments throughout my days.
watching pure joy radiate from my son’s face
when that one shaft of light slips through the living room blinds
the first glorious sip of coffee
a peaceful moment, book in hand
a friend reaching out in love and encouragement
that one song playing right, exactly when I needed to hear it
a cool breeze stirring through the hot evening air, summoning us to rest

How often do these moements slip through my grasp, our grasp, awakening joy and peace and hope and beauty, but failing to turn our hearts in gratitude toward their Giver.

I’m practicing.
Practicing awareness in the moment. Practicing giving a practical, out-loud or a quiet, whispered-in-my-heart “thank you God” when I am surprised by joy. Praciticing reflection on blessings at the end of the day or the week or the month and practicing offering my thanks to God then. Practicing to make a seamless turn from “Wow, how beautiful” into “God, You are so beautiful”.

I’m practicing to make a seamless turn from “Wow, how beautiful” into “God, You are so beautiful”.

Will you practice with me? Will you join me in allowing the beauty around us to not just catch our eyes or our hearts, but to turn our hearts toward God?

My prayer for us today is…

Let the beauty we encounter daily lead us to worship.

Be blessed,
Alesha

Parenting When There Seem to be No Right Answers

Parenting When There Seem to be No Right Answers

I stretched myself into my bed, weighted blanket pulled up, wrapping my heart, heavy and tired. I felt exhausted. Angry. Bombarded…by all the opinions in my head.

Parenting is hard.
And there are so many good ways to parent…how do I know I am choosing the right one?

How do I know that the instant decisions I’m forced to make over and over and over every single day are the right ones? The best ones?

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1561474235503-KV4QFZM6Q3H7OKFC30O8/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kCa4Syz4Uh5awnNE1AG4WhlZw-zPPgdn4jUwVcJE1ZvWQUxwkmyExglNqGp0IvTJZUJFbgE-7XRK3dMEBRBhUpx19tq3uWnmkjlWjpKNiSOunXm_g7gdTul1r0wnpy-qWWTMyUcLTUx9Vd7H17qo9e0/Crayons1.jpg?format=original" alt=""/>

So often I know, I know they aren’t. I apologize over and over. I snap and yell and rant again and again, and then must circle back to asking forgiveness.

I try this.
Then that.
I say one thing
Then I change my mind and try a different vein of logic or type of consequence or chose a rewards system or give simply let it slide because I
don’t
know
what
I’m
doing.

Maybe you hear them too? The dozens of voices. Opinions. Loud and demanding and, unfortunately, contradictory.

How do I know I’m listening to the right one?

And I can feel the them rising…the voices. Slowly louder and louder in my head. Crushing me with their volume and their weight.

Do this…not that.
If you do this, you will hurt them…
If you don’t do this, you teach them bad habits…
This is kinder…
This is wiser…
This is effective…
This is better for the long haul…
This is practical…
This is for their heart…
..and I am drowning in the voices.

But suddenly, in my head but not from within it, His voice speaks above the din. Softly. As if nearest to me out of them all.

“Don’t listen to them, listen to me.”

And I realize that somehow I thought His voice was there, in the chorus and chaos of voices in my head. I somehow thought His voice was among them, shouting at me with judgement, with fear, with shame.

I forget that His voice is different.
His voice is outside of the crowd. Separate. And only in turning the crowd of opinions down, will I be able to hear His voice, firm and safe. A steady place to rest my heart and mind. A safe bottom to plant my anchor.

The steady thrum of options and opinions isn’t necessary to my parenting.

Being guided by the Holy Spirit is necessary to my parenting.

So I’ll lay my anxious heart down tonight, a little easier. My head will be a little quieter. And my mind and heart will repeat this simple prayer.

God, let me see my children with Your eyes and Your heart. Let me hear Your voice and let my heart be sensitive to Your touch. Give me Your wisdom and strength and grace as I parent, and the humility to allow myself to be parented by You in the process.

And this simple mediation.

His voice is not in the crowd.

Be blessed

All The Little Blessings

He said it so clearly. Whispered it into my heart in that moment…

“Don’t get so hung up on waiting for the answers to the big things you are praying for, that you forget to stop and worship Me for all the little blessings I’m sending in the meantime.”

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1558380803031-BFOPQV6TZSFQ80QYR6KR/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kDCPJx5CXgnCxGyfZrDVw8J7gQa3H78H3Y0txjaiv_0fDoOvxcdMmMKkDsyUqMSsMWxHk725yiiHCCLfrh8O1z4YTzHvnKhyp6Da-NYroOW3ZGjoBKy3azqku80C789l0pmy3nA_zcH46jcY3zQ1h8g_FNYzQB9C1g4oEzntxIUvwy5WtNg-YWltkTaCEnH3xg/IMG_4427.JPG?format=original" alt=""/>

We were simply trying to get two new keys made for our van.

THE van.

The one from a short list of things my husband had been faithfully praying for every day for nearly two years.

God had answered.

He’d answered that big prayer and two weeks later, we were still overjoyed and in awe. Still thanking God for it every single day.

But deep down, a part of my heart was also starting to look ahead at the next big thing we’d been praying for.
Longing.
Anxious.
Wondering.

Almost as if that one answered prayer sparked more discontent in me, rather than ushering me into the eternal gratitude and trust I thought it would.

{To read the rest of this post go visit my friend Kerry’s blog. She graciously asked me to write this post to share with her readers, but I wanted to make sure I shared it here with you all as well.}

Be blessed

More Than One Right Answer

I'm learning to see

That there just might be

More than one right answer

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1556473877123-3L88E8PRYFMFREA8CQK8/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kDHPSfPanjkWqhH6pl6g5ph7gQa3H78H3Y0txjaiv_0fDoOvxcdMmMKkDsyUqMSsMWxHk725yiiHCCLfrh8O1z4YTzHvnKhyp6Da-NYroOW3ZGjoBKy3azqku80C789l0mwONMR1ELp49Lyc52iWr5dNb1QJw9casjKdtTg1_-y4jz4ptJBmI9gQmbjSQnNGng/IMG_4559.JPG?format=original" alt=""/>

I was less than five minutes into that podcast episode when I found tears springing to my eyes, heart beating faster in agreement.

It was me.

It was all me.

Everything she said about feeling this weight, this pressure to find and make the right decision, it was like she had looked inside me and was reading back what she found.

I've lived, and I still live, so much of my life under the fear of messing up. Under the fear of missing out. Under the fear of making that one wrong decision that unhinges everything.

And through the painful, beautiful, soulful work of others, that they are graciously sharing with the world, I am beginning to see that maybe God doesn't work the way I think.

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1556474337810-Q1P09IADMC4SE1VD1XSL/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kNZr331BLc-Rota1ZP1Yh3h7gQa3H78H3Y0txjaiv_0fDoOvxcdMmMKkDsyUqMSsMWxHk725yiiHCCLfrh8O1z4YTzHvnKhyp6Da-NYroOW3ZGjoBKy3azqku80C789l0hReLB75oIvKxcDxwlnLXaYNPa96OWO5Z21xzWqpQF_bv3E39NLc0xdQYNJZ7z0n0g/IMG_4565.JPG?format=original" alt=""/>


  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1556474363041-RE1LFQYUID2DI68EP5PU/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kHH9S2ID7_bpupQnTdrPcoF7gQa3H78H3Y0txjaiv_0fDoOvxcdMmMKkDsyUqMSsMWxHk725yiiHCCLfrh8O1z4YTzHvnKhyp6Da-NYroOW3ZGjoBKy3azqku80C789l0nQwvinDXPV4EYh2MRzm-RRB5rUELEv7EY2n0AZOrEupxpSyqbqKSgmzcCPWV5WMiQ/IMG_4563.JPG?format=original" alt=""/>


  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1556474370303-0RISX9JWMIJJO1UX58VK/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kNZr331BLc-Rota1ZP1Yh3h7gQa3H78H3Y0txjaiv_0fDoOvxcdMmMKkDsyUqMSsMWxHk725yiiHCCLfrh8O1z4YTzHvnKhyp6Da-NYroOW3ZGjoBKy3azqku80C789l0hReLB75oIvKxcDxwlnLXaYNPa96OWO5Z21xzWqpQF_bv3E39NLc0xdQYNJZ7z0n0g/IMG_4564.JPG?format=original" alt=""/>

Just maybe, He gives us far more freedom in our decisions than I think.

And

Most definitely

A bad decision is not near enough to unhinge God's eternal plan.

Yes

I can rebel my way out of God's favor.

Yes

I can make stubbornly, unwise choices that will lead me far away from who God designed me to be.

Yes

I can miss out on certain life experiences by choosing one thing over another.

But if I humble myself and seek God, I will not miss out on Him. No matter how many "wrong" decisions I make.

Because God is The Great Author.

An Author Who can write His plots to beauty and purpose and good despite the foolish blunderings His characters create when trying to write their own stories.

Because God delights to give us free will and the ability to choose based not on formal command from Him, but on the good desires He has already placed inside us.

Because God lavishes His goodness upon us, primarily, in the form of intimacy with Himself. And that gift can be given no matter where we physically are in life.

If we will just turn to Him.

If we will just humble ourselves to seek Him.

If we will just delight in His presence.

If we will just enjoy His goodness to us. His presence with us.

Oh to live in that space of freedom and joy and delight in Jesus. That space where my decisions can flow freely and confidently. Not necessarily because He speaks to me directly about every one, but because I am confident in His love and care for me, and resting in the trust that what He has already placed inside of me will guide my decisions as I draw near to His heart.

May we each learn to live in that space of freedom and trust.

Trust that He will give us everything we need to make good decisions as we draw close to Him in love.

Trust that He is powerful enough to accomplish His will in me and in the world regardless of my decisions along the way, as long as I am making those decisions in a posture of drawing near to Him.

I'm learning to see

That there just might be

More than one right answer

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1556474800457-C20XK06DCETYQQ7ZRHPC/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kNiEM88mrzHRsd1mQ3bxVct7gQa3H78H3Y0txjaiv_0fDoOvxcdMmMKkDsyUqMSsMWxHk725yiiHCCLfrh8O1z4YTzHvnKhyp6Da-NYroOW3ZGjoBKy3azqku80C789l0s0XaMNjCqAzRibjnE_wBlkZ2axuMlPfqFLWy-3Tjp4nKScCHg1XF4aLsQJlo6oYbA/IMG_4568.JPG?format=original" alt=""/>

Be blessed

New Year, New You?: (Why Your Brokenness Is What You Really Need to Bring Into 2019)

New Year, New You?: (Why Your Brokenness Is What You Really Need to Bring Into 2019)

So we’re three Monday’s into the New Year and maybe we’re just starting to realize that a New Year and a few resolutions jotted into a fresh planner doesn’t automatically result in a new you.
A new me.

  <img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/55c38a57e4b00989028332c9/1548165838945-P8ZE9GH50T9ST8IAQAN5/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kNiEM88mrzHRsd1mQ3bxVct7gQa3H78H3Y0txjaiv_0fDoOvxcdMmMKkDsyUqMSsMWxHk725yiiHCCLfrh8O1z4YTzHvnKhyp6Da-NYroOW3ZGjoBKy3azqku80C789l0s0XaMNjCqAzRibjnE_wBlkZ2axuMlPfqFLWy-3Tjp4nKScCHg1XF4aLsQJlo6oYbA/IMG_1785.JPG?format=original" alt=""/>

Maybe you started this year full of hopes and dreams and prayers that this year would be different. Prayers that a change in the calendar would bring that change into your life you’ve been waiting for. That a shift in the date would bring a shift in the winds of life, a shift in the temperature of your soul.

How many of us have started this new year wanting nothing more than to make a clean break with 2018 and step into 2019 fresh and full and vibrant and new?

But maybe, as the weeks of this year have begun ticking past and a steadily increasing pace, you’re finding the fresh and full and vibrant and new of a new year escaping you. You want a fresh start and a clean break, but you can’t seem to get there.

You want to leave 2018 in the dust, but it is the dust and the dust is in your hair and your clothes and probably your mouth too, because dust tends to just get everywhere and hang on.

I feel you.
And it’s okay.

Because we can’t always walk into fresh and free as easily as turning a page on our calendar. The past clings to us and all the new and different we can muster can't completely shake off the dust of past mistakes, past hurts, past regrets, past pain, past loss, past heartache, past decisions, past moments that hang on as memories, whether we invite them or not.

Maybe today already, just three short weeks into this fresh start, you’re feeling the pain of the past clouding your fresh start.

This year, like most every new year, I’m tempted to think that this is the year. New year, new season, new me.

But I also know the truth.
There is no new me without a dying of me.

Let me say that again. Differently.

There is no new me in the new year without me dying to myself in the new year.

Dying to old habits.
Dying to old thought patterns.
Dying to old fears and insecurities.
Dying to my selfishness and self-absorbed tendencies.
Dying to a purpose of living for me so that I can come alive to my God-given purpose.

And Ann Voskamp says it best…

“There is no growth without change, no change without surrender, no surrender without wound—no abundance without breaking. Wounds are what break open the soul to plant the seeds of a deeper growth.”
The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life

And a new you in the new year might not sound so wonderful when you stop to take a hard look at what it takes to make you new.

It took a Savior, leaving heaven’s perfection to wrap himself in earth’s fragility.

It took a God-man stepping into our wrong and shame and bearing it all on His perfect shoulders.

It took Jesus, the flawless sacrifice, allowing His body to be broken so that our brokenness might be healed.

And not just healed, but repurposed for glory. His glory.

This new you might sound hard and ugly and painful. But it is worth it.

This brokenness, this dying to self, is nothing to fear. See we don’t become new and whole and healed by ignoring the past, the pain, the struggle. We don’t become new by doing a hard reset on everything we don’t like about our lives with the flip of a calendar page.

We become new by allowing the brokenness to come and taking the brokenness to the Healer.

We become new by dying to ourselves, our rights, our opinions, our privileges, our desires, so that in our dying we can be made new.

If you are plunging forward into this new year just hoping against hope
begging God for a fresh start
for a new beginning
for a chance to leave the pain of the past in the year that’s gone
or maybe wondering how to leave the dust and pain of the past behind when it is clinging so tightly to every broken piece of you
remember that all you need to bring into this new year is your brokenness.

Be brave enough to bring your brokenness into 2019 and take it to God who is the Great Healer.

There is healing in the brokenness.

There is growth.

There is change and abundance.

There is a new you.

But it is not found by ignoring the past.

It’s found by digging into it with the One who is in the business of redeeming broken pasts. The One Who is in the business of taking death and turning it into life. It’s found by allowing yourself to be more fully broken, so that all the bits of you that need to be left behind can die, and so that God can pull beauty from the ashes, refashioning the broken bits of you and me into beauty and glory and…new.

{If you have more questions for me on this topic or are curious about this God Who restores and redeems brokenness, feel free to email me by clicking the mail icon in my blog header. I’m praying that you can, through your brokenness and God’s help, become the new you that God desires to form you into, in this new year.}

Happy New Year

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