2020 was supposed to be a BIG year for the McEacherns. We began 2020 with an engagement and impending wedding, and we looked forward to our second child’s graduation from Texas A&M in May. Kiddo number three was coming right along in her college career. Things were good, great even.
Then COVID. PANDEMIC. The world shut down. And I panicked.
How were we going to plan a wedding? Have a graduation? Could we even have either of these things? How was I going to order flowers, pick dresses, choose a venue/caterer/baker/florist? Schedule graduation pictures? Coordinate the grandparents attending graduation and NOT getting sick? The list goes on and on of the details I fretted over. The devil is in the details, for real.
But then time slowed down while we quarantined, and I realized that the devil may be in the details but God is in control of the big picture. God had given me the gift of time. I suddenly had time on my hands to reflect and gain some perspective on what was really important in my life and what to focus on for the events coming up.
In-person graduation didn’t happen, but I got the chance to spend the day with my parents, safely in their own home, as we anxiously awaited Chase’s name and degree to be conferred on the big screen at Kyle Field. (Whoop!) Chase is just as graduated as he would be in person, and my parents remained safe from the virus. It was a relaxing, yet exciting day, and I wasn’t stressed about all the unimportant details (parking, social distancing, navigating the graduation itself, etcetera). We all just chilled out, shorts and t-shirts style, and waited for our graduate. It was perfect.
We planned and executed a beautiful wedding in the middle of a pandemic. We ordered a dress and booked the first and only venue we toured prior to March, just prior to everything closing. Were there pitfalls? Yes. Would I want to do it again under these circumstances? Nope. Did I possibly offer to bribe her sister to elope? Maybe.
But it was good. WE were good. Caitlin and I spoke more via text and Facetime than we ever had before. I realized very quickly that my demeanor determined her demeanor, so I vowed to “keep the main thing the main thing.” She was amazing. While I tended to get bogged down in random things like napkins, flowers, and signs, she was laser-focused on being married and building a life with her future husband. The devil may have been in the details but God had given her a beautiful view of the big picture He was laying at her feet and she didn’t really care about anything other than that.
My kids made me realize that this pandemic, while awful, was an opportunity to slow down, to take it all in. We watched TV together (remotely). We spoke daily. Two of my grown-up college kids moved home for a brief time. Time slowed down and I got to soak a little more of them in. I got to be involved in the details of their lives. Details that I wouldn’t have gotten to see in normal times. And it was a gift.
The devil may be in the details, as my mom said, but God has the big picture. ALWAYS.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
The ebb and flow of David’s pain was based on poor choices that he made. No one did this to David. He did it to himself. It’s easy for us to read about David’s shoddy decisions and get all kinds of Judgy McJudgy.
But seriously, y’all. We do dumb stuff, too. We are quick to close out communication with God so that we can bathe in our own worldly pleasures. We are quick to tune out the Holy Spirit in hopes that feelings of self-condemnation will not dance their way across our hearts and souls.
I said all of that to say this – David really did make some bigger than Texas mistakes.
But David used all of his pain and everything he learned from it to encourage other Christians to hang on to God. To not give up. To show us that we are never too far gone.
Are you using your past mistakes to encourage others?
Someone needs you to do that.
Someone needs to know what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and who you’ve hurt along the way. Someone needs to know the nitty gritty.
Someone needs to know that God brought you up out of that deep, dark, gritty pit. They need to know He will bring them out, too.
“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” Psalm 31:24
We have some similarities and we have even more differences. But there is one thing that we all struggle with and one thing that we all face in our lives: SIN.
Those that have heard me preach and teach before know that I love to ask questions: so, this morning – for a new audience – I ask you the following questions. Do you ever wish that you could be different? Have you ever wished that you could change? Have you ever wished that you could be a “better person”? I also ask, are you living in sin or in grace?
Maybe there is a certain sin that you struggle with, a sin that you just wish you could get past. It feels like it’s always there, hounding you, lurching over you; that any time you try to escape from it or get away from it, it’s always there to ensnare you again. Anyone of you ever felt that way? (If you are honest, you will probably say “yeah, I’ve felt that way” or maybe you are feeling that way now). Is there some part of your life that you are trying to “control” and dictate yourself? Or have you completely submitted to God? (Really, be honest with yourself).
Today, I will tell you, with the Lord’s help, it is time to move forward and find joy in the life you have with Him. For, Jesus is our joy, our peace, our hope and the evidences of these things are found in His glory. Believer, man, woman – person – who are you following? Are you following self? Or are you following God? Are you ready to move forward as a new person in Christ? Man, woman, Jesus lover, believer – GET UP. MOVE FORWARD. NEVER – EVER LOOK BACK.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, spent much time in the beginning of the letter describing and showing his original audience the depravity and wickedness that we as sinful people live in. (men and women). He laid it out very plainly in Romans chapter 3 by saying “all have sinned” and that “all come short of the glory of God.” He quickly cleared up the dense despair by saying that there is a way out of your condemnation. He said that we can be freely “justified by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” In other words, saying that if you would believe in Jesus you “through faith in His blood” would be declared righteous, “justified” in the sight of God. Then, in Romans chapter 5, Paul said this: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have …”. He then listed in verses 1-5 several benefits that we now have, in and because of Christ Jesus. He said that we as believers, justified by faith, have peace with God, access to God and hope in the coming glory of God. Not only does God freely justify us by His grace, through faith in His Son but, He then treats us that way. How amazingly awesome is that! (The human language and my vocabulary is too limited to describe how truly exciting this should be for us). We become His children, His beloved, by His grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone – then He treats us better than we ever deserve. So, I ask again, is there something that you are struggling with today? Is there some sin that you are still holding onto? Have you completely submitted to God? I really want to get you thinking this morning and want you to consider your life before Christ. Why, would you want to go back to that life? What does it have to offer you? Now, think about your life with Christ and what He has done for you. And the benefits He alone has given you. So, again, I ask; why go back to that life? (I want you now to take your Bibles and read Romans 6:1-7). Say what? Really, no joke, open God’s Word and read for yourselves.
In Romans chapter 6, Paul now begins to write and teach on the outcome of “justification by faith” and the practical effects of salvation. In verse one Paul, like I have said this whole post, asks questions. He says: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Obviously, these questions are rhetorical in nature, including the question he asks in verse 2; but think … should we surely continue in sin? As a believer, justified by the blood of Jesus Christ; how should we live? Should we live godly lives before Him and others? Again, I ask, do you ever wish that you could be different? Have you ever wished that you could change? Have you ever wished that you could be a “better person”? … In verses 1 and 2 Paul basically is saying “get up” in your new life with Christ because you have so graciously been given one. In verses 3-5, Paul is saying to “move forward” in your new life with Christ. In verses 6 and 7 he suggests that we as believers – justified by faith – should “never-ever look back” to our old self. Remember, Paul also said in, 1 Corinthians 5:17 “therefore if we be in Christ, we are a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are becoming new …”. So, how should you live in your new life with Christ? What can you do differently?
1. Get Up – with CHRIST
2. Move Forward – with CHRIST
3. Never – ever look back, to your old life. Why? Because CHRIST has given you a new one.
I know many of us struggle with feeling overwhelmed. When that feeling creeps in my mind it’s hard at times not to cry and only focus on the negative things.
But I’m telling you that God is sitting right there waiting for you to just call out his name. Trust in him and only him to help. When we think positively about the good things in our lives then the negative thoughts won’t be as important.
Everyday I have to tell myself to think more positive as I do not want those negative thoughts to crowd my mind and bring me down.
I truly feel that there is something good in every situation. Cry out to God instead of running to other things that only help for a brief time. God will bring you a forever joy!
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
WAITING, the story of most of our lives, right???
We wait in line at the store, we wait at the doctor, we wait for test results, we wait at red lights, we wait for the weekend, and the list goes on and on. One of the most challenging, but most important parts of waiting, is waiting on the Lord.
The bible speaks of waiting on the Lord in the sense that He is coming back for His children. 2 Peter 3:8-9 says, “But beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”.
This shows His gracious mercy for us all. Praise God for this!!!! We live in a culture today where we want it now and the world makes it so easy to act quickly. It’s easy to make decisions based on our emotions, so that we feel like we have control. As Christians we are to take all our petitions to God in prayer and YES, most of the time we must wait for Him to answer.
This is where it gets challenging for me. But God wants us to wait patiently and courageously, trusting in His timing and His will. The whole point of waiting on the Lord is that we learn to seek Him, to pray, meditate on His word, and hear His voice. He expects us to be completely dependent on Him and to turn over the control we think that we have.
So, when we feel overwhelmed with life’s worries, we need to stop, take a breath, and go to the Lord in prayer. It is okay to let the Lord know our doubts, but then we need to leave them with Him – trusting that He knows best. It is also okay to bring our wants and needs to Him, but we must be patient enough to wait on His direction and His answer. We must let go of all the outside distractions.
His timing is perfect. When we have to wait sometimes it is just not the right time. Other times it can be a sin that God wants us to deal with. This is where seeking Him in prayer, listening for His answer, and giving Him full control of our lives gives us the strength to wait for His will. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait I say, on the Lord”.
I’m going to be open and vulnerable with y’all today. Alright? Alright! Here goes…life here at Casa de Bartis is not super rosy right now. Duh, Aimee. 2020 is a dumpster fire, most of us are not feeling super rosy right now. I gotcha but I had a particularly low moment last Friday morning. I sent the following texts to my best friend:
I’m crying. I don’t know what we’ll do. I’m working so hard to trust God and believe He will provide. It’s been so hard this week.
I’m trying to believe that. There are things I know – God will provide, He’s working out all things for our good and His glory – but it’s just hard to believe those things in the middle of this storm.
I felt far from God. I felt a gap between what I know in my head and what I was feeling in my heart. Honestly, I’m not back to feeling some of them yet. But here’s what saved me: I know God. I know how He feels about me. I know that He is good. I know He’s a provider. I know that when He feels far, He hasn’t moved. Wanna know how I know these things?
I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You. Psalm 119:11
Because I have studied God’s Word and memorized it (memorized-ish I know the words but not always the location. Real Talk – I just Googled the location of that verse).
When my older sons were young, they played Upward Basketball at the church we attended. I loved so many things about Upward. My favorite thing was the CD they gave each kid. The kids were expected to memorize verses each week. So Upward set these verses to music to help them memorize. I played these CDs in my car on a loop. I can still sing the song that goes with Psalm 119:11. (side note, if you have one of these CDs please share it with me! I can’t find ours) If you don’t have an Upward CD from 2005-ish, you can also check out Shane & Shane’s Psalms albums.
Here are some of my favorite verses to call on and the ones I’d start with if you want to hide God’s Word in your heart.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Since moving we’ve had several conversations about friends. Did you make new friends? What’s your new friend like? Did you talk to your old friends? What are they doing? Etc. Etc. Etc.
All this friend talk got me thinking about how lucky I am in the friend department. It’s been a reminder of how God has placed the perfect people in my life that just get me.
Y’all, my friends know that I don’t need to be invited. Honestly, if they do invite me I’m gonna say no so I can stay home curled up on the couch watching HGTV. That’s just me.
What this girl needs in a friend – I need a prayer partner. I need someone that willingly takes my burdens and slings them on their back to lighten my load. After all, 2 are better than 1.
I don’t need to be invited to places. I just need to be able to invite you into my heart.
Ladies, I hope you have friends like that. People pray for God to send their kids the right spouse – and no doubt I’m doing that. But I’m also praying for God to send my kids prayer-slinging, Bible-carrying, verse-slaying, secret-keeping, truth-giving, filled by the Holy Ghost friends.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ephesians 4:9-10
This past weekend I found myself in a much bigger city, in a much bigger mall than little ol’ Beaumont, Tx. Talk about a fish out of water.
As we shopped for new shoes for Maggie, I was saddened by the clothes all around me. I was saddened by the music blaring through the stores and the words people were flippantly speaking. I was saddened by the signage that adorned the walls. And I was really sad that my daughter had to see and hear it all as well.
I wanted to jump ship. I felt out of place, and I felt defeated as a Christian.
Then God got me. He said, “Snap yourself out of it, girl. Don’t forget who wins.”
God wins. Even though I felt defeated, He will not be defeated.
Sin surrounds us. My goodness, even Jesus was surrounded by sin. But God is bigger than sin.
I can’t fix the whole world. But (with God) I can work on my piece of the world. I can remember who wins this world – the one who created it.
Don’t look at the now. Fix your eyes on the prize and get to work.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
BREAKING NEWS Y’ALL! Emerging research shows that people with a sense of meaning in life can be predicted to have better physical health outcomes! WHAT?! Greater meaning has apparently been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease,1 reduced risk of heart attack among individuals with coronary heart disease, reduced risk of stroke,2 and increased longevity.3 Those that call me friend have undoubtedly given me a hard time once or twice for my finatical health habits–CrossFit at 5am, food prepping my raw bell peppers over the weekend for daily lunches, and, of course, my gluten free diet. Good heavens…my brother-in-law LOVES to raz me about that one! It’s true. I like to live a healthy lifestyle to take care of the body in which my soul is housed. And, I’ve always loved sharing my passion for health and fitness with others because I want people to experience how good it feels to be healthy! But this latest research–the news that people with a sense of meaning in life could live longer, healthier lives–is something that calls for preaching! Woohoo! I can feel the Holy Spirit comin’ on y’all! Can I get an amen?! (Throws hands up in the air…)
Okay, I’m not really going to preach, but I am going to tell you why knowing my purpose in this world has brought me more joy than anything else in my life–yes, even more joy than coffee! (Yes, my friends, I just typed that out loud.) And, talking about why we’re all here doing this thing called life is something I want people to know even MORE than how to train for a marathon or how to food prep for a healthy week! You see, it’s the SOUL INSIDE the house that matters more than the house itself. Eventually, my body will get old (I’m already snap-crackle-and-popping!), and at some point it will even turn to dust. But my soul…it’s forever. But why? Why do I have a soul that will live forever? Why do I have a temporary body in this world to house this human soul? The answer is actually simpler than you think.
We have a God who created this world with His perfect plan in mind. He created the first human body and soul, and He will create the last one too. The Bible tells us that He WAS, He IS, and He IS TO COME. Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;” and, then John tells us in the first few words of his written gospel that Jesus was there with His Father…from the beginning. (Oh! How I love tying Old Testament to New and looking at God’s story as one big love letter to us!) After the creation of the world, the Bible lays out details of how God created the first human beings by breathing His very own breath into that first body housing man’s soul; and, he then describes His love for them and His sheer enjoyment of spending time with them! He treasured them as His most precious creation! All He asked was that they love Him back and enjoy His presence with them.
Well dang. Most of you know how THAT turned out. Stupid satan. I hate him. I really do, y’all. He’s such a butt. He tried to ruin Adam and Eve’s lives back then as much as he tries to ruin OUR lives now! Grrrr. God tells us through His prophet Isaiah “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). Ummm. Nothing about my soul being separated from God forever seems HEALTHY to me! So what’s the prescription, doc?! Vitamin B-12? More brussel sprouts?! Well, you’ll be happy to hear that brussel sprouts have absolutely zero bearing on your salvation from eternal death. You. Are. Welcome. It’s actually SO much easier than eating stinky green vegetables! You see, God loved those first humans, our current mankind, and our future generations so much that He ALREADY had a plan in place for when we messed up! (Did you catch that…He knew we were going to mess up. He’s crafty like that.) From the beginning, God set his perfect plan in motion to save us from our own sin so that we could love Him back and enjoy his presence forever! Romans 5:8 gloriously states, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (NIV Life Application Study Bible). When WE couldn’t save ourselves from the sin…and the muck…and the filth…that we were living in, God sent His one and only Son Jesus to die in our place. And all He asks of us–to believe that He did it and love Him back with the lives that we live here in this world. THAT. That is the meaning of life–to be loved by God, and to love God back with our lives.
When someone realizes this and accepts the gift of salvation, scripture tells us that God and the angels throw a party! No, I’m serious! Look it up! It’s in the book of Luke! There’s a total rager every time ONE soul repents and accepts God’s amazing gift! Friends, living a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and daily exercise is important. (I’m not going to lie–I feel like I need to preach that too…another time, maybe? Smiles awkwardly…) But, the REAL meaning of life is so much more than taking care of the aging physical body that will eventually turn to dust…it’s nourishing the eternal soul within and coming to the realization that every gift (yes, even the gift of salvation) has been given to you for the PURPOSE of glorifying HIM, enjoying HIS presence, and loving HIM back. When we do this, the Bible tells us that WE are blessed beyond measure as WE are filled with the fruits of HIS Spirit–“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galations 5:22) Okay, go back and read that list of fruits one more time. Y’ALL! I mean, let’s be real. In today’s straight up looney-tune crazy world, that is some fruit we could all agree sounds delectable! Today, my prayer is that every reader who stumbles upon this message will hear God’s voice in ways they can understand as He calls them to fill their Spiritual diet with the fruit that leads their souls to a life in pursuit of the greatest meaning for which one could hope–to love their Creator and to be loved by Him.
1 Boyle PA, Buchman AS, Barnes LL, Bennett DA. Effect of a purpose in life on risk of incident Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment in community-dwelling older persons. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2010;67:304–310.
2 Kim E, Sun J, Park N, Kubzansky L, Peterson C. Purpose in life and reduced risk of myocardial infarction among older US adults with coronary heart disease: A two-year follow-up. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. (2):124–133.
3 Boyle PA, Barnes LL, Buchman AS, Bennett DA. Purpose in life is associated with mortality among community-dwelling older persons. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2009;71:574–579.
Today I challenge you as you read this to stop and ask yourself, “who do I want to be?”
I believe us as humans begin curiously wondering about who we will be one day from a young age. We have dreams and inspire to be like the person we have dreamt of being. But how do we become that person? I believe a big part of developing into who we want to be has to begin in realizing who we need to be.
As I’m rushing making the last few preparations needed before I walk down the aisle tomorrow to the man the Lord has prepared for me, I sit back and have the reminder that God’s word has served as a mirror in my life, constantly reflecting the truth. What a blessing! In this season, it has served as a reminder of the truth involving who I want to be, and need to be. I want to be a good wife. I want to be a good mom to our children one day. I desire to be that sunshine. I need to be a wife my husband can trust. A wife that brings him good and not harm. I need to get up early to prepare my family for the day. I need to be energetic, strong, and a hard worker. I may even have to stay up late some nights, but that’s okay. I need to extend a helping hand to the poor, and open my arms to the needy. Because I want to be clothed with strength and dignity, and I want to truly laugh without fear of the future.
As you ask yourself this morning who you want to be, my prayer is that you are reminded of his reflecting truth in who you need to be. Find your identity within his foundation of love, trust, and perseverance. We need to become all he needs us to be.