This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 Issue of She Heard Magazine. Click HERE to find this issue in our shop.
One of the most treasured gifts I received on Mother’s Day this year was from my 15-year-old daughter. She is a kind, creative and talented young lady who always uses her God-given abilities to bless others. My heart leaped with joy when I gazed upon the pastel chalk-painted mason jar wrapped in jute. I saw one just like it at a recent craft open house. However, the one I observed was much too overpriced. So, my sweet girl made one just for me! She also hand-picked beautiful dainty spring flowers to place in the jar to make it complete. It was precious and oh so pretty!
As we visited with family around my kitchen table that rainy spring afternoon, something began to happen to my lovely new centerpiece. The once fresh vibrant flowers gradually began to wilt. After some time, they began to droop and cling to the side of the mason jar. They lay limp with exhaustion and looked sickly. The once live flowers appeared lifeless. I was sad.
My mother-in-law exclaimed that my daughter forgot to put water in the jar! That explained why they began to die. My mom quickly took the jar and carefully poured in cool fresh water. I immediately thought, we should just throw them out. There is no hope for these now. They simply will not survive.
“‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
However, after hours of visiting, conversing, snacking and enjoying company, we began to witness something happening…not one, but two and three tiny flowers begin to pop back up. Just a few out of the bunch began to appear perky that afternoon.
Early the next morning, I got up and routinely went downstairs to feed our pets and make coffee. To my surprise something absolutely amazing happened! I gazed at my handmade gift and my jaw dropped wide open! The once dead and wilted flowers appeared completely restored. Yes, they looked just as they did when I first received them…beautiful and vibrant! I actually thought that someone put new flowers in the jar. They just couldn’t be the same bunch! ALL of the flowers, not just a few, desperately needed fresh water and some time. I simply could not believe how revived they looked! I quickly took a picture and sent it to both my mother and mother-in-law because it was such an amazing transformation!
This story caused me to instantly connect with and think of the woman at the well and the life-giving water of Jesus. I’m not sure if you have heard of this story? To give a brief description, Jesus and his disciples were traveling, and He wanted to stop for a drink. His students went into town for some food. Jesus knew that He had much more planned than to simply ask for a drink of water while at Jacob’s well. He had a divine appointment scheduled.
Jesus and His disciples were traveling through Samaria. Jews and Samaritans were enemies and did not speak, so this was a most unusual place to make a pit stop for food and water. Jesus sat in the scorching heat of the day by the well…waiting. Who was He waiting for? Around noon, a Samaritan woman journeyed out of town to the well for a drink. This was another interesting situation because most women came to draw water early in the morning due to the intense heat. This woman was ashamed to come to the well with the townswomen. She simply could not bear to face their stares and whispers because of her lifestyle choices one more day.
When she approached the well and prepared to draw a bucket of fresh water, Jesus spoke to her and asked for a drink. She replied in astonishment because not only would Jews not speak to Samaritans, but neither would a man speak to a woman in this manner. In John 4:10, “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman then inquired about where to get this living water and Jesus proclaimed, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” She then asked Him for this living water. After more conversation and questions, the woman finally saw and understood that Jesus knew her and all that she had done. He saw her, and yet pursued her still. Her eyes were opened as He revealed Himself as the Messiah and she ran to tell all the people of the town this good news! This is the kind of transformation that Jesus alone can bring forth.
Friend, are you worn out and thirsty? Do you feel that you simply cannot take another step? Are you ashamed of your past or current lifestyle and avoid being around others, like the woman at the well? Is life just too unbearable at this point in your job, marriage, sickness, mental state, parenting, or finances? Are you sitting in an empty jar lying limp and lifeless like my flowers?
Perhaps you were once emerged in the water living a vibrant and full life, but you let the well run dry. You have become disconnected and distant in your relationship with the Father and feel parched and withered. Maybe you never knew or heard about the Living Water before. Your life choices have been all about doing the best for yourself or your family and putting so much effort into living a successful life, but you remain empty and dry. You are unsatisfied and even feel dead.
Then it is time to look to the Life-Giver. The one who restores and makes all things new. The one who quenches our thirst and brings about real transformation and refreshment. It is time to fill the jar! Lift your weary head and look into the eyes of Jesus, our Savior, Redeemer, and Friend. For He is the only one who will ever satisfy our weary. Ask and you shall receive His life-giving water in which you will never thirst again.
Nicole is a teacher at heart and has a deep passion to share the love of Christ with others and to see lives changed. She led Children’s Ministry programs and assisted her husband for years in youth ministry. Nicole fully embraces the importance of sharing the gospel message with others as she has mentored teenage girls, participated in discipleship with other women, and volunteered at the Women’s Care Center. Since the release of her first book, Peace by Piece: Surrendering all that is Beautifully Broken, Nicole enjoys speaking at Women’s retreats and encouraging others to find healing and hope through Jesus Christ. Nicole is the mother of three amazing children: Caleb, Eden, and Elijah (and fur babies, Sadie & Shadow) and is married to her best friend, Greg. She is honored to serve alongside and support her husband in ministry as he pastors Rolling Hills Church in Verona, Pennsylvania. She enjoys shopping for antiques, taking long walks in the wooded area behind her house, drinking coffee, and spending time with her family. Nicole is an outgoing and warm personality who loves people. It is her desire to serve Jesus with her whole heart and give hope where it is lost through her story…ALL for God’s glory!
I love driving through neighborhoods and seeing glimpses of the life that happens within the houses I pass. Families sitting at the table, kids playing on the front lawn, neighbors gathered together in garages. I've noticed more recently though that this is a rare sight to see. With the past year's pandemic and "social distancing" becoming isolation, there is less interaction and "life" visible to the casual passerby. It makes me sad.
Now, when I drive through my own neighborhood, most of the houses are closed up tight. Front window blinds are drawn, front doors are closed, and few take the time to mingle with their neighbors while the sprinkler sprays screaming kids.
Our front door is a farmhouse style door that is almost completely glass. Many may not understand why we'd choose to have a direct line of vision into our home on a regular basis, but I absolutely love it. I want others to catch a glimpse of the life within our four walls as they pass by. As an appreciator of "home" I hope for others to notice that cozy quality about our house. But I had to ask myself recently, does it end there at my front door? Because while I allow glimpses into the entryway of our house, make no mistake...there is still a deadbolt lock fastened to keep out those I do not invite in. What you may see in 3-second intervals as you cruise past is not an accurate representation of what happens within the rest of our square footage. What you see as an outside spectator is what I can carefully craft. You'll see only the beginnings of our home and have no idea of the things jammed in closets, swept under beds, or haphazardly stuffed in drawers.
Is my life like that? Do I allow others in only so far, carefully locked away behind a deadbolt of protection from those I may not want to see "all" of me? Does my life say "Come in...but only so far" or does my whole life say "Welcome!"?
The early Church was a community of believers. They shared with and helped one another. They ate together, worshiped together, and lived life...together. It wasn't perfect, I'm certain, but I imagine neither was it life lived in isolation with blinds drawn and doors locked, figuratively speaking.
How am I going to reach my neighbor for Christ when I never look out my window? How will I share the love of Jesus if I never take a minute to chat with the woman walking her dog? How can I live out the Commission to share the Gospel from my fenced-in back yard?
Are these questions an indictment? Yes, of myself. My convictions may not be yours. Regardless of what is happening in the world, I have to remember I am not a citizen of this world. This place is not my true home. I'm a traveler passing through, going about my Father's work. And that work, like He exemplified while on earth, is to live a life that says welcome.
I'm sitting on my patio listening to the crickets in the distance. It's clear and 65 degrees here in Texas tonight and the breeze is just enough to stir my emotions.
For some reason ever since I was a little. little girl I have felt closest to God in these moments surrounded by nature. Sure I can hear the kids inside chattering to each other, the neighbor begging her dog to go potty, a distant plane readying for landing at a local airport, and traffic on a highway closeby, but I can also hear the silence; the stillness. I can hear time as it dances in these moments that surround me right now.
The familiar clackety-clacking of the keyboard creates an audible deep-breath sigh within me. I feel so at-home here, in this space where my feelings process and spray out across the screen. Blogging began over a decade ago for me. It was an escape. I was drowning in babies and diapers and responsibilites. I felt disconnected and inadequate, so I spilled my heart out into the Interwebs. Turns out it was one of the greatest things I have ever done.
Fast forward 12 years and life looks much different.
Those babies that I thought would never potty train are now 16, 15, and 13. The newborn is approaching 12 (next month!) and we've added 2 additional. They are (almost) 9 and 10.
And those days that I poured my heart out in digital form are long gone. Most nights I have a full night's sleep. No more middle-of-the-night feedings. Diapers are a distant memory and most (ha ha) are completely potty trained. Our oldest is practicing to get his driver's license. We're talking about colleges and future plans, Those days that I thought would never end are long gone, and in their place reside hazy memories.
That sweet (yet annoying at the time) older gentleman who stopped me in the grocery store one day (as I had 3 kids dangling off the shopping cart and one newborn poised precariously within) to say that "the days and nights are long, but the years are short" was right after all. It all went so fast. It's still going, I realize, but the days where I was their everything have passed. Now, instead of days longing for moments of peace and solitude, I talk myself down from the panic of worrying that I haven't done all I could to instill in them all that I should. My 15 and 16 year olds are making choices, living lives, and experiencing things that I may never know about. Have I done enough? Have I done too much? Do they know Jesus? Was I too forceful and chased them away?
These are all the types of things I used to share in this space...back when I blogged only as Suburban Stereotype. Now, this space is supposed to be more: more mature, more polished. But here I am pouring out my heart like I used to, And you know what? It feels right.
You see, the more I learn, the more degrees I add to my name, the more I realize that I will never truly know Him this side of Heaven. I will always have unanswered questions, unasked questions, misunderstood conclusions, wrong perceptions.
But what I do know--without a shadow of a doubt--is that He welcomes me, questions and misconceptions and all. And for that I am eternally grateful.
I have long tried to make this place one that seems polished, but I think there's beauty in the imperfect, the unpolished. Impolished perfection. That's what we are. Only through the blood of Christ are we made perfect. We are sinful and imperfect--impolished. But through Him and His grace we are polished, made perfect. I am so, so grateful for a place to pour out my heart to Him and to you. I feel like someone understands this tonight.
May we never try to be anything other than what God intends for us to be.
May we never stop sharing our hearts because we fear we aren't "put together" enough.
I stepped outside tonight to let the dogs out and I breathed deeply of the night air.
It's December in Texas, so there's a chill in the air; a hinting at Winter. However, I grew up in Ohio (right on Lake Erie), so blizzards and 6 foot snow mounds are a true demonstration of Winter in my mind. What I'm fortunate enough to experience here in North Dallas is but a glimpse of the havoc I endured growing up in Northeastern Ohio.
I've lived in Texas for almost 5 years. While the winters are exponentially different from what I'm used to in Ohio (and even in Pennsylvania where I lived for 15 years prior to moving to Texas), they are still cold and crisp. The coldness takes your breath away at times, and the minute I step outside on a particulraly cold night, my mind is cleared.
For some reason, this is when I feel closest to God. This is when I feel most likely to hear His voice.
In the stillness, in the quiet, this is when I am most caught off-guard and stilled enough--even if only for a moment--to hear Him. There is definitely something to be said for being surrounded by nature-His creation. Without the distraction of all the noise the world has to offer, I feel my most primitive, if that even makes sense.
2020 has created a pause for us to ponder. We've questioned, weighed, evaluated. I know I have. My way of life was abruptly halted and the word "pivot" will forever be synonymous with this past year (and Friends, of course). Every area of our lives required rethinking, recalibrating, and rebooting. To be honest, my Spirtual life took a hit. I understood what "deep-water faith in the shallow end" looked like--or so I thought--and then when I was faced with unprecedented challenges I realized I was fooling myself into believing I was deep-sea diving in the kiddie pool. The truth is, my faith had never been challenged in this way before. I hadn't realized how much of my faith was based on the known and comfortable life I'd been living. All the sudden my cheese was not only moved, but squashed. I figuratively ran in circles trying to cling to the facade that was my security and in the process, struggled to hear God.
We're now 9 months into this "reset" and a "new normal" is establishing, but I'm not sure I want a new normal. Or even my old normal for that matter. Is normal really where I want to find myself? Normal by its definition means typical, expected. Is that what living for and like Christ should be? Normal? Expected? I want to live for the Supernatural. The unearthly that can only be brought about by God. Yes, I love traditions and the comfort of the known, but I don't want my relationship with God to be falsely based in my human expectations. Where does that leave room for God to work?
This coming year will look different for all of us. I'm hoping for my family that means better than what it was before. No longer do I want our Spiritual lives to look like a weekly to-do list with boxes to check and chores to cross off. I'm praying for the freedom and allowance for God to step in and work miracles in our lives each and every day--and eyes to see them. I'm praying for a renewed passion within my marriage and a hunger for God's Word in our family. I'm praying for children who live to serve God and look for opportunities to do that as Joe and I lead by example.
I pray for a foundation built truly on the Rock and not a false sense of security that topples like a game of Jenga when one piece is shifted.
That's my prayer for this year. What's yours?
Fall is my favorite season. It always has been.
It’s not just the beautiful brilliance of the changing scenery around me that draws me in, it's the feeling that fall stirs up inside of me that I love the most. For years I’ve tried to name that feeling, but I’ve failed to come up with the right word…the best I can do is to describe it.
It’s an excitement, an anticipation, a renewal, a hopefulness, a refreshing spirit that overcomes me in a settling, peaceful kind of way. It’s this mixture of anticipation and settlement that defies my vocabulary. What word describes both excitement and calm at the exact same time?
I think for many of us, fall is our favorite season. Change is in the air and we are able to sit back and quietly experience it taking place. We marvel the changing leaves, and even though they change every year, somehow the process never loses its magic.
We feel the days getting shorter and air becoming crisper. We know winter lies ahead and we try to hold on to the last of life that remains around us. Fall is winter’s nesting period. It’s like a gathering feeling inside of us…taking it all in before the earth lies dormant under a blanket of frost and snow.
I think we're able to enjoy the changes of fall because we count on them. They aren’t unexpected but anticipated and we know what lies ahead. If only all changes in life were the same. If only we could plan for them and enjoy them, but as we all know, much of the change we experience in life is unexpected.
Anything that stays still too long becomes stagnant. I love summer, but the reason fall stirs my soul is because it's a change from the season I’ve been experiencing. God requires our souls to be stirred in order to help us experience new things and grow.
Unfortunately for us, change is not always in our control. When God calls us to new seasons, we are often reluctant to follow Him. It’s hard to go willingly when we can’t see what lies ahead. It’s hard to trust in those scripture verses we have hanging on our walls when God makes them personal by stirring up our circumstances.
Sometimes I sit and think about what it must have been like to be Mary. Mary was a young girl, newly married, with her whole life ahead of her. I think many of us can relate to the excitement and anticipation she must have felt—that feeling where all you can see are the possibilities of the future—all of them bright and shiny.
It’s the lure of hopefulness from innocence not yet lost. It’s an emotional high…a weightlessness…before gravity sets in. I imagine how she must have felt, discovering she was with child, knowing she had yet to consecrate her marriage.
The fear… the confusion…the heaviness of an unplanned child and the unfathomable circumstances that she faced. In that moment, facing Joseph, not knowing what was happening or what lie ahead… how defeated she must have felt.
Most of us might relate to that as well—that feeling of despair when unexpected change wipes our hopefulness away like a tidal wave without a moment’s notice. All at once, we can become crushed.
But Mary and Joseph could not have known what greatness was to come to such an ordinary couple who found themselves in such extraordinary circumstances.
Yes, we can look back now on the very same circumstances described above and exclaim them as “extraordinary” and “miraculous!” Why? Because we know the end of the story. We know what lied ahead for Mary and Joseph and all God’s children thanks to the birth of the unplanned baby, Jesus Christ.
But we cannot forget that Mary and Joseph had to live out their faith first. They had to believe in the message from the angel. They had to trust in God and lean on each other during what must have been a very difficult time for them. They surely had to withstand the judgement of others and undoubtedly had moments of trembling and wavering like any young couple would, because they were human, just like us.
Can you imagine their conversations with one another late at night as the baby grew inside of her and they looked down together, rehashing what the angel had said? They knew what they had heard but still wondered how it could be.
I am certain they had moments where they broke down praying for strength, asking for help, begging for understanding from those around them. God had pushed them out of their comfort zone, knowing if they remained faithful to Him, He would follow-through on all His promises and good would come.
And we are no different than Mary and Joseph as we face unexpected changes in our lives…many of which seem unfathomable at first sight. When we're faced with the diagnosis, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, a divorce, a world-wide pandemic….any time the future we saw gets smeared or rerouted and we lose hope because we no longer have the clear vision of what’s ahead, remember it’s all an optical illusion anyway.
While we may be able to depend on winter showing up and enjoy the changes that come with fall, only God really knows what lies ahead for us.
We can be shattered by the fear of the unknown or we can take a lesson from Mary and Joseph and we can trust and remain faithful. While they may have had moments of uncertainty and fear, they chose to trust in God’s words and remain faithful to His plan. Now we look back on their story and see God’s greatness and gift to the world.
God continues to mesmerize us with the beauty of the changing seasons. We have learned to count on his faithfulness as summer turns to fall and fall turns to winter. Like Mary and Joseph, we need to learn that we can count on His faithfulness through all the seasons of our lives, knowing He is the author of our stories and the scripture verses we hang on our walls can be trusted through all the changes we face in our lives.
May we believe in the miraculous process of change and trust in His love always.
Sara L. Gleason is a mom to two amazing kiddos, Max and Hope, the lights of her life. She is a 5th grade ELA and Social Studies teacher in Conneaut, Ohio. Sara writes on her Facebook page MAXIMum HOPE.
She found her faith later in life through some of life's toughest circumstances, but is forever grateful for God's goodness, protection, and love. She received her Master’s degree from Liberty University and specialized in Christian writing.
Her greatest hope is that by sharing her stories, insight, and God's wisdom, she will somehow make a difference in people's lives through God's grace.
This space is reserved for Founder Mandy's perspectives and viewpoints of Scripture. Man is fallible, but God is not. It's strongly encouraged that you study the Scripture for yourself and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in your understanding.
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