Tonight, I sit in my family room by the flicker of candlelight and the slow strum of instrumental notes pulsing through the air. Our kids snuggle under their covers and I’m wrapped in mine on the recliner. My chills are gone and the coughing has quieted for now. I’m glad I’ve gained perspective from my news feed tonight–some of my friends and family are going through some far tougher things than a house full with infection.

I took a few minutes to scroll down the feed; one mom friend is sick with an unknown illness that has no name yet, one family friend has just let go of her son and his precious family as he begins work in the UK for four years, one family member is so disgusted with the empty and stinging words circulating the web–that he’s stepping back from the circus and doing some soul-searching, two dear friends are healing from a very difficult season in their marriage, an old friend just had surgery, one extended family member is living her last days battling a ruthless cancer, and the list goes on. The prayer needs are ever-increasing and people are posting their greatest burdens online just so someone will take their cries before the throne of God for them.

The depth of need doesn’t begin and end in my world or in theirs. On top of our current emotional and physical needs, we are all burdened for those losing loved ones around the world in violent attacks. Our empathy weighs heavy and for the record–we are willing to mourn with those of you who mourn. We now cherish our friends more, our family, and those we pass and wave to from our cars. (Yes, that is still done where I live–and it’s still a joy to give and receive a wave on the road from a passing driver.) We are more unified as brothers, as sisters, as neighbors, as church families, as communities, as states, within our own countries, and with our allies. While we are hard pressed on every side–we choose not to be overcome–instead we choose to live, love, and pray with more faith and purpose than before.

We also respect our elected officials far more for the difficult jobs they do to serve us the people. We marvel  and respect our service men and women for the countless sacrifices they make to defend and protect the liberties and freedoms we enjoy every day. We are grateful for the courage, faith, hope, and love it takes to say–“Yes, I will go.” They don’t go for their own gain or for fame–they go because inside of them are hearts that beat the same hopeful anthem–justice, justice, justice. I don’t think they serve to receive an expression of thanks, but maybe to live without regret and know they did their part to fulfill their God-given purpose. I believe this world a better place because they care about the lives they are protecting.

I also feel an overwhelming gratefulness tonight for those who are taking a firm stand for truth, speaking up for what’s right even when it’s not popular–even when it’s frowned upon by the culture we embrace. You remind us that there’s still hope and still brave souls who will take a stand when far too many opt to sit sluggish on the sidelines. You remind us to live with gratefulness and hope–rather than give in to despair. Please, remain faithful–we believe that God is using you and you are a daily reminder that God’s grace is alive and well! Thank you for letting your light shine into the darkness, thank you for not wavering, thank you for living and loving on purpose, and thank you for encouraging us to do the same…

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 4:12-14 (NIV)